The 52 Week Challenge: Week 4 – Invite to Dinner

This week Amy Johnson Crow‘s Topic for the 52 Week Challenge is “Invite to Dinner.”  I have many, pretty much ALL of those who have gone before me I would love to talk to.  But If I have to write about one (pair) it would be my great grand-parents Francesco Cavallone (1875-1953) and Rosa Libretti (1879-1956).

Mama Rosa and Tata Chich 1944

They arrived at Ellis Island in 1899 right after getting married in Sassano, Italy.  I’d want to know how they experienced life in Central Italy.  What drew them to America and specifically Chicago.  I’d love to learn their recipes (though I love my grandparent’s gravy and pasta recipes).  What made them make so many trips back and forth from Italy.  I’d ask “Thetan Cheeck” (that’s what they called Francesco) where he was originally from because there are no records in Sassano of his birth or his parents Giuseppe Cavallone and Maria Giuseppa Furiati.  Mama Rosa, yes.  I don’t know of any Francesco’s siblings as of yet.

They settled at 4900 South Federal Street (previously Armour Ave) in Chicago and moved after 1940 to 837 West 51st Street.  All of Thetan Cheek’s children resided in the same general block.  My dad used to tell me that you couldn’t go anywhere without an aunt or an uncle and even older cousins (my oldest great aunt had children before my grandfather was born) knowing what you are up to.

I think it would be a blast to see this in person:


Come to think of it I’d love to be a part of this, my great grandparents and my great Aunts and Uncles back in the late 1940’s at Francesco and Rosa’s 50th Wedding Anniversary.  They didn’t have much, but Family was important.


(l-r) front: Vincenzo “Jimmy,” Antonia “Dora,” Francesco, Rosa, Catherine, Michael; back: my grandmother Frances Matroci holding my aunt Rosemary, shadowed in the back my great aunt Mary Biancamano, Joseph, Frank Merenda and my grandfather John Cavallone.

Ah, the thought of leaping back in time to learn about the family first hand.  I think I’d prefer that over seeing the future.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 2: Favorite Picture

In 2002, my oldest daughter had a school assignment that required her to find out what ancestors came to America and why.  I had no idea what would follow.  I knew I wanted to learn more about my family, especially after my paternal grandparents passed away in 1996.  But procrastination won.

Not anymore.

We visited my Aunt Rosemary, who was the family historian.  She taught us the history and how large our family really was.  I knew of no siblings of my grandfather.  I didn’t pay attention.  My Aunt provided phone numbers of second cousins and they all contributed to the story.

As I visited each branch of the family, I brought my portable scanner and laptop and scanned all of the pictures.  These meetings eventually turned into a family reunion (to be discussed in a future blog) bringing relatives together from coast to coast.  It was a great site to see my 80-year-old relatives see each other again after 30+ years!

So, I actually have two favorite pictures.

This one is from my great grandparents 50th wedding anniversary in 1949.  The picture is from Rose Cavallone Mateicka’s collection.

Frank and Rose 50th Group-2

The second one is the oldest “Cavallone” picture we have.  This is from my Aunt Rosemary’s collection.  It’s from 1909.  My paternal great-grandparents, Rosa Libretti (30) and Francesco Cavallone (34), along with (l to r) daughters Caterina (3), Antonia (4-5 months ?) and Josephine (8)


I’m grateful that many of my Rispoli cousins were photographers.  There are many Cavallone family pictures from the 1940s and thanks to technology I was able to collect and share what each branch of the family shared with me to other family members.

The McGrath Family

It’s been a long time since I wrote on this blog, but genealogist and blogger Amy Johnson Crow created a challenge to fellow genealogists called 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks and I’m up for the challenge.

I have a fondness for the McGrath Family.  I never met any of them but through researching my wife’s side of the family I learned of their tragic story.  Anna Kelly was the second oldest of six children born to Rose Keenan on February 9, 1871, in Allegheny Pennsylvania.  She was baptised on February 26, 1871, at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Pittsburgh.  She grew up with sisters Catherine, Rose and Mary and brothers Cornelius and John in Western Pennsylvania until about 1895 when the family moved back to Chicago (Rose Keenan married Edward Kelly in Chicago in 1869, daughter Catherine was born in Chicago January 2, 1870).  Anna’s father Edward died in Pennsylvania around 1875 when he was about 41.

Anna married Edward McGrath on June 29, 1900, at St. Ailbe Catholic Church on Chicago’s Southeast Side.


Anna’s sister Rose left Chicago to live in Sidney, Nebraska prior to Anna’s marriage.  According to the Sidney Telegraph newspaper, Anna regularly visited sister Rose in Sidney.

Anna and Edward had two girls, Loretta born August 21, 1905, and Bernice born Jan 3, 1914.  Anna and Edward adored their girls.

On October 17, 1918, Anna became a victim of the Spanish flu which ravaged the nation. While comparing notes with Thomas McClory a few years ago, he noted, “The day of Anne’s death from this disease, October 17, 1918, became known as Black Thursday in Chicago when 381 people died and nearly 1,200 more contracted the illness in a single 24-hour period.”

Loretta and her sister Bernice, along with their grandmother Rose Keenan Kelly,  moved to Cheyenne County Nebraska to live with Anna’s sister Rose and her husband James McNulty.  Not long after the move to Nebraska Rose and James McNulty, Loretta, Bernice and Rose Keenan moved to Denver.

On April 30, 1922, tragedy strikes again as Loretta and Bernice’s father Edward Kelly was killed in a train accident.

Anna always wanted her daughter Loretta to be a Nun.  Loretta followed that path and became a Sister Mary Bernice in the late 1920s.  She watched over her sister Bernice as told in her story below.


1906 – Anna Kelly McGrath, Loretta McGrath (left) and William McClory (right) courtesy Thomas McClory collection.

Sister Mary Bernice

About 1927 – Sister Mary Bernice McGrath (Loretta McGrath) courtesy Thomas McClory collection.

The following story of Sister Mary Bernice was sent to me by the Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati.  It describes the strength and faith of Anna’s daughter, Sister Mary Bernice.




Anna Kelly McGrath is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, 2755 W 111th Street (Section 50 Block – Lot 692 Grave 3)

Edward McGrath is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, 2755 W 111th Street (Section 43 Block – Lot 35 Grave 1) 

Sister Mary Bernice McGrath is buried at Sisters of Charity Cemetery

Bernice McGrath is buried at Arlington National Cemetery (Section 60 Site 7409)

Onward to Denver

We left Sidney Nebraska at 5:30am Tuesday morning June 16 and arrived in Denver at 8:30.  Vital Records opened at 8:30 so that was our first stop.  We ordered two certificates, Katherine May Ward Bowen, who we knew passed in June 1975 and we took a guess at Rose Kelly McNulty.  The last evidence we had was an obit from her sister Mary Kelly McMullen in 1957.  Vital Records charges $1 per year search non-refundable.  I had no idea so I figured between 1957 to 1975. After the order was placed we had to wait up to two hours.

Off to the Denver Public Library, which, in my opinion has the best genealogy section I have ever seen.  We needed obituaries for several family members we recently discovered.  Due to their diligence we located the death notices within an hour.

AudreyBowen ClydeBowen DoyleSandage ThomasBowen ThomasFBowen VirginiaSandage

After we were finished, I spoke with the head of the Genealogy Department, I donated the work I had done prior to the trip for those researching the same families.


The death certificates were ready.  They located Rose McNulty!  A six year brick wall was torn down!

KatherineMayWardBowen-CO-DC-1975lowres RoseKellyMcNulty-CO-DC-1961lowres

So as we get into the car to go to the cemetery we notice a bulge on the front right tire.  We have much travel ahead so we have no choice then to find a tire store that we trust.  Safety first!  Luckily Discount Tires on Evans Ave were honest and fast!  We were soon on our way to Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Jefferson County.


Goals Accomplished!

No Internet

After our successful trip to Denver yesterday, we moved on to a cabin 20 miles from Estes Park.  No internet or cell service. I will post our findings when we hit civilization in a couple days.

Thank you for following our genealogy quest.

Cheyenne County Catholic Church Records

Today was another successful day.  We started out meeting Father Dave in Bridgeport, NE at All Souls Church.  He let us look at the sacrament book.  There were a few clues to new information on Becky’s cousins, James Ward, Catherine Ward’s son and his wife Catherine Keenan(!)’s daughter Isabella Catherine’s Baptismal. The records only went back to 1917, though the church was opened in 1908.  All of Catherine’s children were born and past the traditional baptismal years.  Only her children’s children would be found.

Father Dave offered to call St. Patrick’s Church in Sidney to see if we could look at the sacrament books there.  They welcomed us there as well.

When we arrived at St. Patrick’s there were several pages of sacraments!  We found James McNulty and Rose Kelly’s Marriage; Rose McNulty (d.1927), Catherine Ward (d.1937), Susan Ward Dalton (d.1964) and Patrick J Dalton (d. 1934) death; and a few baptismals.

IMG_2871 IMG_2872

Line 1 is Rose McNulty’s death she is James McNulty’s sister.

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Catherine Ward is found on line 11

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James McNulty and Rose Kelly’s Marriage is located on line 63, the third line down

Though we didn’t find everything we were looking for, the past four days were successful with documentation we would never have acquired otherwise.  Best of all was meeting Tom Walsh, his friend Jim, Father Dave and many other very hospitable residents of the Cheyenne County area!

Tomorrow, on to Denver to Vital Records, the Denver Public Library, a cemetery visit and then to Estes Park to visit family!

A Day with Tom Walsh

We met Tom for lunch at Loading Chute in Gurley Nebraska.  I gave him some of his grandmother Mary McNulty’s homestead papers I found on ancestry and the 1913 township map of 17N 51W which includes the sections James McNulty owned.  He shared history with us.

After lunch we accompanied him to the Dalton American Legion Auxiliary where they were serving ice cream and pie.  Tom participates in reading deceased service men and woman’s names at American Legion functions.

We then went back to Tom’s place, hopped in his truck and he took us around to the areas where the McNulty’s (Rose, Mary and James) homesteaded.  He also took us to Catherine Ward’s homestead.  The land had no home on it.  Tom suggested we talk to the current owner.  Jim was very welcoming.  He immediately told us he had the abstract on the property.  He found it right away and invited us in.  We copied the pages with Catherine Ward’s transactions and he sat and, along with Tom, shared stories of the land ownership in the area, the depression, and several other stories that we are very greatful for.    


The evening closed with dinner with Tom back at the Gurley Loading Chute.  We are extremely greatful for Tom’s generosity and hospitality!

Tomorrow we visit Father Dave in Bridgeport NE to look at Sacremental records!