Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ben Franklin Bridge

Did you know that my grandfather William Gallagher II help build the Ben Franklin Bridge?
The Ben Franklin Bridge was first known as the Delaware River bridge and opened on July 1st, 1926.

Midvale Steel

Located in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia, Midvale Steel was known for its production of steel and weapons during World War I and World War II.

Pencoyd Iron Works

Founded in 1852 by the Roberts' brothers and located along the Schuylkill River that was once known as West Manayunk. Pencoyd Iron Works merged with the American Bridge Company which then merged with United States Steel. Pencoyd was known for the Iron/Steel that made the metal bridges.

Family of Steel Workers

Though our first Gallagher descendant to this country made his living as a Carpet Weaver, the next three generations of Gallagher males made their livings in the Iron Works and Steel Mills.

Patrick Gallagher came to this country and made his home in Manayunk in the year 1880. He arrived here with his wife Hannah and a baby daughter named Grace. Patrick's trade was in the weaving business so he set out to find work in a carpet mill. Patrick and Hannah had three more children, another daughter whom they named Mary, a son William and another daughter Sally.

William Gallagher did not follow his father's footsteps in the weaving business but found his trade in the Iron Works. This made him the first Gallagher in our family to work in the Iron trade. He was also the first Gallagher male who did not marry an Irish girl when he set out to marry the very German Mary Keller. Both settled as their parents did before them in Manayunk. It was not long before they became parents to three children, William, Anna and Patrick. (died shortly after birth) It should be noted that Mary Keller's father John Keller was also an Iron/steel worker.

Like his father, William set out to make his living in the Iron trade and like his father set out to work at Pencoyd Iron Works located along the Schuylkill River. But like his grandfather Patrick, this Gallagher married the very Irish Anna Marie McCaffery and it was not long before William and Anna had five children of their own, William, John, Collum (Uncle Gene), Mary and Ann Marie. By the time William retired in the late 1960's, he was working at Midvale Steel located in Nicetown. It should be noted that Coll McCaffery (Anna's Cousin) was also a steel worker.

All three of William and Anna's sons set out to work in the same trade as their grandfather and father before them when they went to work at Midvale Steel in Nicetown. Sadly, Midvale would close its doors after more then one hundred years as a Steel plant in 1973. Though John would leave the plant ten years before it closed, William and Gene lost their jobs when Midvale closed which ended the legacy of steel workers in the family.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Wissahickon Village

What is now known as simply Wissahickon was once known as "Wissakitkonk" because this village was located at the mouth of the Wissahickon Creek along the Schuylkill River. Wissahickon Village was founded by Pencoyd Iron Works in the middle of the 19th century for houses to be built for the managers of their Company. Before long an entire community was built. First the Wissahickon Railroad Station was built in 1834 followed by the "Merrick Estate" in 1861 then the "Camac Estate" in 1863. St. Stephan's Church was built in 1876 followed by the St. Timothy's Workingmen's Club in 1877. Wissahickon Methodist was built in 1883 followed by Terrace Hall in 1889 and the Wissahickon Baptist church also in 1889. Another church, Wissahickon Presbyterian opened in 1893. The library (Wissahickon) opened in 1909 and the Pencoyd Club came along in 1910.

Today most of these buildings are gone.

Patty and Maryanne Christmas 1965

Patty age 5 1/2 years
Maryanne age 22 months

Christmas Present, Christmas Past

Josh watching Nikolas remove the ornaments
Mom Mom Pat and Shaun decorating the tree
Shaun (background) test tasting the cookies

This week is the most stressful time of the year for most people. Everyone who was not smart enough to have their shopping done before Thanksgiving have to now contend with the traffic, crowds and worry of getting "it" all done in time for the actual holiday.

Today I have a "day off" from the hospital after working the last five days. It really feels good to sit here with a down blanket and a hot cup of coffee with my lap top computer and write about Christmas. Of course, I still have one million things to still do before the holiday but for now I will enjoy the peace of this morning.

It is hard to believe that in 2005 I am the grandmother of two little boys who are very much my pride and joy. Shaun Patrick is a very busy active four year old who loves soldiers and is in Pre-K. He is very outgoing and never is shy. As a matter of fact, he talks nonstop from dawn to dusk. Sometimes he talks so much he actually loses his voice by the time dusk arrives. Nikolas Joseph just celebrated his first birthday on November 30th. His doctor thinks Nikolas will be about 6"6" when he grows up if he keeps his current growth pace. Nikolas watches everything his older brother does and imitates him. It is really cute to see this one year old get down on the floor and make the same sounds pushing a car along the floor as his brother who is three years older.

As my grandmother and mother before me, I have my own holiday traditions. Shaun and I baked reindeer and Santa cookies. Shaun and Nikolas "test tasted" them of course. Shaun and I decorated the Christmas tree as Nikolas removed each ornament we placed on the tree. We visited the "Festive of Lights" as Shaun gave us all a personal concert in the back seat of the car as he sang Christmas carols. This is 2005 Christmas.

To me it only seems like yesterday that I was the child and someone else was the grandmother. I remember the little girl awaiting the arrival of Santa on a Christmas Eve night. She shared a third floor bedroom with her little sister and as she snuggled under the blankets she tried in vain to fall asleep because she knew when she did she would soon awake to morning and to the dollies, dresses and candies beneath the Christmas tree. I remember my grandmother singing "Santa is coming to town" while dancing around the living room as my siblings and I were watching "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer". I remember grandmom baking brownies and pumpkin bread for every member of the family during the holiday season. Christmas was grandmom's favorite time of the year and though she and grandpop had very little money for gift giving they somehow managed to write out those one dollar checks for all the grandchildren. I remember sitting by the adults on Christmas Day and listening to them laughing and talking. I remember the smiles on the faces of my grandparents as they watched their adult children with only the pride parents felt as these children of theirs enjoyed each others company.

Yes, some traditions remain and stay the same. Other traditions change or are lost forever. The family still celebrates the holidays together. They laugh. They joke. Grandmothers still bake with little ones nearby. The reindeer cookies have replaced the pumpkin bread and brownies. New faces have replaced some old faces at the dinner table. But we are a family descended from a long line of other families who love and value what the true meaning of a family is. Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 16, 2005


Manayunk without the factories



1907 view of John and Elisabeth Keller's house


Take notice of all the factories that surround the river

Thursday, December 15, 2005


This is a 1907 picture of the Wissahickon neighborhood where I live. I live just North of Righter street on the right side of Sumac.
Most of the houses in this neighborhood were built before 1929 and the population is mostly made up of those with Irish ancestry.


Northwest Philadelphia consists of the following four communities. They are Roxborough, Manayunk, Wissahickon and Andorra and are located in the 21st ward.


This community was founded by German immigrants Wigard and Gerhard Levering in 1690.


This community became a great industrial center because of its easy access to the river.


This community’s first mill was founded in 1689 by Joshua Tittery and Richard Townsend.


This community was developed in the 1950’s on what was once the estate of Samuel Houston. Before its development as a housing community, the area was first considered as a possible site for the United Nations Complex.

Historical Places In East Falls

In one of my family updates, I wrote about Bernard and Mary Cafferty and their nine children. According to the records, Bernard and Mary Cafferty lived and raised their children in a section of Philadelphia called East Falls. They lived on Ridge Avenue across the street from Dobson Mill. They attended St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church located on Midvale and Stanton Streets. In the following paragraphs, I will review the historical backgrounds of some of the places that had a societal influence on the East Falls’ community.


One place of great societal influence on the local community of East Falls was Dobson Mills. The first mill was located on Ridge Avenue and the Wissahickon Creek. During the Civil War, Dobson Mills made all the woolen army blankets for the Union soldiers. When the Fairmount Park Commission decided to extend the Wissahickon Park in 1872, Dobson Mills relocated to Scotts Lane and Ridge Avenue until it closed its door in the 1930’s. Though Dobson Mills gave employment to many hundreds of people it also employed Children. Before the Child Labor Laws went into effect, the mill owners had children work 6a to 5p at a rate of three dollars a week. In addition, the employees of the mill had few rights as workers and it was commonly known that if one family member offended its employer, all members of that family who worked in the mill would suffer the consequences by being laid off.


The Old Falls Tavern was built in 1731 and located at Ridge Avenue and Indian Queen Lane. It was a building two and one half stories tall with heavy white washed plaster, a steep pitched roof and a two story porch in the front upper section framed with a fancy black iron balustrade. The back faced the river and on sunny afternoons and warm summer nights, its porches were filled with people enjoying refreshments. The central double doors had long panels of glass and when you entered its doors you were greeted by a long colonial staircase covered in a deep red carpet. The bar stood off to the left and was darkly paneled with a very large fireplace that was lit in the cold winter months. The tavern was famously known for its catfish and waffle dinners. The catfish was caught directly from the Schuylkill River. Sadly this historical building met its fate by a wrecking ball when demolished in 1973.


Before the city built the Falls Housing Project, the land on Ridge Avenue was home to a Chemical Plant and its workers. This Chemical Plant made distilled alcohol and fumes from the plant threw obnoxious gases into the air. Because the plant needed workers, its owners built a group of houses behind the plant up on the hill which was called Laboratory Hill by the community. The plant workers and their families lived in these houses. During the Civil War, the chemical plant made a lot of money because of the high cost of Quinine. Later the plant was taken over by Merck Chemical until it was demolished by the city for public housing. Today, the Falls Housing Project has been replaced by other low income housing.


Located on Ridge Avenue, the cemetery opened in 1835. Before the cemetery came into existence in 1835, the grounds belonged to a Catholic Men’s College called Laurel Hill College. The college existed until 1834 before it was made into the first rural cemetery in Philadelphia. The North section of the grounds was once the country estate of Joseph Sim while the Central section was home to George Worten Pepper.


Located on Midvale and Stanton Streets, St. Bridget’s was the first Roman Catholic Church built in the East Falls section of Philadelphia. The first mass was held on April 15th, 1855. The school opened in September of 1888 under the Sisters of St. Joseph Nuns. The following is a list of all the pastors who served at St. Bridget’s from its creation in 1853 to 1973.
Father James Cullen 1853-1865
Reverend Thomas Fox 1865-1874
Reverend Richard O’Connor 1874-1883
Father Michael Martin 1883-1884
Reverend William Walsh 1884-1908
Reverend Bernard Gallagher 1908-1918
Monsignor Wenceslaus Walsh 1918-1928
Reverend David Munyon 1928-1947
Reverend Edward Allen 1947-1952
Reverend John Cartin 1952-1973
Reverend James Murphy 1973

For those of you who attended St. Bridget’s are any of the above names familiar to you?


Ridge Avenue is known as the “Natural Highway”. It started out as a well established Indian path that was the main route for the last three hundred years from the city to the countryside. Before Ridge Avenue became Ridge Avenue, the highway had several names throughout the years. In the 1700’s the road was known as “King’s Road” before becoming “Manatawny Road”. Then it was called “Reading turnpike” and “Robeson’s Road” before being called “Rock’s Burrow” then “Wissahickon Road”. Then the name changed to “Rich Road” before it changed again to “Ridge Road”. In the 1800’s the road changed yet again to “Ridge Road Turnpike then finally to its current name “Ridge Avenue”.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Burial Records at St. John the Baptist Church

St John the Baptist Catholic Church & Cemetery in 1907
(located center of this photo)

Family History Update
June 14th, 2005

I recently traveled over to St John’s and reviewed once again in great detail the church’s burial records. Listed below are some details of our family burial records that are currently recorded in St John’s books.

Grace R Silverthorn
Died March 20th, 1930
Buried March 24th, 1930 and interred in St John the Baptist Churchyard
Age at Death “49”
Grace Silverthorn was the daughter of Patrick and Hannah Gallagher, the sister of William Gallagher I and the wife of James Silverthorn.

Charles E Silverthorn
Died October 8th, 1954
Buried October 12th, 1954 and interred in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
Age at Death “19”
Cause of Death “Leukemia”
Address at Time of Death was 646 Wagner Ave Lafayette Hills, PA.

Raymond J Silverthorn
Died December 22nd, 1966
Buried December 27th, 1966 and interred in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
Age at Death “64”
Cause of Death “Cardiac Arrest”
Address at Time of Death was 4333 Pechin Street, Philadelphia PA.
Raymond Silverthorn was the son of James and Grace Silverthorn.

Mary Silverthorn
Died October 22nd, 1970
Buried October 26th, 1970 and interred at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
Age at Death “64”
Address at Time of Death was 4333 Pechin Street, Philadelphia PA.
Mary Silverthorn was the wife of Raymond Silverthorn.

As you know the Silverthorns were not only related to the Gallaghers but were good friends with the Gallagher family so it is no surprise that one such Silverthorn would stand as godparent to a Gallagher baby. Raymond Silverthorn was the son of James Silverthorn and Grace Gallagher. He was also a very good friend of William Gallagher II. Therefore, when William and Anna Gallagher’s third child was born, Raymond Silverthorn stood as godfather to that child who was known as Colum Eugene Gallagher. (Uncle Gene)

There were a few other burial records I came across in the books of St John’s that also may be of interest to those of us who love family history. I came across Katherine E Malervy’s burial record and that of her son in law Mahlon Nicholson. They are as followed.

Katherine E Malervy
Died September 17th, 1959
Buried September 22nd, 1959 and interred at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
Age at Death “69”
Cause of Death “Heart Failure”
Address at Time of Death was 3827 Terrace Street, Philadelphia PA.

Katherine E Malervy was the daughter of John and Ella Boland, the sister of Agnes McCaffery, aunt of Anna Marie Gallagher, wife of Daniel Malervy and mother of Helen Nicholson.

Mahlon Nicholson
Died November 10th, 1972
Buried November 14th, 1972 and interred at Westminster Cemetery
Age at Death “58”
Cause of Death “Cancer”
Address at Time of Death was 3871 Manayunk AVE, Philadelphia PA.

Mahlon Nicholson was the husband of Helen Nicholson and father of Helen and Regina Nicholson.

Another burial record I came across at St John’s was of John G Keller. John was the son of John and Elisabeth Keller and the husband of Sally Gallagher Keller. Sally was the youngest of Patrick and Hannah Gallagher’s four children.

John G Keller
Died May 29th, 1947
Buried June 2nd, 1947 and interred at St John the Baptist Churchyard
Age at Death “65”
Cause of Death “Heart Disease”
Address at Time of Death was 3799 Cresson Street, Philadelphia PA

For those of you who are from the Weleski/Schroeder sides of the family, there were several burial records I came across at St John’s also.

Eva Bednarski
Died October 12th, 1945
Buried October 17th, 1945 and interred at Westminster Cemetery
Age at Death “64”
Cause of Death “Cerebral Hemorrhage”
Address at Time of Death was 136 East Street, Philadelphia PA

Peter Bednarski
Died December 12th, 1945
Buried December 17th, 1945 and interred at Westminster Cemetery
Age at Death “60”
Cause of Death “Heart Disease”
Address at Time of Death was 3763 Cresson Street, Philadelphia PA

Mary Lowry
Died February 14th, 1968
Buried February 17th, 1968 and interred at Westminster Cemetery
Age at Death “66”
Address at Time of Death was 4334 Boone Street, Philadelphia PA

It is difficult to locate individual family members buried at St John the Baptist Churchyard for two reasons; St John’s cemetery records only list the Family Name and the Name of the Lot Holder. The records give the location of the graves and indicate whether or not a Headstone was placed upon the grave but the records do not list who may be in those graves. This fact can really frustrate a family genealogist. For example, when Mary Keller Gallagher purchased the lot to bury her brother John Keller, the cemetery record listed Mary as the Lot holder and Keller as the family name on the grave. However, no where does it list who may be in that grave. If the person buried in that churchyard happened to be a member of that church and had a funeral mass then the burial records would list where they were interred whether it would be St John’s or any other cemetery. The problem occurs when the person interred in St John’s was from another parish.

Family stories and legends passed down through the generations may be the only clues to where some of our family is interred. Keller may be the family name listed on the grave at St John’s but who is in that grave? We know John G Keller is interred in that grave because the lot was purchased when he died. What about his wife? Is Sally Gallagher Keller really interred in that grave with her husband? What about the nephew who died when he was 18 months old and was interred with them? Do we really know for a fact that Buddy McCaffery’s infant son was interred in the grave of John and Sally Keller as legend tells us? John and Sally Keller spent their lives praying for a child of their own but fate did not grant them that dream so the story passed down from our family tells of a little boy not yet two years old who comes down with a deadly virus and dies. The child is buried with his Great Uncle and Aunt in the church’s cemetery and the legend tells us that what John and Sally never had in life they were granted in death.

In the case of John and Ella Boland, legend has it they too are interred at St John’s. But there are no records of their burial there. However, that does not mean they are not there. There is a lot holder by the name Malervy that lists two lots were purchased but the records do not list who is in the grave. Malervy is the married name of Katherine, John and Ella Boland’s daughter. I believe the only way I will ever find out where John and Ella Boland are interred is by the process of elimination. If they are not listed in the graves of Daniel and Katherine Malervy in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery then it is very possible that they are indeed interred at St John’s. I reviewed Westminster Cemetery records in the past and although there is a John Boland interred there, the name Ella was not. The question I asked myself is why St John’s and not Holy Sepulchre in the first place. We already know John and Ella Boland’s other daughter is interred in Holy Sepulchre and those records indicate John Boland purchased the grave. Agnes Boland McCaffery died in 1915. Ella Boland died four years later.

My next family history stop is St Bridget’s Church in the East Falls section of Philadelphia and Holy Family Church in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. I will also make a point to go out to Holy Sepulchre one more time to locate the cemetery records of the Malervy family. Hopefully, I will get more answers to these questions.

Brian McCaffery

“Brian McCaffery”

It is important to remember and honor those family members who have come before us. It is especially important to remember those who have come before us but whose lives may have ended far too soon.

Brian McCaffery was the youngest grandchild of Colum and Anna Marie McCaffery. At the very tender age of eighteen months old, he came down with a mysterious infection and died in the arms of his grandmother Anna Marie on Christmas Eve of 1954.

My mother remembers being woken up by her mother (Anna Marie Gallagher) who cried hysterically as she told the story of little Brian’s death in the arms of his grandmother the evening before.

There was a lot of speculation regarding the reason behind the cause of the infection which took the life of the little boy. Some thought he became sick because of contaminated water in one of the many fish tanks his father kept in the house. Others thought he caught an infection from one of the many dogs his father kept in the house. But whatever the reason, it was after his death that the family rid the house of all fish tanks.

My mother recalls the funeral of Brian McCaffery. He was buried in a white casket driven by a white hearse. When the hearse reached the church ground cemetery at St. John the Baptist, her father (William Gallagher II) jumped out of the car to help carry the tiny casket to the church and then the cemetery.

“Angel in Their Arms”

If you read “A Journey into the Past”, you would have read the story of John and Sally Keller’s desire to have a child which did not come to pass. So when a young nephew died the child was buried with them at St John’s so that they would have in eternity what they never had in life, a child. This child had a name and his name was Brian McCaffery.

Bernard and Mary Cafferty

Mary Boland Cafferty was the eldest child of John and Ella (Ellen) Boland. Though her parents and siblings came to America in the year 1908 through the Port of New York, I have discovered only recently that Mary and her husband Bernard came to America in the year 1901. I have searched all through the Ellis Island records and it is clear that Bernard and Mary Cafferty did not enter the country through the Port of New York. It is my opinion that they came to America in 1901 through the Port of Philadelphia.

According to the 1920 Censes, Bernard was born in 1877 and was listed as a laborer in a cemetery as was his wife Mary. In 1920, they are listed as having seven children who were all born in Philadelphia. Michael was listed as being 18 yrs old followed by Annie who was listed as being 16 yrs old. Margaret was listed as being 12 yrs old followed by Helen who was listed as being 7 yrs old. Bernard was listed as being 5 yrs old followed by Regina who was listed as being 2 yrs old. The youngest child in 1920 was Alice who was listed as being 4 months old. The eldest child Michael worked as a Bell Hop in a Hotel. No other child was listed as being employed.

According to the 1930 Censes, Bernard and Mary Cafferty had two more children. Mildred was born in 1921 and William who was born in 1923. By this time, Mary Cafferty was not employed outside the home and Bernard’s occupation was listed as being a foreman in a radio factory. The 1930 Censes also listed Bernard as being born in Northern Ireland and he became a citizen in 1906. The two oldest children Michael and Annie no longer lived at home with their parents.

In 1930 Bernard and Mary Cafferty had several boarders living in their home. They are listed as Della, Frank and Ernest Harding from New Jersey, James and Harry OKane from Northern Ireland and Cassidy Machaco from Northern Ireland. Of interest, the boarders’ occupations were listed as working in the textile and knitting mills (probably Dobson’s) and an automobile and ship building plant.

It is not surprising that Bernard and Mary Cafferty took in boarders in 1930. The Great Depression had just begun. However, the worst years of the Depression would not occur until 1932. (See original family history under William and Mary)

The 1930 Censes also listed who Bernard and Mary’s neighbors were. Do you recognize any of these names? They are Jordan, Harrison, Williams, McDonald, Myers, Marrie, Algood, Dinsdale, Owens, Dorne, Wetherford, Harwitz, Mcamary, Bruner, Davis, Hughes, Diehl, Ward, Montgomery, Schmid, Weber, and they had a servant living with them named Mary Coyle, Gallagher and Maguire.

I hope you attach this update to your original family history and I will continue digging into the past. My goal is to uncover more information on the Boland siblings including Agnes (Bridget), Catherine, Ellen and John Jr. Family History Update
December 29th, 2004

Friday, December 09, 2005

Second Snow Of The Season

162 Sumac Street

Mother Nature surprised us for the second time this week. Snow fell throughout the early morning hours until all the grounds became thoroughly covered in the cold white stuff. Children happily awoke to a day off from school and spent their day cuddled in front of the crackling fireplace. Others sled down hill sides then warmed up with cups of hot chocolate overfilled with marshmallows.

Gloves were worn upon hands. Boots were worn upon feet. Hats covered heads. Shovels were in the hands of homeowners and the neighborhood boys who wanted to make a buck. Others drove cautiously on newly snow plowed roads to get to work. While some others enjoyed a personal day off from their jobs.

Even for this part of the country two snow falls in less then a week before the official start of winter is unusual. It has been predicted by the weather experts that this season is suppose to bring as many snow storms as the summer brought hurricanes.

When it snows this time of the year it creates a holiday atmosphere and everyone feels the excitement of the approaching Christmas season. Stores are crowded with shoppers. Christmas trees are purchased. Gifts are wrapped. Stockings are hung. Carols are sung. Cookies are baked all in preparation of the season.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

First Snow Of The Season

Wissahicken Creek 12-4-2005

December 4th, 2005 brings us the first snow of the season and with this first snow brings memories of other past winters that were filled with the visions of children sledding, fireplaces crackling and men shoveling. One such man was my grandfather who at the age of seventy thought he should be shoveling the sidewalks of those ten or twenty years younger because he thought those neighbors were "too old to do it". This morning when I awoke to the season's first snow on the ground and to the excitement of a four year old (at 5am) who could not wait to play in it, I could not help but remember when I was the grandchild and someone else was the grandparent.

Not much has changed here in this small Wissahickon neighborhood in the last hundred years. Most of the houses here have been built well before 1939. The park can still be accessed by walking down the historical Hundred Steps which lead to the same tree covered grounds and trails. The creek is still filled with the native catfish and the waters still run over the falls that drain into the Schuylkill river below. You can almost imagine the days when this neighborhood had carriage houses instead of garages and horses instead of cars. The same streets I walk on with my four year old grandson are the same streets my grandfather and probably his grandfather walked on with their grandchildren.

I remember the days in my early childhood when grandpop would gather up his fishing rod and pail, take a blanket and off we would go before the light of dawn down to the Wissahickon to fish in the creek. As grandpop set up his rod, I found myself a comfy spot nearby and wrapped the blanket around me and slept until well pass dawn as grandpop caught pails full of catfish.

I never was one to catch the fish. But I was one to play with the fish once caught. Grandpop was a true outdoor sportsman. If he was not hunting in the mountains for deer and bear, he was fishing in the creeks and rivers for fish. I spent many a childhood year cuddled upon his lap as he told stories of his adventures in the woods as he and Uncle Coll tracked deer and more then once mistakenly crossed the path of a unwanted bear.

Today as I walk in the shadow of one who has long been gone from this world I hold onto the hand of my grandchild, Shaun Patrick as we walk the same paths together that were walked forty years ago.

Shaun Patrick Zysk ( age 4) 12-4-2005

Friday, December 02, 2005


To understand who you are today, you need to know where you came from. As a history buff, I spent countless hours over the past years researching the history of others. I read numerous books on American and European history, volunteered as a tour guide for historical houses and walked through the oldest cemeteries in the country just to satisfy my need for knowledge. Then one day, I went to Gettysburg and to my surprise discovered the name of my grandfather 's grandfather written on a monument in the middle of the battlefield. It brought back memories of the stories and lessons taught to me by my grandparents William and Anna Gallagher. As the memory gates flooded open, I realized I did not need to look any further then my own backyard to satisfy my love for history. What better history then one's own.

My first research stop was Laurel Hill cemetery because as a cemetery friend's member and a East Falls native, I knew the grounds well and had easy access to the burial records of my Weleski and Schroeder relatives interred there. The funny thing about researching is when you open the can all the worms come falling out.

The records at Laurel Hill lead me to St. John the Baptist Church in Manayunk, a short distance up the river from East Falls. As I reviewed the Weleski Church records I came across records of other relatives such as the Bolands, McCafferys and Gallaghers. Before, I knew it I was walking the grounds of other cemeteries such as Westminster in Belmont Hills and Holy Sepulchre in Cheltenham. Then I ended up in Center City Philadelphia looking up ship passenger lists and immigration records. I joined web site mailing lists and gained access to census records and city directories. I found street addresses, military pension records and lists of family members I did not even know existed. I ended up in libraries, Ellis Island and even reached out as far as Montana. Before I knew it I could follow a relative's life from the time they entered this country to the burial plot in which they laid.

Grandmom once told me that a man approached her mother in law Mary Keller Gallagher and asked Mary if she would be interested in recording her family's history. See, Mary's father was the name on that monument in Gettysburg. She also had a cousin who died a hero's death (well documented) at the Battle of Little Big Horn. But as proud as Mary was of her family's history she also was not the type to brag so the history was never recorded but was passed down throughout the generations by word of mouth and old fashion Irish Story telling. ( by my grandfather)

So here I am doing what I believe my grandparents would have wanted and may have been a little proud of. I call it a labor of love. Its the love I hold deep for grandparents long gone from this world but not from my heart.