Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Richard O'Meara (52 Ancestors - #2)

Only a short three years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, my great grandfather Richard O'Meara was born to Richard and Elizabeth (McAndrews) O'Meara in Halifax, Nova Scotia (196 West Halifax - F Ward 5). He was their oldest son.
Richard Jeremiah O'Meara
Richard, to me, seemed like he wanted his story told as I felt compelled to research him more than any other ancestor. He did have quite a story to tell! He had a sister Anne (Cremmins) born in 1869 and brother John in 1871. His father, believed to be a blacksmith, possibly died of heart disease around 1870 while his mother was expecting John. Elizabeth was listed in the 1871 Canadian census as widowed. Richard's life continued with the sad loss of his brother John in1873 followed by the loss of his mother in 1874. Uncle Charlie, my dad's brother, always had said his grandfather had told him that he and his sister Annie were orphaned. For a long time Richard was my "brick wall". Luckily with help of a genealogy friend, Liz Barnett, and a trip I made, Richard's story soon unfolded.

"Naturalization record shows Richard Jeremiah O'Meara arrived in the US at Portland, ME in 1876, he was almost certainly the little boy, Richard O'Marra, working for his board on a farm in Whitefield, Lincoln County, ME at the 1880 census." He must have done this until he enlisted in the US Cavalry.

On a trip to DC to visit my daughter at college I decided to stop off at the National Archives. Staff at the National Archives were helpful, but doubtful when I approached them to explain that family folk lore had my orphaned great grandfather from Halifax as having served in the American-Indian War. I certainly could only find a "Richard O'Marrow" with my search, so I too was doubtful. We looked him up on microfiche and sure enough I found him with a big note scribbled across his card "served as Richard O'Marrow". It was my lucky day!!
Richard Jeremiah's Pension paperwork stating he enlisted as Richard O'Marrow
Holding his file in my had, especially the original enlistment papers of February 14th 1884 that he personally signed as a young man, was emotional in a good way. Richard was in Troop M, 8th Regiment of Cavalry. According to Wikipedia, " In May 1888, the regiment prepared for the longest march ever taken by a cavalry regiment. With the increased number of settlers moving to the Northwest United States, the regiment was ordered to march more than 2,600 miles (4,200 km) to its new regimental headquarters located at Fort Meade, South Dakota and station at Fort Keogh, Montana. Some of its march was along the famous Santa Fe Trail in New Mexico, near which carvings on large boulders and trees still gives mute testimony of the troops on the longest of all trails." When he reinlisted in February, 1889 he was assigned to Company D, 5th Regiment of Infantry until 1897 when he was discharged. 

Richard's enlistment papers
Shortly after his discharge he married Sophia Farrenkopf and settled down to a great family of 3 boys, Richard, Joseph and Eugene and one little girl, Caroline. According to his grandson, Richard, he was a tall, kind man. He was hardworking and seemed to stay close to his children right up to his death in 1940. This young orphan made out pretty well in life!

Richard and Sophia's grave in St. Joseph's Cemetary, W. Roxbury, MA

Note: If Richard were alive today I would ask him if he knew why he couldn't stay with his sister after his mother passed. I would also like to ask him what it was like to march 2600 miles along the Santa Fe Trail to the Dakotas.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mary (Griffin) Amirault (52 Ancestors - #1)

Our family has been blessed with many many ancestors, including Mary Griffin Amirault my maternal grandmother who lived until a hardy old age of 92. Her funeral was truly a celebration of her robust life and it was difficult for her 5 daughters, 18 grandchildren and numerous friends and family to say farewell. Her life was quite a story! 
Mary Griffin as a younger gal - I'm thinking about 16 years old
I'm going to begin with the basics. She was born in "Southie" Massachusetts on a cold January day in 1905 to Michael and Elizabeth (Leggett) Griffin. She lived in the predominantly Irish projects with her many siblings. Up until age 12 she most likely had a typical life for a young girl of that era. Her typical life became tragic when her mom succumbed to pneumonia and Mary's life was forever changed.

By 1917 Buff and Gertie had moved on and other older siblings had died in infancy which sadly left Mary to take care of her other six younger siblings, her father and all the chores. According to my Aunt Judy, she alternated going to school with another sibling, but really didn't have much of an education beyond sixth grade.
Mary and Harry
In 1926 she was dating my grandfather, Harry Amirault, and another fellow. She realized one night, running between dates and falling in an alleyway, that she needed to make a decision on who she wanted to court her and she knew in her heart it was going to be Harry. Shortly after her life-changing decision in 1926 she found herself saying goodbye to Harry because he needed to sail back to Nova Scotia with his sister because his mother (Mary Alice Boudreau) had suddenly passed. Being the supportive and caring person she was, she jumped on the ship with him (no suitcase!) and humbly went to pay her respects to the mother-in-law she would never know. On their way home from the funeral Mary and Harry brought his young cousins who had been in the care of Mary Alice (because their mom had died a year earlier) back to their father in New York.

Mary and Harry dated until 1929 when they decided to wed in August of that year. Together they had one of the happiest and faithful marriages. They had five lovely and lively little girls...Joan, Geri, Mal, Harriet and Judy. Their home was often full of love, laughter and music. Mary worked hard each day to care for her girls, keep the home clean, cook, and iron. The girls were the center of her day until about 5:00 pm when she would run upstairs, bathe, put on a good dress, lipstick and a dab of perfume because Harry was on his way home from the garage where he was a mechanic. People often commented on Mary and Harry's happy marriage.
Mary and Harry's Wedding Invitation
A long happy marriage was not in the cards for Mary and Harry. Late in 1940 Harry became quite ill and succumbed to cancer of the liver. In 1941, only a short 12 years after they said "I do", Mary and her 5 little girls (age12 years to 9 months) said their tearful farewell to Harry. Years later Mary would say she never remarried because there was no one in this world as good as her Harry.

It wasn't long before Mary had a plan. She needed an income to support her family. First she altered Harriet's birth certificate and soon the 4 year old little girl would find herself in 1st grade. Judy, her two-year-old daughter, was sent to live in Southie from Monday-Friday with Mary's sister Cassie and her large family. On Friday, 12 year old Joan would set out for Southie each Friday afternoon to fetch her baby sister and journey back home on the bus. Mary found herself being "Rosie the Riveter" at the Quincy Ship Yard during WWII (she was a machinist). It was said that this was the only time that Mary was ever seen wearing pants as she loved her dresses and high heels! My Aunt Mal recalls she had to wear cover-alls plus a hat that had a net to cover all her hair. She had to buy steel toed shoes. She had lots of "dickies" that were colored collars she wore under the cover-all. Dickies were also worn under pullover sweaters. It looked like she had a colored blouse on underneath. Aunt Mal recalls Nana telling her when working at the shipyard, she was dragging a very heavy piece of steel and a man laughed. Mal was so sure he resented women working and rather than help, he laughed. "He must have been older because the women were hired to replace the men who had gone to war. Just think: the women knew they would be out of a job when the men came home." Eventually Nana worked in the shipyard offices then went to Armstrong Corp where she worked up until retirement.

The years after Harry died was not easy for Mary, but she always made sure her daughters were well cared for and clean. During summers they would travel to Nova Scotia to visit Harry's sisters Gusta, Vie, Lize, etc. Mary also had her sister-in-laws visit which brought her much joy! Mary loved company, family and food! Over the years Thanksgiving was a holiday she cherished because all her girls and their family returned to Bartlett Street to squeeze in her little house for the best stuffing and steamed pudding in America!!

Nana never just walked, she was always doing a running walk. After she had her license she would often be found driving to bingo, church (she drive like she walked) or delivering bake shop bread to the girls. She liked her heels, playing her numbers, giving us a buck and we were always a doozy! Boy there was lots to love about Mary.

Note: If Mary was alive today I would ask her about her friends. I often wonder if she had time for friends. I would also ask her more about her Griffin siblings.