Thursday, December 24, 2009


Christmas, 1945 at Grandma's house, above and below

Christmas, 1945, at the Brackmans above
Barbara's first Christmas. I still have the two dolls in the center. I loved that blue Taylor Tot stroller too.

Christmas, 1945 at the Bentleys below.

Christmas, 1953 at the Brackmans. Bill above and Jane below.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

McNally Mysteries

William H.C.D. McNally (1880-1960).
He is 65 years old in this photo from 1945.

We know a lot about Grandma's ancestors, the Dalys and the Valentines, but much less about Grandpa's, the McNallys.

We've been told that William Henry Conrad DeKalb McNally was born in Brooklyn on June 18, 1880 to John Louis McNally and Mary Ann DeKalb. Georgi's genealogical research finds him in the 1900 census, when he was 20, living with a grandmother Annie Berry, his younger brother Patrick and his step-uncles (or maybe no relation at all) William Berry and James Berry, who Georgi guesses are Annie Berry's stepsons.

Where are his parents? Aunt Ann recalls that her grandfather was named John McAnally, a railroad worker born in Ireland. Many of us heard that he worked for the New York Central Railroad, as an engineer or conductor and was killed when he was hit by a train.

Mary Ann DeKalb, our great-grandmother, is a mystery too. She is supposed to be from either New York, Illinois or Ohio, daughter of an engineer named Conrad DeKalb.

My memory is that I was told that Mary Ann DeKalb's father worked for the railroad and helped build the subway system in New York City. The DeKalbs were so well known, I remember hearing, that a city was named after them in Illinois.

There are numerous cities and places named DeKalb in the U.S., all named for the Baron deKalb, Johann von Robaii, (1721-1780),  a German soldier who came over to America to assist the colonists in the revolution. DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn was named for the Revolutionary War hero.

Georgi cannot find any reference to anybody named Conrad DeKalb in American records.

I was also told that William McNally was one of fourteen children and that a pair of twin brothers were killed in a railroad accident (on their birthday!) Aunt Ann was told there were 18 McAnally or McNally children by two wives. Aunt Patty recalled that John and his second wife Mary Ann had ten children but only three lived to adulthood with four dying the same day from influenza.

The three who survived are Grandpa Will, his younger brother Patrick Edward (1885-1964), and an older brother Frank (whose dates might be late 1870s to 1964).

The Lehigh Valley Railroad

We find no references to John McNally or McAnally. An engineer on the Lehigh Valley Railroad named John McNally was killed in a terrible wreck on November 11, 1898. Stories appeared in newspapers around the country telling about the head-on collision between two trains in the mountains near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. But that John McNally lived in Pennsylvania and is probably not William's father.

So here are the questions:
Who is Great-Grandma Mary Ann? Was she a DeKalb?
Where did the name DeKalb come from? Who are our DeKalbs?
What happened to Great-Grandpa John McAnally or McNally?
What happened to the rest of those 14 or 18 McNally children?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bangs in the 1950s

If the upswept hairdo's of the 1940s were classically beautiful, the short bangs of the 1950s were a classic in another way. We are not related to First Lady and fashion trend setter Mamie Eisenhower, except by fashion.

Things are still cute in 1950 as in the picture above of Joan, Bill, (?) and Moe.

But by 1956 the mini-bang had arrived.
Joan, Bill, Barbara in the back.
Moe and Jane in front.

 Barbara, above in 1958; Jane to the left in 1957.

1954. The Brackmans. Can you tell our Dad cuts our hair?

This model in the Ladies' Home Journal in 1949 probably didn't get her hair cut by her dad. The look, however, is the same. It must have been more fashionable than I recall.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Valentine Children, about 1893

A cabinet card photo of the Valentines.
Left: Our Grandmother Anna, born 1885
The baby is John born 1892
Behind him: William, born 1883
And Elizabeth born 1888
The eldest Lewis, 3 years older than Anna, is not in the photograph.
The baby looks to be about a year old so the date must be about 1893.
Click on the photo for a larger version.

The original is in an oval frame so this is photoshopped around the edges to make a rectangle.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Robinsons

When the Bentleys and the Brackmans lived in Halesite the Robinsons lived in the house between us. Above: Ben as proud owner of his new house about 1950, complete with a cage for the children, which would come in handy.

The Robinsons became part of the extended family. Above Geoff Robinson, Joan Bentley, Barbara and Bill Brackman and Jerry Robinson at a summer birthday party.

Above, Aunt Betty Robinson on the right at this party. Is that seated woman Mrs. Harrison who lived across the street?

Chris Robinson is at the corner of the table.

Boys versus girls. Jerry, Bill and Geoff. Joan & Barbara.

Barbara, Geoff and Bill, maybe 1951.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Edna Mae Van Zandt McNally

Edna in 1983

Aunt Edna died earlier this month at the age of 84. She married Uncle Jack on November 25, 1950. This photo of him in 1949 with Aunt Peggy as Jane's godparents shows what a catch he was.

Edna was a catch herself. She was an outgoing woman who stood out in a family of outgoing people. In a recent email, her sister-in-law Aunt Ronnie said she'd been living with her daughter Lorraine in Huntington,

"enjoying her time at the Huntington Senior Citizen Center playing pool with all the guys. (Isn't that just like her?)"

 Edna Mae Rita Van Zandt was born in Brooklyn on June 30, 1925. Here is her obituary from Newsday.

McNALLY - Edna Mae, on November 8, 2009. Beloved wife of the late John "Jack" McNally. Predeceased by daughter Gloria. Loving mother of Lawrence, Lorraine Taylor, Daniel, Kenneth, Dolores Murray, Diane Piomelli and Theresa McNally. Cherished Nana of many grandchildren. Survived by brother George Van Zandt and sister Lillian Carnella.... Edna will join her husband and daughter at Long Island National Cemetery.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Polka Dots

Kay in Montauk 1945

Cele & Jane 1949

Kay & Cele 1954

Back: Kathy B.
Front: Mary Ann N., Leanne & Jill McN., Cece G.
About 1962

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Middle Names

William Henry Conrad DeKalb McNally
Anna Marie Collette Valentine McNally
These pictures were labeled by Ben as "about 1906" but we've all been told that's Anna on (or near) her wedding day, November 29, 1905. There are many copies of that photo in the family. Cece said she was shocked to see it in a magazine picture and then realized that the picture was of Jane's living room in an article on restored bungalows.
The bride and groom each had an impressive string of names. This may be the reason my mother Cecelia was given only one name at baptism. Her middle name Grace was her confirmation name, one she chose. I'm guessing most of her sisters and brothers were also given one baptismal name and their middle names were their confirmation names. My confirmation name is Agnes, the same as Aunt Vera's.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hair Do's

Cele in the 1940s with classic upswept hair.

The hair styles during the War years are the best. Everyone is wearing a lot of hair on top of their heads.

Ann, Dorothy and a friend about 1940.

Back row: Cele, Dorothy, Kathryn. Front row, Pat, Ben and Joan, 1944.

I found some funny photographs on the Library of Congress webpage in a group labeled "Safe Clothes for War Work" with hair-do suggestions.

Whether it was patriotic or practical or just a fad the look was quite popular.

Ben's sister Edie and her daughter Cecelia.

A baby shower for me with Ben and the women who worked for him at the phone company, summer, 1945.

Tommy, Patty and Bud, 1941

I remember that my mother in the 1950s still had hair rats (wire and net sausage-like forms) to roll her hair around to get that rolled effect. She also kept a hair saver, a fancy box with a hole in it in which she saved her own hair to make hair rats.
By the 1960s we ratted our hair by backcombing it and spraying it with hairspray to get a lot of height.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Aunt Vera

Veronica Agnes McNally December 27, 1909-May 13 1990

2009 is the 100th anniversary of Aunt Vera's birth. It's hard to believe she would be 100 years old in December.

Peggy 34, Lora 37, Cele 38, Vera 40 and Billie 41 in 1950

Vera was the third child of William and Anna McNally, born when Marie was almost 3 and sister Billie was 16 months old. Cele, Lora and Peggy came along soon after. The group of Billie, Vera, Cele, Lora and Peggy seemed to me to be a gang of five who spent a lot of time together.

Vera, Ben and Cele at a cabin at Eagle Bay in 1935

Cele and Vera in September, 1942 with a lot of guys at Finnegan's in Huntington. Finnegan's Pub, opened in 1913, is still in business. I have heard that the reason everybody left Queens to move to Huntington was to be closer to Finnegan's---and to the golf course there. I recall sitting at the bar drinking Shirley Temples and eating peanut butter sandwiches made from a jar kept behind the bar just for me (and maybe Joan and Pat).

Vera was my godmother and since she never married and had kids of her own, I always thought we had a special relationship in the huge McNally scheme of things. She shocked me when I was about 40 years old by telling me she was also godmother to Nancy Dorr. Up till then I believed I was an only child. I didn't even ask if there were any others.

As a single working woman, a social worker, she always appeared quite glamorous to me. And I wanted to be just like her, which I have indeed become, down to her acerbic tongue (my sister says I might have avoided that role model.)

I used to visit Vera in Queens when I was in my 30s and 40s and remember her watching the Mets games at night with a tumbler of scotch (I hope there was some mixer in there too.) She knew I liked corn toaster muffins, which you could not get in Kansas, so they were always there for breakfast.

Ann and Vera in 1976 at Vera's apartment. Below: Billie and Vera outside the apartment in June, 1978.

I vaguely recall that in the 1940s and 50s Vera ran around with Tom Berry, a friend of my father's from the phone company. Tom Berry was a good looking guy, but my mother told me he drank too much and that's why he and Vera never married. Neither ever married.

When I was young I heard that Tom Berry was from Wichita, a place he hated so much that when he flew across the country he took a route that went north or south so as to avoid visiting the old home town, even at 20,000 feet.
Tom Berry and Cele

I later had cause to spend a lot of time in Wichita and I often thought of Tom Berry.

Vera died when she was 81. She is buried at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Elizabeth Daly Valentine (1861-1951)

Elizabeth Daly Valentine, Christmas, 1946 when she was 85 years old.

Cousin Georgi has shared her genealogical research on our ancestors. Some of the elder cousins can remember our great-grandmother Elizabeth Daly Valentine who lived with her daughter Anna Valentine McNally when we were young.

Her baptismal records indicate she was baptized on July 6th, 1861 at the Church of St. Aidan, in Ferns, County Wexford, Ireland. Because Aunt Kay and I (Barbara) also had a July 6th birthday I was often reminded of the coincidence by my mother Cele. Whether Grandma Valentine was born or christened that day is unknown but that was the birthday we celebrated.

Elizabeth was one of nine children born to William Daly and Anne Daley Daly in County Wexford, Ireland. Like the rest of Ireland, the small medieval town of Ferns had a population explosion in the 1840s. Overpopulation, potato famine and other economic hardships caused ten percent of the townspeople to leave in the 1850s. The Dalys endured until 1872 when her father sailed for America with the older children. Elizabeth was 10 years old. About two and a half years later her mother and the younger children (Mary, Lizzie, Annie & Charles, according to the passenger list) arrived in New York aboard the SS City of Montreal on October 22, 1874. Lizzie was 13.

SS City of Montreal, launched in 1871 and sunk in 1887

William’s occupation was a cooper (barrel maker) according to the 1878 Brooklyn City Directory, which lists the family at 89 Canton Street, Brooklyn. That year his wife Annie died of peritonitis on November 2, 1878, when Lizzie was 17. Two sisters died of scarlet fever, Mary in 1879 at 22 years of age and Annie in 1885 at 21.

Two portraits of a cooper from the Library of Congress website.

At the time of her death Mary was listed as a “general servant,” a typical occupation for a young woman born in Ireland. The older sisters who never married, Bridget (1849-1934) and Margret “Maggie” (1852-1929), followed the same occupation, listed in records as housekeeper or housework. Bridget was also reputed to be a local midwife. Sometime between 1880 census and Annie’s 1885 death, the family moved down the block to 83 Canton Street.

One stereotypical view of an Irish maid in 1908 from the Library of Congress

By then Elizabeth had left home to marry John J. Valentine. Georgi believes they married about 1879 or 1880, a date based on her absence from her father’s household in the 1880 census and the birthdate of their first child Lewis J. Valentine, born on March 19th, 1882. John Valentine, our great-grandfather, was born in Mercer County, New Jersey, on October 21, 1854, so if they married in 1879 he was about 25; she about 18.

The Valentine children attended PS 26, the Gates Avenue School. This photo of the boys in 1899 may include a Valentine or two. Anna was about 14 years old and probably knew many of them.

Elizabeth and John had 5 children between 1882 and 1892. Their eldest, called Uncle Lew in the family, grew up to become Police Commissioner of New York City (see the blog entry dated September 26, 2009.) Their eldest girl was given the poetic name of Anna Marie Colette Valentine, born November 9, 1885 when her parents were 31 and 24 years old. John Valentine seems to have owned a retail fruit store when the young family lived on Troutman Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. He then became a "small commission merchant," according to Lew's biography and the Valentines moved to 142 Adelphi Street. John's business failed about 1898. Lew quit high school to work as a delivery boy at Abraham & Straus department store to help support the family. John's obituary also notes he worked at Abraham & Straus for the last decades of his life.

John Valentine died October 9, 1922 in Brooklyn at the age of 68. He and Elizabeth were living at 225 Adelphi Street with their daughter, Elizabeth "Bess" Valentine Curley, her husband, Frank, and their family in the 1920 census. Georgi also found her in the 1930 census, living next door at 223 with the Curleys and sister Bridget. Bess Curley died in 1940 and Frank Curley in 1946, so Georgi guesses that Elizabeth Daly Valentine didn't move in with our McNally grandparents until after the Curleys died in the 1940s.

Adelphi Street today. The brownstone in the middle #283 is for sale.

Elizabeth Daly Valentine died in Stewart Manor, Nassau County, on February 27, 1951 when she was 89 years old. She is buried at St John’s Cemetery, Middle Village, Queens.

Grandma Valentine (age 85) and William Brackman in March, 1947.