Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Genealogical Journey: Finding My First John Smith aka James Sullivan

One thing led to another.  Having tracked down two of my great-grandfather's siblings' descendants, I was left with the task of finding the remaining two.  (Old Uncle George had no descendants, having had his heart broken, he ran off and joined the Circus as previously mentioned.)  I decided to take a look at finding living descendants of great-grandpa's brother named James Sullivan (1853-1906).  I might as well look for the genealogical equivalent of a needle in a hay stack: John Smith.

Old Uncle George Sullivan about 1915, Staten Island.  ( Courtesy of Drew Van Winkle)  
Agnes Lyons Van Winkle,, with Old Uncle George Sullivan.  ( From the private collection of Drew Van Winkle.)

Utilizing the research techniques that served me well thus far, I searched census forms for Staten Island.  I quickly learned that James S. Sullivan was married to a woman named Julia, and their children were named:  James A., Anna Maria, and Joseph Francis Sullivan.  Those names matched Bill's dad's notes.  More John Smiths to trace, but I had three leads.  At some point I learned that James A. and Anna married but had no children.  To further confuse me, James A. married a woman named Helen whose maiden and married names were both Sullivan.  I wondered if she had to officially change her name.

My hopes of finding living relatives from this branch of the family all rested on a man named Joseph Francis Sullivan.  Via the draft records for both World Wars, I learned that he had blue or grey eyes, a ruddy complexion and worked for the Post Office.  His physical description was keeping in line with most of the Sullivan men, including my dad.  I realized from this form that the letters "P" and "O" next to his name stood for Post Office on Cousin Bill's dad's notes!  (Cousin Bill's dad was also named James Sullivan and also worked for the Post Office.  Perhaps he and Joseph had met there, and sharing the same job, last name and probably looks, struck up a conversation about how they might be related.)

Family tree notes showing descendants of James Sullivan.  Note my grandparents' names William Lagoy and Mary Sullivan.

Above notes credited to James J. Sullivan, Cousin Bill's dad who gave me these invaluable notes. 

The 1940 census showed Joseph Sullivan married to a woman named Alma and their children were listed as Joseph Jr,, John and Carol Ann.

1940 Census showing the family of Joseph and Alma Sullivan on Staten Island.  It was their descendants I was seeking.  Source:  1940 US Census from the Family Search website

I was stuck at this information for a long time and unable to make headway with those names.  More John Smiths.  Then one day, the genealogy gods were with me or Joseph wanted me to find his family.  On the Family Search website, I came across an unlikely record that I thought had no business being online but it was classified as a public record. It stated that Joseph F. Sullivan, aka Joseph James Sullivan and a date of birth of 27 May 1925.  This too, was another stroke of luck.  On the 1925 New York State Census, taken on June 1, 1925, Joseph was listed as five days old, thus I was able to hone in on his date of birth as his age was only days old at the time the census was taken.  I now had a name, a date of birth, and an address from the aforementioned draft card that all matched.  I was getting somewhere.  The bottom of the public record listed possible relatives:  Angelique Phyllis, Beatrice M. and Margaret E. Sullivan.  Finally, there were some names I could leverage and match up with Joseph Sullivan.  Before I tell you the rest of the story, let me remind you about the Clay boys who were put into an orphanage. ( See the three previous blog posts titled "The Cryne Line").  Now let me balance the family tree by showing you the obituary of Joseph's wife Beatrice Sullivan (1927-2013).

Beatrice M. Sullivan (2013) 

AGE: 86 • Brick, New Jersey

Beatrice M. (Schine) Sullivan, also known as "Bea" "BB" "Grandma B" and "Mom," 86, of Brick, died Saturday, July 27, 2013, at Meridian Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Brick. She was born and raised in Staten Island and lived there for 60 years before moving to Brick in 1986. She was a graduate of Port Richmond High School in Staten Island. In her younger years, she enjoyed spending her summers in Highlands, NC and loved reunion trips back to Highlands. She was a parishioner of the Church of the Epiphany in Brick where she taught CCD classes. She was a member and past president of Mater Dei Chapter of the New York Foundling Hospital Center for Development of Children. She was honored by Cardinal Cook for her work in finding homes for children, many of whom were taken in at her home. She was also honored as a Foster Parent of the Year. She loved bowling and was a member of the Columbettes Bowling League and was a member of the Music Club and Italian American Club at the Original Leisure Village in Lakewood.

She was predeceased by her beloved husband of 44 years, Joseph J. Sullivan in 1990. She is survived by 11 children, Barbara Tunnington and her husband, Tom of Brick, Margaret Territo of Manchester, Joseph Sullivan and his wife, Karen of Parlin, Robin Bisogna and her partner, Audie Parker of Staten Island, Catherine Regan of Yorktown, TX, Angelique Reedy and her husband, Ron of Brick, Ginny Romo of Columbus, GA, Azealia Caceres of Philadelphia, PA, Tommy Wong and his wife, Sherry of Utica, NY, Daniel Lenier of Montgomery, AL and Jackie Andujar of Staten Island; 22 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren; and several nieces & nephews. - See more at:

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Genealogical Journey: The Cryne Line Part 3: The Fine Cryne LIne

The Cryne family members I was in touch with didn't seem to know about my branch of the family, so maybe nobody in mine knew about Catherine Cyrne's youngest three boys being placed in an orphanage. Cousin Carol confirmed the name of the orphanage to be what is now called Mount Loretto.  I perused my grandmother's address book.  An address listed for Great-aunt Margaret read "Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, Mount Loretto, Staten Island, NY.  Dietary Department Boys." This was not written in the address book, it was from a pre-printed address label torn from an envelope and scotch taped into her address book.  As there was no zip code in the address, it was put in there prior to 1963. Cousin Bill confirmed that Great-aunt Margaret did indeed work at Mount Loretto and even resided there in her retirement years.

Address in my grandmother's handwriting for her sister Margaret at Mount Loretto on Staten Island

Okay, so that was reference to evidence that her cousin Catherine's sons were there at possibly the same time Great-aunt Margaret worked there.  The Clay boys were there from the late 1920's to the mid-1930's.  I found Frank, Raymond and Joseph Clay, Carol's father, listed there on the 1930 census.  However, Great-aunt Margaret was listed as a chambermaid at Bellevue Hospital, also living there. in 1930.  Aunt Peggy told me that Great-aunt Margaret did work at Bellevue for a while, and as she does not appear on the census in Staten Island in 1930, that must be her.  So perhaps she didn't know about the Clay boys and got that job at Mount Loretto after the Clay boys left.  I found Great-aunt Margaret still at Bellevue on the 1940 census which asked where you were five years ago. She answered, "same place." so didn't encounter the Clay boys at Mount Loretto in the 1930's.   But why did I still feel that the family knew about the Clay boys?

Reviewing Julia's family tree on Ancestry again, I noticed something I had not seen the other times I had looked at it.  Read much?  One of Catherine's sons with the last name Cyrne had a baptismal certificate that referenced "Helen Lyons" as a sponsor.  The link said to email the author to see a copy of it.  I was willing to bet that the certificate read "Helena"not Helen.  Helena was the baby's great-aunt and Cousin Drew's grandmother.  I didn't expect a response from this email address because it contained the word "bogus" in the address.  Happily, I was wrong.  Julia emailed me back right away and sent me a copy of the baptismal certificate.  It read "Helena Lyons" as I predicted.  More reference to evidence that the family possibly knew about Catherine's youngest sons.  Below is Julia's email to me.  The Cyrne line is fine.


I have asked my family for a copy of the certificate, and I will send it to you.  You should know that there is some confusion between the birth certificate and baptism:  the dates of birth don't match, and one shows him as older than the other.  We believe the baptism certificate is more likely accurate, as the birth certificate wasn't filed for a few years afterwards, and the family were strict Catholics and would have had him baptized quickly.  

He is a remarkable man.  His life is quite a story, and I hope to post it sometime on Ancestry to keep the story alive. We also have a copy of his passport, when he went to Japan right after WWII for business, along with some other info.  He also enlisted in the US Marines at 17, fought in Central America, was wounded, worked for the Irish mob during prohibition, lost all his savings in the crash, started a steel company and remade himself from scratch.  

I would love to have the photograph that you mentioned.  It would be nice for my family to see my grandfather's mother.  She had a rough life after her first husband died.  All we know is that she remarried an abusive man and was fairly unhappy with her life.  


I was happy to provide Julia a photograph of her great-grandmother.  I also encouraged her to expand Joe Cryne's story as I, for one, would love to know more about this relative.

Michael Joseph ( Joe ) Cyrne's baptismal certificate showing Helena Lyons as his sponsor.  Courtesy of Julia Cyrne.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Genealogical Journey: The Cyrne Line Part 2: The end of the line?

I found someone else also posted a family tree on Ancestry listing Catherine Cryne as an ancestor. Catherine was married twice and this tree was for her and her first husband Michael's descendants.  Ancestry does not give names of living relatives listed on the tree for privacy reasons.  (They probably had people like me in mind when they did that.)  Not seeing any other way to contact the tree's author, I wrote a message in the comment section of the page.  The tree didn't go beyond Catherine's parents ( Michael & Elizabeth Rogers) so I was not hopeful that she knew about any more ancestors than what I had learned. We all seemed to be "stuck" at Denis and Elizabeth Sullivan or their children, as was the case with this branch of the family tree.  This tree did cite that same 1900 census listing Catherine and her three siblings: George, Anna and Lizzie.  Maybe the author was certain that Catherine's mother was Elizabeth Sullivan Rogers.  Maybe she knew more about her grandmother's siblings.  As I studied the tree and the attached cited information, I hoped that Julia, the author would email me back quickly like Carol had.  That didn't happen.  Carol had left a message in the comment box as well.

From time to time, I would check Julia's tree hoping my question was answered in the comment section.  One time I notice that one of the names on the tree was no longer. private.  So I looked for an obituary and hit pay dirt again.  As always, I was happy to find more relatives but sad to see that someone had passed on.  This time it was Bernice's husband.  Bernice's father was Catherine's son. Catherine was her grandmother.  I found her living in New Jersey so I called her.  She said that Julia, the Ancestry family tree author was her niece, her brother's daughter.  I had a wonderful chat with Bernice; she told me to call her Penny.  When I asked why, she said as a little girl she attended Girl Scout Camp where everyone had to pick a nickname.  She didn't want to be called the obvious, Bernie, because there was a mean kid on her block named that and she didn't want to be reminded of him.  So she picked Penny and it stuck.  Penny didn't have Julia's contact information, did not use a computer and was only "a little" interested in genealogy.  Her son didn't accept my friend request on Facebook.  I thought I was at the end of the Cryne line.

By this time, Cousin Bob had come through for me and located a photo of Catherine Rogers Cryne Clay, his grandfather's sister.  This photo cemented it for me that Catherine was a member of our family.  Bob's email mentioned his mother's recollection of Catherine and two of her son's as well.

Kitty Rogers ( Courtesy of Bob Rogers)

I was still curious if other branches of the family, mostly mine, who resided on Staten Island knew of Catherine's youngest sons being placed in an Orphanage there.  Why would they go from Islip on Long Island to Staten Island?  I had this nagging feeling that knew but no proof until...