Thursday, April 7, 2016

Genealogical Journey: Drew Knew

My Great-grandfather Charles Sullivan was one of six children.  Although he was the third one born, he was the first to die in 1902 at age 46.  As a result, our family didn't know much about him or the rest of his siblings and their descendants.  That was about to change.  Bill told me about great-grandpa's youngest sister named Helena Sullivan.  Her married name was Lyons.  Another mystery solved!  What becomes of women after they marry and change their names?  They all but disappear if we do not know their new married names.  I recalled seeing Helena's name on the 1870 and 1875 census schedules when the Sullivan family returned to Staten Island from a ten-year stay in Ireland.  I often wondered what became of her.  To this day, we do not know why her parents and older siblings returned to Ireland.  From a genealogist's perspective, I am glad they did.  I found our town land through Helena's birth record.  My great-grandfather and his two older brothers were born in New York but the three youngest siblings were born in Ireland.  Researching your ancestor's siblings is another research strategy I learned at the Family History Library.  Helena Sullivan Lyons is my link to both the past and the present day relatives.  She led me to our ancestors' geographic area in Ireland, maternal ancestors and to her greatest legacy:  her grandson. 

Perhaps because our ancestors came from island nations, my family likes to swim.  Bill and his brother were lifeguards at the public pool near the Ferry Landing on Staten Island.  A lot of family members swam there.  The pool was built in the 1930's.  It was one of eleven pools and recreation centers built in New York City during the depression.  It was a WPA project designed to put the unemployed to work.  The Joseph H. Lyons pool is still in use today.  Joseph Henry Lyons was Helena Sullivan Lyons' son and my grandmother's first cousin.  In addition to visiting a cemetery, I guess I will be visiting a public swimming pool when I go to Staten Island.  Not your typical  New York City sight-seeing venue.  Why would a pool be named after our cousin?  Even though we refer to the Lyons' pool as "our pool", we certainly did not pay for it.  Neither did Joseph Henry Lyons.  He must have done something special to deserve that honor.  Frankly, with public places these days being named for corporations that buy naming rights, I am surprised the pool still bears his name.  Where I live in San Diego, there was a big uproar when the Jack Murphy Stadium's name was changed to Qualcomm Stadium.  Jack Murphy was a beloved sportswriter and games are now played at Qualcomm Stadium on the Jack Murphy field.  Jettisoning his name altogether would have been unacceptable to San Diegans so the compromise of naming the field after him was made.  Let's hope that the "forgotten borough" as Staten Island is sometimes called, of New York City forgets about selling naming rights to our pool.  Come swim at the Poland Springs pool on the Joseph H. Lyons deck hardly seems worth it. 

My research was going wide but not deep.  Joseph H. Lyons' story is interesting but not having any descendants of his own, I must continue going down the tree if I hope to get further up it.  I shall return to your story later Cousin Joseph.  Now back to your mother, Helena. 

Armed with knowing Helena's married name, I continued researching her children.  In addition to Joseph, she had three others who lived to adulthood.  ( A baby named Lily, died in infancy.)  Via the 1940 census, I learned that Helena was living with her two daughters and grandchildren a few blocks away from Great-Uncle Jim on Monroe Avenue in New Brighton.  I found those same surnames at that Hamilton Street address in my grandmother's address book.  There is an eight-year-old boy name Drew listed on that 1940 census.  If I can find him, he would be 80 years old.  His mother, Agnes Lyons, married a man with a distinct last name.  I searched for Drew's name in the white pages directory, an online nationwide phone book.  I got one result. He was the only Drew listed by that surname in the entire United States.  And he wasn't in the Social Security Death Index.  I was about to get even luckier.  He lived in California. 

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