Honoring Martin & Frances Burns – From Their Daughter

My Trip to Long Island National Cemetery

Farmingdale, New York

My great-grandfather Martin John Burns was a very special person as was my great-grandmother, Frances Burns, who was affectionately known as “Nanny” by all of her great-grandchildren. For this post, I wanted to introduce a different approach than I have taken from previous posts. What I am going to do for my great-grandparents is publish works from multiple generations. We should all take time now to write down what we know about our loved ones. We hear it way too often – I wish I had spent more time speaking, listening, spending time with, documenting what my grandparents and parents told me growing up. These are the stories and memories of Martin and Frances Burns – first starting with their only child – my grandmother – Frances Achnitz.

By: Frances Achnitz

I would like to tell you about my parents, Martin John Burns and Frances Teresa Burns. They were probably the best parents a girl could have. My Father, also known as Marty Burns, was born Martin John Burns on October 30, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York. My Mother, whose birth name was actually Francisca Teresa Fariñas, was born on August 16, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York.

marty-and-fran

My Father was the second Son and fourth child born to Lillian and Henry Burns also of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York. My Father’s parents were born in the United States. My Grandfather Henry was born to Irish immigrant parents and my Grandmother Lillian was born to German immigrant parents. My Father was a beautiful person inside and out!

He was, in my opinion, a brilliant man with a very creative gift. Although he was born in Brooklyn, he spent most of his childhood and teenage years living in Queens Village. I remember him telling me about a dog that he had found when he was about 15 years old. He found the dog crying and buried under a pile of rags in the street. He brought him home and he named him, appropriately “Rags”. He loved that dog and always spoke of him so affectionately. He was a very hard worker and always gave his paychecks to his Mother to help with the large family that included six children. He was a very devoted Son and Brother. My Grandmother Lillian, would send my Father to meet his Dad every Friday on payday, at Abraham and Straus,where his Dad worked as a Master Carpenter, to make sure that his Dad would come straight home and not go visit the neighborhood bar. My Father would always say “How are you Pop? I just thought I would meet you and keep you company on the way home,” and my Grandfather loved it. My Father was the responsible one who everyone turned to when they needed help.

When World War II began, he enlisted into the Army Air Force. He wanted to become a pilot but instead became a flight instructor. He was a very smart man and the Air Force decided that he needed to be an instructor. He was disappointed, but true to who he was, he did what was asked of him.

lillian-burns-with-harry-george-marty
The Burns Brothers Were A Military Family (From L to R: Harry, George, Lillian (their mom), and Marty)

My Mother was the youngest child of Rosalia Fariñas and Juan Fariñas. My Mother’s parents were both born in Spain and met and married in the US. My Mother had two older sisters, Josephina, and Louisa. The sisters were very close and remained close throughout their lives. My Grandmother, Rosalia, passed away at the young age of 44 leaving her husband and daughters devastated. My Mother had to leave school to stay at home to take care of her. The older sisters continued with their schooling. My Mother, by age 12 could run a household. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry and took charge of the family. My Mother was a free spirit with a devilish side to her. She also had an awesome sense of humor as did her sisters. She loved to dance and dancing was probably the most important thing to her while she was young. I am not sure, but I think she met my Father at a dance. During the war, she and her sisters volunteered towards the war efforts.

My Mother and Father met sometime in 1943 and immediately fell in love. They were married on December 18, 1943 in Laredo, Texas, where my Father was stationed at the time. My Mother’s Father was mad at her for marrying my Father because my Father was Irish. My Grandfather Juan was convinced that anyone who was Irish must be a drinker. Oddly enough, my Father never drank! He hated alcohol. Later on, my Grandfather grew to love my Father like he was his own Son.

nanny-pregnant
My parents when my Mother was first pregnant with me

I was born August 16, 1944 on my Mother’s Birthday. So, I was named after my Mother and I was their pride and joy. My Father always told my Mother that he gave her the best Birthday present ever!

baby-grandma
My Father holding me when I was a baby

After the war, my Father decided to go back to school. He went to and graduated with honors from Pratt Institute in the field of Architecture. Some of his work was actually on display at the school’s Art Gallery for many years. After graduating, he got a job working as an apprentice Architect for a firm in New York City. He was designing shopping centers in upstate New York. His dream was diminished though when he found out that the firm was selling his designs without giving him credit for any of them.

He left that company and then went on to look for more work. I can remember him going out every day with his portfolio and spending days, weeks and months looking for work. Having a family and needing a job, he finally took a job at the New York Furniture Exchange in Manhattan and ended up working as a furniture buyer for the rest of his life. He didn’t complain. He just always did his job and always excelled at what he did.

He loved my Mother with all his heart. He loved me unconditionally and I always knew I would be forever loved, protected and treated like his princess. My Mother remained a devoted and meticulous housewife. She too, loved my Father with all that she was and was a wonderful loving Mother to me. I was an only child and my parents did everything for me that they could. I do have to tell you that although they would do whatever they could for me, I was never spoiled. My parents would not put up with a spoiled child. I learned many things from my parents and I thank God that I was their child.

grandma-at-coney-island-with-dad
Me and my Father at Coney Island

I had a very happy family! There was always laughter in our home. We lived just around the corner from my Mother’s sister Josephine, her husband Louis, my cousin Rosalie and my Grandfather Juan. We spent a lot of time there and we always had fun and laughter. Our family was very close. My Mother was very overprotective of me and wouldn’t let me do a lot of things that some of the other kids could do, but then my Father would intervene and eventually she would give in.

I remember one birthday in particular when my Mother decided that I didn’t have to have a birthday party because she said I was getting “too old” for parties (I was eight). The real reason was some of the neighborhood kids were getting sick and she didn’t want me to get sick. So, she decided – no party. The day of my Birthday, my Father felt so bad about my not having a celebration that he decided to go the neighbor’s house where he invited all my friends. We didn’t have a cake. So, he found oreo cookies in the pantry and made me a cookie cake. I was so happy and I still remember that birthday.

grandma-young-with-parents
Me and my parents (my Mother is holding one of my cousins)

Our Christmas’ were also the best! On Christmas Eve, during the daytime, my Father would take me to Canal Street in Manhattan and buy a bundle of trees from the trucks coming in from upstate. He would tie the trees to the car and we would go home and give the extra trees to my Aunt and to a neighbor. We would then decorate the enormous tree, make cookies and cocoa, set out a plate for Santa and then it was off to bed. Around Midnight, my parents would wake me up and say “Santa was here, come and see”. That is when we would open our gifts and then on Christmas Day, it was a feast.

My mother in front of the Christmas Tree
My Mother in front of the Christmas Tree

My Father taught me how to drive when I was fourteen years old. My Mother wouldn’t let me have a car until I was 18 though. So, as soon as I was old enough, my Father bought me my first car. It was a 1956 green Dodge and I loved it. After my marriage, my parents continued to always be there for me and my family. My husband loved my Father like his own Father and maybe even more. My children had the best Grandparents ever.

On December 10, 1976, my precious Father, passed away from a heart attack and left us way too soon. He was only 58 years old. It was devastating for all of us, but for my Mother, her world was changed forever. My Mother lived for almost 34 years without him. She never re-married and never even considered doing so. She missed him every day of her life, but true to her nature and personality, she continued on. She was still always a bit devilish and always a force to be reckoned with. She always maintained her sense of humor though.

martin-burns-in-army
My Mother kept this picture on display of my Father for her entire life. They absolutely cherished one another!

Then, she became a Great-Grandmother and she loved it more than life itself. She became “Nanny” and the Grandchildren loved her and she always made them laugh and smile. When my husband passed away, she knew, first hand, what I was going through. We lost her only five months later.

My Mother with her oldest great-grandchild
My Mother with her first and oldest great-grandchild

She left us on July 25, 2010, three weeks before her 90th Birthday. I found peace in knowing that she and my loving Father were together again and I know they are still smiling and that they are now looking after my husband, Bill and they are all with me in my heart and in my spirit. Oh, how I miss them.

My parents, Marty and Fran, were and still are an inspiration to me and to anyone who knew them. I am so proud to have called them Mother and Father. I hope that I have passed on some of their loving ways, their love of life, their principles, their laughter and their joy to my children and Grandchildren.

Indeed, you have Grandma. Indeed, you have.

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A Tale of Two Rosalies – Part Two

My Trip to St. John’s Cemetery

Queens, New York

One of the best ways to make new discoveries in your family tree is to speak to your elders. Almost always, this is going to be the first step anyway. However, sometimes we don’t revisit those old conversations or we forget certain details that were brought up before. Hence, why it’s always important to write things down (something I tend to not do).

However, I always try to make it a point to talk about any new developments with my family tree with my grandmother.

Oftentimes, a new discovery that I made will spark a memory of hers that we hadn’t talked about before. It’s also a good way to confirm that what you found was indeed correct or at the very least tell you that you are on the right track. One of my favorite things to accomplish in genealogy is matching up family stories with actual documentation. Being able to confirm the truth of a family legend is one of the most gratifying things I feel that you can accomplish in researching your family tree. The only downside though is that it often leads to more questions, but in genealogy, questions are a very, very good thing to have.

After discussing my previous post with my Grandmother, I learned that Juanito and the younger Rosalia (15 years old) were indeed Louis Garcia’s children and that her grandmother (Louis’ sister – also Rosalia) was their godmother. Obviously, being one of the first and clearly unexpected deaths experienced by the family in America, the only plot available was probably the plot in St. John’s Cemetery where my 3x great-grandmother had been buried. So, it makes sense that Louis’ children would be buried with his mother (who from what I can determine – came to the United States without her husband and thus was not buried with her spouse).

What a rough time – 3 deaths in a matter of 1 year. In fact, Juanito and his sister Rosalia died within almost a month of each other. According to my grandmother, they both died from appendicitis. By running some new searches, I uncovered their death certificate numbers, and once I am able to procure them, I will be able to confirm their exact cause of death.

The searches I ran were on both Familysearch.org and Italiangen.org. As I already mentioned in my last post, the databases made available by the Italian Genealogical Group are extremely valuable for anyone with ancestors from New York City.  The documents available on FamilySearch are also another great tool and unlike the database at Italiangen.org, they include more information on the death records of those who died in New York City.

ItalianGen Search 1

IG Search 2

Equipped with the dates found on their headstone, I was able to easily find both of them in the ItalianGen database, which also included the death certificate numbers. It’s always easier when you have the certificate number when ordering vital records (birth, marriage, and death) from New York City.

It was at FamilySearch though that I was able to learn something that I did not know before. The name of Juanito and Rosalia’s mother was Anna Sanchez. The father listed on each record was also Louis Garcia thus confirming that I had the right death records. Clearly, I had the right people.

Juanito Search

Rosalie Search

As you can see, there are some irregularities in the FamilySearch results. However, this is more than likely due to a transcription error. Many records are entered into databases by volunteers thus human errors sometimes happen. The best thing for me to do now would be to order their death certificates so I can actually view the record myself.

The discovery of Anna (their mother) led me down on a path that revealed additional cousins that I had never heard of before. I was able to uncover census records and Louis’ petition for citizenship on Ancestry.com with details about the entire family unit, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without the information available on the death certificates and of course by visiting their gravesite.

1925 Census
Louis Garcia’s family in 1925 lived at 162 Fulton Street in Brooklyn, New York. This is the only record where the entire family is listed together.
1930 Census
Now without Rosalie and Juanito, Louis, Anna and their remaining sons Louis Jr. and Peter are still on Fulton Street in Brooklyn. In this census record though, Louis Jr. is listed as being born in Spain rather than the United States. In the remaining part of the record, it actually lists Louis and Louis Jr. having emigrated in 1917 and Anna in 1919.
1940 Census
In 1940, only Peter was still living with Louis and Anna (still on Fulton Street in Brooklyn). Louis is also listed as having been naturalized whereas Anna was not.
Louis Garcia Citizenship
In 1933, Louis Garcia became a citizen of the United States.
Louis Garcia
Louis Bautista Garcia or as my grandmother more affectionately knew him “Tito Louie.”

This is all that I have been able to find for Louis and Anna Garcia. Despite the heartbreaking circumstances that I first came to uncover this information, I am happy that I am able to ensure that they are never forgotten.

Here I am as usual with more questions…

  • Where are Louis and Anna buried?
  • Is it possible that any of their kids are still alive?
  • How close were they with my great-grandmother and her sisters?
  • What was their life like in Spain?

Questions that I am nonetheless glad to have.

Think about this for a moment. Both of these children – my cousins – passed away at such a young age (4 and 15), and it was only by visiting them that I would have ever even known that they existed.

So many times, this is the end of the road. As family historians, we typically do all of this research to figure out where our ancestors were laid to rest. To get that moment where you are physically standing on the ground where they are. To get that moment where you sense that they are there with you. I don’t think there is anything more intimate in genealogy.

Sometimes though it is the complete opposite – we visit a gravesite first in order to get that new lead that leads us down a completely new path of research.

My grandmother, upon reading my last post, said:

“I believe I might be able to solve some of the mystery. The two children were my Great Uncle Louis’ children. My Grandmother Rosalia was their Godmother and my Grandfather Juan Fariñas paid for their burial and bought the headstone. Both the children passed away from burst appendicitis and my Grandmother Rosalia was, as I was told heart-broken. I cannot imagine that my Grandmother’s name was not on the stone. What confuses me more was that my Mother told me her Grandmother lived into her nineties, and I always thought that she had outlived her daughter. I will have to ask my cousin Rosalie. Yes, another Rosalie. Maybe, it was my Grandfather, Juan’s mother instead that lived into her nineties. My grandfather Juan always took care of the entire family.”

Indeed, he did. To help decipher the numerous Rosalies in my tree, please see the below tree.

1st Gen
My 3x great-grandmother Rosalia Bautista Moya had three children with Louis Garcia (Louis, Rosalia, and Pedro).
2nd Gen
Louis Garcia married Anna Sanchez and had Rosalie, Louis, Peter, and Juanito. My great-great grandparents were Juan Fariñas and Rosalia Garcia and they had Josephine, Louisa, and my great-grandmother Frances. As far as I know, Pedro Garcia never married and had no children.

One day I hope to be the one to add my great-great grandmother’s name to this stone.

Rosalia Garcia

As always, keep digging.

A Tale of Two Rosalies – Part One

My Trip to St. John’s Cemetery

Queens, New York

Before I got the flat tire, I visited St. John’s Cemetery in Queens, New York. The staff there was incredibly helpful in assisting me with finding the final resting places of the many ancestors of me and my fiancé that are buried there. In fact, there were only two people that I needed them to look up because I came in already knowing the exact spots of where many of our ancestors were.

This was thanks to their online tool called Locate A Loved One. This search engine offered by Catholic Cemeteries gives you the exact location of where your ancestor is buried. It covers St. John’s Cemetery, Mount St. Mary in Flushing, Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, and St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale. Not all records have been uploaded to the website though. So, don’t assume that just because one of your ancestors doesn’t appear in the search results that they aren’t actually buried there. The best way to confirm where your ancestor is buried is to obtain their death certificate.

For those that died in New York City before 1949, you can purchase their death certificate online from the New York City Municipal Archives. Some people opt to actually visit the archives and take photos of the records in order to save some money. However, if you do not have the capability to travel to New York City, then you will have to pay the $15 fee to obtain a copy of each record. I always make my records available on Ancestry.com because to me it just doesn’t make sense to make people continue paying for the same information. I wish New York State made their vital records publicly available but for now hopefully you have a cousin out there that has made it available instead.

If you have not a clue where to begin to locate a death record in New York City, the NYC Death Index provided by the Italian Genealogical Group is a good place to start. I have had a lot of success using this tool and the ancestors I am about to highlight were all first found using this great database.

The first ancestor I received information on at St. John’s Cemetery was Rosalia Fariñas (née Garcia), my great-great grandmother. I actually wrote about her before as part of the #52Ancestors challenge in 2014.

I always wondered why she wasn’t buried with her husband, Juan Fariñas, who is buried at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale. When I asked my grandmother about it, she stated that her grandfather Juan was supposed to be buried with her but a little boy in the family had passed away and was buried at the plot in St. John’s. I suppose there was such a large gap between the two of them passing away (33 years) that the plot in St. John’s had filled up and the choice was made by Juan to get another plot in a Long Island cemetery instead. Anyways, I was intrigued to see who these other people were that were also buried with my great-great grandmother.

The other ancestor I received information on at St. John’s Cemetery was Rosalia’s mother, my 3x great-grandmother, Rosalia Garcia (née Bautista).

Rosalia Garcia - Death Certificate
At the bottom of Rosalia’s death certificate, you can see that her place of burial is St. John’s Cemetery.

As I had figured, they were buried in the same plot together. Knowing it is standard for many plots to just hold 3 people, I figured it was the two Rosalias and the “little boy” – perhaps a kid brother of my great-grandmother that our family never knew about. What I found was interesting and beautiful.

Rosalia Garcia

What I was looking at was one of the most beautiful headstones that I had ever seen – certainly something more than what I thought my Spanish immigrant ancestors could afford. The stone was absolutely stunning and quite frankly looked brand new. No doubt that this is the type of stone that will last hundreds of years without needing any type of restoration.

Another striking thing I noticed was the age of the second Rosalia. Two Rosalias were there just as I had been told, and the first one matched the death date of my 3x great-grandmother. However, my 2x great-grandmother had died in 1933 at the age of 42. She did not die in 1927 and she certainly was not 15 years old at the age of her death. Could this be a mistake made by a mason? Highly doubtful – not with that kind of work. Could the office have made a mistake and my 2x great-grandmother is buried elsewhere? That seemed to be more plausible.

I called the office back. They said, “No, she is there.” Turns out there weren’t just two Rosalias there. There were three. I had never heard of this Rosalia. I had also realized that someone had failed to make sure that my 2x great-grandmother’s name was added to the stone. Through this website, I hope to be able to be that person that finally gets her name up there.

So, who was this other Rosalia? And who was Juanito? Turned out my grandmother was right. There was a little boy buried there (died at just 4 years of age). What happened to them? How were they related to me? Who were their parents? They seemed to be too young to be the children of my 3x great grandmother and to my knowledge they weren’t my 2x great-grandmother’s kids. So, who were they? So many questions…Questions that never would have been asked had I not taken the time to visit them.

My hypothesis was that they were the children of Rosalia’s brother Louis (who I mentioned in my last post about her). Where was Louis buried though? Why weren’t they with their parents? All things I had to look into. Well, I did and I am happy to share what I have found…in my next post.

Until then…keep digging.