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Journey of a genealogist: Who is related to John Garvin?

By Barry Ewell

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Oct. 27 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

On Wednesday of the last week, my wife, Colette, called me with information about a letter that was sent to me by Elenor, wife of LeRoy Garvin, the youngest brother of John. She had sent a partially filled out family tree with birth and death dates that her husband and son had done for a school project 30 years earlier. In addition, it also had information of where the family had been buried, Holy Name Cemetery. That evening I called Elenor and asked if I could meet with her on Saturday. She agreed to a meeting at 8:30 a.m. In addition. she provided other information about Beatrice, who was the wife of James Garvin. I called her and made an appointment to speak with her on Wednesday of the next week.

With the new information, it was time for a change of plans. I changed the schedule to meet with Elenor, go to the cemetery and library and then meet with the Samuel Garvin family.

After work Friday at 6 p.m., I left Boston for Jersey City. At 9 p.m., I received a phone call from Richard that his family wanted to meet with me. However there was a small hitch. His mother was still a little concerned about meeting me and wanted to know if I would be willing to come to his home two more hours beyond Jersey City to meet with them. My reply was of course. I was going to do whatever it took to meet with the family. I told him I would meet him at 4 p.m. the next day.

I stayed the night in Stamford, Conn., and rose the next morning at 5:30 a.m. to start what would become a great day. I was only about an hour out of Jersey City, but I would need every minute, as I would find out. As I crossed into New York, I missed a turnoff and went from Brooklyn into Queens. It was an adventure. I stopped three different times to get directions and didn’t find anyone who could speak English. I drove by LaGuardia Airport, Shea Stadium and other landmarks I had just heard about.

Time was ticking down. I was really concerned that my day was going to start out on the wrong foot. I was at least 20 miles off course with no direction of how to get back on course. Several wrong turns later, I found myself going back past Shea Stadium and LaGuardia Airport. From there, I was able to backtrack to where I had lost my way. It cost $20 in tolls over bridges and roads. Given the chance to start over, I found my way to Jersey City and Elenor’s house at 8:35 a.m. Whew, made it.

I spent an hour with Elenor and had a good interview, which added some important information about my stepfather John. I learned that Elenor's husband had been a ranking officer in the Jersey City police force. One Sunday morning John had come to the door, desperately seeking help from his brother. John had been a bookie for the Jersey mob and had been caught skimming off the proceeds. The mob had put out a contract on his life. John's brother left the house for a couple of hours and came back with a deal. John was to pay back part of the proceeds and leave town and never come back. He moved to Las Vegas, where he became a taxi driver, met my mother and married. He didn't return to Jersey City for more than 25 years.

After our meeting, I went to the Holy Name Cemetery, a beautiful monument to those that lived. I stopped and had the sexton pull as many of the family as I named along with where they were buried.

I went to the find the first name, Raymond Garvin, a child who had died after a few months of life as well as six others. I couldn’t find any of the graves. So I went back to the sexton to double-check the name. I found some new information. Unlike out West, where most persons are buried one to a grave, this cemetery allowed up to four persons to be buried per grave. In with Raymond were other persons that I believe are related to the family. I reworked with the sexton all the names and found 20-plus persons beyond those I came to find.

When I went back out to the cemetery, I met Neil, the foreman, who took time to go with me and find each gravesite, thinking I would be able take pictures of the gravestones. Every gravestone was missing.

I was amazed that these people were essentially lost in time. No marker, no one to care, no one to remember. I felt closeness to the people and desire to link them to the family tree. I left several hours later feeling as though I had left no one behind.

My next stop was the local library. I took the burial dates I found at the cemetery and began looking for family members' obituaries. In the library, I was able to find family members, but the obituaries were very limited. I was hoping they would provide a list of relatives, but not as much information as I would have liked. I did find the listing of John's sister, who had died from a streetcar accident in her teenage years.

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