Week 20: John Harry McGlynn

Amy Johnson Crow’s optional theme for Week 20 of the 52 Ancestors Challenge was Black Sheep.  It was the week to let those ancestors that may have caused or found trouble shine.  Like everyone, our ancestors are mostly shades of gray and affected by circumstances and their responses to those circumstances.  One of my Gray Sheep was John Harry McGlynn.

John Harry, or Harry as he was often called, was born Aug 23,1900 to Frederick Andrew and Alice McGlynn. He was their third child, all sons to this point, and he appears to be the first child born with the last name McGlynn[1]. John’s father and mother were 35 and 20 years old respectively when he was born. They had been married 4 years and both were from England. After John Harry’s birth, two more children, both girls, were born, they also had the McGlynn surname.  Thus, theirs was a family of five children with Harry both the youngest son and solidly the middle child.

Death took John Harry’s sister Alice at the young age of 10 years old. There has been family lore suggesting something terrible happened to Alice preceding and leading to her eventual death. Her death certificate simply says she died of mitral insufficiency causing a broken compensation. Whether it was due to an overexertion or a disease process such as rheumatic fever, John Harry lost his younger sister, less than two weeks before his twelfth Christmas. At age 14, he left school having only an 8th grade education.

When John Harry was a young man of 17 he joined the war effort.  United States involvement in the war had begun about a year prior to his enlistment. John Harry was still too young to be drafted; the Selective Service Act of 1917 would have only called for the registration of men between 21 and 31 years old. His enlistment would have been voluntary. It appears that he misrepresented his year of birth as 1899[2] to appear to be above the age of 18. He served in World War I as a Private in the 108th Infantry Machine Gun Company. Five months later he was gassed at the Hindenburg Line. He was discharged from duty at the conclusion of the war. John Harry McGlynn ultimately received the Purple Heart for his service in World War I.

“Heroes of the 108th,” Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, NY, 4 Nov 1918, 18, [digital image online], Fultonhistory.com, website created and maintained by Tom Trynski.

“Heroes of the 108th,” Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, NY, 4 Nov 1918, 18, [digital image online], Fultonhistory.com, website created and maintained by Tom Trynski.

On June 3rd, 1922, John Harry McGlynn married Edna Elizabeth Richards. She was the eighteen-year-old youngest child and second daughter of Thearon Richards and Sophia Wombwell Richards. In that year, John Harry worked as a shipper and Edna as a bookkeeper for tobacconists Hill & Waite. They quickly began a family and by 1925 were parents to two young boys. In the next year, Edna became pregnant again.  Edna died in early 1927 shortly after the birth of their third son.  The baby boy was adopted by another family; the toddler boys stayed with John Harry.

John Harry and the boys remained with his parents, at least until 1930. Times were rough, the Great Depression had begun and money and work were scarce. John made some poor choices that led him to the wrong side of the law; he was fortunate to have received favorable judgments. Sometime after 1930, the children were sent or taken to the Hillside Children’s home. Perhaps John was looking to start a new life when he married Louise Lee in 1931. For a time, they removed from Rochester to live in South Carolina, where Louise’s family was from. John Harry worked as a baker while they were in South Carolina. They soon returned to Rochester and John’s troubles returned. He was hospitalized in mid 1932 at the Batavia Veterans Hospital. The conditions or diseases he exhibited were cicatrix appendectomy, suggesting a problem with a scar formed after appendectomy, the area could have been ulcerated or a source of pain if terminal nerve endings were encased in the scar; neurasthenia, more commonly known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and likely a result of the war and the gassing he received; and a chronic bronchitis, which may also have been associated with the gassing during World War I.


John Harry McGlynn

After his hospital discharge, John had more skirmishes with the law, eventually breaking into a bar the night of March 13, 1936 and stealing $8.40. This time he was sent to state prison. It is unclear if his separation from Louise preceded or resulted from this, but although never divorced, it appears that their marriage ended around this time. Louise called herself a widow of John in city directories, not acknowledging that he was alive but imprisoned. Louise died in July 1951.

After his release, John Harry worked as a bartender & restaurant manager. In the years prior to his first wife’s death and his incarceration he had worked as a chauffer and it is likely he may have had chauffer work as well.   He had worked in places such as New York City and Chicago at different times. John again fell ill. He died at the Batavia Veteran’s hospital on May 4, 1959 from tuberculosis.

[1] Both William Frederick and Maurice Neely have births certificates that look as if they have been altered, sometime after their initial registration with the NYS Department of Health. The boys’ names read as W Frederick Parsons aka William Frederick McGlynn (in a different handwriting) and Morris Neally Parsons aka Maurice Nealy McGlynn (again a different handwriting). On both certificates the Father is listed as Frederick Parsons and the mother’s name before marriage is Alice McGlynn.  The father’s name has also been adjusted with aka Frederick McGlynn. The original handwriting on both certificates appears to be different, that makes sense as they were born and registered at different times. The handwriting that has supplied the aka name appears to be the same for both, leading to the conclusion that was added at a later time.

[2] The image of the headstone application for John H McGlynn shows the year of birth as “corrected” to 1899. In addition the image of the military service card abstract for John H McGlynn states he was 18 years 7 months old at the time of enlistment. In actuality he was 17 years 7 months old. Both John Harry’s birth certificate obtained from the NYS Department of Health and the Monroe County birth certificate transcript show his birth year as 1900.


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