This week’s prompt is longevity. Rather than write about an ancestor that lived a very long life, I’ve decided to write about an ancestor whose identity was unknown for 106 years. In the fall of 2017, after almost 3 years of waiting and researching DNA matches to my father and his two siblings, I finally had enough evidence that led me to a name. His name is Nathaniel Sigourney Barker Goffe, and he is my paternal great-grandfather.
Nathaniel S.B. Goffe was born on April 7, 1866, in Manhattan, New York City, New York, to Sigourney Barker Goffe and Mary Galley. On the 1900 US Federal Census, Nathaniel is 14 years old and living in Tiverton, Rhode Island, with his mother, his mother’s second husband (Antone Perry), his sister Marie Goffe, and three half-siblings (Antone “Anthony” Perry, Joseph Perry, and Theresa Perry), His other half-sister Rose Perry was not yet born. The census lists his occupation as “back boy,” which probably would have been in a dry goods store of some sort.
Nathaniel’s father, Sigourney Barker Goffe, died in 1905. According to the 1910 US Federal Census, Nathaniel, now 24 years old, was still living with his mother Mary (Galley) Perry, his sister Marie Goffe, and his half-siblings Antone, Joseph, Theresa, and Rose Perry. Noticeably absent from the 1910 Census is Nathaniel’s mother’s second husband, Antone Perry. Nathaniel’s occupation is listed as ‘none,’ on the Federal Census, however, the Tiverton City Directory for 1910 lists his occupation as cashier at Marshall’s.
It’s at this point in time I can only speculate as to how Nathaniel met and knew my grandmother’s mother, Amy Beulah Perkins. Because my grandmother’s birth wasn’t even recorded until 1947, we are still unsure if my grandmother was really born in January of 1911, or if she was actually born in 1910. On the 1910 Federal Census, Amy Perkins was living in Bristol, Rhode Island, working in the rubber works industry as a “dragger/doper.”.
The image above shows where Amy and Nathaniel were living in 1910, and a straight line showing the most direct path between the two. I suspect the most direct route from Bristol to Tiverton in 1910 would be by ferry or boat, but I don’t know. There was a large rubber company in Bristol, RI, called the National India Rubber Company, later known as the US Rubber Company, however, I don’t know if that is where Amy Perkins was employed. Tiverton, Rhode Island was also home to several mills at the time, so it’s entirely possible Amy was employed in Tiverton. On my grandmother’s birth certificate, her mother’s occupation is listed as “mill employee.”
My grandmother, Thelma Evangeline Perkins, was born on January 8, 1911, in Bristol, RI. Her mother Amy disappears shortly after she is born (more about that in a future post), and cannot be found on any type of record after 1910.
On December 1, 1911, Nathaniel Goffe (25 years old), married Eva B. Robinson in Fall River, Massachusetts. Nathaniel went on to work as a cashier and clerk for the Army Navy YMCA in Newport, RI between 1913 and 1923. He also lived in Newport, RI during those years.
Nathaniel and his wife Eva went on to have 6 children together:
- Dorothy L. Goffe, born on November 24, 1912, in Fall River, MA
- Nathan S. Goffe, born on April 5, 1916, in Newport, RI
- Edith R. Goffe, born in 1919, in Rhode Island
- Gladys Viola Goffe, born in 1921 in Rhode Island
- Earl C. Goffe, born on November 29, 1924, in Newport, RI
- Phyllis Goffe, born on October 20, 1930 in Maine
In 1930, Nathaniel & his family moved to Schenectedy, New York, where he worked as a manager of a dry goods store. In the same year, the family moved to Maine, and were listed as living in Bangor, Maine in 1935. Nathaniel worked as a manager of Parker’s IGA Stores in Bangor, ME in 1936, and in 1937, the Bangor City Directory lists him as the manager for Norumba Market.
Tragedy also struck his family in 1937, when his daughter Edith died after a sudden, recent illness at the age of 18 in Bangor, ME. By 1940, the family moved back to New York where Nathaniel worked as a superintendent of an apartment house in Manhattan through 1942. The family moved back to Fall River, MA, in 1943 and Nathaniel worked as a guard for the Firestone company until his retirement in 1957. While living in Fall River, MA, he also was the manager of a First National Store in the same city.
Nathaniel died on July 14, 1966 in Fall River, MA. My grandmother told me the story about how, shortly after the end of World War II, her aunt Georgia May (my grandmother’s mother’s sister) offered to take her to meet her biological father and that he lived ‘nearby’ (aunt Georgia May was living in Cranston, RI in 1947). So, it would seem that aunt Georgia May knew the identity of my grandmother’s father, but it is unknown whether or not Nathaniel ever knew of the existence of his daughter, Thelma (my grandmother).
My grandmother declined the offer to meet her father because “he had a family and children” and she “didn’t want to bring upset into their house.”
I believe the youngest child of Nathaniel Goffe and Eva Robinson is still alive, residing in Fall River, MA with one of her own children. Phyllis (Goffe) Correa/Correia would be 87 years old today, and would be my grandmother’s half-sister. I would love the opportunity to speak with her, or one of her children to find out if any of them knew about my grandmother, and, if anyone on the Goffe side would have a family photograph of Nathaniel S.B. Goffe that they would be willing to share with me.