Thursday, November 12, 2015

Searching for Patties in England

There is no record of the parents of our great-great-grandfather, John Pattie Sr, or of how he happened to be living as a wheelwright in Fredercksbug, Virginia, in 1770.  One thing seems obvious: The family did not originate in America like the Sioux and Apaches.

My brother Don came home from a business trip to England and told me he found several Patties listed in the London telephone book.  Then, in the summer of 1991, my husband, John Durkalski, and I exchanged our home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a house in Ipswich, near the North Sea Coast in Suffolk County, England. 

Standing by a little table in a corner of the dining room of our Ipswich house, I looked in the thin, little Ipswich telephone book (Ipswich is a small city) and dialed what I thought was someone listed as Pattie. The voice that answered had the reedy voice of a frail old man.  He told me politely that I was mistaken; his name was not “Pattie” but “Pattle”.  In the small print of the little telephone book I had misread the “l” for an “i”. 

One of the delights of living in England that summer was making friends and having neighbors. One evening John and I went next door to visit the Blands.  I can’t remember their first names – this was 1991, and in 2015 I remember other things vividly.  Mr. Bland was a retired sea captain.  He said, “Even in storms and cloudy weather I could cross the Atlantic and land within 30 miles of New York.”.  

John and I sat on the couch in their living room, while Captain Bland went upstairs and came down carrying a box the size of a twelve-inch cube made of polished wood with brass fittings, as handsome as any jewelry box.  Opening the shiny brass clasp, he lifted out of the velvet liner a brass instrument.  He explained, “This is my sextant."

I was reminded that in his years of navigating the seas, Captain Bland used the same instruments that Columbus used on his voyages of discovery.  By the time Captain Bland retired, satellites were guiding ships, like the autopilot flies airplanes and the GPS directs our cars on freeways. 

Before saying “Good Night” to with the Blands, I mentioned my disappointment at finding Pattle instead of Pattie in the Ipswich telephone directory.  Mrs. Bland immediately said, “Pattie is a North Country Name.”   She and Capt. Bland were originally from Northumbria, a county in the north of England, bordering on Scotland.  They had moved south to Ipswich for his job. 

The next day she brought over her telephone book from Northumbria, even smaller and thinner than the Ipswich directory.  Sure enough it listed six or eight Patties.  I copied down the names and telephone numbers.  I regret that John and I became so involved in enjoying sightseeing in the Great Houses and fine Fourteenth Century churches in charming Suffolk villages that I never called any of them.  Somehow I also lost my list of Patties in Northumbria..

I had learned some things.  Forget about possible origins in France or Italy.  For many centuries the Patties have been English.  The ancestors of John Pattie Sr. of Virginia probably came from Northumbria. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Uncle Hugh's Family Tree

Uncle Hugh’s genealogy stopped with his grandfather, John Pattie of Kentucky – the one whose marriage license Effie Ludlow Pattie found in Virginia. 

Uncle Hugh also found records of a William Pattie, who had come to eastern Kentucky about the same time as John and his wife settled in Frankfurt in western Kentucky.  Uncle Hugh speculated that John and William were brothers, but he could find no proof of the connection.  

William’s grandson Silvester and Silvester’s son James were among the first Americans to trek all the way to California.  The account of their adventures is told in “The Autobiography of James Ohio Pattie”, a 19th Century best seller.  This wild tale makes good reading even today.  As for me, it is nice to know there was previously a best seller in the Pattie family. 

William’s sister, Lucy Pattie Yateman, filed an affidavit stating that her father and her brother William had “gone to fight with General Washington” during the Revolutionary War.  As a result of that affidavit, in his old age William was granted a small pension as a Revolutionary War soldier.  I was surprised to learn that this country has a long history of giving pensions to veterans.  Now my son Karl gets benefits for his service in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War – although he never went to Vietnam.  In my book, “Mama Goes to Paris”, I tell about Karl working in Army intelligence as a Russian expert, stationed in Frankfurt, Germany.    

Over 60 years after Uncle Hugh’s death, I looked for ancestors at the Garland, Texas, Public Library.  Sitting at a computer in a room full of other old ladies searching for their own family records, I was delighted to see pop up on the screen the yellowed paper of Lucy’s affidavit.  But I was no more enlightened than Uncle Hugh was about any connection between John and William.

Later I found that connection, thanks to my Italian-American friend, Jack Cinque. 

Jack was a first generation Italian-American.  His parents came to the U.S. as teenagers from Positano, Italy.  Jack was born in “Little Italy” in Manhattan, grew up in New York City, graduated from City College of New York, then obtained a master’s degree from M.I.T.  This son of an immigrant whose career started as a push-cart peddler in New York, had a brilliant career.  He came to Texas to work as head of a Texas City oil refinery and married Margaret Condon, a Texan and my dear friend and classmate at Texas State College for Women.  Working for Flour Inc., Jack traveled to Iran and China, and he and Margaret lived in Sydney, Australia, and in London, England.  My first trip to England was to visit them in London.

After Jack retired to Houston, he and Margaret attended a series of lectures on immigrants to America.  He sent me their textbook, a collection of first-person accounts written by immigrants.  The very first chapter was a diary written by a Scotsman who came to Virginia around 1770 as an indentured servant, contracted to be a slave until his passage was paid off.  He worked for a tobacco planter who wanted a teacher for his young children.  He was given a small building with both a classroom and living quarters.  He was permitted to accept other pupils for his small school. In the diary he wrote that “John Pattie, wright, of Fredricksburg, brought his children, William, Lucy, and John” and enrolled them in the school.

From this account I learned not only that John and William were brothers, but also that Uncle Hugh’s grandfather (my great-grandfather) John was really John Jr.  Also, John Sr. was a "wright" meaning a wheel-right.  On my first trip East, Emma Wright and I stopped in Fredricksbug to see the elegant home of George Washington's sister Betty, whose husband was a wealthy man who helped finance the Revolution.  I did not dream that one of my ancestors may have made the wheels for her carriage and perhaps also for General Washington, whose mother also lived in Fredricksburg.

Thanks to Lucy’s affidavit that her father fought for General Washington, I am eligible for the Daughters of the American Revolution. It amuses me to think I could join the D.A.R. on my Pattie line, thanks to Jack Cinque, a first-generation American.