Bearded

To shave, or not to shave . . .

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I was not terribly excited about this prompt, because I had zero ideas about what to write about. We don’t have any Amish in our trees, and offhand I couldn’t think of anyone with a beard. Mike’s 18-day beard when we went camping in the Pacific Northwest in 1998 (he decided to take a vacation from shaving) wasn’t particularly noteworthy. I don’t think we have a photo record of it, either.

His beard was kind of nice, and had grown out past the awkward and uncomfortable stage—itchy for him and rough/scratchy for me. But he shaved it off when we got home. As soon as we got home. That afternoon—not the next morning. No warning to me. No chance to say goodbye to it. I was in the yard picking up the mail from the neighbor and talking about the trip, when he walks out with a naked face! There aren’t even words.

So yeah, no story there. A couple weeks of working on other posts intervened. It finally occurred to me that Christian Meintzer did have a beard, but he’s already had quite a bit of press in the blog (My Favorite Photo and Colorful), and I don’t have any particular story about him and his beard. Cousins, feel free to help out!

So I’m going to cheat and back off to just a mustache. A number of them hang around our trees;

John Carmody portrait 1906
Photo ca. 1906 probably provided by him to The Port Huron Daily Herald for an article written about him 2 March 1906

some you’ve seen before. The first is John Joseph Carmody, Mike’s paternal grandfather. You meet him in Unusual Source. As I mentioned then, I don’t know that much about him, and certainly don’t know any stories about his mustache. But his photo from the paper is just to awesome to pass up!

Another mustache, attached to my great-grandfather, Carl Moeller, was from the same turn-of-the-century era. My mom remembers this grandfather’s handlebar mustache when she was growing up, and she said he had a mug with a bar across the bottom edge to keep his mustache dry when he was drinking coffee. When I see one of those in an antique stop, my mind immediately goes to him! He’s the 2nd from the left of the men in the foreground, below.

Carl Moeller Northbrook photo_0001

From the photos I have seen, my grandfather, Christoph Meintzer, never sported a mustache, but his older brother, Jacob, seemed to. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to put my hands on one of Uncle Jake’s photos.

I don’t recall my dad or any of my uncles having mustaches, but I vividly remember a time when all three of my brothers were mustachioed. It was the 1970s, so that explains a lot! Several cousins had them, also—some never giving them up.

1975 dad and sons
1974-1976? Warren, Bob, Dad and Bill in front of the house we kids grew up in. Three mustaches and one not. This is a fairly rare image of Warren with a mustache.

I must be getting old, because it seems one memory begets another. As I wrote this, I suddenly remembered my oldest brother, Bob, coming home for our oldest sister, Carole, getting married in May, 1969. I was at school when Mom picked him up at O’Hare . . . with hair down to his shoulders, and a full beard. She was not at all pleased. I don’t know what discussion went on, but by the time I got home from school, his hair was shorter and the beard trimmed up. Mom was visibly happier!

1969 May 31 Mom & Bob
31 May 1969 Mom and Bob, at Carole’s wedding.

Beards and mustaches aren’t particularly important in the grand scheme of things. We sometimes get so caught up in the stories of our people, that we ignore the littler stories behind the stories. Often those are as interesting—or more mysterious—than bigger issues in their lives. Were they

  • Following the fashion of the time?
  • Rebelling?
  • Taking on a dare?
  • Trying to be taken more seriously in their profession?

Most of the time we will never know, but it’s interesting to look for possible patterns. And we need to save those photos for blackmail, later!

#52Ancestors

Unusual Source

Sometimes I find people in odd places . . .

John Carmody portrait 1906
Photo ca. 1906 probably provided by him to The Port Huron Daily Herald for an article written about him 2 March 1906

John Joseph Carmody is Mike’s paternal grandfather. Due to some odd circumstances (Where There’s a Will), he did not raise Mike’s father. John died in 1940—he’s been gone a long time.

When I started researching Mike’s tree, I had little information, so tackled the records with easiest access—censuses. I located John with these occupations in:

  • 1900—horse trainer¹
  • 1910—soliciting agency²—what did that mean?
  • 1920—master transportation, Michigan Short Ship Circuit³

Say what? That last string of words meant nothing to me. It could have been Greek. I wrote it down, but had no clue. If you remember in Close Up, I mentioned the fateful trip to Port Huron that blew apart the faulty tree I had constructed for Mike. Knowing John’s death date, I had requested the microfilm of the local paper at the county library, hoping to find his obituary. That was the lovely record4 unraveling the family.

But that wasn’t the only information in the obituary, which was surprisingly lengthy and was located on the front page—also unexpected. I learned he:

  • had a nickname—”Racetrack Jack”
  • “was founder of the Michigan Short Ship Trotting circuit
  • “was one of the outstanding authorities on trotting horses in Michigan”
  • became “a master of transportation for the racehorse circuit and his ‘Carmody Special’ became known throughout the United States”

Wow!

I know you’re thinking, “Census records and newspaper articles aren’t unusual sources!” No, they aren’t. You know how every once in a while you get bored and Google your own name (to see how many “yous” are out there), or old boy/girlfriends? Well, genealogists do that with our dead people. Sometimes with our live people, too. New sources show up online, or someone creates a new web site for their genealogy. You never quite know what, if anything, you’ll find.

So on a boring Thursday afternoon, 10 November 2016, I decided to see if there was anything new for John Joseph Carmody—particularly as it related to horse or harness racing. I don’t remember what my search terms were, but I ended up with many results I could clearly see were “not him.” Most of them I didn’t even click into.

Then I saw one for The Horse Review, in Google Books, of all places! Oh, what the heck! I clicked on it and discovered it was an ebook, accessible for free. Naturally, I clicked through again and found myself in the Horse Review 23 April 1901 vol 26 page 421 (yes, you can click on the link and go there yourself). It was a little article in the lower right corner talking about the upcoming racing season in Michigan, mentioning John by name, and talking about his special train.

The Horse Review (I’ve since learned) was a weekly newspaper published from 1885-1932 about the standardbred harness horse. It was the place to go if you were looking for that kind of news. A more recent search also turned up this page: Horse Review 17 June 1902 vol 26 page 648. It had an ad for the upcoming (1902) season at the bottom of the page, again mentioning that John Carmody was in charge of transporting the horses by rail (lower left corner). The idea was to not only entice spectators to the track, but also to encourage potential contestants to sign up their horses and drivers.

Why do I care about this relatively obscure periodical? It’s not telling me anything momentous. I already learned about this activity of John’s from the census records and his obituary. Remember, though, that obituaries are frequently written by (or the information provided by) family members. There’s always the potential for embellishment, or just flat-out mistakes. So while I love the details in the obituary, having an unbiased source to corroborate that information is extremely useful.

Prepping for this blog post, I did further newspaper searching for John. He was all over the Port Huron papers from 1901-1921. Sometimes it was an article about

  • the upcoming season
  • which horses were coming in for a set of races
  • his travels in and out of town, dealing with race business
  • the horses he’d arranged to come in for the race (now the “soliciting agency” occupation in 1910 makes more sense!)
  • occasionally it was about a birth, death, or marriage in the family, but those were the minority

It would have been easy to blow off the Horse Review search result when I first saw it, but I’m so glad I took the time to check it out. I love discovering the little everyday bits and pieces that round people out. While they sometimes raise other questions, we get a much clearer picture of the person and his or her life. We—and they—are so much more than just a birth and death date.

#52Ancestors


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Port Huron Ward 7, e.d. 103; Page 16B; dwelling number 371; family number 378; line 99; John CARMODY [PARMODY] household; accessed 21 September 2018. John CARMODY [PARMODY], age 37; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 742; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Port Huron Ward 7, e.d. 115; Page 14B; dwelling number 360; family number 365; line 64; John J. CARMODY household; accessed 21 September 2018. John J. CARMODY, age 47; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 673; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Port Huron Ward 7, e.d. 123; page 5A; dwelling number 95; family number 98; line 15; John J. CARMODY household; accessed 21 Septermber 2018. John J. CARMODY, age 56; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 795; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

4“John Carmody Dies Thursday,” 5 January 1940, Newspapers.com: accessed 22 September 2018, record number: n.g.; citing original p. 1 col. 5 below photo, entry for John CARMODY, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

 

 

Close Up

We don’t always know what we think we know.

The Internet can be a wonderful place. It corrals huge amounts of information (and sometimes misinformation!) for us, making it instantly retrievable–as long as my Comcast connection doesn’t go down. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always have the answers, and sometimes we have to get closer to the records, or closer to where the event occurred, to find the information we need. Or to correct the misinformation we acquired. That was the case with my husband’s grandfather, John Joseph Carmody (Where There’s a Will). I knew a bit about him:

  • he was born in Ireland and emigrated to Canada
  • he had two wives; my husband descended from the second–Mildred B. Fitzgerald
  • some of his children with Elizabeth (1st wife) were born in Canada, the rest in Michigan
  • in Canada he worked for a railroad, and at a later point, he ran the “travel camp” near the lighthouse in Port Huron.

But it was the late 1980s, and with small children, I couldn’t actively work on genealogy. We were also 6 hours away from Port Huron. However, my brother-in-law made contact with the Carmody family, and was invited to a reunion an hour or so away. He went, had a good time, and reported back to his mom (my mother-in-law), who shared the information with me. Best case scenario, I was getting 3rd hand information, none of it written down. We all know how the game of “telephone” goes. The story I heard was:

  • John Joseph’s first wife died, he remarried a younger woman with a couple children
  • they had more children, Jerry, my father-in-law, being the last
  • Mildred (2nd wife) died shortly after Jerry’s birth and he was adopted by an Aunt–Anna Carmody Bauman (Where There’s a Will).

From documents Mike inherited from Jerry, I knew Anna’s parents were Michael Carmody and Mary Whalen (Anna’s Irish birth certificate), and those matched the parents’ names on John Joseph’s death certificate (http://cdm16317.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16317coll1/id/1463050/rec/93) . So the two documents tied together with the story I’d heard. Anna was born a Carmody, so if she was an aunt, she was John Joseph’s sister, meaning the two of them needed the same parents. Everything was peachy, and I blithely continued looking for Carmodys in County Clare, as well as the US and Canadian census records, as they became available. There were just a few unresolved issues:

  • John Joseph was 20 years older than Anna. That’s not necessarily a “real” issue, since we are talking about an Irish Catholic family. My grandfather’s oldest full sister was 20 years older, and they were Alsatian and Lutheran! I could live with that age gap for siblings.
  • I didn’t have a birth or death date for Michael Carmody. We had the note Anna received from someone in Ireland (no signature or return address) informing her of her father’s death, and enclosing a newspaper obituary. The clipping has no date, and the stamp and postmark were torn off the envelope. Michael was 68 years old, but without some sort other date, his death can’t be placed properly. I don’t think the Irish census records were online, yet.
  • John Joseph and Mildred’s marriage information lists his parents as Andrew Carmody and Mary Callereny. However, that came from a volunteer lookup for us, and the register itself was a transcript of the original records. Ample opportunity for possible errors there.

So with other, seemingly solid, evidence, I deferred those doubts–particularly the last one. Then we decided to visit my husband’s aunts in Detroit. Mike suggested we could drive to Port Huron, so I could research for a day. He and the kids would do something else while I was at the county library. I jumped at the chance, and made use of the obituary card file, and whatever else I could find (one branch of his mom’s side was also from that area). Then I requested the microfilm to look up John Joseph’s actual obituary. Since I had a death date, it wasn’t hard to find.

I learned he left the railroad job because he “didn’t like trains cuttin’ buttons off my coat.” I learned more about his involvement with harness racing–using trains to transport the horses from one track to the next. Then came the bombshell. In the survivor list, there she was: “. . . his nieces, Anna Bauman, Lena Haynes . . . ” Niece. Not sister. My jaw dropped to the floor. The room started to spin. My brain scrambled frantically, trying to fathom how much damage this caused in my data file. Even worse–that file was 343 miles away, on my desktop computer at home! It would be days before I could access it and see where everything stood. When my husband picked me up, I was raving like a madwoman how that whole branch was totally messed up.

You may be thinking, “Big deal. You made a mistake.” Not quite. A “mistake” is a typo, a wrong date or place (usually because the record(s) have it that way), or misunderstanding what the record or document is actually saying. However much a genealogist tries to prevent it, we make mistakes–and hopefully correct them. This was a MISTAKE. Connecting people together correctly is the most important task. When that’s wrong, the research we do is based on a faulty relationship, sending us down incorrect paths and wasting time.

Of course I detached John Joseph from his “father,” Michael, when I got home. But it was important that I understood how I got it wrong, and specifically which record or piece of information. I needed to leave an explanation about what part of that information was incorrect, so someone else didn’t make the same mistake.

Obviously the bit about being adopted by an aunt was wrong–Anna was Jerry’s older cousin. I can’t say for sure if “aunt” was what was told to my brother-in-law, or if it was garbled on its way to me. I’ll never know, but I do know it’s incorrect.

John Joseph’s marriage info is probably correct, after all. People getting married are providing their own information, and most people know who their parents are. So I am comfortable with Andrew and Mary Callereny being his parents.

How did the death certificate get messed up? That’s because John Joseph, Michael, and another (probable) brother, Patrick, each named a son after their father, Andrew! One was still in Ennis, Ireland, but the other two–close in age–lived in Port Huron, Michigan. Apparently Michael’s son, Andrew (a nephew), was the informant for the death certificate, not John Joseph’s son, as would be expected. His relationship isn’t stated, only an address. That might have helped me realize he wasn’t John Joseph’s son, but the 1940 census wasn’t released, yet, so I couldn’t use that as a cross-check. I drew the most logical conclusion at the time, which unfortunately was wrong! Of course, if Andrew had understood the question, and given his uncle’s parents, instead of his own, he’d have saved me a lot of angst!

I still feel stress when I think about this episode. If I hadn’t decided to get “close up” and look for that obituary, I’m not sure if or when I would have realized my error. As more census records have come available, I have been able to confirm my new conclusions. But would I have believed them if I hadn’t found the obituary clearly identifying Anna as a niece? I’m not so sure. I’m just glad I didn’t settle for, “His obituary is not going to tell me anything I don’t already know!”

#52Ancestors

Where There’s a Will

I really haven’t done much with wills. Well, I’ve written two (though the “sound mind” clause always makes me a little nervous!), but as part of my genealogy research, not so much. That’s due to a combination of reasons:

  • I didn’t have a specific research question that a will would have helped answer
  • I come from a long line of peasants–no money to speak of, so mostly no wills
  • Not living near the places where I would need to look up a will
  • Not having other family members particularly interested in genealogy and wanting to make a research trip with me
  • Having a limited budget (i.e.: fairly non-existent) for either the trip or hiring someone local to the will to look it up

In fact, I’ve come in contact with only two wills in all this time, both on Mike’s side. One was for a maternal great-grandfather, Patrick Nolan. The paperwork from his probate packet was microfilmed, but unfortunately, the microfilm printer at the courthouse was broken, so all I could do was read and take notes. It was before digital cameras, so that wasn’t an option either. It was interesting reading, but no amazing revelations, either.

The other will is a photocopy of the actual will for his father’s adoptive mother, Anna Carmody Bauman. It provides the only documentation of the in-the-family adoption that took place. I never met my father-in-law. He died while Mike was in college. Mike and I knew each other, but hadn’t started dating, yet. After Jerry died, his 2nd wife packed up his paperwork & memorabilia and gave them to Mike, as the oldest child. The 1940 will was included in that.

Jerry was the youngest child of John Joseph Carmody and Mildred B. Fitzgerald. It was a 2nd marriage for both. John’s first wife had died, and their 8 children were mostly grown, when he and Mildred married. Mildred was 29 years younger than he, and had two young children. I haven’t determined if her first husband, Gordon Marshall, had died, or if they had divorced. Regardless, John and Mildred went on to have a “2nd family” of three boys: Michael, Joseph, and Jerry. Even though Mildred was only 37, she somehow developed a lung infection in the weeks after Jerry’s birth. She was hospitalized and never recovered.

That left John, age 66, with a 6-year old, a 3-year-old, and a newborn (plus two step-children)! I don’t think it was an era of a lot of hands-on parenting for men back then. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he hadn’t changed diapers or done 2 A.M. feedings–and probably didn’t want to start. In fact, by the 1930 census, John is living without any children, managing the Port Huron Lighthouse travel camp. I’m not sure where the others were living.

Jerry’s baby book was mostly empty, but had an entry in the “Baby’s First Outing” section:

“Baby went out for the first time on the 12th day of September 1928, with Mrs. Hart when Millie was taken sick and stayed there until after the Funeral of Millie the 16th of Sept. and then Nano took[e] him Home for always.”

I don’t know who Mrs. Hart was–my guess is a neighbor–and I assume “Nano” was a nickname for Anna. We have no adoption paperwork, but at least the entry corroborates what Mike had heard from his dad. The 1930 census also lists him as “adopted son” for Frank & Anna. I’m not sure how adoption by a family member would have been handled then in Michigan. My guess is that it would still be considered closed, with records unavailable.

1930 CARMODY John J Michael Jerry
John Joseph Carmody with sons Michael (left) and Jerry (right). Despite being raised by Anna & Frank, he apparently saw them on occasion. I estimate this to be in 1930 or 1931, based on Jerry (age 2 or 3?). This is the only photo we have of his dad.

Anna’s husband, Frank, died in 1936 from colon cancer. Anna died 4 years later, in 1940, with Jerry’s birth father, John Joseph Carmody, having died in January that same year. Fortunately, Anna’s will survived, giving confirmation that Jerry was born a Carmody:

” . . . I give, devise and bequeath all my estate, real, personal, or mixed wherever situated to my beloved son (adopted) Gerald Bauman (formerly Gerald Carmody) . . .”

I’m extremely grateful she made the effort to leave a clear trail to the Carmody surname. I’m not sure we would be able to find it out, otherwise.

#52Ancestors