April 25, 2020

Visit from a Lost Nephew

In my early days of genealogy, my mother gave me a copy of a typed story written by Margaret Nash Harriman (1881-1976) about her family.  Margaret was my mother’s great aunt on her mother’s side.  My mother received the information from her Aunt Margaret in January of 1962, however I don’t know when it was actually written.  In the narrative, Margaret talks about her father, James Nash, and his family from Ireland and she included an anecdote about his older sister Mary’s family.  I share it below:

“My father’s sister Kate lived in Cohoes, New York, about three or four miles from Waterford where we lived.  His oldest sister Mary came to America when he was a boy and after the passage of years they lost contact.  He had never heard from his sister after he came to America.  One day when I was about fifteen or sixteen, I do not remember exactly, a man came to our door and asked if James Nash lived there.  He was the son of my father’s sister Mary.  My father’s sister Mary was dead but she had tried to find my father’s whereabouts during her lifetime and the children continued the search.  One of her sons was a pilot on a boat in San Francisco Harbor and whenever someone came in the pilot house and said he was from New York he would ask if he had ever heard of James Nash.  And, finally, after years a man said, “Yes, I know a James Nash.  He lives in Waterford, New York.”  So he wrote to his brother in Erie, Pennsylvania and he, John Shaughnessy, was the one who came to our house.  My father was overjoyed and our cousin stayed with us for several days.  His sister was a sister in a convent, Sister M. Claire, and she wanted to see her only uncle on her mother’s side of the family.  The mother Superior sent her and another sister to Boston on an errand, with the privilege of a two week stop-over at our house.  There was no convent in Waterford so they were allowed to stay with us.  Aunt Kate was dead at that time.  My father was the only one left.  He was much younger than his sisters and brothers.”
- excerpt from notes written by Margaret Nash Harriman and send to her great niece, Ann Hart Hughes Scribner

- Margaret Nash Harriman;
original photo is the property of Judy Wheatley
When I received this information written by Aunt Margaret, it was before the time when there was much, if any, genealogy material on the internet, so I couldn’t really search to verify it.  Thus, I noted in my paper files that James Nash had 2 sisters:  Kate Nash (possibly a married name unknown?) who lived in Cohoes, New York, and Mary Nash Shaughnessy with one son who was a pilot on a boat in San Francisco Harbor, another son named John Shaughnessy who lived in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a daughter called Sister M. Claire who was in a convent.  Aunt Margaret also stated that she was “about fifteen or sixteen” at the time, so the visit from John Shaughnessy was likely sometime in the mid-1890’s. 

Fast forward to more recent times and I can tell you that Aunt Margaret’s story was almost perfectly right!  It was like a puzzle, but I gradually put the pieces together and found the Shaughnessy family in Pennsylvania, linking their branch as cousins on my tree.

Aunt Margaret’s story reveals that Mary Nash married someone named Shaughnessy, and I found that verification in the Catholic Parish Registers now available in Ireland.  Mary Nash married John Shaughnessy (Mariam Naish m. Joannem Shaughnessy) in the parish of Shanagolden, Limerick, Ireland on October 11, 1843.  And as we know, Mary & John immigrated to America at some time after they married.  Knowing that Mary & John Shaughnessy had a son also named John Shaughnessy, I began my search in Erie, Pennsylvania.  I found the family in the 1870 Federal Census for Concord, Erie County, Pennsylvania listed as John (railroad laborer) age 55, Mary (wife) 60, and children Kate 17, James 13, John 9, and Ellene 6.  Also, the 1880 Federal Census shows John & Mary living in Union City, Erie County, Pennsylvania with Ellen 15 and two additional older daughters:  Mary 31 and Alice 29.

Later research revealed that the son, James Shaughnessy was a steamboat pilot, however he was in Sacramento, California, and not San Francisco.  And the youngest daughter, Ellene/Ellen, entered the convent of the Sisters of St Joseph in Erie, Pennsylvania in December of 1880 (at 15 years of age!) and was ordained in 1883 as Sister M. Claire.  John, the nephew that visited James Nash had a career, like his father, with the railroad and his 1913 death certificate states that he was a “R.R. yard master”.  Both John Shaughnessy and his sister, Kate/Catherine married and had children.  Kate married Patrick Carroll in 1873, and John married Margaret Norris in 1898.  Of the older sisters, Alice Shaughnessey died in 1926, and Mary Shaughnessey died in 1930.

Aunt Margaret also wrote:

“My father was the youngest of eight and he stayed with his mother until she died – then came to America at the age of twenty-seven.  This was shortly after the war between the states.  Soon thereafter, he met and married my mother – he was twenty-eight years old – my mother eighteen.  My father was from Limerick on the Shannon and my mother was from County Waterford.  It was quite a coincidence that my mother came from Waterford, Ireland to live in Waterford, New York.”
- excerpt from notes written by Margaret Nash Harriman and send to her great niece, Ann Hart Hughes Scribner

In recent years as the Irish Catholic Parish records have become more readily available, I have learned a bit more about James Nash’s family in Ireland.  He was born and baptized in September 1835 in the parish of Shanagolden, Limerick County, Ireland.  And he was the son of Maurice Nash or Naish & Mary Quinlivan Nash.  James probably came to America about 1863, and possibly aboard the ship “Energy” that arrived in New York City on May 11th of that year.  That ship’s manifest has a James Nash listed aboard that was born about 1836, age 27.
*  *  *  *  *

Names & key dates for some of the individuals noted above:

     James Nash  (1835 – 1910)
     Kate Nash  (1830 – bef. 1910)
     Mary Nash  (1818 – 1876)
     John Shaughnessy  (1820 – 1897)

     Kate/Catherine Shaughnessy Carroll  (1853 – 1940)
     James Shaughnessy  (1857 – 1939)
     John Shaughnessy  (1861 – 1913)
     Ellen Shaughnessy/Sister M. Claire  (1863 – 1942)
     Margaret Esther Nash Harriman  (1881 – 1976)

There is one piece of the puzzle that I have never been able to put together.  What about James Nash’s other sister, Kate, that lived in Cohoes, New York?  According to Aunt Margaret, at the time of Sister M. Claire’s visit, James’ sister Kate was already dead, so Kate died before James did in 1910.

I have never been able to find James’ sister, Kate Nash or a Catherine Nash, living in Cohoes prior to 1910.   Am I just missing her?  Or did she marry and have a different last name?  And were there children or not?  I just don’t know.  I would love it if there is someone who can fill in that blank for me.

- Jane Scribner McCrary

April 16, 2020

Echoes of a Past Epidemic

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic we face today, I am reminded of a story from an influenza epidemic which struck North America from 1850 to 1851. This disease had a devastating impact on my 3rd great grandparents and their family. The text from a newspaper at the time captures the depth of their loss:

TERRIBLE AFFLICTION --- Mr. and Mrs. George Snedeker, who reside in the town of Flushing, have been sorely afflicted by the loss of five children within the brief space of thirteen days. The last victim to the fell destroyer, a child ten years of age, died on Sunday last, and will be buried today at Norwich, L. I., from which place this family removed to their present residence in April last. Five little ones at one fell swoop – another daughter, married, now afflicted with the same disease, and the father prostrate on a bed of sickness.
--- From the L. I. Former, to the Brooklyn Eagle, March 20, 1851, pg 2.

I first found this news story as I was searching online newspaper archives near the Long Island area of New York where I knew that my Snedeker family had lived.  My search included the name of George Snedeker who I knew to be my 3rd great grandfather.  He was also known as Joost Snedeker. 

To determine if this might be the same family as my 3rd great grandparents, I looked first for my Snedeker family in the 1850 Federal Census.  This census has the Snedicor [sic] family living in Flushing, Queens County.  I am certain that this is the correct family even though my 2nd great grandmother Mary Elizabeth, their eldest child, was not included in this census group.  It’s possible that she was either already married by 1850 or was working outside of the home.  I am certain that Jane was her younger sister and Elbert was her brother.  

In the 1850 Census, we have George Snedicor [sic] (father), with Elizabeth (wife), plus 7 children:  Jane 17, Elbert 14, Caroline 12, Henry 10, Andrew 8, George 5, and John 4 years.  Also the census shows that a Vandeverg family lived nearby, and Jane married one of the Vandeverg sons, Jeremiah, later that year on December 24, 1850 -- making Jane very likely the “daughter, married, now afflicted with the same disease” mentioned in the 1851 news story and only a few months after her marriage.

Next, looking at the 1860 Federal Census, we find George and Elizabeth Snediker [sic] living in Oyster Bay, Queens County but they only have one child, Caroline aged 7 years.  This Caroline would have been born after the epidemic of 1851.  In 1860 their eldest daughter, Mary Elizabeth, is found living in Brooklyn with her husband, John Gordon and 2 children.  The next daughter, Jane, was living in Flushing with her husband Jeremiah Vandeverg and a son in 1860.  And the son, Elbert Snedeker and his family were living in the same building as the Gordon family in the 1865 New York Census.  Thus, those three children all lived past 1851.

Elizabeth Snedeker lived to be 97 years old and was included in the 1900 Federal Census.  That census also tells us other interesting information including that she had 13 children during her lifetime, and that only 3 of her children were still living in 1900 -- that would be Mary Elizabeth Gordon, Jane A Vandeverg and Elbert Snedeker.

The five children that died in 1851 would have been the first Caroline, Henry, Andrew, George and John.  It appears that the younger Caroline, born after that time, was deceased before the 1900 Census.  And last, while that accounts for 9 children, we don’t know about the other 4 children that Elizabeth had that did not live long enough to be named in any census. However, Elizabeth and George were married in 1822, and their oldest child that we know of, Mary Elizabeth, was born in 1832, leaving 10 years when 4 other children could have been born.

Having survived not only the influenza epidemic that took so many of her children, Elizabeth led a remarkably long life which spanned the Civil War and into the 20th century.
Printed in the L. I. Former, to the Brooklyn Eagle, NY, March 20, 1851, pg 2;
 and The Long Islander, Huntington, Long Island, NY, March 21, 1851, pg 2.

*  *  *  *  *

Key Individuals:
Elizabeth Swart Heermans Snedeker  (c.1804 - 1900)
George (Joost) Snedeker  (1799 – 1875)

Mary Elizabeth Snedeker Gordon  (1832 – 1912)
John C Gordon  (c.1831 – 1886)
Jane A Snedeker Vandeverg  (1833 – 1919)
Elbert Snedeker  (1837 – 1906)

There are several items that I have searched for without luck that are listed below.  I would greatly appreciate if you have knowledge of information that might assist me with finding these or other related missing pieces of this family story.  Church records would be likely to answer most of these questions.  I haven’t found them yet.

·        A marriage record for Mary Elizabeth Snedeker and John C Gordon circa 1850-1853?
·        Church records that might include birth, death & burial records for the Snedeker children?
·        The news story states that the 5 children that died in 1851 were buried in Norwich, Long Island.  Elizabeth’s death certificate says that she was buried in East Norwich, and we have found that George is buried in East Norwich in the Wesley Methodist Church Cemetery which is now overseen by the Community United Methodist Church of East Norwich Long Island, NY.  I suspect that Elizabeth and all of their young children are also buried there with George, but to date, I haven’t been able to verify that there are any other Snedekers in that small cemetery.
·        Whatever happened to the 2nd Caroline?  At 15 years, she is still living with her parents in the 1870 Federal Census.  Did she live to adulthood?  Did she marry and have a name change?

- Jane Scribner McCrary

April 14, 2020

My Story

Before I begin adding Selected Stories of My Ancestors, I suppose that I need to share a brief version of my own story and how I first got involved in my own family history.

In the late 1970’s, I found myself as a young widow at only twenty-four years of age.  Having lost my home and not attached to a career, I found myself back at home with my parents for several months as I sought solace and determined where to go with my young life.  During that time, I found it hard to focus on much of anything; as reading books, listening to music, and watching movies or TV often brought sad thoughts and tender memories.

To distract myself and focus instead on the stories of others, I began talking with my parents about their personal family histories.  Before long I was building a family tree, collecting copies of photos and recording information about my parents’ families.  Seeing my interest, my loving parents wrote and called their siblings and cousins and gathered more information to fill in gaps where they could.  During this time, I even took a trip to New York, my father’s birthplace, and Virginia and North Carolina to see some of my mother’s relatives.  It was the beginning of a lifetime interest in personal family genealogy.

As time moved on, so did I.  I found a job, and a place to live, and a new chapter in my life.  However, my newfound interest in family history stayed with me over the years to come.

In the last 40 years, my time spent researching my family history has come in spurts.  As I remarried, changed careers, and had a family, genealogical research remained a constant in my life.  Though the time I spent researching ebbed and flowed over the years, the lives and stories of my ancestors continues to fascinate me.

The internet has transformed the work of this family genealogist with access to millions of files and research generously shared by others.  It has connected me with family members and distant cousins who have shared invaluable insight into new branches and family connections. I look forward to continuing to expand my tree and finding overlaps with the trees of other amateur genealogists through this blog.

- Jane Scribner McCrary

An Introduction to Selected Stories of My Ancestors

As an amateur genealogist, I have long been fascinated with the stories of my ancestors.  I am motivated not by the size of my family tree, but the depth of stories to understand the fullness of my ancestors’ lives.  I created this blog, Selected Stories of My Ancestors, to share some of these vignettes about the lives of those who came before me, as well as the historic times in which they lived.

The thrill of finding a letter or news story that mentions one of my ancestors continues to energize me after years of sifting through records.  And finding a photo that allows me to see an ancestor – their hair, their eyes, their clothes and maybe something they did or where they lived - is a true delight.  These snippets are a window into the life of an individual or even a family.

In many instances, I’ve hit dead ends in my family tree where the records run out or the links are too tenuous.  Sometimes time and persistence is the only option, and I have spent years collecting enough clues to build a possible scenario. When primary information and records are sparse, imagination and deduction can help identify possible new lines of research.  But in most cases, overcoming dead ends and finding new threads to pull has not happened in a vacuum.  I’ve relied on distant relatives, mostly found with the aid of the internet, to fill in key gaps in information.  

My plan with this blog is to share some Selected Stories of My Ancestors that I’ve discovered during my journey through my own family history in the hopes that this can overcome some roadblocks I’ve faced in my own research and help others fill in missing pieces as well.  This blog aims to link to distant cousins who might find that one of my stories links to individuals in their own family tree, and thus discover something new and interesting in their own genealogy.

That said, if you do see a name or something here that seems familiar …. please contact me and let’s share information!  I may be able to help you with your brick wall, and maybe you know something that can help me break down one of my own brick walls.

- Jane Scribner McCrary

John Howland overboard on the Mayflower

In October 2020, my blog post was about our family Mayflower connection and my research that connects our family back to the Mayflower voyag...