Monday, May 30, 2011

The next generation - My Descendants

It occurred to me very recently that not only do I have ancestors, I have descendants.  The event that sparked this moment of clarity was the birth of my second child, Mia Caitlin on May 15th.  You would think that this would have occurred to me when my first daughter, Julia, was born in December 2008 but it didn't.  It was a cool realization that there is now another generation added to my family tree, this time down in the roots. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mystery Monday - Who was Mary Bradley's mother?

Mary Bradley is my second great grandmother on my mother's paternal side (William Lawbaugh ->Effie Bender->Mary Bradley).

Mary Eugenia Bradley was born 18 December 1867 in LaSalle county, Illinois.  Her parents are listed on her death certificate as Charles Bradley and Kate Bradley.  The informant listed on the death certificate was her daughter, Matilda 'Tilly' (Bender) Case.

Both my mother and one of her cousins remember their 'Grandma Bender' (Effie May Bender), Mary's older daughter & Tilly's older sister, telling the story about how her mother, Mary Bradley, was born illegitimately to a Jewish woman and forced onto her father's new bride to raise.  They both also remember a story that Grandma Bender remembers a visit to Mary by the supposed biological mother.

Here are some of the ideas I have researched in my attempt to find an answer to this family story:

Birth Records
  • Birth Records were not kept in the state of Illinois until 1916.
  • LaSalle County, Illinois starting keeping birth records in 1877 but have no earlier records.
An analysis of the census records is not clear either:
  • 1870 Federal Census - living with John and Kate
  • 1880 Federal Census - living with John and Kate and 3 brothers
  • about 1883 - John Bradley dies
  • 1885 Kansas Census - living with Kate and 3 brothers
  • 1900 Federal Census - living with husband, William Bender.  Kate is living in Chicago with her 3 sons.  She indicates that she has had 5 children and only 3 are living.
  • 1910 Federal Census - Mary is living in Kansas with her second husband.  Kate is living with her oldest son and his family in Chicago.  She indicates that she has had 3 children and 3 are living.
It is very interesting that after moving to Chicago, Kate (Cary) Bradley has indicated only 3 children are living when Mary is clearly alive in Kansas.

Marriage Records
  • Mary Bradley's marriage certificate to William Bender dated 17 December 1877 does not mention Mary's parents.  There is a certificate signed by John Bender (William's father) attesting to both Mary and William being of age (18 and 19 respectively).
  • The marriage certificate for John Bradley and Catherine Cary is definitely more interesting.  They applied for a marriage license in LaSalle County, Illinois on November 18, 1867.  The copy of the license I received states that license # 1243 was 'not returned, missing'. 
  • I have also received a copy of the St. Columba Church marriage records (Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois) for Charles and Kate.  The church records indicate that Charles and Catherine were married November 18, 1867.  The marriage was witnessed by William Edding and Mary Noonan.
The marriage date for Charles and Catherine is only 31 days before Mary was born.  I find it very unlikely that a woman in 1867 would wait until she is 8 months pregnant before marrying the father of her child.  Considering the year, I would expect a woman to have gotten married as soon as possible to hide the fact she was pregnant before marriage.

I have not reached any conclusions about who Mary Bradley's mother is. 

I do find the evidence in favor of Kate Bradley being Mary's mother on the thin side.  The only person who has stated that fact was Mary's daughter.  She was obviously did not have first hand knowledge of the birth since she was not there. 

There is also no proof yet that another woman is Mary Bradley's mother.

The only clue I have to the mystery Jewish woman is that her last name might have been Udell.  This name was given to my mother's cousin by Grandma Bender in a conversation.

I am following up on another research idea right now.  I have sent an inquiry to the Catholic Church, St. Columba, in Ottawa, Illinois to see if they have any birth or baptismal records for Mary Bradley.  This is the church that Charles and Kate got married at just a month before Mary's birth.

I will keep you updated when I receive a response.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thriller Thursday - Aunt Laura's house blew up

Last October, I got the chance to take a genealogy research trip to Kansas to look for information about my mother's family.  The highlights of the trip include visiting with family on both the maternal and paternal sides of the family.  My mom's uncle, Raymond, was just shy of 90 when we visited.  He told us so many great stories about the Mitchell family.  We spent an afternoon driving around Topeka, Kansas seeing the family sites when Raymond pointed to a street corner and said "That is where Aunt Laura's house blew up."

Of course, my mom and I immediately wanted to hear more.  This is a retelling of the story we heard that afternoon from Uncle Raymond with a little of my research added in.

Aunt Laura is Laura P. Mitchell.  She is one of Dudley Moses Mitchell's older sisters.  She was born about 1868 in Jackson County, Kansas.  At the time of this story she was living in Topeka, Kansas. 

One day Laura smelled gas in her house so she called the gas company.  They came out to the house and let her know that they did not smell anything and she was fine.  Later in the day, Laura still smelled gas and called the gas company again.  She apologized for being any trouble but let them know about the continuing gas smell.  The gas company again sent a man out to her house.  Laura went into the basement with the gas man.  When he turned on his flashlight, the gas in the room ignited.  The house split into two the explosion was so large.  They both somehow miraculously survived with little injuries.  Uncle Raymond continued that if Aunt Laura had been lying in her cot as usual, she would have gone through the roof becaues that is exactly what happened to the cot!  Laura received a settlement from the gas company.  She moved to Downey, California sometime after the explosion happened.  She lived in California the rest of her life.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Those Places Thursday - North Star Brewery, San Francisco, California

It turns out to be no surprise that my husband loves to brew his own beer.  His second great grandfather, John Pope, was the owner of North Star Brewery in San Francisco, California.  The brewery was open from 1897-1920.

1902 - Portraits from the Pacific Art Company's book, Men of California. Photo accessed 6 April 2011 on the Anchor Brewing website (

The brewery was located at 3312 Army Street in the Mission.  The photo below was taken from a brochure for a restaurant, The Old Clam House, that occupied the same space later in the 20th century.  The original is held by John A. Pope, Hopland, CA.

1915 Sanborn Insurance Map.  Accessed at on 6 April 2011.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Matrilenial Monday - 5 Living Generations Twice in Her Life

This article ran in my local paper yesterday.  The genealogy bug in me was fascinated by the story.  If you get a change to visit the paper's website, there are photos of both sets of 5 generations.

Marin Independent Journal
San Rafael, California
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Page A1, column 2
Also available at with photos

Terra Linda matriarch has five living generations in her family -- again

Loretta Castillo still has the photograph that ran in Ohio's Toledo Blade newspaper 71 years ago, showing her at age 19 with her infant daughter and her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Nearly three years ago, Castillo's great-granddaughter, Melissa McSweeney, gave birth to a baby girl — giving the 90-year-old Terra Linda resident the opportunity to boast for a second time that she's part of a family with five living generations of women. The case is so rare that one geneticist estimated there may be at most two or three other examples in the United States.

"At first you don't think anything about it," said Darlene Belluomini, the daughter who appeared with Castillo in the Toledo photograph in 1940. "It's kind of crazy."

Now 71, Belluomini lives with her husband in Novato and has hung a placard outside her home with the slogan, "Family is Everything."

She talks to Castillo on the phone every night and takes care of her 2-year-old great-granddaughter, Abby McSweeney, on Fridays while the toddler's mother works. Several times a week, Belluomini's 50-year-old daughter, Susan Belluomini — who lives in Petaluma with her 25-year-old daughter, Melissa, and granddaughter Abby — has lunch at her mom's house while on break from her preschool job in Novato.

Castillo moved to California from Ohio in 1948 with her two children after a divorce; she had married at age 18. She went on to marry Fred Castillo, who has been her husband for 62 years, and have two more children.

Her daughter, Darlene, married young too, at age 19, and gave birth to Susan 10 months later, making Castillo a grandmother at 39. At the time, Castillo had a 1-year-old daughter and would take care of both children together.

Susan married at 20, and at age 25 gave birth to Melissa, who at age 23 gave birth to Abby.
"I have 12 grandchildren, nine great- and one great-great," said Castillo, who worked as a waitress at the House of Prime Rib in San Francisco for 35 years. "In my family room, I got pictures galore. I can't even use the fireplace."

On Mother's Day, about 30 family members will gather to visit and eat together at Susan's house in Petaluma. The family is close and always gets together for holidays, Castillo said.

There is roughly a 1 in 10,000 probability of a family having five living generations in the United States, with most likely about a couple hundred examples nationwide, said Shripad Tuljapurkar, a Stanford University professor of population studies and biology.

But the probability that the phenomenon would occur twice in the same family is extraordinarily low, approximately 1 in 100 million, Tuljapurkar guessed, noting that he's never heard of another such case.
"That's really striking," Tuljapurkar said. "I would be astounded to find even one (case) with this happening twice. This deserves to be known by more demographers."

Kenneth Wachter, a professor of demographics and statistics at the University of California at Berkeley, also called the case "rare and extraordinary."

"Back in that generation, people dying at 70 was relatively common," Wachter said. "To get five generations back then (in 1940) seems very rare. ... That's strong enough to suggest that there could be favorable alleles of genes in that family."

While many mothers give birth to their first child at roughly the same age as their mothers, a large number of women also rebel and take the opposite route, Wachter said.

"There's a general tendency for these things, by which I mean early initiation of childbearing ... to run in families, but it's not as strong as you might think because of the rebels," Wachter said. "To have that general tendency (for early childbearing) expressed so clearly in one family is rare."

In the United States, the average age of first birth is about 25 for women, said Stewart Tolnay, a sociology professor at the University of Washington's Seattle campus. To have even one instance of five living generations in a family, four generations of women needed to be fertile, have children young and survive to child-bearing age — and in the great- and great-great-grandmothers' cases, live to advanced ages, he said. "Lots of stars need to line up for this to happen."

The Castillo-Belluomini-McSweeney women agree that they're fortunate.

"We're lucky," Melissa McSweeney said. "Most of my friends don't even have their grandparents."

"When I tell people I have grandparents still at my age, they're in awe," Susan Belluomini added. "We're very lucky to have each other. ... Life is tough. We've all had our little stepping stones. We always know that through the good times and all the bad, we're all going to be there for each other."

Castillo said she still remembers the day she posed for the newspaper photograph with her relatives in 1940. Her great-grandmother, a "full-blooded French" woman, was 88 that day and lived to be 92.

"I remember the words she said to me after we took the picture — she said, 'Good luck with your bebe," Castillo recalled, adding that's she's happy a picture of the new five generations will appear in the newspaper.
"I know my mother in heaven is going to be very pleased," she said.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Tribute to Great Mothers

Happy Mother's Day!

I want to take a moment today to recognize some wonderful mother's in my family.  All of these women have helped shape me into the mother that I am today.  I cannot thank them enough for loving me, supporting me, and teaching me.  I love you!

My Mom 

My Maternal Grandmother

My Paternal Grandmother

My Mother-in-Law