Saturday, September 5, 2020

Maria Margaret "Peggy" Kilgariff McLaughlin

 Maria Margaret "Peggy" Kilgariff McLaughlin

My Mom's Early Years 

My mom was born in Brooklyn, NY. She was born in the Methodist Episcopal Hospital. (As was my dad, myself, and two other of my siblings!)

(From Hometalk the Star, Brooklyn, Fri., 24 Aug 1928, pg 14; from va Ancestry)

(Photo in the possession of author; professional photo by Valeche, Brooklyn  

Her mom, Margaret "Pearl" Charles McCann, was born to Irish immigrants, but her dad, John Francis Kilgariff, was born in Ireland and came to American in 1920. Her parents were older. Her mother was 42, her father 38. She had no siblings. She lived in a 4-story brownstone at 91 Fourth Avenue, on the edge of Park Slope, Brooklyn:

(Courtesey NYC Municipal Archives)(via

Her aunt and uncle and five children lived on the bottom two floors. Her grandparents lived on a floor. I think she and her parents lived on the top floor.
The view from the backyard. You can see the fences separating yards.

She and her family attended St. Augustine Church in Park Slope at 116 Sixth Avenue. She was baptized there, went to elementary school there, confirmed there, and was married there. 


Notice my grandmother's gray hair! She was 42 when my mom was born. And my mom has no hair (just like we kids did and my children, too)

In front of the house on Fourth Avenue. I love my grandmother's coat (raccoon?) and flapper hat.

Toddling on Fourth Avenue, below. Further below, mom with her tricycle by the steps outside her house.

Elementary school picture, but I don't know what grade. About 2nd? 3rd? 

(Family snapshots in the possession of the author)

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Sisters in Telegraph Service

Sisters in Telegraph Service

This blogpost is part of the challenge of Amy Johnson Crow, genealogist's "52 Ancestors, 52 Weeks." I post sporadically. The prompt was "service."

My grandmother, Margaret ("Pearl") Charles McCann Kilgariff, and her sister, Mary ("Minnie" and later, "Mamie") Catherine McCann Holzmann were just under 
3 & 1/2 years apart. 

Aunt Mamie was the first child of Joseph McCann and Catherine Sherlock. She was born in Belfast, Ireland, on 4 August 1882. Her baptismal certificate:

 Mary "Mamie" Holzmann McCann's birth certificate
Image of certificate rec'd from her daughter, Gerry Holzmann Cassidy

The family emigrated to America in that same year; specifically, to New York City.

Then my grandmother was born, on 11 December 1885. Or, possibly the 12th. See the note she wrote on the side of her birth certificate:

Margaret Charles McCann birth cert
Certificate in the possession of myself, Carol Neilson, granddaughter

Here is a family photo of the two sisters together when they were young. I would guesstimate about the age of 7-10? Maybe younger? It's not the best because it's a photo of a picture on fabric in a frame. The photo on frabric is, we think, from the late 1800s. It's in a fragile state. My grandmother is on the right. Aunt Mamie is on the left.

(Framed photo in the possession of Joan McLaughlin, 
granddaughter of Margaret)

Both sisters went to work after eighth grade, and eventually ended up as telegraph operators for Western Union. One thing they got to do was work at the Jersey shore, operating the telegraph offices in the hotels. They would send out messages for customers, and pass on messages they received. They also had to write important incoming news on a chalkboard outside the telegraph office. Aunt Mamie was working when she received the news that President McKinley had been shot, on September 6, 1901. 

This is a picture of my grandma, looking very much in fashion of the late 1800s-early 1900s. This is they style of clothing Margaret and Mary would have worn around 1901.

(Photo in the possession of myself, Carol Neilson, granddaughter)

In later years Margaret moved into other departments at Western Union. Her sister, Mamie, stopped working after she married and had children. However, she still knew her Morse code. When one of her sons was learning Morse code and would practice in front of her she would correct him when he made an error.



Some of my posts have been part of Amy Johnson Crow's genealogy challenge: 52 weeks, 52 ancestors. I participate lightly. This week's challenge is "solo" and here's my family connection to that word.

My mother, Margaret "Peggy" (Kilgariff) McLaughlin took flying lessons after high school! She was living in Brooklyn, NY, at the time and the lessons were taken at Donovan-Hughes Airport in Staten Island, which no longer exists. Below is a map of where the airport was on Staten Island. It's about dead center on the map.

Map image from

On September 28, 1948, she soloed! I don't know what newspaper this is from. 

Below is her pilot's license, front and back. 

Funny thing about my mom, she didn't like to fly (although she would). She said she was fine if she were the pilot, but not as a passenger.

As a pilot she also had to have a medical certification, like a clearance, to make sure she was medically fit to fly a plane:

These pictures aren't of her when she soloed, but within a couple of years of it.

When I was in high school I wore her pilot's jacket regularly. I wish I had taken a picture of it. It was taupe on the outside, and red on the inside. It zippered up the front, and had an elasticized waist. It came to the hips.

My parents met because of their love of flying. Dad (John McLaughlin) was working at the same airport to pay for lessons at the same time my mother was taking her lessons. I don't know when he soloed. When we were kids he took up flying again and got his license back. I flew with him at least once, over the New York area!

(All documents and photos are in my possession, except for the first image.)

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The American Dream

The American Dream
Great Grandpa Joseph McCann, January 1859-1 March 1950

Great Grandpa Joseph McCann was born in Ireland, emigrated to America, and lived the American dream. This picture above, was taken after retirement, in about 1933. But let's go back to the beginning of his story.

Joseph was born to Susan McIlvenna and Neal McCann in the Toomebridge area of County Antrim, Ireland in approximately January 1859. Below is his baptism, recorded in the Catholic church of his area (now called Sacred Heart Church, in Cargin). The last name is given as M'Ann. His mother's maiden name says M'Kenna. Sponsors were John & Charlotte M'Neill. These were most likely his mother's relatives.

He had 7 siblings that I have found: John, Maria, Catherine, Charles, Elizabeth, Daniel, and Jane.

I don't know much about the family's life in Ireland. Family lore says the government took the 'family' home on Lough Neagh from them, but...? And although we have this photo of the house there, I don't have any information on the true circumstances of the family living there. Did they themselves live there? Did other relatives live there? I don't know. It's at Doss Point on Lough Neagh. My grandmother took this photo of it in the late 1930s when she visited Northern Ireland. No one in our family was living there at that time.
Taken by Margaret McCann Kilgariff, circa 1935, Co. Antrim, No. Ireland

Joseph came to America in February of 1881 according to the Oath of Citizenship he signed in 1887. I haven't been able to find any information on his coming to America. 

But then in September of 1881 he was back in Ireland, getting married! He married Catherine Sherlock in Belfast, Ireland on 15 September 1881 in St. Matthew's Catholic Church. Their witnesses were Catherine's brother John and Nellie Donnelly, John's future wife.
From St. Matthew's Catholic Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland

I believe these are their wedding photos. These are photos of tin types.

Joseph had a trade, carpentry. It was listed on his civil marriage registration. Specifically, he was a joiner. That is someone who builds cabinetry that is affixed to walls, usually. I don't know where or how he learned this trade. As a result, though, when he came to America, he was in carpenter's union and worked predominantly for Western Union.

When the family of three settled in America--their first child, Mary was born in Belfast--they were living in the southern part of Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan. Three addresses found where they lived were 315 W. 35th Street, 456 W. 35th Street, and 565 W. 37th Street. Their first son, Neil, born in 1884, and second daughter Margaret, born in 1885, were born when they lived in this area. By the time their son Charles was born in December 1892, they were living in northern Manhattan, in Harlem at 302 W. 118th Street. The image below is from 1920, but it shows about the type of structure the McCanns would have been living in in Hell's Kitchen. These addresses are 327, 325-321 & 319 W. 35th St. 

from accessed 4/18/2020

In 1899 Joseph was able to buy a brownstone in Brooklyn, and the family had moved to 91 4th Ave., in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn. They lived on one floor, the other three floors were rented out.

By 1912, Joseph had prospered enough that he was able to buy land to build a summer home in Lindenhurst, on Long Island, NY, for $200. In 1913 he had a house and boathouse erected. 

From the South Side Signal, 9 May 1913, pg 8, from accessed 4/18/2020 

His tale certainly is one of the American dream. To top it off, he was brought out of retirement to build the cabinetry of Western Union's offices in the Empire State Building! Here is a write up of him from their employee magazine mentioning his work on the Empire State Building.
 Copy rec'd from Geraldine Holzmann Cassidy, granddaughter of Neil McCann
from Western Union employee magazine

Saturday, February 1, 2020

So Far Away

This is my grand uncle, Henry Kilgriff, my maternal grandfather's older brother. He died in WWII and is buried in France, so far away from home...

Henry was about 16 when my grandfather was born. By 1901, Henry had emigrated to Glasgow, Scotland. I don't know when Henry emigrated to Scotland? Perhaps when he was 18, in 1898? If so, he and my grandfather, John, who was born in 1890, wouldn't have known each other very long.

I found Henry in the 1901 Census of Scotland, living in a boarding home, and working as a spirit shopman in Glasgow.

By the 1911 Census however, he had enlisted in the British Army, and was serving with the Royal Irish Rifles, stationed on Andaman Island. His occupation was mortarman. He wasn't married. Another document said he'd enlisted 9 years before WWI (which was 1914 for Europe), so he enlisted around 1905.

I don't know exactly what battles Henry participated in, but he died on April 28, 1916 from wounds received. He is buried in Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension, near Arras, France. It's southeast of Calais, near the Belgium border. It's not a very large cemetery, as you can see from the map. Some day I hope to visit.

 A Northern Ireland newspaper printed a tribute to local fallen servicemen. Henry is listed in this one.

He had made out his will in 1915, leaving all effects to his mother, Mary (Mannion) Kilgariff.
When I was researching about Uncle Henry, I found a website online that lists WW1 memorials in Europe. Dromore, the town in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, where Henry was born had one. He is listed on it.

Rest in Peace, Uncle Henry. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Another Favorite Photo

This is another neat photo in the family. I love the outfits from this era! This photo was taken in 1910 according to the postmark on the card. Since there are palm trees in the back, this must have been taken in a studio. New York doesn't have palm trees. So I assume the car in the background is also a photo backdrop.

My grandmother, Margaret "Pearl" McCann [Kilgariff] (b. 1885) is on the right. On the left is her maternal aunt, Mary "Minnie" Sherlock (b. 1876), and her husband, Michael James "Jim" McCann (b. 1870) is in the middle. They were visiting from Belfast, Ireland.  Minnie is the sister of Teenie, who was in the photo in the previous post.

Minnie and Jim were married in St. Brigid's R.C. Church, in Belfast in 1898. They had a dispensation to be married, but I do not know why. For those who don't know, a dispensation means they had to get special permission from the bishop of their diocese to marry. There may have been some problem such as Jim wasn't Catholic. Or they were related in some way. In the Catholic church you can't marry a first cousin, for instance, without a dispensation.

Minnie's sister Christine "Teenie" was a witness to the marriage, as was Jim's  brother, Daniel McCann. My grandmother's father was from Belfast, but I don't know if this Daniel McCann and my grandmother were related in any way.

Jim passed away in Belfast in 1933. Minnie passed away in Belfast in 1961. They didn't have any children.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Favorite Picture

The giant ladies' hats, the man's straw boater, the Gibson girl clothes and hair!
I love this photo because it's not a studio photo. It's of friends and relations out having a fun day along Main Street, West Farms, which is now an area of the Bronx. The Redmond cousins were Irish-born, but the family emigrated to the US around 1907 and lived in the Bronx. (The Redmond's mother and my grandmother's father were siblings.)

The photo was taken by my maternal grandmother, Margaret "Pearl" McCann [Kilgariff] (b. 1885). Her sister, Mary "Mamie" McCann [Holzmann] (b. 1883) is in the middle of the photo, with the big white hat with flowers. The little boy is their little brother, Charles "Charlie" McCann (b. 1892). Aunt Teenie (b. 1873) is hugging Charlie. Her face is hard to see because of her huge hat. She was the maternal aunt of Charlie, Pearl, and Mamie. She was visiting from Ireland. In the rear are a man named Cassidy; in front of him are cousin Charlie Redmond (b. 1883) and his sister-in-law Anna Tritsch (b. 1889). The man crouching near the front is Charlie's brother, John Redmond (b. 1884). He's married to Anna Tritsch. The two ladies in the front, Marcella Denigan and Marjorie Collins, worked with my grandmother at Western Union. Mamie also worked at Western Union at this time. My grandmother and Mamie were telegraph operators.

Maria Margaret "Peggy" Kilgariff McLaughlin

 Maria Margaret "Peggy" Kilgariff McLaughlin My Mom's Early Years   My mom was born in Brooklyn, NY. She was born in the Metho...