A few months back, I posted about a trip to Ellis Island with my daughter’s fifth grade class and how it got me thinking about my husband’s family, some of whom probably came to America through that historic portal. The post prompted our genealogy genie, Shannon to do a little more digging on my husband’s people and she found the above documents among others. Here’s what my husband had to say about the find:
I always thought that phrase about how we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us to reach new heights was a great movie line, but didn’t apply to me. Then my wife, through her friend Shannon put a new perspective into who I am and who will fly here because of me in the future. It was pretty spine tingling when I saw what they had found: documents of my family’s life in Ireland and subsequent arrival in America. Through the census forms, baptismal records and passenger manifests Shannon forwarded to us, my paternal grandmother, Lucille Mulcahy Kurtti, came back into my life in a way more fully than I’d experienced her as a boy visiting her home in the Bronx and her summer rental in Rockaway Beach, a vacation enclave for the Irish-American community.
Nanny Lucille tended not to talk about her history. Not much info came directly from her, but was filtered through my sisters. So, I was excited to learn where she was from, Castleraegh, Roscommon in Ireland and that she had three siblings. Now I see where my confirmation name, Jeremiah, came from. It was passed down from my great-grandfather, to my father and then to me. My brother Gordon’s talents as a painter flowed from that same great-grandfather, Jeremiah listed as a coach painter on his 1911 resident housing form. My sister’s proclivity for fashion and a career in that industry was also inherited from our great-grandmother, Ellen Mulcahy, listed as a milliner on that same housing form.
Now I also see where Nanny’s fiercely independent streak came from. According to her Alien Passenger Manifest, she left her homeland from Dublin and arrived in New York City in 1926. She was 19 years-old, traveled alone and planned to make a living as a domestic worker. She had $50 in her possession when she arrived at Ellis Island. Ironically, when she died, she had accumulated almost $250,000 in savings. I think that original $50 was part of the pile of money. (Besides the summer rental in Rockaway Beach, I never saw Nanny spend money). Her description on the manifest as fair-skinned, auburn-haired and blue-eyed describes me as well and makes me wonder if looking at me was a joyful reminder of what she was passing on or a sadness for what she had left behind? I do know it instills in me a new sense of gratitute for all she was willing to do. Nanny Lucille finally revealed some of her past to me. I thank Shannon and Dionne for giving me a path to my history that I never knew could be so profound and deeply felt.