The cigar maker and the Hungarian-American Photographer
James Baker MORRIS was born 3 May 1828 1 the son of David MORRIS (1805-1888) and Elizabeth CHAPMAN (1801-1876). James was born in Poole, Dorset, England, United Kingdom. He was baptised on the 31 October 1828 at the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Poole, Dorset, England, United Kingdom 2. Aged 79 years he passed away in September 1907 in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom 3. Nothing unusual you might suggest here, apart from his move from Dorset to Lincolnshire.
Marriage and children
James married Sarah Elizabeth BARKER (1837-1906) in March 1859, in Hull, Yorkshire East Riding, England, United Kingdom (now Humberside) 4. Hull is sometimes listed as Kingston upon Hull in some early records. The changes in UK counties can be confusing, and if your ancestors lived on the border of a county they may have found themselves in and out of an adjacent county over a number of generations. A useful guide to English registration districts and their counties can be located at http://www.ukbmd.org.uk/genuki/reg/districts/.
Anyway, back to James and Sarah – they had at least seven children, John William MORRIS (b. 1861), Emma Jane MORRIS (b. 1863), George MORRIS (b. 1866), James MORRIS (b. 1868), Sarah MORRIS (b. 1870), Ada MORRIS (b. 1873) and Charles MORRIS (b. 1875). My ancestor David MORRIS (b. 1805, my 3x Great Grandfather) was James Baker MORRIS’S father. James Baker MORRIS was my 2nd great granduncle; what a mouthful! These relationships are calculated by most family history computer programs and I am relieved my program ‘RootsMagic’ handles these calculations with ease.
So come on Robert, what is unusual about James I hear you shout? Well I came across further information on James via genesreunited.co.uk, which helped me in contacting a relative (my 2nd cousin once removed) who was researching his MORRIS ancestors. It was the occupation for James that caught my eye; Tobacconist (later Iron Foundry Labourer); 44th Street, New York, United Sates of America. Well American connections; another surprise! How had James ended up in New York?
Brian (my 2nd cousin once removed) takes up the story:
James B Morris was my Great grandfather. In 1881 he was an Iron Foundry Labourer in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. Before this he went to America; James and Sarah Elizabeth left Liverpool aboard the SS Bridgewater and arrived in New York on 19 June 1860. They ran a tobacconist shop on 44th Street New York. Civil War started so he moved to Canada. His wife got home sick moved back to Hull then on to Gainsborough. Their house in Bridge Street was between the Crown & Anchor pub and the Common Lodgings House. This small back terraced housing was poor quality and built in the gardens of older larger houses, in common with many industrialised areas.
Following this email, information arrived on the birth of the children, 5 of the seven were born in New York or Brooklyn:
John William MORRIS, Birth 1861 New York, United Sates of America 5
Emma Jane MORRIS, Birth 1863 Brooklyn, United States of America 6
George MORRIS, Birth 1866 New York, United Sates of America 7
James MORRIS, Birth 1868 New York, United States of America 8
Sarah MORRIS, Birth 1870 Brooklyn, United States of America 9
With the final 2 in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire:
Ada MORRIS, Birth abt 1873 Hull, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom 10
Charles MORRIS, Birth abt 1875 Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom 11
New York, New York
In September 2013 I took a short break to New York. In between sightseeing I managed to claim some hours in the New York Public Library 12. I confirmed a Jas B MORRIS and Sarah MORRIS arrived in New York on the 19 June 1860 having departed from Liverpool on the ship Bridgewater 13.
Now, if like me, you assumed all immigrants arriving in New York were processed through Ellis Island; think again. It wasn’t until 1892 that Ellis Island accepted immigrants through its halls. Before this Castle Garden (now a museum and ticket office for its more famous successor, named Castle Clinton) was the welcome post for immigrants arriving in New York City. Opened on the 3 August 1855 it eventually registered 8 million newcomers to the United States of America. Before its use as an Immigrant Gateway, Castle Gardens had been an entertainment centre (1824-1855), and before this a Battery (1683-1821) 14. So James had entered New York through Castle Gardens Immigrant Processing Station. You can search the database of Castle Garden immigrants for free at www.castlegarden.org.
James and Sarah appear on the 1860 New York Census (great timing from James with his arrival into the United States!) taken on the 3 July 1860, ward 13, district 2. The occupation for James is unclear, but looks like a ‘finisher’. Skipping to the 1870 New York Census we note James and Sarah in Brooklyn, ward 11. John is 9 years and attends school, Emma 7 years also at school. With Geo and James (5 years and 2 years).
Turning my attention to the New York and Brooklyn Trade Directories (similar to the UK Trade Directories), I searched for James. There were no listings for a James B MORRIS of any note in New York. However, in Brooklyn I came across the following, which links to the information provided by my 2nd cousin once removed:
1866-67, James B MORRIS, last maker, h, 51 Little
1867-68, James B MORRIS, sawyer, h, 85 Hudson
1868-69, James MORRIS, cigars, h, 85 Hudson
1869-70, James B MORRIS, cigar maker, 284 Myrtle Avenue
1870-71, James B MORRIS, sigars, 284 Myrtle Avenue
1872, No listing
This could prove the tobacco connection, but whilst searching I was unable to locate any MORRIS connection with a Tobacconist, 44th Street, New York, United Sates of America.
Kornel W BENICZKY
I had also taken a photograph with me to New York (below), which is an image of James B MORRIS with work colleagues. On the back of the photograph is visible the photographer, and whilst searching the trade directories I kept an eye out for Wm BURGESS at KW BENICZKY. In 1870- 1874 Kornel W BENICZKY is occupying 2 New Chambers as a photographer. In 1875 Sarah, widow of Kornel W BENICZKY is listed.
Moving to America’s Historical Newspaper Database I searched 1860-1870 and BENICZKY’S places adverts in the editions of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, New York between 21 May 1864 and 19 November 1864. Another database, related entirely to photographers gives succinct details: Kornell W BENICZKY, American, Hungarian? Died 1875; photographer.
So contacting family members can extend your research into directions you may never have considered. There are various ways of doing this:
- Contact living relatives now. They will know ancestors you don’t, and will have known ancestors at a different stage in their lives. Sometimes they were even present when precious nuggets of information were revealed. Find the family member who is a guardian of the family information; documents and photographs. They may maintain contact with other relatives or distant relations. For guidance on how to conduct meetings with family members contact me for further information.
- Use the Internet; either search for relatives using key words in a search engine such as google, or join a website; here are a couple of ideas; www.genesreunited.co.uk, www.lostcousins.com. Family History websites may highlight potential contacts for you, or suggest you build an on-line family tree and share this (such as websites ancestry or findmypast). If sharing information on the internet think about what you publish. You should perhaps keep living relatives off -line, or mark them as private. At least ask their permission first before publishing. Remember once published on-line, their personal information may be captured forever. Also, some of our family history data (for example dates of birth and maiden names) are used as security questions and answers for access to private websites like banks.
James returned to the United Kingdom sometime between 1870-1873, according to the family story following the American Civil War (1861 to 1865) and a move to Canada. However this doesn’t fit with the evidence we have for James, particularly as the birth of 5 of his children occurred in New York between 1861-1870. James died at 79 years of age in September 1907 in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom.
Robert Parker is a Genealogist and Trainer, based in Kent. He delivers courses, guidance, talks and research services for those interested in tracing their ancestors. See https://myfamilygenealogy.co.uk/guidance/ for his 5 steps to discovering your ancestors. Contact Robert to discuss your requirements without obligation.
What stories might your ancestors tell?
1 Source G Munro 2007: James the son of David Morris of Poole in the Parish of St James in the County of Dorset Painter and of Elizabeth his wife, who was the daughter of Thomas and Jane CHAPMAN, was born on the Third day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty eight. And was solemnly baptised with water, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, on the Thirty-first day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty eight, by me, Henry Young Chiverton, Minister.
2 Source: Copy Extract from microfilm of original (handwritten) records of Births and Baptisms, 1809-1840 at the Wesleyan Chapel, Chapel Lane, High Street, Poole, Dorsetshire, held at the Public Records Office, Kew, London. Film reference 1482366; RG-4 series no 1231; extracted by G Munro on 14 May 2003 at the PRO, Kew.
3 Source: B Morris, 2005.
4 Source: Source G Munro 2007; B Morris, Ipswich; Freebmd.org.uk: marriage registration Mar 1859, Hull, 9d, 333.
5 Source B Morris, 20.1.2005.
6 Source B Morris, 20.1.2005.
7 Source B Morris, 20.1.2005.
8 Source: 1870 New York, United States of America Census, 992/2252.
9 Source B Morris, 20.1.2005.
10 Source B Morris, 20.1.2005, G Munro, March 2008.
11 Source B Morris, 20.1.2005, G Munro, March 2008.
13 Source: ancestry.com, New York passenger lists, arrivals.
14 Source: www.nps.gov/elis/index.htm and B Moreno, Castle Garden and Battery Park, Arcadia Publishing 2007.