Write what should not be forgotten - Isabel Allande

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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.


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 and it used my 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



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

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.


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!


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!

National Read a Book Day

Yesterday was National Read a Book Day – I am a day late but this is a great picture of my Grandfather, J. Norman McGee (1894-1952).  Looks like a pretty intense reading/study session going on here.  Norm is the one in the front seen from the side. He attended Rutgers University before going to France during WWI.  From this side view, it looks so much like my brother Mike! My favorite detail is the spitoon in the lower left corner!

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