Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Remodeling is not a new idea: Toon house, The Green, Syston


If you thought remodelling houses and homes is a new thing, think again.

This is an early photo of the Toon's house on the Green, Syston, probably long before Fred Toon bought it. Compare with the photo at the bottom (or whereever on the page Francis Friths' embed code decides to put it... don't ask), taken about 1960:

By 1960, the buiding contained three home and two businesses: Fred Toon's painting and decorating business on the left, Mrs Payne's home on the far right, and the opticians where I was fitted for my first glasses, aged about five years old, to the right of the center. The middle chimney has disappeared, and a new one has been added. The small, leaded window panes have been replaced with plain glass sash windows, and the shutters have gone. The central, grand front door has disappeared. Now I want to go back in time and see the house as it was, before all this remodelling was done. Who lived there? What did they do? Who took the house and divided it? Was that a tradesmans' entrance on the far left, or was it a separate home? Or... even earlier, was it four homes? Because that makes sense, too, structually, from my memories of grandad's half of the building.

How many times can you remodel a home?

So many questions... and still no time machine.

Much thanks to Ray Young, Syston, and the Syston Town History Society for sharing the top photo. It's from a Victorian "carte de visite", and was part of my uncle, George Toon's, collection.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Toons, Long Island, Air Shows... (part five)

A Long Island, NY beach, this one near Mastic Beach, east from where
Maurice and his family lived
Continuing the story of how Maurice Toon ended up on New York's Long Island. Read (part one) here(part two) here, (part three) here, and (part four) here.

Maurice Joseph Toon, son of Alfred and Mary nee McNamee, was inducted into the army on 17th July, 1918, when he was living on W. Dauphin Street in Philadelphia. He travelled to the war zone overseas on about 15th September, 1918. Maurice served first in the 59th Pioneer Infantry, and then the 330 HQ Service Battalion. He was promoted to sergeant almost immediately after joining up, on 9th August, 1918.

Maurice served during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, 18 October to 11 November 1918, the largest and bloodiest operation for the US military during the First World War. Commanded by General John J. Pershing, the offensive was part of a series of Allied attacks, which eventually brought the war to an end. During the Meuse-Argonne offensive, an estimated 28,000 Germans and more than 26,000 Americans lost their lives. Our Maurice came home, in one piece, with no known injuries. He was honorably discharged, as Sergeant QMC, at Camp Dix, New Jersey, on 27th September, 1919.

Maurice married Marjorie nee Carman, sometime between 1925 and 1930. In 1925, Marjorie was still living at home with her parents: Joseph Carman born 1874, a carpenter, and Abbey nee Brower, a housewife. In 1930, Maurice and Marjorie's first child, a daughter named Joan Toon, arrived. Two more daughters followed: Vivian Ilene Toon in 1931, and Margaret Toon in 1938. 

When Maurice married Marjorie, he connected two old English families; his own Toons, who arrived in Philadelphia through his grandad, Alfred, and the Carmans, who migrated to the Americas much earlier--the first known migrant, a John Carman, arriving in Massachusetts 1631 and eventually buying land on Long Island in 1643. Much of the Carman family lived in Queens, NY, close to the water; indeed, their trades are often listed as "Bayman" on the New York censuses, or other trades related to fishing and boats. There's a huge, huge history worthy of another story or ten on the Carman side: here's a potted history that makes a very interesting read!  I suspect that the town of Hempstead is paved with Carman memories, and the cemetery is full of the name.


Grand Union flag, flying at Manor St George, Shirley, NY
Finding out about the Carmans reminded me of how English Long Island was, once upon a time. Close to where I lived in Mastic Beach, in Shirley, NY, there's Manor St. George, a testament to the British presence on the island, way back... and very close to a waterway that is now called Carman River!  (There are no coincidences.) 

Now a museum, the manor has been preserved and is now a museum, open from May to October. It's worth a visit... and it's where I first saw the Grand Union flag flying and adopted it as my own.

Well worth a visit if you are in the area!


Maurice and Marjorie lived with their family in Hempstead, NY.  in 1930, Maurice had returned to his pre-war trade of newspaper and magazine sales; in 1940, he was a supplies clerk. But in 1942, on his World War Two draft registration card--and this is what I saw when I'd been thinking about the air show, in part one of the story--Maurice is working for a company not far from home, in Bethpage, NY. The company's name, Grumman.

In 1942, at the age of 46, Maurice was 5' 5" tall, blue eyed with brown hair, and weighed 141 pounds. His complexion was described as "ruddy", and he had no other unique physical characteristics that the military recruiter thought worth noting. I have found no record of active service during this war; either the records have not yet been made public, or Maurice wasn't required to join the fight.


Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye
Grumman E-2 Hawkeye, in action much later than the Second World War,
seen at the 2016 California Capital Airshow
So what does this have to do with an airshow?

Grumman... they made military, and civilian, aircraft. In 1942, they were most likely preparing planes for war; maybe Maurice had gone to work there, to help the war effort. They made cats: the F4F Wildcat and the F6F Hellcat, the F7F Tigercat and the F8F Bearcat. The Wildcat and the Hellcat were used by the US Navy.  

Maurice passed away on 28th March, 1955. He's buried in the Long Island military cemetery, Farmingdale, along with Marjorie, his wife, and daughter Vivian.

I don't know what made me look at Maurice's history, after reading about this year's California Capital Airshow. (There are no coincidences.) Maybe the back-of-my-mind had noticed the detail about Grumman and stored it away for a rainy day, without noticing, and automatically pushed it into my active brain, remembering the Grumman planes I saw at the air show last year.

Who knows? It's all relative(s)!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Toons, Long Island, air shows... (part four)



Continuing the story of how Maurice Toon ended up on New York's Long Island. Read (part one) here, (part two) here, and (part three) here.

One of Alfred (1832-1903) and Anna's children was another Alfred, born about 1867 in Philadelphia, PA, USA. The family moved out of the city to Sellersville, Bucks, but by the time he was 26, if not sooner, young Alfred was back in the city, working as a "hack"--hackney cab or taxi driver. The video above shows a collection of photos of the city as it was then: still many horses, very few cars. Did Alfred first work with horses, and later with motor cars?

In 1893, Alfred married a young lady from Ireland, Mary McNamee. I've not yet been able to trace Mary's family; there were at least three Mary McNamees arriving from Ireland, or via Scotland, in the years that precede the marriage, at least two of which have mothers with the relatively-unusual name of Isabella. (Maybe they are the same Isabella and I haven't yet been able to disentangle all the threads.) The McNamee thread definitely needs more research on my part. 

There was a large community of Irish families in Philadelphia at this time, following the exodus of people during the Great Famine of 1845-1852, when 20-25% of Ireland's population either died, or emigrated. There are no records for Philadelphia from the 1890 US census--they were lost in a fire--but in 1880, there were at least 319  people with the surname, McNamee, with either Irish, or Scots, origins, living in Philadelphia.

In 1890, Alfred and Mary have a home on Mole Street in Philadelphia, and the census says that they have one child, a daughter called Marie, who was born in February, 1896. However, I believe this is a census error, as the next census--1910--has the family still with just one child, a son, Maurice Toon, also born in February, 1896. So... either Maurice and Marie were twins and someone else was looking after four-year-old Maurice in 1900, and Marie was elsewhere in 1910, or the 1900 census contains an error. I have not been able to track down a Marie anywhere else in the records, so my assumption is that there is an error, and that Maurice was an only child.

In 1910, our family of three were living in a home on North Mole Street, Philadelphia, most likely in one of the terraced (row) houses that survive to this day. Mary Toon nee McNamee died at 2253 N. Mole Street, in 1916, aged 46, from atrophic cirrhosis of the liver, when Maurice was 20 years old.


Maurice Joseph Toon's WW1 Draft Registration

Alfred Toon, Maurice's dad, spent his whole life working with transport of some sort. He was likely too old to be drafted for the First World War; far too young for the civil war.

In 1920, Alfred was a garage foreman, while Maurice, aged 23, was working in the world of newspapers as a manager. Alfred and Maurice were living together as boarders in a home shared by several small families.

Alfred Toon passed away in Philadelphia on 16th August, 1931. I don't know the cause of death: his death certificate says, "inquest pending", but so far I have not found any information about the inquest.

But by then, Maurice had already been drafted for the first World War, and after the war had married and settled on Long Island.

The final part of this story comes next! Long Island awaits.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Toons, Long Island, airshows, (part three). This it the American Civil War bit...

118th Regiment at Camp Union, August 1862
Image from the archive of the City of Philadelphia
Continuing the story of how Maurice Toon ended up on New York's Long Island. Read (part one) here, and (part two) here.

Alfred Toon arrived in Philadelphia in 1851, and in 1854, married Anna Strowhauer (born 1836 in Pennsylvania). They lived in Philadelphia until at least 1870; in 1860, they were living somewhere in Philadelphia's 19th ward, an area bounded by Lehigh Avenue to the north, Germantown Avenue and 6th Street to the west, Oxford Street and Frankford Avenue to the south, and the Aramingo Canal to the east: the area around Norris Square. There's a good map of the area here, from a little later, in 1874. Click into any of the sections to see details of the streets, to get an idea of how the streets were; streets and streets of Philadelphia's row (terraced) houses, all new. Norris Square itself was designed in 1859. Another example: Rocky's house was 1818 East Tusculum Street, Philadelphia, though I believe Rocky's house was built a few decades later.

Alfred became a US Citizen on 26th September, 1860, four years after signing a declaration of intent (you had to sign the declaration before you could apply for citizenship until 1952). But... the very next year saw the start of the American Civil War.

Alfred and Anna's daughter Selina was born on Christmas Day, 1859, and their second daughter, Lizzie, arrived on 5 Feb 1862. But it wasn't long before Alfred had to go off to war, leaving the young family behind.

Alfred Toon joined the Union Pennsylvania Volunteers, 118th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry, on 7th August, 1862. He served as a Private for his time in the military; I don't know exactly where Alfred fought, and haven't yet confirmed when he left the military, but this page lists the places where the 118th was. Antietam, Shepherdstown, Fredricksburg... Gettysburg, and more. The regiment lost a total of 253 men and officers during the war: half to battle injuries, half to disease. Which gives an idea of the kind of situations they were living in.

Our Alfred, he made it home (or there wouldn't be a Maurice-on-Long-Island to talk about). He and Anna had at least four more children: a little Alfred, in 1867, followed by Harry, Maria, and William. In 1872, the family moved to Sellersville, Bucks, Pennsylvania and Alfred had started his hosiery business: in 1880, they were living on Main Street, Sellersville, with Alfred running a "woollen jacket" factory.

Alfred (I wonder if they called him Alf?) died in 1903, aged 71. He is buried in the Sellersville Cemetery, a Civil War Veteran star next to his grave. Anna joined him there, in 1906.

 Maurice? His story is coming next, in part three: son and grandson of an Alfred!

Toons, Long Island, airshows... (part two)

(Bath Street is the street with the white, thatched cottage, leading off the Green. Photo from the Francis Frith Collection.)

Continuing the story of how Maurice Toon ended up on New York's Long Island. Read (part one) here.

It can be very difficult to be sure that you are connecting the right people, the right families, when they travel overseas from their original homes. I have extended-family members in Canada, Australia, South Africa, and the USA, and every time it's been a struggle to connect the dots, validate the connections, and be 100% certain that the connection is correct. It's easier when there's a living person to compare notes with, or family stories about an ancestor who went to New Zealand, for example, but in most cases, you're struggling with incomplete data from a hundred or two hundred years ago. Plus, if you're using an online service to research and manage your tree, you're also inundated with automated "hints" from other people's research, who have researched their own ancestry, and who have often jumped to some bizzare, and incorrect, conclusions.

Why is it so difficult? Let me count the ways.
  • Passenger lists do not always include first names, though they often include ages. They may not name children, just the number of them. Wives' first names may not be given, nor initials.
  • Passenger lists do not often give the previous home town. So a boat travelling from Liverpool, England, carrying a family from Nottingham, only says the boat left Liverpool.
  • Not all destination countries have records available for searching, especially not online.
  • People sometimes changed their names on settling in a new country. However, the stories about names being changed on arrival at Ellis Island in the USA have been proven false. Here is an excellent article from the New York Public Library about that.
  • The port of entry into a new country was just the starting point. Finding the travelling family member after that is an interesting challenge. Canada and the USA are good examples: entry points were on the east coast, but settlers often travelled much further.
  • Censuses in the destination country tell you a person's place of birth, but it's usually restricted to the name of the country, not a state or a county or a town or a village. Sometimes it's completely wrong. I've seen Ireland instead of Scotland, England instead of Wales, and often the plain error of stating that an immigrant was born locally.
  • A father, son, or other (usually male) family member may make the journey before, or separately from, the rest of the family, to find a job and a home before everyone else came to join them. So you can't see a complete family group on a passenger manifest.
  • Different places in the same country have different rules about what data can, and cannot, be disclosed. Good examples are US states and Canadian provinces: it can be difficult to confirm hunches.
  • People have always been human: sometimes they tell lies to officials.Example: lying about age, to join the military, or charm a sweetheart. Giving a false name, to avoid someone or something. In my next lifetime, I will be a detective.
  • Not all journeys are documented. Those that are--such as passenger boat manifests--are not all (yet) available online.
  • Other people's research, when they are not familiar with a location. Someone living in a country where distances are huge, for example, might not realise just how illogical it would be for a family of agricultural labourers in Kent, England, to have baptised one child in York or Manchester. If your traveller was a John Smith or a Mary Jones, beware of illogical connections in someone else's research!
Helpful things to look out for:
  • Single passengers travelling together. They might not be listed on the passenger manifest as a group or a family, but sequentially on the manifest: are there any relatives or neighbours just before, or after, your traveller?
  • Families travelling together: is everyone the right gender and/or age to fit your traveller's family?
  • Death certificates. If your dude passed away in Philadelphia, you won! You have a gold mine of information; mother and father, exact birth date, mother's maiden name if someone was able to remember it all.. lots of info.
  • Gravestones, which may confirm a family relationship (husband and wife, children).
  • Occupations, which may have been the key to someone emigrating in the first place.
  • Other people researching the same family from the other side--the descendants of your traveller. Check what these researchers have found, see if it matches your research. Double and triple check. Be careful! It's way too easy to jump to the wrong conclusion when tracing your ancestors back to the homeland... excitement trumps logic.
  • Unusual family names. I have a set of men called James, middle name Ace, that helped with one very difficult connection. How likely was it that two unrelated families would each call a son, "James Ace"? (More on that one when we get to the Heal/Hale family stories.)
So how can I be sure that our Alfred Toon is the same guy, on both sides of the Atlantic?

I cannot be 100%, unequivocably certain, that the Alfred Toon, born in Syston, Leicestershire, and baptised early in  January, 1893, is the same Alfred Toon who died in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, USA.

But I can say that it's proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they are one and the same:
  • Alfred Toon, passenger on the Tonawanda, matches in age with the Alfred Toon in the 1851 censuses. He is travelling on the same boat, and listed on the manifest next to, William Hartopp. Hartopp is 31 years old. Both men are listed as weavers--part of the hosiery trade. (There are at least two William Hartopps, born in Thurmaston, and another born in Barkby, of the right age to be the one travelling with Alfred and likely to be related to Ann: I have not yet connected these dots. Will update this when I have.)
  • There is no further sighting of Alfred Toon in the UK censuses after 1851, nor any record of his marriage or death in the UK.
  • The 1860 USA census for Alfred Toon in the USA shows an age that matches, birth place England, occupation weaver.
  • Burial record in Philadelphia names Alfred's father as William, and gives Alfred's birth date, which matches Alfred born in Syston.
  • While Alfred's children's names are not unusual for the time--Selina, Elizabeth, Alfred, Harry, Maria, William--they very much resemble other families in the Syston Toons.
  • A book, the History of Bucks County, published in Pennsylvania, edited by J. H. Battle and published in 1887, says "ALFRED TOON, manufacturer, P.O. Sellersville, was born in England in 1831, and is a son of William Toon. Alfred Toon learned his trade in England, his father having also been a manufacturer of hosiery. He commenced the manufacture of knit goods in Bucks county in 1872, and has since carried on this work. His goods are shipped throughout the United States, wholesale and retail. He employs ten hands in his business, principally girls."  This does not prove Alfred is from Syston, but it does confirm his father's name, and the family trade: hosiery.
So, I'm as sure as I can be that the USA Alfred = Syston Alfred.

Don't you love how Alfred's father, William, and his framework knitting machine, probably housed in the family's cottage in Bath Street, Syston, or somewhere close by, became an important-sounding "manufacturer of hosiery" on the other side of the ocean? 

I hope this helps explain the logic of tracing a family member across an ocean. Alfred was relatively-easy. I have others where "not so" applies.

But there's more to this story, about Alfred's adventures, before we get to Maurice on Long Island. Part three is coming soon!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Toons, Long Island, airshows... (part one)

Maurice Toon's Toon ancestors
There are coincidences, and there are... coincidences?

I was just looking at the website for California Capital Airshow, which happens here in Sacramento, September 9th and 10th, planning a visit for this year (last year's was fun), which then made me think about Spitfires and their unique sound, and then somehow thoughts went to boats, and a picture that I'd asked permission to reproduce here on this page... and then to the reason why I wanted permission to use the picture. Which was to tell this story.

I lived for several years on New York's Long Island, on the south shore, in a little place called Mastic Beach, Suffolk County. With one or another of my kids, we often made road trips to explore the island; up to the end (Montauk), to the tip of the north fork, to the Sound, to haunted houses and pumpkin farms and to the beautiful beaches. Many times we stopped to explore the cemeteries. We visited the military cemetery at Calverton, with its rows and rows of white stones, but never visited the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, NY. If I had known that a cousin Toon was there, albeit 3rd and once removed, I'd have been there in a moment.

Maurice Joseph Toon, born on 28th February, 1896, in Philadelphia, PA USA, died on 28th March, 1955, and was buried in the military cemetery in Farmingdale on March 31st. If you are ever there, please stop by plot 5842 and thank him for his service. He was in the USA military during the first world war, serving from July 1918 until September, 1919. He and his wife, Marjorie nee Carman, were living in Oceanside, NY at the time of Maurice's death; not far from the ocean beaches, and close to Maurice's place of work in Baldwin. I'll come back to that. There are no coincidences.

How did a Toon end up on the city end of Long Island, New York? It's a long way from Syston, Leicestershire... but that's where the story begins.

Alfred Toon, born early 1832, in Syston, Leicester, was my first cousin, three times removed. He was the brother of Frederick Toon (born 1830), whose story is here. son of William Toon (born 1803) and of Ann Toon nee Hartopp (born 1805), and also a nephew of Elizabeth Toon.

In March, 1951, Alfred was nineteen, living at home in Bath Street, Syston, with his widowed mother and brothers Marshall, Frederick and David, his sister Selina, and a "nursling"--a foster sister--Emily Goode, four years old. Alfred and David were framesmiths, working on the knitting frames. Older brother Frederick was a framework knitter; Marshall, a needle maker, no doubt the needles used in the knitting frames. Their mother Ann, according to the 1851 census, was a "mender of socks" (as well as mother and foster-mother and housekeeper and everything else she had to do). So Alfred had experience of various parts of hosiery manufacture at an early age. But at the beginning of August, just five months later, Alfred was in Liverpool--boarding a boat for the Americas!

This is the boat. It's the old packet ship, Tonawanda (the one on the right). It would have taken about six weeks to cross the Atlantic, with good weather; longer if the weather wasn't helping. This picture was painted in watercolour by David Johnson Kennedy (1816-1898), and is shared here with kind permission of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The Tonawanda sailed from Liverpool to Pennsylvania, USA, arriving on 18th September, 1851. Alfred was passenger 7 of 549, which seems like a lot of passengers (the Historical Society of Pennsylvania notes that the Tonawanda carried cargo, and about 200 passengers, when it was painted).



Crossing the ocean on the Tonawanda in his 20th year. That's a brave young man. What made him get up and go? Was it the first time he saw the sea? Passenger 8 on the passenger list is a William Hartopp, aged 31... was he Alfred's uncle? I don't know... more digging to do.

That's installment one... more to come in part two!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Family history and those old, unnamed photographs... I kicked the habit

Unknown gentleman and infant, Nottinghamshire maybe, England
Somewhere at the intersection of being a photographer, and a family historian, is the dangerous "hobby" of rescuing other people's discarded photos. You'll find them on eBay, in albums and alone; in antique shops, junk stores, postcard dealers' collections, second-hand bookstores... all over the place. They are mostly nameless people; at best, there's a scribbled first name on the back, or a date, of the photographer's mark.

You have to realise that you'll go bankrupt before you reunite any of these photos with any long-lost great-grandchildren. They might have been the ones to let the photos go in the first place.

I eventually sold my collection, for less than I'd paid for it, to an antique dealer. But I kept one album. And I still have to be very careful about what I look for on eBay!

The gentleman above is why I kept that one album. Dressed in his Sunday best: polished, laced-up boots, woollen trousers, a beautifully-white shirt, a jacket and matching waistcoat, a bow tie and a brushed felt cap. His beard is groomed, and he proudly holds a baby who wears a bonnet and pressed, clean and bright layers of cotton. They are sitting in the grass, the man staring intently at the lens. I think his eyes are blue.

But who is he? I haven't a clue!

There's no name on the photo, not even the stamp of a photographer's studio. I can't say who is the copyright holder... though it's over one hundred years old. I'd love to know who the photographer was. He or she captured this man's expression so beautifully.

The other photos in the album come from photographers studios in Nottingham, England, with at least one being taken in Sheffield. One photographer was E. P. Short; another, G. Caldwell. I don't know if they took the photo of this gentleman.

If you know who he is, please let me know. Because I have a whole family photo album to go with this; the men, women and children in this lovely man's life.

(This man... his face, his eyes, part of the inspiration for my fiction novel, Jo and the Old Man of the Sea.)