Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers Day!

Were ye socks aware that today marks the 100th observation of Fathers Day in the good ol' USofA?

Well, it is. And, that got the genealogist in yours truly wondering how they would've marked the occasion back on the first Fathers Day.

My handy database tells me, if a time machine could carry me back to that date, I would have to take no less than 14 Fathers Day cards with me. (That's how many direct male ancestors I had living back then.) And, I'd have to deliver them over a pretty broad swath of this country, from Alabama to New Jersey.

As a group, I suspect those 14 men were more prolific than their modern counterparts. The "winner" by that criteria was my great-great grandfather Peter Madison Cox (1848-1931), who fathered fifteen children by two different wives. On that first Fathers Day, he would have been 61 years old, and was living at 810 Delaney Avenue right here in Orlando. His youngest child Sarah, my great-grandmother, was still living at home along with four of her older siblings.

The Morgan side of the family wouldn't arrive in these parts for a couple more years. My two earliest namesakes were celebrating down at Crystal River on the Gulf Coast, where they were working in a citrus crate mill.

A few miles south of Orlando, in the village of Pine Castle, my Patrick and Macy forebears probably attended services at the Baptist church on Lake Conway.

My Arnett and Bonner ancestors, on the other hand, probably attended the Old Salem Primitive Baptist Church on the Randolph/Chambers county line in eastern Alabama--2 of whom were Confederate veterans. I wonder if they put much stock in federal holidays?

There was one Union veteran of the Civil War in this motley bunch, too: Edson McClure Blakesley (1845-1931). He had retired to St. Petersburg, Florida, after working many years with the railroad. I have the old pocketwatch he used to keep track of all the trains' comings and goings, and wonder if he checked the time with it on that first Fathers Day, too . . .

My mom's side of the family--the Gleesons and Nortons--was still clustered up in the densely-packed Irish Catholic neighborhoods of Jersey City, the urban "frontier" across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

Patrick Norton, a 52 year old brewery collector, had fathered nine children. But, only 4 had survived to adulthood. One of those, my great-grandfather Tom Norton, had recently caused a bit of a scandal by quitting college to marry my great-grandmother Lil Irving . . . her father was an Englishman!!

My great-grandfather William F. Gleeson stands out from the lot, as he was 38 years old and still living at home. He's the only 1 of the 14 who seems to have lived my a modern biological clock . . .

And, finally, I come to John Jackson, whose nearly anonymous name appeared in a Long Branch, New Jersey, city directory at 132 Rockwell Avenue. The census record that year shows he fathered 5 children, all of whom were still living --- including two spinster daughters in their 30s who were teaching in the public school system.

I suppose a lot has changed since the original Fathers Day. But, this little genealogical trip down memory lane has revealed that some things are fairly universal.

I hope all the modern fathers out there enjoy their day, and keep an eye on posterity!

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Blogger Agnes said...

Fabulous genealogue! I loved reading it. Bringing what we learn through searchin' for an ancestors together into a compilation like this is why genealogy is so fascinating!!! Bravo, Billy!

11:20 AM  

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