Sunday, November 29, 2009


The theme for the 85th issue of the Carnival of Genealogy: Orphans and Orphans
The first type of orphan refers to those ancestors or relatives who lost their parents when they were young. The second type of orphan would be those siblings or cousins of our ancestors whom we think of as “reverse orphans.” They are the relatives who, for whatever reason – death at a young age, never having married or had children, or having children who did not survive to provide descendants – have no direct descendants of their own, so it falls to us, their collateral relatives, to learn and write their story.

When I think of orphans in my family tree, I think mainly about some Feinstein and some Denyer cousins.


My great grandfather, Herman Feinstein, had a brother named Harry. Harry's wife, Dora (Servinsky) Feinstein, died in 1920, and Harry died in 1933. In 1933 their five children were ages 18, 22, 23, 25 and 27. Perhaps too old to be really considered orphans.

However, according to the 1930 census, three years earlier all five children were not living with their father, even though Harry was still alive. The three older siblings (Sidney, Adeline, and Alvin) were living in their Uncle Herman's home. With my grandmother and her two brothers there as well, the house may have been a bit crowded. Harry's youngest (Seymour) was in an orphanage. I haven't yet figured out where their fifth child, Willard, was residing in 1930.

Harry had four siblings with families of their own in 1930, besides my great grandfather (Ben, Pearl, Morris and Rose). Why none of them were able to take Seymour in, I'm not sure. Rose's children were age 1 and 3, and I can understand perhaps not being ready for a teenager. But the other three had children of the same or approximate age as Seymour.

A larger question is why all the children weren't living with their father. He had married a second wife, Grace, in 1928. I can make some assumptions from that, but I'd rather not. I realize we are talking about 1 year after the Crash of 1929, and the economy could explain why he was no longer able to care for his own children. It also could help explain why only one of his siblings felt able to help out.


My great great grandfather, Ebenezer Denyer, had a brother named Samuel. Samuel Denyer died in 1861. His wife, Zarelda (Singleton) Denyer, died in 1867. In the 1870 census, four of their children (Amanda, Robert, Albert and Ida), ranging in age from 11 to 17, are living with their uncle Ebenezer. Ebenezer died in 1872, and while his wife, Sarah Ann (Hartley) Denyer, remarried in 1874, I'm not sure what happened to Samuel Denyer's children. The youngest child, Ida, wrote a poem about her mother.

Reverse Orphans

Here as well there are two instances which come immediately to mind. There are certainly many childless individuals in my family tree, however there are two for whom their life stories hold a greater interest. Both are great uncles -- siblings of grandparents.

1) Mandell Newmark

I've written several posts about the youngest brother of my grandfather, Melvin Newmark, and have recently posted some transcriptions from his war journal. I've long known he was killed in action during WWII, though I learned just this Thanksgiving that he died from friendly fire, or more accurately 'accidental discharge' from a war buddy's firearm. The second story of accidental discharge in my family tree -- though instead of children who discovered a gun when their father was away, this time we have a trained soldier.

2) Samuel (and Everett) Van Every

I've also written several posts about Uncle Sam, the brother of my maternal grandmother, Myrtle (Van Every) Deutsch. He had one son, Everett, who drowned at age 17.

Samuel was the only male child of my great grandfather, Melvin Van Every, to live past infancy. Though to say the family name died out is a stretch, as Melvin had 21 siblings, several of whom were male. And the Van Everys arrived in North America in the 1600s. There's a baseball player for the Boston Red Sox who I am certain I am related to in some fashion, as well as many others.

But there are no known descendants of my Uncle Sam and his son, Everett. I've recently learned some information from some relatives of Everett on his mother's side, which I will share in a future post.

The image in the upper left is from Eugene Delacroix's Young Orphan in the Cemetery (1824)


Greta Koehl said...

I look forward to reading about what you have learned about Everett and hope you are able to solve the mystery of the Denyer children. Some very intriguing stories!

PalmsRV said...

It does make one wonder why only one child was sent to an orphanage. I too will look forward to any additional details about your orphans.