An ancestor FAN club is always an important source of information about extended social contacts between one family and others. Sometimes, it is even interesting to investigate much more recent FAN clubs.
My Nana, Julia Scerbak Sabo, was nothing if not consistent in her life. She was very religious and her social circle was almost exclusively other Carpatho-Rusyn friends and relatives who had a common origin in the neighboring villages of Ujak and Hajtovka, Slovakia.
As I was the official Christmas card addresser for Nana for many years, I remember two surnames that today I recognize as most definitely not from the villages – Nolan and Vander Woude.
Nolan is a name that I can associate with a person – Nana’s friend Elsie Nolan. Elsie and Nana were close in age and I even remember going to Elsie’s home in Clifton a couple of times when Nana went visiting. She lived at 8 Cloverdale Road. They had been friends for many years and often spoke on the phone. Elsie was widowed and, if she had any children, I don’t think I ever met them.
However, how a Dutch name like Vander Woude ever crept into Nana’s social circle, I had no idea. I also can’t ever remember meeting anyone by that name.
I’m not sure why I started thinking about Elsie today, but I decided to research her life to learn more about her. I first pulled out my family albums because Nana was a saver and I was sure I’d find an old Christmas card or two that Elsie sent her.
Sure enough, one of the first cards I found was indeed from Elsie. The front is a cute sleigh scene and the card dates from the 1950s or perhaps early 1960s, so I am not posting the front. However, there is a message inside to “Jule” to Nana (who was Julia).
From the square stain on the inside of the card, I imagine there was either a Christmas stamp or small religious image included in Elsie’s holiday greetings.
I’ve actually learned quite a bit about Elsie Nolan, but there is one question that can’t be answered – How did Nana and Elsie meet and become friends?
Elsie Minerva Stiles was born on 1 June 1891 in Paterson, Passaic, New Jersey, so she was two years older than my grandmother. Her mother was Evana Milnes, born 12 February 1871 and who died at the very young age of 20 on 2 February 1892, just days before her 21st birthday.
Eva, as she was called, married Edgar M. Stiles on 5 December 1891 in Paterson. Edgar was born c1869 and died on 15 November 1941, Spring Valley, Rockland, New York.
Whether Edgar was Elsie’s father I haven’t been able to determine. Her birth date in the 1900 census matches the month and year on her gravestone, so she was born six months before her mother married Edgar.
Given that Edgar married (2) Charlotte Haver on 10 July 1894, also in Paterson, but Elsie was living with her grandparents in 1900, he may have felt unable to care for a little girl or allowed her grandparents to raise her if he was actually her stepfather. Another question that probably has no answer.
Evana Milnes had one brother, Fleetwood, who also died at a young age, being just 28 years old, on 7 April 1906. However, he had married and had one child, son Henry B. Milnes.
Henry Milnes, father of Evana and Fleetwood, was up in years by 1906 and wrote his own will on 6 May 1906, a month after Fleetwood’s passing. It was recorded on 8 April 1907.
Henry left his real estate and grocery business to wife Martha with bequests to his remaining daughter, Mary Elizabeth Fair, and grandchildren Elsie Stiles and Henry B. Milnes.
Martha survived Henry by 14 years, passing away in 1921.
This somewhat fragile family stability may have led Elsie to marry Timothy Lyons in 1908 in New Jersey. She would only been about 16 or 17 years old at the time she married.
Timothy was a full decade older than Elsie, born in 1881 in New Jersey. By 1910, they were living at 322 Montgomery Street in Passaic, which was no where near Nana’s Rusyn family and friends. Tim was working at a livery stable as a hackman. Elsie reported being the mother of one child, who was living, but no child was enumerated in the home.
By 1920, the Lyons family had moved to Clifton and one year old daughter, Evanna, was at home with them.
In 1930, Elsie Lyons is enumerated as divorced and is at home in Clifton at 14 Vernon Avenue with daughter Evana, plus boarders Stephania Zak, 18, and Joseph Mastroberte, 34. She owned her own home, valued at $6000. That was quite a hefty amount at the start of the Great Depression.
Sometime between 1930 and 1940, Elsie married (2) John Nolan. The family still lived on Vernon Avenue and Evanna was at home, aged 22.
John Nolan was quite a bit younger than Elsie, having been born on 12 August 1905. However, John died on 4 February 1944, just 38 years old.
John and Elsie had no known children together. His obituary states that he was a local baseball pitcher – a very interesting occupation to have at anytime, but particularly in the middle of World War II. The Nolan family lived in Ramsey, New Jersey when John died. At some point after his death, Elsie moved back to Clifton, probably to the house I remember on Cloverdale Road.
Elsie survived husband John (who was buried in the Milnes family plot at Cedar Park Cemetery in Paterson, New Jersey) by many years, passing away on 16 August 1980.
John Nolan was a member of the St. Clements Episcopal Church in Hawthorne, Bergen, New Jersey. Elsie’s religion is unknown; her obituary only mentions a funeral home service.
The only connection I can think of as to how Elsie and Nana met might be through my family’s store, Central Market Company, which was a butcher shop. Perhaps Elsie shopped there.
What happened to Elsie’s only child, Evana?
Evana Elizabeth Lyons was born 24 January 1918 and died on 27 March 1999.
Evana married Abram Cornelius Vander Woude! Now I know why I was addressing Christmas cards to them.
Abram Vander Woude was born 24 October 1919 and died on 12 September 2003, when he was living in Ohio.
Abram was survived by one child, who may still be living today, so I will omit details about that person.
Elsie Stiles Lyons Nolan was a close friend of Nana’s for many years. Now, I know much more about her life, which wasn’t easy. She was a strong lady who proved she could take care of herself.