Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Note to Amelia Phillips, Who Died in 1884

I know you were born in Prussia, though I'm not sure when, and moved at some point to London with your husband, the tailor Jacob Phillips, your son Phineas, and daughters Harriet and Esther. I'm not certain when you came to America, but in 1860 you were living in Norfolk, Virginia, with Harriet and her family, which at that time consisted of her husband, Herman, a chiropodist, plus 2-year-old William, and 8-month-old Ophelia.

At some point you and Jacob settled in Baltimore, Maryland with Esther and her family. Esther's husband, Charles, was a cigar manufacturer who shared a business address with Jacob's tailoring shop. After Jacob died, probably in 1868, you moved to New York City with Esther's family: Esther, Charles, and their children:  Isidore, Lena, Jacob, Harry, Minnie, Phineas, Oscar, and Bertha.

Two years after you arrived in Manhattan, Harriet died. By then she had five children, ages 18, 17, 14, 13, and 7. The youngest three, all boys, were placed in orphan asylums—the older two in Cleveland, Ohio, and the youngest, Jacob, in the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum. I hope Jacob went to New York so you and his aunt, uncle, and cousins could visit him. I don't know why the other two boys weren't placed there with him. And I don't understand why all three weren't able to live with relatives instead. So sad.

Herman said he worked all day and couldn't take care of them. He paid $100 to $150 each year for their care, and died himself 10 years later at age 58.

So this is what I mainly want to tell you: Esther's son Harry, with the beautiful singing voice, married Alice, also of a beautiful voice, and in 1903, after they'd spent some time performing together and separately, their son Harry was born. Three years later they had a daughter, and named her Estaire—Esther with a French accent. Your daughter must have been a good mother to have a granddaughter named for her.

Harry grew up, and—are you still following me?—when he was 40 had a daughter named Susan. C'est moi. Your great-great granddaughter. I was thinking of you today, Amelia, and just wanted you to know that.

Amelia Phillips' memorial on FindAGrave


crystal said...

Family histories are so interesting. I wish I would have asked my grandparents more questions about their lives. I barely know anything about their parents and I have all these old photos belonging to my grandmother of people I don't know ;)

Susan said...

I know that feeling, Crystal, even though I'm fortunate to have a much better photographic record than most. As great as my dad was about telling family stories, there are still things I wish I'd asked him.

Susan said...

Another big help to me--and the reason I know as much about Amelia as I do--was discovering my distant cousin Roderick online. He's brilliant at genealogy, and so generous with the information he has amassed.

Julia said...

Wow, I'm impressed at your knowledge of your genealogy.
You have deep roots.
I know some info about my ancestry on my mom's side but it's a bit fuzzy on my dad's side. His mom was adopted by a school teacher and that's the extent of the information. She must have been an illegitimate child. What a sad situation for her to not know more of where she came from.


Susan said...

Julia, my husband and I discussed this issue once. He said it wouldn't bother him if he were adopted and didn't know where he came from. However, it would bother me a LOT. Fortunately, today's adoptees have better access to information (sometimes).

Helen said...

I've figured out why I stay away from genealogy: I can't keep track of all the characters. Still, what a great story! (And the term "orphan asylum" is very chilling.)

Indigo Bunting said...

Oh, my. This is so beautiful.

Susan said...

Thank you, Helen and IB. "Orphan asylum" . . . yes, it's awful.