Stories of the ancestors of Dan Babish and Irene Stoppiello

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Decoration Day

My mother, Grace (Hamill) Babish always called Memorial Day 'Decoration Day', referring to the practice of decorating the graves of those who had died in war.  Over the years, the practice has been extended to placing flags on the graves of war veterans to honor their service and sacrifice, even if they had not died in battle.  An image of rows of uniform white grave markers each with its own flag comes to mind.

My mother's grandfather (my great grandfather), Thomas Hamill, did not die in battle, but he enlisted in the Union Army in 1864 at age 38, perhaps to serve the greater good, but perhaps to help his family with the bounty money he received.[1]

When he died in 1904, his widow, Ann (Fulton) Hamill, applied for a government supplied stone for his grave.  The card filed by the contractor who supplied Thomas' grave marker is shown below. [2]  The card correctly identifies that Thomas served in Co. B of the New Jersey Light Artillery and that he died April 22, 1904.  [3] [4] Curiously, it shows his burial location as Holy Name Cemetery in Jersey City.  Thomas was actually buried in Evergreen Cemetery, in Elizabeth. [5]

A notice in The Evening Journal of Jersey City on January 5, 1905, states that headstones for deceased veterans had been received by County Overseer P. H. O'Neill, superintendent of soldiers' and sailors' burials. [6]  Thomas Hamill is mentioned first in the article.  The notice incorrectly identifies Thomas' unit as 'First New Jersey Infantry' and his death date as 'May 25, 1904'.  It identifies his widow, 'Anna' Hamill, as the applicant.  Her address, 396 Grove Street, matches the Hamill family residence at the time of Thomas' death a year earlier. [7]  Presumably at Overseer O'Neill's direction, Thomas Hamill's stone was subsequently placed on his grave in Evergreen Cemetery.

I have visited Evergreen Cemetery several times over the years searching for the graves of my ancestors and relations.  The first time I found Thomas Hamill's grave was on a rainy spring morning in 2006. [8]  The stone was wet and covered with moss and dirt, not pristine like veterans' graves in National cemeteries.  On Memorial Day, this is my tribute to Thomas Hamill's service and sacrifice.


[1] Thomas Hamill, Pvt., Battery B, 1 N.J. L. Artillery, Volunteer Enlistment, Compiled Military Service Records; Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's-1917, National Archives record Group 94; National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

[2] Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1879-1903 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.  Original data: Card Records of Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, ca. 1879-ca. 1903; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1845, 22 rolls); Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, Record Group 92; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[3] Thomas Hamill, Pvt., Battery B, 1 N.J. L. Artillery, Volunteer Enlistment, Compiled Military Service Records, Civil War, RG 94, NA-Washington.

[4] Division of Archives and Records Management, Death Certificates, New Jersey State Archives (Trenton, New Jersey, New Jersey State Archives), Thomas Hamill; Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey; State of New Jersey, Certificate of Death; 22 April 1904. Transportation of Dead Human Body.

[5] Evergreen Cemetery (Elizabeth, New Jersey) to Daniel Babish, plot records, Thomas Hammill plot record entry [two burial dates] 25 April 1904, unknown location; 11 November 1912, section W, lot 132, grave 3.

[6] "More Headstones for War Veterans"; 12 January 1905; Thomas Hammill headstone; accessed 21 August 2011, Evening Journal (The), Jersey City, New Jersey, online images (

[7] Division of Archives and Records Management, Death Certificates, New Jersey State Archives, Thomas Hamill, Certificate of Death, 22 April 1904.

[8] Evergreen Cemetery (Elizabeth, New Jersey), Thomas Hamill grave marker; Section W, lot 132, photographed by Daniel Babish, 19 May 2006.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Finding the Graves of Cornelius M. Currey and Mary Hannah (Conklin) Currey

Every genealogist knows the satisfying thrill that comes with a successful hunt.  We're all detectives at heart.  My search for and ultimate discovery of the burial place of my wife's third great grandparents, Cornelius M. Currey and his wife, Mary Hannah (Conklin) Currey, provided that thrill.

I knew that Cornelius and Mary were buried in Hillside Cemetery, near Peekskill, New York, on the far northern edge of Westchester County.  A transcription of the cemetery containing a record of their graves had been published by William P. Horton in 1928. [1]  I located it several years ago on  The entries for Cornelius are about halfway down the page below.  As can happen with transcriptions, Mary Hannah's death date is incorrect.  She died October 16, 1878, not 1885, as evidenced by her death certificate. [2]

On a research trip to Peekskill in 2011, I tried to find the graves.  The Hillside Cemetery office is in a ranch style house on the cemetery property.  Inside I found a nice woman who tried to look up Cornelius Currey's record on an ancient Gateway computer.  She succeeded in finding his name, but there was no grave location listed.  I spent at least an hour searching  in fading light walking back and forth among the rows of graves with no luck.

In October, 2012, I brought Irene with me on another visit to Peekskill to look at graves in the old Van Cortlandtville Cemetery which is adjacent to the Hillside Cemetery.  She has numerous ancestors buried in that cemetery, and we were able to view and photograph their graves and interesting stones.

As we were about to leave, I suggested we try our luck finding Cornelius and Mary Hannah once more.  We parked by the Hillside Cemetery office and walked to the door.  Inside was the same woman as before and the same Gateway computer.  This time, when looking at the Curry listings (spelled without the 'e'), I noticed that one Curry entry had a grave location. (Isn't noticing often a key step in finding?)  When I pointed it out, the woman used that Curry entry to find a 'Curry' folder in a creaky old file cabinet.  Inside was a sheet of paper, the record of Plot 64, Block One, Avenue "C", which was the Curry family plot record containing Cornelius M. Currey, Mary Hannah Currey, four of their children and the husband of their daughter, Mary Elizabeth. [3]

With a plot number in hand the woman led us to a creased old map where she located and pointed out the Curry plot. [4]

We drove into the cemetery and parked on a narrow lane. A few minutes of searching led to  the eureka moment - the Curry plot! [5]

The gravestone of Cornelius M. Currey is on the far right hand side of the plot. [6]  As best as I can make out, the inscription reads :
Jan. 30. 1854.
aged 45 yrs 3 mos
& 28 dys.

The grave marker of Mary Hannah (Conklin) Currey is next to that of her husband. [7]  The stone has come off its base and leans against it.  The inscription reads:
DIED OCT. 16, 1878,
AGED 65 YRS. & 6 MOS.

In my excitment at finding the graves, I failed to notice that the brilliant October sun and a large tree/shrub had cast stark shadows on the stones when I photographed them.  Darn!  I'll need another trip to Peekskill to fix that.

[1] William P. Horton, Cemetery Inscriptions of Westchester County, N.Y. (1928), Vol. 2, Peekskill, p. 78; digital images, (

[2] Death Certificates, New York City Department of Records and Information Services (New York City, New York, Municipal Archives), Mary Hannah Currey; Brooklyn, New York; Health Department, City of Brooklyn Death Certificate; no. 08846; 16 October 1878.

[3] Hillside Cemetery (Cortlandt Manor, New York) plot records, Curry family plot record, block one, avenue "C", plot 64; photographed by Daniel Babish, 5 October 2012.

[4] Hillside Cemetery (Cortlandt Manor, New York) plot map, showing Curry family plot; photographed by Daniel Babish, 5 October 2012.

[5] Hillside Cemetery (Cortlandt Manor, Westchester County, New York), Curry family plot; block 1, avenue "C", plot 64; photographed by Daniel Babish, 5 October 2012.

[6] Hillside Cemetery (Cortlandt Manor, Westchester County, New York), Cornelius M. Currey grave marker; block 1, avenue "C", plot 64; photographed by Daniel Babish, 5 October 2012.

[7] Hillside Cemetery (Cortlandt Manor, Westchester County, New York), Mary Hannah Curry grave marker; block 1, avenue "C", plot 64; photographed by Daniel Babish, 5 October 2012.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day

In honor of Mother's day, I thought I'd post a few pictures of my mother, Grace (Hamill) Babish through the years.  Grace was born February 14, 1914 and died October 8, 1998.  Her parents were Richard Hamill (b. August 27, 1870, d. April 7, 1924) and Sophie Bettinger (b. November 28, 1874, d. January 14, 1943).

The first picture is marked on the back with the year 1917, and shows Grace at about age three with her parents.

Grace Evelyn Hamill with parents, Richard Hamill and Sophie (Bettinger) (Hamill) Hamill
Next, Grace is pictured with her mother and step-grandmother, Ann (Fulton) Hamill in 1926.  Ann Fulton was the second wife of Grace's grandfather, Thomas Hamill.
Ann (Fulton) Hamill, Grace Eveyln Hamill, and Sophie (Bettinger) (Hamill) Hamill
Grace married my father John Babish on December 30, 1939.  This is her wedding picture.

Grace Eveyln (Hamill) Babish
Grace had four brothers and two sisters.  One additional brother was stillborn a year after Grace's birth.  The photograph shows all seven siblings with their mother in the early 1940s.

Front row, left to right, Albert Hamill, John Hamill, Richard Hamill
Back row, left to right, Marie (Hamill) Papirnik, Lillian (Hamill) Pickens, Sophie (Bettinger) (Hamill) Hamill, Grace (Hamill) Babish, and Herbert Hamill
Eventually, I came along in 1952.  This is a photograph of Grace and me on the day of my pre-school graduation, about 1957.

The final picture is of Grace and her sisters, Lillian and Marie, and brother Herb in 1973.  It appears to have been taken in my Uncle Herb's yard in Iselin, New Jersey.

Marie (Hamill) Papirnik, Lillian (Hamill) Pickens, HerbertHamill, and Grace (Hamill) Babish
Source: Babish Family Photographs original photographs; privately held by Daniel Babish, Columbia, Maryland, 2013.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A House in Elizabeth

This is a story for those who have ever wondered how their grandparents or great grandparents could possibly have met. What if they were of completely different backgrounds, one the child of German immigrants and one of Irish immigrants at a time when mixing of such groups was more rare? Did they know each other because they attended the same church, or because family members worked in the same factory, or because their mothers shopped at the same market? Maybe a simple explanation is the most likely. Perhaps they lived in the same house. At some point in the 1890s two such families came to live in one house at 413 East Jersey Street, in the Elizabethport section of Elizabeth, New Jersey. One family was headed by an Irish immigrant, Thomas Hamill, my great grandfather, and the other by a German immigrant, Margaret Metzler, my great grandmother.

The two story frame dwelling at 413 E. Jersey Street was located near the corner of Fourth Street only blocks from the immense Singer sewing machine factory and the coal docks. It was set off by itself with open lots on either side and across the street. The 1889 Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of Elizabeth show the house and also show E. Jersey Street in relation to the Singer factory and the coal docks (see below).[1]

The 1895 New Jersey State census shows the Hammill and Metzler families living in the house, dwelling number 171 in the census. [2] The 1895-96 Elizabeth City Directory confirms that the address was 413 E. Jersey Street. [3] The first family (number 249) was the family of Thomas Hamill (spelled Hammill), born in Ireland, which also included Thomas' second wife Ann, also born there, his sons Richard (my grandfather) and Robert and his daughter Lillian. Son Robert and daughter Lillian were the children of Ann Fulton Hamill, but Richard was the son of Thomas' first wife, Elizabeth (Fulton) Hamill (my great grandmother). (See the census and city directory images below.)

1895 N.J. census, Elizabeth, Ward 3, p. 41
1895-6 Elizabeth City Directory, p. 186
The second family was that of Anna Margaret (Weimar) (Metzler) Bettinger (number 250). Anna Margaret, listed as Margaret Metzler, an immigrant from Germany, was living with her sons, John and Walter and daughter Sophie Bettinger (my grandmother). Sophie was listed as Sophia Metzler on the top of the next census page. Curiously, Anna Margaret, seemingly married at the time to Daniel Bettinger (my great grandfather) since no divorce records have been found, was evidently using the last name of her first husband, John Adam Metzler, who had died in 1872. Sophie was the daughter of Anna Margaret and Daniel. (See the census and city directory images below.)

1895 N.J. census, Elizabeth, Ward 3, p. 41
1895 N.J. census, Elizabeth, Ward 3, p. 42
1895-6 Elizabeth City Directory, p. 286

It appears the two families, the Hamills and Metzlers, lived in the same house only for a short time. Two years after the 1895 census, when Sophie Bettinger and Robert Hamill married, he was still living at 413 E. Jersey, but Sophie's family had moved to 242 Franklin, only blocks away. [4] In 1908, after Robert’s death in 1903, Sophie married his older half-brother, Richard. [5] [6]

Perhaps Sophie, Robert, and Richard first met on the day one of their families moved into the house on East Jersey Street in Elizabethport, New Jersey.

[1] Sanborn Map Company, Elizabeth & Elizabethport, New Jersey (New York, N.Y.: Sanborn Map & Publishing Co., Limited, 1889), sheets 1 & 43, accessed 13 August 2011; digital images, Princeton University Library (
[2] 1895 census, New Jersey State Census, 1895 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc.; Original data: New Jersey Department of State. 1895 State Census of New Jersey. Trenton, NJ, USA: New Jersey State Archives. 54 reels schedule, Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey, Thomas Hammill and Margaret Metzler households; Elizabeth Ward 3, Roll: V227_105, Page: 41, dwelling 171, families
249 and 250; digital image, (
[3] Cook & Hall, Compilers and Publishers, Cook & Hall's Elizabeth City Directory (Elizabeth, N.J.: Cook & Hall's, 1895), p. 186 Richard, Robert, and Thomas Hamill entries; p. 286 John and Walter Metzler entries, accessed 31 December 2008; digital images, (U.S. City Directories) (
[4] Marriage Records, New Jersey State Archives (Trenton, New Jersey, Division of Archives and Records Management), Robert Hamill and Sophie Bettinger marriage return; 23 September 1897; no. H75.
[5] Division of Archives and Records Management, Death Certificates, New Jersey State Archives (Trenton, New Jersey, New Jersey State Archives), Robert Hamill; Rahway, Union County, New Jersey; State of New Jersey, Certificate of Death; 6 September 1903.
[6] Thomas Whittaker, Our Marriage Vow: The Service and Minister's Certificate (New York: 2 and 3 Bible House, 1877), Richard Hamill and Sophie Bettinger Hamill marriage record, 19 January 1908; Original copy in Daniel Babish household, 2011.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Genealogy and Me

My interest in family history dates from about 1973 when I began talking to my mother, Grace Evelyn (Hamill) Babish, about her grandfather, Thomas Hamill, an Irish immigrant and Civil War veteran, and his second wife, Ann (Fulton) Hamill, who my mother knew as a young girl. My mother related stories that Ann told her of coming to America on a ship through violent storms and landing at a place called 'Castle Harbor'. I later found out that Castle Harbor was actually 'Castle Garden' the immigrant landing place in New York City located at the tip of Manhattan. It was used before the facilities at Ellis Island were constructed. My mother also said that Ann Hamill was receiving a pension from her husband's Civil War service and this led me to a search of Civil War military and pension records where I located evidence of Thomas Hamill's service and his first wife's name, Elizabeth Fulton, who was Ann Fulton's second cousin. Elizabeth Fulton was my great grandmother.
Because of an inheritance case involving land in Morris County, New Jersey, I also became involved in tracing my grandmother's family (my mother's mother) which had German roots. This led to further family history discussions with my mother and resulted in my tramping through cemeteries throughout New Jersey looking for gravestones and transcribing microfilmed newspaper obituaries for many distant relatives.
In recent years I've begun tracing my wife's (Irene Ann Stoppiello) ancestry including the Stoppiello, Rullo, Crate, Currey, Moore, Hayes, Hammond, Bracher, Bowne, Freeman and Holmes families among others. Some of her ancestors on her mother's side have roots in America extending back to the 1600s.

Like many genealogists, I love to explore the stories of ancestors through the evidence they've left for us to find.

Dan Babish

Columbia, MD