Sunday, March 18, 2012

Another Letter Asking for Help

Three weeks after receiving the disappointing letter from the United States Department of Justice, Agnes Tully Stevens resumes her weary task of trying to discover her immigrant grandfather’s fate in crossing the Atlantic from his home in Ireland. It appears she left a handwritten copy of the letter, jotted on scratch paper, for her own records. It contains as much information as she could retrieve of the numbered instructions on the letter from Department of Justice.

National Archives,
Washington, D. C.

Dear Sirs:
            Have received a letter from Mr. L. W. Hurney, U. S. Dept. of Justice informing me that you may be able to give me information concerning ships which left Liverpool, Eng in 1849.
            My grandfather, Stephen Malloy, left that port on Feb 20th – 1949 [she meant to write 1849] on the “Anglo Americano” for Boston. 

            It took about 3 months for the voyage and I recently read that many sailing vessels were lost in those years.
            Did the U. S. keep records of boats landing that far back?
            My grandmother received a letter from him written just before sailing and never heard from him again. My mother was just one year old and thru’ the years we have wondered if he died at sea.
            I would be most grateful if you could find old records.
            Thanking you I remain
            Sincerely yours
                        Agnes T. Stevens.

While Agnes generally kept meticulous care of all her correspondence, I have yet to find any reply to her inquiry to the National Archives. Perhaps this was yet another dead end—having started with the note to Chicago Today’s Action Line, wending its way to the false-start referral at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and then, as precisely as possible, following instructions in hope of this time receiving the answer she sought.

Yet, the newspaper article that got the whole process percolating in her mind still sits among her treasured papers. While I’m sad to think that she never did find out what became of Stephen Malloy, I am so grateful for our current internet age where I can access such records—often in a moment of time—and find the answer for myself.

At least I know that Stephen Malloy—or Molley, as it was written in the passenger list—made it safely to Boston harbor. As to what happened to him next, I have yet to discover.


  1. So many landed on these shores and vanished. My cousins in Europe could still name 7 men who left for America in the late 19th/early 20th centuries and were never heard of again. It's the not knowing, the waiting.

  2. So he did make it to is a mystery from there then..I hope you found out what happened to him then! :)


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