Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Notable Women Ancestors: Connecting to the South

My New England ancestors haven't afforded me the opportunity to explore the lives of individuals from too many other states. I was excited to take that journey on the trail of my nephews' fore bearers. Meet Cuthbert Dufour!

When William Frederick Lamb married in 1926, he was 42 and established as a New York City architect. He grew up in an upper class family in Brooklyn, likely pampered by five older sisters. He was a graduate of Williams College and had also studied at Columbia and Beaux Arts in Paris. His bride had also seen some of the world by the time they married when she was about 33. She possessed a pedigree reaching to colonial South Carolina and Louisiana.

Cuthbert Dufour was born March 2, 1896 reportedly in Norfolk VA, although the Virginia Health Dept. provided no such record. Cuthbert is more typically a boy's name and there is likely a family connection to the name, yet undiscovered. She was the fourth of six children of Albert J. Dufour and Elise Roman, both of whom were born and raised in New Orleans. She came into a family with 9 and 10 year-old sisters and a four year-old brother, Rhett.

In 1900 the family was living in New Orleans, where they had a large extended family. The family had a French nurse, as well as an elderly black nurse and another white servant. When she was six, her younger sister Adele was born. In that summer of 1902 she vacationed with her grandmother in Sullivan's Island, SC. Another newspaper item notes that they went inland in 1903 to Blowing Rock, NC.

There had been another son, Horace, who died before Cuthbert was born, at only four months of age in Norfolk in 1894. The family lost their oldest child in 1903 when Maude died in New Orleans at 17.

Early in the 1900s her parents divorced. Elise recorded the sale of land in New Orleans as a divorced woman in 1906. By 1910 they were living in Asheville, NC in a rented house near Hillside Academy. Elise had no occupation. Her mother, Sallie Roman was also living in Asheville with her unmarried children, including Rhett Roman. Rhett Dufour was 15 and working as a railroad laborer. They had a boarder, Stanley Cunningham, who was a railroad clerk. A black cook lived in. It appears that her father was in New York.

Sister Frances Elise Dufour married in 1911 in Asheville. She and her husband James Hobart Allport had four daughters by 1920.

Cuthbert and her family moved to Staten Island, NY in 1914. This was her fourth state of residence, and would have been a big move away from the extended family in the south. In 1919 she applied for a passport and traveled to France with the Red Cross. She returned to France in 1920 and spent February to September there. Her occupation in the 1920 census was private secretary. Under the auspices of the American Committee for Devastated France she again crossed the Atlantic in 1921 and returned on the Cherbourg in March of 1922. She was an activist at an early age.

Cuthbert's father had died by the time her sister Adele married Howell Sawyer in New York in 1927. She died at 32 in 1934 without children.

Cuthbert's only child was born February 17, 1930 in New York: William Rhett Lamb. That is a time that her husband, William Frederick Lamb, was very busy with the construction of the Empire State Building, for which he was principal architect. They resided at 55 East 72nd Street in Manhattan. She lived more than 30 years longer than her husband, who died in 1952. She died in 1985 in New York.

Note: The details found in public records do not likely do justice to the life of this interesting woman, nor does the passport photo above.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Notable Women Ancestors: Raising New Yorkers

The Scottish immigrant William Lamb found his bride about 1872 when he married Mary Louise Wurster. He was 37, a Civil War veteran, and established as a builder in New York. She was born in New York, the daughter of Bavarian immigrants William and Catherine Wurster, and about 28 years old.

Her family was living in Plymouth, North Carolina in 1850 where her father was a tailor. Her three year-old sister Caroline was born in NC, as was her infant brother Frederick. The census has not yielded further info in 1860 or 1870. What took them from New York to North Carolina and back again?

She had her first child, a daughter, Louisa, in 1874. More daughters followed in two year increments: Janet in 1875, Jessie in 1877, Gertrude in 1879, and Katherine in 1881. When she was 36 her last child was born, a son, William Frederick. The family lived on Rodney Street in Brooklyn and employed a servant and a nurse in 1880. Her brother Frederick lived nearby, with their father and another house full of young daughters: Emily, Louisa and Carrie. Frederick was the owner of a foundry. Their father died in 1881.

The family business prospered and her husband served on the boards of banks and churches. Her brother became Mayor of Brooklyn in 1892. About 1899 her daughter Louisa married Thomas Lamb, possibly her first cousin, and moved to Delta Colorado where they employed five men raising stock. In 1901 daughter Janet married Clarence Lowes at home.

Mary Louisa lost her husband, William Lamb, October 3, 1903. He died peacefully at home, according to an account in the New York Times. She survived him by nearly 20 years. In 1910 her remaining children still lived with her, now in Queens. Janet lived next door with her two children. Clarence was treasurer of a bank. Gertrude and Jessie were gone by 1920, but Catherine and William remained with her. Catherine had taken a trip to Europe in 1909. William graduated from Williams College in 1904, studied at Columbia, and received a degree from Beaux Arts in Paris in 1911. He went on to become a prominent architect in New York.

Her brother Frederick predeceased her in 1917. She died in 1922, leaving an estate of $67,847.oo.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Frankly, My Dear, We Have to Give a Da**

It always seems like striking gold to find interesting details about women in the family. That is not to say there weren't plenty of interesting women, but they often fly "under the radar" in the easily accessible records.

I will continue to connect my nephews' Lamb family back through time to the Rhetts in future posts. Today I am taking advantage of the fluid nature of a blog to put up a few thoughts about their cousin, Alicia Rhett, who played India Wilkes in Gone With the Wind.

Alicia's name sprung out of internet searches around Barnwell Rhett (1800-1876), South Carolina Senator and "Father of Secession." He was a very visible symbol of South Carolina and of the south, and as such, appears to be the inspiration behind Rhett Butler's name in the novel. The Rhetts, a maternal line, were among the founders of Charleston.

It is then fitting that his great-granddaughter was a part of the epic that brought the southern perspective to so many, through the eyes of Hollywood.

The child Mary Alicia Rhett is found in the 1920 census of Wilmington, Delaware with her widowed mother, Isobel M. Rhett and grandmother, Mary Murdock. Isobel and Mary said that they came from England in 1895. Their names are found on sailings from Liverpool on the Teutonic in both 1894 and 1897. Isabel was naturalized in 1914. Since the child was born in 1915, it is likely the mother was naturalized by marriage to an American citizen, the unnamed Mr. Rhett who was born in South Carolina.

A widow in 1920 could likely have been the wife of a World War I soldier. Searching the WWI registration cards yields the name of Alicia's father: Edmund Moore Rhett, born April 7, 1878 and residing on Rodney Street with his wife Isobel. He was a chemical engineer for DuPont. Findagrave.com yields a photo of his gravestone, giving his date of death as October 10, 1918, but no more information. The year of birth is off a year from his WWI info. Delaware death records state he died of influenza in Delaware, so he was not a war casualty.

Alicia lost her father when she was only 3. In 1930 she and her mother lived in Charleston. It was in Charleston that she was "discovered" and hired for GWTW, the only movie she made. She was later known as a portrait painter, and was still living there in 2010.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Building New York

William Lamb was born 23 March 1835 in Campsie, north of Glasgow, Scotland. He was likely named after his paternal grandfather, who was also William Lamb. He arrived in New York about 1837 with his parents Jane Mckay and Thomas Lamb.

As a child he would have been witness to his father's work ethic, his mother's housekeeping, and the arrival of his siblings, five of whom grew to adulthood in New York. His brother Thomas was born in 1841, although a New York death record suggests that the family lost another son in 1837, shortly after their arrival. Thomas shared his name with their father and maternal grandfather.

By the time the 1850 census was taken, William was already working as a clerk at 15. His father was a mason, and there were children at home: Thomas, 10, Catherine, 8, Jane, 4, and Elizabeth, 1. The families in the neighborhood included more masons from Scotland, as well as Irish, English, and American-born blacks. Ten years later, William and his brother Thomas were both masons. According to "A History of Long Island" he apprenticed under Thomas Gibbons.

Foreign-born William served in the 47th Regiment of Volunteers during the Civil War. He enlisted with the rank of Sergeant in A Company on May 27, 1862 and left for Fort McHenry, Baltimore on the 30th. He was elevated to Captain for bravery in the field. The Company mustered out September 1.

The brothers formed a business partnership: W & T Lamb with offices in Brooklyn and New York. Over the succeeding years they secured contracts for many significant buildings, including schools and banks. William continued to live at home until his marriage in 1872 to Mary Louise Wurster when he was about 37. She was the daughter of Bavarian immigrants, born in New York in 1844.

The couple had five daughters and a son, arriving at regular two year increments between 1874 and 1883. With improvements in health and circumstance, no children were lost at birth. Their children were: Louisa, Janet, Jessie, Gertrude, Katherine and William Frederick. In 1880 the census tells us that they employed two servants. Thomas lived nearby on Rodney Street with his wife and son, the third Thomas Lamb, and a Danish servant. Mary Louise's brother Frederick Wurster had a foundry, also in Brooklyn. While the Lambs prospered in construction, Wurster went into politics and became the last mayor of Brooklyn in 1895.

William Lamb was active in his Presbyterian Church and a trustee for several banks. He remained active in Veteran's organizations. He frequented the Hanover Club and had traveled to Europe with friends. When he died in 1903, the New York Times said he was "one of the most widely known building contractors in Brooklyn."

The Lambs rose from their immigrant roots to New York's high society at the turn of the 20th century. They provided for their children such that a daughter could tour Europe, and a son attend Williams College, Columbia and Beaux Arts in Paris. Nonetheless, William's life was at least 10 years shorter than his father's!

Sorting the Lambs

Although there are many individuals in my own lineage that haven't yet appeared in this forum, I will digress into my sister's in-laws, whom I started to unravel a couple of months ago. Although many of them were prominent for one reason or another, my search is for details which would help understand their family relationships. For my nephews: Will, Brendan, Colman and Owen; this is your gene pool!

The Lamb family fore-bearers arrived in this country about 1837 from Scotland, according to the 1900 U.S. census. Thomas Lamb, 33, his wife Jane Mckay, 24, and their two-year-old son William had come from Campsie, Stirlingshire, just north of Glasgow. Their marriage in 1834 and the birth of their child are recorded there. I have not found their arrival at Castle Garden in New York.

New York is where they settled and where they are found in the 1840 census. What brought them across the sea? Siblings have not been discovered in this country. Campsie is a hilly region, characterized by the Campsie Fells rising to 1,500 ft. It was a mining region. In later years Thomas' occupation was stated to be a mason or stone setter. Did he escape the prospects of a working life underground?

They had five more children in New York. A death was recorded in 1837 for a son of Thomas Lamb, which could have been the sad fate of their second child. Their children living to adulthood include:
William b. 1835
Thomas b. 1841
Catherine b. 1842
Jane b. 1846
Elizabeth b. 1848
Jeanett b. 1854

By 1870 the family owned their home in Brooklyn. Although the sons had established themselves as "builders" by then, all of the children still lived at home. A mystery appears in the 1870 census, when two young children were also in the household. In 1880 they are identified as grandchildren, but it is not clear who their parents were. The girl was born in St. Louis Missouri in 1865 and is called Estella and then Flora Eves in succeeding census records. The boy, born in 1868 in New York, was called Alfred and later, Thomas Eves. In 1900 he was again called Alfred F. Lamb. Any of the daughters would have been old enough to bear these children, but none of them changed her last name. Perhaps further research into the New York State census records will add details.

In the early 1870s the sons married and began their families nearby. In 1880 Elizabeth identified herself as a teacher. She later married Fred Sperry, a lawyer. Details of the other daughters are unknown. Thomas Lamb died between 1880 and 1900, living at least into his 70s. His wife Jane lived into her 80s.

Judging from the facts available in public records, the immigrant Lambs lived the American Dream as did so many people who populated the melting pot which was nineteenth century New York City. They worked with their hands, saved and purchased property, and saw their children and grandchildren live lives that they could likely not even imagine in their youth.