Friday, May 11, 2012

'Ere I Wander' an update on New York

Before I left Sydney on April 22, bound for the great city of New York, I set up a new blog named 'Ere I Wander' with the intention of recording a daily journal of my trip to America to visit my new granddaughter, Indiana. I had grand plans to include anecdotes of historical and genealogical interest. My 'grandmother' time has been much enjoyed, however my blog has not been as successful. My IPad and jet lag, alas, have had other plans for me. I am resolved to write again, now that I have overcome tiredness, stopped getting up far too early to wander the streets of Manhattan before heading to spend the day with my beautiful granddaughter, Indiana, and finally worked out how to load photos on my blog from my IPad. Well, I'm not so sure I have that last problem overcome yet! So possibly no photos....

This is my first visit to the USA. I have been to the UK, Europe and Asia but i have never before stepped onto the shores of America. I usually try to incorporate some Family History in my wanderings, so a visit to Ellis Island was high on my list of things to do whilst in New York. When I arrived and discovered that my apartment in the Upper Westside of Manhattan was on the same block as the New York Historical Society, only one block from the New York Genealogy Society and very close to an LDS Family History centre, I felt right at home immediately. Well, until I found that I had to relearn how to order coffee (in Starbucks, it is advisable not to give your name using an Australian accent, if like mine, it has the letter 'R' in it.... 'Its spelled SHAR... No Not 'AH' ... Not 'AH'.... 'R' .. Oh forget it. My name is Lee! So at my local coffee shop, I am known as Lee! It's not just me either. My son in law Mark has found it easier to be Steve! I gave up ordering corn in a salad because of the dreaded 'R'. When it came to the corn, my lettuce had wilted before anyone understood what I wanted.( I am becoming better at rolling those 'r's' now though.)

So before I touch on my family history.. Here are just a few tips I have picked up in New York. ( not nearly as many 'tips' as I've given - but for those not used to the tipping 'system' - there is a website which clearly explains tipping etiquette in America). Catching a 'cab' in Manhattan is quite an experience. At first I couldn't get one at all. Silly me! I was standing on the pavement ( I've picked up the lingo quickly) with my hand outstretched, wondering why hundreds of empty yellow taxis completely ignored me as they sped past. Now, I know better. I have mastered the art of stepping out onto the road DIRECTLY in the path of a speeding cab... It works! So far I haven't been run down.....

Taxis are very inexpensive in New York. Possibly it's because the drivers save so much on wear and tear on things like - indicators and breaks. I can only describe my taxi ride to Battery Park to catch the ferry to Ellis Island, as akin to a high speed roller coaster ride! I admit that whilst driving one handed, at high speed, and talking on a cell phone at the same time is genuine multi tasking, it does make using an indicator impossible and I found that just a touch scary, when the norm is for cabs to constantly weave in and out of lanes.... Fast and furious lane changing is definitely a New York driving talent! And, despite the newly introduced $300 fine for 'honking' in New York, the horn still seems the best way to maneuver through Manhattan traffic. But a cab WILL get you anywhere in New York FAST! And cheaply. So I'm not complaining. After three weeks in New York, I have fallen in love with the city, it's colorful history and in particular the bagels! So, a diet may be on my agenda when I return! Now, with my brief introduction to New York life, dispensed with..... On to the family history.

I had quite a number of family members who immigrated to America. HABERLING relatives arrived from Switzerland in the 1800's as did NERGER aunts and uncles from Prussia. At least one GAIR from Northumberland, England, made the journey in the 1860's as did my SIEGLER great great great grandparents, Johannes and Anna, from Weurttemberg in Germany. My great great grandmother, Christiana Siegler journeyed to Australia with her 17 year old brother Gottlieb, in 1863, only months before the remainder of her large family left Germany for America. Immigration records show that the Siegler family had been applying to emigrate to America for some time. Their application became approved after they had sent two of their nine children to Australia, including my great great grandmother.

My great Aunt Maggie McDade ( married name SMITH) arrived in America in 1926. Margaret Bonner McDade born 24 September, 1896 in Glasgow, Scotland, was estranged from the rest of the McDade family. Her parents and siblings had all emigrated to Brisbane, Australia in 1923. The unfortunate Maggie had become caught up in a family scandal involving her husband Andrew Smith and her younger, 14 year old sister, Mary in 1921.... One of those scandals that was rumour until this family historian proved it true! Mary gave birth to a son in Glasgow, 1922, named Alexander Gilmour McDade. Her parents, John and Elizabeth Gibson McDade took the family and baby Alexander to Australia. Immigration records named him as their own child. It was quite a common practice in past times for grandparents to raise a child as their own so as not to 'spoil' the chance of marriage for a young daughter.

Sadly, when the McDade family arrived in Australia, Mary ran away and was not heard from again. Maggie remained with her husband Andrew, and they left Glasgow, Scotland, bound for America and a new life, with their three daughters, Margaret, Elizabeth and Mary.

Maggie McDade was a widow when she married Andrew Smith on April 13, 1921, according to the banns of the Church of Scotland. On September 17, 1914, aged only 17 years, Maggie had obtained permission to marry her 18 year old sweetheart, William Shaw Thompson. William was a Private in the Gordon Highlanders, Regiment number 3963. He was leaving for active duty in France and the couple married before he left. I have no way of knowing whether Maggie and William saw each other again before he was killed in action in Flanders, on September 25, 1915, just a year after their marriage ceremony. Maggie was a widow at the age of 18 years.

I have the passenger records for my Smith family who arrived in New York on October 31, 1926, on board the 'Cameronia'. Their intended address was 5545 North Water Street, Philadelphia, PA. The NY Passenger Lists (1820-1957) for the Cameronia describes Maggie as having fair hair and blue eyes.

The 1930 census finds the Smith family in Foster, Shuylkill, PA. Although the 1940 USA census has been released I have been unable to locate the family on it as yet.

Maggie wrote a letter in the 1980's to Robert MacDade in Brisbane Australia, believing him to be her younger brother. Robert was, in fact, her nephew, the son of her deceased brother Robert ( Bert). Maggie wanted to be in contact with her siblings however she was too late. She died in August of 1984 in New Castle, Delaware according to the Social Security Death index. Nothing is known about Maggie and Andrew's daughters, Margaret, Elizabeth and Mary Smith.

Andrew Smith's real name was Antonas USTILA. He, along with his parents were Lithuanian refugees who arrived in Glasgow on route to America. Andrew's parents remained in Scotland. As with many European refugees who crowded the Gorbals in Glasgow, this family's name was anglicized to Smith. Smith is today, one of the most common surnames in Scotland.

While I am in the USA I am attempting to find out what happened to the family of my great aunt Maggie Smith née McDade. As a genealogist, I am realistic but ever optimistic! Wish me luck!