Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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!

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