Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Little Orphan Annie...
When I was in my early 20's my paternal grandfather Otis N. LaBree asked me if I would look into his mothers family. I had just started learning about genealogy and recording all the family information. Otis was a very well known Policeman, Detective and later Sheriff in Maine. When I was little he told me I loved the trill of the hunt for clues just like he did and encouraged me to go into law enforcement too. Lets just say I have little patience with criminals and instead of chasing after someone I would opt to just shoot them...
All I know of Annie Marie Flynn, my great grandmother, came from Otis and his sister Valencia (Babe). Annie died when I was a year old and I wish I had the opportunity to know her. She did not know her own birth date until she was in her 40's and then she didn't even know if it was right. She remembered a family that lived in a tenement section of a large city and that she had a sister and several brothers. Annie would run to the corner to meet her father, his name might have been Richard or maybe Thomas, returning from his job at a local mill and the day he didn't come back. She also remembered the day a horse draw carriage arrived and took her mother away.
Thomas her younger brother was taken away with her to an orphanage and maybe another brother. Her sister promised to get them out as soon as she could get a job but she didn't come for them before they were sent away.
I can imagine two scared little red headed children being place on a train with orphan children and sent to places all around the country. Annie and Thomas Flynn were sent to Old Town, Maine and offered to the congregation of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, a French community church. They were both taken in by families in the Old Town area as workers on their farms. Both Children would have been under the age of 10 although there are no records of the dated they were sent. Thomas was treated so badly the ran away after a short time with the family he was sent to live with. (see notes under Reunion). Annie was also abused, she told the story of laying in a little bed in the attic room she had been given with a thin old quilt watching the snow as it fell through the holes in the roof. The church took her back because of the conditions and gave her to a new family, the LaBree's of French Island, part of Old Town.
As you can picture a little red head, blue eyed Irish girl stood out in a totally French community. She did not speak French in the beginning and records have been found where she had to be reconfirmed in the Catholic Church because of being Irish.
Working as a housekeeper for the large LaBree family she began to be amerced in the people and the language. In true Love Story fashion she and one of the families son Elzear (Otis, Sr) fell in love and married just before she turned 18.
They had two children with in three years and were expecting a third when the influenza outbreak of 1918 struck them both. At 8 months pregnant she was carried to the house next door where her husband was being cared for by his family to kiss him goodbye. Otis N. LaBree, Sr died at age 24 on 2 Nov 1918, the last know influenza victim of the area. A widow at 23, sick, with a baby on the way and two toddlers must have been overwhelming. She never complained she made due with what she had, finding work where she could.
The matriarch of the LaBree family, Victoria Marcoux, had been against her son marrying Annie and while he was alive did not cause problems. Once Otis, Sr was gone Annie lived with them but when the children were still small moved next door. My grandfather once told me he remembered his grandmother Victoria lining rows of canned goods along a shelf across a window. He could see it from his house next door and even though they had next to nothing she would never offer them a can. She would make their Grandfather, Simeon, come out to yell at them if they were seen trying to take apples from a tree in the yard.
When my search for Annie started I knew I was looking for an Irish orphan and her brother Thomas. I did know from family information the orphanage they were in was in Olneyville, Rhode Island and that it had burnt at one point. Her fathers name was questionable and there was no records of her mothers name at all.
In 1992 genealogy was not done as it is today. If there was a genealogy program I had not found it. It was all done on paper with visits to libraries, archives, phone calls and letters. After sending letters to every place I could find I finally got a response from the Olneyville Orphanage Assoc. The answer, yes there had been a fire, no they didn't have the records that I needed but all the children had been sent through the Home for Destitute Children in Boston. Twenty years ago the Catholic Church would not talk about their part in the distribution of orphan children and even after several phone calls and letters I got no where. A letter to the research center at the Archives in Rhode Island was my first big break. They kindly photo copied the Vital Records from 1890 to 1910 for Flynn. I was so happy to get that package but in the end learned nothing from it because I did not have enough information to use anything I had been send and no one match my Annie.
Finally when all the records started to appear online I found a family in Providence, Rhode Island that matched closely. The only thing that was off was that the three youngest children were born in Connecticut. So I mailed a letter and received the birth records from Connecticut. The first surprise was that Annie birth name was Bridget Ann Flynn daughter of Richard Flynn and Bridget Butler both born Ireland. The second was that Annie's brother younger brother Thomas was actually older then she was. This also confirmed the census record I found.
It still took fourteen years to confirm the information. Now all this time later I know most of the story of my Flynn Family.
Richard Flynn, Sr b. Feb 1865 in most likely County Tipperary, Ireland and his wife Bridget Ann Butler b. May 1867 most likely Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland left Liverpool, England and arrived in New York in 1890 with sons Edward b. Sept 1887, Ireland and Richard, Jr b. 10 Jan 1889 Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland. They lived in Connecticut where daughter Mary b. 12 jul 1892 in Yantic, New London Co, Connecticut, son Thomas b. Dec 1895 and Bridget "Annie" b 20 jun 1896 were born.
Another surprise was that Richard and Bridget were not dead when their children were taken away. I have found both of them in later records. I now believe Bridget was taken to Worcester State Asylum in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was both a place for the mentally ill and an Alma's House for the poor. Because here children were not with her I assume it was an illness either mental or physical.
As I tracked each child and family it because an obsession to put this lost family back together. I first found descendants of Thomas, Jr's family. He had runaway and ended up in Lewiston, Maine working in a Mill. There he married a woman of German ancestry named Rose Benedix and had one child that died as an infant in Maine. They moved to Lowell, Massachusetts where they had one son and two daughters, Thomas, Jr, Alberta and Mildred. Annie and her son Otis did find Thomas in 1935 and drove to meet him once and in turn a few years later he visited them. After that they lost contact again. We have e-mailed several times and were a great help with piecing Thomas' family together.
Next I located daughter Mary's descendants, she married an Albert Ratcliffe and had two daughters, Eva and Edith. She died young on 10 may 1932 in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Last year I found Richard, Jr and his wife Anna Coffin's grandchildren. Of all the people I have found I was most excited about this group. After phone calls and e-mails we figured out the family spent their early years in Massachusetts and after their fathers early death their mother Grace Flynn, only child of Richard, had moved them just 20 minutes from where I live in Maine. They were only a half an hour from an Aunt and cousins for years and nether family knew it. It was because of Grace's obituary in my local paper that I found this family. We now keep in touch by facebook. On a side note Richard Flynn was also sent to an orphanage and was never sent away with his siblings because he ran away. It made all of the Flynn children move away from religion and specifically the Catholic Church.
I now have located everyone but the oldest Edward. He has never been found beyond the 1900 Rhode Island Census. As more records become available I might just complete the circle and bring us all back together.
So now I am searching the records of County Tipperary, Ireland and hoping I can find just one more generation on this family. Maybe by putting this story out there another Flynn will find me!
Hope you find your family too,