Mystery Monday: More than Meets the Eye

Thomas Charles Gaffney (1874 – 1937)


First of a four part series

Thomas Charles Gaffney,
circa 1910 – 1920
As we conclude our study of the family of the ten children of Bridget (Quinn) and John Francis Gaffney, there seem to be more questions than answers about their son, Thomas.


I had planned to write a brief post about Tommy, as he was known.  Born on July 27, 1874, in  Conneaut, Ohio, he was said to be the family bachelor and lovable comedian, always up to harmless pranks and spoiled by his older brother and six sisters.
According to my grand-aunt Aunt Benita (McGinnis) McCormick, Tommy lived with his sisters in Conneaut and later in Cleveland.  For most of his 63 years, he worked for the New York, Saint Louis & Chicago (also known as the Nickel Plate) Railroad variously as a brakeman, switchman, and yard man.
Just the mention of Tommy at our family gatherings could elicit laughter. My mother, Joan (Schiavon) Huesca, Aunt Benita, who I called “Aunt Detty,” and her daughter, Jane (McCormick) Olson, used to tell funny stories about him, but those were so long ago that I have forgotten them. They are all gone now, and it is too late to ask them the many questions I have.  Aunt Detty probably knew him best.  My mother and Jane’s recollections would have been from stories they heard from relatives and their own childhood recollections, because their grand-uncle Tommy died before either of them turned 10 years old.
Aunt Detty had a couple of photographs of him in her family scrapbook.  The photo above is taken from a of a strip of five photos, in which Tommy appears in jaunty and playful poses.  Judging from his face and the club collar shirt and the hats he was wearing, it looks like the photos were taken between 1910 and 1920, when he would have been in his late 30s or early 40s.



The caption, in Aunt Detty’s hand, is written diagonally next to the photo strip.  It reads, “Mother’s youngest brother, Tommy Gaffney.  Madcap lover!”
These small details were about all I had to go on as I prepared to write about him. I wondered what more there was to say about this man who seemed to bring a smile to people’s faces.  He must have done more than just that in his six decades of living. About all I knew when I started was that he was a charming bachelor who had been loved by his parents, brothers, and sisters and that as a railroader, he seemed to have had fairly uneventful life.

Sure enough, as we find out in life, there is more to most people than meets the eye.  And so it was with Thomas Charles Gaffney, as we shall soon see.

In case you missed them:


Copyright ©  2013  Linda Huesca Tully

11 Thoughts to “Mystery Monday: More than Meets the Eye

  1. What a tease! I'm excited to read more. I'm also excited to have re-found your blog. Somehow, it did not transfer from Google reader and I have missed a lot of posts. I've rectified that now and need to catch up!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Heather. I hope you enjoy what's coming up next.

    I wonder what happened with the Reader transfer but am glad you're reading this blog again. I continue to enjoy your own blog and especially enjoyed your recent posts on why you blog. You nailed it for so many of us! Keep up the great work.

  3. Linda, don't you love it when you can bring these ancestors' stories to life again? There is such value in every life–though we often don't see that about ourselves or those we live with–and it is a gift to be able to draw that value out of the humdrum narrative that conspires to bury the fascinating in someone's story.

  4. You said it so eloquently, Jacqi. I also think that each one of us wants to love, to be understood and to be loved. I hope we can give our ancestors that and honor their memory by trying our best to shed light on their struggles and triumphs.

  5. Great post! I am so curious to learn more about Tommy.

    I have wondered about particular bachelors in my family tree, and whether they might have been gay in an era where being a bachelor was the only option available to them. Always a possibility. It sounds like there's much more to Tommy's story, though. I can't wait to read it!

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