Monday, December 24, 2012

Matrilineal Monday: Mary Ellen Brennan

Mary Brennan was my maternal grandmother's mother. She has proven to be a bit difficult to research. She immigrated to the United States from Ireland1, but no one in my family was quite sure when. The only information my grandmother was able to tell me was:

1. She came by herself, so was likely a teen or an adult at the time;
2. She was here by 1938, as my grandmother was born in New York in January 1939;
3. She was from County Roscommon.

To make matters worse, my grandmother is not quite sure what year her mother was born. My grandmother's only brother passed away in 2002, and there was allegedly a family Bible, but it's not in my grandmother's possession so that's no help. My grandmother knew her mother was "old" at the time of her birth, so I took that to me at least 30 years old. That puts Mary's birth at latest around 1908, but it could also have been earlier. There were several siblings, which could help identify our particular Brennan family in a census, but a preliminary search for a family with the known siblings name on the Irish census came up with bupkis.

I knew it was a long shot, but I began combing through Ancestry's naturalization records. I was searching for Mary Ellen Brennan's born between 1895-1905, from County Roscommon, applying for citizenship in NY--where I knew she was living at the time of my grandmother's birth.

To my surprise, I think I've found her!

Celtic Manifest, Arrival: May 8, 19202

Declaration of Intention, 19273

Petition for Citizenship, 19303

By the time Mary appears on the 1940 census with her husband and daughter, she is listed as naturalized4. So the time line fits. I am not accepting this as absolute fact yet, but I feel pretty confident that this is my great grandmother.
1M. Barbara Pisanello and Stacy McConnell. Oral interview, 11 October 2012, by Stacy McConnell at Barbara's home in Media, Pennsylvania. Audio recording in the possession of Stacy McConnell, Azusa, California.
2Manifest, S.S. Celtic, 28 Apr 1920, stamped p. 42, line 13, Mary Ellen Brennan, age 20; “List or Manifest of Alien Passengers,” digital images,, ( :accessed 24 Dec 2012).
3“New York, Naturalization Records, 1897-1944,” database and images, ( : accessed 24 Dec 2012); Mary Ellen Brennan, no. 158912, sworn 2 Jun 1930; citing Petitions for Naturalization from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1897-1944; NARA Series: M1972; Roll #: 682.); Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
41940 U.S. census, New York County, New York, population schedule, Manhattan, enumeration district (ED) 31-1241, sheet 6A, dwelling 140, Martin Hannigan household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration, microfilm roll Roll: T627_2653.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Weekly Goals

Well, I said if I didn't finish last week's goals, I would know I had put too much on my list. I guess I bit off more than I could chew because the following goals were left unfinished:

1. Call Grandmother, discuss blanks I need filled in.

2. Compose list of questions I need to ask cousin Helen.

3. Review entries for grandparents' siblings and ensure proper citations.

Rather than biting off more than I can chew again, I think I'll focus on #1 and #3. At this point I can't call my cousin and pick her brain as it's getting too close to the holidays. But I can eliminate the other two. And I'll make one additional:

4. Complete two entries for the blog.

I have a post I began about my great grandmother, Mary Brennan. So I need to finish that one. It's going to be a busy week, finishing up for the holidays, but I hope I can get a bit of work done!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Weekly Goals

I didn't quite finish everything from last week's list. I have a bit of carryover. I finished some important goals last week though. Most importantly, I spoke to my grandfather for about an hour, filling in some missing information. He seemed more receptive this time to talking about his life than he had in the past.

For the coming week, here's what I need to accomplish:

1. Review Great Grandmom Sellers's entry, add/reformat citations for all facts.

2. Call the Radisson, formerly the Warwick Hotel, to inquire about the existence of employment records (Frederick Gledhill, second great grandfather).--Currently waiting on a call back.

3. Review Great Grandfather Gledhill's entry, add/reformat citations for all facts.

4. Call Grandmother, discuss blanks I need filled in.

5. Compose list of questions I need to ask cousin Helen.

6. Review entries for grandparents' siblings and ensure proper citations.

If I don't complete all the goals this week, I'll know I'm setting the bar too high for a week. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Sadie Davis

My great grandmother, Sadie Davis, has been one of my main focuses as of late. I was quite fortunate to discover her buried next to her daughter when I went to visit Upland Baptist Church Cemetery in October. There was a huge shrub planted right in front of her stone, so I had to take my picture at kind of a strange angle. Fortunately I had my mom there to help hold it back so I could get a photo.

Sadie's Find a Grave memorial is here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Matrilineal Monday: Sadie Davis

I recently began digging in to the Delaware County (PA) digital archives and combing the old newspapers for mentions of my DelCo relatives. Of particular interest to me was my great grandmother, Sadie Davis. Sadie was born in 1894, in Upland, PA1. She died in 1964 (a good 20 years before my birth!)2, and her daughter, my grandmother, has also passed. Piecing together this side of my family has been challenging. I lack the personal information I have on my mother's family. It's hard to imagine these people and what their lives were like.

Fortunately, it seems news was slim in Chester back at the turn of the century (19th to 20th, that is). I found multiple mentions of Sadie in the Chester Times. Here are a few of them:

May 5, 1903: Hand Injury3

May 23, 1903: Ninth birthday Party4

May 4, 1937: '30 Years Ago'5

I also found Sadie in The Delaware County Daily Times.

April 16, 1962: Helping with local historic discovery6

There are several others. It was so interesting being able to read about her in the news. They're small tidbits, but together they give me a rough sketch. She seems interesting. She was an active member of her community. She was intelligent. What a wonderful discovery to make.
1Chester Birth Records 1889-1906, Archives, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, online , Davis data downloaded 20 November 2012.
2"Winnberg [obituary]," Delaware County Daily Times, 17 Feb 1964, p. 4.
3"Hand Lacerated," Chester Times, 5 May 1903, p. 2.
4"Young Girl's Birthday," Chester Times, 23 May 1903, p. 11.
5"Thirty Years Ago," Chester Times, 4 May 1937, p. 6.
6"Caleb Pusey House Day Observed," Delaware County Daily Times, 16 Apr 1962, p. 2.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cemetery Walking: Fairmount Cemetery in Glendora, CA

It was raining today, so what better way to spend the day than traipsing through a muddy cemetery? I wanted to make some additions to Find a Grave, so we checked for local cemeteries that had few interments listed. Fairmount Cemetery stood out, because the cemetery page had instructions on how to find the cemetery, as it's a bit off the beaten path.

Even with the directions, we struggled to find the place. I think you can see why...

We parked outside, pulling right up to the gate so we wouldn't get stuck in the mud.

About three seconds after we climbed from the car, a clatter of howling began from the area behind us. Then an answering howl sounded from inside the cemetery. My girlfriend tried to convince me it was dogs howling at firetruck sirens we had heard, but I knew the truth. Coyotes. As a native Philadelphian, I find coyotes petrifying. We crept to the gate, and spotted the howler, a lone coyote, clearly in the process of napping. We watched him for a few moments, before he hopped over a fence bordering the cemetery and disappeared, not in the mood to tango with us.

Inside, many of the stones were broken/unreadable, but I was surprised that so many were in good condition. There was a section of un-labeled wooden crosses that were in a bit of disrepair. It was a small cemetery, so I think we photographed every stone there that was still legible. In all, we ended up adding 19 records with photos on Find a Grave. This was my favorite:

I was intrigued by the two missing names at the top. Thankfully, most of the graves have been transcribed to a cemetery survey on US Gen Web, and I was able to place these missing two people. All in all a really successful trip, and it was neat to get to such a hidden little cemetery.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Goals for the upcoming week!

I have a friend who loves to make lists. She has so many lists that she has a master list of her lists. I'm going to take a page out of her book and start some lists of my own this week. I'm floundering a bit lately, looking at my tree and picking a person, searching for information, occasionally adding citations... I need to get organized. So, with this in mind, this will be my 'To Do' list for the upcoming week:

1. Review maternal grandfather's information in FTM, create list of blanks I need him to fill in.

2. Review Great Grandmom Sellers's entry, add/reformat citations for all facts.

3. Send a follow-up email regarding the records from the Church Home for Children, where my great grandmother was raised.

4. Call the Radisson, formerly the Warwick Hotel, to inquire about the existence of employment records (Frederick Gledhill, second great grandfather).

5. Review Great Grandfather Gledhill's entry, add/reformat citations for all facts.

6. Review maternal grandmother's information in FTM, create list of blanks I need her to fill in.

7. Call maternal grandfather on Friday to discuss questions.

8. Make list of records to be ordered, prioritized.

9. Research cemeteries in my area, find one to adopt.

10. Add sources to completed blog entries.

This should keep me relatively busy! Good thing I'm off from work on Friday.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thriller Thursday: Always an Accomplice, Never a Bandit

Until recently, I had thought the only scoundrels in my family tree were the growing number of alcoholics. Enter George O. Shaffer. George Shaffer was my grandmother's brother. I never knew him, but my mother did. She told me he was 'a funny old bird' and my grandmother Sarah fretted over him often. He never married, he appeared and disappeared at random, and he sometimes drove a cab.

While browsing the digital archives for Delaware County, PA, and searching for newspaper mentions of my relatives, I did a search for George. At first I was skeptical about what I found, then, the evidence mounted.

Uncle George Shaffer was a convicted accomplice to Cliff Redden, known as the 'Flash Bandit' in the mid 1940s1. Together with Flash and another accomplice, George participated in at least seven armed robberies and three car thefts. He was sentenced to 50-100 years of hard labor and solitary confinement at Eastern State Penitentiary2.

Eastern State closed its doors in 1971, but evidence suggests he was already released by this time. George's mother, Sadie, passed away in 1964, and her obituary indicates that her son George was residing in Folcroft, PA3. I am working on obtaining the records of his incarceration to pin down the exact dates.

While some might say an armed robber deserves 50-100 years in prison, at least one person disagreed. John Parmer Gates, minister of the Upland Baptist Church, wrote an impassioned letter to the editor of the Chester Times4. George Shaffer, he wrote, "was hit by an automobile, which injured his right frontal lobe. He still bears a large scar which runs from above the forehead to the cheek. In the Army, while stationed in England and while in transit to the United States he was confined to a psychopathic ward. He was given an honorable discharge with a bill of poor health." All facts which the minister believed should have been considered at sentencing.
1"Young Bandits Admit Staging Three Holdups," Chester Times, 2 Feb 1946, p. 1.
2'"'Flash's' Pals Get 50 Years for Robberies," Chester Times, 25 Mar 1946, p. 1.
3"Winnberg [obituary]," Delaware County Daily Times, 17 Feb 1964, p. 4.
4"Upland Pastor Writes [Letter to the Times editor]," Chester Times, 28 Mar 1946, p. 6.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Military Monday: Union Cemetery in Redwood City, CA

My partner and I spent the holiday weekend in Central/Northern California, visiting friends and relatives. My girlfriend is kind enough to indulge me in my love of cemeteries, so we visited two over our trip. The second was Union Cemetery in Redwood City. This cemetery contains the graves of Civil War soldiers and their family members. I checked Find A Grave before we headed out, and it looked as though less than 1,000 of the approximately 2,400 graves had been added. There was work to do.

The cemetery is relatively well maintained, but obviously some graves are worse off, simply due to age. Some of the stones were marble, with concrete backing them to preserve the stone and avoid cracking. I think these stones are so beautiful. Other than the penchant they seem to have for cracking, the lettering seems to hold up pretty well.

We took photos of several graves, and I was happy to see some of them had not been added to Find A Grave yet. Others were listed, but with no photo attached. Unfortunately I was not able to fulfill the requests listed for the cemetery. I only had about an hour before we had to hit the road. It was a great trip, made more special by the addition of some records to Find A Grave. I think I will try to visit a cemetery each new place I go. It seems like a neat way of commemorating the trip.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Funeral Card Friday: Mary Hannigan

I found this funeral card in my mom's boxes of assorted photos and memorabilia. Mary E. (Brennan) Hannigan was my mother's grandmother. This card was of particular interest to me, as I didn't know her date of death, and neither my mom or grandmother were able to tell me for sure. No one could remember where my great grandmother was buried either. Forunately, the funeral home that is listed on this card is still in business, and they responded very quickly to my message. My grandmother is buried in Saint Mary's cemetery in Salem, New Jersey1.
1Robert Laughrey , "Re: contact form message,"email to Stacy McConnell, 24 Oct 2012.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Workday Wednesday: The Warwick Hotel

My second great grandfather, Frederick Gledhill, was born in 18821. He was a lifetime Philadelphian, and unfortunately lost his wife, Elizabeth, during the birth of their youngest daughter2. Throughout the decades, I've been able to trace Fred's employment via census records and draft registrations. He worked a variety of jobs, from 1900 where he is listed as a teamster3, to chauffering1, landscape gardening4, and finally working in a hotel5.

The 1940 census found Fred living with his son (also named Fred), and his occupation is listed as "houseman" in a hotel. When Fred registered for the draft two years later, he provided further information on his employment. His employer is listed as The Warwick Hotel6.

Warwick Hotel Postcard, 1940s

It's really exciting to be able to see the exact location where my ancestor worked. The facade has not changed much since the hotel was built, and thankfully there are old photos and postcards of the Warwick still floating around. A little piece of my personal history found on the Register of Historic Places!
1World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005, entry for Fred Gledhill, citing original record Registration Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1907766, Draft Board: 42.
2Richard J. Gledhill, Sr., Barbara Gledhill-Begg, and Stacy McConnell. Oral interview, 12 October 2012, by Stacy McConnell at Richard's home in Secane, Pennsylvania. DVD recording in the possession of Stacy McConnell, Azusa, California.
31900 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Philadelphia, 30th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 772, sheet 9, dwelling 175, family 179, Fred Gledhill household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm 1241472, roll 1472.
41930 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Philadelphia, 40th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 51-240, sheet 17A, dwelling 174, family 186, Fred J. Gledhill household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm 2341865, roll 2131.
51940 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Philadelphia, 40th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 51-1633, sheet 9A, dwelling 129, Frederick J. Gledhill, Jr. household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration, microfilm roll Roll: T627_3737.
6World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010, entry for Frederick Joseph Gledhill, citing original record Registration Location: Pennsylvania; Microfilm Series: M1951; Microfilm Roll: 111.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday (Or rather, tomestone-less Tuesday)

One of my recent trips that did not go so well was to visit Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia. Through death records (and some kind help from an Ancestry member!), I learned that two of my great grandmother, Mary Sellers's, previously unknown sisters were buried here.

My mom, girlfriend, and I went in early October of this year.I was prepared for the place to be in disrepair, as the cemetery is abandoned with little upkeep. When we first entered, the front of the cemetery looked decent, but the farther you move from the street, the worse the upkeep is. By the time we reached section 15, where my family is buried, it was not looking pretty.

We could see grave markers buried under the foliage, but there was no way to reach them without some serious landscaping tools. We're talking machetes. Unfortunately, these tombstones remain a mystery for now. Buried in this section were:

Josephine Sellers1
06/20/1912 - 12/05/1912

Elizabeth Rebecca Sellers2
03/20/1901 - 12/04/1919

My great grandmother was raised in an orphanage from the age of 5 years old, and she did not have the opportunity to know much about most of her family members. In this particular family, there were at least 13 children, and only four that I am aware of survived to adulthood. I am searching for all the information I can get about her siblings now. I think Old Grandmom (as we charmingly called her) would like their stories to be known.
1Josephine Sellers, Death (5 Dec 1912); “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates Index, 1803-1915,” digital image, ( : accessed 20 Nov 2012), citing Death Records, microfilm 1421355, Philadelphia City Archives.
2Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, compiler, "Mount Moriah Cemetery Interrment Records," database, accessed by Lyla Taylor (28 Sep 2012). Database entry for Elizabeth Sellers (?-1919).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Some good luck in the graveyard

I took a trip home to Pennsylvania last month (and got trapped by Hurricane Sandy!). My extended stay was the perfect opportunity for my mom and I to go on the hunt for some family graves.

Earlier in the month, my mom had gifted to me a genealogy treasure--a battered metal box containing the Mass cards, flower list, and guest book from my great grandfather's funeral. Finding any information about this particular branch of the family tree is rare. The oldest living person is my maternal grandmother, who seems neither interested in, nor particularly knowledgeable about, our family history. This funeral box was from her father, Martin Hannigan's, funeral. It also contained the deed to the burial plot, and dates of interment for both of Martin's parents1. Jackpot.

Armed with the knowledge that these three family members were buried together at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Cheltenham, PA, I told Mom we were going visiting. (Sidebar--how the hell do you say Sepulchre? I have no idea, so I'm going with Holy Sep, as the cemetery staff referred to it). This cemetery is still in use, and the woman working in the office was kind enough to copy the information on our family for us.

This is the headstone for my second great grandmother, Mary Gilbride Hannigan. Her husband, John, and son, Martin, are buried in this plot along with her. Martin evidently chose not to have his father's name added to the tombstone. My grandmother did not add Martin's name either, for reasons unknown to me. She speaks very highly of her father, and he died unfortunately young. Graves without headstones are incredibly sad to me. We have quite a few in our family. I am thinking perhaps I will add Martin's name to the stone. I would like him to be properly remembered.
1Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Cheltenham, PA, Burial record (1961), Martin Hannigan.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Beginning the search for my family history

Ever since I was a little girl, my mother has been talking about my ear off about our family tree. My mother will talk your ear off about anything, actually (I say that with love, Mom!). I wasn’t paying attention, but with that much talking, some things are bound to seep in. I knew a rough sketch of some of our family. A little over a year ago, I had a vague idea that I might like to learn more, and I decided it would be a goal of mine to do a family tree for myself.

Two months ago I joined and started filling in what I knew. By now I have ancestors in varying degrees of completion (research wise that is). I solved the mystery of a missing aunt. I met (online) a new cousin. I discovered that I'm Swedish. It's been a strange, but exciting, journey into the past.

One section of the family tree that has required a lot of searching has actually been pretty close to the present. My great grandmother Mary Ellen Sellers was born in 19101. Going in to my search, I had been told by my family that she had two sisters, Reba and Myrtle. She had been raised in an orphanage, after her mother died.

Great Grandmom Mary with three of her four sons, and some extended family

I knew her parents' names were George Sellers and Mary Baldwin, so I began searching census data with this information in hand. My grandmother was born in August. The census takers visited Philadelphia around April that year, so I knew I wouldn't find Grandmom on the census with her parents. I began searching for her sisters and parents on the 1900 census, as both sisters were much older than my grandmother. I found a Myrtle with parents George and Mary, but there was no Reba. I discarded that one, and kept searching. I searched high and low (to the best of my admittedly limited ability--I am new at this after all!). I found a Myrtle in 1910 living with parents George and Mary2, but there were other kids, none of whom were Reba. I discarded that one too.

After much fruitless searching, I had to go back to the 1910 record I had found, and wonder if my grandfather (son of Mary) didn't have all the information. The children listed on this census were Myrtle, age 15, Elizabeth, age 9, James, age 6, and George 4.

I thought maybe Reba was a middle name for Elizabeth. I checked Elizabeth out further, and found her baptism certificate. Her name was Elizabeth Rebecca, and her mother's name was listed as Mary Baldwin3.

Now confident I had the right family, I turned to my family. My grandfather now recalled his mother was one of five children, and her brothers James and George had died early. He also recalled that Mary Baldwin had been alive when her daughter was placed in the Children's Home. I had all the info easily available to me on this family, so I next turned to Mary Baldwin's family. While researching her sister, Harriet, I came across something that surprised me4.

Reba! Was this my Reba? She's listed as 'daughter' but her last name is Baldwin, while Harriet's maiden name was Megaw. Harriet's sister Jane wasn't old enough to be Reba's mother. Reba appeared with Harriet's family again in 19105. This time she was listed as niece. Now that I knew her name was Baldwin, and had her confirmed birth year, I began to search Reba herself. When I found her marriage certificate6, all the pieces fell in to place.

Reba was Mary Baldwin's daughter, but George Sellers was not her father. I checked with my family, my grandfather had no idea Reba was his mother's half sister.

This also meant that Elizabeth Rebecca was a previously unknown about sibling. The 1910 census indicated that Mary Baldwin had had 10 children, with 4 living2. This was obviously not taking Reba into account, so that meant there were six more children who had likely died young. I'm still working on tracking them down, and hope to be able to share that information soon.

1"United States Social Security Death Index," index, Ancestry ( : accessed 28 Sep 2012), Mary Gledhill, 21 Apr 2006; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
21910 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Philadelphia, 36th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 88, sheet 13A, George Sellers household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration FHL microfilm: 1375419.
3Baptismal Record for Elizabeth Rebecca Sellers, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 1904 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Register of baptisms; Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985, digital image, ( : accessed 28 Sep 2012); citing Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1018.
41900 U.S. census, New Castle County, Delaware population schedule, Wilmington, 10th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 42, sheet 9, dwelling 179, family 182, J. Edward Megaw household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm roll 156.
51910 U.S. census, New Castle County, Delaware, population schedule, Election district No.2, enumeration district (ED) 76 sheet 2B, dwelling 34, family 36, George E. Megaw household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm, roll T624_146.
6“Delaware Marriage Records, 1806-1933,” database and images, ( : accessed 28 Sep 2012); Reba M. Baldwin, no. 1514, issued 12 June 1914; citing Delaware Vital Records; Microfilm. Delaware Public Archives, Dover.

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