Friday’s Faces from the Past: More Irish Mystery Cousins

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick
          (1889 – 1984)

“Baby Maureen” is the only person we can (partially) identify in these pictures.  Here she is, with (possibly) her parents and another man.
Might her mother be cousin Bessie Quinn?

More Mystery Cousins!  As with the other photographs we’ve seen recently on this site, these come from my great-aunt Detty’s (Benita McGinnis McCormick) scrapbook pages of her 1913 visit to Ireland.  She had a grand time on the “auld sod,” visiting with her Irish cousins, and these photographs show they were quite a playful lot.

Unidentified cousins with Baby Maureen.  The man holding
her may be her father.  The man in the cap appears to be
younger – maybe her older brother?

Unfortunately, as we have seen already, Aunt Detty unwittingly left it to us to figure out just who these lovely people were by not leaving us any identifying information about them.


Our family’s Irish ancestor surnames were McGinnis, Healey, Kelly, Gaffney, and Quinn. Because Benita’s father, Thomas Eugene McGinnis, lost his parents when he was a small child, he might not have known much about his relatives in Ireland (where his father is said to be born) or in Scotland (his mother’s birthplace, according to some census records). For this reason, I would be less inclined to think any of these people were McGinnises, though I would not rule it out entirely.

Aunt Detty captioned this, “Baby Maureen and Nurse.”
Was the nurse a nanny, or one of the nurses from
Mountjoy Prison hospital?

I know nothing about the Healeys and the Kellys, except that they are ancestors of the Gaffneys and the Quinns, respectively. As noted previously, we have a picture of Benita’s cousin, Eileen Kellywith the McGinnis family in their Chicago home in 1919.  

I am fairly certain Eileen traveled with Benita to Europe, as her name appears on the ship’s manifest back to America. Hence, we have another hint that the Gaffney-McGinnis family kept ties with their Kelly relatives in the U.S. and maybe back in Ireland.  That could make the Kelly branch another possibility for these pictures, though Eileen will have to await her turn patiently while I try to confirm her family connection at a later date.  So many relatives, so little time!

While Benita’s father’s family seems a remote possibility for the “surname photo match game” we are playing with these unidentified photos, her mother’s (Mary Jane Gaffney) family might be more likely candidates. Take her maternal grandfather’s side, the Gaffneys, for example. Most, if not all, of Benita’s Irish grand uncles and grand aunts had settled in the midwest and kept close contact with one another.  It would make sense that they also kept their ties to their extended family back in Ireland.

Benita’s maternal grandmother’s family, the Quinns, pose a stronger possibility.  Take a look at the picture postcard below  This postcard did not belong to Aunt Detty but to her younger sister, Alice (McGinnis) Schiavon, my maternal grandmother.

Picture Postcard of “Grandpa” Quinn and Lilly the old driving horse.
The location, somewhere in Ireland, is unknown.

The dedication on the back of this postcard reads, 

This is Grandpa Quinn
and his old driving
horse Lilly.
Alice don’t
you remember
I will put
an X on the
horse’s blanket.
We are all well.
Hope your the same.
Your loving cousin
Bessie Quinn – 
Write soon


Like Aunt Detty, note that Bessie Quinn does not mention “Grandpa’s” first name!  The dedication leaves no room for an address or postage stamp.  The vintage of the picture is similar to Aunt Detty’s photos of her trip to Ireland in 1913.  This suggests that the card was either mailed to my grandmother in an envelope or hand-delivered by her sister when she returned from Europe. In either case, the postcard provides evidence that the American Gaffney-McGinnis clan and the Irish Quinns stayed in touch.


Now take a look at Lilly the horse. She resembles the horse in the other pictures here.  The carts in the pictures all look alike, too.  
Yes, it’s a long shot, but could we infer from these pictures that these people are cousins from the Quinn branch of the family?  


And we haven’t even talked about location.
We know the cousin who worked at Mountjoy Prison probably lived in or near Dublin.  We also know that Bridget Quinn, Benita’s maternal grandmother, was said to be from Boyle in County Roscommon.  But the two places are about 100 miles apart, leaving the location anybody’s guess.

Cherubic Baby Maureen and nurse.

With these theories in mind, let’s have a further look at these charming photographs, particularly of those with Baby Maureen.
The women in these pictures seem to be several years apart.  Based on the style of her hair and colorful clothing, I would guess that the woman in the very first picture at top, sitting with the baby in a bale of hay, might be Maureen’s mother.  The pose is quite charming with  the umbrella suggesting she was protecting her baby and herself from the rays of the summer sun overhead.
It would seem that the man behind her might be Maureen’s father, especially as he appears in the picture right after that, this time holding the baby in the horse cart.
Maureen’s “nurse” wears her hair down, suggesting she is a young unmarried woman.  I wonder if she is a nanny or one of the nurses from the hospital at Mountjoy Prison?  Or was there no relation at all between these cousins and the cousin who worked as “chief” of the prison?
Don’t you just love a good mystery?


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully



Those Places Thursday: A Brick Wall the Size of a Prison

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick
          (1889 – 1984)

How appropriate that this unidentified cousin is standing in front of a stark, cold brick wall.

Mystery Cousin, what is your name?
Photo from Benita (McGinnis) McCormick’s
scrapbook.  Taken outside Mountjoy Prison
between July and August, 1913.

Ironically, though I don’t know the man’s name, I can tell you where that brick wall is and why he was standing in front of it.

You see, this unnamed cousin was the “chief” of Ireland’s largest and best known detention center: Mountjoy Prison.  My great-aunt “Detty,” Benita McGinnis, spent time with him and his family during her trip to Ireland in the summer of 1913.

Not only is this tall somber man’s identity a mystery to us, but so are the subjects of the other photographs here, all of which appear on the same page in Aunt Detty’s scrapbook. However, there are a few clues that might help solve the puzzle, at least where he is concerned.

Mountjoy Prison, located in the center of Dublin, was built in 1850 by the British.  It was originally intended as a stopping place for prisoners sentenced to the penal colony of Van Dieman’s Land (present-day Tasmania).  It housed James Larkin, leader of the Irish workers’ strike, and a few years later, some of the leaders of the Irish War for Independence, ten of whom were executed and buried there.

On a lighter note, you can listen to a recording of a song about the prison, “The Mountjoy Hotel,” written by one of its former “guests” by clicking here.

Based partly on what we believe, namely that Aunt Detty and some of her cousins made a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in late July; and what we know for sure, which is that she left for America on August 19, 1913; we can conclude that she visited Dublin sometime between July and mid-August of that year.

My great-aunt, Benita McGinnis, sits on a bench in between
two prison guards, or “garda,” outside the walls of Dublin’s
Mountjoy Prison.  Photo taken between July and August, 1913.
From Benita (McGinnis) McCormick’s scrapbook.

What makes her visit to Dublin during this time period so interesting is that it was on the eve of the Dublin Lockout and the subsequent Bloody Sunday.  The lockout began on August 26, 1913, after the  Irish union transport workers, seeking higher wages, halted tram service on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.  The owner of the tram service locked out the workers, who had refused to leave the union, and other employers followed suit in the days that followed.

The actions precipitated a riot on Sunday, August 31, with two people killed and over 300 people injured.  The lockout continued for the next six months, resulting in some 20,000 men and women losing their jobs, pitting social classes against each other, and calling the questions of equality for all and better living conditions for the working class.

At the time of these events, our Mystery Cousin served as “Chief” of Mountjoy.  But what exactly did a “chief” do?

“Housekeeper of Mt. Joy Prison, where my cousin was chief,” reads the
caption in Benita’s scrapbook.  Photo taken between July and August, 1913.

Initially, I thought it meant that he was the head of the prison, but now I doubt that, as the heads of the Irish prisons are referred to as “governors.”  A number of internet sites about the Irish prisons contain references to positions with the word “chief” in them.  One of them is “Chief Warder.” A warder is a prison guard. This would seem to indicate that Mystery Cousin was the head of the prison guard.

That might explain why a grinning 23-year-old Benita is sitting on a bench in the middle of two guards in the photo above.  Neither of them resemble the tall man – our Mystery Cousin – in the first picture, but the bars on the windows behind them certainly indicate they are outside the Mountjoy walls.

Mountjoy Prison nurses.  Photo from Benita (McGinnis) McCormick’s
scrapbook, taken between July and August, 1913.

The third photo introduces us to a middle-aged matronly woman, standing outside those same walls.    She is a marked contrast to our “Chief,” dressed in a light-colored dress, a kind and slightly bemused expression on her face.  One wonders whether she had stopped in the middle of her duties to appease her young American shutterbug.  Under the photo, Aunt Detty wrote, “Housekeeper of Mt. Joy Prison, where my cousin was chief.”  If only she had thought to add names!

In the final two photographs of the people of Mountjoy, we meet a group of four smiling nurses.  They look to be in their early 20s, and they pose primly for us in starched white uniforms and bib aprons, their long dark hair tied up and tucked under their nurses’ caps.  Standing behind a pointy iron fence, their youthfulness lends a softness to what must have been a harsh and formidable place.  The fun-loving Benita was probably a breath of fresh air for them after a long day’s work.

Mountjoy Prison nurses.  

Ah, the stories these people could tell!  Did they have any inkling of the trying times that were nearly upon them?  What role would our Mystery Cousin have had in those events?  Was he for or against the union’s cause? And what eventually happened to him?

I have been corresponding with officials from Mountjoy Prison and hope they can help unlock the answers to these questions.  If their records do not go that far back, maybe I will be able to locate some kind soul who can research the names of the administration staff at Mountjoy in 1913.

From there, if I can put a name to Mystery Cousin, I might be able to find some of my Irish ancestors. Fingers crossed.



Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully


Those Places Thursday: Pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick
          (1889 – 1984)


Though in her later years my great-aunt Detty, Benita (McGinnis) McCormick, often reminisced about her trip to France and Ireland in 1913, I don’t recall her talking about her pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick (Gaelic for Saint Patrick’s Mountain and pronounced Crōk Patrick). Luckily, these photographs from her scrapbook show us she was there. Had the first photo below not been labeled, I could not have been able to look it up and then identify the others, which bore no captions.  “Pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick,” she wrote under it, “most west spot in Ireland, Westport.”

The caption reads, “Pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick, most west spot in Ireland,
Westport.”  Probably taken on Sunday, July 27, 1913, also known as Reek Sunday. 
It turns out that the Irish consider this it to be the holiest mountain in the country.


Pilgrims, some of whom may be my ancestors, make their way
along the rocky shale path on pilgrimage to the top of
Croagh Patrick, or Holy Mountain, Reek Sunday, July 27, 1913.

Situated 2510 feet above sea level in County Mayo, western Ireland, the peak is revered in Irish history as the place where in 441 A.D., Saint Patrick, who introduced Christianity to Éire and became its patron saint, spent the 40 days of Lent in fasting and penance.  From there, Saint Patrick also is said to have banished the snakes and demons from the Emerald Isle.

Since then, pilgrims, some of them barefoot, have made their way up the rocky terrain and sometimes steep path of loose shale to the cairn, or summit, to pray and pay their respects. The climb takes about two hours up and an hour-and-a-half down in good weather, but it can take longer in the fog, rain, and snow.  (You can see a video of the climb up Croagh Patrick here.)

The path is fairly tricky to navigate; every year people have to be airlifted from the mountain due to injuries or other medical emergencies. Those who reach the top are treated to an expansive view of Clew Bay and its small islands, reputed to number one for every day of the year.


Two young men converse in front of the oratory chapel at Croagh Patrick, 1913,
where they might have just attended Mass. Based on another photograph (not 
shown here),  the man at left may be Aunt Detty’s cousin, who was the chief officer
of Mountjoy Jail in Dublin.  I am unable to identify the man at right.

The two main pilgrimage days are in the summer, about a fortnight apart.  The first is on the last Sunday in July, also known as Reek Sunday.  The second is on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


As Benita and her traveling companions were staying with her relatives in Ireland during the summer  of 1913, the timing would have been just right for their pilgrimage to this sacred ground.  One can imagine her Irish cousins inviting her to join them.

Whether they started their trip in Dublin, where one of Benita’s cousins was chief officer of Mountjoy Jail, or County Roscommon (possibly Drumbrick), where much of the family was from, it makes sense that the group traveled to Westport on a day when no one had to work.  For this reason, I think they arrived there Saturday, the day before they climbed the mountain on Sunday, July 27, 1913, a little over a century ago.


“I made it,” Benita McGinnis seems to say as she salutes us at the summit 
cairn of Croagh Patrick, the Holy Mountain of Ireland, County Mayo, 1913. 
Perhaps in jest, her caption referred to it as “the smallest Mt (mountain).”

What an experience it must have been!  In the photograph here, a 23-year-old Benita triumphantly stands at the summit cairn overlooking the islands of Clew Bay, at the pinnacle of her youth.

I wish all of us could have pictures like this, so that as we age and one day move on, our descendants can see us in our youth, full of daring and wonder, saluting them from the top of the world.


The summit cairn, “unofficial” summit of Croagh Patrick.
Shown today, it looks about the same as it did a century ago. 

Courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully


Wisdom Wednesday: The Perils of Unlabeled Photos

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick
          (1889 – 1984)

I have spent the last couple of weeks poring over my great-aunt Benita (McGinnis) McCormick’s collection of photographs from her trip to France and Ireland, amazed by the almost unseen details that reveal so much more about her than she ever told us.  But I am also finding challenges as I try to identify the people and places she visited.

A page from Benita (McGinnis) McCormick’s scrapbook depicts scenes from her
1913 trip to Europe. The center photograph at top is captioned, “An Irish Cousin.”
The photographs in this collection measure only about 2 x 3 inches.  As small as they were, Aunt Detty (as we called Benita) was able to fit as many as 23 on a page.  She tried to label as many photos as possible, but some of the captions have left me guessing.  She knew what “An Irish Cousin” meant, but I have no idea who any of those Irish cousins were.

Other details are missing, such as places and dates.  The scant clues that are there, though, give me hope in my research.  I do not know when she left for Europe, but I do have a copy of the ocean liner’s passenger list home.  Someday, I may find what and whom I am looking for, thanks to even these small tidbits she thought to include.

There may be other reasons my aunt did not label many of her photographs, but one culprit stands out in particular: the scourge of time. Remember, these photos were small and sometimes faded.  When Aunt Detty created this scrapbook in 1982, she was 93 years old.  Her mind was still razor-sharp, but her eyes were not as good as they used to be, and even glasses could not always help spot the minutiae of details.

With all that said, I am grateful for the considerable number of photos that Aunt Detty did label.  In truth, she puts me to shame as far as labeling my own photographs is concerned.  I have gotten better at labeling my digital collection, but most of the photos that predate them remain unlabeled.  It might be advisable to swallow some of my own medicine and start working on them now, so my own descendants are not confused in the future!

Happily, the technology of photo software and internet searches has improved the chances of learning more about some photos that might have otherwise gone ignored.  I have been able to sharpen exposure, enlarge detail, and Google people, place names, and historical events.  These techniques have allowed me to link photos, identify places I have never seen myself, and narrow down dates that give added significance to my aunt’s life history.

As we shall see tomorrow, without the ability to do this, I might never have discovered that Aunt Detty, who I knew only as an elderly woman, once climbed rough terrain to one of the most sacred sites in all of Ireland.


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully


Mystery Monday: Is this Lizzie Gaffney?

Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Gaffney
          (1884 – 1960)

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick
          (1889 – 1984)

“My cousin poses,” Benita wrote under this photograph, taken in western Ireland in 1913.  Could this be Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” 
Gaffney? Compared with the photo below, there seems to be a strong  resemblance, but it is hard to say for sure.


There are a couple of  unidentified “mystery” photographs in my great-aunt Detty’s (Benita) scrapbook from her 1913 trip to Europe.  The above picture of the young woman on the horse and cart is one of them.
Could she be Mary Elizabeth Gaffney, Aunt Detty’s cousin once-removed? If so, this would  mean they were fellow travelers in Europe.
I never met Mary Elizabeth.  Still, I have a rather odd tie to and a soft spot for Cousin Lizzie, as the Gaffneys and McGinnises knew her, through one of those stories parents tell their children to get a point across.  In my case, my mother used to caution my sister and me not to pick up or carry our younger sisters around, lest we drop and injure them.  According to her, another child (a young neighbor or cousin) had  been playing with baby Lizzie Gaffney in their arms when they dropped her, injuring her hip. As a result, Lizzie never walked without a cane.  

Interestingly enough, a story from another side of the family attributes Lizzie’s hip injury to a fall from a high chair. But I never knew of that theory, and my mother’s admonition remained with me through the births of my three children.  I remember thinking about Lizzie’s unfortunate accident and took great care to keep other children from picking them up for fear the same fate could happen to them.   
Lizzie was the second of four children born to James and Alice (Carlow) Gaffney of Erie, Pennsylvania.  In addition to her disability, she had a childhood that few would envy.  An older brother, James Jr., was stillborn. Her mother Alice, long ill with tuberculosis, died in April 1891, a mere three months after giving birth to her youngest child, May.  Baby May would die that summer.  
With Alice’s death, James, an independent grocer and beer bottler with no relatives living nearby, was left alone to raise his two surviving children, Lizzie, then 7, and Alice, 3.  Wanting his daughters to have a mother, he remarried within the year, this time to a woman named Susanne Hurley.   
Sadly, tragedy struck again a mere four years later.  This time, James, who had been trying to cool off in his rocking chair one hot July night, drifted off to sleep and fell backwards off the porch, dying from a blow to the head.  
Whether Susanne could not afford to raise the children on her own after that or did not wish to raise another woman’s children, we will never know. What we do know is that although the two sisters were split up and sent to live with various relatives for the remainder of their childhood, they remained close throughout their lives.
The 1910 United States Census found Lizzie living with her paternal Gaffney cousins in Chicago.  These were Mary Jane (Gaffney) and Thomas McGinnis and their four children:  Benita, Eugene, John, and Alice McGinnis.  Lizzie, then 24 years old, was listed as a “roomer” and was not employed. 
Although there seem to be no travel records for Lizzie, this does not mean they are nonexistent. Considering that in 1913 she was 27 years old, she would have been a suitable, mature travel companion for the younger Benita, who had graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and wanted to visit Europe.  It also would have been a wonderful opportunity for both cousins to meet their Gaffney relatives in Dublin and County Roscommon. Furthermore, her traveling there with Benita (along with Catherine Cronican, Benita’s friend) would have given Mary Jane and Thomas peace of mind in knowing Benita would be safe and traveling in a group.  It would not surprise me at all if my great-grandparents helped buy Lizzie’s passage to Europe.  
Unfortunately, I do not know much more about Lizzie.  As far as I know, she never had a job, maybe because of physical limitations.  My second cousin Jane (McCormick) Olson (Benita’s daughter), remembered Lizzie as a lady with a ready laugh despite her disability and a frequent dinner guest in the McCormick household.
Like her younger sister Alice, Lizzie never married. Alice became a secretary and later worked for the federal government in Washington, D.C. until her death there in April, 1959.  Lizzie must have missed her sister deeply.  She survived her by only 11 months, dying in Chicago on March 16, 1960.  She is buried at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Chicago.


Mary Elizabeth Gaffney in fur collar coat in the
foreground, with her first cousin,  Mary Jane
(Gaffney) McGinnis and two other unidentified
cousins.  Possibly taken in Chicago, Illinois,
the 1920s.   Photo courtesy of Ginny Eakin.
Of course, after all this speculation, it could well be that the cousin in the picture at top is not Lizzie Gaffney at all but someone with the same family features.  But who was she, then?

So, dear readers, now I ask your help.  Take out your magnifying glasses and judge for yourself.  Is Lizzie in both these photographs, or do you see a difference?  If Benita’s cousin in the top picture is not Lizzie and you know this family, can you help identify her?
Don’t you just love a mystery?



Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully


Sentimental Sunday: She Had the Gift of Gab

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick
          (1889 – 1984)

A 23-year-old Benita McGinnis is lowered to kiss the Blarney Stone,
Ireland, 1913.  From her scrapbook. 
Though my great-aunt Benita (McGinnis) McCormick enjoyed her art studies in Paris during her 1913 trip to Europe, the photographs in her scrapbook hint that she was happiest in Ireland. There, she learned more about her cultural heritage, spent considerable time with her Irish relatives and found romance.

Like most tourists, Aunt Detty visited most of the obligatory sites in Ireland, including the famous Blarney Castle.  As if she didn’t already have the “gift of gab,” we see her here, being lowered down the parapet to kiss the Blarney Stone.  I remember when we would look at this picture, she would quip that she really enjoyed being lowered down the shaft by such strong and handsome lads!


Postcard of Derrycunnihy Cottage, Killarney.  From Benita
(McGinnis) McCormick’s scrapbook.
Speaking of blarney, she was fascinated by Irish folklore, especially by the fabled leprechauns who were known to the Irish as the “little people.”  In our Irish family, it has always been a given that we all believe in leprechauns – if we didn’t, the Saints preserve us, we knew we’d be in trouble.

No better story illustrates this than Aunt Detty’s tale about a ride she took with some of her cousins on a horse and cart through the countryside one summer afternoon.  As they neared a small creek, the conversation turned to “the little people.”  Aunt Detty laughed and remarked how funny it was that people should still believe in such things in that modern day and age.
One of her cousins cautioned her against this blasphemy, reminding her that the little people might overhear it, to which Aunt Detty replied, “Well, let them!  I’d like to see just what they’d do about it!”
Just then, the horse reared up and the cart overturned on the bridge, dumping its occupants into the creek below.  That was all she needed to convince her to never doubt the existence of leprechauns.


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Benita in Paris

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick
          (1889 – 1984)

The photographs below are from my great-aunt Benita’s scrapbook, in which she reminisced about her first trip abroad.  Here, a few of her memories of Paris.

Benita McGinnis, possibly in the Bois de Vincennes,
Paris, France, about 1913.   2″ x 3″ photograph from
her scrapbook.
View from the Eiffel Tower of the Champ de Mars and the
Grande Roue de Paris Ferris Wheel, about 1913.  The ferris
wheel, built in 1900 for the Paris Universal Exposition, lasted
until 1920.  2″ x 3″ photograph from Benita McGinnis’ scrapbook.


“Boys in Paris instruct me,” Benita wrote in her scrapbook.
Paris, about 1913.


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully


Traveling Tuesday: Benita Goes to Europe

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick
          (1889 – 1984)

Benita McGinnis, about 24 years old, on the
Cunard ocean liner R.M.S. Franconia, 1913.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I look at these photos of my great-aunt Benita in Europe and realize they were taken exactly 100 years ago.

After finishing her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago, Benita’s parents, Thomas and Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis, sent her to France and Ireland to enrich her appreciation of art and her Irish heritage.

Benita had long been fascinated by her father’s stories of his travels around the world as a youth. Thomas McGinnis, who was orphaned at a young age, had run away to sea to become a sailor, seeing much of the world before settling down as a family man.  He and Mary Jane spent long hours with Benita, planning her trip and writing to their Irish relatives of her impending arrival.

As respectable young women of that era did not travel alone, she went accompanied by her friend Katharine Cronican, and possibly with a cousin, Eileen Kelly (whose name appears on the ship’s manifest on the way back home).
Eileen Kelly, Chicago,
Illinois, about 1919.

This is a photograph of Eileen Kelly, taken with the McGinnis-Gaffney family at their Drexel Avenue home.  Though I do not have any information to corroborate her family relationship yet, I believe she may be related through Mary Jane’s maternal line.

I am unable to determine when the three young women departed for Europe, but I know they returned to the United States through Boston on the Cunard liner, the R.M.S. Franconia.  They could have been away for as short as the summer of 1913 or as long as a couple of years.

Benita McGinnis, center, in white blouse; Katharine Cronican is to her right,
wearing sunglasses.  The other passengers are unidentified.  At sea, 1913.
Benita’s scrapbook is crammed with small 2″ x 3″ photographs of her days on ship.  Here, she and Katharine hold court with some of their fellow passengers.  It is hard to tell whether Eileen is in this group.


Katherine F. Cronican

We have limited information about Katharine Cronican. From what I can tell on, she was born on August 11, 1885, in Valparaiso, Indiana.  Her 1910 passport application indicates that she was a teacher living in Chicago who planned to spend two years abroad.  A couple of years after returning to Chicago, she married Joseph Marcinkevich, a Russian immigrant who was a soft drink manufacturer.  The 1920 U.S. Census lists them as living on East 72nd Street, living with two sons.

A couple of years later, Benita and her family would buy a house around the corner on South Vernon Avenue.  It would be nice to think the two families continued their friendship through the years, with  Benita and Katharine reminiscing about their adventures as young Americans in early 20th century Europe.

A defining moment in young Benita’s life, this would be the first of her many trips around the world.


Copyright ©  2013  Linda Huesca Tully


Sentimental Sunday: A Blessed Christmas to You

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick
          (1889 – 1984)


“Early Mass,” by Benita (McGinnis) McCormick.
Pen and ink over watercolor on parchment.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Christmas 1922.
Original in Benita’s scrapbook.

ometimes you just have to take some time off to make memories, not only remember them.  And that’s why it’s been a bit quiet lately here at Many Branches, One Tree. Priorities of family have been the order of the day.  I must admit it’s been rather nice to pull off the Internet Highway for a while to be fully present to and enjoy the ones I love.
But I can’t be away forever.  Here’s my gift to all of you, courtesy of my beloved “Aunt Detty,” who created this lovely scene, titled Early Mass, one snowy Milwaukee night some 91 years ago.

Depicting a family making their way through the bitter cold to the church in the distance, it evokes the deep love, faith, and devotion of that holiest of families, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, whose feast day the church celebrates today.

Wherever you are in the world as you read this, whether in the chilly north, on a sunny beach, or somewhere in between, may you and your loved ones enjoy all the blessings of this sacred Christmas season – and may the New Year bring you many occasions to create special memories together.


Copyright ©  2013  Linda Huesca Tully


The Day JFK Was Shot

I was a third grader at Saint Philip Neri Elementary Schoolin Chicago, Illinois, when the principal’s voice came over the public address system, announcing that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.  She asked all the classes to stop what they were doing and join in prayer for our president.  It was just after 10:30 in the morning, exactly 50 years ago today.


President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons, roberthuffstutter


For a split second, everyone in our class froze in confusion and disbelief.  Our teacher, Mrs. Tormey, was the first to cry, and the rest of us followed.  The door was open, and we could hear similar outbursts from the neighboring classrooms.  

It took a few seconds before we realized that the principal was still on the P.A., praying the Rosary. We joined in and prayed for John F. Kennedy with all our hearts.

My memory of the next half hour or so is more blurry than the beginning.  The teachers must have been as confused as anyone as to what to do next.  I think there was another announcement, because the teachers brought all the students into the corridor.  There they instructed us to sit on the floor against the walls, as we continued to pray.  This was not unusual to us, as we were accustomed to sitting in the long corridors during tornado warnings and air raid drills.
The P.A. system stayed on as Sister led us through our prayers, the faint sound of a news broadcast playing in the background. When she broke the news to us that President Kennedy had died, the hall erupted into a chorus of sobs, and we were dismissed for the day.  My little sister and I walked the three blocks home to find our mother glued to the TV set in the living room, crying her eyes out.  She took our hands and led us to the couch, where we all sat down to watch as CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite bravely announced the breaking developments.


I and others my age learned a new and sad vocabulary over the next several days.  Bulletin.  Assassination.  Motorcade. Grassy Knoll. Secret Service. Texas Book Depository. Suspect. Tragedy. Tarmac. Air Force One. Swearing-in. Lying-in-state. Rotunda. State funeral.  Caisson. Taps. Eternal Flame.  We learned new names, too:  John Connolly.  Lee Harvey Oswald.  Jack Ruby.

1963 had been a year of sad losses for me.  It began when my adored Nana – my maternal grandmother Alice (McGinnis) Schiavon, died in the early hours of New Year’s Day.  Six months later, on June 3, Pope John XXIII died.  In my childlike way, I had loved him because he looked kind and grandfatherly and was as close to God as anyone could get. And then we lost our young and vibrant president on that sunny day in November.  My innocent eight-year-old mind could not comprehend any of it.

That evening, overwhelmed by all that had happened that day, I went into the kitchen to be with my mother while she cooked dinner.  I leaned against the refrigerator and stared into space.  The world had suddenly become dark and confusing, and my face felt hot as tears streamed down my cheeks.  “Mommy,” I said somberly, “three people I love died this year:  Nana, the Pope, and President Kennedy. I think my heart is broken.”

My sweet mother turned from the sink and took me in her arms.  There was nothing she could say at that moment.  We just hugged each other, knowing the world would never again be the same.

I think most people felt the same way. In fact, on that day, the immediacy of television for the first time ever brought history right into our living rooms and connected us through tragedy.  No matter who you were or where you were in the world when JFK was assassinated, you were right there – with him, with Jackie and Caroline and John-John, with Lyndon Johnson and all the rest. 

It was a violent day in our history, and Americans of all ages wondered if and how we could go on, but we did.  Perhaps we survived because we believed Kennedy when he said we were “not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sure future.  For the world is changing.  The old era is ending.  The old ways will not do.”  

From the depths of darkness came flickers of light as people young and old sought to do good and carry out his vision to better the world. It took time, but we healed, albeit with scars, thanks to the legacy of hope and aspiration and service that JFK had instilled in us during his three short years as president.

As I remember where I was on November 22, 1963, I also remember where I was on July 20, 1969. I had just turned 14. Six years had passed since JFK’s death, and our family and millions of others across the globe once again gathered around our television sets.  

This time, the occasion was marked by joy and anticipation. My parents halted their wallpapering project and called my sisters and me to watch as astronaut Neil Armstrong landed Apollo 11 on the moon, fulfilling John F. Kennedy’s pledge that the United States would make a moon landing by the end of the decade.  As Armstrong stepped down from the lunar module onto the moon’s rocky surface, we cheered triumphantly, for his achievement, for our nation, and for our late president.

Copyright ©  2013  Linda Huesca Tully