Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Digitisation of Irish Parish Records in progress. Results will be online next summer!

Good news for genealogists trying to find Irish ancestors.


Monday, September 29, 2014

"History of a House" revisited

During my formative years, I lived in an old house located at the corner of Conklin Avenue and Mary Street on the South Side of Binghamton, New York. The property consisted of two lots totaling about an acre of land. A house and a two story barn stood on that land. A search of Broome County deed records revealed an interesting history.

The area that became Binghamton was a part of a land patent deeded to William Bingham of Philadelphia in 1792. Bingham had extensive land holdings in northern Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of New York. This land was first visited by troops of the Sullivan Expedition in 1779. The first settlers arrived in 1802 and they called the community Chenango Point, since it was situated around the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers. The last will and testament of William Bingham was probated on 17 September 1805 in Philadelphia. A William Stuart bought the property from the estate of William Bingham on 12 July 1826 (Liber 9, p. 464).

In 1834, this area was a village in the Town of Binghamton. There were several transactions in the deed book between 1836 and 1846. 

The first platting of the land took place in 1850. The property had been purchased by an Englishman named Sackville Cox in 1849. He called the development Cox Place. According to the 1850 Census, Sackville Cox had been born in England and his wife, Mary in Ireland. Cox sold lots 6 and 8 to Henry Eldredge on 26 December 1849 who then tendered them to Hugh Hart on 30 September 1850. A subsequent land transfer took place in 1853, with the land going to William S. Beard.

According to an old Binghamton map, there was no house on lots 6 or 8 in 1855. The earliest town directory, published in 1857, shows a Darwin Felter, a millwright, living there at the corner of South Water Street and Mary Street. Therefore, a house was built on the property sometime between 1855 and 1857. The land that my home stood on was identified as lot 6 of that plat. A two-story 3 stall barn was situated at the west edge of lot 8, facing Mary Street.

In the 1860 Census, Darwin Felter and his wife Sarah and children Nellie, Willie and Mary were enumerated at the corner of South Water Street and Mary Street.  In 1861, deed records indicate that Sarah Ann Felter bought the property from William S. Beard (Liber 58, p. 105). Apparently, the Felters were renting the property prior to that date. 

Binghamton became a city in 1867. The Felters were enumerated at the site in the 1870 and 1880 censuses. Darwin Felter was identified as Superintendent of the City Water Works. In 1890, according to the city directory, the address had changed from South Water Street to Conklin Avenue. Darwin Felter was still living in the house in 1900, as shown in the 1900 census. In that census, his wife of 10 years was listed as Margaret, indicating that Sarah Ann had died or that there had been a divorce before 1890. The house stayed in the family after Darwin's death. In 1910 and 1920, Nellie and her husband David Munro and her brother William were living at 30 Conklin Avenue. The Felter descendants owned the property until Nellie and William sold the property to Alexander S. Williamson on 28 November 1928. In 1936, according to the Binghamton City Directory, Charles Baker (non-owner) was living there. On 26 October 1936, Dr. Charles F. and Mary E. Hawley purchased the property (Liber 468, p. 298) from the Williamsons. Doctor Hawley establish his office on the first floor in the rear of the large house, with the rest of the structure devoted to living space for the family, which consisted of Dr. and Mrs. Hawley and their infant daughter. This was the Hawley residence and Dr. Hawley's office for nineteen years. In 1955, the State of New York confiscated the house and land to build the State Street Bridge across the Susquehanna River, a sad end to the life of a beloved old house. 
Family legend has it that the house was a stop on the Underground Railway during the Civil War. However, no records have been found to verify that claim.

Friday, August 29, 2014

World War I veteran, Louis Frank Reiss

Louis Frank Reiss (usually known as Frank), was born in October 19, 1894. He lived in the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn. Frank registered for the draft on June 5, 1917. He was examined and adjudged qualified for military service on February 13, 1918. Frank was called into service that year as a member of  the  4th Infantry Division, 39th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Brigade.

As evidenced by the Victory Ribbon he received after the Armistice, Frank was present at the battles of Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne. He also spent some time in the Defensive Sector. Reportedly, he was a messenger.


His unit was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with gilt star for the Aisne-Marne campaign.

From the early 20th century coinage found in Frank's private box after he died,  he was apparently in Belgium, Holland, France and Germany during his time in Europe. There was also a matchbox cover with a picture of the Cathedral in Cologne, Germany and the words Kolner Dom under the picture.

Here are some photos from his album. Unfortunately, he did not indicate the names of his fellow soldiers, except for one labeled as "Allie W." I hope that someone reading this posting might have information about the men who served with Frank.
"This is our happy home we are sitting on."

Frank Reiss

"Allie W"

Unknown person, reading unit newsletter

Photo dated 1919


Monday, July 28, 2014

Mystery # 19: Why did Francis and Flora, residents of Cleveland, Ohio go to Michigan to get married?

One of the many mysteries related to Francis A. Reed, MD is that, soon after graduating from medical school in 1890, he married a woman named Flora M. Pierce. Francis and Flora were identified in the marriage document as residents of Cleveland, Ohio (where Francis had attended medical school). The marriage took place in Detroit, Michigan. The witnesses to the marriage were Charles E. and Cora B. Fuller, also living in Cleveland. I initially surmised that Cora might be Flora's sister, but found no possible matches in census records. A marriage record indicates that Cora's maiden name was Garrett. The 1900 Census shows that Charles and Cora took in boarders - perhaps that's how Francis and Flora met.  But, why did Francis and Flora go to Detroit to get married? Were there no relatives of the bride and/or groom in or around Cleveland?

In the marriage record, Flora's father is listed as Albert Pierce but the box for mother's name says "unknown." Methinks - how can a mother be unknown? She gave birth to the child. Isn't it more likely that there would be an unknown father? Why no official birth record?

I searched available records for an Albert Pierce in Ohio. I found a Civil War veteran named Albert Pearce (aka Pierce) as a resident in the disabled volunteers' home in Dayton, Ohio. He was admitted to that facility in October of 1871 and died in December of that year. His birth location is listed as Henry County, Ohio.

The 1850 census records show an Albert Pearce, age 3, as the youngest of six children of Maria Pearce (widow) in Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio. The family group, reduced by the absence of the older children, was still living at that location in 1860.

I found several girls named Flora born in the same time frame, but none could be linked to the Flora I was looking for. There is a Flora M. with a John and Mary Pierce of Concord, Miami, Ohio in the 1870 census. The name of the head of household was different but it was possible that the girl could be living with relatives of her father. She was the right age, being 2 at the time. However, Ohio death records indicate that Flora M. died on 16 August 1876. There were no other girls named Flora listed in the Ohio Births and Christenings who were of the right age with the right father.There is a Flora, age 3, living with Albert's oldest brother, Josiah,  in Indiana in the 1870 census. However, her birth record indicates that she is the natural daughter of that couple. Another Flora Pierce with a similar birthdate was found with a Francis and Eliza Pierce in Millgrove, Indiana, identified as a niece - an interesting possibililty. In the 1880 census, she is living with a different family. Later records indicate that she married a James Graves and lived until 1956, dying in Florida.

Next, I concentrated on Albert's closest siblings. Brother Edward, who was 7 years older than Albert, married and moved to Breckenridge, Missouri. His other brother, Lewis,  age 6, two years older than Albert, was in La Salle Township, Michigan in the 1880 census. I looked up LaSalle on google maps and found that there is now a direct route from Cleveland through LaSalle to Detroit. Could that be the reason the couple went to Michigan to get married? Maybe Flora's uncle Lewis had no way of getting to Cleveland to attend a ceremony. That would have been a 256 mile round-trip journey for him. Although Lewis is not listed as an official witnesses at the marriage, the wedding party could have reasonably stopped there to pick him up. I wonder what type of transportation they used in 1890? Horse and wagon? Train? It's 175 miles from Cleveland to Detroit - quite a distance in those days.

Since I was unable to find any birth record for Flora M.and never found her anywhere in the 1870 or 1880 census, this mystery may never be solved. We do know that Flora M. Pierce Reed gave birth to one child, Calvin Albert, who lived only one year, and that Flora also died before 1900. Dr. Reed was enumerated as a widower in the 1900 census.

Do I have the right Albert Pierce (Pearce)? Only time will tell.

"Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N36L-6X1 : accessed 28 Jul 2014), Francis A. Reed and Flora M. Pierce, 26 Aug 1890; citing Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, v 4 p 522 rn 6708, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 2342489.
"Ohio, Marriages, 1800-1958," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XDC2-DMG : accessed 28 Jul 2014), Charles E. Fuller and Cora B. Garrett, 23 Dec 1876; citing Lorain, Ohio, reference 2:3JNRVFL; FHL microfilm 0378293.
Ancestry.com. U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
Original data: Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1749, 282 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
The National Cemetery Administration;  Dayton National Cemetery, Burial Ledger, c. 1800-1993.
Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

Year: 1850; Census Place: Napoleon, Henry, Ohio; Roll: M432_693; Page: 6B; Image: 539.
Year: 1860; Census Place: Napoleon, Henry,Ohio; Roll: M653_985; Page: 342; Image: 204; Family History Library Film: 803985.
Year: 1870; Census Place: Concord, Miami,Ohio; Roll: M593_1244; Page: 323B; Image: 202; Family History Library Film: 552743.
Year: 1870; Census Place: Washington, Hendricks, Indiana; Roll: M593_322; Page: 518B; Image: 514; Family History Library Film: 545821.
Year: 1870; Census Place: Millgrove, Steuben, Indiana; Roll: M593_359; Page: 108B; Image: 222; Family History Library Film: 545858.
Year: 1880; Census Place: Columbia, Martin, Indiana; Roll: 298; Family History Film: 1254298; Page: 304D; Enumeration District: 151; Image: 0211.
Ancestry.com. Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.
Year: 1900; Census Place: Cleveland Ward 21, Cuyahoga, Ohio; Roll: 1255; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0097; FHL microfilm: 1241255.
Ancestry.com. Web: North Dakota, Find A Grave Index, 1850-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original data: Find A Grave. Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi: accessed 18 January 2013.