Xavier and military cartography

Letter X: Twenty-fourth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

A wonderful benefit of the Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team is learning about collateral relatives and the interesting lives they led. One of these was Francis Xavier Dempsey, maternal grandfather of cousin Barb from our Dempsey team.

 2nd Lieutenant Francis Xavier Dempsey, 26, at the front in Langres, France, during WW I. Big Frank, a lithography transfer and pressman in civilian life, served as a U.S. Army cartographer whose unit helped mechanize military map-making and reproduction in the field. Photo courtesy of Barb/Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team
2nd Lieutenant Francis Xavier Dempsey, 26, at the front in Langres, France, during WW I. Big Frank, a lithography transfer and pressman in civilian life, served as a U.S. Army cartographer whose unit helped mechanize military map-making and reproduction in the field. Photo courtesy of Barb Schmidt/Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team

With many thanks to cousin Barb, here is the fascinating story of Francis Xavier’s work as a cartographer during WW I:

A grandson of William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey,  Francis Xavier Dempsey was born on 26 Jan. 1893 in Baltimore City, Baltimore Co., Md. He was a son of James Joseph and Mary Elizabeth Dempsey — and a nephew of my great grandmother Elizabeth C. Dempsey (James Joseph’s sister).

As a boy, Francis Xavier apprenticed as a lithography transfer and pressman at Baltimore’s Crown Cork and Seal Company. That’s where he was working at the outbreak of World War I.

When Big Frank — as his descendants call him — enlisted on 15 Dec. 1917 in the U.S. Army 29th Engineers, the company’s newspaper Crown Topics gave him a rousing sendoff:

Sergeant Frank Dempsey, formerly of Guilford Avenue Lithography Department…is now printing maps for Uncle Sam. By special orders of his Major General, he has taken a special course in lithographic work…and expects to leave for France at any time. We are proud of you!

During his military service, Francis Xavier was stationed in Langres, France — where he served as a cartographer and was promoted in the field to 2nd Lieutenant. Big Frank and his unit did important work during and after WW I, as described in this 16 May 1919 article in The Base Bull, a military newspaper:

U.S. Engineers Break Map-making Record

Paris, April 10 — The 29th Engineers of the American Expeditionary Force are conducting interesting experiments in map-making and reproducing in the field. With a 5-ton truck as a printing and lithographic establishment, they have turned out 10,000 copies of field maps an hour. The French and British are taking a keen interest in the outfit, as they have used a railway train for such work, and their best output has been 300 copies per hour. In some operations of the war, every man in a trench raid party has been furnished with a map, so the importance of quick map-making is very great.

In Maps point the way I wrote about the importance of civilian maps for studying the places where our ancestors lived — and perhaps even finding their names associated with land and workplaces.

Military cartography, such as that done by Francis Xavier Dempsey, adds another dimension to researching veteran ancestors and learning more about the battles they fought in.

Up next: Yes! Almost there! Please stop back.

© 2016 Barb Schmidt and Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Wolverines and Uncle Sid

Letter W: Twenty-third of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

When I jogged my dad’s memory about our mutual ancestors, he sometimes came out with a story that would point to a new research direction. That’s how I heard about the wolverines and Uncle Sid — and found an entirely new group of collateral relatives.

https://www.loc.gov/item/2010715253/
Two wolverines (1890). My dad’s childhood memory of an Uncle Sid from Salamanca, who told a story about wolverines, led to the discovery of a whole new group of collateral relatives. Image: Library of Congress

Dad and I were talking about his grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau and her visits to the Otter Lake Hotel in Forestport, Oneida, N.Y.

My dad grew up at the hotel, which was owned and operated by my paternal Charboneau grandparents.

We had already discovered that Eva was the daughter of our Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull, who spent his final years in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N.Y.  So Dad was trying to remember any connections to this from his childhood.

“Well, there was this one guy who everyone used to call Uncle Sid ,” Dad said. “He was kind of a strange fellow. He would visit the hotel in the summer, but never took a room. Always slept in his car. And he kept talking about ‘wolverines, wolverines’ and what a problem they were in Salamanca.”

Mondee, Tuesdee, Wolvereeens

Dad picked up a Baltimore accent from his mother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau and pronounced the days of the week Mondee, Tuesdee, and so on — so when he said “wolvereeens” I cracked up laughing.

That’s probably why the story stuck with me — and I’m glad it did. Because eventually my research trail led to an actual Uncle Sid.

He turned out to be Sidney Banton, a store owner from Salamanca and husband of Jessie (Bull) Banton, one of my great grandmother Eva’s younger sisters.

My great, great grandparents Arthur and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — who moved many times during their life together — relocated in their later years from Moose River Settlement in the Adirondack foothills to Salamanca in Western New York

Eva stayed behind after marrying my great grandfather Will Charboneau in the North Country. But her sister Jessie went along with their parents to Salamanca — where she met her husband Sidney.

Which makes Uncle Sid my great grand uncle in-law — and all because of a long-ago story that he told about wolverines.

Do you have any oddball stories that might link you to ancestors or collateral relatives? See if you can pick them apart, then follow the clues — they just might lead you to family.

Up next: Xavier and military cartography. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Vincenzo Del Negro witnesses a wedding

Letter V: Twenty-second of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Vincenzo Del Negro was one of two witnesses at the Manhattan wedding of my maternal Italian great, great grandparents Antonio and Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio on 24 Aug. 1880 — probably a relative of the bride.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Church_of_the_Transfiguration_Five_Points_NYC.jpg
The Little Church Around the Corner on Mott Street, New York, N.Y. Research points to this church as the likely location where  my Curcio great, great grandparents were married in 1880. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I first learned about this wedding from Marie Somella (one of my mom’s Curcio cousins) and Aunt Rosie (a daughter of the Curcios) during a 1991 family history trip with Mom to her Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. home town. Their story went like this:

Antonio and Antoinette knew each other from back home, from Salerno in Italy. Antonio came over first, to New York City, and worked as a meat cutter. Once he was settled, he sent for Antoinette and they were married at the Little Church Around the Corner.

No documentation. Just the oral history — albeit from two pretty reliable sources — for me to try to prove or disprove. And thus began my Curcio research journey.

Little Church Around the Corner

In 1880, the Little Church Around the Corner was a Catholic parish located on Mott Street near the teeming Five Points area of lower Mahattan — the possible site of my ancestors’ church wedding.

The name eventually moved uptown with a protestant denomination, but the church structure remains. Today it houses the Church of the Transfiguration, a Catholic parish in Manhattan’s Chinese community. So that part of the oral history rings true.

Finding a marriage license

I contacted the current parish office,  but I was told they had “no record” of the Curcio’s wedding. I also struck out at the New York City Municipal Archives on my first research trip there years ago.

So I set the Curcio search aside for awhile and moved on to other branches of my family — intending to return to the wedding story when I had the time.

Taking a break turned out to be a good idea, because in the interim the digitization of records started to take off — opening up the possibility of searching online. And that’s where I found the crucial clue — an index of New York City brides and grooms on Footnote (now Fold 3) that included Antonio Curcio!

The next day, I was back at the NYC Municipal Archives ordering a copy of my great, great grandparents’ civil wedding certificate — which Vincenzo Del Negro signed as a witness.

The day after that, I was standing in Columbus Park at the Mulberry Bend home address that the Curcio’s gave in 1880.

And the little church where their religious wedding ceremony was probably performed? It was right around the corner from their first U.S. home.

Up next: Wolverines and Uncle Sid. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Undergarments and Aunt Kate

Letter U: Twenty-first of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

My dad was always ready with a story about one family member or another — that’s how I learned about undergarments and Aunt Kate.

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My paternal grandmother’s sister Katherine (Owen) Negri. Aunt Kate’s career was fitting and selling women’s undergarments. I met her as a child when she visited during a business trip. Family photo courtesy of Jane (Owen) Dukovic

Her full name was Katherine (Owen) Negri. She was one of my paternal grandmother’s larger-than-life Welsh-Irish sisters from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Md. — and I actually met her a couple of times when I was growing up.

“She came to visit us at the farm once,” Dad said. “Her voice was so loud that she scared you every time she talked.” I was a toddler at the time, so I don’t really recall that visit.

But she came to see us another time — after we moved near Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y., and she was living in New York City — and that’s the visit I remember.

Aunt Kate was tall and fashionable in a tailored dress — deep green, if I recall correctly — and I was mesmerized by her tiny folding umbrella. We always carried the big umbrellas with the hooked handle, so I stared and stared at her little umbrella hanging from the doorknob.

“Are you trying to figure out how it works?” She asked, startling me from my reverie. And before I could answer, she popped it open to full size — amazing!

Kate Martin’s career

I always wondered how she came to call. When I asked Dad he said it was because Aunt Kate’s career was selling women’s undergarments, and she was in our area on a business trip.

“She traveled from one department store to another doing fittings. She’d put an ad in the paper the week before, with her photo and everything, to announce she was coming,” he explained. “She used the name Kate Martin for business, so if somebody telephoned and asked for that name, she’d know it was a business call.”

When I moved to New York City after college, one of my paternal relatives told me, “You’re just like Kate.”

I laughed at that. But maybe there is something to it. Because soon enough I had a career and an assertive city personality to go with it. And now when it rains, I reach into my bag and take out a little folding umbrella — just like the one Aunt Kate astonished me with all those years ago.

Up next: Vincenzo Del Negro witnesses a wedding. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Two Years: Second Blogiversary

Letter T: Twentieth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Tomorrow will mark two years since Molly’s Canopy first appeared as a family history geneablog on 24 April 2014. Since my Second Blogiversary falls on an A to Z Challenge rest day, I decided to celebrate early and reflect on the blog’s development since my First Blogiversary one year ago.

Two roses and rosebuds_2
Roses and rosebuds (2014). Two blooming roses for the Second Blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy and two rosebuds for the future. Photo by Molly Charboneau

At the start of my second blogging year, in May 2015, I was finishing up the last posts about my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull’s Union Army service during the U.S. Civil War.

The Civil War Sesquicentennial was drawing to a close and I attended and wrote about a ceremony marking the war’s conclusion 150 years before.

Over the summer of 2015, I finally had an opportunity to research in the U.S. Sanitary Commission collection at the New York Public Library — and came away with two more details about my ancestor’s medical treatment during the Civil War.

Then it was on to peace time and Embracing the Empire State, as Arthur Bull returned home to New York State and I began exploring his back story.

Spending a year and a half focused primarily on a single ancestor’s experiences taught me the value of taking a deep dive into one particular family on my tree and drawing lessons from the history they lived through. Subsequent posts unfolded in serial format, as my focus turned to the Bull family and their civilian lives before and after the war.

Cousins come calling

Perhaps the most exciting development in year two of Molly’s Canopy was the arrival of cousins — first my Dempsey cousins and soon thereafter cousin Don from my Bull line, whose ggg grandfather was likely a brother of my ggg grandfather Jeremiah Bull (Arthur’s father).

Through blog comments and email, we got to know one another and shared information about our respective research — making the family history journey so much richer.

Cameo appearances

The other development in year two was cameo appearances by individual ancestors and collateral relatives. First was my maternal Aunt Rita for Veteran’s Day, then my paternal grandmother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau for the holidays and most recently my maternal grandparents Tony and Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence for Valentine’s Day.

My readers particularly enjoyed these portraits — which provided a break from the longer saga of the Bull family and allowed me to introduce new ancestors who will appear again on the blog when their family’s stories are told.

GeneaBloggers introduction

Two landmark events turned the end of my second genealogy blogging year into a new beginning.

On April 18, I was honored to be introduced to the genealogy blogging community on as part of the GeneaBloggers interview series profiling family history bloggers.

May I Introduce To You…Molly Charboneau could not have appeared at a better time, since this is my Second Blogiversary week!

In my challenge post for Letter P — Proud to be a family history blogger — I shared my tremendous sense of validation to be recognized by my peers in this way.

Blogging challenge

And now I am heading into my third year of Molly’s Canopy by participating in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge — and a challenge it is, but an satisfying one.

Blogging daily, except Sundays, has allowed me to share shorter, single posts about individual relatives, research techniques, past discoveries and the joy of the search on the theme Ancestors From A to Z.

And I am meeting so many wonderful bloggers in the process — family historians; genealogists; writers of narrative and memoir, and other fellow travelers who show up at the page (or screen) and write passionately about the subjects that move them.

How wonderful to have them along as I celebrate Two Years: Second Blogiversary — joining my loyal readers who have accompanied me from the beginning to usher me into year three.

Thank you all for making my family history journey so much more enjoyable!

Up next: Undergarments and Aunt Kate. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf (and road trip) at a time