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Kathleen Ann Paul

Kathleen Paul Cortese 2013

I was born during World War II  on the 21st of May 1943 in New York City. I am the youngest of eight children born to Edward J. Paul age forty-six and Ethel Morris age forty-three. At the time of my birth, my family  lived in a railroad flat at 160 West 66th Street with my mother’s uncle Thomas Morris, my brother Tommy and my sisters Edna, Marion and Marylou. My two oldest brothers Walter and Eddie were serving overseas and Tommy was threatening to enlist as soon as he turned eighteen in June.

Needless to say expecting a baby came as quite  surprise to my middle-aged parents. Momma started feeling ill around Thanksgiving of 1942. She excused her indigestion and fatigue as worry over her boys and never mentioned a word about it to Daddy. Accompanied by her friend Julia O’Connor she went to see a doctor. After a full examination the serious looking physician told my frightened mother to get dressed and to come back to his office, and to bring Mrs. O’Connor with her.  Fearing the worst Momma said, “I grabbed on tightly to Julia’s hand and prepared myself for what I was sure was going to be a death sentence.” The grim faced doctor looked directly into my mother’s eyes and asked, “Mrs. Paul do you know what’s wrong with you?” Then a big smile came across the jokester’s face as he laughingly said, “You’ve got a good case of old fashion pregnancy!”

Momma said, “Mrs. O’Connor and I giggled like two young school girls, all the way home on the subway.”  It’s amazing to me that the two woman had given birth to fourteen children between them, yet neither one, considered that my mother could be pregnant.  When my father was told Momma said “Daddy just about fainted, but he was thrilled once the initial shock wore off.”  Momma said she was happy too however at the same time, a bit embarrassed to tell her grown sons that she was expecting. Momma decided to write to my oldest brother stationed in North Africa and simply say, “I’m afraid to tell you that everything’s scarce at home except babies.” Walter known for having the brains in the family caught on right away and wrote back, “I can’t believe my mother would be scared to tell me anything!” Then he wrote to Eddie who was stationed somewhere in the Pacific to tell him that Momma and Daddy were having a baby.  Not long after that Walter and Eddie began writing home with their army buddies suggestions for baby names.

True to his word my youngest brother enlisted in the army the summer after I was born. Tommy should have started his senior year in high school that fall, but instead he attended basic training in Mississippi.  After boot camp he came home for a  two week leave. Two days before he was to be deployed to England he came down with Spinal Meningitis and was brought to an army hospital in the Bronx. All the boys in the Glider Unit that Tommy trained with shipped out and unfortunately, were ALL KILLED in the first offensive of the Battle of the Bulge.  When my brother recovered from his near fatal bout with the bacterial infection he was sent to the front lines in Europe with his new unit, and dropped behind enemy lines in the second wave of the Battle of the Bulge. Tommy laid frost bitten in the snow pretending to be dead while German soldiers walked all around him. He escaped capture by walking undetected to Belgium. Tommy would later tell Daddy that in a cemetery near the German/French/Belgium border  he saw many grave markers with the surname “Paul.” Mercifully for Momma and Daddy my three brothers returned home from World War II with no visible wounds.

In 1990 I set out on a journey with my sister, Marion to learn the true nationality of our paternal grandfather, Henry Paul. It had been long rumored that he was of German descent, but we had no proof. My three sisters were all very young during WWII, but they remembered Daddy taking them aside and emphatically saying, “WE ARE NOT GERMAN AND IF ANYONE ASKS SAY YOUR DUTCH.” I can’t begin to describe the feeling of exhilaration that came over me when Marion and I found our grandfather Henry Paul’s parents in the 1860 New York City Census. We were doing our research the old fashion way by going through reel after reel of microfilm when suddenly we came across a match. My poor sister’s arm must have been black and blue from me repeatedly hitting it while excitingly repeating, “OH,OH,OOH!”

Henry Paul Sr. and his wife Theckla Merkel were both bon in GERMANY, but their twin daughters Henrietta and Sophia were born in 1857 at 140 Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village. Another daughter, Louisa was born there in 1859. My grandfather Henry and another son Frederick were also born at that address a few years after the 1860 census was taken. FINDING OUT THE NATIONALITY OF MY GRANDFATHER, HENRY PAUL JR.’s PARENTS WAS WHAT HOOKED ME ON GENEALOGY!  It left me with the desire to find out more information about my other three sets of British Isle great grandparents. All my sisters and I knew about our four maternal great grandparents was that they were all born in Ireland. We also knew that our paternal grandmother, Sarah Skeggs was Irish on her mother’s side and we thought English on her father’s side. However I could have never imagined in my wildest dream that Sarah’s paternal roots would one day take me all the way back to Colonial America and John Irish “The Immigrant!”

Every time I found a  new clue regarding one of my ancestors, I wondered what their lives were about. I sometimes dreamt about writing about one of them, but which one? Whose story would I tell? Where would I begin? Plain and simple how do you write a book?  Then eleven years after I started tracing my roots I had a break through. I was thinking about a recent trip I had made to Ireland and remembering how much the Irish woman reminded me of my own mother.  Although Ethel Morris was born in Staten Island, New York like the women in Ireland she was friendly, sweet, soft spoken and had a very kind heart. And ooh how she loved a good cup of tea!  My sisters, Edna and Marion took our mother on her one and only trip to Ireland when she was age 84 and they said everywhere they traveled she would repeat to them, “SO THIS IS IRELAND!”  I started to question how different my mother’s life would’ve been had her own mother not died when she was four-years-old.  That started me thinking about my grandmother, “What had her hopes and dreams been?”  I was saddened when I realized what a waste of my grandmother’s life taken so young.  I began wondering  “Would it have made any difference to her 3 daughters, 26 grandchildren and 55 great grandchildren had she lived a fuller life?” I  tried to imagine how my grandmother would’ve thought then and how young women think today “Are they so different?”  Suddenly I knew the story I would write would be about my maternal grandmother BRIDGET BARRY, and the setting would be New York City between 1872 and 1904.

BEYOND FORGETTING YOUBeyond Forgetting You  – This is the story of my grandmother, Bridget Barry who lived in nineteenth century New York City. I re-created Bridget’s life and although it is fictional it is based on fact. She was born in 1872 when horse and wagons traveled over the cobblestone streets of a congested lower Manhattan. All the people on her family tree really existed and her father James and brother, John were truly wood peddlers. Originally I thought my book was going to begin with her birth (on a ship as it entered the mouth of the Hudson river) and go forward. However to my surprise it took a turn backwards. I soon realized that I had to know more about Bridget’s parents before I could begin to understand her.

They say that everyone has one good book in them and believe me I thought that was the case with me! After my book was published in 2005, I took a good year off, but found that I missed writing.



Forgotten Hero

Forgotten Hero: A Memoir – This book is about my father, Edward J. Paul and his family, and is set in New York City’s Greenwich Village. It begins in 1906 when Eddie is sent out by his mother to panhandle. As the Paul family’s story unfolds it is at the same time told through the experiences of Eddie as he grows up on the rough streets of the West Village.

As I mentioned before when I wrote Beyond Forgetting You I really did think it was just a fluke. However after a long weekend in Greenwich Village I was inspired to write Forgotten Hero, and at that time I thought to myself,  “Maybe I’m the exception and I have two books in me!” Then a few months ago my sister Edna sent me a letter she found amongst some old family photos. After reading the 1943 V-Mail to my mother from my brother Walter, I was inspired to begin writing Time Brings the Sweetest Memories. I had titled this book long before I thought I would ever write it. I guess somewhere in the recesses of my mind I’ve always felt my family’s story would be told in a Trilogy.

The book ‘s  time setting will be the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. This was when my parents Edward J. Paul and Ethel Morris married, and lived in New York City. The prologue begins with Ethel reading the V-Mail from her oldest son stationed in North Africa.  However the first chapter opens up in 1920 when Eddie and Ethel move into their first apartment at 42 West 65th street and start a family. That’s all I have so far, but now that I’ve completed my blog I plan to put all my energies into writing Time Brings the Sweetest Memories. STAY TUNED!

Thank you so much for following the over three-hundred-year journey from John Irish “The Immigrant” to me! Since I am the youngest of my generation in this branch of my family, sadly this is the last blog I’ll be writing.   I’ll be keeping The Pilgrims Came website open and adding stories to the category list and  making any additions or corrections as needed.  I’m also hoping to here from others interested in genealogy with their questions or comments. Please feel free to contact me at or leave me a message on the blog.

Kathleen Paul Cortese



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