Finding a Good Home in Rural New York, c. 1904

Recent days have found me knee deep in online newspaper research at a website known as NYS Historical Newspapers. It’s a site  you’ll find indispensable if you’re researching  ancestors who resided anywhere in New York State. Best of all it’s free!

Log on, click on a county, and enter a few names and dates to see what turns up.

GeneaJourneys readers can can look forward to some fascinating looks at the past through contemporary newspaper reports on people who lived in the hamlets and villages of rural Franklin and St. Lawrence counties  just miles from the Canadian border.  That’s where my Desmond ancestors hail from.

Some items I’ll be posting relate to long gone family members, while others are items I  happened across  in searching for those ancestors. All of them, though, give an inside glimpse of what life was like a century ago in rural areas of northern New York.

Here’s one which needs a bit more research on my part, as it lists many people whose names (in purple) populate my family tree.  Are they actually my ancestors?  Only more digging and time will tell, but the story is a fascinating one about a train full of boys from New York City in hopes of being adopted by local townspeople. Read on to see how things turned out:


Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, March 17, 1904, page 4. Image provided by Northern New York Library Network.

Twenty-one Boys from New York Protectory Adopted.

Those Taking the Little Fellows

Brasher Falls, March 15, 1904–…..Brother Barnum of the New York Protectory, arrived here on Saturday with twenty-one boys ranging from six to eighteen years old. Some boys had been spoken for through Father Nyhan. It was expected that nine would find homes here, but on Sunday they were all at the Catholic church where it was made known to the congregation, and in the afternoon every boy was taken with the exception of one, who was not feeling well. Six more were spoken for.

It was a sad sight to see, although they were all fine looking, bright boys. One thing we are thankful for, they all have good homes and we are sure they will be kindly treated.

In this Protectory are 1,000 boys and 800 girls.

Among those who have taken those boys are Miss Mary Burns, Owen Burns, William Daniha, Daniel Carey, John Ryan, D. J. McCarthy, David Connell, Mrs. Barnage, W. Regan, John S. Hurley, P.W. Desmond, John Sullivan, Maurice Dullea, John Desmond, Edward Rochford, Denis Crowley, William Lynch, John Hannon…

This article ran on March 17, 1904–St. Patrick’s Day–and, as it happens, most of those who took the boys in, were of Irish descent.

Let’s hope the luck of the Irish was with them all as they navigated the changes that were coming their way as a result of these adoptions.


 Copyright © 2016 Patricia Desmond Biallas





Posted in American History, Newspaper Research, Social History | 2 Comments

When Family History Research Makes You Sad….

…there simply are no words.

Wishing peace to a distant cousin I’m just beginning to know.

Daly dau suicide_1914

Facts & Fallacies, September 3, 1914, page 2, column 2, Northern New York Historical Newspapers. Accessed 15 June 2016 at:


 Copyright © 2016 Patricia Desmond Biallas

Posted in Biographies, Newspaper Research, Obituaries | 2 Comments

Obituary Offers Recollections of Long Time Railroad Man…

Locomotive owned by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad--very familiar to my ___cousin Barney Dullea, a railroad conductor who road the rails for over 50 years as a conductor and ____.

Locomotive owned by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, a home away from home for my grandfather’s cousin, Barney Dullea.  Barney served on the New York Central railroad and other rail lines for over 50 years–from the 1880s through the 1930s–as brakeman, freight conductor and passenger conductor on routes serving rural upstate New York.

Birth, marriage and death dates. They may provide the framework for genealogists researching the lives of their ancestors, but what about those old obituaries?

Ahhh……now that’s  where you’ll find the good stuff!

Over the course of the last few years I’ve found and reported on some doozies of obituaries, here on GeneaJourneys, but today I found a few on a distant ancestor that simply made me smile.

You might enjoy them as well, as you learn about my  grandfather’s cousin, Barney Dullea,  a railroad man in rural upstate New York from the early 188os until his retirement a half century later in 1931.

Barney’s obits serve up a slice of Americana from a bygone era, when traveling by train meant traveling in style. (It certainly beat earlier alternatives, I imagine–horse, buggy, stagecoach or covered wagon–to get where you wanted to go.)

So sit back, relax and enjoy these recaps of one man’s life on the rails that bridged two centuries in the early days of railroading…

Photo above and copy below ran on page 1 of the Norwood News, Norwood NY, on December 2, 1936.

Photo above and copy below ran on page 1 of the Norwood News, Norwood, NY, on December 2, 1936.

Massena, Nov.28–Barney Dullea, 76, well known retired conductor on the New York Central railroad, died at 6 Saturday morning at his home at 28 East Hatfield Street.

Mr. Dullea had been in declining health for the past five years and was seriously ill for several weeks. During the past year he had spent considerable time in the Hepburn Hospital in Ogdensburg.

Funeral services were held at 10:30 Monday morning from Sacred Heart Church, of which he was a member, and burial made in St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Brasher Falls.

Mr. Dullea was born in the town of Lawrence, September 10, 1860, son of Dennis and Mary Lantry Dullea. He attended Lawrenceville Academy and Potsdam Normal, and for a time worked on his father’s farms in the towns of Lawrence and Potsdam.

On December 15, 1880 he went to work as a brakeman on the RW&O railroad, and a year later went to the O&LC to work for four years as an extra man. In 1884 he went back to the RW&O as a brakeman, and in 1885 was made freight conductor. In 1888 he went to California for about six months but returned to the same job as freight conductor for the road, which is now part of the New York Central. He was made passenger conductor in 1892 on the same road–a position he held until he retired at the age of 70.

He ran out of Massena from the time the railroad was extended here from Norwood in 1886 and was in charge of the first snowplow into the station at Massena Springs that year. In the early days his run was to Syracuse and return, making the trip every other day.

On October 21, 1891, he married Miss Mary M. Cross of Dekalb and they came to Massena to live. They resided here until just before he retired from the railroad, when they moved to Winthrop. They lived there for four years, returning to again take up residence here two years ago.

In all the years he was a freight or passenger conductor, his train never had an accident in which there were personal injuries.

He was a member of St. Lawrence Council, No. 1141 Knights of Columbus, Massena, and of the Order of Railway Conductors.

Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Mary Dullea, two daughters, Mrs. Stanley Lancto and Mrs. Joseph McKinley, both of Long Island, both of whom were with their father when he died; two sisters, Mrs. Dennis Murray of Brasher Falls and Mrs. Margaret Murray of Winthrop and three grandchildren.

Now, if you’ve read this far, you’ll surely want to read the following obituary for Barney as well. Find out  about the send-off  he received on the day he retired in 1931; his  recollections of a half century in the railroad business; and one of his most treasured  mementos  from his early railroading days:

Ogdensburg Journal, November 30, 1936, page 2

Ogdensburg Journal, November 30, 1936, page 2

Well done, Barney. Well done.


Above newspaper articles and photo of Barney Dullea were found on the website, NYS Historic Newspapers at the following web address:

For more information on the early days of railroading in northern New York, see


 Copyright © 2016 Patricia Desmond Biallas



Posted in American History, Biographies, Family Legends, Family Stories, Just for Fun!, Newspaper Research, Obituaries | 2 Comments