Category Archives: A to Z Challenge 2016

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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

,