Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Raymond Mathew Ryan and "Etta" Wulfekuhl

Raymond Mathew Ryan was the 9th of nine children born to James Hugh and Rose.  He was born on August 3, 1904 and was baptized at St. Aloysius Church in Elmwood Place. His brother (and my grandfather), Roy, was four years older than Ray. But as Roy is in my direct line, I will discuss him last.  
Ray was only nine years old when his father died and seven when his older brother James died.  His parents had already lost two children to scarlet fever.  From a young age, Ray lived in a family where things were  quite difficult financially.

Ray married Henrietta "Etta" Wulfekuhl on October 3, 1928. As newlyweds Ray's mother, Rose, continued to live with them in their home in Norwood.  In the 1930 Census, Ray's occupation was listed as "paymaster for a paper company".  As I understand it, life was not easy for Ray and his wife, Etta as they apparently lived in a few rooms on the second floor of a building with their three children.  Over time, however, Ray and his wife achieved the middle class dream.  Ray built a couple of homes and he and his wife had three beautiful children: Mary Agnes (who married Vincent DiBenedetto), Patricia Ann (who married Robert Beiderman), and James Hugh (who married Peg Hoffmann).  The picture below includes Mary, Ray, Jim, Etta, and Patsy.

I hope to update this when I've had the opportunity to connect with Diane DiBenedeto, another family historian married to a descendant of Ray and Etta.  My Aunt Evelyn remembers both with such fondness.  She says that Etta was a truly joyful woman and one she admired greatly.  Apparently she had a tremendous sense of humor and exuded a calm, self-confidence.  Ray eventually worked as an "efficiency expert", working with factory workers to improve productivity.  The picture below portrays a family that emerged from difficult times to achieve the "American Dream".

One of my favorite pictures was taken by Bill Batchelor, Jr. It includes three of the Ryan sisters (Rose, Florence and Bea) and their brother, Ray.  The only thing that would have made the picture better for me would be if it included my grandfather, and their brother, Roy.

Here is a picture of Ray and Etta. What a handsome couple!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mary Beatrice "Bea" Ryan and Albert Lammert

Bea, as she was known, was born on June 27, 1902, the 8th of nine children.  By then the family was living in Elmwood Place.  Bea was baptized at St. Aloysius.  She was only 11 years old when her father died of pneumonia and the family was plunged into poverty.  She met and married Albert Lammert on June 24, 1926.

The family lived in Price Hill in a home that was built by Bea's husband and father-in-law.  Bea and Albert were the parents of four children:  Albert (who later married Patricia Ann Miller), Mary (who married James Bill), Margaret and Richard.  Over the past few days, I've had the opportunity to talk to Pat, Mary, and Margaret.

All three tell me of a woman who loved a party and who was an excellent cook.  The family had a home in Price Hill that was built by Al and his father.  The two of them were carpenters and had their own business until the depression.  Later Al joined a company and worked as a millwright.

Once again in our family history we have an Irish-German marriage.  Bea, true to her Ryan roots, however, loved to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.   They had a bar in the basement and loved to entertain.  Aunt Evelyn tells me that she felt close to this family, in part because there were four children in this family as there were four in hers.  Playing cards was one of the main forms of entertainment for this generation.

The picture that emerged from our conversations was one of a very happy, content person who enjoyed life and brought joy to the lives of all those she encountered.  I'm going to see if I can get a picture of her husband, Al, from one of the many descendants of this couple.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Sunday in God-Years by Michelle Boisseau

As someone who finds herself immersed in the history of her family, imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered A Sunday in God-Years by Michelle Boisseau.  Michelle is the granddaughter of Florence Ryan and FitzPatrick Boisseau.

I was not aware of the history of the Boisseau family at all -- if I had a family with as interesting a history as this family, I would feel compelled to write a book about them, too.  But Michelle is a poet -- and I could never duplicate her way with words.

Her book lists nine generations of Boisseaus. (You can view the history by clicking on the image and then magnifying it). The first generation of immigrants came from France in 1685.  They were Huguenots (French Protestants). Since our family is largely Catholic, I was surprised to read that the initial immigrant was Rev. James Boisseau and his wife Sarah Holmes.  I wonder if the transition to "Catholic" occurred when Florence Ryan came into the picture.

One section of her book is titled "Fitz Patrick Boisseau".  This name is woven through multiple generations of the Boisseau family.  To use Michelle's words:
Odd name.  Yoked way back.  It was the name of my good brother, Pat, the name of my talented fuckup of a father, John Fitz Patrick Boisseau, died of wounds received fighting for the Confederacy.
. . . Each man supported the name "Fitz Patrick Boisseau" like a family cowlick or cancer . . .
My dead brother, Pat, spent twenty years on the warm side of brilliant, funny, kind, admirable, then thirty-three years wandering the woods of the madlands where devils hang like possums from branches, where Jesus is a volcano, and like a hank of hair your soul is yanked from your body by a passing pickup while you talk on a pay phone to your sister.
I am nothing but curious now.  Is this quote a literal account of how Pat died?  If so, how tragic.  I've always found it a challenge to discuss mental illness in any of its forms.  Her language moves me.  I feel the pain.

Today I visited Spring Grove Cemetery in search of graves.  Three generations of Fitz Patrick Boisseaus are buried there, as well as my Great-Aunt Florence and Pat's second wife, Lois.  They are not all in the same plot and I stopped checking after finding this grave.

I know there are some good things that came from all of this.  On one of the interviews Michelle gave, she discussed  a book her father gave her that had been in the family for some time. It was a book written by Longfellow that had been given to Michelle's grandfather in the 1890s. Her father, Pat, presented it to her when she received her PhD.

I hope that Michelle and her siblings find this blog and gain understanding by reading about their "Ryan" side of the family.  The more I learn about my ancestors, the more blessed I feel on every level.

PRX Radio Interview   This is a link to a radio interview Michelle did for her university.  Very interesting.

Read Michelle Boisseau's response in the comment section below.

Florence Ryan Boisseau and FitzPatrick Boisseau

I love the stories -- and boy does Florence Margaret Ryan have one.  Florence, born December 30, 1895, was truly the middle child of James Hugh and Rose Ryan.  She was the fifth of nine children.

Florence married FitzPatrick Boisseau, a Southern Gentleman, who grew up in Richmond, Virginia.  Mr. Boisseau was a Freight Manager for the railroads and came to Cincinnati about 1888.  Much of what I learned about Florence and her husband was told by her granddaughter, Michelle Boisseau, on a youtube video.  Click on the link Virginia in Verse and start playing at about minute 33.

The Boisseau grandchildren never knew their grandfather, as he died at the age of 77 in 1941.  On the video Michelle says that her grandfather, whom she describes as an elderly gentleman, met Florence in a drug store where she worked as a pharmacist.  She speculates that her grandfather, who was 58 years old when he married Florence on October 24, 1925, "was looking for a young wife . . . to take care of him."  As there was a 28 year difference in their ages, I think that is a fair observation.

I'm trying to put myself in Florence's position.  I imagine the years when she was growing up, the family was typical of many at that time, as it is unfair to compare their standard of living with what we consider to be middle class today.  She was 18 years old when her father died, leaving the family in poverty.  She was 30 years old and unmarried when this older gentleman showed an interest and the promise of a comfortable life.  Who wouldn't consider it?

In addition, Florence became the mother of a son, FitzPatrick Boisseau, in 1926.  When "Pat" was just 12 years old, his father died leaving Florence a widow.  Florence doted on her only child and he was provided with every advantage.  He attended Summit, an elite private school in Cincinnati.  He was extremely bright and landed a job in both radio and television in Cincinnati.  Apparently his privileged background did not provide him with the coping skills needed to deal with a wife and nine children.  Their marriage ended in divorce.

The April 1, 1996 obituary published in the Cincinnati Post included this information:
Veteran Cincinnati broadcast newsman Fitz Patrick ''Pat'' Boisseau, 69, died Saturday at Mount Washington Care Center. Mr. Boisseau spent more than 30 years in broadcast news here on both WLW radio and WKRC-TV. Between 1951 and 1952, he worked for the U.S. Information Service as a radio officer in Bangkok, Thailand. He left WKRC-TV in 1963. He joined WLW in 1967, where he remained until 1982.
A more realistic portrayal of the family history was found on a posting re: Michelle.  For the full story, go to PoetryNet.org
Michelle Boisseau was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1955, into a family that by 1964 grew to baseball-team size: Fitz Patrick (Pat), Jonathan, Michelle, Madeline, Nancy, Robert, Charles, Barbara, Denise. Her parents had long ties with Cincinnati, though Boisseau's paternal grandfather had come from Virginia and was a descendent of Huguenots who fled France in 1685. In the mid 1960's their mother, a commercial artist, returned to work when her husband, a radio and television news broadcaster, had a series of manic episodes. Boisseau's parents separated and were later divorced.
I'm going to deviate from my normal pattern and post some information about the Boisseau family history in the next post.  Michelle made the job easy by publishing a  book.  It is so interesting.  Stay tuned.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Rose" Mary Agnes Ryan and William G. Batchelor

Five of the nine children born to James Hugh and Rose Ryan were girls. Margaret Mary "Agnes" died when she was almost 8 of scarlet fever and pneumonia. Mary Julia Cecilia was born September 7, 1890. She married J.J. Gill of Chicago, IL on October 18, 1918. In less than two years (October 8, 1918) she was dead. As she died before my Aunt Evelyn or Uncle Jim were born, I've not been able to find anyone who remembers her story.

Three sisters lived long lives: Rose Batchelor, Bea Lammert, and Florence Ryan. This post will discuss Rose.

"Rose" Mary Agnes Ryan was born on May 18, 1892 in Louisville, KY.  This is a mystery to me because I am not aware that the family every lived in Louisville.

On May 8, 1913 Rose became the wife of William (Bill) G. Batchelor.  This was less than six months before Rose's father, James Hugh, died of pneumonia. Rose had "guts".  Her husband, Bill, had been raised an Episcopalian.  I'm sure that she rightly assumed that her parents would not look favorably on a marriage to a "non-Catholic", so she and Bill eloped.

My cousin, Mike Ryan, and his wife, Doloures, met with Rose and took notes on her "story".  Rose told them that she and Bill met at a Cigar Shop that was located at 5th and Walnut.  At the time he worked in a theater and was a "shipper of film".  She told them that she and Bill caught a train at Pearl and Butler Streets and traveled to Maysville, KY.  They were married there by Judge Rice.

I can just imagine how "thrilled" her parents were when she returned.  They were soon "remarried" by Fr. Flynn in the library of St. Xavier Church downtown.  Bill eventually converted and became a Catholic shortly before he died.

Bill continued to work in movie theaters as a projectionist.  The technology looks so primitive by today's standards.  I wonder what Bill would think about our capability to watch movies on our cell phones or computers?

Rose and Bill became the parents of one son -- William Batchelor.  Rose enjoyed painting and a few of her pieces are still placed with various relatives.  Aunt Evelyn also told me that Rose raised and sold bull dogs.

Rose cared for her mother in her home for the last 17 years of her life. I understand that that was difficult as she had to be in a hospital bed and it was a challenge to move her.  Hopefully, I will be able to learn a little more about Rose and Bill and add to their story.

P.S.  Both Aunt Evelyn and my brother, Tom, called to remind me that Rose and Bill had a summer home on the Ohio River out in New Richmond.  Tom says he remembers going out there and that although the house was not right on the river, it had a big wrap-around deck from which you could see the river.  In his travels, Tom has tried to identify where the house might have been.  He speculates that when they built the new dam system and almost doubled the pool stage of the river that perhaps the area did not survive.  I wish I could remember.

Update:  Jim Ryan, Jr. wrote with this update today:  Kath, I do know the true story about Uncle Bill Batchelor.  Before he turned Catholic, they had a summer home in Moscow, OH.  One year they left the summer home to come home to Cincinnati.  Then in February that year, the river flooded and it was his job to bring in the statue of the Blessed Virgin.  He had to go back to Moscow to put the Blessed Virgin in the house. 

When he came home, he told Aunt rose that there was about two inches of water on the ground, but around the statue, it was dry.  I have his statue!

Thanks for the story, Jim.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

James Nicholas Ryan

This is one of my favorite family photos.  The first time I saw it, I recognized his face right away.  If I show it to family members and ask them who it reminds them of, they all see the likeness of my nephew, Christopher.  That's pretty amazing, since James would be a gg-uncle to Christopher -- hardly a close genetic relative.

James was the first of nine children born to James Hugh and Rose Ryan.  He was born on April 28, 1889 and baptized at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral.  James' story has always intrigued me because he died tragically of diphtheria on May 1, 1911  -- just days after he turned 22 years old.  Family notes say that he died aboard the U.S. Ship "Virginia" while it was docked in the Boston Navy Yards.  As I stated in an earlier post, his father was so devastated that he insisted on verifying that it was, in fact, his son inside the coffin when it was returned to Elmwood Place.  He just couldn't believe that his first-born could have died in the prime of his life.

The family story surrounding James is quite interesting and one I hope to investigate further.  Our version goes something like this. James dreamed of joining the Navy.  He was so interested in joining that at the age of 17, before he was old enough to volunteer, he used his father's name, James H., to sign up early.  (I question this, but that's the story).

While in the Navy he was apparently at sea in a fleet of three ships when the propeller on one of the ships broke.  With one of the ship's disabled, the fleet could no longer continue on its mission.  Somehow the commanders of the ship became aware of the fact that James' father was a "brass molder" and that James N. knew something about the process.  They were able to remove the damaged prop and James was able to use materials aboard ship and mold a replacement blade.  This enabled the fleet of ships to continue on their mission.

As a result of this there was a change in Navy policy and all new ships had a "foundry" aboard ship to enable them to do onboard repairs.  In addition, "the story" is that a building was named after James, but it was called the "James Hugh Ryan" building vs. James Nicolas since he had signed up using his father's name and that's how he was known in the Navy.  He was also honored with a flag from the ship.  My mother had that flag and when she was going through things before her death, she asked me if I thought we should keep it.  Not understanding what it was, or its significance, it ended up on the pitch pile.  Oh how I, and my cousin Mike, regret that decision now.

Now my curiosity is overwhelming.  There must be some truth to his lying about his age because I located James' Death Certificate in Massachusetts.  This is the information from it:

Name: James N Ryan
Death date: 01 May 1911
Death place: Boston,,Massachusetts
Gender: Male
Race or color (expanded): White
Age in years: 25
Estimated birth year: 1886
Birth date: 1886
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio
Marital status: Single
Father's name: J H Ryan
Film number: 2393942
Digital GS number: 4283225
Image number: 00801
Reference number: 738
Collection: Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841 - 1915

The estimated birth year seems to support "the story's" claim that James falsified his age in order to join the Navy early.  Today I plan to submit a records request to the National Archives to see what parts of the story can be supported by his actual file.  It's difficult for me to accept that people in the prime of their life could die from something we vaccinate for and prevent today.  How nice it was to even have to look up diphtheria as it is not something that is part of our 21st Century lives.  I'll keep you posted on what I find out after I get the file from the National Archives.

Note:  Based on the NARA records and some newly-found cousins, this post has been updated.  Please refer to posts on this topic that begin on January 31, 2011.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

James Hugh and "Rose" Gross Ryan -- My Great-Grandparents - Part II

I've yet to find out why my g-grandparents got married in Ottenheim, KY.  In putting this post together, I tried to put together everything I knew about "Rose" Gross Ryan.  Surprisingly, it appears as if Rose was actually living in Cincinnati before James Hugh.

Rose's parents are Charles C. Gross from Wuerttemberg, Germany and  Rose Becker from Lorraine, France.  (Alsace-Lorraine is a territory that shifted back and forth between France and Germany.  The family, although citizens of France, were ethnically German). The 1900 Census lists the date of immigration for Rose Becker as 1860.  (A later Census lists the date of immigration as 1855).This is an interesting fact because further investigation may allow Rose's parents to be submitted to the Hamilton County Genealogical Society for a "Settlers and Builders" designation.  This designation is available for any direct ancestors that can be "proved" to be living in Cincinnati before 1861.

So here is what I know about "Rose" Gross:

  • Rose was born on May 2, 1865 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

  • Rose married James Hugh Ryan on June 27, 1888.

  • James Hugh and Rose were the parents of nine children.  Three of them died before 1911 -- two of scarlet fever and one of diphtheria.

  • Rose became a widow of six children when her husband died of pneumonia in 1913.

  • Mary Julia Cecilia Ryan married J.J. Gill of Chicago.  She died of the flu during the 1918 flu pandemic at the age of 28.

  • As a result of Hugh's death, her 7th child, Roy, had to drop out of school at the age of 13 to help support the family.

  • Once when I was asking my aunt what she recalled about Rose, she said that Rose didn't seem to be able to manage money.  I then asked, "What money?"  Again, this was a time before Social Security.  What was a woman with young children supposed to do?

  • The family was so poor that when James Hugh died, he was buried in a "single" unmarked grave at St. John's Cemetery.  The three children were buried in a plot owned by Anton Beckerle.  Rose was also buried in a "single" grave that is not located next to her husband's grave.  None of the graves are marked.

  • After becoming widowed, Rose lived with and was supported by her children.  In here older age, she moved back and forth between the homes of her daughter's, Rose and  Florence.

  • Just to keep me on my toes, there were three generations of girls with the given name of "Rose".

    When Rose was growing up with her widowed mother, the family lived with Rose's old Becker siblings Catherine, Nicolas and Victor.  The1880 Census lists an extended family of 8 running a stamping and embroidery shop on West 6th Street in Cincinnati.Rose is listed as "working in the store". She obviously learned to embroider.

    One of the family's treasures is the lining of a hat that belonged to James Hugh.  Someone in the family had the foresight to keep that lining.  Luckily for us, my mother wrote on the reverse side of the hat liner that it had been embroidered by Rose for her husband, J. Ryan.  Pictures don't due the item justice.  It includes a beautifully embroidered bird.

    This is the only evidence we have of what was obviously a loving and caring relationship between my g-grandparents. I'm so glad we have it.
  • Friday, April 16, 2010

    James Hugh and "Rose" Gross Ryan -- My Great-Grandparents - Part I

    James "Hugh" Ryan was the 6th of eight children born to Hugh Ryan and Mary Ellen McInerney.  He was born on September 27, 1862.  He was known as "Hugh", which I find interesting because the 5th child was named "Hugh".  The first "Hugh" in the family was born in 1861 in Evansville.  I have a copy of his baptismal record, but I've yet to find out what happened to him.  I suspect he died at a very young age.

    Hugh, as I will refer to him from here on out, was my g-grandfather.  Hugh is listed as living with his mother and siblings in Cincinnati from 1880 -1889.   During that time, the family moved from 13th St. to Cutter and Everett to Gest St. to W. 8th St. to 280 Baymiller.  (In 1886, Hugh and his sister Margaret briefly shared a separate address living on 9th Street).  Hugh married Mary "Rose" Agnes Pauline Gross on June 27, 1888 at St. Sylvester Catholic Church in Ottenheim, KY.  I've yet to figure out why their marriage took place in Kentucky.  Hugh's sister, Margaret, and Rose's brother, Julius Gross, were witnesses to the marriage.  When they initially got married, they lived with the rest of the family at 280 Baymiller in Cincinnati's West End.

    Hugh's occupation is listed as "core maker" in the 1880 Cincinnati City Directory.  From 1882 through 1894, Hugh's occupation was listed as a "molder".  Hugh was promoted to "foreman" at the American Brass Works in 1895.  In 1897 the family relocated to 979 Clinton in the West End.  I was not able to find a City Directory for 1900, the year my grandfather Roy was born, but the family was living at 428 Plum in Elmwood Place (a suburb of Cincinnati) by 1901.

    Hugh and Rose were the parents of nine children:   James Nickelos (1889), Mary Julia Cecilia (1890), Rose Mary Agnes (1892), Margaret Mary Agnes (1894), Florence Margaret (1895), Richard Matthew Hugh (1898), Royal (Roy) Joseph Francis (1900), Mary Beatrice (1902), and Raymond Matthew (1904).

    The family was living at 404 Beech St. in Elmwood Place in November, 1913 when Hugh died of pneumonia. I visited the home today to take a picture and the two current residents graciously allowed me to do so.  They had just reseeded the front lawn and planted a garden full of spring flowers.  The home is a two-family, but I do not know if the Ryans occupied the whole house or not.

    According to Aunt Evelyn, Hugh was out campaigning in early November 1913 for a candidate for Mayor of Elmwood Place. It was cold and rainy and Hugh became ill.  Hugh's Death Certificate says that he was first under the care of a doctor on November 7th.  He succumbed to pneumonia on November 16th, 1913. His Death Certificate listed him as "Superintendent of the Foundry".  He was only 51 years old.

    Family life for the Ryans revolved around the parish Church in Elmwood Place.  St. Aloysius was the home of baptisms, funerals and family marriages.  Before Hugh's death in 1913, the family lost three of their nine children.  Richard died on February 21, 1902 at the age of four of scarlet fever and pneumonia.  Six days later, his seven year-old sister, Margaret, died of scarlet fever and measles.  Both children are buried at St. John's Cemetery in St. Bernard, Ohio.  I can't even imagine losing two children in a week.

    The saddest death of all had to be the death of James Nickelos (various spellings).  He was born on April 28, 1889 and died on May 1st, 1911.  Just after his 22nd birthday, James died of diphtheria while aboard the U.S. Ship "Virginia" while it was docked in the Boston Navy Yards.  I recall hearing stories that James father, Hugh, insisted on opening the coffin when his son's body was returned to Cincinnati.  He just could not accept that James was actually dead without personally identifying the body.  All three children are buried at St. John's Cemetery in St. Bernard. They, like their parents, are in unmarked graves.

    As this post is getting rather lengthy, I will continue with a focus on Rose in Part II.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Sometimes It's the Smallest Things . . .

    Aunt Maggie, as Margaret Ryan was known to her great-niece Evelyn McCafferty, was the 7th of eight children born to Hugh Ryan and Mary Ellen McInerney.  Census records show that Margaret and her younger sister, Ellen, were born in Iowa.  From 1882 through 1903, Maggie is listed in the City Directories as living with her mother as they moved about the West End of Cincinnati.  As  teenagers, both Maggie and Ellen were listed as "knitters" when they were still too young to be employed in the workforce.

    Later Maggie worked in a tailor shop being listed at various times as a tailoress, vest maker, forelady, etc. Aunt Evelyn remembers that Maggie made the most beautiful button holes and had a great deal of skill.  Later in her life, Maggie lived alone in what Aunt Evelyn described as a very small second-floor apartment. The 1930 Census lists Margaret as a renter on Laurel. Her monthly rent was $12 per month.  Her Death Certificate lists her residence as 933 Laurel St.

    There were a couple of recollections that "stuck" with Aunt Evelyn over the years. Evelyn remembers to this day that on her 10th birthday, Aunt Maggie gave her a dime as a birthday present.  Evelyn seemed to understand even at that young age that that was quite a gift from someone she knew was extremely poor.  She also recalls that anytime you visited Maggie, there was a votive candle lit in front of either a statue of the Blessed Virgin or the Sacred Heart -- she's not sure which.  The other recollection is that every Sunday, Maggie attended two Masses -- one for herself and one for her brother (probably John) who no longer attended Church.  As a young child, Evelyn could not imagine going to two Masses every Sunday.

    In our conversation, Aunt Evelyn recalled that her Great-Aunt Maggie had come out to visit the family.  She seems to recall that there was some agreement that her mother and father would visit Maggie at her home the next day.  Instead the visit was delayed a day and they were quite upset to discover that Maggie was on the floor and had been there at least 24 hours.

    Margaret died on August 2, 1937.  The Death Certificate says that she was being treated by her doctor from June 15th until her death.  It is hard to read the exact cause of death, but coronary sclerosis was a secondary cause of her death.  The informant on the Death Certificate was Mary McGinnis, Maggie's niece.  She is buried in an  unmarked grave on Lot 1 of St. Joseph New Cemetery.  As I type this on April 15, 2010 however, I can say that Maggie left an impression on a little 10-year old girl.  She obviously was very religious, a talented seamstress, and a caring sister and Aunt to her family members.  I wish I could have known her.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    John and Johanna

    Every now and then there is a mystery.  John Ryan is a great one.  I had always assumed that John had remained single. After all, in reviewing more than 20 years of City Directories, I could only identify a couple of years when John was not living with his mother.  For most years of John's adult life, he had worked as a house painter. In the 1900 Census, John was listed as "single".

    The Death Notice for John published in the Cincinnati Times-Star listed John's age as 53 years and said that the funeral would take place "from the late residence of his nieces, Misses McGinnis".  No mention of a wife or children.  The Cause of Death was listed as "uraemia -- chronic nephritis".  He had suffered from this condition for four years.

    Just when I though I had John figured out, I went to visit St. Joseph's Cemetery New (the Irish cemetery) to see if John had a grave marker.  I had been there once before, but this time I went to the office and asked them for a printout of everyone buried in Lot 1, Section 16.  Several family members are buried in Lot 1, but most, including John's mother, Mary Ellen, and his sister, Margaret, are not in marked graves.  Imagine my surprise when the printout included a listing for Johanna Ryan.  Who was Johanna? Both John and Johanna are in marked graves. I was able to track down Johanna's Death Certificate and it listed her as the widow of John Ryan.  WHAT????

    Johanna died of influenza that developed into pneumonia in 1919 -- a year when this country suffered a severe flu pandemic. Census documents for Johanna list her as the head of the family and mother of three children.  Two were girls:  Johanna and Anna.  Eventually I found a marriage record for them.  They got married at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral on August 7, 1881.

    The Death Certificate for John lists him as "married" -- yet no mention of a wife or children was included in the Death Notice, despite the fact that he died seven years before his "wife".  It made me wonder about the fact that divorce was just not an acceptable option in the early 1900s, especially in the Catholic Church.   I can only assume that there was not a lot of contact between John and his children if they weren't even listed in the Death Notice.  If you just go to the cemetery, a totally idyllic picture is painted as John and Johanna rest in peace next to each other.

    If you click on the Census document posted above, you can clearly see that whoever provided the information for the census did not know whether or not to designate John as "single" or "married".  There is clearly an "S" and a "M" in the box -- you just can't tell which letter was entered first. Perhaps I'll eventually be able to find out what happened to the children of this union.

    The day I went to the cemetery was a beautiful spring day in Cincinnati.  Despite no additional grave markers for the other five people buried in the plot, there is a stone that marks the section.  Who knew dandelions could look so beautiful.

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    A Word about the "West End" of Cincinnati at the End of the 19th Century

    In my opinion, there is nothing more boring than reading a bunch of Family Group Sheets that list meaningless names and dates of the birthdays and deaths of those who came before us.  I want to know about the people behind the listing. What did they think of their circumstances? How did they stack up on the social ladder of their time? How were the lives of our ancestors different from our own?

    When our Ryans came to Cincinnati, it seemed as if they were one step ahead of the landlord.  They moved to 10 different locations in a 20 year period.  It's hard for me to think that each move represented progress on the social ladder.  I'm guessing that some moves were moves "up" and others were not.  It made me wonder what the West End of Cincinnati was like in the 1880s.

    Today I visited the Cincinnati Historical Society to see what kind of pictures they may have in their files from that era.  I knew that "film" was invented by George Eastman in the late 1880s.  Until then, all pictures were taken with glass plates.  It was an expensive proposition and not a technology that would have been readily applied to the poorer neighborhoods of the time.

    Most of the pictures of the area were ones taken in the late 1920s, about 30 years after the time I was hoping to understand.  They did have one article on the "Laurel Homes" Public Housing Project that was one of the first attempts by the federal government to try to clean up the slums, provide better housing and sanitation, and improve the lives of the citizens.  Most of the addresses of our Ryans were in locations that were torn down in the 1930s to make way for this housing project.  The community was once very vibrant, but over time it deteriorated greatly.

    You can see from the bottom picture that the housing was very dense and that the streets were filled with children and adults.  What is telling, however, is the description of the area.
    It was an area with one of the highest rates of disease and crime in the entire city.  Old tenement structures, crowded together on the land allowed little or no back yard space fit for play and poor light and less sunshine in the rooms.  Five percent of the dwellings had no sanitary conveniences -- not even a sink; 75% had yard or hall toilets; 80% had no baths; few had satisfactory heating equipment; 60% were in poor structural condition and 13% were unfit for habitation.
    As time when on, the family moved several blocks north settling in areas near Liberty Street.  Although this picture was taken in the 1920s, you can get a feel for how the neighborhood may once have looked.

    This picture was taken at the corner of Liberty and Bremen in the 1920s. The next generation of Ryans would follow much of the population up and out from the city basin.

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    The First Two Generations -- Let's Review

    The Irish have a custom, unfortunate for family historians, of naming the children of each new generation after the parents, grandparents, etc. of the preceding generations. Add to that the fact that just about every girl has "Mary" as part of her name and it can all be very difficult to keep straight. So let's take a couple of minutes to review. You can enlarge this table by clicking on it.

    First Generation
    • Hugh Matthew Ryan came to the United States on the heels of the potato famine. There is strong evidence that other family members came about the same time, especially a younger sister, Mary.
    • Mary Ellen McInerney was born of Irish parents in England. The family then relocated to Pennsylvania and then to Evansville, IN. There were 11 children in this family.
    • Hugh and Mary Ellen married in Evansville and had five or six children there. About 1865, the family moved to St. Louis and later to Iowa. Two of the girls were born in Iowa. Returning to St. Louis, Hugh died in 1870 of dysentery.
    Second Generation
    • Three of the eight children born to Hugh and Mary Ellen died before 1870: Matthew, Richard and Hugh (not to be confused with James Hugh).
    • Mary Ellen moved the family to Cincinnati around 1875, possibly to find the support of other family members.
    • The oldest girl, Mary, got married at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral to William C. McGinnis. They had at least two daughters. Mary died in 1889 at the age of 36 of meningitis.
    • John is an interesting story all by himself -- and one I will deal with in the next post. He married Johanna Hartman at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in 1881. Census documents say they had three children.
    • James Hugh (my g-grandfather) married Mary "Rose" Gross and will be discussed extensively in future posts. They had nine children.
    • Margaret never married. She lived with her mother until her death in 1903. As a young girl, Margaret was a knitter. Later she was a seamstress and had her own tailor shop. She lived most of her life in the West End of Cincinnati.
    • Ellen is still somewhat of a mystery. She lived with her mother until her mid-thirties. After that I've not been able to find a record of a marriage or a death. One more loose end.
    I wonder about how they felt about their lives? From my perspective, the second generation was still extremely poor and living in the West End. At that time in Cincinnati the housing stock in that area was less than adequate. Many family's lived in tenement-type housing with very inadequate indoor plumbing. Were the opportunities for the Ryans in the United States better than those in Co. Limerick? I think they would agree that they were. At least they could be hopeful that the third generation would do even better. Let's find out if they did.

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Why Cincinnati?

    I've always wondered what brought the Ryans to Cincinnati.  I was able to trace Hugh Ryan from Co. Limerick, Ireland to Evansville, IN, to St. Louis, to Iowa and back to St. Louis by the time of his death in 1870.  His widowed wife, Mary Ellen, was left with 5 children at the time of his death (3 had died as children). In preparation for this entry, I focused on gaps I had in the Ryan record and tried to determine what it was that brought the Ryans to Cincinnati following Hugh's death. 

    I went to the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton Co. and just started reviewing one City Directory after the other.  Many are online.  The earliest I could find all of the Ryans (Mary Ellen, Mary, John, Margaret, Ellen and James Hugh) in Cincinnati was 1880.  By then, the oldest girl, Mary, had married William C. McGinnis. a Cincinnati fireman.  The 1880 Census lists one daughter, Mary.  I believe she had at least one additional daughter (based on the Death Notice for John Ryan). Unfortunately, Mary suffered an untimely death at the age of 36 of "brain fever".  This was the term for what we would currently call meningitis. 

    A review of the City Directories shows that all members of "our" branch of the Ryans were living in Cincinnati by 1880.  They moved continuously, living initially on 13th St.  Over the next 20 years, the family moved from 13th  to Cutter and Everett, to Gest , to W. 8th, to Baymiller, back to Everett. to Western, to Liberty to 918 Wade.  Most of the time, John, James, Margaret and Ellen lived in the home with their mother, Mary Ellen.  James Hugh married Mary "Rose" Gross in Ottenheim, KY on June 27, 1888.  The newly-married couple lived with Mary Ellen and the rest of the family the first few years. 

    In 1880 when the family came to Cincinnati, Mary Ellen was 50 years old.  Mary was 27 and married to William McGinnis.  John was 21 years old and employed as a carriage painter.  Seventeen year old James Hugh, my g-grandfather, is working as a brass worker.  Margaret is 15 and Ellen is 13 and not yet working outside of the home.

    So why Cincinnati?  I've not yet been able to figure out how Mary met her husband, William McGinnis.  However, a member of William's family was a conductor on a railroad that linked Cincinnati to St. Louis.  A more likely theory is that they came to be with "family". There was another Ryan family living here headed by 52 year-old John.  The 1876 City Directory lists John Ryan living at 52 Rittenhouse.  His son, John Jr. is employed as a carriage painter (same occupation as "our" John when he came to Cincinnati).  A daughter, Annie, is a vest maker.  Eventually "our" Margaret was involved in the making of vests.  I think it is possible that John was a brother to Hugh -- an area that will require additional research.

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Easter 2010

    Yesterday was Easter.  It was a beautiful, unusually warm day for Cincinnati in early April.  This year we did something a little different.  Instead of a formal sit-down dinner, Tom and Linda graciously agreed to allow us to come to their home and we all contributed various hors d'oeuvres and deserts.  It was wonderful.  The second generation includes some quite creative cooks and their contributions must be "healthy".  We all benefited.

    A couple of the kids could not attend at this time, but Savannah, Mae, Ian, and John represented the "grandchildren".  We all missed Will and Quentin -- but then there is always Christmas when we will have yet another boy added to the mix, thanks to Chip and Lisa.  How my parents would have loved it!

    We had an appearance by the Easter Bunny -- aka Don. The younger kids differed in their reactions, ranging from delight to fear.

    Despite what is a less than stellar economy, the whole family seems to be doing pretty well, and we are blessed with healthy, bright and joyful children and grandchildren.
    (I can tell you as a parent that there is nothing more pleasurable than watching your children parent your grandchildren -- they seem to do such a great job)!

    The day before the entire family got together, Roland, Liz and Ian came down from Columbus.  We decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and try out the newly-opened playground at Lake Isabella.  Ian loved it, as did we, and Bill (Pa-ga) got to introduce Ian to fishing.  I don't know who was more impressed with the minnow being put on the hook -- Ian or Zippy.

    Perhaps at a later date I'll put together a photoshow of many of the pictures from that day and include a link on this post.  For now, I'll end with one last picture from the Lake Isabella playground.  I hope that all of my family and friends enjoyed their families as much as I did mine.

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Today's My Birthday -- No Foolin'

    I've always enjoyed the fact that I was born on the 1st of April.  April represents new beginnings after we're all tired of winter.  It usually coincides with Easter, as it does this year.  Everyone's on guard for "April Fools" jokes.

    My mother was pregnant with me at the same time her sister, Evelyn, was pregnant with her first-born.  Aunt Evelyn was due April 18th.  My mother was due April 22nd.  This was going to be (to quote Joe Biden) a BIG DEAL!  I can tell you that being the oldest grandchild has its perks.  Although I was the 4th grandchild on my Dad's side, at least I had the good sense to be born female.  This picture shows me with Bill Hansen and Chuck McCafferty with our g-grandather, August Vonderheide.  We were all born between April and May.

    The best story of all is that my mother feared she was infertile!  It took her six months to get pregnant -- and apparently, they were really trying!  Both parents, and Grandma Ryan, were absolutely convinced I was going to be a boy.  It had something to do with the way my mother was "carrying me".

    So I "fooled" them on all counts.  Even the bus company newsletter where my Dad was employed at the time published my birth announcement noting that my Dad expected a boy.  I'm not sure if my Dad was at work when this happened, but the story I recall was that my mother called her mother to say she needed to get to the hospital.  Grandma was not about to fall for that April Fool's joke -- and told my mother that.  After all, Aunt Evelyn was due first!

    I guess my mother was convincing, because she got to Bethesda Hospital and had me at 11:55 AM (if I recall correctly).  Chuck, Aunt Evelyn's first-born, was born on his due date.  I won!  There ended up being 25 grandchildren.  I was first and Kathy Ryan Busken was last.  Both Kathleens were bookends.

    I can't end this post without saying that today I am 61 years old!  With my age comes the freedom to blog and do other things for my own entertainment and enjoyment.  I feel like this blog and my family history records will be my legacy.

    I'm reminded every day what a blessing my life is.  About 12 years ago, I tried to buy some 10-year term life insurance.  My agent worked very hard trying to find a company, any company, that was willing to bet I would live to be 60!  That certainly got my attention.

    So I write this with the joy that comes with having such a wonderful family.  My husband, Bill, has put up with me for 23 years.  I have THE BEST daughter in the world, Liz.  She has a wonderful husband, Roland.  They have given me the opportunity to be a grandparent to Ian, now 22 months old.  And best of all, I am relatively healthy -- it's all relative.

    Sunday will be Easter and I will get to spend it with my wonderful Jones family.  Due to facebook, I'm more in touch with cousins than I have been in years.  So I'm one happy Jones/Reed.

    Thank you so much for reading along.  NO FOOLIN'!  And thanks, Mom, we did this together 61 years ago.

    Dysentery and "Summer Complaint"

    Thanks to the good people of the Special Collections Department of the St. Louis Public Library, I was able to document some of my speculation from yesterday.  When I was working on the Jones/Wainright history in Cincinnati, I became acutely aware of the problem of cholera in this and every other river city in the 1800s.  In one of the Wainright families, the father and the son were dead within days of each other due to cholera.

    In researching this topic I learned what a significant problem this was because they didn't even understand what caused the illness at the time.  What was interesting is the fact that a black man had the answer, but was ignored.
    Secondly, a Cincinnati black made a suggestion that, if followed, would have ended the cholera crisis. Charles Hammond, the Daily Gazette's editor, stated: It is an old saying that in every emergency "even the weak may give some help." Mr. Henry Boyd, a man of color, has suggested that the source of cholera is in the water, and that it may be removed by boiling all the water we use and letting it cool again before used. This is a very simple process which can produce evil to no one. Even our country friends of the market may boil and bottle their water, before they come to the city, and if the theory be well, bring it with them and incur no risk.
    The above quote is from a great article that summarizes what was going on in Cincinnati and up and down the river during this period.  If you want to know more, you can "google" the Cincinnati Historical Society and search for the article by Carter, Ruth C.  It is called  "Cincinnatians and Cholera: Attitudes toward the Epidemics of 1832 and 1849." Queen City Heritage 50 (Fall 1992): 32-48.

    Unfortunately, the record they had for Richard Ryan listed his age as 5 years, 8 months.  "Our" Richard would have been 8 years old if he died in 1865 so I will have to continue to look for him elsewhere.  Several of the people listed on the Death Record for St. Louis in 1865 died of "summer complaint" -- the common name for what we now call cholera.

    The Death Record did exist for Hugh Matthew, however. He died of "dysentery" in 1870.  Dysentery is defined in an online dictionary as "an inflammatory disorder of the lower intestinal tract, usually caused by a bacterial, parasitic, or protozoan infection and resulting in pain, fever, and severe diarrhea, often accompanied by the passage of blood and mucus".

    My thoughts go to the people of Haiti who are trying to survive the recent earthquake and deal with the lack of safe drinking water -- a problem all too common around the globe.  A few years ago I was working on a project with the Greater Cincinnati Water Works.  They provided me with a graph of the number of illnesses and deaths in Cincinnati from typhoid before and after they started treating the water and eventually adding chlorine.

    I realized that I have to look up words like "summer complaint", "dysentery" and "typhoid".  We take it for granted that we will not lose family members to something so preventable.  I need to remind myself to be aware of opportunities to make a difference for others dealing with this curse.

    Ryans in Evansville

    The question still remains -- why Evansville?  At that time in our American history there was a lot of "chain migration".  One or two brave members of a family would "test the waters" in America.  If they were successful, they would encourage other family members to join them in the new land.  City neighborhoods were often filled with other immigrants having the same heritage, language and customs.

    The 1850 U.S. Census lists 8 Ryans living in Evansville, IN.  Michel, age 55. lived with his wife Margarett, age 50, and daughter Margarett, age 20.  Another married couple, Thomas (40) and Dorothy (39) also lived in Pigeon Twp.  Patrick, age 22, lived in a boarding situation as did Hugh, age 24 and Mary, age 14.  I have not been able to determine any relationship among the Ryans but know that Patrick and Mary were witnesses to Hugh and Mary Ellen's wedding.  They are clues to family relationships that may prove helpful in the future.

    When Julie Jones and I visited Evansville last fall to research the Ryans, we saw this artist's rendering of what Evansville would have looked like in the 1850s.  Like Cincinnati, Evansville is located on the Ohio River and was very dependent on the steamboat trade of the time.

    Working as a "brickmaker" must have been grueling, back-breaking work.  While in Evansville, Julie and I searched the City Directories.  By the 1860s, Hugh was working as a clerk at the E & CRR Freight Office.  Additional Ryans can now be found living in Evansville. most within a few blocks of 6th & Sycamore.  Many were employed by the railroad as switchmen and baggage masters. Others are listed as draymen and laborers.

    In the 1860 Census, Hugh and Mary Ellen are listed with three-year old, Richard, and one-year old, John.  (For some reason, Mary, age 7, is listed at the bottom of the page and not with the rest of her family).  When I wrote to the Diocese of Evansville for baptismal records, I found that Mary was born on March 26, 1853.  Their second child, Mathew, was born on August 12, 1854 and apparently died before the 1860 Census.  Hugh was born on May 6, 1861 and my g-grandfather, James Hugh, was born September 27, 1862.

    By about 1864 the evidence shows that the family probably relocated to St. Louis, Missouri.  There is a Death Record for a Richard Ryan, age 8, buried in the Mount Holy Trinity Cemetery.  St. Louis, as well as all river cities, were suffering greatly from cholera epidemics at this time.  I wouldn't be surprised if this "plague" was responsible for the deaths of Richard, Mathew, and Hugh.

    Here is a sad description of the cemetery:
    Holy Trinity Catholic Cemetery ([aka Poor Man’s Catholic Cemetery; New Breman Cemetery] N. Broadway and Taylor, adjoining O’Fallon Park, mostly poor, burials moved to Calvary; 1864-1908) (aka Mt. Holy Trinity)
    Based on the 1880 Census, the family must have moved to Iowa following Richard's untimely death.  Both Margaret and Ellen are listed in the 1880 Census as being born in Iowa.  Their time in Iowa was short, as Hugh Matthew died in 1870 back in St. Louis.  He also was buried in the "Poor Man's Catholic Cemetery".

    By the age of 40, Mary Ellen, was the young widow with five children ages 3 - 17.  The 1870 Census lists the value of Hugh's estate as $250. 

    Life was hard.  I can't even imagine the suffering on so many levels.  It's got to get better.