• Serendipity
  • Nov4

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    I took some time at lunch to catch up reading one of my favorite blogs (and the accompanying podcast), The Bowery Boys: New York City History. Their latest post is Photographs of Wonder from the American Museum of Natural History, which showcases several photos from the museum’s AMNH: Picturing The Museum image collection online.

    Children doing Indian Dances in Plains Indians Hall, American Museum of Natural History, 1939, Bierwert, Thane L.

    Children doing Indian Dances in Plains Indians Hall, American Museum of Natural History, Image 291994, Bierwert, Thane L., 1939

    They included some terrific photos from most of the earlier decades of the 20th century. My favorites are definitely the photos from the Education section of the collection, as they show students in various locations and activities in the museum, and reminds me of my own school field trips there in the 1970s.

    I enjoyed them all enough to scroll back up to look at the photos again… then I saw him: My Dad in 1939, dancing with other students in Native American headdress in the Plains Indian Hall!

    It is decidedly a sideways shot and not at the highest resolution, even on the AMNH’s own site, so I suppose there might always be some doubt.

    Comparison, AMNH Photo and a young Michael Tierney
    But having scanned and worked with all of my family’s photos over the last several years, plus knowing what my brother, nephews, son, and I all looked like around that age: THAT is a Tierney face.

    (Click on any photo to see it larger.)

    Another instance of genealogical serendipity – More proof that if you keep looking long enough, someone you know will show up!

  • May10

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    Yesterday while in Manhattan with my family, we took a minute to take a fun photo.

    First, an abbreviated back story: A few years ago when I started researching my great-grandfather Michael Tierney and family in earnest, I obtained his work records from the New York City Police Department. While working on that information and finding them in the various censuses under any number of poorly enumerated spellings and transcriptions, I also began scanning all of our family photos. In my brother’s album I found a single photo of Michael, standing on a rooftop in uniform circa 1904.

    A few days later, I experienced an amazing instance of serendipity – browsing in my local library I flipped open a copy of The New York Irish and saw an 1887 photo of a group of policemen standing in front of the spanking new precinct on 67th Street.

    One of them looked familiar.

    To find out more, see my first two posts on great-grandfather in Michael Tierney – NY Policeman, Part 1 and the creatively titled, Michael Tierney – Policeman, Part 2.

    Below is the result of our photo expedition. A surreal experience to stand in exactly the same place as your ancestor 127 years later.

    For those of the historical architecture mindset, I suggest this interesting post about the precinct house at the Daytonian in Manhattan blog: The 1887 19th Precinct Station House — 153 East 67th Street.
    For more detail, you can read the 1999 NYC Landmark Preservation Commission Report here – it is actually much more interesting than you might think! (It is for the 19th precinct, but was originally the 25th.)

    Police Station.1887 Opening.67th Street.FADE

  • Jul29

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    In a previous post St. Gabriel Has Left The Building I outlined my search for the Manhattan church where my grandfather and siblings were baptized and hopefully the one where my great-grandparents were married.

    Glow of the City, Martin Lewis, 1929

    Martin Lewis, “Glow of the City” (1929)

    With some effort and a nice amount of luck I discovered information on the now dismantled St. Gabriel’s Church on East 37th Street.

    I then found through the Archdiocese of NY that the Church of St. Stephen now held those parish records and was able to obtain my grandfather’s baptism. (Still looking for the marriage record.)

    As is my wont, I posted the images I use here on this blog on The Flickr as it makes a fine scannable archive and doesn’t fill up my hosting quota here on this domain. A few days ago someone found that image and commented on it:

    This is the church whose steeple is seen in the famous print by artist Martin Lewis, “Glow of the City” (1929). I’ve looked a long time for the location of this church.

    I was not aware of the artist nor the print, but it has a wonderful feel of the time, don’t you think? I’ve since learned that while Australian born, he was a contemporary of Edward Hopper who is a favorite artist of mine.

    From Williamsburg Bridge, Edward Hopper, 1928

    Edward Hopper, “From Williamsburg Bridge”, 1928 Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    In the days when I delivered construction materials and spent mornings sitting in a truck on the congested Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, I whiled away the time imagining Hopper making his studies of the buildings visible from my vantage point. A fine example is Hopper’s From Williamsburg Bridge, 1928 at right.

    I suggest that anyone who has an interest in the history and architecture of New York City just after the turn of the 20th century seek out the work of both of these artists.

    The Brooklyn Museum holds quite a few Lewis pieces in its collection. Visit the Metropolitan Museum for its collection of Edward Hopper’s work.

    The Glow of the City image above is courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum.

  • Jun1


    Last year I was lucky to get reconnected to several first cousins that we hardly knew about, much less met.

    Tierney siblings, Jamaica, NY circa 1929

    Tierney Siblings: Michael, Sabina and John, Jamaica Queens, 1929

    The short short version of the story is that my grandfather John Tierney (sounds familiar) married Sabina Gilroy and had four children. Sadly, he lost his wife and 3 year old Winifred in the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic in New York.

    The next year he married my grandmother May and several years later they had my father. By all accounts their marriage was stormy and not good for the kids. After my grandfather died in 1935 the family drifted apart and my father apparently had very little contact with his brother and two sisters. (All half siblings to him.)

    More than a dozen years ago I started to get interested in genealogy, but worked at it sporadically. However, I kept adding to my findings and kept them on an Ancestry tree that was discovered last year by my father’s brother’s grandson’s wife. (Got that?) Read More | Comments