Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Stopping to Reassess the Situation

Sometimes, the pursuit of family history seems like a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. But—as Winston Churchill famously posited in his 1939 radio broadcast analyzing Russian foreign policy—perhaps there is a key.

The trouble with my research style, when brought face to face with an impenetrable brick wall, is that I take a nested approach. I searched for details on Anna Kraus, when seeking vital statistics on her daughter Rose, only because I was stuck on the true identity of her supposed brother, my paternal grandfather. Was the man really Theodore Puhalski? Or John T. McCann?

To be stymied by the lack of any death record for Anna Kraus, whom we already learned had killed herself on September 28, 1921, is not what is preventing us from attaining the main point.

To lose the trail, when seeking her daughter Rose’s death record, is not even the impediment keeping us from reaching our goal.

The main reason each of these paths was tested was to see what corollary details could be unearthed about Rose’s supposed brother, John T. McCann. Was he really the man who used to be known as Theodore Puhalski? Or was he who he said he was: an American citizen, born to an American father and German-American mother Anna Kraus in Brooklyn on August 7, 1876?

Having had no success pursuing those sidelines, there is nothing left to do but regroup and re-focus on the main goal: finding more about my paternal grandfather, whoever he was.

I cannot explain why I am so certain about my hunch that Theodore and John are one and the same person. I have no documentation, whatsoever. There are not even any family stories—as highly suspect as family lore may be. But my next goal needs to be finding a way to answer that question.

So, I return to muddle over that original quandary. Why did John T. McCann surface with Theodore J. Puhalski’s wife and children in the 1915 New York State census? Why did they move from the Brooklyn neighborhood where his wife’s family had lived, ever since their immigration?

When I originally had puzzled over these questions, I had wondered whether there might even have been some illicit aspect to that incognito approach. Was Theodore afraid someone was after him? Had he committed a crime? Or offended some powerful member of a century-old street gang?

Recently, I’ve changed my approach. Of course, I’ve already searched for the erstwhile Theodore Puhalski to see if he had surfaced anywhere else. After all, it is possible that Theodore and John were two entirely different people.

However, finding anyone with the surname Puhalski—or its alternate form, Puchalski—was a challenge. Theodore seemed to have vanished at the same time as John T. McCann suddenly appeared. And we all know how hopeless it would be to find and reconstruct the timeline for the right Irish-American resident named John McCann.

The next question looming in my mind asked, “Was there anything about the date at which the second man appeared that has significance?”

What was going on in 1915?


  1. Jacqi, I’m regularly stymied by a lack of information, but your mind must be going around in circles trying to make sense of this one – it’s most bizarre!

    1. Dara, that's exactly how it's been, lately: my mind running in circles! Sometimes, the best thing to do when it gets to that is step back from the tightly-wound loop and give it all a breather.

      But I just can't bring myself to that, just yet!!!

  2. Womens Sufferage, The 1915 New York Census. I think in 1918 you had to register with your local draft board. That is about all I know of. What a puzzle:(

    1. As it turns out, Far Side, the local draft board held the key--at least in my opinion.

  3. Very bizarre. Since John McCann "materializes" in 1915, the "event" occurred sometime between 1910 and 1915.

    Perhaps one/both of these men were "avoiding" the WWI draft. They apparently succeeded. But... The 1st draft was held 5 Jun 1917 for men ages 21-31. Perhaps they anticipated it?

    Or if Theodore needed to be "Irish" to get (or keep) employment, he had "done so" before 1915. Which still makes me wonder where the heck the WWI draft registration is... for John T.

    1. Found it...


    2. That was what I was wondering, too, Iggy: where John's draft registration card was. It was only the other night when I found it, myself. It was likely there, all along, but I noticed it was filed under "John L. McCann" in Ancestry's records. With all the John McCanns to sift through in New York City, I likely dismissed him out of hand in previous searches. Or, who knows, perhaps his entry never came up, the last several times I searched for this one. He certainly knew how to pick a name to keep him invisible--if this was indeed my Theodore Puhalski.

  4. Eureka! Theodore was eating a hearty bowl of oatmeal when the thought came to him - "Perfect! From now on I'll be John McCann." Mystery solved. Yeeah ~


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...