SK / GK Roots

What Exactly is a “Joiner”, Anyway?

My ancestor William Hallett (1615 – 1705) is rumored to have been apprenticed to a “joiner” in his youth. But what exactly is a joiner, anyway? The answer is a little complicated… Read More

So, Why “Hell Gate”?

Back in the mid 1600s, my 9th Great-Grandfather William Hallett owned a farm on the western edge of Long Island, in the area that is now present day Astoria. It was known as “Hellgate”, or “Hellgate Neck” named after the dangerous portion of the East River that bordered it. But why the name “Hellgate”?  Read More

William Hallett, the Original King of Queens

My ancestor William Hallett was the male half of what I like to think of as a 17th century Super Couple. His experiences with Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake Hallett really are worthy of a movie, or at least a TV miniseries. But beyond that, in perhaps a greater claim to fame, William was actually the first European inhabitant of what is today known as Astoria, Queens, in Long Island, New York.  Read More

The Winthrop Woman

Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake Hallett – You would naturally assume that with a name like that she’d have to be an interesting person, and you would, in fact, be correct. As a matter of fact, she’s probably in the top five of my own personal “Favorite Ancestors Hall of Fame”. The niece AND the daughter-in-law of one of the founding fathers of Massachusetts (John Winthrop), Elizabeth was by all accounts a feisty woman with a strong will, hell-bent on having things her own way. In other words, she was a woman ahead of her time by about four centuries or so.

I’m genealogically connected to Elizabeth through three different ancestors (no shock, considering the fact that she was married three times). I’ll show you how at the end of this post, but first, let me share with you just a few details of this amazing woman’s life story. Read More

A Stitch in Time

Both of my maternal grandparents were workers in New York City’s bustling, and commonly exploitive, garment industry. I never knew much about it, beyond the bare facts that my grandfather was a “presser”, and my grandmother was a machine operator, and that they’d met at work.

But I’ve always wondered what that part of their daily lives was like, and what conditions were like in “the shop”. Read More

Frances Ann Traina

A child of the golden age of rock and roll, her teen idols were Elvis and the Everly Brothers. The daughter of first generation Italian immigrants, she formed a bridge between the old country and the new.

The year that Fran was born was not a quiet one. In Europe, Adolf Hitler was strengthening his hold on Czechoslovakia and preparing to invade Austria. At home, Read More

Liborio “Sal” Traina

Liborio was born in Valguarnera Caropepe, Sicily, in 1907.

My grandfather’s family emigrated to the United States in 1913, along with the millions of other Italians who began arriving here in large numbers around 1900. Read More

Maria Katherine Ficarrotta

Mary was born in Manhattan in 1908.

Her parents were recent arrivals to the United States, having made the journey from the Palermo area in Sicily sometime before Mary’s birth. Read More

Augusta “Willie” Moseman

Wilma was born in Manhattan in 1909.

She was kind, and funny, and one of my deepest regrets is that she didn’t live long enough to learn about her own amazing family history. My entirely unsuspecting grandmother had some amazing ancestors.

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John Patrick Woznick

John was born in Elmhurst, New York, in 1908.

I knew virtually nothing about my grandfather’s early history when I started my research, except for the assumption that he was of Polish heritage. After talking with family members and obtaining vital records, I learned that his story was a sad one. Read More