52 Ancestors: #5 Tony McGuire (Son of Anthony Maguire?)

Remember that “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” thing that I was trying to do? Well, I guess I’ve turned it into more of a “52 Ancestors in However Long it Takes me to Write About 52 Ancestors (…which is definitely much longer than 52 weeks)” thing.  It’s week #40, and I’m on ancestor #5. Fail.  But at least I haven’t stopped completely…

Late last week, I received a message from an amateur genealogist in northern Minnesota wondering if the Tony McGuire they had found working as a log driver for Crookston Lumber Company near the Red Lake Indian Reservation was the same Tony (or Anthony) Maguire that I had in my tree. The Tony which they referred to in my tree, was not the Anthony Maguire, my brick wall, the one that’s consumed a large percentage of my genealogy research and presented me with the most mystery.  It was his son they inquired about, also named Anthony. Throughout my research, I’ve been trying hard to track down what has happened to all of my 2x great grandfather Anthony’s children, because much can be learned from them, especially through their death certificates and obituaries. But this is one that I haven’t yet tracked down. Tony the lumberjack’s age seems to match up quite well with my Anthony, and his parents were both born in Ireland according to the 1910 census, also true of my Anthony, so – yeah – maybe this is the same dude?

I don’t know much about my Anthony Maguire.  I knew that he lived with his parents (Anthony & Bridget) until at least 1880, when he was about 15 years old. By the next Minnesota state census in 1885, he was gone.  Not dead-gone, I was never able to find a death record or burial record for him.  But, outta here-gone. He left his family. And why shouldn’t he? He was old enough to go off and work on a farm to earn money – which was quite common for that time. I haven’t found him in census records after 1880, but I’ve found one or two possible census records that could be him. I just haven’t been successful in proving that any of them are actually him.

It killed me that I wasn’t able to get to the history center in St. Paul right away to pull the death certificate for lumberjack Tony (which would hopefully tell me his parents’ names and birthplaces), so I tried to find what I could online in the meantime. After checking ancestry.com, and familysearch.org, I like to check Chronicling America, a great online source for digitized newspapers from 1836 through 1922. It was there that I found some crazy things. Things that made me think, “If this is my ancestor, then….holy. crap.”

The first article that I found, on the front page of the Bemidji Daily Pioneer from 27 August, 1910, told the story of my possible ancestor being attacked by a “maniac” with an ax who was trying to kill the mayor of Bemidji, John Parker, after accusing his fellow lumberyard workers of building a gallows from which they were preparing to hang him, and then running off into the woods with his ax, likely to starve to death.

The next article I found, dated two days later, stated that the crazy person had not been found, that the victim was still in serious condition, and that the names of the two men involved had been mixed up in the previous article. So, if this Tony McGuire was my great grand uncle, then, well…I have yet another alcoholic in my family tree, and now add to that: an ax murderer wannabe.

The third article told of McGuire being found dead in the woods by a 12 year old boy who was out hunting, his body decomposed and his throat cut from a razor blade.  And then finally, a fourth article telling of the recovery of his victim, William Durkee.

Some crazy stuff, but I still didn’t know if this was actually my great grand uncle. This Tuesday, I was finally able to make it to MNHS after work to grab a copy of his death certificate. I had this strange feeling that I wasn’t going to learn much. My thoughts were that if this were my ancestor, he was far from home, in the woods, with no family around, a melancholy inebriate who probably didn’t have a lot of people in his life. Who up in that logging camp would know or care much about him? It felt unlikely that his fellow coworkers would have known his parents names and where they were born, or even where he was born. So what could his death certificate possibly tell me?  Nothing that I couldn’t glean from newspaper articles, it turns out.

Tony McGuire Death Certificate from MNHS 2014-09-30

Unknown, unknown, unknown, etc…

So now I think that my only chance might be scouring old newspaper articles in smaller papers that aren’t yet digitized on Chronicling America. The tiniest things were “news” back in the late 1800’s / early 1900’s.  If someone’s sister came to town to visit, or if someone’s uncle became ill, it made the local paper. Perhaps there might be an old fashioned status update about Anthony leaving his family in Sibley County to go work as a log driver in the northwoods. I’ve got more work to do.

52 Ancestors: #4 Anna Clara Mochinski

Anna Clara Mochinski
Anna Maguire, 10 Nov. 1932, at her sister Stella’s wedding

This was my grandmother – Anna Clara Mochinski (Polish much?). She died at the age of 78 in a nursing home when I was 17. I don’t remember a single thing about her, and that makes me sad. The only things that I “remember” are the few stories that I’ve heard about her – and they’re not good stories. My grandfather and her were divorced when she was 60. I remember hearing that she left – went to Vegas and gambled away a bunch of money – then came back. That’s all I’ve got! I have no idea if that’s true, and sad thing is that there are plenty of living, breathing people that might be able to confirm or deny this, but I’ve just been too lazy and shy to go out and seek the answers.  I don’t remember visiting her as a child, or as a teen. Did I even? I must have. But why can’t I remember?

I like this photo, though. And I’ve never really looked at it as closely as I am looking at it now, as I’m writing this. It makes me want to know her more and seek out those answers. There’s got to be some good stories about her out there, too, right? And she’s kind of pretty, too, eh?

Also, I’m pretty sure I have her to thank for 42% of my AncestryDNA test results – the Eastern European bits.

52 Ancestors #3: Bridget Cafferty

Bridget was married to the guy I mentioned earlier (Anthony Maguire), and she has been just as much of a pain in the ass to figure out. (Why are most of my people so mysterious?) I have some theories about where she came from and who her family is, but I haven’t been able to prove any of it. The earliest record I have of her is her marriage record to Anthony in September or 1860 in St. Paul. In the state marriage record, it says that both Anthony and Bridget came from Pennsylvania. In the 1865 Minnesota state census, Anthony and Bridget were living in Winsted, Minnesota, RIGHT NEXT TO some other Cafferty’s (Patrick, Ann, and family) that also had ties to Pennsylvania. I think this is not just a coincidence. When the Irish migrated to America, they stuck together as much as they could, and they would go to where family was, if they knew where they were.

Other than census records, I’ve only found the death record for Bridget – she died just 2 weeks after giving birth to their eighth child, Kate. The cause of death listed in the death register was “Insanity”, but I’m guessing that what they meant by “insanity” is not what we would think of these days.  That’s my hope, anyway. Last summer, I made a trip to Winsted to go tromping through the catholic cemetery looking for her grave. I found lots of my other relatives there – including some Poles (more on them later), but not this Biddy. Later, after a little more research, I found that this particular cemetery was started the year she died (1872), and that there was another, older cemetery in use before that time. I drove to Winsted again in search of it, only to find that it was practically in someone’s back yard, and I didn’t particularly feel like trespassing that day. Another time, perhaps.

Years ago, my genealogically-talented aunt got in touch with some other Winsted Cafferty researchers for me. They all thought that yeah, we might possibly be related through Bridget, but none of us could prove it. And if we’re connected, then Bridget is likely from County Mayo in Ireland! I’m looking through my emails with them as I’m writing this post, and I see that one of them lives (or lived?) in the town where I currently reside, and I’m getting a little inspired to contact them and start digging into this line again. Another thing that I really need to do is spend some time in the old newspapers and find some obituaries for the people that I think she’s related to. With luck, one of them will mention their “sister Bridget”.

In two days I’m heading out to Salt Lake City for the RootsTech conference, and maybe some research at the Family History Library there. I’m not hopeful that I’ll actually find anything, but I do hope that I’ll pick up some tips on things I could try next.

No post next week, probably.  But maybe I’ll blog a little about my conference experience!

52 Ancestors: #2 Louise Mathiesen (1890-1950)

Louise Mathiesen
Louise (Mathiesen) Maguire, 1935

This is my great grandmother, Louise (pronounced more like “Louisa”). I didn’t know her, and my dad and his brothers didn’t know her (as far as I know). The oldest of his siblings was 6 when she passed away. When I was a kid, I didn’t really think to ask my grandfather about her; for one, I didn’t see him that often, and for two, I was more into riding my bike and building forts in the woods than learning anything about people who I didn’t know that were dead and gone. I would still like to ask my uncles if they remember their father talking about her at all, but I just haven’t gotten around to it, and we’re just not close, sadly.  I haven’t seen any of them in years. Poor excuses, I know.

Louise was my first international discovery. The first ancestor that made this whole genealogy thing really exciting for me. I was in high school – maybe a sophomore or junior – when I decided to order the death certificate of my grandfather, George, from the McLeod county courthouse. You know, like most high schoolers do. The document listed his mother: Louisa Mathison, born in Denmark.  HOLY CRAP I’M DANISH is what I said when I read that, I’m pretty sure. So this must be where our family tradition of eating pickled herring at Christmas time originated.  And where I got my ability to hide my emotions so well. Everything was starting to make sense.

Over the next couple/few years, on and off, I tried to find out more about her, but I didn’t really know what I was doing, and didn’t find much. At some point, I gave it another good go, and ended up finding another living relative of Louise’s – who didn’t even know of Louise’s existence – and who had done tons and tons of research on her ancestors! Thanks to him, I know exactly where I need to visit when I finally make it over to Denmark!

Louise was born on the 7th of September, 1880 to a shoemaker, Jacob Mathiesen Handevidt and Caroline Christensen Smith in Lindeballe, Denmark.

Louise's Record of Birth
Louise’s Record of Birth

I really don’t know that much about her life in Denmark, except that her family seemed to relocate relatively frequently.  She came to America with her parents and one sister, Caroline on 26 July 1890 on a ship called the Rugia, dropping Handevidt and using Mathiesen as their surname. Louise had 10 siblings including Caroline – some who also came to the U.S. at different times, and some who did not.

S. S. Rugia
S. S. Rugia

On 28 March, 1909, she married my great grandfather, John Maguire. Together they had 6 children – including my grandfather – while living on their farm in Collins Township, McLeod County, Minnesota. She passed away at the age of 69 on 04 January, 1950, and was buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Brownton, Minnesota. I wish I had more to say about her – but I’m afraid that’s it for now.Some things I would still like to find on Louise:

  • I would like to find out what she was like – the things she liked to do, what people thought of her, etc.
  • I would like to find a photograph of her when she was younger – I do have some hope that one does exist!

Until the next ancestor…

52 Ancestors: #1 Anthony Maguire (1840-1882)

Tonight I decided to take on the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, though I am already behind and have some catching up to do! I’m starting with the ancestor that has consumed the most time in all of my research, and the one you’ll likely hear me talk the most about if you ask me about my family history. The mysterious, great, great grandfather: Anthony Maguire.

Anthony was born around September of 1840 in Ireland to Patrick and Mary Maguire. I’ve spent an absurd amount of time trying to track down exactly where in Ireland he is from, and I am not going to quit until I find the answer. Every piece of information I’ve found on the man has helped contribute to this picture that I’ve painted in my mind of who he was. But really, I have no idea. He could have been a jerk.

He came to the United States in August of 1857 when things were less than awesome in Ireland. He came alone.  He was seventeen years old. SEVENTEEN.  I don’t know the circumstances. What of his family? Had they died and he had to survive, so he left?  Had his family pooled all of what little money they had to send him, the most able of the Maguire children, to America so that he could work, and send money for the rest of his family to follow? These scenarios were quite common, and I like to think that he left for some noble reason such as these, but I’m also prepared to learn that this wasn’t the case.  Did I mention he was seventeen? He had to have been one brave, independent, and grown-up seventeen year old.

He spent a small amount of time in Pennsylvania before making his way to Winsted, Minnesota in 1860, where he promptly married an Irishwoman named Bridget Cafferty, and began the naturalization and homesteading process while at the same time, starting a family. On his land and naturalization papers, he signed his name with an ‘x’ – so I presume he had no education, and could not read or write. Despite that, he seemed to be doing okay. I found a description of the work he had put into his homestead project:

anthony maguire homestead description

Sounds like a decent enough guy, eh? By the time he had completed the homesteading process, he could sign his own name.  And for that small achievement, I am proud of him.

In 1872, shortly after the birth of his 8th child, his wife Bridget passed away at the age of 37. Soon after, he picked up and moved to the tiny but quickly growing Irish settlement of Green Isle, Minnesota. In this town, he found a new wife, Mary Jane O’Meara, with whom he had 7 more children. He was doing pretty well in this town, and in January of 1882, he bought himself a  Saloon, which also happened to be the first building in the Green Isle townsite. Just shy of a  year later on November 27th, 1882, he returned from a funeral and went out to chop some wood at his home.  Not three sticks in, he fell dead from a heart attack at the age of 42.  His was the first death in the town of Green Isle. His in-laws, the O’Mearas, a very prominent, businessy and political family in the new town must have thought (at least a little) well of him, because they buried him in their family plot. Really very nice of you, O’Mearas, but I do kind of which you would’ve provided a little more info…



With every little bit that I pick up in my research, I feel like I’m getting to know him a little better. And I’m thankful that he survived the dangerous voyage to get here, and worked hard to have a decent, but short-lived, life in rural Minnesota. Nothing glamorous or shocking about his story (so far), but I’m okay with that. And like it, even.

Thanks, McG.

McG Stone