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I am participating in a genealogy blog challenge called 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. You would have never guessed that the goal is to discuss one ancestor a week, every week for the year. I am late getting started, so will have double up on a couple. To start the challenge, I begin with John Francis Connelly, because today is his birthday.

John Francis Connelly was born  17 January 1877 in New York City to parents Owen Connelly and Margaret Melvin. I believe his mother died shortly after his birth. There are a couple of possible matches in the NYC death certificates, but can not confirm either is she. Advertisement for John Francis Connelly’s printing business in the 1910-1911 Bangor City Directory.JF Connelly ad

In 1880, at just 3 years old, John was living in Bangor Maine with his uncle Patrick Connelly and family. His older brother William was also with them. He and William were enumerator in the census as  Patrick’s “sons” rather than nephews.

John F. was raised in Bangor and became a printer by trade. He was an officer with the Typographical Union, and was appointed as the Maine Commissioner of Labor and Industry in 1911, a position he held until 1915. During his tenure, he was known for his strong support and enforcement of the state’s child labor laws. After leaving office, we continued the printing business in Portland.

John died in Portland in 1960. His wife Katherine had pre-deceased him. He was survived by sons Paul and John Owen.



Governor Christie announced last week that his 2014 Inauguration celebration will be held in the Great Hall at Ellis Island. No sooner had I stopped dancing around the room and texted a friend who I believe can hook me up with tickets, when the critics started.

“Ellis Island?” they asked. “How can the Governor of New Jersey hold a major event at one of NEW YORK’s most famous historic sites?” They theorize that he choose such a notable national landmark because of some far-fetched idea that he has aspirations for higher office.

Map showing the natural land mass in dark green (New York) and filled-in area (New Jersey.)

Anyone who has studied the history of Ellis Island, including all 4th graders in our school district, are aware of the long-standing territorial dispute between the states. I won’t get into the whole story, but the latest determination made by the Supreme Court in 1998, is that the original land mass (including the majority of the main building) shall be New York, and all of the area that was filled-in over the years , which constitutes 90% of the island, shall be New Jersey. Not that it matters, because the entire island (and neighboring Liberty Island) is under federal jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

So yes, technically, the Great Hall is located on the New York property. Do I care? No. I am hoping that having such a high-visibility event with bring national attention to the Immigration Museum and that some of the money from the $500 tickets will find its way back to the landmark.

I’m also thinking that maybe Chris is planning to have NJ take control of the whole island once for all. If the state’s National Guard is lined up on the ferry, we’ll know what’s coming. You heard it here first.

Last night, I posted about the USCIS presenting a 93-year-old woman with a Certificate of Citizenship and some of the questions I had regarding the circumstances. Original post here. Upon further reflection (Yeah, I should probably think things through more completely before writing about them….) I see that the action was ceremonial – that she was simply being issued the Certificate, not actual Citizenship.

But I still have a couple of questions: 1. Why wasn’t her father’s naturalization enough to prove her status and 2. Does it really cost $600 to apply for a Certificate if you are already a citizen?

A 93-year old woman in the Lehigh Valley was recently issued a Certificate of Citizenship, 90 years after she became a legal citizen.

According to the story in The Express-Times, the woman recently applied for a photo ID in order to go on a bus trip to Atlantic City.  She was issued the ID card, but her lack of documentation prompted an investigation by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.  The woman was born in Italy and immigrated to the US as a baby. Her father was granted citizenship in 1926, and as per the laws at that time, his wife and minor children also became citizens by virtue of his application. The father was issued a Certificate of Citizenship; the others were not.

The lack of this certificate apparently became in issue during the recent investigation. She had to hire an immigration lawyer who helped her prove her status. After determining that she is in fact a citizen, the USCIS issued a certificate during a ceremony held at her retirement community, during which she took an Oath of Allegiance.

This is a nice story, but leaves me with many questions (Must be the former reporter in me.)

The article does not say where she applied for the ID card; probably the County Clerk’s office, as I doubt she went to DMV for a drivers license. If she had enough proof to be issued the identification card, why was there a question of her citizenship status? Did whatever agency she applied at refer the matter to the USCIS? Do the feds really have anything more important to do than give a 93-year-old woman a hard time when she just wants to go to Ceaser’s?

As per the article, the USCIS waived the $600 application fee, although it is not clear what it was she was applying for. She is already a citizen. Wouldn’t she just need a copy of her father’s naturalization papers, which should be available at the NARA, to prove it?

Why was she given a Oath of Allegiance – just for show? The USCIS was quoted as saying: “It’s kind of awesome seeing someone that age taking that step.” As she was already a citizen, what step was she taking?

I emailed the author of the story with these questions. I’ll let you know what he says.

New York City is home to many sites of interest to genealogists or anyone who appreciates and enjoys learning about our area’s past. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting one of them, The Tenement Museum.

The Tenement Museum is a 5-story building at 97 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side, built in the 1860’s by German tailor and businessman Lucas Glockner. By the time the building ceased being used for residences in 1935, it had housed an estimated 7,000 individuals from more than 20 countries.  I won’t get too much into the museum itself or the building’s history, as you can read that directly from their website.

Tenement Museum 97 Orchard Street Lower East Side

Tenement Museum
97 Orchard Street
Lower East Side

Tours of the museum start at the bookstore/gift shop located at 103 Orchard, at the corner of Delancy.  I strongly recommend purchasing tickets on-line in advance, as they do sell out and each tour is limited to about 12 participants.

There are several tours offered, focusing on different aspects of the immigrants’ experience, both inside the building and in the surrounding neighborhood. Most of the tours last one hour; one is 90 minutes.  All require a good amount of walking.  Special accommodations can be made if needed.

We took the “Irish Outsiders” tour.  It started around the back of the building and went up to the fourth floor. It included two apartments that have been left in virtually the same state they were found in when the building was purchased in the late 1980s, after 50 years of neglect. It appears to be “authentic neglect” and not staged to look old.  The other apartments have been restored to whatever time period being represented.

I have to say I was surprised that the apartment of the Moore family in 1870 was much nicer than what I expected it to be. The lower east side was certainly a step up from the Five Points, where the family previously lived and where they returned to several years later.

I was impressed that as part of the research into the building, they also located hundreds of descendants of former residents. Using records such as census and vital records, as well as personal recollections from the family members, the organization is able to present the stories of real people who lived here. Their efforts are to be applauded.

Three of the things I learned on our visit:
1. Catholic funeral customs include the covering of mirrors. I thought that was only a Jewish thing.

2.  Building codes updated in 1901 required the installation of windows on interior walls to allow light to come in from the only exterior wall and to increase airflow between rooms.  These “tuberculosis  windows” didn’t work for preventing the spread of that disease.

3. There was a 10-day heat wave in 1896 that claimed the lives of 1500 New Yorkers. (That was from a book in the gift shop, not on the tour.)

I was somewhat disappointed that taking photographs is prohibited. I understand the need and can imagine that it would be distracting from the information being presented. They do hold a special photography event, which was last week. We’ll be sure to keep an eye for the next one.

Our tour guide, referred to as an educator, was extremely knowledgeable and very pleasant. They are not allowed to accept tips, so I made a contribution in the donation box instead. The wide selection of books covering every topic of New York history and immigration also makes it very easy to contribute to the cause! I wanted one of each.

I am looking forward to my next visit and already planning one for next month. If you have visited the museum, please comment; I’d love to hear what you thought of it!


I would love to say that my lack of posting here in the past several months is due to being busy with fantastic genealogical and historical endeavors. But no, I have not been attending national conferences or institutes, or spending endless hours at the state archives.

I have been busy with life; a job, family, house, etc.  I don’t resent doing these other things, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish for my time to myself to pursue other activities.

This is not to say that I did not have a good summer. We attended a family wedding in Clemson, South Carolina and visited an old friend in DC along the way. We spent some time at the camp in Maine and finally met a couple of Connelly cousins whom I have been stalking researching for some time. I got in touch with other cousins from the Hug-Lankish line whom I would like to meet in the future.

I have just started a new research project, which you are sure to hear more about soon, and there are a few genealogical-historical events coming up that I am looking forward to. The Harmony Township Historical Society and Historical Commission is hosting an Open House at the Hoff-Vannatta Farmstead on Route 519 on October 26 . There will be tours of the house and barns, Civil War re-enactors and a quilt show. I am particularly looking forward to seeing how they disassembled two buildings that were dangerously close to the road and reconstructed them a little ways back on the property.

The other upcoming event is The Genealogy Event on November 2 in New York City. I found last year’s one-day conference to be informative and came home with many new avenues of research.

Please feel free to share any other events that I can add to my “Hope to Get To” calendar!


New Jersey will not become a modern day Gretna Green. Governor Christie has vetoed legislation that would have eliminated the 72-hour waiting period for marriage licenses issued in the state, saving us from the possibility of tacky 24 hour drive-thru wedding chapels.

The current 72 hours required between the application and issuance of a marriage license in New Jersey is a cooling off period to prevent impromptu nuptials that might be regretted when the blinding light of a new love or the rush of spontaneity dims. When I served as a Municipal Clerk, there were a few instances when the couple was not aware of or misunderstood the waiting period.  A visit to a Superior Court Judge always saved the day.

Senate bill, S2399, would have allowed for the immediate issuance of marriage licenses. It  was designed in part to attract destination weddings to the state, particularly Atlantic City. As the once popular seaside resort struggles to find its place between a shore town and a casino/entertainment venue, it was thought that this could draw betrothed east-coasters away from Las Vegas.

“Gretna Green” is a term used for a town that is a popular wedding destination, usually due to its less-restrictive marriage regulations. These regulations could be a waiting period or a minimum age requirement. Its origination comes from a town in Suothern Scotland where many young couples were married after England set the minimum marriage age at 21.

If your search for a marriage record has been unsuccessful, try looking for a “Gretna Green” near the couple’s usual place of residence. Very often it is a town just over the county or state border. A list of popular wedding destinations can be found here on Family Search.

Should you find a couple who did go outside of their hometown to marry, it does not necessarily mean that they were trying to avoid a regulation. It could be that they wanted to keep the union private, had friends or family members in the other town, or they simply liked that location better.

When all else fails, try looking in Vegas.


I love the rush of receiving new information on a line that had been stalled!

Last week, I connected with a cousin from my Maternal Grandfather’s PHELPS line. Our common ancestor is my 3rd great-grandfather James Phelps. James was born about 1844 in England. He married Hannah HARTLAND in New York City in 1872 and they raised their family in Bergen and Essex Counties, New Jersey.

The “new” cousins reported that James’ parents were Joseph and Hannah Tyler Phelps, who settled in Philadelphia upon their arrival from England with their many children. I am most appreciative of this new information, as I know nothing of his family other than his father’s name was Joseph. However, without seeing what records my cousins used to ascertain this information, how could I be confident that our James belonged to this Philadelphia family?

Patience might be a virtue, but it certainly is not one of mine. I (literally) could not wait to renew my research on this line and have been working enthusiastically on trying to prove this relation.

I reviewed all my previous research on James to see if there was anything that would link him to this family. The earliest record I have for James is his 1872 marriage record which does not state his parents’ names. Census records show the family in New Jersey, with James working in a lock factory and as a metal pattern maker (this is a “key” piece of information!) James’ death certificate only lists his birthplace as England, his father’s name as Joseph and his mother’s name as Unknown. His obituary contains the same limited information, and does not mention any siblings.Advertisement from the 1867-68 Philadelphia City Directory.

Conflicting census records state James’ year of immigration as 1847 and 1865. My earlier attempts at locating his arrival (focusing on New York ports) were unsuccessful. By extending the search to Philadelphia, I located an 1852 arrival of a James PHILLIPS, age 6, with his mother Hannah and siblings. The father Joseph Phelps had arrived in 1851. Census records show this group in Suffolk, England in 1841; Warwickshire in 1851 and Philadelphia in 1860. But is this “my” James?

The Philadelphia City Directories for 1861 through 1868 lists both Joseph and James Phelps at the same address and with the same occupation of Lock Smith. Advertisements in the same publications extends their scope of work to Silver Plater. By 1870, Joseph is still listed in the city directories, but James is not.  During the same time frame that this James Phelps leaves Philadelphia,  my James Phelps is getting married in New York City. I think this is looking good!

Long before the Consumer Product Safety Commission, people were on their own to make decisions about items they choose to bring into their homes and left to their own devices on how to operate them properly. Some did, some didn’t. Just as we do today, we read the instructions, maybe even the warnings, but we don’t always follow them as well as we should.

Such was the case in October of 1933 at the DAVIS home in Bayonne, New Jersey.

Writing to her daughter Inez at college, Inez Catherine CONNELLY DAVIS related a story of a modern convenience the family had purchased.

“We bought one of those dry-cleaning machines from Macy’s
and the chemicals to go with it. They are like a little washer only
you turn it by hand. The directions told us plainly to raise the
windows if used in the house and to be careful not to inhale the fumes.”
dry cleaning machine

So we know the directions warned about the noxious nature of the dry-cleaning solvent. Do you see where this is going?

   “We tried it in the house the first night  we got it and didn’t open the windows. The odor was quite heavy, like ether, but it didn’t bother us a whole lot. When we went to uncover the bird in the morning, he was dead in the bottom of the cage. So that was the end of Billy.”

RIP Billy the Bird

The monthly meeting of the Delaware and Lehigh Valley Genealogy Club will be held on Monday, February 11, 7 pm at the Grace Lutheran Church in Phillipsburg. There will be a presentation by representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Whitehall, PA. They will be discussing what is available at the Family History Center. Hope to see you there!