Azores to Ashtabula: the Story of Manuel Rapose

Manuel Rapose was born 17 May 1864 on the island of São Miguel in the Azores to Anthony Rapose and his wife, Evelyn Lavena. He and his family faced many of the same problems the family of Manuel Fratis, which you can read here, if you missed it.

I have a theory (not much but it makes a little sense) that the Fratis family and the Rapose family knew each other back home in the Azores. They might even be related, I don’t know. But I do believe they were well acquainted. I’m reasonably certain Manuel Rapose played a large part in the immigration of Manuel Fratis at the turn of the century with a well worded letter, extolling the virtues of Ohio.

Manuel also immigrated to Ashtabula during the industrial boom to work on the docks around 1884. Most likely he came alone and when he had saved up enough money he sent for his lovely Mary, the woman who would become his wife soon after. The money was good but the labor was backbreaking. Son Anthony was born in 1889 in Ashtabula, and his sister Mary born in 1893.

 The missing 1890 Census makes me so upset sometimes. It would solve a lot of problems because the first record I am able to find for Manuel is in the 1902 Ashtabula City Directory. He’s now been promoted to dock foreman. But if you notice, Manuel is married (or at least living with) to a woman named Annie, not Mary. He lives at 6 Rice Street.

Here we are in 1904. Our Manuel Rapose is the second Manuel Rapozo on the list, the gang foreman. This time he seems reunited with Mary and living at 6 Devney, which used to be —

You got it. 6 Rice.

That’s the only clue that these Manuels are the same man.

I don’t know how to explain the two different women. Mary is listed as the mother of his two children. She seems to have been around first. He may have had a midlife crisis and took up with Annie. That obviously didn’t work out because he’s back with Mary quite soon. It could be that was a name Mary went by, I doubt it, but I don’t know. (Oh, how, I hated writing that.) It just seems a bit preposterous that one Manuel Rapose would move out and another would move in right behind him. I suppose nothing is impossible, but come on, be real. I do know I need to narrow my timeframe down and get in touch with the Ashtabula County Courthouse. I think that’s where my answers are.

Mary and Manuel remain living together when we find them in 1910. I wonder if she worried if Manuel would leave again or if she even worried about it at all. The census said they’d been married for 22 years, so there’s an other wrench in the search for Annie’s identity.

We also find that son Anthony had joined his father working on the docks. I’m sure that was at least a little uncomfortable because Dad’s the boss. The other guys probably thought Anthony would get special treatment from dad and I’m pretty sure that it didn’t happen. Manuel was probably a little harder on Anthony to make sure no one could even think he was giving his son special treatment.

Rapose family in 1910. They are the next to last family on the page.

If domestic bliss had finally settled on Manuel and Mary (and I hope it had), it didn’t last long. Mary had suffered from breast cancer for about two and a half years. Three weeks before she died in 1911, it was discovered she had come down with carcinomatosis, which halved her already feeble chances for survival. Carcinomatosis is further cancerous growths that are independent of the original cancer. This is not cancer spreading to other areas; it can still do that. In Mary’s case, she had breast cancer and carcinomatosis usually sets up in the lungs. In effect, it was like she had breast cancer AND lung cancer. For the last three weeks of her life, she suffered. She was often short of breath and coughed all the time, sometimes spitting up blood. She died the afternoon of November 16 and was buried two days later in St. Joseph’s.

Death Certificate of Manuel’s wife Mary

113368930_138110652876  This is the headstone of Manuel’s wife Mary, giving her birth date as 6 May 1855.

Tragedy struck again just four years later, in 1915. His daughter Mary, aged 21, also passed away.

Daughter Mary's tombstone
Daughter Mary’s tombstone

From the winter of 1914 until the next spring, this Mary struggled with tuberculosis. She had many of the same symptoms that her mother had: shortness of breath, coughing up blood. There wasn’t much to be done for the disease in those days. A lot of times, a patient would be sent to the sanitarium, but that was just death’s waiting room for the majority of people. You could survive, but it would take a miracle.

Mary’s miracle was not forthcoming. She died at home on April 23 and her brother and father are remarkably fortunate they did not catch tuberculosis themselves.

The next year saw a glimpse of joy for the Rapose family that remained. Anthony, now 27, married Mary Dorothy Fratis, daughter of Manuel and Rosie Fratis, at the Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church by Father Bernard Patton. Rosie was now herself a widow, Manuel having died in 1911. Rosie moved her family to 6 1/2 Devney, next door to the Raposes.

Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church in Ashtabula

I suppose two lonely people without spouses couldn’t live next to each other for very long without something happening. On 23 June 1917, Manuel Rapose and Rosie Fratis welcomed their own little girl, Genevieve, into the world. They were unmarried and living apart. I think the phrase “There’s nothing new under the sun” applies here.

I’m going to stop here and say I know I might have upset some people both by mentioning the illegitimate birth and by being nonchalant about it. You never please everyone. I believe in speaking the truth as it is without casting judgments that aren’t mine to make in the first place.

In 1920, the families are still living next to each other and little Genevieve is living with Rosie and they live next door to Manuel.

1920UnitedStatesFederalCensus Manuel Rapose
Rapose and Fratis households in 1920

Manuel and Rosie finally married in 1927.

marriage record of Manuel Rapose and Rosie Fratis
marriage record of Manuel Rapose and Rosie Fratis

Unfortunately, the marriage only lasted three years. The day before New Year’s Eve 1930, Rosie passed away.

Rosa Rapose death certificate

For some time, Rosie had been very sick. At first, she’d just been tired, but she kept pushing herself and pushing herself. But soon, tired morphed into extremely short of breath and she was soon unable to do even the most mundane daily tasks. Her body began to hold fluid and become tight and uncomfortable. She had heartburn when she laid down and chest pains when she was up. If that wasn’t bad enough, she had coughing fits all the time and couldn’t ever catch a breath no matter how hard she tried. The constant racking pains were nothing, she thought, when she saw blood in her handkerchief after a recent coughing fit. It was always worse at night. So she never got much sleep. Genevieve was still young and Manuel needed her, too. But there was nothing to be done. Three weeks before she died, her appendix ruptured and it was discovered in the operating room that it had been gangrenous and abscessed. More pain. Much more pain. Father Patton came to deliver the Last Rites. She could have died then, but she didn’t. Perhaps she would recover. A couple of weeks later, the fluid she had been holding because her heart couldn’t pump had settled in her lungs and caused pneumonia. Pneumonia was pretty much a death sentence. Father Patton returned to pray over her again. Four days later, her heart, almost gone, threw a clot and it traveled to her brain and caused a stroke. There was no saving Rosie this time.

tombstone in St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery
tombstone in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery

Manuel stayed single for the rest of his life. He was 66 years old in 1930 and still had his job as a foreman at the docks. He didn’t keep it for long. He started forgetting things he once knew and was soon replaced as dock foreman. He had poor circulation from heart disease and high blood pressure. He puttered around home and watched his son start a family of his own. There were grandchildren to play with. His family looked out for him like he had looked out for them all these years. In 1942, his heart just stopped in his sleep in the early hours of the morning of July 8.


He was buried three days later besides his wives in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery.



Friday Funny: Calm Hobby

Those ancestors can make you crazy. They don’t even have to be yours. 

  • Gus Steward
  • John Little
  • Sion Holley (mine)
  • Edwin Rogers
  • Anyone with the surname Fratis, Rapose, McVitty
  • Any Swedish family 

Treasure Chest Thursday: A Simple Pair of Eyeglasses

These are my grandmother’s glasses. She died 35 years ago come May, but I still have them. It’s not easy to explain why you own the glasses of someone you never met. The only answer I can give is that I don’t really know but I love my grandmother. Then you get into the philosophical conundrum of loving someone deeply when you’ve never met or spoken to them.

There are the glasses the way they were meant to be used. On a face. On a face that I look at with love and fondness. I keep them precisely because they touched that face, were held in those hands and wiped on those hems. They are an image of a lovely imperfect woman captured better than by any camera.

All of my life I have been called “Little Hazel.” I am short and squat like her, stubborn like her, hate doctors just like she did. I even wear glasses like her, though without the horned rims. (I tried hers on. They don’t fit my face.) I wanted anything else but to be like her when I was younger. I was set on being my own person, which I am. But I find it an honor to be called “Little Hazel.” 

I wish I had known her. I hope she would have been proud at the way I turned out. I always wanted the kindly grandmother. I spent more time than I care to admit being angry with her for not going to the doctor until her uterine cancer was so far gone. But I can’t hate her for being like me.

Wednesday’s Child: Luther and Lucy Street

Tombstone for twins Luther Allen and Lucy Alice Street at Antioch Primitive Baptist Church cemetery outside Ripley, Mississippi
Tombstone for twins Luther Allen and Lucy Alice Street at Antioch Primitive Baptist Church cemetery outside Ripley, Mississippi

Mother Goose says that Wednesday’s child is full of woe, but how can you be full of woe when you barely lived at all?

One of 1895’s hottest days was August 10th. My great-great grandfather Joseph David Street paced the floor while his wife Minerva sweated and cried and pushed. Later that afternoon, she was finally (finally!) delivered of two babies, a boy and a girl. Luther Allen and Lucy Alice Street were the tenth and eleventh children born to this family. Their older sister Myrtle helped mom deliver them.

Minerva had bled a little more than usual. There was nothing to do but pray it stopped, which it did soon enough. The family’s prayers had been answered.

Or so they thought.

A day or two later, Minerva woke up drenched in sweat and having sharp pains in her stomach. After nine other births, she knew this wasn’t right at all. She must have wondered the rest of that night whether it was going to be too late for her. The hours before sunrise must have been agonizing.

It was too late for her. Minerva Alice Jamieson Street lingered for days, dying on August 16. She was only 37. After 19 years of marriage, Joseph was left alone with ten children, two of them newborns. Most men in his situation up and married again just to have help. But Joseph didn’t. He had a 17 year old daughter and a 19 year old daughter as well as several sons to help in the field. He would make it just fine, maybe a little lonelier than necessary, for the next twelve years.

Luther followed his mother to the grave four days later. Lucy died two days after that. Even in 1895, there were substitutes for mother’s milk, but most likely Luther and Lucy didn’t take to them. They could have been premature and their bodies weren’t developed enough to handle raw animal’s milk. They could have been lactose intolerant and the milk made them ill. Or they could have just been so underdeveloped they never stood a chance. Multiple births were also harder on both parent and child.

Some days I worry whether they choked, smothered, or starved to death. Infant mortality was high and life was hard. I know it was real and I know it wasn’t ever anyone’s fault or done on purpose, but it hurts all the same. I shed real tears for people I never knew. Maybe that makes me soft or crazy, I don’t know. They’re my family, however far back. I’m sure even after nine other children, Luther and Lucy would have been loved. I grieve for the family who just lost a wife and mother. I grieve for the lost potential and memories and lives never lived.

Tombstone Tuesday: Keziah McBride Street

Keziah McBride Street's tombstone in Antioch Primitive Baptist Church cemetery outside Ripley, Mississippi
Keziah McBride Street’s tombstone in Antioch Primitive Baptist Church cemetery outside Ripley, Mississippi

Keziah was my fourth great-grandmother and the ancestor I seem to sympathize with the most. She saw her husband, seven sons, and oldest grandson off to the Civil War. I’ve been out to her home place where she helplessly waited and waited for her boys to come home. Soldiers would straggle wearily towards home and from one spot in the yard you can see at least three quarters of a mile down the road and around a wide bend. I can only imagine Keziah dashing out to that spot at every noise, only to find a cousin, a nephew, or even the neighbor’s boy. I’m sure she was beyond pleased that they were safe, but they weren’t her boys. It wasn’t the same. Three of her sons never came home and she died, they say, of a broken heart the next year.

Grandfather’s Diary, Part I

Over the next several Mondays, I plan on transcribing the short diary my paternal grandfather left behind. Mack Holley was an enigma of a man, even though I never knew him. There were so many who did, or thought that they did anyway. He was an outwardly friendly, generous man who kept many secrets and was prone to dark, dangerous mood swings. He had a tumultuous relationship with his parents, to say the least, but never saw fit to break the cycle with his own son. The older I get, the more I understand that the key to figuring out who I am is in large degree connected to figuring out who Mack Holley was.

All of my grandparents died before I was born, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who they were by speaking to not only my parents, but to the older people around town who knew them.

I’ll let my grandfather speak for himself now. I’ve added some punctuation and words to make it easier to follow but I have tried not to change too much in order to preserve his voice.

The Thomas Monroe Holley family around 1915. My grandfather is bottom left in the hat.
The Thomas Monroe Holley family around 1915. My grandfather is bottom left in the hat.

“I was borned May 21 1913* in a log house just across the bottom, on a hill in west part of Alcorn County Mississippi, near my uncle M C Mathis country home and store. My parents were farmers Tom and Mary Clementine Mathis Holly. At my birth I only weighed 3 lbs and [was] very weak and sickly.

In early childhood I developed whooping cough which in those days were very bad. They almost lost me in my early life. I moved with my parents and my two brothers and sister to Tippah County Mississippi in a large house in Tippah County. At [the] foot [of] the hill I never will forget were an old water mill [and] cotton gin surrounded by chestnut trees I can see plainly till this day. I played so many days on the red hill and the old gin that still stood [and] which had been there many years.

The Holley home in Tippah County
The Holley home in Tippah County

I was a weakly child, never got to go to school till I was 10 years of age. Finally that first school day came around. I shall never forget the morning my sister and myself got up early to get ready for school. As we walked out on the roadside to wait for transportation, she with high top shoes and a plat of hair down each side of [her] cheeks, myself wearing heavy shoes and new overalls. In a few minutes we saw the covered top wagon coming up the muddy road being pulled by two mules, counting by their ears. They pulled up and stopped, the back door flew open, [and] we got in and set down [in] the full packed wagon. All seem to stare at me. It seemed that we never would get out. Soon we pulled in the school yard, Providence in Tippah County. We got out and went in the school room. I were scared out of my wits. The day were longer for two days [meaning the day felt like two days]. I can see till this day how that old tall plank school house looked.

I was there this passed [past] July attending our family reunion that we held there [this] summer. Altho the old building had burned up in the years passed [past] and had been replaced by a brick building, it really brought back old memories over the years. Things are so much [different] and looking so [different], even the people has changed.

Since the day I first started to school at Providence at the age of ten years old so [different] from the way childrens are these days. [Now he goes back to talking about his first day of school.] The day finally ended. We got back in the wagon and on our way home. Being the son of poor farmers, moving around from place to place, I went to several difference [different] schools in Tippah County including one teacher schools and summer school.

As I have mention[ed] before things are so much changed. Some I like and some I do not. But I accept them all as I know they must be. As I sit here today alone by the window at home looking outside at the beautiful October day 1967, the leaves so beautiful as I watch them fall from nature and go many [different] ways and finally settled down on the ground and gradually fade away. It reminds me of my life from place to place and sometime I will also as leaves [do] grow older and older and turn to the ground, go down, and fade away.”

The first time I read this I was a know it all teenager, but I was impressed with the philosophical nature of the writing, despite his lack of what we would consider quality education. My grandfather was a deep thinker and cared a great deal about many things. But he just doesn’t seem like a worrier. At least, not yet.

Sunday’s Obituary: Mercia Griffin Wilbur

Mercia Wilbur obituary 23 March 1881 issue of the Rock Creek Banner
Mercia Wilbur obituary 23 March 1881 issue of the Rock Creek Banner

I don’t know if I have anything to add to this. I think every genealogist would give their right arm to have an obituary like this. You get a maiden name, a birthday, date of marriage, detailed descriptions of the moves the family made, information on children, etc. However, it doesn’t have parents’ names, but then a lot of obituaries at this point in time don’t, even for children. At the same time, most obituaries I’ve seen aren’t this detailed either. But I think we’ll all tell you, it doesn’t help if that’s all the information you have.

In this case, with the beautifully named Mercia Griffin Wilbur, that’s pretty much it. I mean, I have census records, but they only cover the period after 1850, when they became every-name censuses. She was already well into her married life by this point. Census records, an obituary, and a death record are all I have. Based solely on the name of her son, Harvey Griffin Wilbur, I took a guess on her father’s name.  Turns out, there was a Harvey Griffin in the Sidney, New York area with a daughter Mercia’s age in the 1840 census. It’s purely a guess, but it’s a smart guess, I think.

I’ve been able to determine that their son William was the “darling” who died of smallpox in 1836. I’ve also been able to narrow down her husband Anson’s death date to 1874 or 1875. All simply from an obituary.

We are more, much more, than names and dates. These are the kind of obituaries I like, if only the parents’ names were included.

Sympathy Saturday: Manuel Fratis

On 20 February 1865, on the island of São Miguel in the Azores, a little boy who came to be known as Manuel Fratis was born. His parents were Lewis Fratis and his wife, Rosa Minnise. Lewis and Rosa were coming out of some of the worst years the Azores, a Portuguese possession, had ever seen. First there was Portugal’s civil war in the 1820s and then famine in the 1850s.

It’s during this time that you find a rise in Portuguese immigration, just like the rise of Irish immigration during their famine in the 1840s. To the best of my knowledge, Lewis and Rosa were not among the immigrants to America.

Manuel married Rosaline Rapose around 1894 in the Azores, soon beginning their own family with the birth of son Manuel Junior the next year.

Meanwhile in America, Ashtabula, Ohio had recently become the busiest port on the Great Lakes, sending out iron ore and coal on Lake Erie and the recently completed Pittsburgh, Youngstown, and Ashtabula Railroad. The city experienced a thirty-year boom, attracting immigrants from around the world including Manuel Fratis and his growing family. However, he was leaving behind the twin sister of his infant daughter, Dorothy.

The first time we find Manuel in America is in the 1902 Ashtabula city directory. His brother Anthony was already there.

1902 Ashtabula City Directory showing Manuel and Rosa Fratis. Notice the different spelling (Frates) and brother Antonio (Anthony) living across the street.
1902 Ashtabula City Directory showing Manuel and Rosa Fratis. Notice the different spelling (Frates) and brother Antonio (Anthony) living across the street.

Manuel worked on the docks in Ashtabula’s harbor district. Unloading ships of iron ore and reloading them with coal was hard work, often taking 150 men to unload a ship.  Thousands of immigrants flocked to the harbor, competing aggressively and often violently for work.  Ashtabula had earned a rough reputation as a port city and was considered, along with Calcutta and Shanghai, one of the three roughest ports in the world.  The district was filled with bars and brothels.

Postcard picturing the harbor, 1906.
Postcard picturing the harbor, 1906.

It was not an easy place to be. But Manuel had to support his family that now included eight children by 1910. He never spoke any English or not enough to do business on his own, anyway. This was a time just before the First World War when immigrants were expected to assimilate quickly into society, like they were in the mid-19th century and a good bit like many expect today. The immigrant who does not learn enough English to get by can easily be taken advantage of and mocked as dumb and unpatriotic. But English is not an easy language to learn.

Manuel’s life was not easy and it was short. Manuel worked hard at a dangerous job to support his family, while Rosa stayed home to take care of the kids. Their oldest son, Manuel Junior, is found at the Boy’s Industrial School in Hocking in 1910. It was a reform school for juvenile offenders. Home life must have been stressful and difficult.

Then in the summer of 1911, Manuel noticed tumors on his neck. Two months later on Saturday, September 16, he was dead of liver and stomach cancer. He had gone to bed Friday night and never woke up. Rosa found him still in the bed. He was only 46.

Manuel's death certificate
Manuel’s death certificate



Friday Funny: Indexing Mistakes


I know, I know. The indexers are only human and make mistakes. Yeah, I get that. I make more than my fair share of mistakes too. But it’s really frustrating to see the butchery of last names. Some you can sort of maybe figure out and the soundex will throw it out as an option and you still find the person you’ve been searching for. But sometimes, oh, sometimes a name is so butchered you won’t ever find them.

Skillthorp is the name I spent a lot of time searching for. Ancestry gives me god awful suggestions that are nowhere near what I’m looking for. When I eventually find them (oh, and I will find them), I could just bet the handwriting will be atrocious and I’ll have to give the poor indexer a pass.

We’ll see, Ancestry, we’ll see.