My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Monday, February 13, 2012

SUNDAY'S OBITUARY - Jacques Omer Fortier (1813-1867)

Jacques Omer Fortier, born in 1813, is my 3rd-great-grandfather. His father was Jacques Omer Fortier (1792-1823); his grandfather, too, was Jacques Omer Fortier (1759-1820). His grandfather and father had a large sugar cane plantation on the German Coast, one that the first Jacques Omer had built, near the present-day-town of Kenner, Louisiana.

Omer was the oldest of three children born to his father and mother, Charlotte Adele Chauvin deLery (1796-1834). His father died when he was only 7 and his mother soon remarried - Jean Baptiste Dubrueil Villars (UNK-1844). Omer's younger siblings were Aime Adele Omer (1815-1861) and Valcour Barthelemy (1816-1865).

On May 9, 1840, in St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of New Orleans, Omer married Augustine Melanie Laperle Degruy (1822-1872) and they soon started a family. Together they had eleven children; only seven lived to adulthood, including my great-great-grandmother Odalie Felicite Fortier (1857-1920), their seventh child.

Omer and Laperle lived in the French Quarter, at 256 Bourbon Street. In 1860, before the Civil War, Omer listed his occupation on the U.S. Census as "clerk." [NOTE: The numbers to the houses on Bourbon Street changed in the late 19th century. The home where Omer and his family lived is still standing. Its current address is 1116 Bourbon Street.]

In 1854, at the age of 41, Omer was elected by the New Orleans Board of Assistants to serve as "Collector of Levee Dues on Steamboats for Second District". I'm not sure if this was a full-time position or primarily one of a political nature.

On December 19, 1867, Omer died, at the age of 54. He was survived by his wife and six children. His wife gave birth to their eleventh child five months after his death. His children were between the ages of 0 and 18.

The notice of Omer's death appeared the following day in the New Orleans Bee (L'Abeille) on page 1 of the newspaper.

Omer Fortier '
"Yesterday at 2:00, P.M., JACQUES OMER FORTIER, a native of New Orleans, aged 54 years.
The friends and acquaintances of the family, and those of his brother-in-law, Onesime De Gruy, are respectfully requested, without further notice, to attend his funeral, THIS DAY, 20th instant, at 3 1/2 o'clock P.M., from the Chapel in Algiers."

The Chapel is most probably Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church, the first Catholic Church in Algiers, just across the river from the French Quarter. He was buried at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, opened in 1789.

[Omer Fortier is the father of my great-great-grandmother Odalie Fortier Horst (1857-1920). Odalie is the mother of my great-grandmother Pearl Horst Flemming (1884-1961). Pearl is the mother of my grandmother Susie Flemming O'Donnell (1909-1999).]

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY'S PHOTO - Fortier Sisters Relaxing on the Porch (ca.1919)

Jeanette, Odalie & Luciana
On the Front Porch Swing

This is a photograph of my great-great-grandmother Odalie Fortier Horst (1857-1920), seated in the middle, and her two younger sisters - Jeanette Fortier Byrnes (1868-1941) on the left and Lucianna "Lucy" Fortier Boulo (1861-1942) on the right. It most likely was taken around 1915-1920, and most probably in Mobile where Lucy and Jeanette lived with their families. Odalie was living in Birmingham the town where she and her husband and children had settled down before the turn of the century. At the time this photograph was taken all three women were widowers - Lucy in 1909, Odalie in 1912 and Jeannette in 1915.

Odalie, Lucy and Jeanette were the last surviving children, of eleven, born to Jacques Omer Fortier (1813-1867) and Augustine Melanie Laperle DeGruy (1822-1872) in New Orleans, Louisiana. After their widowed mother died in 1872, the five youngest children moved to Mobile, Alabama to live with their aunt. All three girls met their future husbands while living in Mobile.

What were these women talking about, moments before the photographer snapped this picture? Were they discussing their children - Odalie had four of five children, Lucy had three of four children and Jeanette had one child? Were they talking about World War I in Europe? Maybe they were discussing the recent death of their only brother Gaston James Fortier, who died in 1917? Or maybe they were just sitting on the front porch swing, getting cooled off from the steaming hot inside of their home. We will never know what was being said but the moment was captured forever for us to enjoy!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

MONDAY'S MOTHER - Barbara Frisse Brunett (1822-1893)

Barbara Frisse Brunett
St. Jacques Catholic Church
Seingbouse, Moselle, Lorraine, France
Barbara Frisse was born on May 13, 1822, in Seingbouse, France. She was the oldest of nine children born to parents Joseph Frisse (1796-1864) and Marguerite Lang (1802-1868). She was baptized on the day of her birth at St. Jacques Catholic Church in Seingbouse; her godparents/sponsors were her paternal uncle Jean Frisse (1792-1876) and maternal aunt Barbara Lang (1806-UNK). The Church was built in 1730. It is the same church her parents, my 4x great grandparents, were married in on May 15, 1821. Both sets of her grandparents (my 5x great-grandparents) were also married here - Jean Frisse (1756-1838) and Anna Marie Weisse (1763-1826) on May 22, 1782, and Pierre Lang (1760-1831) and Christine Bour (1763-1833) on May 10, 1801.

Seingbouse is a village in the department of Moselle, in the region of Lorraine, in northeast France. The name means "the wood cleared by slash and burn". Lorraine is the only region in France to be bordered by three foreign countries - Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. Seingbouse covers 3.11 square miles and has a current population of a little over 1900 people. During the time that the Fries family lived in Seingbouse, between 1655 and 1846, the people spoke a German dialect called Platt. This was because of the area's close proximity to Germany.

There are at least six different spellings of the family name - Fries, Friesse, Frisse, Frise, Fris, and Frisz. In 1655 the spelling was FRIES; in 1750 the name was spelled FRISSE. The changing of the spelling from German to French was a gallacizing of the name (to make French). The German pronunciation of FRIES and the French pronunciation of FRISSE is the name - it is pronounced FREASE as in GREASE. In 1868, at the time of their mother''s death, the seven Fries boys were using several different spellings of their last name. While at her funeral the boys got together and voted on one common spelling, and FRISZ was chosen. At first everyone pronounced it FREEZE; now it is commonly pronounced FRISS - except by the descendants of Christopher in Vincennes, Indiana, who still pronounce it FREEZE.

In May of 1846 Barbara joined her parents and seven of her eight younger siblings - Jacques (Jacob), 18; George, 16; Jean (John), 12; Michel, 9; Anne, 8; Pierre (Peter), 6; Joseph, 2 - as they packed up their belongings and boarded the James N. Cooper at LeHavre, France and set sail for America. Brother Christopher, Henry, two years younger than Barbara, remained temporarily in France where he served in the French Navy (he arrived in America in 1851). After a 62-day journey they arrived safely in New Orleans, Louisiana on July 20, 1846. They then took a riverboat up the Mississippi River to Cairo, Illinois, then up the Ohio River to Madison, Indiana. From here they travelled approximately 30 miles north to St. Ann Village, Jennings County, Indiana, where friends from the old country had previously settled. They soon bought land and settled down on their farm.

St. Anne's Catholic Church
Jennings County, Indiana
Traveling also on the J.N. Cooper was Jean Michel Baptiste Brunett, age 28, who married Barbara on August 11, 1846 at St. Anne Catholic Church. They were married just 23 days after arriving in the United States. Jean Michel was also born in Seingbouse, France. His parents, Ludovici (Louis) Brunett (1800-UNK) and Catherina Schmidt (1800-1881), were residents of Moselle, France.

Barbara and Jean Michel had ten children - Mary, born June 7, 1847; Anna, born April 23, 1849; John, born November 3, 1850; Barbara F., born April 15, 1852; Margaret, born 1854; Peter, born August 7, 1857; Magdalen, born 1858; Catherine, born 1859; John George, born March 30, 1861; and Virginia "Jennie", born April 14, 1863. Their daughter Barbara is my great-great-grandmother.

Barbara and her family were some of the original members of St. Anne's Catholic Church. As her husband farmed their land, she cared for her home and children - ten in 16 years! Unfortunately their last child Jennie was born three weeks after the death of her father Jean Michel - he died at the age of 45 on March 24, 1863. Their son John had died at the age of three in 1853, so Barbara was left to raise their nine surviving children, including a newborn and four others under the age of 6.

There was no life insurance or health insurance for farmers in that day. Barbara had no daycare or preschools for her to use so that she could make money. One must assume that she went to her parents and her brothers' and sisters' families for help and support. Her father Joseph died a year after her husband, in October 1864 at the age of 68; her mother died at the age of 66, in 1868. They are all buried at St. Anne's Cemetery near North Vernon, Indiana.

Barbara lived to be 71-years-old. She died on August 22, 1893. She had given birth to ten children; she was eventually to have forty-three grandchildren and literally hundreds of great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. There are at least eleven "Barbara"s who have received their names, passed down from this first-in-the-family Barbara in America.

[HOW'S IT RELATIVE? Barbara F. Brunett married Phillip Huber (1847-1901) and they had seven children including daughter Mary "Mayme" (1873-1913), who later married John Martin O'Donnell (1865-1937). MaymeJohn Huber O'Donnell (1905-1964) - my maternal grandfather.]

Sunday, February 5, 2012

SUNDAY'S OBITUARY - Patrick McCluskey (1810-1855)

Illustration of Milkman
Philadelphia Inquirer
When I took over my Dad's family history research after he passed away in 2009, I was beyond overwhelmed at the amount of information he had accumulated over his half-century of work. It had been done almost entirely without the use of computers and the Internet, and all of the resources that are now available to be searched online from the comfort of your own home. Of course there were some questions that were still unanswered, some dates missing, etc. One of these missing dates was the date of the death of my 4th great-grandfather Patrick McCluskey. Here is the story, how I found out, and the brief story I have so far on my ancestor.

Patrick McCluskey was born about 1810 in Ireland. Where in Ireland I unfortunately don't know. (I'm still searching.) He came to America in the early 1800's and established his new home in Philadelphia. Patrick and his wife Mary (born about 1810 in Ireland) were living in the Spring Garden area of the city at the time of the 1850 U.S. Census with their five children: James, 14; Charlotte Elizabeth, 13; Susan, 8; John, 6; and Sarah, 5. Patrick, 40, was a milkman. [See "Milkman: The Myth, The Legend" below] Oldest daughter Charlotte, born February 15, 1838, is my 3rd great-grandmother.

For years this was all that was known about Patrick, his wife Mary or any of Charlotte's other siblings. No death dates, location of burials, or other descendants. Recently I tried again to see if I could find out about Patrick. There are so many resources on the Internet but that doesn't mean that the information you're looking for can be found. But fortunately for us family history researchers there's always new resources added every day so I just tried again. And I found it!


Patrick McCluskey Notice of Death
Philadelphia Ledger - January 12, 1855

"On the 10th instant, PATRICK MCCLUSKEY, aged 44 years.
The relatives and friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral from his late residence, Hamilton street, between Twenty-second and Twenty-third streets, on Sunday next at 12 o'clock without further notice. To proceed to Cathedral Cemetery." [from Philadelphia Ledger, January 12, 1855]
I found an obituary for a Patrick McCluskey, but there were several Patrick McCluskeys in the city directory at the time. The age fit but could I be sure that this was the right man? There was a general address in the obituary so I needed to find something else with the known address of these ancestors to confirm the obituary.

Searching through the information I had, I checked out the "Philadelphia Death Certificate" for one of Patrick's grandchildren, Susan McCaffrey, the daughter of Charlotte and her husband Thomas McCaffrey (1832-1896). Susie, born March 3, 1856, was the second child and oldest daughter of thirteen children. The McCaffrey family was living at the time in Baltimore, Maryland. On May 28, 1861, Susie died in Philadelphia of "Scarlatina Maligna", a deadly form of Scarlet Fever. She was just five years old. The address of the place of her death was listed on her Death Certificate as "2227 Hamilton Street". This would be the same as "Hamilton street, between Twenty-second and Twenty-third streets" listed in Patrick's obituary in 1855. Obviously Susie and her family had been visiting her mother Charlotte's family in Philadelphia when she got sick and died.

While continuing to search for more information on my 3rd-great-grandmother Charlotte's brothers and sisters, I found her brothers James (1836-UNK) and John (1844-UNK) on another resource. On July 1, 1863, Philadelphia had a draft registration in the midst of the Civil War. The Confederates had moved into Pennsylvania (this was the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg) and this emergency draft was meant to be a short term commitment to service, providing protection as needed to the city. Listed on the draft sign-up were "John McCluskey", 20-year-old single laborer, and "James McCluskey", 28-year-old married laborer. The place of birth was listed for both as Philadelphia. The address listed for both was "2227 Hamilton St."

Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church and
Old Cathedral Cemetery - Philadelphia
So now my research continues. From Patrick's obituary I know that he was buried at the Old Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia. There will be records in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia of the burial with possibly the cause of his death, and maybe even the place of his birth. His tombstone may also contain some of this personal information (cross your fingers!). His wife and/or his children are most likely  buried next to him - and maybe their records will have some similarly important information recorded. I will keep looking.

Milkman: The Myth, The Legend - The Milkman in 19th Century America
I remember the milkman delivering bottles of milk to our kitchen door when I was a little girl in the early 1960's. I even remember "helping" my mother one morning bring in the milk bottles and dropping one, breaking it as it landed, and spreading the entire quart of milk across our kitchen floor. My mother wasn't happy and I'm sure I didn't "help" her again for months if not years. But the milkman that I remember bares little resemblance to the milkman of the 1800's.
Cow's milk was not the staple in American families during the 1800's that it has become during the 20th century. Those with cows in their back pastures or barns would have milk for drinking, cooking and for making butter with. Maybe they might also sell or barter their extra milk with neighbors. But as America's cities grew larger with newly arriving immigrants, many of them with farming backgrounds, households could no longer expect to have a cow close-by. But there were always farms outside the city, and the need for home milk delivery was ever-growing. Thus the milkman became a part of most households' everyday lives.

At this time there was no widespread use of refrigerators until the late 1920's, although the icebox had been in common use (when the ice had been delivered) from the 1850's on. So milk would be delivered every day, except Sunday. The milkman would leave his home early, around 3:00-4:00 am, to pick up his supply of milk from a farmer who travelled into town or from the train depot bringing in larger supplies. The milkman would have a small wooden cart, pulled by a horse, along with his supply of metal milk pails that would be filled with milk. He would then make his way along his route, knocking on his customers' doors. The lady of the house would come to the door bringing whatever container she kept the family's milk in and the milkman would take his ladle and scoop out the amount of milk she had ordered.  Then he would go to the next home.
New Orleans Milkman ca 1903

It sounds nice and simple but there were inevitable problems. This was the age before germs and viruses were understood as the cause of common illnesses, so no one could understand that germs were being spread from what the cows ate or drank; from the dirt and feces on their utters that fell into the milk; from the unwashed milk pails collecting the milk; from the hands of the farmers who were ill but still milking the cows; from the unclean milk containers of the milkmen each day; from the unwashed ladles that could spread the germs from house to house; from the milk containers of each house that had yesterday's milk still sitting in it. Then to make matters worse it was common practice among milkmen to dilute the milk that they received with water so that they had more to sell. Farmers also resorted to such behavior, especially when their cows had not produced enough milk to fill their daily quotas. And of course the water supply was very often tainted with animal and human waste, full of germs in its own right.

And who inevitably suffered the most? The major group of individuals who drank milk on a daily basis were infants and young children, those very people who were most vulnerable to illness. This spread of illness and death continued for decades, until pasteurization - the process of heating milk to a certain temperature then cooling it quickly to kill the germs - was legally required in the United States in 1917.

During the 19th century cities throughout America were faced with problems with their milk supply, from the illnesses and deaths of young babies and children who primarily drank it, to the quality of the milk itself. This New York Times article of September 2008 compared the Chinese baby-formula poisoning of that year to the milk scandal of 1858 New York, and beyond:
"The milk was marketed as pure and wholesome, and it looked fine to the naked eye. How were the mothers to know they were poisoning their babies? They had paid good money for it on the open market. It would take thousands of sick children before lawmakers did anything to stop it.
China in 2008? No, New York in 1858. The disaster unfolding now in China - and spreading inevitably to its trading partners - is eerily similar to the "swill milk" scandal that rumbled on through New York for several decades through the 19th century.
In a city growing fast, but lacking refrigeration, it was hard to provide sufficient milk. Fresh milk was brought in from Westchester and Orange Counties, but not enough to meet demand. In 1853, it was found that 90,000 or so quarts of cow's milk entered the city every day, but that number mysteriously increased to 120,000 quarts at the point of delivery.
Some of the increase was due to New York dairymen padding their milk with water, and then restoring its richness with flour - just like their latter day Chinese counterparts, who increased the protein levels in watered down milk by adding the noxious chemical melamine. But the greater part was swill milk, a filthy, bluish substance milked from cows tied up in crowded stables adjoining distilleries and fed the hot alcoholic mash left over from making whiskey. This too was doctored - with Plaster of Paris to take away the blueness, starch and eggs to thicken it and molasses to give it the buttercup hue of honest Orange County milk. This newspaper attributed the deaths of up to 8,000 children a year to this vile fluid.
The similarities between China and New York 150 years ago shouldn't come as a great surprise. Adulteration on such scandalous levels occurs in societies with a toxic combination of characteristics: a fast-growing capitalistic economy coupled with a government unable or unwilling to regulate the food supply.
In the end New York milk was cleaned up. It took stronger food laws, better policing, the advent of pasteurization and the passing of the Food and Drug Act of 1906, 50 years after the worst of swill milk. Above all it took decades, not months or years." [by Bee Wilson; September 29, 2008; New York Times Opinion Page]

Warning of Swill Milk
The United States Public Health Service, in their 1896 Public Health Report, confirmed how these illnesses and deaths were associated with drinking milk:
"Numerous instances have been observed in which outbreaks of typhoid fever, scarlet fever and diphtheria, by their sudden and explosive character, affecting families living in streets or localities supplied by the same milkman, naturally pointed to the milk supply as a common cause....These facts could not fail to invite criticism and sharpen the power of observation in others, and in consequence similar cases were more frequently reported, so that Mr. Ernest Hart in a most valuable paper, was enabled to present to the International Medical Congress held in London, 1881, the history of 50 outbreaks of typhoid fever, 15 of scarlet fever, and 7 of diphtheria, all traceable to the milk supply; but even this formidable array of facts was not accepted as conclusive, largely because the milk industry constitutes a strong spoke in the commercial wheel...." [Public Health Reports Volume 11, Issues 1-50; page 128; February 14, 1896; United States Public Health Service]
All of these connections between milk, the milkman, and childhood illnesses and deaths puts one last question that will never be answered - did Patrick McCluskey's granddaughter, Susie McCaffrey - daughter of Charlotte McCluskey McCaffrey and older sister of my great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Agnes "Lizzie" McCaffrey Flemming (1858-1922) - become infected with scarlet fever from drinking something as simple as milk, while staying at the home of her grandfather, the milkman? Patrick had been dead by then so he certainly didn't spread the illness. But it does make you wonder, doesn't it?