Part-time P.I.

I like to think of myself as a part-time private investigator. I spend hours researching and digging in to people’s lives. It just so happens that the people I investigate are dead. But being an armchair investigator is fun even if it isn’t as cool as Sam Spade or Magnum P.I.’s mustache.

Recently I became obsessed with trying to find Elizabeth Floyd’s father. Elizabeth is my 5x great grandmother and was married to George Foulk. She was born 13 Sep 1781, likely in Monongalia, WV and died 16 Mar 1868 in Mercer, PA. Much of this information was taken from Millie Covey Fry’s great compendium website on the Foulk/Volck family. There is no information on who her father or mother were. In some family trees on, I saw lots of talk about a William Floyd being her father and having been born in England died during the Revolutionary War. There were many that listed her mother as being named Cynthia, but with no other information. I could never prove that William Floyd was Elizabeth’s mother. No documentation at all.

But as I kept rereading Millie Covey Fry’s website, I saw all the excerpts about the Floyd family and their legal transactions with the Foulks in Monongalia, WV (then part of VA.) Pieces started to fall in to place. 

George Foulk was born 1774 in Frederick County, VA to Jacob and Margaret Foulk. Before the turn of the 19th C., George is living in Monongalia, along with the rest of the Foulk clan, especially his father Jacob. 

on 6 Jan 1798, James and Mary Matheny sold land on Cheat River to Henry Floyd. Jacob Foulk was witness

On 9 Mar 1804, John Floyd (of Fayette Co. PA) was sold 11 1/2 acres on Pharoah’s Run by Christopher and Mary Erwin. This as part of 90 acre tract of land sold by Charles Snodgrass to Jacob Foulk. 
In Sep 1807, Jacob Foulk and his wife Margaret, sold 78 acres (adjoining Charles and William Snodgrass) to Thomas Floyd.
7 Oct 1809, Thomas and Drusillah Floyd sold 32 1/2 acres on Phraroah’s Run to John Snodgrass. Part of tract conveyed to Floyd by Jacob Foulk.
29 Dec 1817, George and Elizabeth Foulk (of Trumbull, OH) sell Michael Floyd 114 1/2 acres (for $400) in Monongalia County, VA on Pharaoh’s Run. “It being a part of two tracts conveyed to John Floyd and from him to the above named Elizabeth Foulk,”
And, in reiteration of the above information, another book quotes the transaction as such, “1817- 114+ acres in two tracts from George Foulk  and Elizabeth his wife to Michael Floyd, acknowledged by George with Elizabeth’s dower release.”
With this information, I contacted a friend of mine who is a lawyer and told him that based on this information, would I be correct in assuming that the this Elizabeth’s first and only marriage was to George Foulk, then it was most likely that her father provided her land as part of her dowry? He said that it was likely, and that the other possibility was that she was a widow and received the land from her deceased husband. However, I know that Elizabeth was only married once and it was to George Foulk. 
So in December 1817, when George Foulk and his wife Elizabeth (Floyd) sell land to Michael Floyd, they are selling land that John Floyd had given to Elizabeth. Therefore, my assumption would have some legal basis that John Floyd was Elizabeth’s father. This is confirmed when it is stated in the Monongalia County, (West) Virginia, Records of the District, Superior and County Courts that the sale was “acknowledged by George with Elizabeth’s dower release.”

The significance of a dowry and the dower release is that a dowry was provided by the bride’s family, usually the father as he was likely the landowner, at the time of marriage. The dowry meant that the husband could not sell the entire share of the property without consent of his wife. The wife was legally able to keep at least 1/3 of the property so she would never be destitute. However, the wife was able to release her dower and allow the husband to sell the property, as Elizabeth allowed George to do. I am in no way, shape or form, a lawyer, but this is how I read the information during my research and it makes sense. In basic terms, if the husband died, the wife was able to keep a portion of the land to live on or sell for money to subsist. 
Through all of this, I also came to the conclusion that Michael Floyd and Henry Floyd mentioned above, were her uncles and John’s brothers. 
I was able to confirm this as much as any amateur genealogist can (nothing is 100%) when I found John Floyd’s and Henry Floyd’s Revolutionary War Pension Claims. In these documents from the 1820 (Henry) and 1833 (John,) we see that Michael Floyd testified on their behalf, as did their childhood friend Benjamin Satterfield. 

Of course Michael could be a cousin, but in John’s pension claim in 1833, it states that he moved back to Monongalia to live with a brother, who I would presume to be Michael because Henry had passed away in 1829. 
I still have no idea who Elizabeth Floyd’s mother is, but at least I’m making progress. I will find out. 
Below are the full American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters for John and Henry Floyd:


Mapping my family’s past

I created another Google Map. This time I located the where my relatives were living circa 1900. I was mostly able to use 1900 US Census as a reference, also used Boston City Directories, and death records.

We were mostly settled in one of two neighborhoods in Boston: East Boston (Irish) and North End (Italian.) I also had some family in Kansas and Nashua, NH (French-Canadian.) 

During my research I was noticing similar street names, so thought I’d map it out and see how it looked and how close they actually were. Strangely enough, what surprised me the most was finding my Italian relatives living on the same street (North Street) in the North End. The only reason it is interesting is because they were only a few houses down from each other. One family (Forti/Ledda) was from Sicily and the other (Belmonte) was from Avellino. I wonder if the people from the different regions of Italy spoke to one another or if they were territorial even in the new world? In 1900 they lived near each other, in the 1930’s their grandchildren lived near each other (in Revere, MA) before they married in the 1940’s.

I never would have thought about how Italians, or Irish for that matter, interacted with one another in the new world, if I didn’t map my family’s past. I think I’m going to have to call my grandmother to see if she remembers anything about her grandparents knowing my grandfather’s family 113 years ago!

How old are you, really?

On her marriage 1890 marriage record, my 2nd great grandmother, Mary J. Ennis, is listed as being 20 years old. That would put her birth in 1869 or 1870. Yet, in the 1900 US Census she is listed as being born January 1873. The Date of Birth (DOB) inconsistencies don’t end there. In the following four US Censuses, her age is listed differently each time. Below is a quick glance at the Census year and the approximate year of her birth based and her approximate age) on the Census record:

1910 – 1871 (39yr)
1920 – 1874 (46yr)
1930 – 1876 (54yr)
1940 – 1870 (70yr)

Was she lying to the Census taker? Was she lying to herself or her family? I don’t know. Likely none of the above.

I know two things about Mary, her marriage took place November 2, 1890 in Boston and she died January 16, 1945. I also know the births of her children.

Based on all of this information, using, I was able to find a valid birth of Mary Ennis on January 14, 1869 in Dublin, to a William Ennis and a Margaret Shaw (the names of her parents as detailed on her marriage record.) I further researched this possibility and discovered that the Ennis family is historically represented in Dublin.

That would have made Mary 75 years old when she passed away in 1945, two days short of her 76th birthday.

Below is a more accurate representation of her age throughout the years.

1910 – 41yr
1920 – 51yr
1930 – 61yr
1940 – 71yr

I bring all of this up to show the amount of work it takes for a genealogist to get accurate information. All I was looking for was a birth date and/or age and it took a couple of years to get one and a lot of virtual running around.

1890 Marriage

1910 US Census

1900 US Census

1920 US Census

1930 US Census

1940 US Census

I bring all of this up to show the amount of work it takes for a genealogist to get accurate information. All I was looking for was a birth date and/or age and it took a couple of years to get one and a lot of virtual running around.

Imagine, at that day and age

My 2x great grandparents, James Slater and Ellen Moynihan, gave birth to a son, James Slater, on 26 Sep 1887 in Boston. According to the records, James was a premature baby and never made it out of the hospital. He didn’t even survive 48 hours. I can’t imagine what that must feel like for a parent.

However, that unfortunate circumstance is not why I chose to write an article today. I’m writing because James Slater and Ellen Moynihan were not yet married in 1887 when they had their child. They were not married until October of the following year. Imagine, at that day and age, what their families must have said and felt. And I can only imagine the stares and glares from the neighbors. Though it is seemingly much more common (though I have zero data to back that up) now and also seemingly more accepted in our society (also, no data to back this up,) James P. and Ellen must have been the subject to quite a bit of gossip.

However, if there was any backlash or reprimand from their families and neighbors, it didn’t stop James and Ellen from building a family together. They got pregnant again in 1888 and this time their son, also named James, survived and lived at least until past the age of 50. But this renegade couple was only married for about one month in 1888, when James was born. They were married 28 Oct 1888 and James was born 24 Nov 1888. Obviously James and Ellen did not play by the rules.

I just wonder if there was any underlying reason for their delay in marriage? Their 1888 marriage records states that it was the first marriage for both, but what if one of them was married previously and they were waiting to get divorced or their spouse to die? Morbid and total conjecture on my part, but it does have me thinking.

James and Ellen may have spent another 11 years together as husband and wife, when James died in 1897 at the age of 33, but they did have four more children together, three of which survived childhood. One of which was my great grandmother Elizabeth Slater who died in 1982 at the age of 92.

Ellen went on to marry again and have more children, but her early life with James Slater now fascinates me. Like so many of the family members that I research, I keep finding interesting stories that get played out in paperwork and I try and connect the dots as best I can. Damn this is fun.

What’s a mom to do?

Mary Huff was my great grandaunt, my great grandmother Nellie Huff’s sister. Mary was born in 1892 while her father was stationed in San Francisco at the Presidio. Being an Army brat, she then lived in Kansas for a time at Fort Riley (cavalry headquarters of the US Army,) before finally settling down in Brooklyn, NY. 

According to the 1920 US Census, Mary is listed as Mary Kennedy, but living at her mother’s home, along with her younger brother, William. However, Mary was married. So why wasn’t she living with her husband?

This bothered me for some time. It made me think that it may actually not be the right family.

Mary Huff 1920 US Census

Compounding the issue was that her last name, Kennedy, is crossed out. Was it a mistake? I kept searching for her and found a picture on-line of Mary Huff Becvar and her husabnd Frank Becvar. According to the family tree it was attached to on, everything seemed to match. Except it didn’t have Mary being married to anyone named Kennedy.

Frank Becvar on left and Mary Huff Becvar on right. Frank’s sister is in the middle

Then I found a 1940 US Census with Frank Becvar, Mary Becvar, and Mary Huff living under the same roof. Mary and Frank had been living there since at least 1935. This Mary Becvar was born in California around the right time as my Mary Huff/Kennedy, so this had to be my Mary Huff. But what happened to her her Kennedy husband, if there was one at all?

With too much doubut I had to call my mother. She said yes, Mary Huff was married to Frank Becvar and they used to come visit. My mother remembered them well. So that was it. Story over. Not quite. I hadn’t talked to my great aunt Ruth in a while so I called her next. She’s 92 years old and Mary (Huff) Becvar’s niece. She’d be able to give me a little more information. My Aunt Ruth said that Mary was married to a Frank Kennedy prior to her marriage to Frank Becvar. In fact, she couldn’t even guarantee that she was ever legally married to Frank Becvar. Whoa! Story is, Mary Huff was married to Frank Kennedy and had two sons with him. However, Frank hit her. A lot. So much so, that the last time he hit her she ended up in the hospital and never went back to him. Or her kids. Ever. She moved in her mother and brother. Met Frank Becvar and the rest is history. 

I spoke to my mother about this and we couldn’t understand how a mother could leave her children with a man like that. If she was so scared of him, imagine how her kids felt. Wouldn’t a mother die trying to protect her children? I know my mom would. And my wife for sure as hell would. 

It was a difficult story to wrap my head around. I’m glad Mary left the abusive relationship, but I can’t help but think about those two boys she left. I hoped to God that my aunt was ‘misremembering’ the story, but she has an incredible memory. She’s never wrong.

Just another story that was nearly never told again. Glad I was able to poke around enough and get some answers, but I have to try and find out what happened to those two boys. Somehow, some way.

as if it mattered

I’m getting ready to pack up for an extended holiday break and won’t be back in the office until January 2. Now that I’ve wrapped up all my work before I take off, I decided to do some math. I’m awful at math, but I find it is closely related to my obsession with making lists. I always calculate stuff. Distances, checking accounts, percentages. It’s an obsession albeit an obsession I’m terrible at.

Anyway, I decided to calculate what my heritage is. So, here it is:
50% Italian
28% Irish
12.5% French
7% English
1.5% unknown/unverified
less than 1% German

But this didn’t tell the whole story. I needed to figure out what my wife’s heritage was so I could eventually calculate our daughters’.
My wife:
25% Swedish
25% Italian
12.5% Portuguese
12.5% Welsh
12.5% Irish
10.9% Unknown/unverified
1.5% English

And representing the true diversity of the United States, our daughters:
37.5% Italian
20.5% Irish
6.25% French
12.5% Swedish
4.25% English
6.25% Portuguese
6.2% Unknown
and not enough German to document

I don’t know if this matters to anyone in the world, except me, but there it is. Now, go find my math errors.


There are a lot of “firsts” that we remember in our lives. Our first love, our first bike, or possibly the first time a book or album changed our life. There are other firsts that we don’t remember; like our first birthday. My youngest daughter’s first birthday is next week (12/19) and we’re having a big party for her on the 22nd. She won’t remember anything about the day, but I think it should be a big celebration to remember her first year in our lives. It also made me think of this picture of my father’s first birthday in October 1953. The clothes, the decor, the picture; to me, it’s a classic picture. So, happy early birthday Lyla Kathleen Barresi and I hope all your future “firsts” only get more memorable with time.