This is one of the oldest photographs I have of my maternal grandmother’s family. In the early 1990s my grandmother made this enlargement from the smaller original and carefully attached post-its with the name of each person she knew. I’ve used those names many times to identify people in other photographs she wasn’t able to label before her death and it is because of her work that I know which one of these people is her great Aunt Katie Buschmann.
The photo was taken in 1912; we can date it because the woman in the center holding the baby is my great grandmother, Julia, and the baby is my grandmother’s oldest sibling, her brother Jimmy. He was born in January 1912, so this picture was likely taken sometime that summer or fall. This group is defined primarily as “the Lennons” or the extended family of my great grandfather Tom Lennon. (He is the good looking man seated behind Julia with his arm bent on his leg.) Tom’s Aunt Katie is the laughing woman in black in the front row.
I knew a few things about Katie: her given name was Catherine (another Catherine!) and she was Tom Lennon’s aunt, so her maiden name was Lennon. She married a German man according to my grandmother (which explained her last name) and they had several sons. Her husband was dead before this picture was taken although no one of my grandmother’s generation remembered the circumstances. But Katie offered my best chance to solidly get back a generation in my family story, beyond my great grandfather Tom and his siblings, and obtain some solid information about when we got here from Ireland. Here is her story.
I found Katie first in looking for the census in 1900. That is also where I found the first surprises. Take a look:
I know we have the right family not only because of “Catherine Bushmann” but also there is Margaret (who I wrote about here) with a correct birth date and there is Robert (who my grandmother had already told me about – his wife Agnes is in the upper left of the 1912 photo) and his birth date matches other info I had. So now I had Katie as a widow at only 33 with three young sons and I also had her mother, my apparently great great grandmother Bridget, who immigrated in 1857 which was very exciting. (But I won’t get into all that this time.)
Next, I wanted to find out what happened to Katie’s husband and that is the really incredible story in all this.
I couldn’t find a marriage record that matched for a Catherine Lennon and a man with the last name of “Bushmann” or “Buschmann” (or any variations of the 2). But, I did find a death record for an Adolph Buschman which matched the birth date for Katie’s son from the census. I sent away for it hoping I might get the first name of his father and I got lucky again! Sadly, Adolph died at the age of 54 (cirrhosis of the liver) and was unmarried. His brother John filled out his death certificate though which was good — I knew the information would be correct. (Always be wary of death certificates filled out by spouses or grandchildren, etc., a lot of times they don’t know all the answers.)
Katie’s husband was listed as Henry, so now I just had to find a marriage certificate for a Henry Buschman & a Catherine Lennon in the Bronx in about 1890 which worked with the age of their oldest child, Harry, from the 1900 census. And I found one right away & sent away for it & it arrived quickly and the maiden name for Catherine on the certificate was actually…..BOPP.
So, that was not “my” Henry & Catherine. Back to the hunt….
Adolph was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, NY which I knew was one of the primary old Catholic cemeteries in the Bronx. Since he was unmarried, it was reasonable to assume that he was buried with family members….maybe his parents? So I sent away to Calvary (and yes, you have to pay the fine folks at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for this info.) (OF COURSE) and got the full list of internments with Adolph and it included his father Henry and THERE WAS KATIE! Catherine Buschmann died October 23, 1928. That explained why my grandmother remembered her (she was 9 when Katie died). More importantly, the death date for Henry was October 19, 1898 and he was only 34 at the time of his death. I sent away for Katie’s death certificate to see what else I could learn from it and then shifted my attention back to Henry. What killed him at such a young age? So back to ancestry.com to see if anything came up for Henry and, well, here we go. This is from the “Officer Down Memorial Page” for the NYC Police Department:
Henry Buschmann was a police officer! And typhoid in 1898….that rang a bell for me. What did I remember about a typhoid epidemic in NYC in 1898? I went to newspapers.com (which I use for my book research) to see if anything came up. And that is where I found this from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 8, 1898:
The soldiers Henry was helping were returned from the Spanish American War in Cuba. They transitioned through Camp Wickoff at Montauk Point, NY, a quarantine camp that was supposed to prevent the spread of illness (primarily Yellow Fever & Malaria) from Cuba. There were a lot of problems however, and complaints that the camp did not receive enough provisions, was swamped with soldiers and understaffed, persisted. I thought this article was pretty on point – the Secretary of War got sick from drinking the water at Wickoff.
As thousands of soldiers, many of them ill, were transported to Wickoff, more and more of them died in Wickoff, including — horrifically — of starvation. (You can read a lot about it here.) There was an enormous scandal about Wickoff and the political spoils system of graft and greed that allowed conditions there to fester. By September, the camp was closing and soldiers were loaded on trains to get them back to their home states. In Long Island City the trains were stopped and doctors determined some men could not continue their journey. Henry Buschmann was one of the police officers who helped to unload the sick and transport them to nearby hospitals. He was exposed to typhoid and lived only a few weeks.
The story doesn’t end there, though. The consolidation of the Long Island City & NYC police departments, which occurred about a year earlier, was problematic at best. (Reading up on this, there looks to have been a ton of corruption at work in the whole process.) Henry Buschmann was a senior captain in the Long Island City police department prior to consolidation and was suspended (along with many others) after the departments were merged. When he was recalled to the job in January 1898, he came in at a patrolman’s rank and immediately sued for a return to his original rank of captain. (The confusion is why he is referred to as both a “captain” and “patrolman” in news articles.) His case was ongoing when he was assigned to assist the Red Cross at the train station. Katie didn’t let the case go after his death and, three long years later, she won!
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by asserting that Great Aunt Katie was a badass!
In the midst of all this research, Katie’s death certificate arrived (also filled out by her son, John) and I found out she died in the Bronx of liver cancer. She was 57 years old, born in NYC and her parents were listed as Bridget and Michael Lennon, both born in Ireland. (This runs counter to other data I’ve seen of her father from her sibling’s records; he’s always been listed as “John”, so the “Michael” bit here could be wrong. I’ll worry about this later…..)
There were still a few more things to find out about Katie. First, back when I got that internment listing from Calvary Cemetery, I noticed that there was a baby listed as the first burial: Albert Buschmann, died July 5, 1897 at the age of 1. I looked up his death and received a listing from Long Island City; he was Henry and Katie’s youngest and actually died at the age of 4 months from “marasmus” or “wasting away”. Katie lost her baby and husband in just over a year — it’s almost too much, isn’t it?
I still wanted to know about Henry and Katie’s wedding, though. I had no luck in ancestry.com and then I joined the NY Genealogical & Biographical Society which gave me access to a huge cache of church records. And that is where I found this transcribed record:
“Kettie” for Katie, I imagine (and “L” as a middle initial! What could it be???). Henry is there, the year fits perfectly and the church is Sacred Heart in Highbridge, where my grandmother and her siblings were all baptized. I’m going to write the church and see if can find out who stood up for them (those extra names might be new leads!)
Now the last little mystery: there is no baptismal record for Katie in the Bronx. This makes me wonder if she actually was born in NYC or fudged that for census. (She wouldn’t be the first.) I’ve got a ways to go on that journey though, so I’ll save it for later.
As to the rest of her life, in 1910 Katie was living with her three sons, all of whom were working and her brother Robert who was a fireman (they also had a boarder). In 1920 she was living with her son Adolph and two boarders and working as a housekeeper in a hotel. I hope that in spite of her sorrows, she had some joy in her life. She certainly looks happy in that picture and my grandmother remembered her as full of joy.
So there you go! On to the next relative!