Monday, June 4, 2018

52 Ancestors: Going to the Chapel - Or Not

This week’s theme for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Going to the Chapel.” What perfect timing to share a recent research problem and how our challenge leader Amy Johnson Crow helped me solve it.

My enthusiasm for researching my Irish ancestors returned when a new record popped up for the sister of my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh. The sister is Johanna Sheehan Hederman (or Heatherman!). Her story always makes me sad because only 2 of her 7 children
Possibly Johanna Sheehan Hederman and children Catherine and John
Possibly Johanna Sheehan Hederman
with children Catherine and John
survived into adulthood; the others did not live more than a couple years, if that long.

The older of the two children was Catherine who married Charles Fraundorf on August 18, 1908. They had one daughter, Gertrude born in 1916. The little family appeared in the expected New York census records for 1920, 1925, 1930 and 1940. After that, my online searches found little more than dates of death for Charles and Catherine. A few newspaper articles revealed Charles was active in the Knights of Columbus and local politics. But there was nothing new about Gertrude.

Just this past week in a fit of boredom, I opened Ancestry and did a general search for Fraundorf. What a surprise to find a listing for good ol’ Gertrude in the New York State Marriage Index. She married on April 21, 1940 in Long Beach, Nassau County, New York. Long Beach had been the Fraundorfs’ home at least since 1935. However, any celebration over the thought of new leads to follow came to a halt when the index gave me the husband’s name as Vivian Hennekey. 

Surely New York was not so progressive in 1940 to be granting marriage licenses to lesbians. Still, I clicked Miss Hennekey’s name, which took me to a page that revealed a different marriage date and location. She did not marry Gertrude Fraundorf after all! The cause of confusion is clearly the illegible certificate number.

Back to the search I went and plugged in the certificate number, “7882.” It gave me Vivian Hennekey again. So maybe the certificate number was NOT 7882, but no other number I tried gave me Gertrude Fraundorf AND someone other than Vivian.

During a Facebook group chat with Amy Johnson Crow, I posed the question, “Is there a workaround to find the correct couple in the New York State Marriage index 1881-1967?” As soon as Amy pulled up the index on her screen, she saw the problem with the smudged certificate numbers. She studied the screen and said, “Try entering just the exact day, month, year and location, no names.”

That is what I did. And it worked. Two brides and 2 grooms married on April 21, 1940 in Long Beach. (Not surprisingly, NONE of their marriage certificate numbers are clear.) 

Wallace Beers and Rita Lay married and lived happily ever after. They are even buried happily ever after together. Their descendants have shared family trees on Ancestry.

So that left Gertrude plus Salvatore DeLucia.

If, like me, you think surely a name like Salvatore DeLucia and Gertrude DeLucia would be easy to find, think again. Apparently there is an unwritten rule that Italian families - especially the DeLucias - must name a son “Salvatore.”

With an April wedding, Sal and Gert could have been in the census together in 1940, but apparently they were not. In fact, Gertrude was still at home with her parents, probably fully engulfed in wedding planning, when the enumerator came around about 3 weeks before the big day.

Possibly Catherine Fraundorf and Gertrude
Believed to be Catherine and Gertrude Fraundorf
With no supporting facts to go on, it is impossible to sift through the numerous Salvatore DeLucias and Lucias and DeLucios and Luccios and DeLucas to come to a logical conclusion about the husband of Gertrude Fraundorf. Was he born in Italy or was he an American-born son of Italian immigrants? Was he about Gertrude’s age or did she marry a much older man? My research indicates the older Salvatores were also very married with families in 1940. The single Salvatores were mostly children, too young to marry in 1940.

The best candidate for a husband was the Salvatore DeLucia who was an Italian immigrant son of Italian immigrants Angelo and Rose DeLucia. This Salvatore was born in Italy in 1908, arrived in the United States in 1914, and was naturalized by 1930. He was still single in 1940 and only slightly older than Gertrude. The fact that he was living in the right neighborhood at the right time to have met and courted Gertrude Fraundorf makes him the most likely suspect.

BUT - There is NOTHING to say I am right and EVERYTHING to say I am wrong. Family trees on Ancestry put Salvatore not with Gertrude Fraundorf but with Theresa Botticelli - MARRIED and BURIED together. The ONE and only ONE piece of information that keeps this Sal in the running is that he and Miss Botticelli married in 1947, seven years after Gertrude and whichever Salvatore married.

Did Gertrude die young? Could Gertrude and Salvatore have called off the wedding? Could they have married and later divorced? If so, that would have been tough for a couple of Catholics.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Wow, what a challenge and I’m so glad you detailed your steps here so I now can replicate that NY state workaround if needed. Even though the marriage raises more questions than it answers you’ve made progress, IMHO.

    1. Learning that Gertrude apparently married is progress, but I was hoping for a little more momentum.

  2. Glad to know about the workaround. I would not have thought to do that. My husband's family is of Italian descent and when there are a bunch of kids who then have a bunch of kids and they all follow the same naming pattern ... it can drive a person crazy!

    1. Me neither. I thought having the certificate number would be the golden ticket, but clearly the number recorded for the index is not the real number.

  3. Great post...though your research came to a less-than-satisfying conclusion! I am glad I'm not the only one that thinks families where there were generations of the same names just makes for headaches!

    1. My daughters and their friends don't seem to be following that trend. They are loving old fashioned names but don't seem to be repeating family names.

  4. One thing I love about genealogy, even when you think there is absolutely nothing else to find, if you wait a few months, maybe even a few years, something normally turns up! You exhaust that clue, then you wait again!

    1. I know! It makes me aware of how UNaware I am of notices about new additions to the databases.

  5. How frustrating! I wonder, have you checked in local newspapers of the time to see if they mention the wedding? Or see if there are records from the church?

  6. Frustrating for sure!
    My parents didn’t stick to naming patterns, but I wish I had all my family tree info then that I have now, there are some lovely names I would have used for my girls.
    I lived for a few years in a Greek community. Among my neighbours were 3 brothers whose kids all had the same names.... good luck to them doing genealogy in the future!!!

  7. Another mystery - hope you solve it!

  8. What an interesting round of research, Wendy! Those DeLucias (and variants) must be like Smiths in the U.S. Can you find a death record for Gertrude using her father's or mother's name and not a possible spouse. There must be a way to find her!