I have written of my long-lost great-uncle Antanas Baltrūnas born on 8 April 1898 in Preibiai, Panevezio, Lithuania to Juozas Baltrūnas (Joseph Billie) and Salomėja Markevičiūtė (Sally Morris) – here. He immigrated to the United States arriving in New York on Tuesday, 22 April 1902 with his mother. The pair joined his father in Pittsfield, Massachusetts where he resided with his family and later a cousin Anthony Gaston/Gasson and wife Ona/Anna (Vyšniauskas/Wishnewski) Gasson (his mother’s niece through her sister Elžbieta). He used the name Anthony George Billie/Billings. The 1923 Pittsfield City Directory reads ”Anthony Billings, rem to Detroit Mich. Then he is gone….
His two nieces recall that “Uncle Tony” arrived on Easter with solid chocolate bunnies for them (one Easter, many Easters?). Details are fuzzy, but they recollect his joining the military, losing a leg (or maybe an arm) and residing in New York. His sister Connie, in 1959, mentioned at a funeral that her brothers were all deceased. So he presumably died after 1939 [the youngest niece would have been four and at an age to recall chocolate bunnies] and before 1959. When his sister Connie died in 1974, her estate was split between my mother and her siblings, so likely he never married and had no offspring.
My brother found a box of letters and photos whilst cleaning out my mom’s house this week. Amongst these papers was an envelope. In Aunt Connie’s handwriting it reads:
Ralph March 4, 1943
Tony May 26, 1955
Charles Sept 9,1959
Happy dance!!! – Tony May 26, 1955!!!
Then I opened the envelope. A mass card and a receipt for a single grave for Anthony Billings at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery from the trustees of St John’s Catholic Church in Rensselaer, New York!!!
Happy, happy dance!
That led to the discovery of him (likely) in the 1930 Albany, New York census residing with 73-year-old John Bruce at 103 Broadway:
Anthony was single. It appears that he never married. The census tells us that he never attended school but could read and write. He was a laborer working odd jobs. His birth year is off slightly (not unusual) and his birthplace is listed as Massachusetts (perhaps in error or he might have fibbed to avoid filing for Naturalization (which could explain why an alien registration card has not been located). Both parents are reported to be of Russia (common for Lithuanians as the country had previously been under Russian rule).
The next discovery was a newspaper article mentioning an Anthony Billings of Troy being treated at the hospital for lacerations to his head, received while on a job site (Hotel Van Curler, Schenectady), working for Atlas Roofing of Newburgh as a sheet metal worker:
I haven’t located my uncle in the 1940 census or the 1942 draft.
I do have his 1940 Alien Registration Papers. Although his signature is different from his 1917 draft registration and he reports his birth in the town of Kaunas (which is the Province of his birth; Pumpenai is the town and Panevezys the district) all other details are consistent, including a reported birth date of 20 April 1900 (same as his 1917 draft registration).
Tony reports a residence of 530 East Washington Ave., Bridgeport, Connecticut on 23 Dec 1940. He “thinks” he entered the United States through New York in 1900 (exact date and ship name/unknown) under the name Anthony Baltrun. He uses the name Tony Billie. He is single with no wife or children; parents are deceased. He is 5’4″, 140 pounds with brown-gray hair and blue eyes. He has been in the United States for 40 years, having been born in or near Kovono (Kaunas), Lithuania (but does not know the Providence) has not registered for citizenship and plans to remain in the United States permanently. He is usually a laborer but at the time was unemployed. He has never been arrested or in the military and belongs to no clubs or other organizations. Included is a print of his right index finger.
We do not know how long he stayed in Connecticut or when he returned to New York.
I spoke to the cemetery. Anthony died at Memorial Hospital in Albany, New York of conjunctive heart failure. His last known address was 25 Glen Street in Rensselaer, New York.
I searched the New York newspapers on Fulton History for an obituary or death notice with success!
Happy, happy, happy dance!
Don’t let the name “Fulton History” fool you, the site offers a plethora of free New York papers; I have discovered hundreds of articles on other family members. Hmmmm…. If I had searched “Connie Barton” AND Athol in this database, I would have located his death years ago – another lesson learned!
Off to order a death certificate!
Fingers crossed for more Anthony happy dances over the next few weeks!