Thursday, February 6, 2014


In January 2014, Amy Johnson Crow of the Ancestry blog issued the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.

The premise: write once a week about a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, a research problem — any that focuses on that one ancestor. The next week, write about a different ancestor. In 52 weeks, you’ll have taken a closer look at 52 people in your family tree… and maybe learned a little bit more about them in the process.

William John Mathers was born in 1845 in County Tyrone, Ireland. He was my Great Grandfather.  I have only one record that indicates his father’s name.  His marriage certificate dated 31 January 1864 indicates his father was Thomas and was deceased at the time of the marriage.  William John Mathers married Mary McCrudden of Sion Mills, Tyrone, Ireland.  On the marriage certificate it states his residence is in Gallony, Tyrone, Ireland.

Sometime after his first daughter, Mary Jane, was born in December of 1864, William took his family to New York.  He felt he would have a better opportunity for work in his trade of boot/shoe maker.  His wife was very afraid of the move and consulted with her parish priest who told her she had to stay with her husband.  I have not found them travelling from Ireland to New York but find them in Manhattan when their first son is born.  James was born 31 July 1868 in Manhattan.  They lived at 357 7th Avenue at this time.

He and his wife Mary continued to have children, 9 in all.  Two children died when they were young. Thomas died when he was 11 and Elizabeth when she was 15.  The other children married and had many children.

The children are

  • Mary Jane who married  Joseph Flanagan and had 13 children.
  •  James who married Cecelia O’Brien and had just one son. 
  • Catherine who married Patrick Morris and had 2 daughters.
  • Ellen (Nellie) who married William Hickey and had 6 children
  • Ann who married William White and one daughter
  • Theresa (Tessie) who married William Rudolph and had 5 children
  • William Joseph who married Mary (Mamie) McGuigan and had 4 children

I have several city directories showing him as a boot maker and all of his census records have him working as a boot/shoe maker in Manhattan until his death. I was very curious about how his shop might have looked and how it serve customers.  I found a movie made in 1954 about a boot maker in 19th century England that gave me the answers I was looking for.  The movie was "Hobson's Choice".

I had a very hard time finding out when and where William John Mathers had died.  Over the years the Mathers family name was changed (not legally) but just for convenience of spelling I think.  It was Mathers, Mathews, and Matthews.  In Ireland the spellings were interchangeable and so it also happened in the United States.  Every time I would search data bases for a death for William John Mathers I would use all 3 spellings.  After many years of on and off searching I came across a William Matthers that looked promising. It was a certificate dated 27 February 1902.  I sent for the document and it was him.  It gave his address which was the same as on the census for 1900.  It also listed his occupation as shoe maker.  I was pretty sure it was the right person.  I then contacted Calvary Cemetery where it stated he was buried.  I was given the plot number and the names of others buried there.  The two children Thomas and Elizabeth were buried with William John Mathers. 

I have a lot of information on all the family members here in New York but would love to find more information on his life in Ireland.  He was an only child according to several family members I have contacted.  I will have to find church records in Ireland to find out about his family there.  I have searched in the data bases that are available in Tyrone but I think his parish also included part of County Donegal and will have to look at churches in that County.

His adventure from Ireland to New York turned out to be for the best and we are all very happy he made that decision.

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