Category Archives: A to Z Challenge 2016

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.

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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 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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Susquehanna River reflections

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

From second grade through high school, I lived two blocks from the North Branch of the Susquehanna River in Broome County, N.Y. The schools I attended were located on elevated ground well above the flood plain. But on my street, the river was a constant presence.

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Susquehanna River in Town of Union, Broome County, N.Y. (1993) As a child I lived on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River not far from the Pennsylvania border —  unaware that paternal ancestors once lived there, too. Photo by Molly Charboneau

My dad bought our family’s first house, a small Cape Cod, in the late 1950s without realizing how close it was to the Susquehanna.

“The real estate agent stood in the back yard, pointed at some trees in the distance and said there was a river ‘way over there,’ ” Dad told me. “Well, the following spring, the river flooded and the water was lapping at the edge of our back yard!”

The river at flood stage was unnerving — water as far as the eye could see out our kitchen window, where I watched my classmates on the next block travel home in small motorboats to houses that seemed to float atop the water.

But after the freshet subsided, the land was lush and green. The Italian family on the next block grew a huge vegetable garden; the pear tree by their house bloomed and grew heavy with fruit, and every puddle brimmed with tiny toads for us children to catch. And in the summer, swarms of lightening bugs glowed in the night.

Our block was chock full of children to play with — 52 at the peak of the Baby Boom — but we had no relatives nearby. So after we left the area and I began studying my family’s history, I was amazed to learn that some of my dad’s ancestors once lived there.

I wrote about this in Hidden hometown heritage — how surprised I was to learn about my paternal Broome County ancestors (the Bull, Hance and Blakeslee families) and how the absence of local relatives when I was growing up may have sparked my interest in finding ancestral connections as an adult.

What I left out of that story is that I feel connected to those ancestors not only by heritage, but also by the mighty Susquehanna River — which flowed past our homes, and through all of our lives, going back more than two hundred years.

Up next: Two years: Second Blogiversary. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Research, repositories and relaxation

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

Research, repositories and relaxation are three words I often think of in combination, because just the idea of going to a repository to do some leisurely family history research brings on a deep sense of relaxation — like a form of meditation for the family historian.

By: mrgarethm
National Archives and Records Administration Building, Washington, D.C. Research, repositories and relaxation are three words I often think of in combination, because just the idea of going to a repository to do some leisurely family history research induces a deep sense of relaxation — sort of like meditation for the family historian By: mrgarethm

I began doing genealogy research in earnest when I was living in Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s.

Back then, the National Archives building on Pennsylvania Ave. was open most nights until 9:00 pm — so if I was having a hectic week and needed to unwind, I would head over there for a couple of hours.

Microfilm meditation

In those microfilm days, there would be researchers at readers all over the room meditatively scrolling along looking for ancestors — and once in a while, you would hear someone exclaim happily when they found a record they needed.

Sitting in that huge space, I found my maternal immigrant ancestors, who lived and worked in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y., in census after census —  because once they settled there, they put down roots.

My paternal ancestors, who had been in the U.S. much longer, offered many more relaxing hours of research because they moved around quite a bit.

After a night at the archives, I sometimes called my dad for tips on where to look next — and one night surprised him with the news that we had Swiss ancestors.

“You know, I seem to remember hearing something about that,” he said thoughtfully after I read him the census entry from Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y.

“Really?” I asked. “Why didn’t you say something?” But in retrospect, I’m glad he didn’t — because it might have spoiled the relaxing evening I spent unearthing that discovery, which I will write about for Letter Z.

Brain-healthy browsing

Although many records are now digitized, with more coming online each day, most materials still exist in non-digital form at government offices, libraries, archives and other repositories.

It’s easy to bemoan this reality and feel frustrated that the ancestral records we want are not instantly available, or just an Internet search away.

But once you realize that research and repositories lead to relaxation, you can tap into the brain-healthy meditative state that accompanies your heritage search — and that can be a good thing!

Up next: Susquehanna River reflections. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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