Saturday, March 19, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday, Grandad

My maternal grandfather, Glenn Murray Smith, would have been 100 years old today.

He was born on March 19, 1916 in Los Angeles, California.  He was the second of seven children born to his parents, Glenn Alvin Smith and Genevieve Frances Murray.  Glenn, along with his siblings, Virginia, Barbara, Patricia, Shirley, Joan and Kevin, grew up on Buckingham Road, near Crenshaw Boulevard, in what is now Central Los Angeles.

Glenn attended Loyola High School.  A sports enthusiast, he played football and tennis, and also enjoyed boxing.  While Glenn was a teenager, his parents began traveling quite a bit, due to the demands of their oil exporting business.  This provided many opportunities for Glenn to get into mischief and the freedom to attend events all over Los Angeles.  During his junior year of high school, he met my grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd, at a party at a skating rink.  On their first date, Glenn took LaVerne to see King Kong at Grauman's Chinese Theater on Sunset Boulevard. It was also his seventeenth birthday-- March 19, 1933.


Glenn attended Loyola University (now Loyola Marymount University) for two years, and then transferred to Stanford University.  During this time he took up rowing, worked many hours at a local garage to help pay tuition, and spent a summer wildcatting oil in Texas with his father.  He continued to date my grandmother, LaVerne, and upon returning to Los Angeles after graduating from college, he proposed marriage.

My grandparents in 1936, during their college years, at an air show in Los Angeles

Glenn Smith married LaVerne Rutherfurd on November 1, 1941 in Los Angeles.  They would have five children, including my mother, in the next fourteen years.

Glenn's parents had closed their exports business and moved into wine production as World War II loomed.  After his marriage, Glenn went to work in the family wine business.  When the United States entered the war, my grandfather joined the Navy, which meant several moves around the country to training facilities and officers' schools.  The war ended just as Glenn and his fellow officers were preparing to head overseas, so he never saw any action. After the war, Glenn settled his family in San Marino, California.  He took up a career of his own, commuting to downtown Los Angeles to work for A. Carlisle & Co. The printing and design company was located at 9th and Hill, and Glenn designed their product labels.  He would work there until he retired.

Glenn, LaVerne and their oldest child in the mid-1940s

I was fortunate enough to know my grandfather for two decades and have many memories of him.  I remember his love of boating and the ocean.  He owned a small sailboat, and used to take his children out sailing when they were young. He wasn't using it much anymore by the time I was growing up, but he still loved to be by the sea. Sometimes, he and my grandmother would rent a vacation house on Balboa Island in the summer, and we would visit them there.

My grandfather loved growing camellias, and he would display especially lovely blooms at the local flower show.  He was the president of the Southern California Camellia Society for several years.  He was also very fond of birds.  He and my grandmother owned two cockatiels, and Glenn was often to be found with a bird happily perched on his shoulder.  My grandfather was also a wine aficionado. He'd developed a great knowledge of wine when working for his parents' wine business and living near a vineyard they owned in Forestville, California.  I remember sitting at the dining table with him, after he and my grandmother had moved from San Marino to Dana Point, while he explained how to read a wine label.

My grandfather with his youngest child, boating off Balboa Island in the 1960s

My grandfather died on July 21, 1988 in Dana Point, California, at the age of 82.  He had suffered for years with Addison's Disease, an endocrine system disorder.  He is buried in Lake Forest, California, alongside my grandmother, who survived him.  They had been married for forty-seven years at the time of his death.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wedding Wednesday: Herb & Florence Lacey

My great-uncle, Herb Lacey, married Florence Freitas in 1945 in Northern California.

Herbert Brendan Lacey was born on October 14, 1915 in San Francisco.  He was the fifth child born to my great-grandparents, Thomas Lacey and Sarah Kilcullen, both Irish immigrants who settled in San Francisco.  Herb was three years older than my grandfather, David Austin Lacey.

Sometime between 1915 and 1918, the Lacey family moved to Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco.  Herb grew up there, completed high school, and began working in "marine engineering," per the 1940 census.  Alameda in the early-to-mid 1900s was notable for being the site of the Alameda Naval Air Station and the Alameda Works Shipyard.  The city's waterfront was one of the largest shipping and ship-building centers in the country.

On June 3, 1941, Herb enlisted in the Navy.  Six months later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and America entered World War II.  Upon completion of his service in the Pacific Theater, Herb returned home to Alameda and married Florence Freitas in 1945.

Florence Loretta Freitas was born January 29, 1919, the daughter of John Freitas and Catherine Madeiros. Her father was a Portuguese immigrant, as was her maternal grandfather. She was raised in Washington Township, which later became Fremont.  Fremont is about 25 miles south of Alameda.

I have not been able to determine at which church Herb and Florence were married. Presumably, it would have been a Catholic church in Fremont or neighboring cities.  After their wedding, Herb and Florence settled in Newark, adjacent to Fremont, and raised two children.  It was, by all accounts, a happy marriage.

I remember visiting Herb and Florence at their home when I was young.  Herb was much like his brothers, with the same boisterous personality and big laugh.  Florence was kind and lovely.  I remember playing in their big garden and eating meals at their kitchen table.

Florence died on August 15, 1987.  My family visited Herb after Florence's death and I recall that he was distraught and depressed.  He grieved the loss of his wife deeply for the rest of his life.  Herb died on November 19, 1993.  Florence and Herb are buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward, near Herb's parents and his elder brother Frank.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Who Were Thomas Griffin's Parents?

Forested hills in the Lackawanna Valley (photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli)

In my last post, I discussed my quest to find the parents of my third great-grandfather, Thomas Griffin.  An Ancestry Member Tree had asserted that Thomas was the son of Stephen Griffin and Jerusha Thorne of Mamaroneck, New York.  When I started trying to find proof of this connection, it initially seemed promising.  Stephen and Jerusha lived in Westchester County, where Thomas was born.  Records indicated that Thomas' middle name was actually Thorne, which would make sense if he was Jerusha Thorne's son.  I also found a death record suggesting that Thomas was buried in Mamaroneck in 1881.

Another piece of key information: In the book The Journal of the Reverend Silas Constant, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church At Yorktown, New York, the author mentions the will of Thomas Thorne of New Castle, NY (adjacent to Mamaroneck). In this will, Thomas Thorne in 1821 names his wife, several children and a grandchild.  Among them is his daughter, Jerusha Griffin and her son Thomas Griffin.  This proves that Thomas was the son of Jerusha Thorne Griffin.

Then, it all started to go downhill.  I couldn't find a census record for Stephen Griffin in Mamaroneck, which meant I couldn't place a child of Thomas' age in his household.  I could not locate wills or deeds that definitively connected father and son.  Where was the proof I needed?

The question of Scranton, Pennsylvania also continued to loom large in my mind.  If Thomas and his parents were from Mamaroneck, then why did Thomas spend so many years living in Scranton, far from both his parents and the New York City boroughs where he settled with his children?  I decided to take a closer look at Scranton and see if there might be some clues in that area.

Almost immediately, I found something exciting.  Records for the city of Scranton indicate that five Griffin brothers from Westchester County were early settlers in the area.  These brothers began farming in Providence, in the Lackawanna Valley, which was later incorporated into Scranton, in the early 1800s.

The original Griffin in Providence was Stephen, who in 1794 left Westchester County, N.Y., to battle with Pennsylvania forests.  He located near Lutze's fordway. Thos. Griffin became a resident of the valley in 1811, James in 1812, and Joseph and Isaac in 1816. [History of the Lackawanna Valley by Horace Hollister]

If Thomas Griffin's father and uncles had moved from Mamaroneck to Scranton, that would explain why I could find no record of Stephen in Mamaroneck during Thomas' childhood, and also why Thomas and his family lived on and off in the Scranton area in later years.  However, right away there were a few problems with this idea.  "Scranton Stephen Griffin" left Westchester County in 1794.  The Stephen Griffin I was researching married Jerusha Thorne in Westchester County in 1800, and his son Thomas was born there about 1802.  Multiple census records confirm Thomas' birth year and place.  The database "US and International Marriage Records 1560-1900" records the Griffin-Thorne marriage as taking place in 1800.  How could the Stephen Griffin I was researching be a Pennsylvania settler, while also marrying and having children in New York?

I did some investigating of the Stephen Griffin who settled near Scranton.  His wife was variously recorded as Mary Place or Polly Place.  I could find no mention of a wife named Jerusha.  The Stephen Griffin in Scranton had several daughters, likely including Matilda (b. 1799), Jerusha (b. 1802 and married Henry Treadwell Fellows), Amelia (or Armelia) (b. 1804) and Maria (b. 1807). He also had two sons, Jackson and Egbert.

The Griffins were early inhabitants of Connecticut and from that state removed to Dutchess county, NY, where the birth of our subject's grandfather, Stephen Griffin, occurred.  He was a farmer and drover by occupation and about 1810 he settled in what is now Lackawanna County.  Subsequently, his brothers, Joseph, Thomas and James, and a sister, Mrs. Mead, also came here and their descendants still remain in this valley. Stephen married Mary Place, a native of Connecticut and daughter of a pioneer of this county, and of their union two sons were born, Jackson and Egbert. [Portrait and Biographical Record of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania by Chapman Publishing Co.]

Given the lack of connection to either Jerusha Thorne or a son named Thomas, I don't believe the Stephen Griffin who settled in Scranton can be the father of my third great-grandfather.

Is it possible that there may have been two Stephen Griffins in Westchester County?  Was there one who went to Scranton and married Mary Place, and another who stayed in Mamaroneck, married Jerusha Thorne, and had a son named Thomas?

This leads us to another bit of contested information.  Who was the father of Stephen Griffin?  Online family trees tend to record the same parents for both Scranton Stephen and Mamaroneck Stephen: Joseph Griffin and Sarah Burling.  Here, again, things are not as simple as they might at first appear. The record cited most often in online trees for this family is found in the database Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870, Pomfret Vital Records 1705-1850.  It shows a Stephen Griffin born in Pomfret, Connecticut on March 6, 1777, son of Joseph and Sarah Griffin.  However, upon closer examination, it appear that this Stephen was not the son of Joseph Griffin and Sarah Burling, but rather Joseph Griffin and Sarah Brown, whose marriage was registered in Pomfret in 1755.  Joseph Griffin and Sarah Burling were from Westchester County.  In The Burling Books: Ancestors and Descendants of Edward and Grace Burling by Jane Thompson-Stahr, there is mention of a Joseph Griffin (of Mamaroneck) and Sarah Burling (of Eastchester, NY) who had a son, Stephen in Westchester County in about 1775.  Did this Stephen Griffin turn out to be Scranton Stephen or Mamaroneck Stephen?  I can't find any conclusive evidence.

This is why online family trees are so dangerous.  It would have been easy to look at the names this tree provided and the circumstantial evidence connecting Stephen and Jerusha to Thomas Griffin, and absorb this into my tree. When I started really looking at these individuals carefully and trying to apply a standard of proof to their relationship, it just wasn't there.

I believe it's quite likely that Thomas was the son of Stephen and Jerusha Thorne of Mamaroneck.  I just can't prove it.  I also don't know what to make of the Scranton issue.  There was clearly a Scranton connection in my family.  My second great-grandfather, John Griffin, son of Thomas Griffin, was born there.  Thomas and Eliza Griffin lived there for a time.  It just doesn't seem possible that the Stephen Griffin who settled there in 1794 was the father of Thomas Griffin.

This family never fails to frustrate, but I will continue to search for answers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Proving the Ancestors of John T. Griffin

We all know that Ancestry Member Trees are a double edged sword.  They can be helpful for hints, but are so full of frustrating errors and unproven links.  Last week, I stumbled upon an Ancestry tree that seemed to include my third great-grandparents, Thomas Griffin and Eliza Carpenter.  Moreover, it had several generations of Griffin ancestors attached.  This was very exciting, as the Griffins have been a difficult family to research.  If correct, this tree had potentially handed me four generations of newly-found ancestors.

Just to recap, John T. Griffin was my biological second great-grandfather.  He and my second great-grandmother, Annie Dickson, were married less than a year, and divorced before their son, George, was born.  George was adopted by his stepfather, Malcolm Rutherfurd, and no words were ever spoken about John Griffin.  When my grandmother and I started collaborating on genealogy, she'd already uncovered John Griffin's name and the Griffin-Dickson marriage registration, but she wanted to know more.  We were able to learn much about John's first wife, Ellen Pearsall, and their five children, but John's ancestors remained frustratingly mysterious.  On his marriage registration, John listed his parents as Thomas Griffin and Eliza Carpenter of New York.   I was pretty confident that a family I located in the 1850 census, living in Brooklyn, showed John with his parents and siblings. From there, it got complicated.  Every single road I went down led to a dead end.  Could this Ancestry Member Tree help?

The member tree in question asserted that Thomas Griffin's parents were Stephen Griffin and Jerusha Thorne. Of course, like so many public trees, there were no sources attached proving this was true. I set out to determine whether there was any evidence that could prove Thomas' parentage.

Location, Location, Location

At first glance, the location of the potential parents, Stephen Griffin and Jerusha Thorne, appeared to be correct.  In the 1855 New York State Census, Thomas Griffin and his wife Eliza Carpenter both stated that they were born in Westchester County, New York.  The supposed parents of Thomas, Stephen and Jerusha, were from Mamaroneck, in Westchester County.  Their families had considerable roots in this area, having lived several generations in Mamaroneck and nearby Chappaqua and New Castle.  This potential link was looking promising!

Thomas and Thorne

The Ancestry Member Tree asserted that Thomas Griffin's middle name was Thorne.  This would make sense if he truly was the son of Jerusha Thorne Griffin.  In reviewing census records, I looked again at the 1855 New York State Census, and found that the entry for my Thomas Griffin was not actually "Thom Griffin" but "Thorn Griffin."  I had assumed that the r and n were a crudely shaped m, but in looking more closely, the name was clearly spelled Thorn.  Ancestry even indexes the name as Thorn.  Why had I not noticed that before?  A case for Thomas' parents was slowly starting to build.


On Family Search, I located a death record for Thomas Thorne Griffen. Griffen is a known alternate spelling of Griffin which shows up in John T. Griffin's records, as well. This record, from New York, New York City Municipal Deaths 1795-1949, lists Thomas Thorne Griffin, born about 1802 in New York State, died 1 January 1881 in Manhattan and buried 3 January 1881 in Mamaroneck, New York. He is listed as married, but the record does not give the name of his spouse. I was then able to locate a Find A Grave record for Thomas T. Griffin, 1802-1881, buried in Barker-Quaker Cemetery, Larchmont, New York.  Google informed me that Larchmont is actually a village located within the boundaries of Mamaroneck, New York.  If this is my Thomas Griffin, his death record reinforces his connection to Mamaroneck and potential parents Stephen Griffin and Jerusha Thorne.

The red circles indicate Brooklyn, Mamaroneck and Scranton.  Thomas Griffin lived in each of these cities.

But Then... all got more complicated.

For one, I could find no census records showing Stephen Griffin of Mamaroneck in a household with a child the age of Thomas Thorne Griffin.  While I see tax records for Stephen Griffin in the early 1800s, I don't see him in census listings at that time.  I also could not find a will or deed for Stephen Griffin that mentioned his children.  So, there was no slam dunk bit of paperwork connecting Stephen and Thomas.  At least not that I've been able to find yet.

One of the things that has been hardest about researching this family is that they moved more than once between New York City and Scranton, Pennsylvania.  John T. Griffin and all but one of his siblings were born in Scranton between about 1830 and 1847.  The 1850 US Census shows the family living in Brooklyn, New York, and clearly lists that seven children were born in PA, but the parents and oldest son were born in NY.  This means that Thomas and Eliza were born in Westchester County, had their first child somewhere in New York, then moved to Pennsylvania and lived there for over a decade before relocating to the New York City boroughs.  They were definitely in New York during the period of 1850-1855, as they were noted in the federal and state census records for those years. However, in the 1880 US Census, I located a listing for a Thorn Griffin and Eliza Griffin living once again in Scranton.  Both were born in New York and were living with a 33-year old son named Charles J. Griffin, who was born in Pennsylvania.  This matches perfectly with the information provided in the 1850 and 1855 census records, so I'm certain this is the same family.  However, Thomas Thorn Griffin's death record indicates that he died in New York City in January 1881.  At such an advanced age, would Thomas Griffin have undertaken a trip or a move to New York City, some distance from Scranton?  Making this even more complicated, there is a death record for Eliza Jane Griffin in Scranton on March 13, 1881.  She was buried shortly thereafter in Dunmore, PA.  Did Thomas Griffin take a trip to New York and die there, while Eliza remained behind in Scranton?  Are we dealing with two different Thomas Griffins?

So, I started digging into the Scranton connection a little more.  I've always wondered why the Griffins were going back and forth between New York City and Scranton.  They aren't exactly neighboring cities.  John T. Griffin and at least one of his brothers were involved in boat building and sailing, for which there were no opportunities in Scranton.  Why did his parents move there repeatedly?  Some simple searches on the history of Scranton opened up a whole new can of worms that took me even further away from the proof of parentage I was hoping to find.

To be continued....

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday: Mark Lacey

I've been a little slow to get back to blogging in the new year.  I made some exciting discoveries at the end of 2015 and was writing a lot, but after the holiday break, it's been hard to get back in the swing of things.  The good news is that I think I'm on the precipice of a major breakthrough with my very challenging Griffin ancestors, and I hope I'll be writing about that soon.  In the meantime, there's nothing like a GeneaBloggers Daily Blogging Prompt to force one to just start typing.

The tomb of Mark Lacey on Omey Island

Mark Thomas Lacey

Mark Thomas Lacey was my second great-grandfather.  His son, Thomas Mark Lacey, my great-grandfather, left their hometown of Rossadillisk, Ireland in the early 1900s, sailed to San Francisco, and started the California branch of the Lacey tree.

Mark Lacey was born about 1848 in Rossadillisk, on the far west edge of Connemara in County Galway.  He was married first to my second great-grandmother, Bridget Feeney.  She died young, after bearing two children, Thomas and John.  Mark then married his second wife, Mary Coyne. They had seven children together.  Three of their sons would die in the Cleggan Disaster in 1927.  Only Mary would witness that tragedy, however.  Mark Lacey died on August 10, 1908, nearly twenty years before the terrible storm at sea.

Mark Lacey and Mary Coyne Lacey are buried on Omey Island. Buried in the same plot is their daughter Mary Lacey O’Toole, son-in-law Patrick O’Toole and grandson Michael O’Toole.

Close up of Mark Lacey's stone
Omey Island is a tidal island located on the southwestern portion of the peninsula where the Laceys lived in County Galway.  To get there, you travel to Claddaghduff, wait for the tide to go out, and then walk or drive across the sand to the island.  It's then important to get back off the island before the tide rises.  Omey Island was once the home of an ancient monastery.  Today, it's visited primarily for the graveyard and an annual horse race.  The gravestones that are still legible date back into the 1800s, but this island was a burial ground long before then.  This is a tough environment for tombstones, though.  Between the ocean salt and the fierce wind, engraved stones are soon wiped clean.  Most of the markers on the island are just that--- round pieces of rock, worn down, without words.

Driving across the sand to Omey Island
Looking towards Claddaghduff from Omey Island
Memorial to the Cleggan Disaster on Omey Island

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My 2016 Research Goals

I'd like to share my genealogy-related goals for 2016.  I set goals for both 2014 and 2015 and found that this helped me stay focused on my top priorities throughout the year.

I made quite a lot of progress on my goals in 2015.  For the past two years, I've been working on uncovering the lineage of my fourth great-grandmother, Amelia Brown Bellangee.  In 2015, I not only learned who her parents were, but was able to connect her to her grandfather, a Revolutionary War veteran.  One of my other goals revolved around my husband's Pinto ancestors.  This year, I was able to find documentation connecting Miles Augustus Pinto and his father, Isaac Pinto.

Hopefully, the success will continue in 2016!  Here are my top priorities:

The Griffins continue to be a major brick wall.  I worked on this family quite a bit in 2015 but still cannot prove the parents and siblings of my second great-grandfather John T. Griffin.  I believe I know who his parents are, but haven't found much in the way of actual proof.  I also can't seem to determine the parents of those supposed parents, which might help.  This family lived alternately in New York City and in the areas surrounding Scranton, Pennsylvania.  However, I haven't been able to find much in the way of census records, birth/death/marriage records, or probate documents.  This will be my primary focus in 2016.

This is another holdover from 2014 and 2015, which I haven't worked on much due to the focus on the Griffin family.  We are missing a generation in our Smith family tree. I know that my fourth great-grandfather, Samuel B. Smith of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was the grandson of Captain Samuel Smith of Winchester, New Hampshire. We have land deeds and other family records proving as much. However, I don't know who Samuel B. Smith's father was with certainty. I am pretty certain his name was also Samuel Smith, but looking for a Samuel Smith in New England is like a needle in a haystack.

In 2014, I was able to prove the parentage of my third great-grandmother, Temperance Burns.  I now know that her parents were Absolom Burms and Nancy Matthews.  However, I can't seem to go any further back than that.  Right now, I'm focusing on Nancy, since she is the last known ancestor in my direct maternal line.  All I know about Nancy is that she was born about 1800 in North Carolina, and married Absolom Burns in Tennessee before moving with him to Illinois.  My next step will be to try to locate a marriage record for Nancy that might name her parents.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Heritage Day: Helping Children Celebrate Their Ancestors

Part of the Heritage Day display at my son's school.

Among my friends who are interested in genealogy, the topic of how to interest our children in family history is a recurring one.  I've written before about sharing your family history with children and young adults, but am constantly looking for new ways to engage the next generation with stories of the past.  That is why I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the second grade at my son's school would be celebrating what they called Heritage Day.

Just before Thanksgiving, the second grade teachers sent home a family history questionnaire and a blank paper doll.  The children were tasked with interviewing a family member about their ancestry, and then working with a parent to decorate the doll to reflect their heritage.  My son interviewed me, and I told him stories about both mine and my husband's lineage.  He wrote parts of it down, choosing what he thought was most interesting to share.  We worked together on the doll, which featured a green yarn cap and shamrock shirt buttons.

Cambodia, Greece, Japan, Mexico and Ireland were all represented here.

The completed questionnaires and dolls were displayed in the school's multipurpose room, and parents were invited to join the second grade classes for a celebration of heritage and culture.  The children sang four songs about immigration and family roots.  The parents brought food items reflecting their ethnicity.  We ended up with three big loaves of Irish Soda Bread, including mine, but fortunately, other families came through with Danish Aebelskiver, Filipino Lumpiang Shanghai, Japanese Mochi, Guatemalan Estofado and German Bratwurst, among many delicious offerings.

It was a lovely event, and such a fun way to involve children in their family history.  The parents were amazed by the care that had gone into all of the heritage dolls, and as we stood reading the stories on our children's questionnaires, we learned a lot about each other.  We started swapping stories about our ancestors and how they came to America.  We were surprised to find that friends we'd assumed were German were also Sicilian; that some families had only moved to this country recently.  The children learned from this exercise, but parents did, too.  It brought us all together, happily celebrating our diverse backgrounds with our kids.  I can only hope that other schools will also choose to host Heritage Day.  I can't think of a better way to engage young children in their family history.

Dolls representing Trinidad and Tobago and Scotland.