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A few words about me


A few words about me:

I guess I should apologize for my rather "informal" writing style. I'm not very good at sounding "professorial" and I have no formal education.

I grew up in upstate NY (Niagara Falls), but I live in WA now. I got interested in genealogy about 15 yrs ago. My interest seems to go in cycles, hot and cold. I,ve been on a cold cycle for a few years now but the potential of the computer and the internet have rekindled my interest. I've had some good results on other family lines but the Amlaws have proven to be a tough bunch of nuts to crack. When I began I didn't even know the nationality of  the name . I always thought it sounded Anglo Saxon,  I was wrong.

 A few words on my own research:
(remember that the red letters are relevant links)

        My father John Amlaw was an orphan, when his parents died he was put into the orphanage by his grandfather, Bertram C. Amlaw, dad was an infant at the time. It was the great depression and I guess he just couldn't feed them. There was a sister Marion, born in Sept. 1929, no knowledge of what became of her, Dad always wanted to know but.....
 This is, of course, why I didn't know anything to begin with. All I knew was that the only place I could find any Amlaws at all before 1900 was in Clinton Co. NY.,wherever that was. It took me a few years to get the orphanage records, from them I got a death date for Frances Krotochovil, Bertram's wife, Dad's grandmother.

(These records make mention of a "Social Workers Report" made for the New York City Welfare Bureau but so far all I get in response is a letter telling me that my request has been forwarded to the city attorney, and there it just dies.)

I got the death cert.  (for Frances Krotochovil)and found a little note that said the body had been disinterred and reburied from Long Island City NY, to Westfield Mass. And so to Westfield I drove, found some local Krotochovils and they put me in touch with a 90 year old woman named Elsie Simmit who turned out to be Frances Krotochovil's baby sister! She remembered Bertram Amlaw from when she was a child but all she could say was, "Well, my mother never liked him" I guess Mother didn't like where Bertram buried her either as she had Frances reburied next to her.
   Frances' mother  apparantly had some reasons to feel that way about old Bert. Not only had he placed my father and his sister in the orphanage but years before, immediatly after Frances died, he had placed his own children in an orphanage also. In his defense let's remember that a working class man in 1921 without a wife and far from any family was really going to have a hard time with 5 kids to raise alone. Never the less, Elsie Simmit said that her mother thought Bertram made enough money as a foreman at a lumber yard to have managed. Elsie also related a personal memory she had of Frances' funeral. She told me that Bertram "lined up all the kids and told them to say goodbye to their relatives because they wouldn't be seeing them again". She said " My mother took the baby, Paul, to live with us and she wanted to take the others too, but she was an old woman by then and really didn't feel that she could." Paul Amlaw was raised by the Krotochovil family there in Westfield and had died only a couple of years before I arrived. He had no memorys of his family, and wherever Bertram went he seems to have made no attempt to contact his children. However, he was still around obviously, as he was there to stand as next of kin for his grandson (my father) when he was orphaned. Of course that didn't do dad any good since Bertram gave a repeat performance of his disappearing trick. Now again, in his defense, this was 1934, the middle of the great depression. The records of the orphanage (St. Agatha's, in Nanuet NY) seem to indicate that Bertram did maintain some contact with them for at least a few years, they mentioned the names of his next 2 wives and also give his employment. I think that the Catholic Church probably insisted on this. It was somewhat to his credit that he did put them in a Catholic Home rather then into a state orphanage, the conitions were much better in those days. After my father was 12 the Church no longer had facilities for older kids and he ended up in the state foster care system. He always spoke fondly of St Agatha's and the sisters that raised him there, but he never had a good word for the state system. After this time I have no records to follow and Bertram Amlaw just disappears.
There is one sort of bizarre footnote though. Years ago, 1991 I think, I wrote to the Social Security Dept to make use of the service they provide for tracing lost relatives. If you have a date of birth and a social security # they will send you the death certificate of the person that they have in their files. If still recieving benefits, they will forward a letter to the address the checks are sent to.
Since Bertram would have been 100 yrs old that year, I was writing to get his death certificate. The S.S. Dept requires that you actually include a letter to the individual, which was a strange experience, to write a letter to a dead guy you never met. But I figured since they warn you that they (the S.S. Dept) will read this letter to make sure that it is of a personal nature and not some bill collector or lawyer, that I should at least make it look as though I was writing a letter to Bert with some sincerity. I  remember opening with "Happy 100th birthday" just as a joke.
Well what I got back from the S.S. Dept was not a death certificate but rather a letter saying that my letter had been forwarded to the "address of record" for Bertram Amlaw!!! I checked with a few sources and they all seemed to think that this meant one of two things, either someone was fraudulently collecting S.S. checks for a dead man, or, the person was STILL ALIVE!
Needless to say, I began to wish that I'd put more time into writing that letter. I never got any reply, and honestly I suspect that it was some screw up on the part of our wonderful government. But wouldn't it have been a strange thing if that letter were actually delivered to some 100 year old man in a nursing home somewhere. Oh well, if so then old Bert decided to stay disappeared.

Anyway, back to the research.

I had an age for Bert (from the orphanage my father was in), so off to the Census. When I got the 1920 census data for Bertram (with Frances and the kids) it said he was born in Mass. and that his father was from French Canada. In the 1900 census of Mass. I found only one Bertam Amlaw , he was the right age and was living as a "boarder" on a farm with some other family in Massachusetts. With him was one other "boarder" a boy 3 years older named Charles M. Amlaw. In the town clerks office in Westfield Mass. I found that a Charles M. Amlaw (right age) had died in 1907, and the entry gave his parents names, Louis J. Amlaw and Sarah M. Chapman. I can't, to date, get the birth record of Bertram Clifford Amlaw in Northhampton Mass. I tried 3 times but the town clerk never sent it. I have the exact number for this entry too, and they cashed the money order all 3 times.  I feel pretty safe in assuming (dangerous, I know) that the  Bertram C. Amlaw in 1900 is the brother of Charles M. Amlaw, his fellow "boarder", and that the parents are the same. In 1900, Sarah Amlaw (Chapman?) is said to be married for 12 yrs, that would make Charles M. Amlaw their first child,( b. 1889.) Louis J. Amlaw was born in "Champlain NY." in 1840 or so and died in 1915 in Westfield Mass. aged 75. No parents on Louis Amlaw's death entry (of course!). But I knew he was born in 1840 in "Champlain NY."and that his parents were born in NY.
" Where the hell is Champlain NY." I said, and off to the Map room. "Clinton Co." the map said, so back to the Census where I had seen those Amlaws, but no Louis born in 1840. As I studied the Census's of Clinton Co., however,  I noticed that there were alot of gaps. People listed in 1860 but not 1850, in 1860 but not in 1880 etc. etc.. So I broke down and packed a lunch and spent some time searching through the Scheduals page by page by page by....... Eureka!(?) in 1850, there is a Louis Amlaw, aged 11. His father was Louis Amlaw, and they were left off the index. But (there's always a but) in 1860 Louis (Sr.) is in there, same wife and kids, all ten years older, but no Louis(Jr.) he would have been 21.

1870, no Louis Amlaw aged 31.

I finally found him (I think) in 1880 Vermont, in 1900 I find his wife Sarah, and the kids(?), in Springfield Mass., but where's Louis Jr? I was able to deduce that Louis Jr. had been married before Sarah, at least twice, his son Louis J Amlaw (III) died in Westfield Mass in 1886. No Mother's name on death record (of course). He was born in 1862, in NY.  Louis J.'s wife Elizabeth (Lizzie) died that same time (Typhoid epidemic) but she was far too young to be Louis III's mother. Her baby Maleon died soon after, he was born in Cavendesh Vermont in 1886.

       So that's the best I have ever been able to do. Best guess, Louis left home, with a wife, when he was about 21-22, and was "in transit" or "itinerant" during the time the 1860 census was taken, probably he IS listed in Vermont somewhere, with our poor name horribly misspelled !   He lost the first wife somewhere along the line, kept the boy (Louis III) and was in Vermont by 1880 with another wife (Elizabeth), and  moved to Westfield Mass in 1886 just in time for the typhoid epidemic. Married Sarah Chapman, 20+ years younger, circa 1888 and started again!  I have so far been unable to locate a marriage record for Louis J. Amlaw and Sarah M. Chapman (1887-1888, in Westfield?)
           The ages match up all along the way, and there's no record of any child named Louis Amlaw dying in Clinton Co. and the man in  Mass DID come from "Champlain NY." , and seems to be the same man in Vermont in 1880.
I was thrown off for a long time by the fact that Bertram Amlaw's Census entry in 1920 has his father being born in French Canada, AND speaking French, but I simply cannot find another  Amlaw that could possibly be the father, I have decided that since Bertram was probably not the one giving the information, whoever was (probably his wife Frances), just assumed French Canada because the French Canadian population in Clinton Co. really was more French Canadian than American in language and culture, many of them DID speak French and Louis IS living among French people both in Vermont and Mass. Bertram and Frances moved from Westfield Mass. 2 years after they married and Frances probably wouldn't have known her father-in-law very well.
Then there is the coincedence of the Krotochovils being from Westfield Mass.
Louis J. Amlaw being 21 yrs older than his wife Sarah seemed maybe a bit unlikely but it wasn't very uncommon in those days. Also the fact that Bertram Amlaw and Charles M. Amlaw are boarding together in 1900, and Charles IS the son of Louis Amlaw and Sarah Chapman.
Another point; in the records from the orphanage, there is a reference (in 1934,Brooklyn, NY) to an "Alice Burgess, paternal grand Aunt" (of my Dad) that would make her either the sister of Bertram Amlaw or Frances Krotochovil, I'm reasonably certain that there was no Alice Krotochovil, but there is an Alice Amlaw in 1880 Vermont, she would have been Bertram's half sister. I'm still trying to find an Alice Burgess of the right age in the Census. I will soon muster up the will to try for the birth record and marriage record of Bertram Amlaw in Northhampton, again. The marriage is in 1909, when Bertram would have been 18-19 and Frances 22-23. Their first child was born in 1910-11 so this too seems to match.

Of course,  I've always wanted something more certain (obviously), and I decided early on that my only chance would be to collect any and all scraps of info that I could find on the Amlaws,(luckily the name isn't Smith or Jones) and hope that the anwer would be buried in there somewhere, but to date I've got alot more questions than answers !!!  So I am always ready rethink the entire thing, I may yet find that I'm not related to any of these people! But even so, I enjoy the hunt and I might as well try to share what (little) I've learned.

     I'm posting my Amlaw research materials here in the hopes that someone might find them useful in their own research and maybe be able to contribute some more material for this site. Please DO E-mail me and let me know what you think, any corrections or additions will be more than welcome.

                           AND I APOLOGIZE FOR GOING ON SO LONG !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now please check out the site if your not already somewhat familiar with the Amlaws early period in Clinton Co., if you are already into it then please check out the:
                                              My questions and speculations (in 2 parts)

                       WHERE I RAMBLE ON EVEN MORE< SORRY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!