Genealogy November 2014

NaBloPoMo (11/2014) – Day 21: “The Family Games: Mystery – Part 2″

As promised, I’m here to provide you with part 2 of “The Hensley Siblings Mystery.”  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might want to read my previous post.

So, we left of with me receiving a call from Marie at the St. Joseph’s Center in Scranton, PA regarding what she found when researching my grandfather and his sisters. I was actually in Kansas City, MO when the call came in, so I heard the message when I returned home the next day. I immediately called Marie. Unfortunately, she was at lunch, so I left her a message. Later that afternoon, my phone rang. It was Marie.

She started out by asking if I was sure about all the information I sent her. (For the record, I probably sent more than most people would. I had full names, dates of birth, both parents’ names, my great grandmother’s maiden name, and I included a printout of Aunt Margaret’s death certificate.) I told her that, yes, I was sure of the information and that I’d confirmed it via other sources including marriage, death, and social security records. Needless to say, she was a little perplexed.

My grandfather – Patrick Hensley – had never been admitted to the St. Joseph’s Foundling Home. His four sisters were residents, but he never was. She thought that, perhaps, he was sent to St. Patrick’s Orphanage since that is usually where they sent boys, but she also doubted that since it would be splitting up the family – and they tended not to do that.We hemmed and hawed for a few moments, and then I mentioned that my grandfather worked the mines so that his sisters could eat meat. Marie said that wasn’t unheard of in those times. They used children, sometimes as young as eight-years-old, to get into parts of the mines that adults could not enter. Also, that it was likely that there wasn’t much more than porridge and milk for the children in the orphanage. Scranton was not a wealthy community and the orphanage didn’t have much. But they treated the children well and gave them what they could. So, Marie and I agreed that, yes, he most likely did work the mines. But there was still the mystery of Grandpa not being a resident at the orphanage.

I suggested that, perhaps, he was not sent to the orphanage since he could, in fact, work and bring in money. Again, Marie agreed with me and said that it was not unheard of back then. I mentioned that what I knew of my great grandmother made me believe that she wouldn’t be past keeping my grandfather out of the care of the nuns so that he could make money.

Jennie (Henehan) Hensley
Jennie (Henehan) Hensley

This is where Marie paused and said, “About your great grandmother…um….how can I put this?”

“Marie,” I said, “believe me when I say that you cannot tarnish any memories of Jennie Hensley for me. I never knew her and I’ve heard enough stories about her that I don’t think you need to sugar coat anything.”

“Okay,” she said. “Because I don’t think your great grandmother ever had any intention of taking those kids out of St. Joseph’s. It looks like she abandoned them.”

Well, that did shock me a bit. Because I know…I KNOW…that they were all together again in Chicago. So, what was the deal here?

Marie continued to tell me more about what she found.

We’d always been told that they were in the orphanage for a short time. Just long enough for Jennie to get on her feet and take them back. Well, Marie told me that they weren’t discharged from St. Joseph’s until August 1926. They were brought there in June 1920. So they were there for SIX YEARS. And even then, they were discharged to St. Patrick’s Orphanage. So we don’t know how long they were at St. Patrick’s. I just know that they were in Chicago – with their mother – in 1930.

The next step was to look into the records at St. Patrick’s. Unfortunately, this orphanage no longer exists. Marie suggested I check with Catholic Social Services of Scranton to see if they knew where the records were transferred. So, that’s what I did. I made a phone call. The Scranton office directed me to the Hazelton office since they have the records. They kept telling me that adoption records were sealed by the state, but I kept reminding them that my aunts were NOT adopted. Anyway, I called Hazelton and was told I needed to talk to Tracy, but that she wasn’t in right then. So I was put through to her voicemail. I left a message yesterday morning…I have not yet heard back from her. I will call again on Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. Every day until I get some sort of response from her. Even if the is forbidden by law to assist me, the least she can do is return my call. If necessary, I may ask Marie for help. I mean, I’m not asking for the secret combination to the vault at Fort Knox, or anything. I just want to know the date they were discharged and who they were discharged to. They weren’t adopted, so no big secrets are being revealed. All parties have long since passed away. It’s not highly confidential information. If that were the case, Marie wouldn’t have been able to tell me what she did.

So, there is still a mystery. Maybe it took Jennie that long to get to a stable place where she could take them back? While it’s possible, it’s also kind of doubtful. She’d already had addresses in Chicago by 1926. And she was getting remarried soon (1927) – though this marriage took place in Scranton. So, one would think she was doing well enough. But, maybe because of this, she was able to get her kids out and bring them home to her. Of course, by this time, my grandfather was 17 years-old. In those days, he was well into adulthood. It’s very possible that he took his sisters out of the orphanage and brought them to Chicago. Maybe he brought them to their mother and told her she needed to raise her kids. I wouldn’t put it past him. He was that kind of guy.

Grandpa and Aunt Betty's son (from her first marriage) Pat.
Grandpa and Aunt Betty’s son (from her first marriage) Pat.

Honestly, I just don’t know. While some questions have been answered, more have been raised. I just hope this Tracy person at Catholic Social Services can give me some answers. (I’d hate to have to push the matter and take it to a higher authority, but I will if she’s going to ignore my calls and requests.) I’d like to think that Jennie simply needed that time to get her act together and had every intention of getting her kids back. I mean, St. Joseph’s did have 2 Chicago addresses on file for her, so she must have let them know where she was. Then again, maybe they got that information from my grandfather. I’m absolutely positive that he would have visited his sisters. Again, he was that kind of guy. My aunt also told me that my grandfather and his sisters always treated Jennie well. So, you would think that would mean they didn’t have bad feelings toward her. Then again, maybe it was just a life-long desire to receive love from their mother. From what I’ve been told about Jennie, she wasn’t a very loving woman – and she liked to have a good time.

Hopefully, I will have a “Part 3” to write about sometime in the near future…if Tracy at Catholic Social Services ever calls me back.

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