Naughty

Before Jerry Springer, there was the newspaper . . .

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Last week you heard about Patrick Nolan’s (Mike’s great grandfather) death from falling into the Black River in Port Huron, Michigan. The initial article¹ had many other details, not necessarily connected to his death. Let’s back up a bit, first.

Patrick married Alice Needham 4 November 1879, in Kenockee, St. Clair, Michigan. When we saw his 1880 Agricultural Schedule (On the Farm), they were newlyweds. Twenty five years later, they are the parents of ten children (“ages 10 to 25” according to the article—though the youngest was actually only 4, and the oldest born 18 October 1880, so only 24), one already having died (William, age 2). Some time in the 1990s, while interviewing my mother-in-law and her sisters, they mentioned their mother (Elizabeth) said her mother (Alice) “was a saint” as far as what she put up with from her husband. They didn’t elaborate, and I don’t know if it was a case of them not knowing details, or being reluctant to share them with me.

In Where There’s a Will I briefly mentioned looking at Patrick’s probate record. Among the bills submitted to settle up the estate was one from a lawyer, for the paperwork for a divorce filing. Oops. There was trouble in paradise. Or at least Smiths Creek. Ancestry has a “Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952” database, which has images from the county registers. I found an entry dated 17 August 1904 for the two of them, but lined out. Alice had filed, charging cruelty, but apparently changed her mind.

So, back to the article¹ about Patrick’s unfortunate untimely death. We discover that my in-laws probably weren’t exaggerating about him. The subtitle of the article was “Made Round of Saloons Sunday Night and Fell Into Black River While Drunk.” Oh, my! We are also told he’d been in the city for 2 or 3 days, and had been busy on Sunday:

  • he’d been at Dan Conway’s Atlantic house at Quay and Michigan for most of the day, leaving there Sunday night
  • he’s somewhere after that, finally ending up at Pat Cahill’s saloon at 405 Quay Street around 11 pm.
  • he leaves Cahill’s alone (time unspecified), intoxicated, looking for a man named Woods
  • the presumption is he “became muddled and walked off the dock.”¹

I love how the saloons get free advertising, with the address and all! The next paragraph adds other juicy details:

There had been trouble for some time between Nolan and his wife, and not long ago it culminated in their separation. Mrs. Nolan went to live with her mother and it was at that time she would ask the courts for a divorce. About a week ago their differences were patched up and the two started living together again. It is thought that this attempt at reconciliation was not successful, however, as Nolan has been spending most of his time in Port Huron.

That corroborates the probate packet and the register. We get a general description of him that becomes not very flattering:

The place [his farm] was run down, however, as Nolan, in his love for drink, neglected everything.

This whole thing is going from bad to worse! The former justice of the peace (Mr. Frink) was apparently interviewed and painted the following picture:

Nolan’s love for drink, which was his worst fault, and which caused his death, often resulted in his being brought before Mr. Frink. After every drunk Nolan would take a solemn oath not to touch a drop of liquor for six months. At the expiration of that time Nolan would become intoxicated again and then go through the same pledge procedure. Mr. Frink says that Nolan kept this up for several years, always steadfast in his oath, but unable, nevertheless, to break himself altogether of the habit.

I then found a newspaper article (“The Mean Man”²) printed when Alice filed for divorce, containing even more details:

Whenever she left home to purchase supplies, Mrs. Nolan alleges, she would be accused by her husband of having left for the purpose of meeting other men. His insane and jealous disposition, she avers, has deprived her of society and has required her to confine her visits to her mother and brother. Unable to put up with this alleged domestic torture Mrs. Nolan left home on August 7 last. She charges her husband with

  • having lighted a fire in the kitchen stove and removing the lids, causing the smoke therefrom to be carried to the room occupied by herself and children.
  • It is also claimed that he removed articles from the various room in the house and piled them in a heap on the floor.
  • He also removed eatables from the house,
  • dismantled the stove so it could not be used to procure meals,
  • and to cap the climax he overturned a churn she was working at, allowing its contents to spill all over the floor.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’d put attempted asphyxiation above the spilled churn! Hopefully the children went with her when she left—neither article mentions anything about that. While the 3 oldest were out of the house by the 1900 census, 6 were still home in 1904.

Nor do I know if the details above list all of her charges against him. But with the divorce suit withdrawn, would the original paperwork have been destroyed? Maybe I need to check on that. I’m also struggling to figure out why Alice decided to move back home.

Obviously I don’t know exactly what was going on with him or between him and Alice—or how long it had been a problem. Presumably they had good years together, too. It’s all rather sad, though.

Lest you think Patrick and Alice were particularly unusual, not so. I noticed other couples with similar laundry being aired in public. With no TV or social media, the newspaper was the best source of local gossip.

But yeah, based on the descriptions found in the newspaper, it seems Patrick qualifies as naughty.

#52Ancestors

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¹”Paddy Nolan was Drowned,” 14 November 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4-5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

²”The Mean Man,” 24 August 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Winter

“Now is the winter of our discontent.” —William Shakespeare

 

Black River, Port Huron, Michigan, 1905. Image posted by u/michaelconfoy on the Reddit site in 2015. Likely not a winter image, but gives a sense of the area.

My husband’s great-grandfather, Patrick Nolan (you met him in On the Farm), died in the winter. Well, not technically winter, but almost. He died 13 November 1904, in Port Huron, St. Clair, Michigan. Born on or before 4 May 1851, he was 53 years old at his death.

Winter doesn’t arrive until 21 December. Even if you go with “meteorological winter,” that doesn’t start until 1 December. However, Port Huron is an hour north of Detroit, so by mid-November, it can start to feel pretty wintry! I’m giving myself little leeway.

Patrick’s death record¹ states his cause of death is “shock by falling in river.” Specifically, it was the Black River, which was listed at the top of the certificate as the place of death. The article in the Port Huron Daily Herald the next day (14 November 1904)² provided more details:

The body . . . was found shortly after seven o’clock this morning floating in Black River in the rear of the Port Huron Light & Power Co’s plant . . . The coroner believes that Nolan’s death by drowning was accidental and the facts of the case all point that way.

The end of the article notes other details from the coroner:

Coroner Falk and Dr. Patrick held a Postmortem over the remains . . . Serious heart trouble was found and Dr. Patrick gave it as his opinion that the man died from the shock of falling into the water as he was dead before the drowning took place. There were no signs whatever of foul play.

The family, however, wasn’t satisfied with that conclusion. In his dealings selling cattle, Patrick frequently carried large amounts of cash with him. His wife, Alice, thought perhaps he’d had cash on him at the time, and had been attacked, robbed, and pushed into the river. According to the 19 November 1904³ paper:

. . . the family has demanded an inquest. This morning Sheriff Davidson, Coroner Falk and Dr. O. H. Patrick went to Smith’s Creek to exhume the body and make an examination.

The results were reported two days later, on 21 November 1904.4 No change to the verdict was made. The three officials mentioned above were

met by Dr. Brock, two sons of the deceased and about 25 friends and neighbors . . . The body was placed on top of the box . . .

Dr. Brock, the local doctor, didn’t want to examine the body, but told them his charges would be $20. The coroner couldn’t authorize an additional expense for the county, so the two sons covered the cost.

Dr. Brock then cut into the scalp and rolled back the flesh, but was unable to find that the bruise on the side of head amounted to anything. He announced himself satisfied without further examination.

WOW! I can’t imagine doing this, in the cemetery, with over two dozen gawkers (not to mention two children of the deceased) watching. The newspaper then gives a detailed description of the entire proceeding! It was a pretty exciting Saturday.

I’m not really sure why the family was so concerned about the cause of death. Was there an insurance policy that would be impacted by those findings? Did they believe law enforcement should investigate and try to recover the cash they felt was stolen? The initial article² reporting his death mentioned he’d been in

. . . Pat Cahill’s saloon at 405 Quay Street. The bartender gave him 30 cents worth of drinks. Nolan had no money but as he was a good customer of the place nothing was said about pay.

When Nolan left Cahill’s he was intoxicated. He went away alone and said that he was looking for a man named Woods.

While he had no money at the bar, if he was transacting business with “Woods,” perhaps money was exchanged then? There are many question that probably will never have satisfactory answers. The person who knew best what happened was the unfortunate victim. 

There is more to Patrick’s story, but that will have to wait until next week . . .

#52Ancestors


¹http://seekingmichigan.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p129401coll7/id/554434/rec/95; accessed 8 December 2018.

²”Paddy Nolan was Drowned,” 14 November 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4-5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

³”Exhume Body,” 19 November 1904, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

4“Only a Farce,” 21 November 1904, Monday Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 6, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

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 of 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