pfundmemories.com

Write what should not be forgotten - Isabel Allande

National Date Book

 

Day 7: Select a family heirloom (watch, quilt, Bible, etc.) and write a narrative about it. Where has it been? How did your ancestor acquire it, and what would it have encountered throughout the years? What important family milestones might it have witnessed?

In terms of money, the family heirloom that I am writing about is not valuable at all. In terms of helping me with my research it is absolutely priceless.

Tucked away in a dusty box in my mom’s basement was a small green book. It is maybe 4×6 in size and has seen better days, there is some discoloration to the cover of what was once a dark green.  The words National Date Book are stamped on the cover and it is bound with thread.

Inside is a simple lined notebook with the month and day at the top of each page.  The notebook belonged to my paternal grandmother, Madeline McVay McGee  or Maime as she was known.  Maime was good at keeping track of her life’s events, there is another notebook in which she lists her classmates and information about her high school graduation.  The second half of that book lists every wedding gift and card that she received.  I have always felt like Maime  and I were kindred spirits and this is just another reason.  I have always been a list maker, it helps to ground me and organize my thoughts.  I have taken to Bullet Journaling and who knows – maybe someday my ancestor may come across it.  

Like most people of her generation the notebook was used for more than one purpose.  On the top of the page under the date there are names and years written in faded ink. The writing looks a little different than the rest of the book and I think it originally belonged someone else in the family. I don’t recognize most of the names the dates are from the 1870’s to early 1900’s.

Maime kept meticulous lists of every Christmas card that she sent and received beginning in 1936 and going until 1966 (Maime died in 1967).  She even listed cards specifically sent to my father.  It is a fascinating look into her world.  There are many familiar names in the book and many more mysteries. Some of the people have addresses carefully written next to their names.  Every single time I open this book I find something new.  There are a few McVay’s listed – usually as “The Dick McVay’s”  There are one of my brick walls. It was reassuring to see them listed, they did exist and one of these days I will track them down!  Last year I found out who the “Art Hau’s” were and they unlocked many more of the names for me!  Leo McGee is in the book – he was the author of a really informative family history that I use all the time.  I was especially happy to see the “Jack McGee’s” of 703 Starin Ave, Buffalo listed.  The Hau’s helped me to unlock this branch and amazingly – cousin John McGee is now on my Christmas card list…on Starin Ave in Buffalo!

The last part of notebook and by far my very favorite part is documentation of life events that happened each year starting in 1930.  She documented the move from Warsaw to Batavia for my grandfather’s job in March of 1932 Her mother had a stroke and was living with them when they moved.  She says:  “Mother was still an invalid – stayed upstairs most of the time. It was a bitter cold day”  By 1934 my great grandmother was recovered enough to move to New York City to live with her son, Madeline’s brother Wayne. Maime mentions going to visit them in NY and that my Grandfather tried to find work in a bank.  She also mentions a trip to Chicago for the World’s Fair in 1934.

She records heart breaking things very matter of factly.  Maime records the death of her sister in law Nora McGee Pierce in 1932. She wrote: Nora very sick all summer, died September 15, 1932. This had to be very hard on both of my grandparents.  Nora was Norm’s only surviving sibling and they were close. The saddest entry is from 1934: “Very sick all winter. Mother came home from New York February 22. I went right to bed for two weeks. Then went to the hospital. Our baby was born March 6.”  Her sweet son William was born and died on the same day.  

She talks about my dad a lot  – his various illnesses and how he missed quite a bit of school in his first year.  Maime proudly records various professional achievements of my Grandfather’s. It is in these little details where I feel connected. This tiny book has given me a vivid glimpse into her life, details that I would never have known without her words. Its pages span the majority of her adult life. It records her life as a young mother, a widow, and a grandmother. It is concise and factual. It lovely to watch through the years as my mother’s parents and siblings begin to show up in her Christmas card lists.

This small book isn’t valuable, it isn’t beautiful, it probably never travelled outside of Batavia, NY.  It pages though are incredible, they hold a family history of 34 years a few lines at a time. In the Christmas card lists you can follow couples having children and of those children growing up and starting families of their own. Wedding dates carefully recorded in the back section by year, addresses changing through the years. The book chronicles couples year after year until one year only one name is written.

I love my technology but there is something to be said for handwritten history.  Imagining my Grandmother sitting at her desk – a desk that I still use just makes me happy.  Some of the entries are written in pencil and are very faded, some are written in pen and are a little easier to read.  For me it is a wonderful piece of history and is something I am truly grateful for.

The Route

Family Tree Magazine is again running a writing challenge for the month of November and I am participating again this year. Here is my first piece.

Imagine a route your ancestor took frequently in his or her daily life. Describe that route in detail.

This one had to roll around in my head for a while before the lightbulb went off.  Once it did, I couldn’t wait to write about it.  It is always hard to choose just one ancestor to write about.  While I have been to many areas where ancestors came from, it would be hard to describe in much detail.  

Bank street is where I grew up, it is in the heart of my hometown Batavia, NY, right off of Main St.  The cool thing is that it was a very familiar route for my Grandfather’s as well.

My Grandpa Marshall moved from Brooklyn with his wife and young family to work as a tool and die maker in the 1920’s.  They lived at 234 Bank St in a house built on former farmland. It was built by the company he worked for, Doehler Jarvis. My mom talked about how when she was young (in the 1930’s) the house across the street had horses in a backyard barn.  He lived there until his death in 1965.  It is a solid 2 story house with an attic that doubled as an extra bedroom in the summer time. Most of the houses in the immediate area has the same floor plan. He and my grandmother raised 5 children in that house. Grandpa Marshall would have travelled south down Bank st to Main st and then on to Evans st where Doehler stood.  

Just a block on Norris Ave. away lived my paternal Grandparents, Norm and Maime McGee.  They moved to Batavia from Warsaw in the 1930’s. Norm took a job at the Genesee Trust Bank (which later became M&T Bank).  The bank was located at the corner of Bank and Main St.  Norm would have also made his way south down Bank St every day to go to work.  

At the North end of the street is a baseball stadium built in 1939. Today it houses the New York Penn League, Batavia Muckdogs.  Both of my Grandfather’s were baseball fans and likely enjoyed walking down to the stadium on a warm summer night in the 1940’s and 50’s just as much I did in the 1980’s-90’s. A warm summer night at a baseball game is not only uniquely American but it is timeless. There was a small grocery also at the north end of the block – that place could have an article of its own!

Both of my Grandfather’s would have passed the house where eventually my family would live. My parents were married in 1954 and they moved into an apartment on Bank St  They lived in the apartment for a couple of years before moving across the street to our family home at 134 Bank St.  

Our block of Bank st was mostly residential but includes some commercial property as you move toward Main St.  There were many large old homes on the street that I passed daily coming home from school – these are the same houses my grandfather’s saw on their way to and from work.  Over the years some of the houses remained intact but many more were broken into multi-family homes.  There was also more of a multi-cultural element at the south end of the street as well.  

The house next door to mine was owned by 2 sisters when I was born – their family had lived there for decades.  My Grandfather’s would have passed the stately gray house with its graceful front porch with large white pillars, the beautiful glass entrance way and the elegant interior that featured both a front staircase as a kitchen staircase.  The large two story barn in the back was was largely unchanged in both my grandfather’s time and my own.

Tucked away 3 doors down from 134 Bank is a small Jewish Temple that was established in 1939.  To this day many people in Batavia don’t even know it is there!  I grew up Catholic, went to a Catholic school, my entire family was Catholic, my mother worked at the Catholic hospital (on Bank St).  Almost everyone I knew was Catholic – you can imagine my fascination at the idea of a Jewish Temple just a few doors down!  I would have to think it had my Grandfather’s attention as they went by as well.  

Continuing south toward Main St is 123 Bank St. In 1883 an infamous murder occurred.  The owner of the house – who was a popular business owner, suspected his wife of being unfaithful.  He set a trap for his wife and when her lover arrived the man shot him to death.  He was later acquitted of the murder. It always gave me the chills to walk by that house.

The next block down featured one of the two hospitals in town – St. Jeromes. Established in 1917,  St Jerome was run by the Sisters of Mercy until it merged with the other hospital in Batavia in the 1990’s.  St Jerome’s was also a familiar part of the neighborhood for both my Grandfather’s and myself.  The hospital is located just a stone’s throw from the Genesee Trust Bank. My Grandma McGee was involved with the ladies guild, the hospital employed my mother and my Uncle Emil. Many members of both families were born and died there.  Today I am employed by the hospital and have occasion to visit the Jerome site often.  Even though it looks nothing like it once did – everytime I walk through the doors I can see all as it once was.

As a child I knew every bump and crack in the sidewalks on that street.  I could name practically every family that lived in every house along the way.  Many of the people that lived near Grandpa Marshall worked at Doehler and many had also moved from Brooklyn.  He would have known most of the people in the neighborhood also.  Grandpa McGee was the bank President and was also involved in the local community and would have known the neighborhood well.

I could probably write an entire book about this unusual street that was such an important part of  my life and my Grandfather’s lives.  Single family homes and older homes turned into apartments, the Temple. I can’t speak for my Grandfather’s time but in my childhood it was the kind of place where everyone knew everyone and looked out for each other.  There were 2 large group homes for disabled adults on the street and no one thought anything of it.  There were no protests or petitions,we just accepted them as part of our neighborhood.  We would often see the residents walking past the house on the way to small shop on the end of the block.

Bank St has seen better days and watching its slow decline makes me sad.  Both of my grandfather’s died before I was born. Even though I didn’t know them,  I am so proud to have this street in common with them. It is sort of comforting to think that that we shared this route as part of our daily lives.

Infographic

I am  sucker for a good infographic – I mean who isn’t? …no, just me?  Oh well, I am sharing a fun thing  that I came across today.  This was made by Twile.com and it used my Ancestry.com family tree.  Check out the average age of marriage – 28?!  Also this says most of us were born on Sundays and our average age of death is really young – yikes!

It is just a fun quick way to look at the family tree, of course it is always changing and evolving. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

 

 

Navy Day

October 27 is recognized as Navy Day, a day to honor past and present members of the United States Navy.  For today’s Picure Day I am sharing a photo of my very favorite member of the Navy, my uncle Ed Marshall.  Uncle Ed served in the Navy which allowed him to graduate from Notre Dame University.  He was an aeronautical engineeer, he helped design a Navy plane and worked for NASA.  He was part of the team that designed the oxygen pack that the  Apollo 11 astronauts wore during the first moon walk.  It is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space museum.  Uncle Ed may have been a “rocket scientist” but he was also very down to earth. He had that wonderful ability to make you feel as if you were the most important person in the room.  As a kid I always remember how he would take extra time to talk to me.  I can’t imagine that anything I told him was terribly riveting but he always made me feel like it was interesting to him.

What other members of the family served in the Navy?  Let me know and I will add them

Joseph Pfundstein

Thomas Pfundstein

 

 

 

The Night of the Big Wind

20171018_164539

 

I had something all picked out for Picture Day today, but when I walked outside and saw this beautiful flower,  it changed my mind.  While in Ireland I bought a package of seeds from Kylemore Abbey, planted them and then forgot all about them.  Such a nice surprise to see them blooming today!

My mind and heart have been with Ireland all week.  With Ophelia bearing down on them, we spent Monday watching the news.  My niece Katy kept in touch with our tour guide Martin and his wife Maureen.  Martin was sweet enough to even come up with a comforting answer for our 6yr old.  Sean was very worried about what would happen to the sheep during the storm. Martin said they would be safe in “sheep houses”. While it probably wasn’t exactly true, Sean was happy with the answer.

If you have a few minutes please check out Ronan Burren’s Facebook group called Ireland’s Inner Beauty https://www.facebook.com/groups/1561847780795422/?hc_ref=ARQs17kwSxcURgGna_b5BVmpF7U4M2TqakFNtoXgRtoQ3a66RJMbFuu7vAw9fujL_T0

He posts gorgeous videos from all around Ireland. However my favorite are the videos he posts from the local pubs.  They are of local musicians and are just perfect.  Of course I am biased but by far my favorite are the videos are from Cruises Bar in Ennis, County Clare and my favorite singer is Martin White.  Last night Ronan posted a video of Martin and Maureen. He talked about our time there – we are all extended family now!  I truly can’t say enough about how amazing our trip was and how welcome we felt.  

I am also attaching a link to a fascinating article I read about a destructive storm that hit Ireland in January 1839.  It must have been truly terrifying experience to those who lived through it.  Our McGee ancestor’s included, they were living in Donegal at the time of the storm. The night of the big wind.

https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/night-of-the-big-wind-the-hurricane-that-killed-90-irish-people-in-1839

 

Clergy Appreciation Day

1940’s Adam with Fr. Adam, Sr. Miriam, Sr.Augusta, a niece, and Fr. Edward

 

October 9 was Clergy Appreciation Day – who knew?  This picture has been shared before but it always makes me smile to see it!! The photo was taken in the early 1940’s (Adam died in 1942).  Maybe they were all together for a special occasion or maybed it was just a Sunday dinner.  Whatever the reason it looks like they were having a great time!  I can’t even imagine how proud Adam and Theresa must have been about their son’s in the Clergy and of the their daughter’s who became Sisters.

**Update**  Thank you to Loretta Hawkes who was able to give me some more details about the above picture. From Loretta:

Three times a year the nuns were allowed to come home. After they had dinner at Grandpa Grandma’s house, all the brothers and sisters would come for coffee or tea, including all the grandchildren. Everybody brought a cake or cookies and took turns visiting with the nuns and priests. The Josephite nun in the picture was a friend of the family not a niece. Her name was Sr. Grace. All we grandchildren had fun playing outside until it was time for us to come in to have a treat.. At this time, Aunt Tess was hostess and chief cook. After Grandpa passed away, Aunt Elsie Wengler took over the affair also in Glendale where most of us lived. I think I am the eldest of my generation to tell these stories. My last brother, Dick, passed away in May at 94 years of age. I will be 90 in Dec..

Happy Anniversary

 

Happy Anniversary to my cousin Mary Claire and her husband Dick.  They were married this week in October 1976.  The picture was taken at the Stafford Country Club in Stafford, NY.  I love everything about this picture – Mary Claire is gorgeous. All 5 of the Marshall children are here with spouses as are many of the Marshall cousins.  The clothes and hairstyles are fabulous!

Neighbors

Last year I posted a picture of the Pfundstein & Sons store, from the NYC tax rolls taken in 1940.  At the time it was one of my favorite finds…until this week!!  I am very happy to share a guest post from Michael Sheehy, he wrote about his great-grandfather’s dressmaker shop and included a photo.  The Bellafiore Dressmaker’s shop was located at 56-09 Myrtle Ave – the Pfundstein’s Tailor shop was located RIGHT NEXT DOOR at 56-07!!!

 

F. Bellafiore Parisien Dressmaker, Brooklyn, about 1912.

Francesco “Frank” Bellafiore, my great-grandfather, is on the left by the door. My great-grandmother, Vitina, is to the right of two unidentified seamstresses. In the carriage is their daughter, Anna, my grandmother’s older sister (1912-2010).

Frank came over from Italy with his mother in 1902 at 17 years old on SS Citta di Torino from Naples. Trained as a tailor’s apprentice, he spent his life in the garment industry. The years in which he ran this particular shop are not clear.

Later, he had an industrial shop in the Garment District, where he designed and produced house label fine ladies wear for stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman and Macy’s, probably under the trade name of F. Bellafiore (not verified as of yet). He also had a “plus-sized” label called Stylish Stout (You can’t make this up. Also not related to a similarly named corset brand in the early 1900’s). Finally, he ran a tailor/ dress shop in Pearl River, NY until his death in 1952.

A true immigrant success story. Though the family originally lived in Brooklyn, he wanted his children to be “in the country” so he purchased an old farm in Montvale, NJ. and kept a brownstone in Bushwick. Eventually, the wood frame farm house on the property was renovated into an Italian villa with stucco walls and a red tile roof.

The building’s current address is in Ridgewood, Queens at 56-09 Myrtle Avenue, after some borders were changed. It is now a deli.

Michael used an overlay to add the Dressmaker’s shop to the 1940 tax picture of the Tailor shop!

The shops in 2014, the Bellafiores shop is now the deli on the right.

A Boy and his Dog.

Today’s Picture day features my dad, Jim McGee  and was taken in approx 1941-42.  There are no other details on the picure, I don’t know where it was taken or more importantly – what the dog’s name was!  It is such a sweet picture though, they both look like they are enjoying the ride.  As an adult my dad still loved both boats and dogs.  I can remember many, many camping trips that included an afternoon on a boat a lot like this one fishing with him.  They are some of my favorite memories of time spent with him.

One of the most interesting things about the McGee pictures is that they often include dogs/cats.  Somehow it is one of those small details that brings people to life for me.

This Week in Family History

One of these days, when I have a little spare time… I am going to work on a calendar to mark family events  past and present.  This is a pretty busy week , we remember 9/11 and celebrate birthdays and anniversarys.  For today’s Picture Day I am including pictures of family celebrating events this week, let me know if I am missing anything!!!

September 9 – Anniversary for my brother and sister in law Mike and Laurie

September 9 – Birthday for my neice’s husband, Allen

 

 

September 13 – Cousin birthday buddies! Birthday of Beth Kelly and me!!

 

 

September 14 – Birthday of my Grandfather Ed Marshall, born in 1892!

 

September 11 – Anniversary of my Mom and Dad’s wedding in 1954

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**Update**   I can not believe that I left 2 very important events out.  When I was doing this last week I had that awful nagging feeling that I was forgetting something and thanks to my cousin Beth now I know what it was!!! September 13 is a very busy day in family history in addition to 2 birthdays it is also the wedding anniversary of both Ed and Dottie Marshall and Jim and Terry Kelly!

« Older posts

© 2017 pfundmemories.com

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑