I’ll start with saying this story has a more or less happy ending. As with anyone who works on tracing their family history, I too hit the occasional brick wall. They can be amazing frustrating things and tend to linger on the fringes of my mind for days like some annoying song that you can’t seem to shake.
Many years ago I encountered one such wall with my father’s cousin Mary. Mary’s father Thomas and my father’s father John were brothers. I’d never heard that my father had any cousins so when I’d discovered Mary on the 1920 Census I was shocked to say the least.
1920 US Federal Census: 42 Maujer Street, Brooklyn, NY, 9 Jan 1920
Thomas Geoghan: Age 31… Born: Conn … Parents born: Scotland … Occ: Ticket Agent
Josephine Geoghan: Age 22 … Born: NY … Parents Homeland: Russia … Father: Mother Tongue: Polish … Mother: Mother Tongue: Germany
Mary Geoghan: Age 4 … Place of Birth: NY … Fathers Place of Birth: CT … Mothers Place of Birth: NY
My father’s family wasn’t of much help I’m afraid. Mary was born about 1915 and my father’s eldest sister was born in 1927 so there would have been quite an age difference in the cousins. But still ….
Mary and wife Josephine were nowhere to be found on the 1930 census. Thomas was back living with his parents, divorced. So what happened to Mary? Search as I did for a very long time, I could find no trace of her in any records. Was she alive? Had she died? All was a mystery … that is until a few weeks ago when I got an email from ancestry.com. Ever get an email with some reminders that you have “hints”? Well, I did. It for Thomas, a new census record for him.
When I opened up the record I found the 1915 New York State Census:
1915 New York State Census: Brooklyn, NY, Assembly Dist 14, Election Dist 13, Block 4 (or 11), Page 61, 137 North 7th Street
Ambrose, Kate (wife) white female age 34 … Born in German
Ambrose, Charles (head) white male age 32 … Born in Russia
Dundrowski, Starby(?) (head) white male age 42 … Born in Poland, Rus … # of years in US: 25 … Status Citizen … Occ: Steamfitter
Dundrowski, Stella (wife) white female age 35 … Born in Germany … # of years in US; 32 … Status Citizen … Occ: Housework
Dundrowski , Martha (daughter) white female age 15 … Born in US … Occ: School
Dundrowski , Frank (son) white male age 13 … Born in US … Occ: School
Geoghan, Lutta (daughter) white female age 18 … Born in US … Occ: Housework
Geoghan, Thomas (son in law) white male age 28 … Born in US … Occ: Inspector R.R.
I knew Thomas worked for the Rail road and lived in the area, so I decided to assume this was him and see where it would lead. Seeing that he was living with his in-laws, I know had his wife’s maiden name. Deciding to see if I could find this family on another Census, I found this 1925 New York State Census:
1925 New York State Census: Brooklyn, NY, Block 2, Election Dist 46, Ward X, Assembly, Dist 20, Can’t read street name but house number is 1403
Domrbowski, Starle (head) White Male Age 55, Born in Poland … Occ: Steam Fitter
Domrbowski, Stella(wife) White female age 47 … Born in Germany … Occ: Housework
Geoghan, Loretta (daughter) white female age 28 … Born in US … Occ: Clerical Work
Geoghan, Maril (granddaughter) white female age 10 … Born in US … Occ: At School
Okay, so after Thomas and his wife divorced, she seems to have moved back in with her parents. So I decided to keep looking for her parents and found them on the 1940 US Federal Census:
1940 US Federal Census: Queens, NY, SD 2, ED 41-142J, Sheet 6A, April 9, 1940
8245 133rd Avenue, Family 106
Dombrowski, Stanislov (head) Age 68 … Widowed … Born in Poland, parents born same place … Occ: Steam Fitter BMJ Retired
Klima, Loretta (daughter) Age 42 … Married … Born in NY
Klima, William (husband) Age 44 … Married … Born in NY … Occ: Machinisht Shops PW
Right father but daughter seems to have remarried if it’s the same woman. Deciding to see where she might lead, I searched again but just for this Klima family. And then I found this:
1930 US Federal Census: Brooklyn, Kings Co., NY, 433 Lincoln Avenue, ED 24-543, Sup Dist: 29, Sheet 11A, Dated April 10, 1930, Family 253
Klima, William (head) White Male Age 35 … Born in NY, Parents in Austria … Occ: Machinist in Factory
Klima, Loretta (wife) White Female Age 33 … Born in NY, Father Poland, Mother Germany … Occ: None
Klima, Mary (daughter) White Female Age 15 … Born in NY, Parents in NY … Occ: None
Huh??? Mary Klima?? Well, that’s why I could never find Dad’s cousin Mary Geoghan, they’d changed her last name to that of her step-father, Klima.
Not long after that discovery, I found this death record for Mary’s mother:
California, Death Index, 1940-1997
Name: Josephine Loretta Klima (Josephine Loretta Dombrowski)
Birth Date: 11 Nov 1897 … Birth Place: New York
Death Date: 4 Jan 1981 … Death Place: Los Angeles
Mother’s Maiden Name: Wiza … Father’s Surname: Dombrowski
This explained why she was called Loretta sometimes and Josephine others. How annoying is that!!!
Unfortunately, the next thing I found was Mary’s death record:
California, Death Index, 1940-1997
Name: Marie Theresa Rhoades [Marie Theresa Klima]
Birth Date: 15 Aug 1915 … Birth Place: New York
Death Date: 4 Sep 1993 … Death Place: Los Angeles
Mother’s Maiden Name: Dumbrowski … Father’s Surname: Klima
That’s when I decided to do something I’ve never done before. When this record came up, it gives you the option on Ancestry.com to order a copy of the original. It’s just the info above on Ancestry, no scanned image. I’ve never order a copy of a record like this from them before. Cost me about $25 but with no other info to go on, I have no idea if I have cousins in California or not. Hopefully the original record will give me some clues like where she’s buried. If so, I can contact the cemetery and funeral home for more family info.
Anyway, I thought I’d share my story to give you hope that brick walls can be toppled. So don’t give up!
Have any great brick wall stories to share? If so, I’d love to hear them :-)
UPDATE: August 2, 2014
The copy of the death certificate I ordered through Ancestry.com finally came in the mail from the state of California.
This is what I received:
I contacted the funeral home via email to see if they had any additional family details on her or her husband who died about 7 years ago. Still haven’t heard back from them so I guess I’m going to have to give them a call. Wish me luck – Jennifer