Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


3 Comments

The Flanders’ House

Both my mother and grandfather grew up at 916 Lake Street in the Forest Hill section of Newark, New Jersey. My great-grandparents bought the new three-story 5-bedroom home in 1907.  It was actually one and one-half lots with 5,001 square feet: #916 has the house and #918 expands the yard and has a carriage house, later garage, at the back. It is the only house on the block with this extra room.

4-916 Lake St.

One entered the home through a vestibule off the small front porch into an entrance hall that opened to the third floor. A winding open staircase on the right side went upstairs to the bedrooms. The front hall held an upright piano and was the perfect spot for the tall family Christmas tree. Off the front hall were the living room, dining room, and large kitchen with bulter’s pantry. The best part was the “secret” narrow closed stairway off the kitchen that led to the upstairs rooms to be used by servants going between floors.  I’m not sure that the family actually had any servants, but that was the original purpose. Certainly children used it often.

The living room with the bay window was in the front of the house with the dining room behind it adjoining the butler’s pantry. Room functions were flipped at some point, but there were different stories about when and why that happened: either to preserve heat during the Depression by keeping the most-used living room as an interior room, or to eliminate the possibility of light escaping the World War II blackout curtains. Either story is plausible. Whatever the reason, the spaces remained in that configuration for many years.

Bedrooms upstairs were small but adequate. There were four bedrooms on the second floor with two unattached bathrooms, and one bedroom on the third floor in the attic space.  During the Depression, the family had a boarder in residence who lived in the attic room.  There was also a large unfinished basement with windows at ground level.

This was always a multi-generational home. William John Flanders bought it in 1907 and moved in with his wife Charlotte, mother-in-law Alice McCormick, sons Lester and William, and brother-in-law Charles McCormick. Lester and Charles had moved out by the time their father died in 1925, but in 1927, his son William brought his new bride Marion Cooke into the home already occupied by his mother and grandmother. Alice died shortly after, but Charlotte outlived her daughter-in-law by seven years, and was there to see her granddaughters grow up.

Forest Hill was and still is a quiet residential suburb of Newark, bounded on one side by beautifully landscaped Branch Brook Park just a few blocks away from the family home. Also nearby was St. Mark’s Episcopal Church where the family worshipped. William Charles Flanders was confirmed there in 1914 and his daughters were baptized, confirmed, and married from the church. Four of his five grandchildren were also baptized at St. Marks, by the same minister who baptized and married their parents. They wore their grandfather’s christening gown.

By 1970, the children were grown, his wife and mother were gone, and Bill Flanders was alone in a house far too big for him to maintain. He sold it with much of the contents and moved to an apartment and later, to a retirement community. The house remains in pictures and memory of the few still alive to remember when it was the Flanders’ house.


Leave a comment

Great-grandfather William John Flanders

My great-grandfather William John Flanders (aka W.J. or Bill) was an Englishman who emigrated to the United States in his twenties and became a U.S. citizen five years before his death. He was short (5’6″ tall) and had a bit of a paunch, topped by a round face sporting glasses and a moustache. He loved cigars. He married twice and fathered two children, both sons. This farmer’s son lived in New York City and the New Jersey suburbs and was a gentlemen’s clothing salesman.

William-John-Flanders

William John Flanders was born on 25 March 1865 in the small market town of Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, later the home of an RAF airforce base. He was the second of five survivng children born to William Flanders and Elizabeth Deeks Webb. His father was a farmer and successful breeder of hackney horses. The family lived within a 25 mile radius in the English Fen Country for almost 300 years.

In the 1881 English census, we find William and his brothers Horace and Frank as scholars at a boarding school in Kings’ Lynn, Norfolk, England, 35 miles from their home.  William, also known “Willie” to his brothers, came to New York City in 1885 or 1886 – we don’t know why or exactly when, but we do know that his older brother inherited his father’s land and horse breeding operation. As a second son, Bill would have known he would not inherit; the decision to try new things in a new place is not surprising. His younger brother Frank also moved to New York City in 1888.

Bill Flanders worked as a clerk in Manhattan and on 7 October 1889, he married Bessie Jane Read of Sandwich, England, who was living in New York. His brother Frank witnessed the marriage. Bill and Bessie lived in Manhattan for nine years; their only child, Lester Maris Flanders, was born on 1 January 1891. The family went back to England in September 1892, making the outbound and return sailings on the new ship Mohawk, built by the Harland & Wolff, the firm that also built the Titanic.

MoHawk Passenger list 1892

Bessie and Lester traveled to London again without William in July 1894, also on the Mohawk. Four years later, on 3 October 1898, Bessie died at their home on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. She was 32 years old. Her body was taken to England, where she was buried.

After his wife’s death, Bill and his seven year old son Lester rented rooms from the recently widowed Alice McCormick and her daughter Charlotte on Hunts Point Road in the Bronx.  A year later, he married the landlady’s daughter in a ceremony held at the bride’s home on 7 December 1899.  He was 13 years older than his bride, who was 13 years older than her step-son. Their only child, William Charles Flanders, was born ten months later on 5 October 1900 in Belleville, New Jersey.

Flanders,-Wm-John-&-CharlotThe Flanders lived in Newark and William worked across the river in New York City.  In 1907 they bought a new home in the quiet residential area of Forest Hill, two blocks from the train station to the city. The household was multi-generational and included William and Charlotte, mother-in-law Alice McCormick, his son Lester, their son William, and Charlotte’s brother, Charles McCormick.  Good thing there were five bedrooms!  They probably saw a lot of Charlotte’s Heginbotham cousins living in neighboring Belleville, some as close as two blocks away. The Flanders were members of nearby St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Forest Hill.

Bill took the train to work from Forest Hill to New York City and later, to points west of New York, but in 1918 they also bought a used Oldsmobile for $665. We know that the family rented a “bungalow” in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, during the summer of 1920, the same year that Bill Flanders became a naturalized United States citizen. Bill passed his love of the Jersey shore to his son, who bought houses in Manasquan in 1934.

William John Flanders never returned to England after his trip in 1892. He died on 29 April 1925 at his home in Newark after suffering for 18 months with bladder and rectal cancer. He is buried in East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Passaic, New Jersey, next to his second wife, Charlotte, who survived him by over forty years and never remarried.

Bill Flanders and his son, also Bill Flanders, looked eerily alike:


1 Comment

Great-Grandmother Charlotte McCormick

Flanders,-Wm-John-&-CharlotMy mother’s paternal grandmother was Charlotte Ann McCormick, aka Daisy, aka Goggy, a name she got when her granddaughter couldn’t pronounce Grandma. She was born in Manhattan on 6 August 1878 but shaved a year off of that at some point, telling people it was 1879 as eventually appeared on her death certificate. Charlotte was the daughter of Irish immigrants Peter McCormick and Alice Heginbotham, the eldest of two surviving children. Their first child died at birth in 1876. Her younger brother Charles Thomas McCormick was born November 1881. Given the similarity of their names, they were probably named for someone specific but who is a mystery; their grandfathers were Thomas and Patrick.

Charlotte and her brother Charlie were raised in different religious traditions. Our undocumented family legend is that Peter (Roman Catholic) and Alice (Protestant) agreed to raise sons in his faith and daughters in hers. True or not, they had one of each and their children were so raised. I am a descendant of the Protestant daughter; my godfather was the grandson of the Catholic son.  Charlotte was confirmed on Good Friday 1892 in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Harlem, three blocks from their home.

The McCormicks lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan when Charlotte was born, later moving up to Harlem and still later, to Hunts Point Road in the Bronx. Peter was a stone mason and builder and their family was well enough off to afford having a servant. Alice’s father lived nearby. Charlotte completed eighth grade and received a diploma from the Harlem Young Women’s Christian Association in June 1897, certifying her proficiency in stenography and typewriting. As far as we know, she was never employed to use those skills and it was a bit of a surprise to the family to discover that she ever had them.

CharlotteFlandersYWCA1897

Charlotte’s father Peter died in December 1898 at their home in the Bronx. Following his death, her mother Alice took in boarders, including the recently widowed William John Flanders and his 8 year old son Lester. William married the landlady’s daughter one year later on 7 December 1899. He called her Daisy.  Charlotte was 13 years younger than her husband and 13 years older than her step-son.

Wm John & Charlotte Marriage Certificate 1899

The new family lived with Alice in the Bronx in the 1900 census but by 1905 had moved across the Hudson River to Newark, New Jersey. Their son William Charles Flanders (my grandfather) was born in October 1900 in Belleville, where most of Alice’s Heginbotham relatives lived.  In 1908 the family moved the short distance to 916 Lake Street in the quiet Forest Hill residential suburb, near the cousins and only blocks from the train which William took for his work as a gentlemen’s wear salesman. Charlotte lived in this house until her death in 1967.

Daisy

Charlotte Flanders, Ocean Grove, NJ, Summer of 1920

Charlotte’s household was multi-generational, as were most households of the time. The 1910 census shows that her new 5-bedroom house held Charlotte, her husband and their son, her step-son Lester, her mother Alice, and her brother Charlie. These were the days before Social Security, when families formed the safety net. The women in my family didn’t work and had no real marketable skills, but they could care for a home and help raise children. And in this generation, the women outlived their husbands by many years.

Although her husband traveled for business, Charlotte wasn’t lonely with a number of cousins within a short walk from her home, including her cousin Edith Karr just two blocks away.  The family regularly attended St. Mark’s Episcopal Church near their home. Her husband William Flanders, who was born in England, became a United States citizen in January 1920. He died of cancer on 29 April 1925, leaving 47 year old Charlotte a widow living with her son – and still her mother, who passed away two years later.

Flanders Daisy & Bill c1966

Charlotte Flanders & son William Flanders, Manasquan, NJ – c1965

Charlotte’s son married in March 1927, bringing his bride Marion Cooke home to live with his mother in the home where he grew up. Charlotte controlled the kitchen and cooked all the meals until World War II, when she couldn’t figure out rationing. Her granddaughters grew up with their grandmother in residence, in the same way her son grew up with his grandmother there.  She outlived her daughter-in-law, who died in 1960.

Goggy was in her 80’s when I was growing up and she was always old. She wore plaid cotton housedresses with pearls, earrings, and either a cameo or diamond bar pin, all of which were gifts from her late husband.  Her hair was soft white and curled, and she never seemed to do much, but then, at that age she didn’t have to.  She enjoyed her drinks on Friday evening, and every evening for that matter, and was cared for tenderly by her son. She fell on her birthday in 1967 and died shortly later from complications of a broken hip. She is buried at East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Passaic, New Jersey, with her husband and mother.


2 Comments

Grandfather William Charles Flanders

Pop c1920William Charles (“Bill”) Flanders was born on 5 October 1900 in Belleville, New Jersey, the only child of Englishman William John Flanders and his wife Charlotte Ann McCormick, who was born in New York City. He was the fourth William Flanders in his line, following father William John Flanders (b.1865), son of William Flanders (b.1834), son of William Flanders (b.1811). The legacy of the name died with him, as he had only daughters, neither of whom were named William. Good thing!

Bill’s older half-brother Lester Maris Flanders was born in 1891 to William John and his first wife, Bessie Read.  On her death in 1898, William and Lester leased rooms from widow Alice McCormick on Hunts Point Road in the Bronx, New York.  A year later, William married the landlady’s 21-year old daughter, Charlotte Ann. He called her “Daisy.”

4-916 Lake St.

916 Lake Street, Newark, NJ

The Flanders family settled in Newark, New Jersey, just two miles from Belleville, where Charlotte’s extended Heginbotham family lived. In 1905 they were living at 276 Riverside Avenue but moved in 1907 to a new 5-bedroom house in the quiet Forest Hill residential neighborhood. The home at 916 Lake Street remained in the family for almost 70 years.

Bill Flanders had a high school education, attending Barringer High School in Newark, and was still living at home when his father died in April 1925. Bill cared for his mother in that home for another 40 years until her death in 1967. The year after his father died, he met the vivacious Marion Stokes Cooke and married her on 10 March 1927 in Brooklyn.  They had two daughters, Jane Anne Flanders born on 12 October 1929 and Alice Margaret Flanders, born 9 March 1931.

SCAN0200

The Flanders in 1931:  Marion, Margaret, Jane Anne, William

Bill was a salesman, as was his father, and he changed industries several times.  In 1920 he was working as a purchasing agent for a steel company. During the dark days of the Depression in 1930, he was a salesman for a motor company. But by the 1940 census, he was sales manager for a meter company, an industry he stayed with until he retired in 1965 as president of the Gamon-Calmet Meter Company. Bill hired his daughter Margaret’s husband (my father) in 1952 and taught him the business.

Flanders William - 1942 Newark NJ

Bill Flanders as a Roman Soldier – we dont’ know why!

My grandfather didn’t have hobbies that I knew of, but he was an active member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Forest Hill, serving on the vestry for many years as well as church treasurer. One of his jobs was to buy Christmas trees for the church every year, and he bought the one for his home at the same time – always a big tall tree that rose up next to the stairwell on Christmas Eve. Rector John Borton and his family were close friends of the Flanders and they socialized together in Newark and also Manasquan during the summers. The rector’s daughter even wore the wedding dress made by Bill’s wife Marion for her own daughters.

Bill enjoyed the company of men but was the only one in a home filled with mother, wife, and daughters.  Except for secretaries, his work life was a man’s world as well. He was a member of the Elks Club and also a 33rd degree Mason of Kane’s Lodge 55 in Newark. I don’t remember him ever talking about either one, but he was proud of both.  He was also a director of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – another affiliation that didn’t make much sense to me but was important to him.

Bill Flanders Grilling c1960

Grilling Steaks in Manasquan, NJ – c1960

He was a meat-and-potatoes man, eating relatively plain food but with a sweet tooth for desserts. During World War II, my mom remembers that they would go to a local butcher with bottles of liquor to get extra meat. His mother ruled the kitchen until the war, when she couldn’t figure out rationing; from there my grandmother took over. Her recipe box is full of favorite desserts which he loved. Pop was known for cooking steaks on the grill, trimming every inch of fat off and seasoning with olive oil, salt and pepper until they were “just so.” This was a familiar sight on Manasquan evenings – and very tasty, too.

My grandfather was devastated by his wife’s death from cancer in 1960; it left a hole in his heart for the rest of his life. He continued to care for his mother until she died in 1967, leaving him alone in the house where he grew up. So in 1970 he sold it, moving to an apartment and later, to a retirement village near the Jersey Shore, which he loved.  His world was small and he outlived most of his peers and friends, dying on 27 January 1983 at age 82.  The day before he died, he told his neighbor that he had to decide whether to stay in New Jersey or sell his house to go to California to star in a movie. That always makes me smile.

Flanders & Baby Anne 1954

Four Generations: Bill Flanders, Charlotte McCormick Flanders, Peg Flanders Myers, Anne Myers, 1954

I remember Bill Flanders with love. We grew up nearby and saw him often until we moved to Kentucky in 1970. When I lived in Virginia, I made several trips a year up to see him and enjoyed asking family history questions and spending time with him. Although he lost weight and became gaunt in his final years, I remember him as round of face with the moustache he always sported. He is buried in East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Delawana, NJ, with his wife and parents.


Leave a comment

52 Ancestors – #9 Where There’s a Will

We genealogists love wills, especially ones that spell out family relationships. Wills written close to the date of death can be more accurate in describing then-living relatives, though sometimes the absence of someone who should be mentioned but isn’t will tell us a lot as well. But the will is a single document and it’s not infallible. It usually doesn’t describe the circumstances around the inheritance(s) laid out in the will, though of course it can.

Witcham House.jpgElizabeth Deeks Webb Flanders died at Witcham House in Witcham, Cambridgeshire, England, on 20 April 1921. Her husband William Flanders died fourteen years before, leaving her a widow with five adult children, two of whom had moved to New York City in the 1880’s.  William had been a wealthy farmer and horse breeder and his estate in 1907 was valued at £3,815 which would have the same buying power as $509,596 today.

Elizabeth’s will was dated 2 August 1911 and remained unchanged until it was probated 22 September 1921.  But a lot happened between those two dates, the biggest of which was the First World War; their home was used as an army hospital and lands were sold off.  There were family changes, too: one of William and Elizabeth’s sons died in 1912 and another son separated from his wife in a nasty split. “Times here are wretched,” said oldest son Harry.

MVIMG_20180228_171026.jpg

How do I know this?  Because Harry wrote a letter to his brother William (my great-grandfather) sending a handwritten copy of Elizabeth’s will and explaining why “Willie” had gotten so very little. It was full of details about the family situation and why “mother” had made the decisions she did – and then how Harry was trying to honor those provisions in light of the changed circumstances.

The will is wonderful to have and it does indeed detail family relationships. But in this case, the letter that came with it is even better.


5 Comments

52 Ancestors #5 – Census Clues

Census records have all sorts of wonderful information but they’re also full of contradictions, mistakes, and misdirection. Everything is, or can be, a clue. Just when you think you have it all, looking with fresh eyes can open up new information.

Take the 1920 census. Not that long ago, right? It wasn’t available to researchers when I first started working and to be honest, I didn’t really look at it carefully because I thought I knew its secrets. But ha! there are surprises worth looking at.

1920censusFlanders1

This is the record for the household at 916 Lake Street in Newark, New Jersey.  Head of household was 52-year-old William J. Flanders with wife Charlotte, age 40, and son William C., age 18. Also living with him was his mother-in-law, Alice McCormick, a 77-year-old widow. So far, so good.

Flanders,-Wm-John-&-CharlotOn the far right side, we can see that William J. arrived in the United States in 1888 and had submitted his first papers for naturalization. His wife Charlotte is listed as an “Alien” with no immigration date. Hmmmm. What’s up with that?  The rest of her census record shows that she was born in New York. How could someone born in New York be an alien in her own country?

Actually, she wasn’t; this is a mistake, but one that makes sense when you know that in 1907, eight years after Charlotte and William were married, Congress passed the Expatriation Act, which mandated that “any American woman who marries a foreigner shall take the nationality of her husband.” Charlotte’s husband was a foreigner, therefore Charlotte is an alien. Except not, because the law applied only to those who were married after the law was passed. American women who married foreigners before 1907 remained a citizen after her marriage. So the entry is wrong.

Mother-in-law Alice was also listed as alien, with an arrival date of 1853. That looks wrong because Alice’s husband Peter was naturalized in 1896, automatically making her a citizen. This is called derivative naturalization – her citizenship was derived from that of her husband. We have a clue about something else,  though, with the date given for her immigration. Her record in the 1910 census, which includes questions about immigration and citizenship status, leaves those questions blank.

There are more mistakes in the record with Birthplace information:

1920censusFlandersBirthplace

William J. Flanders, on the top line, was born in England of parents born in England. This matches other known information from parish records, other census years and birth and death records.  His son’s record is correct: born in New Jersey to parents born in England and New York.

The other two in the household have errors. Wife Charlotte, on the second line, was born in New York to parents born in Ireland, not Scotland and England. Oops. This is the only census that shows her father to be from Scotland; if it was the only one I looked at, I would be following false trails. Her father did have a connection to Scotland, though, as an indentured apprentice to a stonemason in Glasgow, but that information only appears on his indenture papers, which are privately held by family.

1 Alice McCormickAlice McCormick, on the bottom line, shows as being born in England to English parents – which is both wrong and right. Alice was actually born in Dublin, Ireland, to an English father and Irish mother. But Ireland was part of Great Britain at the time and sometimes this was recorded in the census as England, especially since her father actually was born in England.

Census records are building blocks for genealogy research but they are not perfect. It’s important to use them as part of wider research and not in isolation, picking up clues for names, dates, relationships, and locations. Look at the same person/family in multiple years to see what’s consistent and what isn’t. And look at other people on the page or pages around your target to get a sense of the neighborhood.

 


5 Comments

52 Ancestors #2 – Breeching Photo of William John Flanders

This adorable young man is my great-grandfather, William John Flanders, born 25 March 1865 in Mildenhall, Suffolk, England.

William-John-Flanders

He was the third of six children born to William Flanders and Eliza Newdick. We have a lot of William Flanders in this line, both back and forward in time, so it’s nice that they gave him a middle name to help us keep them straight!

Young William is wearing an elaborately decorated coat with a pair of short pants and high shoes. The first thing you notice is the coat with all the black embroidered trim; the next is that he’s wearing short pants (which are a different thing than our casual shorts).  He looks straight ahead at the photographer. This is a formal outfit and the setting is also formal. It could have been in his home or in a photography studio; the original photo is unmarked. William’s father was a well-to-do farmer and horse breeder who lived in a large home known as Burnt Fen House and the setting is not inconsistent with that type of residence.

Although I cannot prove it, I believe this to be a Breeching photo, marking William’s transition from wearing dresses to wearing trousers for the first time, a kind of “coming of age” event. Little boys wore dresses for the first years of their life and were in their mother’s domain. When they reached 5-8 years of age, they transitioned both clothing and activities into their father’s world. There is a fascinating blog post on breeching at the Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society that’s worth a read.

I got this picture from my great-uncle Lester in 1970 when I first began researching my family. William John, the boy in the photograph, was his father, but the picture came to Lester from William John’s family in England along with a few other family photos and articles. It seems so funny to see a little boy dressed in such an elaborate outfit, and it’s the only photo I have of him before 1918, but I cherish it.