Flashenberg and Kennedy Families: Getting to know more in 2014


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Yesterday, I had an in depth discussion with John Milone about what happened to Great Aunt Dorothy and Great Uncle Irving Flashenberg. John is my Second Cousin and the Grandson of Dorothy and Irving through their daughter Evelyn Joan.

I’ve just finished transcribing a summary of our discussion. Included is a summary of John’s direct line ancestors through Dorothy. I found this a very efficient way to keep track of who is who in the summaries that follow.

Each aspect of Dorothy and Irving’s life that was discussed was broken down into sections to keep the focus organized. Each section has a title for easy reference.

I plan to do this following all phone discussions and in-person interviews I have with other relatives as the process of gathering information from living descendants is in progress. It is important to review the notes right after or the next day and get them typed up. This is one time for me where mult-tasking goes on hold.

This is proving a useful method for keeping track of all the information without stressing about when it gets posted. It also permits consideration of what gets posted and what remains confidential. I plan to send copies of the transcribed notes to all participants in this process. This way we can make any corrections.

Sometimes the stories are so fascinating my note taking slows down as I listen and am very involved in what is unfolding.

Yesterday, Johnny gave me a gift of closure. At last I not only know what happened to Dorothy and Irving after 1940. I have closure. Life went on and changed. It wasn’t easy but Dorothy never stopped being a loving, kind and beloved Mom and Grandmother. I was so happy to learn that after her divorce from Irving she married Jerry Riccardi whom Johnny remembers with great affection.

I also got a photo of Dorothy which I’ve just uploaded to the family tree at Ancestry. I feel as if in a special way I’ve finally met her, through Johnny. Now when I reflect on this part of the family history I have a more personal insight and a face to associate with her and also her grandchildren.

This is a beautiful gift as Palm Sunday morning begins.

Spring Break Will Continue Until Mid-May…


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I had planned on resuming the narrative about the Torregrossa family (my paternal ancestors) this weekend but so many developments have come up that I think a pause is in order. Otherwise the entries and energies surrounding the past will be scattered and lose impact.

There have been developments once more that amaze me so very much that I’m left somewhat dazed. It’s just the same way I felt when Jackie and I finally reconnected in early 2013. It’s a feeling that is so hard to describe: happy, elated, joyful and yet somewhat concerned about all those “what ifs” that can come to mind when meeting a relative after a long absence. My usual “what ifs” concern whether or not I’ll still be good company.

These developments come at the Easter Season, with all its power renewal. Briefly, here is what has happened:

**The grandson of my Great Uncle Irving Flashenberg and Great Aunt Dorothy Muriel Kennedy Flashenberg found me through this blog. His name is Johnny Milone. His mom is Joan, the daughter of Irving and Dorothy. Joan was my maternal Grandma Bessie’s niece.

Joan is still alive and remembers my Grandma Bessie as “Aunt Blanche” (Blanche was Bessie’s other name).

Johnny has updated me on what happened to Great Uncle Irving and Great Aunt Dorothy. I thought I would never find out since after the 1940 Federal Census they disappeared from the public records and no longer came up on Ancestry’s search results.

I’m in the process of helping create a memorial at FindAGrave for Dorothy and look forward to working with Johnny and his family to further detail this part of the extended family tree that includes the Callahan and Kennedy families.

**My First Cousin 1x Removed named Alfred, from my Mom’s side, is back in touch thanks to our Cousin Rosina from Pennsylvania. Alfred is my late Mom’s First Cousin. Alfred’s Mom Florie is my Grandma Josie’s sister. I’ve been invited to Alfred’s home for Easter Dinner. It will be the first time I meet his wife Angela and her relatives. I’ll also meet their fur babies, two cats who keep Alfred company in his home office.

Alfred is a very spiritual and kind person. I remember visiting him and his parents (My Great Aunt Florie and Great Uncle Freddie). The conversations were always in depth and could span the arts, ethics, spirituality, morality and for a bit of good humor pop culture and famous celebrities of past and present.

**Cousin Rosina is planning to stay with me around November or December 2014. We’re already considering sights to see, among them the Christmas Lights of Dyker Heights. The entire vacation will be Brooklyn based so I’m going to enjoy this a lot. We may go to the Brooklyn Museum, too.

Rosina loves the opera. The Basilica of Regina Pacis is about 10 blocks from my home. Not only is is home to a most beautiful Italianate style house of worship but also the Regina Opera Company. I’m thinking Rosina might want to attend if a performance is scheduled the weekend she comes up.

**In early May, my Mom’s First Cousin Robert and his wife Claudia will come up to New York. I’m meeting them for dinner. I haven’t seen Robert in at least 30 years. I am so looking forward to it since I have so many fond memories of visiting his parents (My Great Aunt Angie and Great Uncle Peter) when they lived in Wilmerding and then East McKeesport, PA.

The interesting development here is that all of a sudden my Mom’s family is coming to the forefront. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have time for the research into my Dad’s side, but there is now a wealth of information about my maternal relatives also on tap.

Rosina and I had talked about how important it is to interview the relatives for all kinds of details, anecdotes, family lore and legend and even memories or slice-of-life epsidoes. I think she is very right. This is especially important for me to do as a way to supplement my maternal line family research. It is very difficult to get vital records from Pennsylvania and the family interviews will fill in where vital records are not yet available.

In PA it takes about 60 years after the death of a person for the Death Certificate to be available and 105 years after the birth of a person for the Birth Certificate to be made public.

In a way the sudden developments are similar to the tug and pull I experienced as a child between my parents. It was like a piper was playing lovely music on the side where my paternal relatives were while another piper played on the side where my maternal relatives were. As a child I ran back and forth delighting in it all but would inevitably withdraw to spend some days alone with my books, dolls, sewing and day dreaming.

I feel some of that now so what I plan to do is blog about the family reunions and put up some photos until things resume a more even pace and I can resume research and reflection on what happened in the past.

Spring Break: Reunion with Cousin Jackie & Aunt Pat, Part 4


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Left to right in the back: My Cousin Michael Torregrossa and his son Paulie.
Left to right in the front: Aunt Pat Torregrossa, cousin Jackie Torregrossa Devery and her very best friend Patricia Jimenez.
Photo taken March 22, 2014, Aunt Pat & Jackie’s home, Oro Valley, Arizona.

Dear Jackie and Aunt Pat,

Thank you so very, very much for opening your hearts and home to me during our 2014 Spring Reunion. Although there was such a long span of time separating us, once the discussion began to flow I knew we were all back in the family groove. It was as if a long pause stopped the flow of relationships and now it is resuming. It was that easy to relate to you, your friends and all the children and grandchildren who are the future of the Torregrossa and Devery families.

I was very happy to meet Jackie’s best friend Pat. I think she is a wonderful soul sister to Jackie and I feel so happy to know that Pat has seen Jackie through some very tough times in her life. We all need a bestie, someone apart from the family, to offer good insights and advice when it’s needed. Often a trusted friend is like a spiritual advisor. They can sense and see things that family members sometimes can’t because of the emotional connections and closeness to a situation. Pat has been like an angel to Jackie, always helping her get back up when things seemed overwhelming. A friendship like this spanning over 20+ years is something to celebrate and be thankful for.

What was very interesting to see was how Jackie’s children and Michael’s son Paulie combine some of the traits of the Torregrossa family. At the same time, Paulie, Mikey, David and Joannah each are a unique individual. What I noticed right away is that they are all very quick to respond to issues brought up in a conversation. This is very similar to the way I remember my Dad and Grandpa Al and Grandma Blanche used to be over the Sunday dinners at their house. There was the sharp sense of humor, too.

But in addition to some behaviors ot talents that we inherit, I noticed the patterns of gracious entertainment over good food that is such a prominent feature of your household and was also part of Grandma Blanche and Grandpa Al’s lifestyle. There was a certain feeling of continuity with that experience when I saw how Jackie’s sons came to visit you after work in the week and on Sunday when Jackie made that yummy pasta and Italian sausage meal.

While it’s true times change, certain traaditions within a family carry on. Sometimes the expression is slightly different but the essence is the same. I’m so glad to see that carrying forward in the family.

May Our Lord keep you both in his loving care, keep you well and bless you with a joyous Easter season.

With love,


Spring Break: Reunion with Cousin Jackie and Aunt Pat 2014, Part 3


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The phrases “patio living” and “backyard lifestyle” rarely resonated with me until I went to Arizona in 2012 for my Uncle Sammy’s 70th Birthday Bash. He is my late Mom’s younger brother and a very important Uncle in my life. My Aunt Kathie had organized the party to be celebrated in the backyard of their Scottsdale home. I did not expect the large, open space that included an outdoor fireplace and hot tub along with a generous amount of room for many tables, chairs and other patio furniture.

Jackie’s backyard is smaller than my Uncle Sammy’s but shares the same feeling and design elements. There is a stone wall enclosing the area and a mix of plants and gravel in the garden. Walkways have flagstones and sometimes tiles.

A large roomy patio sofa and chairs, along with a table are situated under an awning. There is also an outdoor grill, TV, fountain and nighttime illumination.

When I took these photos on Sunday morning, March 23rd I know right away I was no longer in Brooklyn! The view beyond the garden wall confirmed I was in a different state where desert and cactus are not that far away. Jackie told me she can sometimes hear the coyotes howling at night and once a mountain lion jumped up onto the garden wall.

View of the garden in early morning. The fountain goes on automatically each morning. The dome topped structure is the outdoor fireplace. Past that is the grill and an outdoor fire pit. Depending on the time of day the mountains can look brown and sparse or richly shaded.

View of the wall that completely surrounds the backyard area. The tall cactus belongs to the next house.

Most of Jackie’s flowering plants grow in large terracotta pots.

Two ripe grapefruits from the grapefruit tree in the backyard. Many homeowners plant grapefruit, lemon and orange trees which begin blossoming in January.

This is the view of the land outside the garden wall. I found it a very vivid reminder that I was far away from Brooklyn and very close to the desert.

Spring Break: Reunion with Cousin Jackie and Aunt Pat 2014, Part 2



In one corner of Jackie’s kitchen is a special little entrance way for the family dog. Above the entrance is a sign which says, “Love is being owned by a Bichon Frise.”

I wouldn’t have known what that meant until I met Chewie. He brings so much love and joy to my Aunt and Cousin. It was a beautiful experience to see how much happiness a companion animal can bring to a family. For all who meet him it becomes clear that Chewie is not just a companion animal but a member of the family.

Chewie on Friday, March 21st, 2014. He was recovering from a slight mishap that resulted in the need to get his toenail removed. The collar was to prevent him from licking his foot and trying to remove the bandage.

A few days before my arrival Chewie caught his toe in the patio door. The vet had to remove the toenail and bandage his entire foot. Despite his discomfort and being on painkillers, he was well behaved and a delightful companion throughout my entire visit.

We played catch with his favorite red ball and had lots of cuddle time out on the patio and in the living room. At nights Chewie would sleep by the sofa bed where I slept and I quickly got used to his slight snoring and warmth when he settled in next to me in the middle of the night.

Chewie was in good spirits during my entire stay. His lovable personality wins over all who meet him.

Jackie told me that in general a Bichon Frise loves to be at home and flourishes when getting lots of attention from their owners. I had never heard of this breed of dog before but quickly understood why it is an excellent choice for Jackie and Aunt Pat since they are home most days.

Chewie is also a bit of an actor. He loves to put on the hopeful look and sit quietly staring at a person while they eat their meal. He has a fondness for people food and such a cute way of accepting the scraps that he’s hard to resist. These were the only times I firmly told him “No!” but later I got to make up for it by giving him a doggie treat which Jackie approved of.

Spring Break: Reunion 2014 with Cousin Jackie and Aunt Pat-Part 1


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The phrase “All in God’s good time.” now has extra special meaning to me. After a break of over 47 years, I’ve had a longed for reunion with my Aunt Pat, mother of my Cousin Jackie. Jackie and I had our first reunion last year. From March 21st through March 25th, 2014 I visited them at their home in Oro Valley, Arizona. There I also reconnected to Jackie’s brother, my cousin Michael. A bonus was meeting Jackie and Michael’s children. It was fascinating and uplifting to meet the next generation of descendants of the Torregrossa family. I’ll share my thoughts and photos in the next few postings. The reunion has come at a very good point in my life. There is now a peace and stability entering my relationships that encourages the reconnecting with the past in a way that I don’t think would have been possible before I began the Family Tree and History Project in late 2012. In my heart I know that this is the right time for those who are important in my life to come into my world once more.

On Saturday, March 22nd Jackie and Aunt Pat took me for luncheon at a beautiful little Tea Room called Chantilly Lace in Oro Valley. The photos of our special afternoon tea capture only a little of the charm and enjoyment we all had over a delicious lunch accompanied by cups of English tea and Irish Whiskey Tea.

Aunt Pat and I outside of Chantilly Lace Tea Room. We had a very clear and bright day. It was about 80 degrees, a much needed change for me from the wintry temperatures in the low 30s that were prevalent in the NYC area at the same time.

Cousin Jackie and Aunt Pat at our table covered with the prettiest lace tablecloth. Thick linen napkins and fresh flowers added an elegant touch to the table setting.

I was very touched at the sign announcing that the reserved table was “Emily Ann’s Table”. Jackie and Aunt Pat knew as if by magic how much I love English tea time despite me speaking of it only sometimes with Jackie. Here are the cups we got to choose from the hutch cabinet in the back of the tea room.

I was so very grateful and happy to share this special tea time with my Aunt and Cousin. I couldn’t stop giving hugs and taking photos!

One of the shelves where guests can select a tea cup.

Tea Time table near the fireplace at Chantilly Lace. My late Mother would have loved this place. During her long illness we frequently spent afternoons going through copies of Victoria Magazine (no longer published) admiring the photos of Toshi Otsuki who often photographed tea rooms and BnB’s similar in style to Chantilly Lace.

A pretty rose stained glass window was situated near our table. I will always remember our special tea time as one filled with sunshine, love, and all the shades of the color pink that were in the tea cups, tea pots and decorations around the tea room.

The Panos Family of Brooklyn, NY, 1925-1935


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March 12, 2014

Dear Great-Great Aunt Jessie: I don’t know where to begin but I’ll try. I’d spent most of last year researching the family of my paternal Great Great Grandparents, Alfonso and Benedetta Torregrossa. In the process of reflecting and writing about each new discovery I discerned certain patterns of behavior that carried into my Father’s generation. Most noticeable of these, were the presence of at least one unmarried child who remained at home caring for their parents as they grew older.

Antonio, the youngest son of Alfonso and Benedetta, followed this pattern. He sacrificed his young adulthood to take care of his aging mother after his father died. His older brothers and their families had moved to Brooklyn by 1930. I often wondered how he made the adjustment to being on his own after so many years of togetherness with the immediate and extended family.

So it was a big surprise for me when volunteers at FindAGrave helped me confirm that the gravesite I’d found in the database was indeed that of my Great Great Uncle Antonio. An even bigger surprise was finding that his wife was interred with him. It was a feeling I think any family historian or genealogist, whether professional or amateur, truly understands. I was so happy you would have thought I’d been invited to your wedding while you were still dwelling on this side of life. My reason for feeling like this was knowing that Antonio had met and married someone he could love and share the later years of his life with. That love and companionship were part of the reward for the sacrifice he made in taking care of his Mom while he was a young man.

I hope that the Torregrossa family of Antonio’s generation and my Grandfather’s generation (My Grandpa Al was Antonio’s nephew) treated you fairly. Yet, having lived through the overbearing presence of that family as a child I have a deep and nagging feeling that they gave you a hard time. They always were preoccupied by what others thought and strived to present a good image to the outside world. My Grandpa Al would go way out of his way to help others and could be an enthusiastic mentor of talented young people he met through his business and social activities. But I think there comes a time in every family when you realize that there are certain neighbors and relatives who just won’t stop picking or gossiping about a relative or event. Instead of trying to placate them, like my Dad would, I think my Mom’s attitude is better. You just let such talkers go. By moving away from them it is possible to continue with the living of your own life. No one has the right to put constraints upon you, my Mom would say. If you make a mistake learn from it and move on. Don’t let the talk-talk of others inhibit you from taking chances or trying something different. Good advice is one thing, intrusiveness another.
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The Dickerson and Panos Families of Brooklyn, N.Y.: 1925-1930, Part 1


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Dear Mary,

In 1925 you and your Mom were living about one mile from where I currently live. You rented rooms in an apartment house on 47th Street and Third Avenue in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn. In some ways I think the move was an improvement for you and your Mom because you no longer had to endure what I’ve read were the noxious odors that came from the Gowanus Canal in your previous neighborhood.

Now you were near Bay Ridge Channel. Many of the brownstone houses and apartment buildings in this area are situated on tree-lined blocks. Some of them were brand new in 1925 and are still in use. For the blocks that do not have many trees, there is usually a small patch of a garden in front. The breeze blowing in from Bay Ridge Channel on a summer day still carries a hint of the salt water.

I think I would have loved to sit down to a cup of tea with you, your Mom, Jessie and the rest of the Dickerson family. I think of you often, especially whenever the Brooklyn waterfront comes to mind. The entire history of your family was lived close to the waters of Brooklyn until the early 1930s.

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The Dickerson and Panos Families of Brooklyn, N.Y.: 1910-1920


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Headers from the 1915 NYS Census page on which the Dickerson family is entered.

In 1915, Mary Dickerson, Sr. was 60 years old. Her daughter Mary, Jr. was 38. Each was listed as a “Homeworker” in the New York State Census for that year. I think both women continued their industrious work-from-home endeavors to ensure an adequate income for keeping up the household.

1915 NYS Census entries for Mary Dickerson, her daughter and lodger.

Mary Sr.’s younger son Robert still lived at home working as a Seaman. The only lodger remaining was John Kelly, age 57, a Brick Handler.

By this time Mary’s other children were either married and living elsewhere or had moved out. I searched through the records for her son Constantine, Jr. but could not find any further information for him for the period 1915-1920.

What I am most impressed by is the appearance of Mary, Jr. at just the moment when her Mother needed her. She seems like a loyal daughter throughout the years after her father’s death. Working alongside with her mother, I’m sure she gave her much support as well as companionship.

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The Dickerson Family of Brooklyn, N.Y. Part 5 – 1905-1910


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Two years after her husband’s death, Mary Dickerson was able to remain a homemaker. Her eldest children were all employed with the exception of Mamie who at 29 gave her profession as “home” to the Enumerator of the 1905 New York State Census.

The Dickersons were living at 154 18th Street, near the Gowanus Canal but a few blocks away from the apartment they lived in at the time of the 1900 Federal Census. None of the older Dickerson children were employed in any kind of work connected to the docks so I can only think that the family remained in the same area because of ties to the community, especially since the younger children Jessie (now 8 years old) and Eugene (5 years old) were still attending school.

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