April 06, 2012 06:04 PM by Candace Young
In recent weeks on NBC‘s Who Do You Think You Are? we’ve seen Rita Wilson solve a mystery from her father’s past, Blair Underwood follow his roots to Africa, and Reba McEntire trace her ancestry to Europe. This week, Edie Falco sets out on a historical journey of her own. Keep reading for highlights…
Edie Falco, best known for tough female roles on TV, such as her stint on The Sopranos, lives in Manhattan with her young son and daughter, who are adopted. Edie grew up with an Italian father with big family get-togethers. Her mother’s parents died earlier and there was less interaction there – she wants to know more about that side.
She visits her mother, who shows her a family tree her cousin Linda made. Her mother’s grandfather, George McGrath’s, roots can be traced to Wales. At some point, he and his mother made their way to New York. She heads there, speculating on why George took his mother’s maiden name, McGrath, rather than his father’s name, Brown.
At the New York Library, Edie finds George and his wife, Florence, on a 1920 census. She is stunned to hear that George and his mother were both born in the United States. His father was born in England – the family tree appears to have been wrong about George being from Wales. She also learns that George died suddenly at the hospital in 1946 in New York.
Edie follows up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where George was born. She finds birth records at a cathedral and learns he had his father, Charles Brown’s, last name at his baptism. In fact, Charles attended the baptism. She wonders why he stopped using his father’s surname.
Her next angle is to look through city directories. Edie and the researcher find evidence of a C. C. Brown living alone in Minnesota around that time – he was from England. She learns that Charles Childs Brown was the founder of a newspaper in Royalton, Minnesota. He later died in Duluth. The account she’s reading makes no mention of his wife or son, George.
In Duluth, Edie is stunned to read an account of how Charles’s son, George, died after being struck by a car at about age 16 in Albany, New York. Since she saw a photo of George at about age 70, she is confused. The researcher explains that newspapers back then often jumped to conclusions. Ultimately, she learns that Charles had two divorces and married three times! He divorced from George’s mother when George was two years-old. When Charles’ mother, Sister Katherine passed away (after Charles), George came forward to claim her estate.
Edie finds out that Sister Katherine was born at sea! She heads to England to learn more. A historian meets her in London. There she learns that Sister Katherine’s maiden name was Kindley. At age 10, she was living with the Childs family in Penzance – she was the only Kindley in the household.
In Penzance, Edie meets with an archivist who helps her find out that Katherine was the daughter of Ralph and Dorothy Kindley. Ralph was a master mariner. From newspaper archives, she learns that Katherine’s mother, Dorothy, who was originally a Childs, died at age 28, just two years after Katherine was baptized.
Finally, Edie meets with a maritime historian to find out about Ralph. He takes her out on a ship typical of the type of vessel Ralph would have captained. The historian explains that it’s likely Dorothy spent her life on board the ship with her husband, which is why Katherine would have been born at sea. He is able to pinpoint that Katherine was likely born on a voyage from London to New Orleans. Edie then learns that Ralph died in 1840 near New York on board a schooner traveling from Africa – he died of fever. Katherine lost both her parents before age 10, explaining why she lived with her grandmother.
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