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.

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