Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Most Recent Unknown Ancestor

This week's Fun from Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings is to find our "most recent unknown ancestor" (MRUA) defined as the individual with the lowest number in our Pedigree Chart or Ahnentafel List who lacks either a first name or surname.  We're then asked to think about what might be in our research files for this person, what we've looked at recently, what we might have missed, and what resources (on- or off-line) might help us.

I found this a really useful exercise for a family that's been one of my most challenging to research.  I knew before going into this which branch I was going to land on for this challenge - the only thing I wasn't certain about was which individual specifically would be the MRUA.  My father's maternal line is the one where I have the least information and the most holes.  But they're also the line in which I derive the most satisfaction when I find any clues at all (much less any solid connections).

I've written about the McCormicks over the years, and some of the challenges I've had with them.  In reviewing my Ahnentafel List, the most recent unknown ancestor is number 40 - the father of my great-great grandfather Thomas McCormick. 

Thomas Joseph McCormick was born in Ireland, 1847.  The 1900 census gives his year of immigration to the United States as 1865, though since the 1900 census is also off on his age by three years, I take this as a ballpark date.  Thomas McCormick died in Maine, Sept. 1905, presumably while on business as the superintendent of an Albany, New York paper mill.  I've traced his residences in the United States from Albany, NY, to Berlin, NH, to Norwich, CT - with census and city directories for the locales indicating he was employed in paper mills.

Thomas was married to Margaret Gilligan, born 18 Jan 1851, also in Ireland, and who, according to the 1900 census entered the US in 1860.  Thomas and Margaret had 7 children, all born in Connecticut between the years 1874 and 1888, six living to adulthood.  I have yet to identify Thomas (or Margaret) on any passenger lists, and since the earliest I place him in the US is in Connecticut, 1874, am not exactly sure where he would have entered this country - either New York or Boston, I'm guessing.  I have not yet located any marriage records for Thomas and Margaret.

So where to go from here?  I need to learn more about Thomas before figuring out who his father was.  I have a fair amount of raw data on various McCormick families living in the Norwich, Connecticut area from 1882-1900.  I need to analyze the family groups, many of whom have the male names Thomas, Joseph, and Daniel, and who were working at the paper mill, to try and determine any possible familial relationships.  Also, Thomas and Margaret's daughter, Maggie, died in Sprague, Norwich County, Connecticut in 1880 - tracing any church records relating to her life and death may yield more details about the family.  I also want to find any naturalization records for Thomas (1900 census indicates he was naturalized).  I recently found more details about the family during their stay in Berlin, Coos County, New Hampshire, including the marriage of their daughter Catherine to William McCann - there may be more details there to uncover.

Essentially, I need to better analyze the data I have, look into finding church records, and research other family groups living near the McCormicks, particularly in Nowich County, Connecticut. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Abandon Hope of Recovering Roebling and Blackwell

"Abandon Hope of Recovering the Bodies" [1]

Upon return of Karl Roebling from Halifax with no further word on identification of either Washington Roebling or Stephen Blackwell, the Trenton Evening Times reported it was all but certain that the men went down with the ship and would not be recovered. [2]

On May 6, 1912 the Trenton Evening Times reported arrival in Halifax of the ship Minia with 15 additional bodies, mostly those of Titanic crew members.  List of the identified had previously been wired and the ship's arrival caused no modifications in identification.  [3]

The search for Titanic's victims was then continued by the steamer Montgomery, though little additional recovery was expected.  Reports from the captain of the Minia indicated bodies were widely scattered, and conditions somewhat hazardous.  As of May 13, 1912 the Montgomery had picked up five more victims and identified three of them - none Roebling or Blackwell.  [4]

Washington A. Roebling II was neither recovered nor identified.  A memorial to Roebling exists in Trenton's Riverview Cemetery [5].  Additionally, his father, Charles Gustavus Roebling memorialized his son when the Trenton church the family attended was undergoing restoration by rebuilding the entire west wall, including stone statuary and stained glass. [6]

But what of Stephen Weart Blackwell?  I admit when I started researching this series I was under the impression that Blackwell was ultimately identified and buried in Halifax as victim 241 [7].  But a subsequent review of Blackwell's entry at Encyclopedia Titanica states that Blackwell's body was never recovered despite having been identified as victim 241 [8].  Online at the Nova Scotia Archives, the report on victim 241 identifies him as a male estimated to be 20 years of age. 

Nova Scotia Archives.  "Body No. 241 Stephen W. Blackwell," RMS Titanic Resource Guide: Fatality Reports.  Online.  Accessed 29 Apr 2012.

Blackwell, however, was 45 years old when he perished on the Titanic. 

"Much Regret for Victims of Titanic Wreck," Trenton Evening Times, 21 Apr 1912, pg. 23. Online. GenealogyBank : Accessed 29 Apr 2012.

As of this writing I have been unable to locate a more detailed physical description of Stephen Weart Blackwell, nor was I able to find any newspaper articles mentioning the identification of body 241 as Blackwell.  The personal effects noted with victim 241 seem to speak to Blackwell, though why one would be carrying opera glasses and a button hook, I'm not sure.  But the clothing and age discrepancy are more striking, leading me to think that Stephen Blackwell was not recovered from the wreckage. 

[1] [2]  "Abandon Hope of Recovering the Bodies," Trenton Evening Times, 5 May 1912, pg. 23.  Online. GenealogyBank : Accessed 29 Apr 2012.

[3] "Dock with More of Titanic Dead: Minia Arrives with Fifteen Corpses - Not Much Hope of Finding Others," Trenton Evening Times, 6 May 1912, pg. 1. Online. GenealogyBank : Accessed 29 Apr 2012.

[4] "Finds Five Titanic Victims; Searchers Report Three Identified and One Buried at Sea," (Cleveland, Ohio) Plain Dealer, 13 May 1912, pg. 2. Online. GenealogyBank : Accessed 29 Apr 2012.

[5]  "Washington A. Roebling, II," Find A Grave.  Online.  Accessed 29 Apr 2012. 

[6]  Schuyler, Hamilton.  The Roeblings: A Century of Engineers, Bridge-Builders, and Industrialists: The Story of Three Generations of an Illustrious Family, 1831-1931.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1931.  p. 314.

[7]  "Stephen W Blackwell," Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, RMS Titanic Fatality Reports, 1912.  Online. : Accessed 29 Apr 2012.

[8]  "Mr Stephen Weart Blackwell," Encyclopedia Titanica.  Online.  Accessed 29 Apr 2012.

[9]  Nova Scotia Archives.  "Body No. 241 Stephen W. Blackwell," RMS Titanic Resource Guide: Fatality Reports.  Online.  Accessed 29 Apr 2012.

[10]  "Much Regret for Victims of Titanic Wreck," Trenton Evening Times, 21 Apr 1912, pg. 23. Online. GenealogyBank : Accessed 29 Apr 2012.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Titanic Graphics - Past and Present

One of the blogs I follow is Flowing Data, a data visualization blog by Nathan Yau.  The graphics vary widely in content but are quite often very visually striking, and I think even artistic (but maybe I'm a geek that way).  Usually the things that catch my eye are more closely related to my day job than my genealogy work, but in the last couple of days Flowing Data has highlighted a couple of Titanic graphics.  The interesting thing is that the graphics not only illustrate the sinking of the Titanic clearly, albeit in different ways, but one graphic is present day (2012) and the other set of graphics was produced about 100 years ago (1912-1914).

Yesterday Flowing Data posted a parallel set graph illustrating the demographics (sex, age, class) of Titanic's survivors vs non-survivors.  I find it very striking visually, though not necessarily intuitive to understand.  Heading over to the original graphic at Jason Davies' site is more helpful as Davies explains the parallel concept and points out some of the obvious conclusions to be drawn.  His chart is interactive - giving statistics that pop up as parts of the graph are moused over and allowing the viewer to toggle views to curves and icicle plots.  I actually find the icicle plot version easiest to understand, though enjoy trying to wrap my mind around the parallel data.  (According to the comments on the Flowing Data post, there are better uses for parallel data, and I'd be interested to see an example.)

[I badly want to reproduce Davies' graphic here to illustrate the dynamics between the 1912 and 2012 graphs, but for copyright reasons will not, and strongly encourage anyone interested to head over to his site at]

Contrast this with the Titanic graphics Flowing Data linked to todayPosted on Infographics news by Chiqui Esteban, there are 7 illustrations of the Titanic and its sinking, many having been originally published in The Graphic.   Esteban explains that the originals were published either in 1912 and/or in 1914 and explains that while they don't have today's flash and interactivity of graphics, effectively illustrate the Titanic's sinking.

From: Titanic infographics. From 1912, by Chiqui Esteban at Infographics news (Originally published in The Graphic)

I think one of the most striking of the "vintage graphics" is the above cross-section of Titanic showing the interior areas of the ship hit by the iceberg.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

No Word from Halifax Regarding Roebling and Blackwell

Trenton Evening Times, May 1, 1912-

"No Word from Halifax" [1]

On April 30, 1912 the steamer Mackay-Bennett arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, after spending two weeks recovering bodies of Titanic's victims from the sea.  On May 1st the Trenton Evening Times reported a lack of news from Karl Roebling, who had gone to Halifax in hopes of identifying Washington Roebling and Stephen Blackwell.  The Times also noted that both Roebling and Blackwell were not listed among the identified victims, and the presumption was that their bodies were not recovered. [2]

Several days earlier, on April 28, 1912, the Times reported on a wireless communication from the Mackay-Bennett to Halifax noting that an "A. Doeble" was among the identified victims.  The similarity of the name to that of Washington A. Roebling II briefly gave hope that Roebling might be among those positively identified by the Mackay-Bennett.  An absence of further news presumes that Doeble and Roebling were not the same person. 

An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, also dated May 1, 1912, tells in some detail about the Mackay-Bennett's recovery mission, including some of the methods by which victims were (tentatively) identified. In fact a victim that had previously been reported to be that of Philadelphian George Widener, based on papers found on the person, was later identified as his valet when Widener's son identified the man's watch and was consulted on other physical characteristics of the body.  [3]

[1] [2]  "No Word from Halifax," Trenton Evening Times, 1 May 1912, pg. 1.  Online. GenealogyBank : Accessed 29 Apr 2012.

[3]  "190 of Titanic Dead are Brought to Halifax; 116 Buried in the Atlantic," Philadelphia Inquirer, 1 May 1912, pg. 1.  Online. GenealogyBank : Accessed 29 Apr 2012.