Showing posts with label Catherine Fitzgerald. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catherine Fitzgerald. Show all posts

Friday, February 21, 2014

Traces of the Past

Charles River Avenue...possibly about the time my great grandparents lived there
Courtesy Boston Public Library
I have mentioned before that I have very little of the story of my father's family, the Irish immigrants who settled in Boston and Charlestown. One day, noodling through an archive of old Boston photos, I found this (identified as Charles River Avenue). I see a blurry trace of a horse entering the picture on the left, so I know this is pre-1900.  I also see, in the glass above the doorway, a numeral beginning with a "one". This got me very excited because my great grandparents, Andrew and Catherine Fitzgerald lived in this very block for over ten years. I had to dig into old directories and old maps to figure this one out. First I went to the directories
This is the entry for the 1869 Boston City Directory. There is Andrew who at this time would be living with his wife and oldest son at 10 Charles River Avenue. Next came the 1880 Federal Census, just to make sure I had the right Andrew Fitzgerald.
In the left margin you can see where the census taker wrote Charles River Avenue. And there are Andrew, Catherine, Andrew Jr., Robert, Nora and John (my grandfather). Next I looked at the
1886 Directory.
This time it even identifies him as a teamster. The family has moved to 16 Charles River Avenue. I began to be curious about the buildings in the photo, but no amount of PhotoShop made the numbers readable. So I went back to antique maps. And finally I found this with the house numbers along the street.
Numbers 10 and 16 are the two sides of the very large center clapboard building with all the shutters.
The docks and several mill buildings were immediately to the right and out of the picture. They lived right on the waterfront. So even if I don't know much about them personally, I have some small trace of their lives in the geography of Charlestown that has long since disappeared. It is a block that doesn't exist anymore. Once a thriving row of shops and apartments, there is a park and the ramp to a large bridge into Boston and a large hotel complex sitting there now where Route 1 meets Route 93.

Later, Andrew and Catherine moved to Stetson Court, another place long made invisible with parks and freeways and modern backyards replacing the crowded tenements.
All the smaller streets on this old map are long gone from the area around Winthrop Square, but it's still just blocks from St. Mary's Church and a stone's throw from Monument Square where my father grew up. Small discoveries like this can be very satisfying when so little remains of the past.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Mysterious Andrew Fitzgerald

I know very little about my father's side of the family. I know even less about his father's side of the family. When I began I knew that someone on that side was possibly named Andrew and he married Catherine. She was a Fitzgerald as well. The census records bore this out. I found Andrew, Catherine, my grandfather John J. and his siblings. I kept working back and back through the records trying to piece that side of the family together. I found what I was sure was an early census, a marriage record and then....a passenger list. But the curious thing was that on every document I found a different birth date for Andrew Senior....different ages. It was all very curious.

My father never knew much about the family. Almost nothing about his father's family. His cousin Catherine knew a little bit, but she was never close to my father. And he said the family was always "secretive" and closed-mouthed. My dad was an only child and his closest cousins were on his mother's side. A dead end.

I decided to try something that was suggested on Ancestry and make a table with all the pertinent information. Maybe my error would reveal itself.

From this I would guess that the passenger I found was the wrong Andrew. I remember seeing an immigration certificate in the family papers that gave 1850 as the year he arrived. But this can't be him.
I suspect that the 1870 census was possibly a mistake by the census-taker or a lie. But why? And the birthdates are all over the place. I looked carefully at each record. In each I found Andrew Fitzgerald and his wife Catherine, an address in Charlestown (in later years Charles River Avenue) and his profession stated as laborer or teamster. My guess is that he worked on the docks as a driver.

If Andrew was born in 1814 or 1815, he would have been 82 when he died. If he were born in 1834 he would be in his 60's. Certainly whoever certified his death would have known the difference. I can understand why an immigrant would make himself older...but almost 20 years older?

So I'm no closer to an answer, but at least I have a timeline for his life. I'm hoping someone out there may have an suggestion. It's all very mysterious....