Thursday, July 15, 2010

John Joseph Smith

My father's father's father was born in
County Leitrim, Ireland on 26 May, 1864. His parents were Patrick and Catherine (Gookin or Guckin) Smith. I learned his parents' names from his Social Security application from 1943, but more about that later. He already had two sisters and one more was born in 1867. My dad's cousin Neil remembers hearing that Patrick was killed in a mining accident and that's why Catherine took the children and came to Boston. It appears from the passenger lists that they went first to Liverpool.

The document above was handed to my dad from one of the "aunts" (how we referred to John's daughters) at the funeral of one of the other aunts. She asked my dad if I was still working on the family tree and asked him if he thought this scrap of paper would be helpful to me.

As I'm writing this, the process is gelling ideas in my head of new avenues for research! For example, I should check to see what years they may have been in Liverpool against the British census records to see if I can find them there. I should also search for Patrick's death between the year Bridget (the youngest sister) was born and the year he arrived in Boston. So, not a bad idea to be a family history blogger!

Below is the Batavia, the ship on which John sailed alone as a 16-year old boy in 1881 from Liverpool to Boston.

When John arrived in Boston, he lived in Avon, which is just outside Brockton. At the time, the Brockton area of Massachusetts was a huge shoemaking center (think Bostonian shoe, which has since been bought by a British firm and moved out of state). I don't know if John learned his trade in Ireland, Liverpool or not until he came to the U.S.
About the same time I was searching for information about John Smith, I had applied for my own Social Security account. Because I was an Army brat born in Germany in the Stadtkrankenhaus, my birth certificate says "Gebertsekunde" across the top. What a time I had trying to get an account with that birth certificate! That set me to thinking - what about John? I knew he had an account from his death certificate. What process did he have to go through to get one? All of the angels of family history must have been setting things in motion, because I was living in the same district where John was living, plus this was before the time the SSA realized that making copies of applications for genealogists was a financial gold mine. I was also amazing that John actually applied for an account!

His application was dated 1943, when he was 79 years old. Not long after I located the application, I was at a Smith family gathering and wondering aloud for what reason John would have to apply for an account. One of my cousins, I think it was Neil again, said that it was the U.S. Army who brought him out of retirement to make boots for officers, because he was one of the few remaining shoe workers who knew how to make good, durable boots by hand.

In 1888, he became a naturalized American citizen, and from the information he gave during that process, I was able to find his passenger list.

He married Catherine Beggins in 1893
and they had 10 children (see my 14
Jul blog for the children). The house in the photo on the right is the home where they lived for most of their lives as a family.

When I was going through the standard "getting over the brick wall" checklist, I asked his youngest daughter if he left a will. Her response startled me - she laughed outloud! No, she told me, he drank every nickel he ever learned. She told me she was amazed that her mother was ever able to feed them all. Most of the children got jobs at very young ages.

He died in 1949 of a pulmonary embolism and is interred in St. James Cemetery in Whitman, Massachusetts.

No comments:

Post a Comment