The World According to Madeline: The Luck of the Andresens
I hope you are enjoying Saint Patrick’s Day. I spent mine in remembrance. If you know me at all, you know how much I loved my grandmother (Madeline Andresen). It was enough for me to get an Irish tattoo in remembrance. Five years ago, knowing that she was the last strong link to my Irish heritage, I had her write a blog post about how my great-grandmother immigrated to the United States from Ireland. Here is the beautiful Madeline:
My mother, Anne Hickey (Higgins?) Darsey, was born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1900. She was the daughter of Bridget Higgins, born in 1885. Anne was the illegitimate child of Bridget and her father was unknown. Anne did not have a good relationship with her mother, but did with her grandmother,Bridget Higgins. She was a thorn in her mother’s side. Bridget left for England to work while Anne was still an infant. Anne was left in the workhouse and where she was christened. She was not christened at at St. Michael’s, the local catholic church, because of her illegitimacy. To save Anne from abandonment, her grandmother took her from the workhouse.
Anne adored her grandmother, who raised her until she was 10-years-old. Anne’s beloved grandmother was very indulgent with Anne. On the way to school, Anne and her classmates passed the local protestant church and graveyard. The children all would swing on the gate to the cemetery and sing: “Prody-wody ring your bell, eat your supper and go to hell”. Anne was never admonished by her grandmother for singing this rather disrespectful ditty about the protestants. Her grandmother was a great reader and taught the importance of reading to Anne. She always told Anne, “If you have a cup of tea and a book to read you don’t need anything else”. This philosophy taught Anne the love of reading and the importance of education. (This philosophy was carried on into Anne’s adult life when she became a parent and always instilled in her children the importance of an educaton).
In 1910 grandma Higgins, Anne and her grandma’s youngest child, Joe (he was about 9 years older than Anne) emigrated to the United States. Anne, her grandmother and Uncle Joe landed in Boston (not Ellis Island). Anne’s mother met the ship and so Anne finally met her mother. Anne’s mother’s greeting on meeting her was an admonishment for wearing her new coat on the ship and getting it dirty. Bridget Higgins had traveled from England to the United States (New York City). She went to the United States with her sister, Fanny. In the United States, Bridget met and married Jeramiah Hickey. She then produced three more children, Madeline, Fanny and Tom. All these half-siblings were strangers to Anne. She was placed in school in New York and was put back grade because she did not know the monetary system of the United States. This demotion made her very unhappy. None the less, she enjoyed school and graduated from the eighth grade. Anne wanted to continue school and graduate from High School, but she had to go to work to help support the family.
John Dempsey Darsey, my father, was born in Macon, Georgia in 1895. He was the oldest of five children: Albert, Marion, Anne and Rosalie. Rosalie died as an infant. My father always said that Rosalie died in a fire. We never heard the details of said fire. John’s father was a railroad engineer and worked for the Panama Canal Railway Company. He contracted malaria. In Panama, at that time, there was no cure for Malaria so he was sent home to die; which he did do. His death left Anne’s mother, Elizabeth with 5 children to feed. There was no governmental agency for her to appeal to for aid. Elizabeth then moved to Atlanta to Peachtree Street where she opened a boarding house and thus was able to support her family. By now, John was 15 years old. He joined the Navy by lying about his age (said he was 16) and his mother signed the necessary papers. Thus, Elizabeth was left with one less mouth to feed.My mother, Anne Hickey, met her future husband, John, at a street dance in New York City. He was a young sailor and Anne was but 17 years old. John told Anne his name was “Arthur” because “sailors never told girls their real name”. Therefore, Anne called “John” “Arthur” for the rest of her life.
Anne and John married within a year after meeting. Anne’s mother, Bridget disapproved of the marriage, so banished her from the family apartment. The newlyweds, Anne and John, went to live with Aunt Fanny. Anne was soon pregnant with her oldest child, Elizabeth Anne (Lily).(Sept. 1919) Lily was born while Anne and John were still living with Aunt Fanny. While Lily was still an infant, John was transferred to Key West, Florida, to the Navy Yard. Anne, with Lily, then followed him to Key West. In Key West, Anne and John’s second child was born, Madeline Ellen.(November 1920). Anne did not like Key West. She was homesick for New York City and her family there. She was very happy to leave Key West when Madeline was nine months old. Lily was almost two years old at that time. So, the family returned to New York for a short time; then to Portsmouth, New Hampshire; then back to New York City where Anne’s third daughter was born, Edith Bridget (Biddy) (February 1922).
And that is the story of us…the Andresens. I’d say we’ve been pretty lucky.