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marriagelicense (1).jpg

This is the marriage certificate for my great great grandmother and her husband (who was not my great great grandfather). It has given me a lot of information including, on the 2nd page (which I did not scan), her signature. That finally proved her true name was Maria Filak. As her first and last names are spelled differently in all sorts of census records, it was nice to have that proven. (Even here they screwed up though--as you can see the clerk wrote in "Mary Filak".)

My problem is Maria's address. It is listed under her name and the number, "59", is clear but the street name gets unclear. Starts with an "M", has an "h", maybe a "c". It looks like a "St" at the end--a capital cursive "S" is pretty clear. But what street is this? Marchallow St? Hmmm - doesn't show up I'm afraid.

I just don't know.

The groom's address is 2913 8th Ave and the clergyman who married them was from 405 W. 125th St in Harlem, which I found out online is St Joseph of the Holy Family. (The oldest church in Harlem as it turns out.) But Maria's place of residence is a mystery to me and she is the one who matters most. Her whereabouts between 1886, when she arrived in NYC and 1895, when she married Rudolph, are unknown. In that period she gave birth to my great grandmother, whose father is also unknown. So pinning down any hint as to where Maria was is a very valuable clue in my family history search.

If any of you recognize the street, give me a shout. I'd appreciate any help I can get.

UPDATE: And it looks like we have a winner! We are thinking it is "Manhanttan St." which makes sense as, according to Wikipedia, "West of Convent Avenue, 125th Street was re-routed onto what was formerly called Manhattan Street prior to 1940." That puts us right in the neighborhood of the church! So now I find out what was there in 1895 and try to piece together more of Maria's mysterious life....

Big thanks to Melissa Posten for helping me out on this the second I posted to facebook & everyone else who sent emails. You guys rock!!

I just read and enjoyed immensely Ransom Riggs's Hollow City, the sequel to Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children. Fans of the first book need only hear that the second exceeds it in every way, (which is pretty amazing as that book was fantastic), and those who have missed both and love a good story (regardless of whether you like young adult, new adult or just plain adult) really ought to read these books immediately.

But what I've been thinking about is what a good job Riggs did at crafting both of these books around the photographs he illustrates them with.

Riggs finds odd photographs in the usual settings: flea markets, antique stores and via collectors. In Miss Peregrine many of these were comprised of the individuals who made up the story: the peculiar children. In Hollow City he goes much further in using photos to illustrate not only people the children meet (and animals) but also significant events that occur throughout the novel. Clearly, the pictures were key to plot development and how he accomplished this is truly inspiring to me as a writer.

The other thing about the 2 books is that they remind readers how pleasurable it is to read illustrated novels. I greatly enjoy Barbara Hodgson's novels for this reason and Riggs has made me a big fan with how well he integrates his quirky postcards (which Quirk Books presents so beautifully in these lushly designed editions).

As to the plot--there's time travel (primarily late 19th to mid 20th century), "peculiar" children with all manner of odd talents (control of bees, weighing lighter than air, communicating via echolocation, etc.), and a major war between good and evil (of course!). World War II plays a big part in Hollow City, which allowed Riggs to use some evocative images (including the cover) and also amps the peril the main characters find themselves in.

But.....none of that is why I wanted to write about these books. My biggest reason to recommend them is to persuade adults to give them a go. Yes, there is a slight teenage romance going on here but it is subtle and kind and will ring true for many. More importantly the overall story is escapist fiction at its best; thrilling, creepy, smart and also quite hopeful. It's like nothing else I have read and reminds me a lot of Bradbury at his Something Wicked This Way Comes best.

Good books + cool photos. What's not to love? :)

Read Chap 1 of Hollow City at Ransom Riggs's site.

carol1915.jpgThis ranks as the weirdest thing I have discovered thus far in my family history research.

My great grandmother had three younger sisters: Marie, Ernestine & Carol. All three of them were born in NYC (1895, 1897 & 1900). I knew they were born in NYC because all of their birth certificates are available online. These are not "people we heard were born in NYC" or "people we thought were born in NYC" but 100%, no doubt, for sure, born in NYC.

So imagine my surprise when I found Carol's naturalization papers.

I tracked Carol through the census records in the early 1900s, just as I tracked her sisters. I knew her husband's last name was Redmond and he showed up with her in the 1930 census (first name Frank). (I have no idea why they aren't in the 1920 census but I'll worry about that later.)

I knew Carol's son's name was Warren (I actually have a postcard he sent my great grandmother when he was in WWII) and there was was Warren, born in 1927. Everything about Carol was lining out as I expected, and I was just filling in the necessary blanks.

Then ancestry.com sent me a hint about Carol with a link to a naturalization record. This made no sense but I looked and there she was, my great great aunt Carol, with her place of birth in NYC applying for citizenship in the US in 1939. There is no doubt about this being my Carol (how many Caroline Freida Redmonds can there be in the world?), but it made no sense. The one thing that really jumped out at me was that the application stated she and Frank were married in Barbados and he was born in NYC in 1903.

None of this made any sense.

It got more complicated when I searched for her marriage certificate online and found it in 1919 in NYC. (Which is clearly not Barbados.) So....I think the clerk on the naturalization papers might have flipped it--Frank was born in Barbados and they were married in NYC. (According to the 1940 census, Frank was born in the British West Indies.)

But that's all Frank and not Carol and where Frank was born should not affect Carol's citizenship except....it actually did.

According to the National Archives website, there was a lot of confusion at the turn of the century over female citizenship. Just as foreign women became citizens upon marriage, the courts began to decide that American women could lose citizenship upon marriage to a foreigner. It finally became law in 1907. Under the act of March 2, 1907, all women acquired their husband's nationality upon any marriage occurring after that date.

If a husband eventually filed paperwork and naturalized into a US citizen, the woman then became an American....again. But if the husband did not obtain US citizenship for whatever reason, then the woman couldn't either because it was all totally up to the man. Basically, a woman born in the US, who lived her whole life in the US and never ever left the US could still cease to be a US citizen if she married a man who wasn't an American.

(My inner historian is screaming all about the 14th Amendment right now.)

Frank must have been British still at the time of their marriage and when Carol married him, she lost her US citizenship. Now why she applied in 1939 is still a mystery. I can find no record of Frank applying for citizenship however so perhaps Carol applied to get hers back after the laws changed again (and got rid of this insanity). Oddly enough, I think when she became a citizen in 1939, that would automatically make Frank one if he had never sought citizenship before. (Because, after all, he was then married to a US citizen. AGAIN.)

Maybe. Honestly, I have no clue at this point.

The key bit in all this is that Carol was born in America, fell in love in America, got married in America and then lost her American citizenship.This happened because Carol was a woman. It really makes all this immigration stuff today seem even crazier when you realize that once upon a time in this country even being born here wasn't enough.

I have ordered a copy of Carol & Frank's marriage certificate. Can't wait to see what that reveals.....

[Post pic of Carol, about age 15.]