Thursday, February 28, 2013

Frank Cullen?

Frank Cullen, Jr. as a young man.
Frank Cullen in about 1940.
I spend a lot of time thinking about Frank Cullen. Frank was my 2nd great-grandfather, and he lived quite a life! Frank spent his early adult life traveling with the Greatest Show on Earth, Barnum & Bailey Circus (as well as several other traveling shows) as a bill poster. My family is fortunate enough to have hundreds upon hundreds of postcards that Frank sent to his mother Mary Jane & his future wife Viola while he was traveling. But more about that in another post.

Elmer, Frank, & Mary Jane Cullen (about 1888)

The biggest mystery about Frank is his father. The story that's trickled down to me is that Frank's mother Mary Jane would tell my great-grandmother Mary Virginia to "mind her own business" when she would ask about her grandfather. It's always been suspected that he took off and left the family, but we have no proof of anything really. 

In my genealogical research,  there is no living sign of Frank Cullen, Sr. He is referenced by name in a few places. In 1889, Mary Jane shows up in the Detroit city directory (after 9 years of no record) as a widow of Frank. (see below)
She continues to claim herself as Frank Cullen's widow for at least another decade in the Detroit city directory. 

The odd thing is that I have absolutely no other written record showing Frank Cullen's life (or death). No birth certificate, marriage record, census record, death record, burial... NOTHING! I cannot even find birth certificates for his 2 sons. 

I do have a document that my Frank (Frank, Jr.) saved with his files. It is an "application for the determination of birth" because Frank's birth was apparently "unrecorded." The City of Cincinnati sent him a letter saying that his birth was not recorded with the city. Can you imagine someone telling you that they have no record of your birth? Anyway, part of the application asks him about his father, and below is how he responds:

It makes me sad that Frank didn't know his father. 

We have 2 photographs in our family records that **could** be of Frank, Sr. Both photos are of a bearded man who looks similar to Frank, Jr. But the photos appear to be much older than the ones I have of Frank, Jr. at a similar age. And I have probably a hundred photos of Frank, Jr, and he is not bearded in a single other photo... Anyway, here they are. 

This is a cardboard backed photo (cabinet photo) that was in Mary Jane Cullen's personal photo album. Someone wrote "Frank Cullen" next to the photo. I believe that this photo is of Frank, Sr. for several reasons (hopefully not just because I want to believe that it's him!). The main reason is that this photo is unlike ANY photo we have of Frank, Jr. And we have a lot of them...

This photo is still in its frame. My grandpa dismantled the frame over Christmas so that we could see if anything was written on the back, but the only thing is the metal plaque with his name.
  I still spend much of my research time hoping to find some shred of evidence that Frank Cullen, Sr. existed. I feel like I've unturned every stone to continue to find nothing. 

But tonight gave me a little bit of hope. I was researching Frank, Jr's time in the circus. I found a fascinating website called It occurred to me that maybe Frank, Sr. isn't to be found because he was in the circus business himself. So my search continues...

Monday, February 18, 2013

January 29, 1890 Newsclipping

A fantastic resource I've used for genealogy research is the Library of Congress's "Chronicling America" website. This site provides detailed information about & scanned pages from American newspapers spanning the years of 1836 - 1922. Typically these newspaper pages are not easily searchable through, so when I am looking for more detail about a family member, I use this resource. 

The James Berkley & Alice Marmaduke family (my maternal 3rd Great-Grandparents) are of particular interest to me. My family has a series of letters written by Alice Marmaduke in 1902-1903. Alice had been a widow for 10 years by this point, and she was writing the letters to her young daughters Jeannette & Bettie. Alice's letters reference family troubles, but what piques my interest the most is that she is separated from her daughters who are 11 (Jeannette) & 14 (Bettie). My biggest questions are why they are separated and who the girls were with. So I searched the Chronicling America historical newspaper collection in hopes of finding answers.

I did not find the answer to my question about the girls, but I did find a distressing blip on the family's timeline. Here is a link to the article, but below is a screen shot of the item.

The blurb says "Last Friday the dwelling of Mr. Berkley Marmaduke, in Spotsylvania County, about six miles from Fredericksburg, was destroyed by fire, together with nearly all of the furniture and wearing apparel." Alexandria gazette. (Alexandria, D.C.) 1834-1974, January 29, 1890, Image 2

It amazes me that I could be so affected by something that happened 123 years ago. This 1 sentence blurb in a newspaper makes me wonder how the family recovered from the tragedy.There were 4 children at this point, all under the age of 10. Because the majority of the 1890 US census records were destroyed in a fire, it is difficult to know where the family's home was. But I do know that as of 1900, the Marmadukes lived in a home in Spotsylvania that was surrounded by extended family. How would this family's story have changed, though, if the fire never happened? Would Berkley still have died in 1892? I have so few pieces of information about the Marmadukes, yet each piece is so fascinating. More to come about Berkley, Alice, and their children in future posts...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Who? Why? When? Where?

I am writing this blog as I am discovering bits and pieces of my family's history. Geneology has always interested me, and I have spent the past few years diving deeper into my family tree via and the unbelievable collection of photos, letters, and postcards (literally thousands) left to us. My great-grandmother Mary Cullen Loriaux (1919-2008) thankfully saved these precious pieces of history. 

Many of the photos & letters leave me asking so many questions. Why was Alice Sandy Marmaduke separated from her young girls in 1903? Why wouldn't anyone talk about what happened to Frank Cullen, Sr? 

Because the majority of the photos come from my great-grandmother's collection, I am focusing almost exclusively on her lines, along with her husband's family.

These photos were found in an album belonging to Mary Jane Quinn Cullen (1851-1935). It is photos like these that drive me especially crazy as I don't know the who, where, when, and why these photos were taken. I'm hoping that this blog will connect me to people who are more experienced genealogists that can help point me in the right direction. I wish I had begun this blog years ago... 

This precious little girl's photo was in the album next to my great-great grandfather's (Frank Cullen: 1883-1951) infant tin-type photo (taken in 1883/4). 
My instinct tells me that this photo may be of my 4th Great-Grandfather Hugh Quinn (abt 1814-abt 1870) since it was in the album near the tin-type of his wife (below). But there was nothing else indicating that this photo is of Hugh Quinn. My knowledge of the Quinns is that they came from Ireland, and ended up working in Cincinnati, Ohio in about 1860. Their occupation in Cincinnati was bleaching/pressing of hats.

Margianna Quinn (maiden name unknown / 1811-1892)

I have no clue about this woman. Because it's a tin-type, I would guess it is from around 1880.
Again, no idea... This woman does not look familiar at all to me. It's also a tin-type.

Now for a photo that I have identified. This is Mary Jane Quinn Cullen with her 2 sons: Frank (1883-1951) & Elmer (1881-1911). I would estimate this was taken in 1888. Their father, Frank Cullen Sr. was supposedly deceased by this point. My great-grandmother Mary Cullen (Frank's daughter) was always told to mind her own business when she asked about her grandfather Frank. Mary Jane's city directory record notes that she is the widow of Frank Cullen, along with the 1910-1930 census records. I have not found the 1880, 1890 (missing due to the fire) & 1900 census records for Mary Jane. I have seen no written proof of Frank Cullen Sr's life as I do not have birth, death, or marriage records for him. I do have 2 photos of him that I will share at some point. In the meantime, here is the tin type of Mary Jane, Frank (L), & Elmer (R).

I could keep on for hours, but will close for now...