Hallowe’en Hijinks in Upstate New York, c. 1912

In honor of Halloween I post this little ditty related to an ancestor of mine. It pertains to the antics of second cousin, Maurice J. Dullea (1895-1934), who got into a wee bit of trouble with the federal government back in 1912 when he was up to no good with a couple of friends skylarking on All Hallow’s Eve.

He was 17 years old at the time.

The article appeared on page 4 of the Courier & Freeman Newspaper, Potsdam, NY, on 13 November 1912.  I found it on the website NYS Historic Newspapers—a goldmine for genealogists researching ancestors in upstate New York. To read the story for yourself, slide the image onto your desktop and enlarge. For less effort on the eyes, a transcript of the news story follows:

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Boys Tore Down R. F. D. Boxes


U.S. Marshalls Arrest Them For

Hallowe’en Prank.


     On Hallowe’en night three young men not appreciating the fact that they were monkeying with Uncle Sam’s property, tore down several R. F. D. mailboxes on the Hopkinton road. As a result Deputy U. S. Marshal E. C. J. Smith of Ogdensburg came to Potsdam Saturday and placed under arrest Maurice Dullea, Fred Brown and John Walsh on a complaint charging them with violations of section 198 of the United States criminal code of willfully and maliciously tearing down letter boxes on a rural free delivery route.

     The warrant was sworn out before U. S. Commissioner Walter G. Kellogg on the complaint of Henry Curran, a post office inspector.

     The three young men were taken to Ogdensburg Saturday afternoon where they were arraigned before Commissioner Kellogg who held them in $500 bonds for examination. They were unable to give the required bail.

      The penalty for tearing down a box of this kind or willfully aiding or assisting in this offense is a fine of not more than $1000 or imprisonment of not less than three years or both.

In the weeks that followed, local newspapers reported several more stories related to legal proceedings of the case.

The good news is Maurice ultimately managed to get out of that little scrape with the law. He was mentioned in the local papers numerous times in the years that followed though, but for a much more positive reason: for serving with honor in World War I after being wounded in battle.

The newspapers even ran a few of his letters home to the family, one of which I’ll transcribe in a future post here on GeneaJourneys.

Nothing better than a first-person, contemporary account of a soldier on the battlefront recounting the adventures (and often mundane routine) of life (literally) in the trenches.

Stay tuned…


Copyright © 2017 Patricia Desmond Biallas




Posted in Biographies, Family Legends, Family Stories, Holidays, Military, Newspaper Research | 2 Comments

Life Lessons Learned from Old School Records

Pages from a photo book created for my mother-in-law, Arlene Boubek Biallas. Included in the book are photos, awards and report cards from Arlene’s high school days in Chicago in the early 1950s.

Recently I’ve been taking some online genealogy courses through the National Institute of Genealogical Studies (NIGS) to enhance my knowledge in certain areas of professional interest—methodology, immigration, copyright, probate and social history to name a few.

One course I recently completed was “Institutional Records” which covers—among other topics—how to locate, understand and use hospital, prison, school and other institutional records in genealogical research. Like most classes, whether in person or online, there’s plenty of reading, writing and research involved as well as assignments and exams.

This was the assignment related to researching old school records:

“Describe an experience you have had finding an educational record for an ancestor amongst family papers or elsewhere. What did you find? Where did you find it? How did it help you understand the person’s life better?”

Part of my response to that assignment included the following:

Several years ago for about 6 weeks, my elderly mother-in-law Arlene Boubek Biallas, met with me weekly to share details on her family of origin and her  years growing up in St. Louis and Chicago from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s. We also sorted, purged and organized more than 75 years of her personal photos, documents, awards, and other mementos. My goal—unbeknownst to her—was to create a personalized photo book for her that would showcase her entire collection of memorabilia all in one place.

All went well and I was very pleased to see that she loved the finished product—that is, until, wide-eyed—she stopped in her tracks on a page that showed a VERY large photo of her final high school report card from Oak Park River Forest High School from 1953.

Though it was laden with “A”s and “B”s in Public Speaking, Typing, Home Ec, and Phys Ed, Arlene was shocked and upset to see that she ALSO garnered a “D” that semester in American History.

She was mortified that the proof of her poor academic performance in that one subject was now permanently ensconced in a photo book for all time, for all of the world to see.

An unexpected grade in American History memorialized for all time.

She was 76 years old at the time and died a few years later—two years ago today, to be precise.

Arlene was always a good sport though, and got past her embarrassment over that unwelcome grade from 60 years earlier pretty quickly. We even had a few chuckles over it together in the years that followed.

I truly loved my mother-in-law, and the shock, embarrassment, and eventual laughter that incident provoked fosters fond memories of our weekly get-togethers when she shared her family history with me. And now, thanks to the generosity of her time back then,  I can now share her memories with her descendants.

Every time I see that report card of hers from 1953 in that photo book though, I can’t help but smile about how lucky I was to have her for so long.

I learned a lot from Arlene over the 33 years I knew her. Some of the best lessons I learned from this particular incident though, were to keep things in perspective, don’t sweat the small stuff, and learn to laugh at yourself. Most things we worry about simply don’t warrant the worry.

Arlene may not have not have excelled in American History back in 1953, but if she were taking a course in Family History today, there’s little doubt she’d earn a big fat “A” on her final report card—at least in my book, that is.


Copyright © 2017 Patricia Desmond Biallas

Posted in Biographies, Family Legends, Family Stories, Social History | 6 Comments

Really? There’s a National Siblings Day?!

I just noted on Facebook via my friend Jana Last, that today, April 10, is National Siblings Day.

Who knew?!

Jana learned about it herself via Facebook and reposted it there.  I had to find out more so I “googled” the term.  That led me to this site for the Siblings Day Foundation. There, I read that the SDF is a public, non-profit charity “devoted to establishing National Siblings Day for the benefit of our families, our communities and our nation.”

Its  goal is to make it a federally recognized day, like Mother’s and Father’s Days. It also led me to this article that ran in the International Business Times a couple of years ago. For all the facts on National Siblings day, click here.

In the meantime, a salute to my 7 siblings–Barbara, Diane, Dorothy, Colleen, Gerry, Brian and Vinnie–from  your kid sister, Patti. These four images–the  only ones I’m aware of with all of us together–were taken over the last 59 years:


1956: A more formal pose of the eight Desmond siblings and their parents just prior to Diane's departure to join the convent.

1983: The Desmond sibs gathered for my wedding day August 20, 1983.


Officially recognized yet, or not: Happy Siblings Day, to one and all!


Note:  This post was originally published on GeneaJourneys April 10, 2014. There are now just seven of us Desmond siblings as we lost our brother Gerry in January. You’ll always be in our hearts though, Ger.

Copyright © 2017 Patricia Desmond Biallas

Posted in Biographies, Just for Fun!, Photo Stories, Uncategorized | 5 Comments