Sunday, January 17, 2021

Family Legend (With a Nugget of Truth Found)

 This week's prompt for the 52 Ancestors challenge is "Family Legend". We all have these stories in our families and it's no exception with mine. One of the family legends that my father passed down was that my paternal grandfather, Michael Doherty came to America aboard the S.S. Carpathia. Yes, that Carpathia that helped rescue the Titanic survivors in 1912. My grandfather Michael did take a ship aboard to America but it was definitely not the Carpathia. It was the S.S. Calvin Austin. This information was confirmed in my grandfather's naturalization record. 

However, I digress from who I want to highlight in this week's post. My maternal great grandfather Anton Gailunas was a man of legend. I have been slowly piecing his timeline together based on the stories I heard of him serving in World War I for the British navy after leaving Latvia (serving as a quartermaster), and even going down to Brazil for a time. I was told stories about him living amongst the tribes on the Tocantins River, using his machete to cut through the rainforest and seeing the anacondas and other wildlife that you would likely encounter. My grandmother would tell about a fish that he liked to prepare after eating it in Brazil. 

Now this story sounds a bit outrageous and you're probably thinking how could you even verify such a thing. If he was living amongst a tribe, there is not likely going to be any records that you can just simply look up or contact the Brazil archives for. And I thought it was a lost cause. Until I came across an interesting item: 

In a column called "Marine Mishaps" of the 10 Sep. 1920 issue of American Shipping, there was an entry for the ship Northwestern Bridge. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may recall that this is the same ship that brought Anton to America (New Orleans). The entry reads "NORTHWESTERN BRIDGE - Bahia, str., in collision with Brazilian steamer Itapuhy. Slight damage."  Bahia is one of the states of Brazil. The Brazilian state of Tocantins is bordered by Bahia. It is likely that Anton was on the ship while transporting goods and had to remain in Brazil for some time while the ship was repaired. 

This will require further investigation to study more about the merchant vessel, Northwestern Bridge and look for any newspaper accounts that may have talked about this collision. I'm hoping that I will find a virtual machete to cut through this story and find out the truth about my great grandfather, Anton Gailunas. 

What family legends have been passed down in your family? What records have you uncovered that may prove or disprove the stories? 

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