Addressing My Past

If you know anything about me, you will know I like to research and discover things about my ancestors.  I do because, until a few years ago, I did not know all that much about them.  Either side of the family was pretty much a mystery except for the O’Connells. For me, the O’Connells were my maternal grandmother, Regina, and her brothers Edward and James.  Edward was her twin and James was my godfather.

I have spent a lot of time looking through sites like Ancestry.com, FindaGrave.com, and Newspapers.com  for names and dates of family events. I have also researched the family homes in Brooklyn. This week I plugged in an address to see what would turn up. The house at 164 Dean Street is in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn.  During my lifetime it was “Uncle Ed’s house.”

P045

164 Dean Street, circa 1940, NYC Municipal Archives

It came into my family in March 1907 with the deed going to John Boyle (my third great-grandfather).  With the death of John Boyle, it passed into the hands of the O’Connell family, specifically my great-grandfather, Edward F. O’Connell.  It passed to my Great Uncle, Edward A. O’Connell in 1941 and James O’Connell was added to the deed soon after.

It was common for multiple family units in the immigrant Irish community to fill these venerable old Brownstones. From 1907 through the late 1980’s, 164 Dean Street was the home of many of the Irish names that run in my family; Boyle, Cooke, Mahoney, and O’Connell.

I went into Newspapers.com and found The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the daily paper for Brooklyn for 114 years from 1841 to 1955.  What I found was a little bit of a revelation.  I caught some of my ancestors living their daily lives.  The first thing to catch my eye with the Dean Street address was a letter written by my, then 10-year-old, grandmother to the children’s page published in May 1917 seeking admission to the Humane Club.  It seems to have been a column written by someone who went by “Aunt Jean.”

The newspaper did a lot of society reporting and it actually reported on parties on Dean Street.  Mary Boyle Cooke (my second great-grandmother) celebrated her 81st birthday:

Mrs Anthony Cooke Birthday

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sun, Nov 14, 1937 – Page 18

There were parties for my cousin William “Billy” J. Mahoney, Jr. (1st cousin, 2 X removed)  The first was his 21 birthday party, the second announced his return home on furlough from the army.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sun, Dec 14, 1941 – Page 20

With all those “Misses” invited, I think his mother, my second great-aunt “Gertie”, may have been trying to marry Billy off in 1941.

Billy would, like so many young men during that time, join the Army.  He went to boot camp at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  Either during a break in training or before heading over to the European theater he came home on a furlough and his mother threw him another party.

Billy Mahoney home on furlough

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thu, Jun 10, 1943 – Page 4

I think the second event was a lot more bittersweet than the 21st birthday celebration.  Billy would go on to fight in Europe where he was wounded in action.  He came home to Dean Street and took care of his mother.  He never did marry.

My great Uncle Ed (Edward A. O’Connell) was an interesting character.  He was a banker,  a talented artist and a bit of an amateur historian of the Fire Department in New York City.  In his study on the third floor of the brownstone on Dean Street he had painted a borough map of Brooklyn with the locations of all the fire houses, call boxes and graphics of some of the equipment.  I don’t know if any photographs of the wall were ever taken.  If there are any out there, I would love a copy.  On 24 October 1948 his work appeared in the Old Timers section of the paper.  Both the graphic and the write-up were his work.

Graphic.png

Text FDNY

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 24 October 1948, page 24

I was originally looking for information on births and deaths. I found the life in between.

Revelation

60 Years

My parents, Regina and Jerry Baumann were married on June 3,  1957. Today is their 60th wedding anniversary. They were married when he was 23, just 2 months shy of his 24th birthday, and she was just 2 months past her 19th.

Mom and Dad wedding

Monday is an odd day for a church wedding, and yet there they were at St. Saviour Church on 8th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.  The bride was the daughter of a New York City Fireman. The groom, a young Naval Aviator, was the son of a Brooklyn, shipyard welder.  They were the products of a strong, working class, Irish Catholic upbringing in a world that had recently survived the Great Depression and World War II.  They were of the generation coming of age during the innocence of the 1950’s in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The bride’s parents had great hopes for their eldest daughter, and her choice for a life partner at this age was not immediately embraced by her parents.  They finally relented and gave their blessing.   I guess if my father could land a jet on the rolling deck of an aircraft carrier at sea, he must have shown some potential.  With the blessings of both families, wedding plans were expedited, and they arrived at the church on that Monday to say their vows and start their journey together.

Mom and Dad 3 June 1957

Vows at St. Saviour Church in Brooklyn

The marriage was officiated by Rev. William Scrill, a friend of the bride and groom from their days as CYO counselors at Coney Island. Rosemary McNulty, my mother’s best friend, was the maid of honor. Don Hayes stood up for my Dad. Donald Harper, one of my Dad’s Navy buddies, made a last-minute appearance.

S-103 (2)

L to R: Don Hayes, Regina “Kelly” Baumann, Jerry Baumann, Rosemary McNulty and Don Harper

I tend to study old family photos. The one above is my favorite for a few reasons.  First of all, my mother is positively beaming.  My mother has never been comfortable with her appearance. In fact, she has always downplayed her looks. She is, unquestionably,  an American Beauty.  (Anyone who says otherwise is itching for a fight.)  My Aunt Ann, my mother’s sister, is just barely visible photo bombing over Don Harper’s shoulder.  The other story in this photo concerns the two people on the right of the group shot.  Ensign Don Harper met Rosemary McNulty for the first time on May 26, 1957, just 8 days before this photo was taken.  Introduced by the same couple that they are flanking in the photo.  Take a close look and notice that her left arm goes back to Ensign Harper’s side.  If I were a betting man, I would say that they are holding hands.  The smile on her face reveals a great deal.  Sixty years later, Don and Rosemary are still holding hands in South Carolina.

I am not going to give you some fantastic story of my parent’s perfect life together.  There are no fairy tales.  Marriage is work.  Mom and Dad had more than their share of trouble, heartache, triumph, and adventure.    Their union has produced six children, three sons, and three daughters.  All are college graduates, all have families of their own.  There are 13 grandchildren including adopted and step-grandchildren.

Through their lives together they have battled alcoholism, cancer, periods of unemployment and significant financial challenges. They sometimes battled each other.  During some very dark years, my mother held the family together by sheer force of will.   But, they came back to embrace sobriety, beat cancer, succeed in business and travel the world together.  Today they are battling my mother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s Disease.  They are still together, honoring the vows they shared sixty years ago today.

S-007

I want to congratulate my parents, Regina and Jerry, on reaching this milestone together. I wish for their continued love and happiness no matter what challenges lie ahead.  Whatever comes, I know you will get through it together.  I love you both!

 

 

 

 

 

A man with an umbrella is king in a downpour

May in the low country of South Carolina is subject to rapid changes in weather.  On this particular Saturday, I was attending the morning Commencement Ceremonies at the College of Charleston.  With scattered heavy showers in the morning, the event was moved inside to protect student, faculty, family, and friends from the potential of severe weather.  After the event, we were off to the condo on Kiawah Island for lunch and gifts for the graduate, the daughter of my dear friend.

After lunch, I was heading to the elevator with a full trash bag and my umbrella.  As the door opened to the elevator, a gentleman and two women were already aboard heading down.  They were impeccably dressed.  The gentleman was admiring my big, ratty umbrella. He jokingly offered to buy it from me.   I let him know the trash bag was negotiable, but the umbrella was going to stay with me.  I would, however, be happy to walk everyone in his party to their vehicle under the cover of my ancient canopy.  He smiled and thanked me and said they were going to wait for a shuttle to take them to the location of a late afternoon wedding nearby.  I hopped off the elevator to head to the dumpster to relieve myself of the trash bag.  When I came back to the front of the building there were about a dozen people standing under cover in semi-formal attire.

Their shuttle arrived in front of the building.  I started ferrying people down the steps and around the ponding water on the sidewalk that led to the shuttle.  I started with an elderly woman with a great sense of humor and her daughter. She asked me for my name and thanked me for assisting her.  I then followed with some of the other women in the party and a final walk through the downpour with two younger men.

I was soaked by the time I was done and the shuttle pulled away to the wedding.   I thought it was pretty funny that these folks, none of whom I had met before, were so appreciative of the simple kind gesture of providing cover to keep them dry so they would be comfortable at the ceremony about to take place.  It cost me nothing but damp clothes to keep them mostly dry.

A casualty of all the divisiveness and tension in the country over the past year is civility.  My parents and my grandmother taught me manners as a child in the 1960’s. In today’s world, I think we would all be better off if we offered a kindness to someone who could really use it.  I know that ferrying people under my bumpershoot will not end the unpleasantness that is running rampant.  It is not going to solve climate change or bring world peace.  But maybe it will improve someone’s day or experience and maybe that spirit of kindness will manifest itself in a kind act paid forward by one of the passengers under my umbrella.

It can’t hurt.

Final

Fearless

She is fearless.

For Christmas this past year She arranged for us to get a glass working lesson for two at the Drayton Glassworks in Savannah.  We synched up our schedules and made arrangements for a Saturday afternoon in March to spend a couple of hours learning about the art/trade of glass.

Ronald was our instructor.  He was wrapping up a lesson with a couple when we arrived.  After introductions, some basic shop safety rules and an explanation of the equipment in the glass works we got right to it.  Ronald’s ease with a combination of molten glass and new students was both impressive and unnerving.  He took us through the basics of handling glass on pipes and how to start shaping and adding layers and colors.  The goal for today was a paperweight for each of us.  I went first and I can tell you that I was playing defense all the way from the glass coming out of the crucible until my finished product went into the kiln.  Then it was her turn.

She jumped right in.  This should not have surprised me.  When it comes to a new challenge, a new way to express herself artistically, She is all in.  The way She takes to new things is nothing short of amazing.  While I was over thinking everything and acutely aware of the heat of the glass we were winging around the studio, my partner in crime was examining colors, exploring shapes and working on putting the vision in her head into the molten glass. Her hands gracefully twirling and manipulating the glowing glass on the end of the pipe with an ease and cadence that defied any notion that She had never done this before.

Ronald guided her through the steps and offered assistance when She needed it.  I watched her face as She concentrated on her work.  It was the same determined look I remember from high school.  Head slightly tilted, her lower lip gently held between her teeth.   When Ronald would take the pipe from her to heat the glass or add another layer over her work, She would look at me and just beam this incredible smile.   This was not a competition between us.  Which is a good thing, because She was owning everything about this experience.  When her smile starts in her eyes and washes over her face, I know that She loves not only what She is doing, but that we were doing it together.  I am completely bewitched by the sparkle in her eyes when I see her so happy and determined.

IMG_3853

As She was wrapping up the paperweight and preparing it for the kiln, I could see She was hooked and would want to come back and do another lesson.  As the project twirled and rolled in front of her I could tell She was wishing that our two-hour lesson was not ending.  Her project was ready to be separated from the pipe and placed in the kiln.  A few more rotations and some gentle scoring would enable a few taps to free the hot globe for a 24-hour rest in the kiln.

IMG_3864

On the Monday after our lesson, She went to the studio to pick up the paperweights.  Ronald left three for us.  In addition to our projects, he left the one he made as a demonstration during our lesson.

paperwights

I had already returned to Virginia, so She sent a photo.  She also posted it on Facebook,  with a little tease:

The results of Saturday’s glass working adventure at Drayton Glassworks–one by Michael, one by me and one by the instructor! I will let you all figure out who did which!!

To be honest, I could not tell which was which.  In fact, I had to confess that I was not even sure we had done these.  Ronald had a few classes that day and I am not sure that he really noted who did which project when he placed them in the kiln. She is not sure, herself.  Does it matter?  Not really.  The glass paperweights are a prompt to a great memory of a day spent together opening the aperture of our shared experiences.  They remind me of her determination and her grace in realizing her artistic vision and learning something outside of her comfort zone. The memory of that smile reminds me that, in those stolen moments when I am the only one who sees that big grin and slight shoulder shrug, I fall a little more into her gravity.

NCAA Bracketology and Cheese Theory

Cheese ballI know less than nothing about basketball.  I attended a Division III School where athletes were not on scholarship and played for the love of the game (and, I assume, some generous financial aid packages).  While I attended basketball games in college, they were more of a social activity for me on nights when the games did not interfere with my job waiting tables.  I never really played basketball, my skills were lacking.  It does not hold a lot of interest for me.  Until March.

Each year in my office there is a mad scramble to fill out brackets and predict who will emerge after 63 games (I am only counting from the first round, not the last-minute playoffs to decide who will squeak into the tournament to face a number 1 seed).   Each year I attempt to fill out my bracket and try not to get eliminated from contention in the first round of 32 games.  In 2016, I went out on the first Friday of the tournament.  Generally, I am 2 or 3 standard deviations below the mean when picking collegiate hoops squads.  In a word,  I suck at it.

While everyone was pouring over stats, triple doubles, division standings, the difficulty of schedules, injury reports and seeds in the 4 regions of the NCAA Division I Tournament,   I was trying to sort out the alphabet soup of conferences and major schools that I recognized from prior years.  Trying to be smart about this was not going to work for me.  I am basketball illiterate. I had to do something different this year.

I decided on a departure from my normal approach.  Since my ability to pick a team in the tournament was as dismal as my ability to actually coax a basketball into a hoop, I went with Cheese Theory.   They call it March Madness for a reason.

It is obviously my own invention.  In a nut shell, “Cheese Theory” is nothing more than selecting a team that fits on a sliding scale.  The first and highest priority goes to schools that sound like they could be a type of cheese.  Thus Gonzaga is my pick to win it all.  Second, pick schools from states where there is a thriving cheese industry.  Wisconsin, Vermont, New York.  Wait, no teams from New York this year?  Bummer!   Believe it or not, there is a thriving goat cheese industry in states like Oregon, North Carolina, Kentucky and Washington State.  I am embarrassed to say that I did not know Gonzaga was located in Spokane, Washington until after I picked them to win it all.

You may be laughing at me by now.  I am sure if you went to Villanova you are not happy about bowing out to Wisconsin (cheese producer) or Kansas going out courtesy of Oregon (goat cheese producer).  Gonzaga, that definitely sounds like a type of cheese to me. (Would you like some Gonzaga on your pasta?)  North Carolina and Kentucky, both cheese producing states, battled it out Sunday with UNC ending up on top.

It is all fun and games until someone in the office (with a Duke University sweatshirt for every day of the work week) realized that with the Kentucky loss everyone in my office bracket challenge were statistically eliminated from contention, brackets busted.  Everyone, except for one.  Going into the Final Four, I am the cheese that stands alone.  I am far from a perfect in my bracket, but I am clipping along with a 72% win rate. This from a guy who has never made it beyond the sweet sixteen.  My main pick is still in the running to take the championship home to Washington State.

Because there is no betting permitted in the office, (gambling is against the law, you know…) the person with the lowest point total for the tournament has to buy lunch for the winner.  At this point, no one can accumulate enough points in the bracket to overtake me. Remember the guy with the Duke emblematic wardrobe?  He will be buying me lunch at Subway whether the Zags win it or not.  I wonder what kind of cheese I should have on my sandwich?

All in all, it has been a gouda run!  GO ZAGS!

What I Found in a Photo

While enrolled in a basic genealogy online course through Boston University I discovered that you can tell a great deal about the lives of people from looking at old photos and analyzing the objects around them.  Nothing is meaningless. To test my research skills I decided to work with a favorite photograph of my maternal grandfather, at the time a young FDNY Lieutenant.   LT Bernard Kelly FDNY

My homework assignment to myself was to find out about the truck and the firehouse.  With only visual clues, architecture of the building and a partial side view of the truck, with the engine company number on driver’s door obscured and an “AF” manufacturer’s emblem on the hood, this is what I found (I did not go to my mother or her siblings for any information that would speed the process):

The FDNY Engine Company in the photo is Engine Company 256 housed in the firehouse at 124 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, New York.  That was a simple matter of researching the ladder companies that drove the Aherns Fox Pumpers in the FDNY.  This was not a common engine.  Once I knew the houses to which these engines were assigned, I searched for photos of the firehouses and matched the architecture cues to identify the house.

Once that was done, it was a fast look through the FDNY equipment listings for Ahrens-Fox fire engines and everything fell into place.  The truck in the photo is a 1938 Ahrens Fox Model HT-1000 GPM Pumper and Hose Car.  Its Ahrens Fox registration number is  AF #3442. That is a match to FDNY Engine 256.  It left the factory on May 18, 1938: Shipped by Ben E. Graf via B&O and Erie railroads to New York, NY on June 25, 1938.

The engine remained in the FDNY inventory until the early 1960’s when it was sold to Paragon-Texaco Oil Co.  It was one of the last remaining in the FDNY inventory.

You can learn a great deal from an old photo!  Now I need to go to the FDNY and see if I can name the firefighters in the photo.

If you are interested in the specifications on the truck, as delivered, here they are:

Model HT 1000-GPM piston pumper and hose car with a two-door enclosed cab. 27’ long, weight 18,300 pounds, frame by Parish Pressed Steel Co. Reading, PA. Brown-Lipe 4-speed transmission #T-297496. 50-gallon copper fuel tank under the seat. Timken HX7 front and HX19 worm-drive rear axle, 5.4 to 1 ratio. 4-wheel hydraulic brakes, 16” hand brake. Budd disk wheels, Goodyear 11.25” x 20” 14-ply balloon tires, single front and rear, spare tire on left running board. Ross 760/770204 steering with horn button. Radiator # 539659 with Brewer-Titchener dash-controlled radiator shutters. Painted NY red lacquer. Hosebed with a slatted floor and adjustable rear windshield with 6 Waugh or Lyons hand straps, loop size to fit man’s full sleeve in turnout coat. Compartments including a waterproof box for 1/4 fold 9’ Atlas life net. Approved wire mesh basket 6” deep x 24” wide at the top front of the hose bed. Suction basket holder on tail step.Hercules HXE motor #321758, 53/4″ bore x 6″ stroke, 200 brake horsepower, high-compression aluminum heads, 935 cubic inch, compression ratio 5.44 to 1. Triple ignition (18 spark plugs), Bosch ZR6 two-spark magneto, Exide 6X6K-25-3-R battery on right running board, Auto-Lite MR-4108 starter with an IGC-4064 distributor, Delco-Remy 1106629 generator with 5821 regulator. 2” Zenith updraft carburetor with Air-Maze air cleaner and flame arrester.  Ahrens-Fox 6-cylinder high-pressure piston pump, rated 1000 gpm @ 160 psi, 500 @ 320, 400 @ 400, 250 @ 600, at maximum 14’ lift and engine speed of 1600 rpm or less. 3” discharge gates. Engine-to-pump gear ratio 14-62 (4.4286 to 1). Pump pistons 31/4” x 6” minor (2.1417 GPR), 41/4” x 6” major (1.2238 GPR). Ross relief valve.12-volt starting, lighting, Sireno type 51 siren on vacuum chamber, 10” chrome-plated Corcoran-Brown 2205 swiveling searchlight at the right of cab atop 12” locomotive bell. Tachometer, revolution counter, speedometer, 1000,000-mile odometer, temperature gauge, fuel gauge, oil-level gauge, ammeter, oil-pressure gauge, and viscometer on the dash. Two 10” chrome-plate Corcoran-Brown 29233 headlights. Two 6” red cowl lights, Guide model 361H. Two red and white chrome-plated Guide 280R tail lights. Two 4” chrome-plated rear hose pickup lights. 6 chrome-plated lights under the hood, with independent switches. Red Mars light atop the center of cab. 2 chrome-plated Dietz King tubular lanterns on sides of body. Homelite model R gasoline-engine driven generator with pilot light and 3 extra outlets. Two 500-watt Crouse-Hinds floodlights, one 250-watt Crouse-Hinds spotlights, with bulbs. Three 100’ lengths of #16 two-conductor mine cable. 3 sets twist-lock connectors.Hiland enclosed cab, V windshield, safety glass, metal floor boards, leather upholstery, 2 rear-view mirrors, 2 Bosch QW12/1 semaphore signals with red lights, warning light atop cab, 2 adjustable sun visors, 2 Bosch NY1851 electric windshield wipers, 2 electric defrosters, bell on right of cowl. F.D.N.Y. in 4” block letters on cab doors.Morse 2000-gpm turret pipe atop cab roof, with 3” and 31/2” connections under each side of hose bed. Two 12’ scaling ladders. One each Elkhart 21/2 gallon soda-and-acid and Foamcrest 21/2 gallon foam fire extinguishers. 6-foot hook. 8-pound flat head axe. McElligott double-female Elkhart clapper valve with 300-pound pressure gauge and ground support. Crow bar. Two 41/2” suction spanner wrenches.1 Zerk high-pressure grease gun. Set of wrenches. 10-ton hydraulic jack. 8-ounce canvas hood cover, and 8-ounce canvas hose bed cover, with securing straps and strap eyes. Weed skid chains for driving wheels.

 

 

The names have been changed to confound the researcher…

It has frustrated me that, while doing genealogical research, I have been unable to make the leap across the pond to Ireland with any of the many family lines in my pedigree that should lead me there.  I have been working the Flood, Kelly (seemingly heading to the Isle of Man), O’Connell, Cooke, and Gaynor lines trying to find that leap back to an actual location in Ireland.

My break came in January with a clue that my Aunt Maureen had in her possession.  She has a certified birth registration for her maternal grandfather, Edward F. O’Connell.  The record, from the General Register Office in Dublin,  was dated 15 May 1940.  We are assuming that the verification of the date of birth was for the purpose of registering for Social Security benefits in 1941.  The most interesting thing about the record was the name on his birth registration was not Edward F. O’Connell.  The name listed was Edmund Connell. I had the reason that my search could not get me across the Atlantic.  There was a name change somewhere along the line.

Edmund Connell, aka Edward F. O’Connell, was born in Earlshill, in the district of Ballingarry, County of Tipperary to Edmond Connell and Mary Connell (formerly Morris) on 23 July 1874.  Mr. Connell, the elder, had his profession listed as a Sawyer.  The informant to the birth was Bridget Connell.  I am still trying to sort out Bridget’s relationship to Edmond and Mary.

Armed with this information I was able to connect with a volunteer at Ireland Reaching Out who provided the following information:

Earlshill townland (place-name database) is in Ballingarry civil parish, and also the Catholic Parish of the same name. The townland is located about 10km (~6 miles) south-east of the town of Littleton Co. Tipperary. The baptism for Edward/Edmond took place in Ballingarry Catholic parish the same day he was born, on the 23rd July 1874 (NLI RC Register images – right hand page near the top).

A warning from the volunteer on searching for references to Ballingarry, there are several parishes named Ballingarry in other counties in Ireland.  Take care, if you are doing research, that you have the correct parish. The civil registration district where the birth registry is entered is Callan, which although based in Co. Kilkenny, also covered part of Co. Tipperary.

Edmund O'Connell

Edmond Connell

Mary O'Connell

Mary (Morris) Connell

As for Edmond and Mary, the parents of young Edmond, there is a promising possible marriage for Edmond and Mary in ‘Gurtnahoe and Glengoole’ Catholic parish (see left hand page), which is immediately north of Ballingarry. The date is 24th October 1858 – unfortunately early Catholic marriage records don’t include as many details as the equivalent civil records, so no father’s name, occupation etc. I am reasonably comfortable that this is my maternal great grandparents’ marriage documentation.

 

All of the children for Edmond and Mary for whom I could find civil documentation are:

Catherine – 22nd February 1866
Richard – 3rd March 1868
John – 6th Jun 1870
Mary – 2nd Jul 1872
Edmond (23rd July 1874)
Anne – 23rd March 1878 
Margaret – 13 Mar 1880

Of these birth registrations, all with parents Edward/Edmond Connell and Mary Morris mention Earlshill with the exception of Anne.  The place of birth on Anne’s birth looks like Ballyphilip.

Edward and Ellen O'Connell June 1934 (Nana and Pa)

Edward F. and Ellen O’Connell

On the U.S. Naturalization Record indexes filed with the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York,  Edward F. O’Connell indicated that he arrived in the United States on July 12, 1880.  The port of arrival is lined through.   He would have arrived here eleven days before his sixth birthday.  If he arrived in New York, he would have come through the immigrant inspection station Castle Garden in lower Manhattan.  Castle Garden was the facility used before Ellis Island opened in 1892.  I have not been able to confirm that date or locate a ship manifest that could give us a clue on when the name was changed to O’Connell through records online for Castle Garden.  

Edward F. O’Connell grew up in New York.  He became a naturalized citizen on 2 August 1895.  He listed his occupation as “bartender”. He married Ellen Cooke and raised his family on Dean Street in what is now called the Boerum Hill Section of Brooklyn.  On his draft registration card in 1918 when he was 44 years of age, he listed his occupation as “chauffeur”.  Edward and Ellen  had four children, Regina and Edward (twins), James, and Helen (who died at age 5 as a result of contracting polio.)

Edward F. O’Connell died in 1959 and is buried in the family plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn.

I will keep researching the name change and try to determine the arrival date of the O’Connells (Connells) in the United States around 1880.

 

A note on Irish surnames…

Irish patronymic surnames often feature the prefix O’ . As surnames developed in Ireland, they were formed by adding the Gaelic words O, Hy or Ui denoting “descendent of” to the original bearer’s grandfather or to that of an earlier ancestor.  The prefix Mc denoted “son of” to the original bearer’s father.

 

 

 

Fred Goat Remains Ellusive

Yes, I am still chasing Fred Goat.

In a blog post, In Search of Fred Goat, last November I began the search for a photo of the Fred Goat Company Logo that once adorned the rambling company buildings at the corner of Dean Street and 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, NY.

After the NY Municipal archives yielded a photo circa 1940 of the building from an angle that denied us a view of the turret where the “Goat” maintained vigil I adjusted my search and contacted the Brooklyn Historical Society Library at the recommendation of Greg Young from the Bowery Boys: New York City History.

I received a response from Megan Westman, a Public Services Intern at the Library and Archives of the Brooklyn Historical Society, that contained a photo of the building at just the angle I was hoping to find.  Megan, in her email, said the photo is from 1941.

fred-goat

The Fred Goat Company, Dean Street and 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY circa 1941

Alas, the photo does not reveal the logo along the space at the corner between the windows on the turret. You can barely make out some lettering between the third floor window spelling out the word “GOAT”.  That leads me to believe that the logo and name of the company may have been refreshed sometime after this shot was taken, perhaps after the end of World War II.

The hunt continues.  I think I need to somehow track down the descendants of Mr. Fred Goat in the hopes that someone has the shot for which I am looking.

Continue reading

The Battle Standard of Treason

It now stands on the west side of the Chesapeake Expressway just before the toll plaza heading south towards the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It will be seen by countless thousands of vacationers driving to the beach for their summer vacation along the Atlantic Coast.  A large majority of those vehicles will have license plates from northern states. Yankees from  Ohio, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the New England States.  They will all get a glimpse of it in the breeze.  And some of them will know that they are not welcome here.  The message will be quite clear, flapping in the wind as they continue their trek south.

dscn2423

Alongside the Chesapeake Expressway

The flag flying there is the Confederate battle standard, an 8 X 8 foot flag that accompanied the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia into battle.  Although romanticized over the last 150 years, this flag represents an attempt to fracture this country. To many, it was the battle standard of treason.

I don’t normally drive that far south on my daily commute but I was made aware of the placement of the flag from an article in the Virginian Pilot.  I drove south this morning to have a look myself.  While to the passer-by this may seem to be as innocent as the placement of a flag noting the position of a Confederate unit on a battlefield (the nearby exit is Battlefield Blvd, although that is a reference to a Revolutionary War battle) it will be clear to most locals that this flag’s purpose is to further the cause of Southern Identity Politics. The placement is meant to be a challenge, to be off-putting, threatening.  They are trying to parlay the flag’s presence to stir up sentiment in the Commonwealth that will divide us.

The flag was erected by a group call “The Virginia Flaggers“.  If you look at their blogspot, they are advocating for the return of the flags of the Confederacy and the Restoration of Southern Honor.  They have placed 26 Confederate Flag displays, on private property, throughout the Commonwealth in positions to attract attention to their cause.  The crown jewel of the collection is the 20 X 30 foot Confederate Navy Jack in Chester, Virginia, alongside Interstate 95.

Rallying around those flags are people who feel marginalized by a state that has turned Blue in the last few election cycles.  These people feel like their state has been overtaken by “carpetbaggers” from the North who have come south and diluted the gentile quality of southern society.  Of note, in recent years the Commonwealth’s Governor, Terry McAuliffe, a Syracuse, New York native, stripped these very people of their coveted  battle flag license plates.  This group seems to think that their way of life has been threatened by transplanted northern liberals.  As we enter the gubernatorial election cycle, they are recruiting Republican candidates who will support their cause and continue the rhetoric that demonize those who are geographically challenged by not having been born in the Commonwealth or the other states that seceded from the Union over 155 years ago.

I think there is a place for Confederate flags and monuments.  I think they should be displayed on battlefields to mark lines.  I believe it is appropriate to use them to mark the graves of Confederate dead in private cemeteries and in museums throughout the country.  I believe that the monuments to Confederate dead in nearly every Virginia town and city are appropriate and should be left in place.  I don’t see them as a threat, but as a reminder of the rank and file soldiers who may have romantically believed their cause was righteous and their home state more sovereign than the federal government.  I think  the cry for removal of statues of Robert E.Lee, for example, by groups like the NAACP and Black Lives Matter are shortsighted and equally divisive.  They are promoting their own vile brand of identity politics.

This flag is flying on private property.  So a lengthy discussion of flying it on public land or the exercise of the groups 1st Amendment rights does not apply here. In fact, if you travel the rural roads of Virginia, you will see all manner of Confederate flags, from the Bonnie Blue Star to battle standards adorning the front porches of thousands of houses and vehicles.  That speaks to a larger issue.

What does matter to me is that this is sending a message about the City of Chesapeake, the Commonwealth of Virginia and those who cling to the “ideals” of the old South.  It screams intolerance, hate and a nineteenth century failed economic system reliant on enslaving other human beings. How can that help our communities or state?

I am a big fan of the first amendment.  I think people have the right to speak their mind and spew their hate as much as the next guy. I spent over 23 years wearing the uniform of the United States to protect and defend those rights.  I will gladly stand up and say that this group, hiding behind the defense of their “heritage”, has every right to show their ass. To reveal what they really are.   I also believe that their mission is to further their own version of identity politics and has nothing to do with their heritage.  That is not conducive to life in this country or in this century.

At some point we need to all be Americans.  I think it is time to look forward, not cling to the failed political and economic systems that nearly destroyed this country over 150 years ago.

Parlay

What I choose to resist

protest-sign-oppose-gorsuch-getty-640x480

Protest sign Oppose Gorsuch (Drew Angerer/Getty)

As I watched a news feed of protesters outside on the steps of the Supreme Court filling in the name of Neil Gorsuch on their fill-in-the-blank protest signs with Sharpies, I decided that I need to resist the need to knee jerk a reaction to every action taken in D.C.

I am going to resist making sweeping generalizations about Executive Orders that I have not read or researched on my own.  I will not find fault with another person’s point of view without listening to their concerns and offering mine.  Respectfully, of course.

I will resist the urge to paint a nominee for the Supreme Court as a menace and a threat to democracy without reading about his rulings from the bench, his holdings on cases and stand on legislating from the bench.  I will resist the urge to lay blame for the Senate abdicating their responsibility to give Merrick Garland a hearing upon Neil Gorsuch’s shoulders.  It belongs squarely on the shoulders of the Senate Majority Leader.

I will resist the urge to comment on group think laden posts on WordPress and Facebook. I will respect the opinions of bright and dear friends, even if they differ from my own.  I will just resist the urge to go on Facebook all together.

I will resist panic.

I will also resist Oreo cookies and the desire to binge watch all four seasons of Sherlock. OK, well, I am on the last episode of season four of Sherlock so, resistance is futile.

via Daily Prompt: Resist

Resist