My grandmother’s on my mind today, as this was the day she died twenty six years ago. Her name was Anne, which I’m sure is one of the reasons St. Anne feels so grandmotherly to me (that and, you know, the fact that she is The Grandmother of God. Nbd). 😂
Not only was her name Anne, but her married name was Oakley. Yes indeedy, my grandmother was Annie Oakley! I had this book growing up:
And my grandmother was similarly blond and blue-eyed, so she and Annie Oakley were always intertwined in my mind! 😄 I called her Mimi, and we were quite close.
Her last birthday card to me. 💕 I always loved her handwriting.
Anyway, I was thinking about her today and thought I’d enlist you all in helping find out more info about her mom. My mom and I have been looking for a long time and haven’t come up with much, and you all have so much life experience and relationships that could lead to the info we’re hoping to find! So here’s her story as we know it:
She was brought to what is now known as New York Foundling, an orphanage founded in 1869 by the Sisters of Charity, in August 1910 by a woman who said she was her mother. My grandmother was about two weeks old, and her mother signed a paper saying she’d return for the baby in one year (she never returned). She signed her name “Mary Ferguson” and gave the baby’s name as “Anne Lewis,” and said that the baby had been “born at home,” giving the address as 112 West 62nd Street. The Sisters had her baptized by a Dominican priest, Fr. Wilson, O.P., from nearby St. Vincent Ferrer church. All this info was given to us by the NY Foundling from their records.
Mom and I decided to find 112 W. 62nd St. on a trip to the City, only to discover that Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus is now on the site. I did some more research and determined that the Twelfth Regiment Armory was on that site in 1910 (between west 61 and west 62 on the west side of Columbus ave; built in 1886 and demolished in 1958), so I don’t know what that means — a bogus address probably? I did look at the census for 112 EAST 62nd St., just in case, which was a residence, but no Mary Ferguson or anyone by the last name Lewis living there. There were a bunch of apartment hotels close by 112 W. 62nd St., the Century Theatre was a block away on the same street, and several houses of prostitution in the surrounding blocks, all of which paint a picture, to me, of an area in which a girl could easily find herself unmarried, pregnant, and alone. Thank goodness she knew to go to the Sisters! My grandmother was adopted at the age of two and went on to have a life that led to my grandfather. 💕
I’ve spent countless hours online, both on Ancestry.com (I have many many times gone through the 1910 census records looking for any Ferguson or Lewis at that address [doesn’t exist in the census] or surrounding streets) and doing internet searches of various kinds. I’ve looked at census and immigration records for Mary Ferguson — it doesn’t help that it’s got to be one of the most common names in NYC at that time! I even looked at the signatures on a bunch of immigration records, trying to match them up with the the signature Mary Ferguson left on the document she signed at the Foundling (no luck).
One fun bit of info is that I hired a professional genealogist who found that there was a 22-year-old named Mary Ferguson living at the Foundling, listed as a servant, when the census was taken in 1910! Could be a coincidence, but maybe not! I never thought to look at their census records, I love knowing that bit of info. So if she was 22 in April 1910, she would have been born in 1888 or 1889. The genealogist didn’t find any other info, but did confirm that the 12th Regiment Armory was at that spot, though its address would have been Columbus Ave. as its front faced that way.
It would be amazing if any of you read this and thought, “Hey! That sounds like this story I heard from my family tree!” Or maybe you’ll think to mention it to someone in casual conversation who will perk up and say, “That’s my great-grandmother’s exact story!” You never know!