Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Some Journeys of John Joseph Flynn II

       My grandmother Katie Flynn had one brother and one sister who survived to adulthood.  Her brother  was named after his dad, so early in my genealogy research, to identify who I was talking about, I started calling him John Joseph Flynn the second (II).  Katie, John Joseph II and their older sister Mary were removed from their mother’s care when they were children (about 1897or 8).  Mary was 11, Katie was 8, and John Joseph was 3 years old.  I lose track of them.  Mary may be the Mary Flynn who was living with the McAuliffe’s in Lynn, Massachusetts; she was ‘niece-in-law’ in the 1900 Census.  In any event, Mary was married to Edward F Burke in 1909 when she was 23.  Her sister, according to newspaper accounts, Catherine Flynn, of Laconia, NH, was 20 years old and witness to the marriage.  They somehow were able to keep in touch through the years.    Katie is found in the 1910 Census in Laconia, New Hampshire, as the “adopted girl” in the François Blais household.  John Joseph II was harder to track, no census record yet for him, but I did find him in Brockton, Massachusetts, in 1917 according to his draft registration card.  He was a chauffeur and he did serve in the first World War.  

      Katie’s story is very interesting.  She was supposedly burned in an orphanage fire and was on a train being evacuated to another orphanage when the train stopped for the night. She was taken in by a French-speaking family, presumably in Laconia, NH.  For years, I’ve researched orphanages and train routes and the veracity of the story that children were left on the church steps on Sundays and people took them home (didn’t happen quite that way I found out).  Katie was unofficially adopted by the François X Blais family and her story was mostly corroborated by one of his granddaughters.  The granddaughter wrote to me that the train did stop in town and the local parish priest was contacted since there were several children who needed care and respite.  François and his wife took Katie and she remained close to the family until her marriage.  She was called Aunt Catherine by her “nieces and nephews”.    Katie met her future husband, Ambrose Perusse, in Laconia.  The couple married in Lowell, Mass in 1922.  They moved around a great deal as he picked up work as a carpenter.  

       So the story goes that in the early 1930s, Katie Flynn Perusse is walking down a street in Poughkeepsie, New York, and sees her brother for the first time in years.  That story may hold a kernel of truth but they actually re-united much earlier than this since I have some photographs.  One is labeled in my mother’s handwriting: “Uncle Johnnie and myself”.  It’s a picture of a man in a uniform who was standing by a baby carriage.  This would have been in 1923. There is another supporting photograph of Katie Flynn Perusse, Ruth Burke (Mary Flynn Burke’s daughter) and John Joseph Flynn.  This photo was from around 1920/23 or so.   Was he wearing a ‘doughboy’ uniform or was he dressed as a chauffeur?

       In 1930, John Joseph II wanted to marry Kathryn Sanders in a Catholic Church in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan.   I know this because the parish priest in Michigan wrote to the parish priest in Lynn, Mass, where John Joseph II was baptized.  The priest in Lynn tidily wrote the details in the margin of the baptism record for me to find years later.  They married Dec 12, 1930, at the Our Lady of Victory Church, Northville,  Michigan.  He was a chauffeur and she was a waitress. 

       I have to tell you more of the story of John Joseph II and Kathryn.  She was born in Kentucky in 1905.  By 1910 her family was living in rural Michigan and in 1920 they were in Otsego City, Michigan, which was at the intersection of eight railway lines and was known for lumbering and farming.  In 1930 John J Flynn and Cathryn Sanders Flynn were boarders in the Belle Brennan household in Detroit.  He was a chauffeur for a private family and she was a waitress.    Kathryn’s family related (I corresponded with a great-nephew) that they were together as early as 1923 which would fit with the clues from the 1930 Census.   That census data showed that they had been married for 6 years.  I assume they were married in a civil ceremony -- haven't found the record yet -- but that would leave them the opportunity for a church wedding.  I also have a very interesting photo of John Joseph II from around this time.   He was dressed for cold weather and was standing on a pile of floating logs.  

        Kathryn Sander’s family believed that Kathryn and John Joseph disappeared and were “done in” about 1933 because they never heard from her again.  Well, that was an unexpected turn of events and very, very provocative.  Were they in hiding or were they traveling to find work or  was he a spy or an undercover cop, I could go on…….  but I can tell you that a very practical John Joseph II filled out an application for Social Security benefits  30 Nov 1936 in Los Angeles, California, and remained there for the rest of his life.  Everything checks out on this application, he certainly was my great-uncle John Joseph II.  Again, he was a chauffeur and worked for Elmer Belt, MD, who was a local urologist and collector of Vinciana.  (His collection is at the UCLA Medical School.)   I have a photograph of John Joseph in Los Angeles about this time.  He looked tall, was wearing glasses, and had a small moustache.  

       In 1940, John Joseph II’s uncle Patrick Flynn died.  Patrick’s wife was an acquisitive woman and wanted all the money that Pat had gifted or loaned to his family returned to her immediately.  This generated a nice thick probate file and a court case.  John Joseph’s contribution to the probate file was a letter which revealed he was indeed removed from his family when he was only three years old.  He didn’t give any details of his travels but assured everyone that the money was a gift from Uncle Pat. 

       John Joseph Flynn died in Los Angeles in 1973 and was buried in the Sawtelle Veterans Cemetery since he had served honorably.  Kathryn was buried with him about 10 years later.    I have no explanation of why I didn’t know him when I was growing up or where he lived or what his life was like.  I wonder why I didn’t hear anything about his death.  My mother had his address.  I have no idea if he and Kathryn had any children.  I don’t think so but the obituaries were perfunctory.   What I do have is a small collection of photos that start to tell the tale of a well-traveled and, I think,  a very interesting man.   

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