Sepia Saturday 596. Eighteenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.
Most family history discoveries are happy ones — finding previously unknown relatives, linking up long-forgotten branches of a family tree and generally adding richness to ancestral stories.
Yet there are also sad discoveries — and finding evidence of children who died young are among the most heartbreaking.
Alas, such untimely deaths were not unusual in the 19th and early 20th centuries — and my maternal Italian second great grandparents Peter and Mary “Mamie” (Curcio) Laurence/diLorenzo experienced two such tragedies in 1905 and 1906.
Remembering a lost son
Among the photos of my Italian ancestors I found a memorial cabinet card for a child my Laurence ancestors lost — their third son Peter Laurence Jr., who died on 9 April 1905 at age 2 months. The card was printed by H.F. Wendell & Co. of Leipsic, Ohio — a company that specialized in memorial lithography.
Peter’s card features a lovely poem below an angel of peace carrying a child and a bouquet of flowers, with pastoral background images of a waxing crescent moon, stars and a church.
I was already aware of Peter’s untimely 1905 death from his gravestone in Prospect Hill Cemetery, Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y. — which my mother and I found during a 1992 trip to her home town. However, the memorial card was an unexpected discovery in an album of ancestral photos.
A second heartbreaking loss
On the same trip to Gloversville, my mom Peg (Laurence) Charboneau and I discovered a second stone nearby with the same inscription — only that one was dated 1906.
That’s how we learned that Peter and Mamie had lost a another son — who they also named Peter — the year after their first loss. How devastated they must have been by these tragic deaths so close together.
There is no memorial cabinet card for the second Peter among the Laurence family photos. Could my second great-grandparents have been too overwhelmed by this new loss to have one printed?
The brief lives of the two Peters
Having discovered the two Peters, I wondered if I might be able to memorialize their brief lives in some way. So I turned to the New York State birth and death indexes to see if they had been recorded.
Amazingly, they both appear in the birth index — and the second Peter’s death appears in the death index. The first Peter’s date of death is not in the index but is printed on his memorial card. So below is a record of the brief lives of the two Peters — the lost, but not forgotten, Laurence brothers.
|Peter Laurence 1||Born 17 Feb 1905||G’ville||#4936|
|Peter Laurence 1||Died 9 Apr 1905||G’ville||—|
|Peter Laurence 2||Born 25 May 1906||G’ville||#21839|
|Peter Lawrence 2||Died 26 Sep 1906||G’ville||#40340|
Fortunately, Peter and Mamie’s older sons — my maternal grandfather Antonio W. Laurence, born in 1902, and his brother Joseph B. Laurence, born in 1903 — lived into their senior years. That they survived and thrived must have been a healing balm to their parents.
Up next, the Laurence brothers Tony and Joe as teens. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.
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