Saturday, January 30, 2010

Aunt Lora

Loretta Theresa McNally was the 5th daughter of William and Anna McNally, born on May 17, 1913 in Brooklyn. She was William Brackman's godmother and here she is taking her duties seriously at his christening in early 1947 when she was 33. Dad's friend Tom Berry was godfather.

Vera, Cele and Laura at Cele's house in Cincinnati in February, 1953.
I wish I'd saved those Russell Wright dishes.
Cele was quite taken with the chartreuse and red color scheme and painted the dining room to match.

Lora didn't marry until she was 44 so she and Aunt Vera were a pair of independent women. I remember they had the freedom to take vacations and their lives seemed far more glamorous than my mother's who had three kids to raise.

Things got even more glamorous when Lora married Jim Lynch on July 7, 1957. What a good looking guy he was! They never had kids so, like Vera, she seemed a special aunt who found her nieces and nephews somewhat entertaining.

Engagement Party 1957

Wedding July 7, 1957

She died June 8, 1971, at the age of 58--- of kidney failure, as I recall. I am guessing she took the confirmation name Theresa after her Aunt Theresa, Uncle Lew's wife Theresa Donohue Valentine.

Lew and Theresa Valentine in 1934

Saturday, January 23, 2010

John J. Valentine 1855 – 1922

The Pennsylvania/New Jersey border defined by the Delaware River

John J. Valentine was born October 21, 1855,  in Mercer County, New Jersey. His parents were recent immigrants from Strasbourg in the Alsace district of France. Louis Valentine and Magdoline (Lena) Droesch Valentine immigrated some time between 1853 when their third child Mary was born in Alsace and the fall of 1855 when John was born in New Jersey.

Mercer County, New Jersey

At the time of John's birth Mary was about 2, brother Louis, Jr. was about 5 and Magdelin the eldest was about 7 years old. Eighteen months after John's birth, Elizabeth arrived. Both John and Elizabeth were born in the township of Lawrence in Mercer County, situated across the Delaware River from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Lawrence was a rural town between Princeton and Trenton, Mercer County's major city. John's obituary gave his birthplace as Trenton.

Sometime between Elizabeth's birth in the spring of 1857 and the mid-1860 census, the Valentines moved a few miles north to Hunterdon County where their last child Catherine was born at the end of 1860.The census found them in the small town of Ringoes in East Amwell Township. An 1844 book on New Jersey described "the village of Ringoes, in a delightful valley [containing] about 20 dwellings."

Ringoes in 1918, about 70 years after the Valentines lived there.

John's obituary mentioned that he had lived in Brooklyn for 67 years in 1922, implying the Valentines moved to New York about 1855, which does not mesh with the census or Catherine's birth information, both indicating they left New Jersey after 1860. The 1870 census lists them in Brooklyn with Louis Sr. working as a house carpenter and the younger Magdelin, Louis Jr. and Mary working as tailors and tailoresses.

Brooklyn in the 1870s

Louis died sometime between that census count and 1872 when the Brooklyn City Directory listed Lena Valentine as a widow, living at 263 Floyd. Five years later Lena was living at 15 George.

We haven't a wedding date for John but Georgi Dorr guesses he married Elizabeth Daly about 1880 or 1881. Elizabeth and John had 5 children between 1882 and 1892, among them our Grandmother Anna Valentine McNally. Georgi writes:

"John had a variety of occupations: he ran a produce store until it folded about 1899, was a watchman in a dry goods store[Abraham & Straus] according to the 1920 census, and a foreman at a stable according to his death certificate."

Turn-of-the-last-century economics were as volatile as those in our time.

The Valentines look prosperous in this photograph of the younger children about 1893. The produce business was probably good in the early 1890s when unemployment was 3% in 1892, but in 1897 when the Panic of 1897 hit, 12 to 14% were out of work. Lewis dropped out of high school to work at Abraham & Straus around 1898 as the recovery began but unemployment was still at 12%.

The Panic of 1897 was almost as bad as the 1933 depression. Causes were a housing bubble, poor banking practices, which led to a freeze on credit and bank failures (long before bank accounts were insured.)

Near the corner of Myrtle and Adelphi in the 1940s from the New York Public Library

Near the corner of Adelphi and Myrtle today.
The lower floors have been turned into store fronts
but the upper stories remain much the same as when the
Valentines lived in the neighborhood.

John died in 1922 at the age of 67. They were residing at 271 Clermont Ave, Brooklyn. Georgi writes: "He died, however, not at his Clermont Ave home where the medical examiner viewed his body, but at a neighborhood store at 331 Myrtle Ave."

A store front at 370 Myrtle today

An obituary from
John J. Valentine, Sr., for twenty-one years employed by Abraham & Straus, Inc., Fulton street, as a night foreman, died suddenly yesterday at his home 271 Clermont avenue. He was born in Trenton, N.J., sixty seven years ago, and had been a resident of Brooklyn for sixty-two years. He was a member of the A&S Benevolent Association and the Holy Name Society attached to the R.C. Church of the Queens All Saints, where a requiem mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. on Thursday. He is survived by a widow, Elizabeth Daley VALENTINE; three sons, Lewis J., a Lieutenant attached to the Eleventh Inspection District, New York Police Department. William M., and John J. Jr., and two daughters, Mrs Anna MCNALLY and Mrs. Elizabeth CURLEY, and twenty-nine grandchildren.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Bens' sister Edie in hat and outfit 1927

Anna and Aunt Patty in 1945
Going to church one would guess.

Jane about 1952

Pat Bentley, Cele, Barbara and Aunt Ann Dorr
(too bad her hat is cropped out---you know she was wearing one)

Ben's friend Tom Berry and Ben in the top row at the beach with three unidentified hunks---all in headcoverings, in the 1930s.

Cele in 1945

And the most impressive photo in the family album.
Grandma in November 1945 with top hat, cigarette and a bottle of whiskey.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lewis Valentine's Swearing In

A November 11th blog posting at the New York Times featured this photograph of Lewis J. Valentine's swearing-in as Police Commissioner of New York in 1934. The woman sitting behind Fiorello LaGuardia is our Great-Grandmother Elizabeth Daly Valentine. The younger people are Uncle Lew's daughters, their husbands and grandchildren. His wife Theresa is hiding behind LaGuardia. One of the next generation has identified her grandfather in-law Charles Locke (married to Lew's eldest daughter Elizabeth) as the man holding a child on the left.

Elizabeth is 73 in the photo.

A newspaper description from 1934:
"Wearing civilian clothes at nine in the morning of the 26th Valentine reported with his wife, 4 daughters, three of his grandchildren, and his proud mother to City Hall to be sworn in as the police commissioner by a beaming mayor."

Here are a few more 1935 photos of Lewis Valentine from the posting.

Read A.G. Sulzberger's article about him by clicking here:

Here's an article about him from the Daily News

Friday, January 1, 2010

100 Years Ago in Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Bridge. All the photos are from the Library of Congress collection.

Although we have no family photographs from 1910, we can get a snapshot of our Valentine and McNally family in 1910 by looking at the 1910 census and family records.

On New Year's Day 1910 William and Anna McNally had been married for about 5 years and were living at 163 Adelphi Street in Brooklyn. Anna was 25 and her husband was 30.  (Note that the census lists incorrect ages of 24 and 28. Eldest daughter Marie is listed as 8, five years off.)

I found this tiny picture of the house with the address 163 Adelphi Street today.

Their family of young girls was then relatively small and very young. Marie was 3 in January, Elizabeth (Billie) would be two in August and Veronica was 4 days old on New Year's Day. By the end of the year Anna was pregnant again with Cecelia. My sister and I always try to imagine how Anna managed so many children so close together.

She undoubtedly received help from her extended family. Her mother Elizabeth Daly Valentine was living with the McNallys when the census taker arrived on April 18th. Elizabeth, 48 years old, and two of Anna's siblings Bess Valentine (22 years old) and John Valentine, Jr. (17) made a family of eight living at that address. The whereabouts of Anna's father John Valentine Sr. are not apparent in the census, althought the 1920 census found him again counted with his wife.

Will's younger brother Patrick, a house painter, and his wife Mary Elizabeth lived nearby at 93 Adelphi.  Anna's brother William Valentine, a plumber, and his wife Cecelia Donohue Valentine are also listed on the previous page of the census, indicating they lived closeby at 370 Myrtle Avenue.

Knowing the McNallys later we can imagine the young couples enjoyed each other's company and many good times together.

Grandpa, known as Mack at the Fire Department, had been working there for about nine months in Hook and Ladder Co 53. This photo is of an engine wagon about 1910.

Grandma's brother Lew Valentine at 27 years old was a patrolman with the New York Police Department. (The photo shows a NYC traffic policeman in 1911.) Lewis Valentine lived nearby at 211 Clermont avenue with his wife Elizabeth Josephine Donohue Valentine and their 4 young children. Across the street at 210 Clermont lived her mother Mary A. O'Donnell,  a brother Edward, also a policeman, two sisters Theresa and Jennie Donohue and her half-brother Francis O'Donnell. Theresa at 31 and Jennie at 26, single women, were employed in a book bindery, Theresa as a "paster," and Jennie as a "gold layer."

Lew's wife Elizabeth would die in August, 1910 at about 27. Lew would marry his sister-in-law Theresa Donohue about four years later.

I wonder if Cecelia Donohue, who married William Valentine, was related to Elizabeth and Theresa Donohue who married his older brother Lewis Valentine.

Although the working people of Brooklyn lived in a functional neighborhood of extended families, society viewed the multi-family apartments and row houses of Brooklyn as undesirable crowding. Reformers believed that ethnic communities included too many family members per housing unit, an attitude reflected in the photograph of row house yards in Manhattan, taken about 1910. The plumbing and the sanitation undoubtedly left something to be desired but it couldn't have been all bad.

Brooklyn children on a fresh air outing about 1910.

The neighborhood of Adelphi Street included many Irish families---the Kellys, Quinlans and Walshes. Some of the older people had been born in Ireland but most of the young adults were American-born. Irish was the predominant ethnic background in a community of mixed origins. Nearby lived the German-born Willenbocks,  the Feinbergs who were Russian-born Jews, the Norwegian Edlers and the Hungarian Bonyoys. Many of the neighbors took in boarders or lodgers and I only noticed one with a live-in servant, an indication of the economic status on Adelphi Street in 1910.