Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cartoon Caption Contest Connection

At the Family History Library, I joined this group where we write and read our family stories.  At a recent gathering, Winnie told me I was famous and handed me the local Sunday newspaper.  I was a finalist in the San Diego Union-Tribune's Cartoon Caption Contest.  Drawn by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Steve Breen, this contest asks readers to submit a caption for one of his drawings each Sunday.  The winner receives the signed original in the mail.  As we were about to start reading our stories, I told Winnie to keep the paper as I was a finalist many times and had already seen the results. By the end of our gathering, I reconsidered; I needed another family story for next time, so I asked Winnie if I could have the newspaper, telling her she inspired my next family story.

I had read the Cartoon Caption Contest for many years always telling my self, like with many other things, one day I would do this.  On March 16, 2014, I finally did.  I followed the instructions about entering:  three short submissions allowed, emailed to this address by this deadline, with your contact information.  That week's final sentence was:  May the luck of the Irish be with you!  That was lost on me at the time, around St. Patrick's Day, but now I get it.  The luck of the Irish was with me.  I was a finalist the first time I entered!  That would occur fourteen more times over the next two years.  Always a finalist, never the winner...yet.  I was still having a good time captioning those cartoons each week.  My college psychology professor once said that nothing succeeds like success, so I kept entering.  I was even a finalist two weeks in a row last August! (Scroll left to right and up and down to see the whole photo.)

The first cartoon caption contest I entered, I was a finalist.  The luck of the Irish!

I was a finalist two weeks in a row in August.  This was the first week.

The second week in a row I was a finalist with this cartoon.  I captioned it "How did you find it among all the Christmas merchandise?"

My funniest entry, in my opinion, wasn't even picked.  The cartoon to caption was of a beaver in the woods talking on a cell phone.  I wrote:  "Don't ask me any more dam questions."  The contest was flooded with many dam/damn jokes so they didn't select that.  However, my other entry of, "I'll have to chew on that a bit longer" did make me a finalist.

I would have loved to caption this "Don't ask me any more dam questions."  

I originally wrote this in December and we were having a holiday party after our readings, so I will share two of my holiday captions that were also picked as finalists.  The first cartoon depicted a
gingerbread man with a sad look on his face viewing his collapsed gingerbread house.  I wrote, "What part of 'handle gingerly' did they not understand?"  The second cartoon showed a man, a woman, a cat and living room furniture floating in the air.  I wrote, "Things will settle down after the

Even the cartoon captions get into the holiday spirit!
The second holiday related caption to be a finalist.  

Last summer, I learned that I could share the caption contest on my Facebook page.  I commented that I was a finalist again and wondered wondered if I would ever win.  The cartoon of a giant octopus dragging a man down a hole with children watching, I captioned, "They are always finding new ways to squeeze the middle class." (See octopus cartoon above.)  My third cousin, Annie, saw the post and commented on it:

Michele Steve Breen was a good customer of mine back here in NJ I worked at the Asbury Park Press when he employed there he also won Prestigious award

I replied:  Small world.  Now I know how to win this cartoon caption contest...mention your name.  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Genealogical Journey: All My Cats Earned Their Keep ( Part 3) by Mary S. LaGoy

This is the third and final part of Grandma's story with my edits in italics.

My success with Bucil Boney's education prompted me to institute an informal routine for training all feline members of the household.  After being housebroken, a laving amount of flattery developed their interest in shaking hands.  More flattery, to which I finds cats rather susceptible, induced them to jump over my clasped hands, a stick or a litter mate.  Next they learned to beg, at which, to the unprejudiced, they appear more graceful than dogs, nature having more adequately screened their exterior genitalia.

Usually they then learned other things, depending on individual aptitudes, and several went in for self-education.  For example, "Smoky," a big blue female, assumed the role of my body guard.  One evening she accompanied me to the mailbox, where she sprang at and frightened away a strange, non-feline male who accosted me.

Despite the tradition associating cats with spinsters, in due time I married and had children.  For a few years there were no cats in my home in upstate New York.  One bitterly cold March day, however, my young son entered the kitchen, partly carrying, partly dragging a big, tortoise shell female, splashed with buff color, "as though a squash pie had been dumped over her."

"Isn't she pretty, Mother?  I think she's freezing!" the little fellow coaxed. (My Dad Bill Lagoy was the young fellow.)

Sure enough, the reputedly "dumb" animal investigated the coal range, in which I had a banked fire. Finding the oven temperature to her liking, she stretched out to enjoy the warmth inside.  Though all the neighborhood children came in to view the defrosting creature, nobody claimed her, so "Calico" stayed with us.  Within a few weeks she had six kittens to shich she proved, according to an elderly neighbor, "a better mother than most Christians."

That was my son's first encounter with newborn kittens, and his enthusiastic fondling was quite rough. Though she was concerned, their mother was too gentle to scratch her benefactor.  Therefore, I steeled myself for some character building.  By pulling the boy's hair (gently)--you know she gave it a good yank!-- I made him realize how he was hurting the kittens.  Then, through the nursery rhyme beginning:  "I love little kitty....."taught proper handling.

I love little kitty, her coat is so warm, and if I don't hurt her, she'll do me no harm.  So I'll not pull her tail, nor drive her away, but kitty and I, very gently will play.  She shall sit by my side and I'll give her some food; and kitty will love me because I am good.  I'll pat pretty kitty, and then she will purr; and thus show her thanks for my kindness to her.  I'll not pinch her ears, nor tread on her paw, lest I should provoke her to use her sharp claw.  I will never will vex her nor make her displeased.  For kitty don't like to be worried and teased.  

There may be other ways to instill kindness to animals, but this one worked.

Though calico was fully grown when she came to us and I never attempted any training, she untied one knotty family problem.  During the Depression, when my babies were arriving, cod liver oil had been prescribed for me.  As I could afford only the cheap, most unpalatable kind, my distaste was projected to the children, with the inevitable daily struggle to get them to swallow their rations.  One afternoon, however, when I accidentally spilled some oil, the cat licked it up with such relish that the children decided it must be delicious stuff.  Each day after that my young fry vied with each other over serving Calico, at the cod liver oil party which I staged.  

Outstanding among Calico's kittens was a yellow male of such outgoing personality that he inherited the name "Bucil Boney II."  He was not handsome, but outsize ( possibly due to his mother's party attendance) weighing 14 pounds at maturity.  And he displayed a high I.Q.  One day, as I reprimanded my son for some misdeed:  "I've told you, over and over, not to do that!" the big cat began throwing himself about on the floor.  "Look, Mother!" interrupted the culprit, "Bucey knows what 'over' means!"

Again the cat responded and, alas! the attempted discipline turned into applause for the cat's trick.

As that feline extrovert enjoyed performing, I taught him a routine which impressed even our non-cat loving friends.  As soon as guests arrived, our Barrymore would join the group in the living room, where he would strut back and forth until he attracted attention; then extend a paw to be shaken.
While I threw him cues, the cat would lie down; fold up his paws, roll over; sit up to beg; jump over an obstacle, and as the grand finale, run to each of my children as I directed:

"Go to Billy."

One of his half-sisters, "Fusty" of the aggressive nature, helped us raise chickens during the war.  She alone, among our five dedicated rat slayers, was entirely trustworthy in the rat-infested barn where we had to keep our hens; or in the coop where our neighbor kept racing (carrier) pigeons.  One spring my children persuaded me to let a broody hen set on a clutch of (21) eggs.

Fifteen chicks broke their shells on schedule and were instantly seized and killed by the rats.  After that I installed Fusty as baby-chick-sitter.  When I checked later, there were six dead rodents on the floor and that many live, newly hatched chicks with the hen; in spite of which that ungrateful critter was ruffing up her feathers, with intent to drive away the poor, misunderstood cat.

A calico cat of another dynasty contributed to my first success in growing Annual Sweet Peas.  At a resort where I worked one summer, a cat named "Cookie" was to be humanely destroyed because the owners were going south for the winter and hadn't found a caretaker.  Instead, I took her home.

Though the cat was clean and affectionate, I presumed she was too mature to be teachable.  Late in the fall she had five kittens, which were too young to go outdoors before cold weather arrived.  While I fretted about getting them housebroken, their mother taught them to use her pan of sand.  She took one kitten at a time, galloped the length of the house with it, to the back door leading to an enclosed porch where the accommodation was kept.

The sand was regularly emptied into a hollow spot in our yard.  In the spring I planted the sweet peas there.  All through the blooming season, which was the longest I ever saw, I could not determine which provided more enjoyment:  the fragrant abundance of flowers which resulted, or watching the kittens batting at my choicest blooms, as they played games among the rows.

And who had a better right?

Though I never developed a talking cat, like the fictional "Tobermory," nor the counterpart of an Obedience-Trained Dog, in one way or another, all my cats paid for their milk and meat.

Your's can, too.  Try them!

                           - The End -

Aimed at McCall's Magazine.  Alternatives:  1.  Red Book   2.  Suburbia Today

Photographs suggested to supplement "ALL MY CATS EARNED THEIR KEEP":

1. Kittens playing games among rows of sweet peas.

2.  A grown Siamese cat on a girl's shoulder, and a young animal investigating the young lady's shoe laces.

I googled " Tobermory" and read the short story by Saki.  It tells the tale of a cat who a man has taught to speak in perfect English.  Initially when the scientist makes this claim, people scoff at the idea.  Then when someone actually engages in an actual conversation with the cat, everyone suddenly becomes interested, until Tobermory begins to tell things they'd rather not have revealed in public. The cat probably should have been taught manners and the consequences of repeating what was overheard.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Genealogical Journey: Grandma's Cat Stories: Part 2 of All My Cats Earned Their Keep

The following is by Mary S. LaGoy edited by her granddaughter Michele Lagoy

In Woodstock ( New York, long before the rock concert) I acquired "Midnight", a black female (cat) which learned to growl like a watch-dog.  She did it spontaneously the first time she heard a strange step at my door; whereupon I praised and rewarded her, while stressing the word "growl."  After a few repetitions, she would sound off on command ( or voluntarily), to the delight of an artist of amorous reputation, who often called on me and spent the evening petting the watch-cat.

"I don't like cats!" insisted Mac; except this one!"


Back in the days when an order for "ten cents worth of liver for the cat" wouldn't rattle the butcher, my otherwise sympathetic mother was somewhat skeptical whenever I brought home sick or injured felines, insisting they had followed me.  They had.  At any rate, mother always cared for the invalids and usually healed them.

One evening, however, I rescued a cat which had apparently been fatally injured.  Next morning, after taking the animal to the Staten Island (Richmond Borough of Greater New York) S.P.C.A. Shelter, I arrived late for morning prayers at parochial school.  For that grave offense, I expected appropriate punishment, but the nun who was my teacher proved surprisingly liberal.  Utilizing my excuse to impress the English lesson on the class, she quoted at embarrassed me from "The Ancient Mariner":

"He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small
For the dear God who loveth us
He made and loveth all."

The first erudite cat of my acquaintance apparently learned to tell time, in spite of being encumbered with the name "Bucil Boney", (spelled phonetically) a corruption of a pet term used for me by a doting aunt.  ( Possibly Helena Lyons or Elizabeth Rogers).  Bucey was allowed to go upstairs a few mornings when I was called for school.  Then he volunteered as a waker-upper, using the step saving method of scaling a front bay window to my room; sitting on the sill, he would rattle the sash by pushing against it until I let him in.

Mother was puzzled about his means of entry until people who passed by regularly on their way to work started ringing the bell to report the precarious (?) position of the animal.  Soon afterward the passersby began to smilingly check their watches when they saw the cat performing his morning chore.

A few years later, when I started to commute via the Staten Island Ferry to a Manhattan office, the same cat found out when I was due in the evening and met me, always on time, between the ferry terminal and our home.

This canny one was instrumental in shaping the literary career of Paul Gallico (*), then a reporter on a New York newspaper, who has since written many short stories and novels; including "The Snow Goose" and the recent best-seller "Thomasina" (The Cat Who Thought She was God).

In those days, my brother was a newspaper camera man and often brought fellow workers home to dinner.  On each first visit of a member of the press, he was initiated through a trick the cat had learned.  At my whispered command Bucey would jump or climb to the sideboard, from which he would stretch his fore paws until they rested on the guest's shoulder, as he vigorously applied his rough tongue to the nape of the visitor's neck.

As the sensation can be compared only to sandpapering, the stooge's hair usually stood on end--and literally--while our photographer, convulsed with mirth, was likely to fall off his chair.

When the then-unknown writer was initiated, however, my brother missed his belly laugh because, instead of being startled, the young man was pleased and flattered by the caress.  As he fondled my pet he aroused my sympathy by telling me he had never had a cat, though he loved them.

"Some day," he predicted, "I'll have all kinds of cats and write stories about them."

(*) NOTE TO EDITOR:  I have Mr. Gallico's written permission.  ( I would have loved to have seen a copy of it Grandma.)

Bucey the cat with Grandma's usually sympathetic mother.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Genealogical Journey: A Few of Grandma's Stories in Her Own Words

Grandma Mary Sullivan LaGoy* was an animal lover.  That much was evident in the little that I did hear about her.  Stories from my Aunts and my Dad always seemed to involve her and an animal.
The few  photographs that I have of her also include animals.

Mary S. LaGoy with her dog Echo in the 1930's and on a horse in the 1920's.  

I will start off with two of her cat stories,  Before I do that, it is important that the reader knows that I found these written stories in the roasting pan in the basement along with the photograph of Great-grandma, baby Charles and the cat.  ( See blog post titled "The Back Story")  See what I mean about animals being in our family photos?  Written on indestructible paper, maybe rice paper, but a high quality form of writing paper nonetheless, these stories were in an envelope addressed to her from The Writers Digest.  Apparently they had rejected her story for publication and mailed it back to her in 1964.  As she died in March of that year, it might have been the last thing that she wrote.  I shall publish it here in my blog Grandma, where tens of people will read it.

Returned writing from the Writers Digest.  Found stored in a roasting pan.

                          ALL MY CATS EARNED THEIR KEEP


                                   Mary S. LaGoy

                         approx. 2,000 words- non-fiction

If you've ever wanted to open your heart and home to any cats, but allowed yourself to be persuaded that the pets would not justify their care and expense, I fee sure my fond recollections will make you reconsider.

If you do, you will find yourself in excellent company, because many prominent people appreciate the charms of these graceful creatures.

While I have found that, as in humans, leaning capacity varies with individuals, most house cats can be taught useful things and amusing tricks, provided one has patience and self-control.

Though most of my experience has been with the Domestic short-hair, as the once maligned "alley-cat" is now designated, I admire the other breeds and am duly grateful to two Siamese for helping me get an interesting job.

To a short-haired puss, however, which probably saved my life and that of my sister, I feel truly beholden.

The Siamese were pets of Clemence Randolph, co-author of the play "Rain," (1)  and spent summers at her home in the Woodstock, N.Y. art colony.  Upon learning that Miss Randolph was dramatizing another W. Somerset Maughm story and needed secretarial help, I applied for the job.

While I waited to be interviewed, a mother cat expressed her approval of me by jumping on my shoulder, where she started to "sing" as only a Siamese can.  Her timid, half-grown son ventured only as far as my feet, where he was solemnly investigating my shoe laces when the playwright discovered the three of us in the cozy scene.

"Oh!  My cats like you," she exclaimed.  "How soon can you start work?"  and engaged me at a generous salary, without knowing whether I knew even the location of A S D F G on the keyboard.

What typing I did, however was achieved on an out-moded Oliver, while considerable of my time was spent in soothing the terrified younger cat during Catskill Mountain thunder storms.  In my lap, he would remain calm, instead of endangering himself among the acids and pigments used by Miss Randolph's friend, the late Bob Chandler, in creating his much-sought-after painted mirrors and screens.


(1) NOTE TO EDITOR:  As you probably know, Somerset Maugham's story, from which the dramatization was made, fist appeared in Smart Set, issue of April, 1921, under the title "Miss Thompson".

The life-saving episode ocurred some years earlier, on a winter morning when our mother had gone out early, leaving my younger sister and me in bed; and a pan of oatmeal on the stove.  As the alarm clock failed to rouse us, we wouldn't have gotten to school that day--or probably any other--except that the pet jumped on the bed, poking at my face until, in rebellion, I drowsily ordered my sister:

"Put Daisy out, or some place, so I can sleep!"  Fortunately, the youngster attempted to comply, and in the kitchen noticed gas fumes, as the flames under the cereal had gone out.


* I will pause here to tell another story.  You may have noticed that my last name "Lagoy" has a lower case "g" in it and my grandmother's has an upper case "G" in it.  My Dad said when he needed to get security clearance for a job, they asked for his birth certificate.  His name was handwritten and looked like a lower case "g" to the powers that be.  To avoid further delay in getting it corrected by bringing his elderly, non-driving parents to stand in line at city hall to get it "fixed", he left it with a small "g" and from then on we were the Lagoy's with a small "g".  The same thing almost happened to my niece.  She almost had to have her name changed on her fist day of Kindergarten because the teacher spelled it wrong on a name tag.  The first day of school the whole class started called her by the wrong name!  If my sister didn't work for the school district, we would be calling her Daniella, instead of Danielle!  That's one family tradition we don't want to keep!

The original writing on indestructible paper 52 years later!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Genealogical Journey: A Few More Back Stories Before "The Story"

Brother Francis Sullivan, second from right, seven years old in  1925,  Easter Sunday, Staten Island, NY. Photo by his father, James J. Sullivan

It's not the destination but the journey along the way that makes the trip interesting.  And so it was with my genealogical journey.  Before I tell you Timothy O'Sullivan's story, I am going to tell you some other family members' stories. Some have passed on, others are still living.  It was because of my interest in Timothy O'Sullivan, that these other stories came to light.  Maybe that is what genealogy is really all about:  connecting with your living relatives.  At least it is for me anyway.

I am going to start with my father's first cousin Bill Sullivan.  No, not the Bill Sullivan featured throughout this blog; he is my second cousin.  Bill was named after his uncle Bill Sullivan, whom this blog post is about.

                                          Brother Francis Sullivan

The year was 1988.  "Dad, I am joining the Peace Corps.  I am going to Africa."  Among other things, Dad said, "I'll get my cousin's address from Aunt Peggy.  He is also in Africa."  Thus began my correspondence with Brother Francis Sullivan born Bill Sullivan.  Unfortunately, none of those letters between us survived, but in this case I have first-hand knowledge of their content.  We wrote to each other about our posts in Africa; mine in Togo, West Africa, his in Tanzania, East Africa.  Timothy O'Sullivan was never mentioned but somehow I felt his spirit of travel and interest in other cultures connected us.  Brother Francis, as I took to addressing him, wrote about the wildebeest migration and the schools he was helping to build.  He had been there for thirty-five years at that time.  I had arrived in Togo, West Africa only a few months earlier.  I felt I could learn a lot from him.  My two-year stint in the Peace Corps ended and somehow so did our correspondence.  I left Africa without ever meeting him.  The geographic distance between us was the comparable to the distance between California and New York.  He stayed.  Life went on.  Decades passed.  Then my addiction to genealogy took hold.

Brother Francis's address in my Grandmother's address book.  She was his Aunt. 

One of the genealogy envelopes my second cousin, the other Bill Sullivan, sent me, contained articles about Brother Francis.  He had passed in 2009 at the age of 90 and is buried in Tanzania.  Sad to say, I was sorry that I didn't keep up my correspondence with him. Let me honor his life here by including those two articles his namesake sent me.  Remember to scroll left and right, top and bottom to read the entire articles.

I noticed the first article was written by a Mark Sullivan.  Perusing the online family tree, I saw that  my second cousin Ed had a son named Mark. There was also a Mark Sullivan on my email list for the blog.  Was this his son?  No, it wasn't.  Ed too, wondered who this Mark Sullivan was as he also saw his email address on the blog list, but knew it was not his son Mark's.  So I emailed Mark to ask where his place was on the family tree and to see if we could talk about Brother Francis.  Mark and I spoke on the phone where he confirmed that he had written the article titled God's Truck Drivin' Man ( article above) and his place on the family tree.  (He was my second cousin Jim's son; Brother Francis was his Great-uncle.) Mark also wrote to Brother Francis and unlike me, saved all of his letters.  We learned that he did tend to write the same letter over and over; wildebeest migration patterns, weather, building projects, etc.  Mark said he had met his "Uncle Billy" a few times but he was a quiet man, not forthcoming with information or stories about his own life.  He did say that he was a devout Catholic, attending mass daily. He hated the commies ( Communists).  His flying experiences causing death and destruction in WWII ( he was a gunner in the Army Air Corps) impacted his life thereafter with the need to do only good; thus joining the Spiritan Missionaries.  My Dad said Brother Francis wanted to be a priest, but was too old at 31 after WWII,  so he became a Brother in the Congregation of the Holy Spirit instead.

Mark said that he will pull out his letters from "Uncle Billy".  He also has a mass card and was able to attend a mass given for Brother Francis by the Spiritans in Pittsburg at the time of his passing. Before we hung up, Mark added that "Uncle Billy" was also good at identifying people in family photos, correcting a few that were mislabeled.  I said I was planning a trip to the East Coast next summer to continue my genealogy research.  I added that I hoped we could meet.  He agreed saying he wold like to show his children some of the ancestral places on Staten Island.  The genealogical journey continues.

Mark Sullivan, standing far right.  Photo: Bill Sullivan

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Genealogical Journey: The Last of the Search Stories...But Not the End of the Journey

At this point in the genealogical journey, I had found living descendants from three out of four of my great-grandfather's siblings.  Great-grandpa's youngest brother, Old Uncle George, had no descendants.  The last sibling left to research was Great-grandpa Charles' oldest brother, Timothy D. Sullivan (1849-1907).  Cousin Bill's wife, Paula, found his headstone in St. Peter's Cemetery not far from our family plot.  Actually, Timothy found her, as she almost tripped over the headstone. Unfortunately, the cemetery had no further information about the plot.

Grave stone of Timothy Sullivan in St. Peter's Cemetery.  Photo:  Bill Sullivan

Through research, I was able to learn that Timothy D. Sullivan had two sons.  One was named Charles and the other was named George, probably after their uncles, Charles, my great-grandfather and the aforementioned Old Uncle George.  The Sullivan brothers followed a pattern of naming their sons after each other.  This made my search both difficult and easy at the same time.  When Cousin Bill gave me Cousin Dorothy's interview notes from Great-aunt Margaret, I learned that this Charles Sullivan died of meningitis that "he brought back from the Spanish-American War."  I continued to search Staten Island directories and census schedules to find that Timothy's other son, George, had married a woman named Pauline.  He and Pauline had two sons, George Preston and Charles Trenchard.  The naming pattern for George and Charles continued.  George and Charles were first referred to as "Preston" and "Trenchard" on census forms and in Cousin Bill's Dad's family tree notes. It took me some time to figure this out as "Preston" and "Trenchard" disappeared from records and "George" and "Charles" reappeared.  So much for leveraging the name "Trenchard"!   Cousin Bill and I both wondered what kind of names Trenchard and Preston were; maybe from their mother Pauline's side of the family?  Did George or Charles had any living descendants?  The trail ran dry for a long

Family history notes listing Preston and Trenchard.  Courtesy of Bill Sullivan
I found that Charles had married a woman named Marjorie Rice in 1936.  The 1940 census listed Charles and Marjory but no children.  I also learned that he worked in the fire department from this census.  Another firefighter in the family!  I was excited when I found his 1944 military record . Then the genealogy road block was put up.  The record said he was separated when he enlisted in the army. Divorce records are sealed for one hundred years in New York, so I wasn't going to get any more information about that.  Time to try another angle.  Through Cousin Bill's help, I was able to contact the New York City Fire Department's personnel office, Through pension records, I was able to learn that Charles Trenchard Sullivan had moved to New Jersey and died on February 3, 1980.  Unfortunately, his death record is not yet old enough to be considered a historical document and only "close relatives" were allowed to view a copy of it.  ( Four more years of waiting for me; of course I already have the form filled out.)  Three years of research and that was the result for Charles Trenchard Sullivan (1909-1980).  Final resting place and descendants unknown as no obituary has been found.

More time passed without finding any other information on George Preston Sullivan.  Then on one of my Thursday night visits to the Family History Library, I entered variations of his name into the database.  A listing came up from Find A Grave.  I found myself looking at a photograph of a grave for a "George P. Sullivan" in Deerfield Beach, Florida.  The inscription indicated that he was from New York, served in the Navy and it gave his birth and death dates.  I used that information to locate an obituary where I learned this was indeed the George Sullivan I was looking for:  born in Staten Island, had a brother named Charles, a wife named Stephanie and a son named James T. Sullivan!  I didn't have any luck finding James T, Sullivan with this information, but I was able to find an obituary on his mother, Stephanie Sullivan, who died nine years later in 1979.  It said her son James was living in New Port Richie, Florida at the time of her death.  I had a feeling that James was living on the West Coast of Florida and this confirmed it.  It should be easy to find him now, right?  I started calling men named James Sullivan in the New Port Richie area.  One phone number was for a window washing business but the number was disconnected.  A flurry of other phone calls yielded the wrong James Sullivan.  In October of 2015, I was desperately phoning men named James Sullivan while waiting in a Florida airport, hoping to connect with him while still in the state.  I boarded the airplane home without that happening.  I was left with sending good old fashioned letters to men named James Sullivan without listed phone numbers.  I received no response from those letters when they weren't returned to me.  I even sent letters to his parents cemeteries to give to him in case he ever showed up there.   I called first cousins on his mother's side of the family whose names I had traced from her obituary.   Other than telling me that George was also a firefighter, they knew nothing of James' whereabouts.  My James T, Sullivan was off the grid.  Or I was losing my research skills.  Would this be yet another unfinished project in my life?  At this point,
it seemed so.

Obituary of George P. Sullivan where I discovered he had a son.

Obituary of Stephanie Sullivan mentioning James again and her family members.  

The year on the calendar changed to 2016.  Several months in, I received a call from an unknown number in Florida.  I answered it.  It was James T. Sullivan!  He had received one of the letters I sent out to men named James Sullivan without listed phone numbers.  I asked a few more qualifying questions like his mother's middle name and his father's occupation.  He was the James T, Sullivan I was looking for!  After apologizing for not calling sooner, he said, "You know I am adopted right?"  I did not.

We had many phone conversations during the year.  He still speaks with a trace of his Staten Island accent.  Like many people today, he had disconnected his home phone and only used a cellular phone. He did have a window washing business in New Port Richie when he lived there.  He now resides in Hernando County Florida where I sent one of my letters.  He had photos of his father and his uncle in their firefighter uniforms as well as his father's fire department ring.  He promised to mail me copies of the photos. He never did.  In September of 2016, while visiting my parents in Florida, my dad and I met him for lunch where he gave me the photos in person.  I finally had faces for George Preston Sullivan and Charles Trenchard Sullivan...and the pleasure of meeting my third cousin James T. Sullivan.

George Sullivan at Ladder Company 21 in Manhattan, late 1940's.  Courtesy of James T. Sullivan
George Preston (l) and Charles Trenchard (r) Sullivan.  1940's. From the private collection of James T. Sullivan

Left to Right:  James T. Sullivan, me and  Dad. Florida, September 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Genealogical Journey: Timothy and Mary Sullivan

The exasperating part of this genealogical journey was knowing that records exist but not having access to them.  Contrary to popular belief, not everything is available online, free of charge.  Such was the case with some pre-1850 Catholic Church records in Ireland.  They were free, on microfilm, but located in Dublin.  So I was frustrated about not being able to "look in that box."  In essence, I was back where I started: stuck at the name of my great-great-grandfather, Denis Sullivan without being able to obtain a generation beyond him.  (Surprisingly, I had previously learned the names of his wife's parents from her death certificate.  Irish, maternal, pre-1850 names are harder to find as explained in the previous blog post titled Charles and Helena O'Regan.)  I could not definitively locate a death certificate for Denis.  According to the records at St. Peter's Cemetery in Staten Island, he is not buried in the plot along with his wife or son's family.  I am still at a loss as to when and where he died.  This all could have been solved long ago if only Denis' parents were listed on his marriage record in Ireland!  But it was left blank, just like his wife's.  Denis' brother Jeremiah's death certificate has also not been located. Cousin Ed has a theory that Denis is buried along with Jeremiah and his family. Exact location unknown but probably in St. Peter's Cemetery in Staten Island, NY.  

Then another genealogy miracle happened!  The Catholic Parish Registers of the National Library of Ireland were put online--for free.  I danced an Irish jig.  They were not indexed so I had hours of happiness in front of me.  My strategy was to look through baptismal records in the Parish of Schull East in County Cork, Ireland.  I knew that Denis and Jeremiah Sullivan were brothers. 

Cousin Dorothy's interview notes with Great Aunt Margaret where we deduce Jeremiah and Denis were brothers.   

Because of Irish naming traditions, I felt that their father was named Timothy.  Both Denis and Jeremiah named their first sons Timothy, possibly after their father.  I looked for records for both of those names hoping to find a matching set of parents between 1800 and 1816.  I was never sure of Jeremiah's age because of the differences listed on census forms.  Records on Denis had him being born within a span of five years ( 1813-1818) so it was hard to determine his exact age as well.

I began searching the Catholic Parish Records. I took notes and indicated where I left off so as not to repeat the tedious task of reading 19th century handwriting. While my Mom watched TV, hour after hour I scoured the newly released records during my visit to Florida.  When yet another TV show was about to begin, my mother turned to me and said," Michele, you are probably related to everyone in West Cork."

I found baptismal records for both Denis and Jeremiah with matching parents.  Jeremiah was older and Denis was within that five year time frame of the other records.  These were baptismal records, not birth, so there could have been a delay in having that sacrament recorded.  Reasons included: health, weather, and holidays.  I believe the names of my great-great-great-grandparents on the Sullivan side were Timothy Sullivan and Mary Jones.  Another brick wall down!

Top record for the baptism of Jeremiah Sullivan., Bottom record for Denis Sullivan.  Both show the parents listed as Timothy Sullivan and Mary Jones
Relationship Summary
Lagoy, Michele Ann's great great great grandfather is Sullivan, Timothy?
Sullivan, Timothy?
Sullivan, Denis
1815 - 1880
Sullivan, Charles Joseph
1856 - 1902
Sullivan, Mary Bernadette
1896 - 1964
Lagoy, William Paul, Jr
Lagoy, Michele Ann