Saturday 26 November 2016

Teresa Corless – Death from Misadventure

Last week, I discovered my grandmother’s Aunt Teresa in the 1911 census, in Manchester, England. She lived there with her husband William, a tailor, and their nine-year-old daughter, Mary Teresa. The curious thing is they were all listed under Teresa’s maiden name ‘Donovan’ and not under William’s surname ‘Corless’. 

The reason for their charade has not yet come to light. There’s a chance it never will. But, whatever the reason, it seems to have been a temporary gambit. When Teresa died on 10 February 1944, she was back using the Corless surname.

Teresa Corless spent the remainder of her days in Manchester. In fact, she lived at 8 Craig Street in Miles Platting right up until her admittance to the hospital. The ‘Donovan’ family had lived in this same house in 1911, eliminating any doubt they were my relatives.

Teresa was nearly eighty-two years old when she died, though her death certificate claims she was only seventy-six. Her husband William predeceased her.

A most unfortunate occurrence led to her death. In December 1943, something lodged under the thumbnail of her left hand. It doesn’t say what – presumably a splinter of some sort. Her finger became infected, leading to cellulitis in her left arm, which resulted in renal failure and caused her death.  How tragic is it that a minor wound could instigate the sudden death of an otherwise physically fit woman. The Manchester coroner held an inquest and ruled her death from misadventure.

Source: Copy death register for Teresa Corless, 1944, Manchester, General Register Office.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 19 November 2016

A new cousin for Granny Lena and a surname puzzle

It has been over a year since I first found Teresa (Donovan) Corless and last tried to find out where she ended up. Teresa was my grandmother Lena’s maternal aunt, not that we'd ever heard of her. She married William Corless in Dublin in June 1900 and showed up in Manchester, England, in time for the 1901 census. William worked in Manchester as a ‘journeyman tailor’. After this, their trail went cold. There was no sign of them in the 1911 census, either in England or in Ireland.

But, new records are being released online all the time. This month, the General Register Office provided a new index to the historic birth and death registers for England and Wales. I wondered if they would shed any light on what happened to my great-grandaunt post-1901.

Teresa Anne Donovan was born on 18 May 1862. She was thirty-eight years old when she married William - not twenty-five like she told the census enumerators just six months later. Her child-bearing years were limited. She turned fifty in 1912. But, with the mother’s maiden name now included on births registered in the relevant period, if Teresa and William did have children, they should be easily identified.

The new index revealed only one potential child. Mary Teresa Corless was born in 1902, in Manchester. Her mother’s maiden name was Donovan. With both these unusual surnames - Corless and Donovan - showing on this one document, it certainly looked like a match. Was Mary Teresa my granny’s cousin? 

There was only one way to find out for sure – order her birth certificate. And, here it is:–

Birth of Mary Teresa Corless, 20 March 1902, Manchester
Copy Birth Register, Mary Teresa Corless, 1902, Manchester

So, Lena had a first cousin, Mary Teresa, born on 20 March 1902, at 25 Monsall Street, Manchester.

With that, I found the family in the 1911 census, in Manchester… I think. They were all listed under Teresa’s maiden name Donovan – not Corless. But, it has to have been them.

William Donovan was the head of the household, a tailor, born in Co. Galway. His wife, Teresa, was born in Dublin city, supposedly in about 1874 - she was never ‘good’ at estimating her age. William and Teresa were ten years married, with one child. Their daughter, Mary Teresa Donovan, aged nine, lived with them. And a fifty-six-year-old widow named Elizabeth Corless, maybe William’s older sister, was visiting with them on census night.

It was no mix-up. William signed the census schedule ‘William Donovan.’

Signature of William Corless, a.k.a. William Donovan, 1911 Census, Manchester
Signature of William Donovan, a.k.a. William Corless, 1911, Manchester

What do you make of that? Why would they have changed their name?

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 12 November 2016

Hickey cousins in New York

Like generations of Irish before them, Mary Anne Byrne, my great-grandfather’s half-sister, was tempted by the promise of a better life in America. She married Michael Hickey at home in Co. Kildare in July 1886 and in August 1887 gave birth to her son John in Manhattan. Sadly, the Hickey family did not find the streets of New York paved with gold after all. Their lives, at least the ones I’ve been able to trace, mostly ended early, and some in the most unfortunate circumstances. 

On the face of it, their American dream started off well enough and appeared quite typical of an Irish emigrant’s experience in New York. After John, sons Michael and William were born, followed by a daughter Theresa in 1893, another son Andrew in 1896, and finally, twins James and Paul in 1898.

Within twelve years of their arrival in the U.S., Michael applied for citizenship. The family lived at 356 10th Avenue in Manhattan and Michael worked as a paver. A clerk at the Supreme Court, George Sweeney, provided a character reference, describing Michael as ‘a good, honest, steady, working-man’. Michael, and by proxy his wife, became U.S. citizens shortly thereafter.

And then, everything started to go wrong for the family. 

One of the twins, baby Paul, died on 10 August 1899. He was just eight months old. His mother, Mary Anne, my half-great-grandaunt, followed him on 8 December 1904. She was only thirty-nine years old. Michael never remarried.

The three eldest boys, John, Michael and William, may well have married and started a family, but so far everything indicates they too died young. John’s death, at the age of thirty-one years, occurred on 25 October 1918, and a 1939 newspaper account of Andrew’s death indicates he left behind his father, his sister, and only one brother, James.

When Andrew Hickey signed up to serve his country during World War I, he was twenty-two years of age, five foot, five inches tall and of slender build. He had blue eyes and red hair. Andrew was a corporal in the 52nd Pioneer Infantry and saw combat in France. He was honourably discharged at the end of the war and returned home, supposedly unwounded.

Headstone of Andrew Joseph Hickey (1896-1939),  Long Island National Cemetery
Headstone of Andrew Joseph Hickey,
Long Island National Cemetery

But, Andrew Hickey died just twenty years later. His father and sister came home and found his body on the floor in the bathroom, near an open gas jet. The local newspaper said Andrew was unemployed for a considerable time. The police had not at that stage ruled his death as either accidental or suicide.

What compounds this tragedy though is that, a few years later, his sister Theresa followed his example. She married William Sharkey in 1919, but it was not a happy match. They seemingly had no children. And, at the time of her death, they were separated – Theresa lived in Astoria, while William lived in Brooklyn. On 10 April 1943, neighbours smelled gas coming from her apartment and called the police. Déjà vu for her father and brother James!

The police knocked down her door and found Theresa’s body on the couch, with a man named Edward Feely lying dead on the floor nearby. There were four open gas jets on the range in the next room. Although they did not leave a note, the police immediately listed the case as a suicide pact. It was not Theresa’s first attempt at killing herself. The previous month, she was found semi-conscious in her apartment with two gas jets open. When revived, she refused to go to the hospital.

Isn’t that so sad? What could have gone so terribly wrong for this family in New York? These were my grandfather’s first cousins – well, half first cousins – sharing their grandfather, John Byrne.  

Their father, Michael Hickey, reached a good age. He was well into his eighties when he passed away in July 1946, leaving his youngest son James alone in the city of his birth. It is James I feel sorry for, most. At some stage, he moved to Chester, in Orange Co., New York, where he died in 1970. 

Sources: ‘New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909’,  ‘New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795­1949’, New York, ‘New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940’, FamilySearch; ‘New York, State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1929’, ‘New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919’, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 ‘, Ancestry (subscription); Long Island Star–Journal, 4 Nov. 1939, p. 1, and 10 Apr. 1943, p.1, Old Fulton New York Post CardsImage: Headstone of Andrew Joseph Hickey, added by XCHIEF, Findagrave.

© Black Raven Genealogy