Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Aunt Lil’s Youngest Nephew

By the time William and Agnes Tully Stevens’ youngest son Gerald came along in 1930, Agnes’ sister Lily was already fifty years old. While this baby may never have known his grandmothers—both of whom died long before his arrival—he did grow up in a multi-generational household, thanks to the presence of Aunt Lil.

Along with her sister Agnes and the rest of the growing Stevens family, Lily had remained for decades at the old Tully home at 507 Garfield Boulevard on the south side of Chicago. Ever since Lil and Agnes had lost their mother, Catherine, in 1922, the place had remained theirs. They had been there together with their mother for the 1920 census and, just before baby Gerry made his arrival in August, for the 1930 census.

But I couldn’t find Aunt Lil when it came time to roll out the 1940 census.

In an abysmal volley of spelling errors, whoever entered the data for the 1940 census rendered Miss Lily Tully unfindable. Thanks, however, to a process using the census scans available at, I was able to backtrack to and redirect readers here to a publicly-available copy of the record—despite the head-of-household entry as “Lylly Telloy” and even a listing, for instance, of her niece Patricia as “Patracia.” (Actually, the 1940 census taker for this neighborhood was a paragon of disinformation: Lil was also entered as “widowed,” when in reality she had never married.) And what looks like “Geralp Steven,” along with a boarder listed as “Francis Dixon,” doesn’t appear until the next page.

Welp, Geralp may have been the apple of Aunt Lil’s eye, perhaps. At least, that’s judging from the notebook she kept—the one that got passed down to me, thanks to her sister Agnes, who refrained from cleaning house after Lil’s passing.

Who could resist his angelic boyhood appearance? Certainly not this doting aunt. She must have cherished every step in his young life—at least from the look of her journal entries.

This surrogate grandmother’s twelve year old nephew had made her proud.

Gerry served his first Mass at 6 o’clock Sunday May 17/1942.
     His mother was there, also Fanny + Lee
     Fr. Brazil said the Mass and told him he did very well.
     Served 10 oclock Mass May 24 1942
                Fr. Brazil said the Mass


  1. He does look like the ideal altar boy. As for the census, I wonder whether having legible handwriting was even a prerequisite for enumerators.

    1. Well, it seemed legible: it was block printing, after all. It just didn't seem to all come together quite right.

  2. I'm glad you found that census record! Holy Moly! What a challenge that must have been!

    Geralp? What the heck? :) But if you google it, there are actually people with that first name.

    1. Well, ya made me look! Couldn't resist. You are absolutely right. Who would have thought?


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