That Eureka moment!

Last Friday I had a rare Eureka moment!  Fortunately I was in my own living room and not working in the quiet of a record office, so my fairly audible “yes!!” did not disrupt the concentration of anyone else.

I should explain that I have been searching for some evidence of Allen Mitchell for a good thirty plus years.  My Granny had 3 uncles who crossed the pond – James, Henry and Allen.  James (born 1839 West Grinstead, Sussex) ended up in Canada, in Hamilton Ontario, and with occasional trips to the library to use Ancestry Worldwide I have pieced together a fair amount about him.  Henry (born 1842 West Grinstead) went to New York state, settling in Palmyra, as did his much younger brother Allen (born 1851 West Grinstead).  I had got as far as discovering Allen living with his brother Henry and family at the time of the 1880 US census.

Granny believed that Allen was killed in a railroad accident – but when?  I had failed to find Allen in a census after 1880, no sign of a death, and I had also searched for a newspaper report without success.

The free weekend on Findmypast had led to an email offering me a month’s subscription to the site for £1.  That sounded a pretty good deal to me, so I signed up.  I noticed that this included access to worldwide records.

Now I wasn’t really thinking about my overseas Mitchells particularly, but an enquiry from someone about the Canadian connection meant I turned to that section of my notes.  In doing so, I discovered that I had made a note to myself to check, at some point in the future, the Syracuse Herald for 23 March 1914 on Findmypast, as it appeared to have a reference to an Allen Mitchell.  So I duly discovered how to find this publication, narrowed it down to the relevant date and searched for Allen Mitchell.  Yes!!!!


Syracuse Herald 23 March 1914
Syracuse Herald 23 March 1914

At long last, there he was!  And what a goldmine of information!  “Allen Mitchell killed by a car.  Veteran Central employee struck at Buffalo”.  63 year old Allen had just returned to work following a previous accident.  Walking along the track at about 8.00 am to where he was doing some reconstruction work, he was hit by a runaway coal car and was killed instantly.  The report says that he had been working for the railroad company for about 35 years.  Having started as a carpenter, he had risen to the position of constructing engineer and foreman and was “well known to railroad men throughout this section of the State”.  The report also tells us that “Mrs Mitchell is on the verge of collapse from shock”.  Well I didn’t know he even had a wife, and poor woman receiving this news!  It also gives an address for the Mitchells in Lodi Street, Syracuse.  It seems his current place of work at Buffalo was around 160 miles away from home.

Having recovered from this excitement, I proceeded to see if I could find Allen and his wife on the 1900 census – a name for Mrs Mitchell would be nice.  And there they were:  Allen Mitchell had been married to Louisa for 12 years at that point, and she had been born around 1857 in New York.  They had no children and the census gave Allen’s year of immigration as 1871.  Well, moving on to the Passenger Lists on Findmypast, I found a possible entry for Allen:  leaving Liverpool on the City of Brooklyn, 19 year old Allen arrived in New York on 26 March 1870.

The blank space under Allen’s name on the family tree can be filled in at long last.  £1 well spent!

City of Brooklyn
The City of Brooklyn