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John M McGee 1827-1905

John and Catherine McGee gravesite. St. Michaels Cemetary Warsaw, NY

 

John M McGee was born in 1827 in County Donegal, Ireland. He was the first of six children born to William and Margery Mcconnell. Not much is known about his life in Ireland, the family was Catholic and were likely tenant farmers. The family sailed to America in 1841 aboard the Stephen Whitney. John was 14 years old. His father did not sail with the family, he had gone ahead to get established before sending for his wife and children.  

The family sailed to New York City and then made their way to western New York state first to Lockport. It is thought that his father had found work on the canal, then to a small town near Pavilion, NY called Union Corners. In 1849 John’s father, William purchased a farm in Perry, NY (Wyoming County).  John and his siblings helped their parents with the running of a farm.  

The McGee farm was purchased in December of 1849, on January 7, 1850 John became a naturalized citizen of the United States at the age of 23. A Mr. James Givens and Mr. Mcgrath served as witnesses for John.  The paperwork was filed in nearby Livingston County.

In 1853 John married Catherine Gill, she had been born in Dublin about 1830 and came to the United States during the great famine. John and Catherine had 5 children: William (1856-1926), Catherine (1858-1919), Mary (1860-1919), Ella (1862-1897), John B (1863-1932).

John is shown in the Civil War draft registration record for Wyoming County in June of 1863.  There is no record that he ever served in the war.

John left the family farm and became a salesman.  He travelled the local Wyoming county selling goods to the farmers.  The following is an excerpt from Angie McGee’s poem:

John, the eldest, took for his mate

A worthy maiden whose name was Kate.

Dear Uncle John! How we watched for his coming,

And over the hill we all went running

For a ride on his cart was the greatest of treats,

While he sold his fresh fish and sweetest of meats.

In 1860 John and Catherine (Kate) were living in Perry Center and he is listed as a farmer with real estate valued at $1900, son william was 3yrs old, daughter kate 2yrs old and Mary 4 months old.  There also had a 17yrd old boy named John Donaldson living with them who helped with the farm work.

In 1870 the family is still living in Perry and John now lists his occupation as a butcher. The family included William, Kate, Mary and now Ellen 8yrs and John 6.  Kate’s mother Catherine Gill is living next door.In 1875 the family moved to Warsaw, NY and in 1880 John, Kate and all 5 children aged from 23 to 16 are still living at home, Kate’s mother now lives with the family.  John is again listed as a Farm laborer, William(23) a butcher, Kate (22) and Mary (20) list their occupations as Tailoress.

In 1890 John and Kate are living at 146 North Main St in Warsaw. Kate reports giving birth to 6 children, 4 of whom are still living. John is listed as a landowner and peddler. Mary 38yrs old is living with them and still a Tailoress. Son John (36) is a grocer. They also list Veronica Derrick aged 9, a granddaughter living with them.  The last member of the household listed is a Thomas Murphy aged 25 a border who was a salesman at the grocery store.  There will be more to come on the grocery store!  Also more coming on little Veronica and how she came to be living with her grandparents.

John died on February 14, 1905 at his home in Warsaw.  His obituary is a treasure trove of information:

Warsaw has lost one of its oldest, best known and most respected citizens in the death of John McGee, which occurred at his home on North Main street, last evening, February 14th, at half past eleven. Heart trouble and old age were the causes of death. Mr. McGee was born in Ireland 78 years ago last October, and when a lad of 14 years his parents came to this state, first going to Lockport. Shortly after they came to Middlebury, but for over fifty years his home has been in Warsaw. He spent some time in agriculture, but most of his life work was as a butcher.  He was a man of strict honesty in all his dealings, kindly and approachable, and few men of his wide acquaintance had more friends or was more generally respected.

His wife survives, also four children, John B., William and Miss Mary Mcgee of Warsaw, and Mrs. Chris O’Melia of Rochester. One brother, William, lives in the town of Perry.

(Warsaw, NY, Wyoming County Times, Feb. 15, 1905)

I also found a mention of John’s death in a New York City paper, Irish World.  People in Ireland and the US frequently subscribed to the paper to pass along information about the family. John is the only one of the McGee’s that I have found mention of in this paper.

The paper says that John was a native of County Donegal and lists his wife and 4 surviving children.

(NY, NY, Irish World, March 11, 1905)

 

Kate died in 1908

 

John and Catherine are buried in St. Michaels Cemetery in Warsaw, NY

 

Mary Angela McGee, Family Papers (N.p.: n.p., 16 November 1929), Poem by Angie McGee.

 

Merry Christmas

Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas! I am so happy to have connected with so many relatives – it means so much to me.  My sister and I will be spending the day together with our families – we will probably not try and recreate this photo

 

Eileen and Mary Ellen McGee Christmas 1973

This gem is from my first Christmas in 1973

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.

Summertime in New York

This is one of my favorite pitcures of my mom!  She is 3yrs old in the photo, it was taken in 1936/37 at Coney Island.  I love her adorable smile – and oddly sensible shoes…   Also love the sailor in the background.

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

Letter to Mary Ellen McGee

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks weekly prompt is “Favorite Name”  I choose Mary Ellen McGee Hau, because she really captured my imagination early on, also becaause we share the name!

Dear Mary Ellen McGee,

This is really a thank you letter.  You started it all for me!  I first found you in a scrapbook kept by my Grandma (Madeline McGee).  Grandma’s scrapbook is a treasure all by itself.  It was thriftily fashioned from a 1926 atlas,  She didn’t seem to group them in any special way, just in any open space.  Grandma saved a little bit of everything in this scrapbook, family history, local history, and some national news of the day-  like a picture of the Titanic before it sailed, an article about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and my favorite – several articles about the the missing Lindbergh baby!  This scrapbook is a really cool look at some of the things that our relatives witnessed first hand.

When I was growing up the scrapbook would turn up from time to time and I would sit for hours leafing through it.  As a kid, I was interested in the national stories but was absolutely fascinated by the pictures and articles about my family.  Since I had only known 1 relative on my dad’s side the articles and photos brought the family to life for me.

Imagine my delight to find so many things about the McGee’s in that book.  I would always ask my parents how were related to the people, but they never really had the answers.  Even as a kid – I knew that someday I would find out!  Every time I would go through the book I was interested in one person more than all the others – Mary Ellen McGee. To see that we shared a name was exciting to say the least.  By the way – she was also awesome!

The headline of the article was “Gifted Girl” with a picture and our name – who wouldn’t be hooked?!  The article (from the early 1930’s) went on to say that you had earned your Bachelor of Arts from Seton Hall College, majoring in English and French, with a minor in Social Studies. You were on the debate team and part of student government – that is seriously cool!

Born in 1913, You were witness to some truly amazing things in history.  The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, at the time of your birth, women did not have the right to vote. By 1930 you, were in college, away from home and earning your Bachelor’s Degree (hopefully voting), you taught before starting your family.  You didn’t stop there – you travelled, you lived in Puerto Rico, and California, you married and raised a family.

What was it like? When you were born Woodrow Wilson was the President, a stamp cost .02, and crossword puzzles had recently been invented. You lived in Warsaw, NY a small village in Western NY, did houses in Warsaw have electricity or running water? Probably not very many of them.   The main mode of transportation was horse and carriage.  By the time of your death in 2005 you had lived through 2 world wars, the Great Depression and the Civil Rights movement.  

You witnessed the greatest technological growth the world has ever seen – from radio to television, from party line to cell phones, from the first autos to jets, from telegraph to the internet.  It is absolutely mind blowing.  Growing up in tiny Warsaw could you have ever imagined it all?

It has been my absolute delight to find your family and learn even more about you.  You always inspired to me to try a little harder – after all that headline was a hard act to follow!  Through your son I have been introduced to more family, something I didn’t know was possible.  You led an extraordinary life. You were educated, you traveled, you raised a lovely family.  I was floored to learn that Mary Ellen is a family name – the are 4 in your branch!

So thank you Mary Ellen, for inspiring me, for teaching me, for giving me a part of my family I thought was lost.  Even though we never met I feel like in some small way we know each other.

Love,

Mary Ellen McGee Reardon

Happy Birthday

 

KK70 5

Today would have been my mom’s 83rd birthday. Among her greatest qualities were her sense of humor and her sense of adventure.  She fit a lot of adventure into her life especially in the last half of her life. She had a lot of friends and a busy lady, we would often joke that she was busier than her kids!  She started a second career, and loved to travel. She traveled to visit my siblings, and to many places in the US and Europe.  She loved spending time with her many grandchildren and had so much energy.

I wanted to share one of my favorite birthday memories.  When she turned 70, we had a family party and all the siblings and grandchildren were there.  A few days later she took a hot air balloon ride as her present from us.  She took my niece and nephew along with her.  It was one of coolest things she ever did.  They had a great time and will never forget the experience! They flew over the gorge at Letchworth Park, the views are breath taking.

 

 

There they are ready for takeoff!  The two cuties on the right are now 15 and 27, my niece is almost 30.

When she turned 75, my bother and sister-in-law had a party for her.  It was a very hot day and we took a lot of pictures.  There were several grandchildren missing  but the ones who were there gave her a run for her money. I just love the picture where it looks like she is trying to keep them all together and they are just hamming it up.

Her 80th birthday was the last we spent together.  We had a big party and all the siblings were able to make it.  It was such a good day and I am so glad we did it, she died the following March.  At the party I mentioned that she and I hadn’t taken a picture together in ages.  The picture below of the two of us makes me smile. The pictures below are a mix between the two birthdays.  One of my all time favorites pictures is the one of her with my nephew, Brian.  He had a t-shirt made of the two of them together drinking a Guinness at the local Irish Pub.  She developed a taste for it on a trip to Ireland!!  It makes me laugh every time I see the picture.

Happy Birthday KK, miss you today and everyday

KK bday collage

 

 

 

The Stuff…

scissors

The Things we’ve handed down or the crap other people have to deal with…

The days after my mother’s death are kind of hazy – even though we knew it was coming it didn’t make it any easier.  Plus we are Irish and as my cousin Meg once said “My family is GREAT at funerals”  It was a proper Irish wake for our sweet Mom. (I’m pretty sure it was required)

Anyway… during one of the days my siblings and I began the search for the “important paperwork”.  We knew that she kept a fire safe box under the bed so we started there.  What we didn’t expect was the second box we found.  It was a battered locked metal box – we were hooked.  My brother Mike made it his personal mission to get inside the box. The rest of us (clearly more mature) started on the box with “important papers”.  Of course that was soon abandoned as we watched how hard Mike was working to get into the mystery box.  We all offered helpful suggestions and looked around for ways to help.  Someone found a bunch of old keys – she had a lot of them.  None of the keys worked.  Mike continued at it – it probably took the better part of an hour.  Screwdrivers, hammers, my father’s long unused ancient tools you name it we tried it.  We all ended up sitting on our mother’s bed like 8yr olds, caught up in the mystery.  Important papers completely forgotten and tossed to the side. Mike kept at it – we were too far into this – failure was not an option.  What could possibly be in the box… the good jewelry, the stock certificates, maybe the rare coins, the precious gemstones (we weren’t aware that any of these things actually existed, you understand). The moment finally came and Mike broke through and we could OPEN.THE.BOX!!  Like any good treasure hunters we took a  deep fortifying breath and slowly opened the lid. What we found inside was…. about a dozen golf pencils.  Yep that’s right we spent an hour opening an old broken box only to find tiny pencils.  We laughed until we cried.  Over the next few days all any of us had to do was bring up golf pencils and it would set us off again.

My niece reminded me of the story a few nights ago and ever since then I have been thinking about all of weird crap that all of us keep around without even realizing it.  My mom had probably long since forgotten about the box under her bed. Maybe she never even know what was in it. She was a bit of a collector of stuff though.  She had a ton of cookbooks but hardly ever cooked!  We found dozens of keys that went to nothing.  I remember once that she sheepishly admitted to me that she kept several old t-shirts in case she ever needed to paint. To my knowledge my mother never painted a single thing, oddly she also had a lot of napkin rings.  By far though what found over and over and over again in her house were scissors.   In every drawer, box and shelf it seemed we found scissors.  We just started putting them on the kitchen counter, dozens of them. Big, small, old, new you name it we found it.  I can not possibly imagine what one person would need with so many scissors. I think in the end we found over 30 pairs.  My cousin’s wife sometimes get messages from beyond and one night I asked her why there were so many scissors and she responded almost immediately that it was because they never stayed sharp enough – like it was so obvious.

My sister and I each took a couple of our favorite scissors home and I smile every time I see one.  I can’t imagine what it will be that my kids find and hopefully crack up over someday.  It just made me think – we can’t be the only ones.

What is the stuff that your relatives left for you to find???  I would love to hear the oddball things that everyone else has found…..

Resemblances

One of my favorite things about Genealogy is finding pictures.  Really, it is what it is all about.  Census and church records are interesting, but to actually be able to see the face of an ancestor makes them so much more real.  When I find a new picture I immediately try to pick out traits that I can recognize.  Some relatives make it easier than others!!  Here are a few of my favorites.

Adam and Ron

Great grandpa Adam and my Cousin Ron

Adam Pfundstein and my cousin Ron bear more that a passing resemblance, no?  They had more in common then just looks – they were also both successful businessmen.

 

Gpa Ed and John

My Grandpa Marshall and my brother John

Growing up I can remember my mother saying that my oldest brother John looked just like her father.  For most of my life my brother had a moustache – once he shaved it off I could really see what she was talking about.

 

norm and mike

My brother Mike(1960’s-70’s) and my grandfather J Norman McGee (early 1900’s)

I had some trouble finding profile pictures of my brother Mike but there is a really strong resemblance  between Mike and my paternal grandfather Norm. I love this picture of my Grandfather. It was taken in a library, maybe college?  If you look in the bottom right, you can see a spittoon!

dad and brian

My nephew Brian and my sweet Dad

Last but not least – I really love this one.  This is my nephew and my darling dad.  The first 2 pictures were taken on their wedding days.  My dad passed away many years ago and my sweet nephew now wears his wedding ring.  It is a pretty special.  There are so many times that he smiles or makes an expression and looks just like my dad.  Brian has a little beard right now – it has grown red – just like my dad’s!

Holy Orders II

“The Pfundstein family not only created clerical garb, it contributed several sons and daughters to the service of the Church.” -Pat McNamara

This ad for clerical tailoring ran in a seminary yearbook during the 1930’s.

 

The thing I love about genealogy research is that that is always something new to be discovered. I have been looking into the Pfundstein’s for a while now  when I came across this ad and quote a few nights ago.  The Pfundstein’s were committed to their faith and proud to have 4 of their children take their Holy Orders.  They also made clothing for countless priests of the time.  

I’ve already written about Sister Augusta and Sister Miriam Claire, now it’s the boy’s turn. Adam Joseph Pfundstein was the 8th child of Adam and Theresa, he was born in Brooklyn on July 27, 1902.  Adam attended Cathedral College in Douglaston, NY where he excelled in Latin studies, winning awards in his third and fifth year.

Cathedral College was at the time a preparatory school for men who were going to become Priests.  After graduating from Cathedral College Adam left for the Seminary.  At the age of 18 Adam set out for Innsbruck Austria.  He was issued his 1st passport in Sept. 1920 and he sailed from NY to Europe as a 2nd class passenger.  During his time in Austria he studied and traveled.  He was able to come home to visit at least once that I could find. At 19 he sailed from Hamburg on 7/19/22 aboard the Orbita and arrived in NY as a 20yr old on 7/31/22. Adam was in Austria from 1920-1925.  His father traveled to see him ordained in July of 1925.  They visited places in Europe and sailed from the large German Port of Bremen to NY aboard the Stuttgart in August of 1925.

The newly ordained Fr. Adam returned to New York and became a teacher at Catherdral College.  He was a member of the Faculty there from 1925 – 1941, teaching Greek and Religion.  Fr. Adam’s very likely taught his own brother Edward while he was a student at the college.  Football coach Vince Lombardi also attended Cathedral and was probably also taught by Fr. Adam – can you even imagine Vince Lombardi as a parish priest?   From 1941-48 Fr. Adam served as Pastor of St. Johns Church in Riverhead. His final assignment was to serve as Pastor of Notre Dame Parish, New Hyde Park, NY.  He served there from 1948 until his death in 1973.  According to his obituary published in the New York Times, he oversaw much of the growth of the Parish.  He was by this time a Monsignor and under his leadership the church, rectory and school were built.  Fr. Adam died on August 11, 1973 at the rectory after a long illness. After his death the ND parish named their Auditorium in his honor. At the time of his death 7 of the original 13 Pfundstein children survived him.  He died almost exactely a month before I was born.  Monsignor Pfundstein was able to travel in Feb. of 1973 to Western NY to say the funeral mass of his sister, my grandmother, Ida.

Msgr.. Adam lived a full life, he was well educated and well traveled.  I found several passports in his name. From what I have found so far he traveled to Europe several times visiting Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Rome.  I also found a Pan Am flight manifest listing and A. Pfundstein as traveling to Ireland – still working on verifying that one. He also visited Havana Cuba with his father.

Compared to Adam, the 2nd Pfundstein son to become a priest lived a slightly more quiet life.  Edward was the 10th of the Pfundstein children, he was born June 17, 1905.  Edward “Ed” went to Cathedral College like his older brother. He went to St. John’s Seminary in New York and was ordained in 1932.  St. John’s last class graduated in 1932, it had grown too small to accommodate the large numbers of men entering seminaries at the time.  Msgr. Adam and Fr Edward lived during the heyday of American Catholic Priests.  It was a time when Priests were  large in number, well respected, it was common for priests to be invited to their parishioners homes for Sunday dinner.  After he was ordained, Fr. Ed served the parishes of St. Monica’s, St Thomas the Apostle, St. Anastasia’s (as curate) and St. Margaret’s. At the time of his death he was the Pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst.  Fr. Ed died suddenly of a heart attack in 1948 at the age of 42.  

From all accounts both of the Priest’s were well respected members of the clergy.  In 2014 Cathedral College celebrated their 100th anniversary.  They had this to say: “Over the years, certain families gave their sons to the church in large numbers: the Holzheimers, Pfundsteins, Puricks, Crawfords, Regulskis, and Arceses”  2 nephews also graduated from Cathedral, making 4 Pfundstein’s who were graduated and ordained.


There were numerous mentions of the brothers during their careers.  It must have been a heavy burden for them to carry at times.  Fr. Adam and Fr. Ed said the funeral masses for both of their parents, several siblings, and other family members.  Fr. Adam made the trip to Western NY on several occasions for say masses for my family’s milestones.  Along with the sad, they had the privilege of saying wedding masses for many of their nieces, nephews, and cousins.

 

1930s-Fr. Edward Pf

Fr. Edward

1960s-Fr. Adam 1

Msgr. Adam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Sources:

McNamara, P. (2009, October 27). Old Catholic Stuff. Retrieved January 5, 2015.

Obituary Notices. (1948, April 23). The Suffolk County News, p. Pg 4. Retrieved January 5, 2015.

Cathedral College 100th Anniversary Gala. (2015, October 4). Retrieved January 5, 2016.

1918 Preparatory Seminary of the Immaculate Conception of Cathedral College. (n.d.). Retrieved January 6, 2016, from http://bklyn-genealogy-info.stevemorse.org/Graduate/1918/1918.Cathedral.College.June.html

Obituary Notices. (1948, April 22). The Leader-Observer, p. Page 7. Retrieved January 6, 2016.

Obituary Notices. (1973, August 13). New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2016.

 

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