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"The ancestor of every action is a thought." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Entries in philly (9)


Searching For Catherine Haney & Thomas J Haney of Philadelphia

It's been awhile since my last post. I'm reeeeally going to try and stay on top of my game and post at least every 2 weeks or so. ((I've probably said this many times, but with baby #3 on the way my precious ME time will be turning into precious baby time for a while.))

The past few months I've been helping a friend with a very interesting family history search. We'll call my friend, B. She was adopted privately as a newborn baby in Philadelphia 1947. Since the adoption was private, there are no public records concerning her birth parents with any courts in Philadelphia. B has extremely limited information about her birth parents, not even access to her own birth certificate. This is my first case researching an adoption and as expected, we've hit several brick walls.

I'm hoping that by sharing this story with "the world" someone with specific experience researching Philadelphia adoption or any advice concerning adoption can give us some pointers. Hopefully someday, someone who is also searching for this family will find my blog and get in touch. I'm afraid this is going to be a very informational and probably long post. I just can't seem to omit any details when I talk about our search so far. I can't help but think some small little detail will crack the case!

Who are we looking for?

A lawyer was able to track down the names of B's parents- Catherine Haney and Joseph Levinsky, and their application for a marriage license. They were married 27 Aug 1945 in Horsham, PA and it was the first marriage for both. Our entire search has been based off this document.

  • Joseph Levinksy was born in PA and his parents were born in Russia, both deceased. He lived in Horsham, PA and his occupation is listed as "Disabled Vet".
  • Catherine Haney is 22 years old and her occupation is a waitress. Her father is Thomas Haney born in Ireland. Her mother is Mabel (Vaquen, Vaguen, Naquen, Naguen) born in Ireland. Both are listed as deceased at the time of application in 1945.

B was sent some non identifying information about her mother and father from the birth certificate. Her mother and father were married in 1945 and divorced before B was born, 7 Dec 1947. Her mother was 24 years old when she had B and was of Irish Catholic descent. The lawyer also found out that Joseph Levinsky died in 1995 and gave his social security number.

After "exhausting all their resources" they could not find any information about Catherine Haney after the birth of B.

Right now we're focused on Catherine and her parents, Thomas and Mabel Haney. I've searched and searched and searched and there only seems to be 1 Thomas Haney who fits our place and time and could have had a daughter Catherine. This is Thomas J Haney, born in Milwaukee, WI 1876/1878. I haven't found any other family that matches up.

Sources I have for this Thomas J Haney:

June 1917- Marriage License and Application for Thomas J Haney and Mary C Rush.

  • He is a hatter, born in Milwaukee Wisconsin, DOB- 10 Oct 1876, married once before and that wife died 2 years previous in Philadelphia. Mother's name was Sara Shearer and father was John Haney, both born in Delaware. Father is dead, mother's residence is unknown. 

April 1918- WWI Draft Registration Card

  • Hatter working for John B. Stetson, DOB 11 Oct 1878, living with wife Mary C Haney at 2123 N. Lawrence St. Philadelphia.

October 1918- Wife Mary C Rush dies. Find a grave memorial with obituary from the Philadelphia Public Ledger.

Jan 1920- US Federal Census , 1026 E. Palmer Street, Philadelphia

  • A lodger, 41 years old, born in Pennsylvania, birthplace of parents unknown/US, living with wife Mabel Haney, works in the Shipyard.
  • Mabel- 28 years old, born in Delaware, birthplace of parents unknown/US, works as a former in the Hat Industry.
  • **I believe Thomas J Haney and his previous wife, Mary C Rush Haney had a son Francis Haney. He can be found in the 1920 census living with Mary's mother and sisters. He was born abt 1918. I can't find him in 1940. 

*Mabel Haney dies March 1925. We found her Certificate of Death. They were living at 1529 Cadwallader St.

April 1930- US Federal Census, 2806 E. Columbia Ave, Philadelphia

  • Lodger, 48 years old, widowed, born in Wisconsin, parents born in Ireland, laborer in the Hat Industry.

April 1940- US Federal Census, Home for Indigent Men and Women, Philadelphia

  • Inmate, 63 years old, born in Wisconsin, widowed. Was not living here in 1935.

 ----the end. That's all I have on him. From his marriage application to Mary C Rush, we know he was married before her in 1917 and his first wife died in 1915. I believe his first wife was Laura Wheatcroft Wragg Martel (yupp she was married twice before Thomas). And she was considerably older with 4 children. We're waiting for the marriage application to confirm this suspicion.

B's mother, Catherine Haney was supposedly born abt 1923 from what we know of her age from the marriage application and at B's birth. In the 1930 census I found a Florence Haney (b. 1921 Philadelphia) and a Mabel Catherine Haney (B. 1923) living in Christ's Home for Children in Warminster, PA. Their father was born in Wisconsin and their mother was born in Pennsylvania. Then in 1940 Catherine Haney is still living in the home at age 17. I've contacted Christ Home and without proof of relationship and proof that Catherine Haney is dead, they can't release any information or documents to us. They have confirmed the residence of the 2 sisters in 1930 and Catherine in 1940 in the home, but that is all. I believe we could find out VERY important information from these sealed records. But how to prove Catherine is alive or dead if we have no idea what happened to her after her daughter B was adopted in December 1947????

So I'm thinking the above Thomas J Haney and Mabel Haney from the 1920 census had these 2 daughters, Florence in 1921 and Catherine in 1923. Then Mabel died in 1925. Thomas couldn't handle raising the 2 young girls and supporting the family so the girls go to the orphanage. Christ Home for Children is in Warminster, PA and Joseph Levinsky and Catherine Haney are married in Horsham, PA. These 2 towns border each other. An interesing coincidence? If this story of events is correct, it's quite a sad story. I just really want to bring some closure to B who has wondered about her parents all these years...connecting her to a half sibling or cousin would be like winning the lottery!!

Any and all feedback, suggestions, or encouragement greatly appreciated!!


* Historical US Flags: Don't Tread on Me

Picture of Gadsden Flag in Philadelphia (desperateGenie July 2011) With so many historical sights to be seen in Philadelphia, sometimes it's nice to just walk the side streets to learn the history. This flag was looking so perfect on the beautiful 4th of July in Philadelphia I snapped a picture.

I recognized the snake symbol from Benjamin Franklin's "Join or Die" political cartoon, I didn't know the origin or meaning of this flag. A random sunny day picture has taught me a little history lesson.

Called the Gadsden Flag, in memorial of it's designer American General Christopher Gadsden, it was one of the first flags used to display the unity of the states. It was the first flag carried into battle with the British by the Continental Marine Corps. Gadson was inspired to have a snake on the flag by the before mentioned "Join or Die". Britain was sending prisoners to the states and Benjamin Franklin thought they should send Britain cargoes of snakes in return. 

From, I learned another reason the colonists identified with a snake. Apparently in 1775 an anonymous author wrote to a Philadelphia newspaper with very specific insight into the snake symbolism. Scholars believe this anonymous writer was none other than Benjamin Franklin himself.

The snake: "She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. ... she never wounds 'till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.

I wonder why the snake is referred to as a "she"? I like it!

It's interesting to learn about the symbols and signs used by the founding fathers to unite the country, and how they were used!

Links to learn more!

Gadsden Flag History

Gadsden Flag Information from


* Touring the streets of my Philadelphia Roots : Stamper Street & South Front Street

Lately, a big chunk of my genealogy research time has been dedicated to tracking down past residences of my ancestors. I've been mapping and researching census and vital records to learn more. Did they own their house? Did they live in a luxury apartment on the Upper East Side? Were they farmers working on their own farm? Is the house still there?? So much to be learned. I took to the streets of Philadelphia to find my Grimm and Nolen Roots...

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* wedding wednesday: Betsy Ross Ashburn Claypoole

My wedding wednesday was inspired by our visit to the Betsy Ross House. It was a beautiful summer day exploring historic philadelphia. We really enjoyed touring the historic house on Arch Street (between 2nd and 3rd Streets) in Philadelphia, PA. This is the original house Betsy Ross rented while running her upholstery business when George Washington approached her to construct the American Flag. It was a fun experience and I suggest checking it out. We learned a lot in a short time at an affordable cost, the tour was $4 for adults. There is no photography allowed in the house. One aspect of Betsy's life that I found particularly interesting was her marriages. I had no idea she was married 3 times or the tragedies she endured as a very young woman. A timeline of Betsy's marriages...

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