Archdiocese of New York (no Brooklyn! no Queens!)

Prior to 1808 when it was formed, the New York Archdiocese was part of Maryland.  Go figure!

Today, however,  records are usually found locally.  According to their website, while there is no central filing system in the Archdiocese of New York, each individual parish keeps its own records.

Of particular interest to genealogists are the sacramental records, which include Baptismal records, Marriage records, Confirmation records, first Holy Communion records and Death records.  Ideally, these records are updated as events occur, but the latter 3 types offer the least help because they are usually not well-maintained.    The church in which a person is baptized becomes “the church of origin” and future records should go to that church, regardless of the parish where a marriage or death or adoption would take place.

Note, that when a church closes or merges, its records move.  Take, for example, the case of St. Gabriel (on E. 37th Street in Manhattan) which opened in 1859 and closed 80 years later, in 1939. Initially, the records moved to St. Stephen (E. 28th Street).  But, when St. Stephen merged in 1989 with Our Lady of the Scapular, the St. Gabriel records moved again, to the church which is now the Church of Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen.  It has the records from both of those parishes, as well as St. Gabriel and Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Surprisingly, not all five boroughs of New York City are part of the Archdiocese of New York.  (We’ll take) Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island….along with Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester Counties.

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American Brilliant Cut Glass

When someone in your family dies, dealing with the emotions is one thing. Dealing with the “stuff” they leave behind is quite another. My mother left so much that I actually have material for a full-blown book. Stay tuned…..

Mother always had her grandmother’s WWI-era cut glass (which is really “crystal” because the lead content makes it such) on display in her contemporary-style home.  I always thought it was hideous and hoped I’d never have to own it myself.  That was, until I finally did come to own it.  After Mother died, I found a treasure trove of objects tucked away in the back of a closet.  These were things even she chose not to display,  Now I was faced with having to decide what to do with a sizable collection that I frankly didn’t have space for.  That’s when I decided to learn more about this lost art and the people who made it over 100 years ago.


Corset Shaped American Brilliant Cut Glass c. 1916

Many of my readers are doing genealogy research of their own, so I thought it might be useful to share some of the occupations I learned about in the course of my research.  (Census reports provide the job descriptions of people, often unrecognizable in today’s lingo.)

Leaded crystal was formed by melting silica, potash, lead oxide (and perhaps other ingredients) in a ‘monkey pot’, or furnace, until the temperature reached 2400 degrees Fahrenheit.  The red hot, molten glass (called “metal”) was then ready to be worked. Four workmen were required to work each glass pot.

  • the “gatherer”, who collected a ball of molten glass (called the “gather”) on the end of his blowpipe, a hollow tube about four feed long. He blew air into it, let it cool a few hundred degrees, and then rolled it on a metal slab called the ‘marver” to permit the glass to consolidate.
  •  the “gaffer”, who was seated in an armchair, blew the “gather” into the desired shape.
  •  the “servitor”, assistant to the gaffer, reheated the glass when it cooled too much, and helped the gaffer add stems, feet, handles, or other parts to the piece, as required to finish it.
  • an apprentice called the “carry in boy”, who lifted the finished item with pinchers and carried it to the “lehr”, or annealing oven, where the piece was gradually cooled to room temperature.

After as long as 9 days in the lehr, the “metal” or “blank” was nothing more than a smooth, shaped piece of leaded crystal, completely undecorated, which was now ready for the next team of craftsmen.

  • the designer, who marked the piece with outlines of the decoration.
  • the “rougher”, who began the cutting by holding the blank against a rapidly moving, beveled, metal wheel, which was constantly moistened and cooled by a fine stream of wet sand dripping from an overhanging funnel. He followed the designer’s marks, making incisions by pushing the glass down against the wheel. He was blind to the contact of the wheel with the glass, except for what he could see through the glass – looking from inside to outside. He learned to judge the dept of the cut simply by the sound of the wheel and the “feel” of the piece in his hand.
  • the “smoother”, who went back over all the rough cuts with stone wheels called “craighleiths.” He also initially cut some of the small lines on the motifs, as indicated by the design.
  • the “polisher”, who finished the piece by polishing each cut with wooden wheels made from willow, cherry or other softwoods. Rottenstone or pumice was used with the polishing wheels to give a lustrous appearance to the cut, leaving no imperfections on the gleaming surfaces.

Having learned all this gave me a new appreciation for this art form, which I will proudly treasure as family heirlooms to be displayed in my own home.

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Aboard the Yankee (now in Red Hook)

Once in a while, we bloggers come across someone else’s blog which interests us.  Such was the case with me and fellow New Yorker, Keith Muchowski, an academic librarian at New York City College of Technology (CUNY) in Brooklyn.  Muchowski volunteers for the National Park Service, where he has been associated with divisions at Ellis Island and at Governors Island National Monument. He blogs at The Strawfoot.

In July of 2012 Keith wrote about the only remaining Ellis Island ferry boat, now named Yankee Ferry, which had been docked in Hoboken, NJ.  Last month, after its recent move, Keith once again blogged about the Yankee in Red Hook, Brooklyn and the love that’s been put into it by Richard and Victoria MacKenzie-Childs of pottery fame.

I wanted to comment, but I had missed the boat (no pun intended?); Keith had already closed down commenting.  So, I emailed him to say I, too, had been aboard the “splendiforous” vessel.  With that, Keith invited me to write a guest spot on his blog.  Thanks for asking, Keith!  I’m flattered. You can read it here:

I’ve invited him, in turn, to write a guest entry for my readers….so, stay tuned!

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Birth certificate of a royal

If you have royalty in your bloodline, this is what you’re liable to see on birth documents:

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Antwerp – New York on the Red Star Line

Between 1873 and 1934, 2.6 million people left the port of Antwerp, Belgium on Red Star Line ships, bound for Canada, Philadelphia and New York.  (1 million of them were Jewish, including Albert Einstein, Golda Meir, Irving Berlin and my grandmother.)  Last night I had the opportunity to hear a talk on the artist, Eugeen Van Mieghem, who grew up and spent his life in the shadows of the docks from where these ships departed.  EVM (that’s how he signed some of his work if you’re ever lucky enough to spot it at auction) sketched and painted the steerage class emigres, en route from distant European shtetls, and the elegant folk from the cities who would travel first class.  Erwin Joos, curator of the Eugeen Van Mieghem Museum in Antwerp, explained that most of EVM’s subjects were poor, too poor to buy or commission works of art.  But he kept on drawing….hundreds of drawings that depict what the life was like during the period between leaving the shtetl and landing on the Lower East Side.

This fall will see the opening of the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp. Their website explains:

The Red Star Line Museum tells many stories.

It is an Antwerp story, about the city and its port, about the new and the old Eilandje District, about Antwerp as the last stop on a journey to happiness and a better life.

It is a Belgian story about people who embarked on the Red Star Line ships, to escape poverty, but also driven by the pursuit of adventure. About people who travelled to America full of expectation, often in search of a new and better life.

It is a European story, about how people from all over Europe came to Antwerp and embarked on a journey to a new life.

It is an American story about the ancestors of Americans, their roots and their origins.
The Red Star Line is also a universal story about dreams of a better life, about saying goodbye, about discovering the unknown and about the search for a new home.

And when you visit, keep an eye out for my grandma’s portrait (although it’s not by EVM).

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From Delmonico’s to Woolworth’s

Don’t you love to see charming old menus and what was served way back when?  Pigeon with peas, anyone? Or the more plebeian American Cheese sandwich?  May I take your order, please?

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High School Yearbooks shed light on Alumni

The Stuyvesant High School that my father attended was the breeding ground for FOUR Nobel Laureates [ Roald Hoffmann (1955), Joshua Lederberg (1940), Richard Axel (1963),Robert Fogel (1944)], the current Attorney General Holder, a handful of U.S. Senators, celebrities such as Telly Leung (this year’s commencement speaker), Lucy Liu, Tim Robbins, James Cagney (1918), jazz musician Thelonious Monk (1935), four-time Oscar-winning producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1924) and many other notables in a variety of fields.

“Stuy” continues to turn out great students (including my son). Each year approximately a dozen of its 800 grads go on to Harvard, another dozen to MIT, a few dozen to Cornell, a long list attend U. Chicago, Princeton, Yale, Penn, Cal Tech, etc.

About 20 years ago, New York City decided to erect a NEW gorgeous, 10-story, state-of-the-art building to honor this “jewel in the crown” of public education. One of the building’s unique features are the escalators that move students two floors at a time, between even-numbered floor, and between odd-numbered floors. It houses an olympic-sized pool. Another amazing touch are the glass bricks interspersed around the halls and stairwells. Many contain artifacts donated by individual alumni or an entire graduating class. Others are empty, awaiting future installations. They are like little jewel boxes of memorabilia that add a sense of history to a modern building. Yet another charming touch was the re-cycling of an entire classroom from the “old building” to the new. That new room contains the old wooden desk sets with the lift up lid like my father may have sat in in 1937. History is now taught in this vintage room.

The school has photos and more info at its website, but its yearbooks can provide additional info about alumni, as shown in the image below.


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