My nephew wants to know

October 22, 2014 · Collections ·

When new manuscript materials, whether a single item or a whole collection, come to CHS, I need to spend time getting to know the individuals whose names appear in the documents in order to put things into context. As a result, I spend quite a bit of time researching families’ histories. I enjoy the “hunt” and get great satisfaction when I can make connections within or between families. However, I have yet to really delve into my own family history.

When my youngest nephew was born, he was given my father’s (his grandfather’s) middle name of Coy. Being the curious boy he is, and very much like his grandfather, several years ago he asked me where “Coy” came from. I knew my grandfather had the middle name Coy, so the search was on, but only very sporadically, in what little free time I had.

Invitation to the wedding of my grandfather to my grandmother.

Invitation to the wedding of my grandfather to my grandmother.

Like any good genealogist, I started with myself, got as much data from my father as I could, and gathered family documents like my grandparents’ wedding invitation when Edgar Coy Austen married Aimee Marion Hargreaves (I wear the wedding ring he gave to my grandmother). I also had his death certificate, where I found out that his father’s name was Walter and his mother was Annie Seymour. That pretty much jibed with what my father had told me.

Using census data and New York City directories, I was able to find that my great grandfather Walter C. Austen/Austin (it is spelled both ways) was listed as a janitor in one city directory and in another he was a locksmith and he seemed to move around quite a bit. Turns out great grandfather Walter was named for his father, Walter. Both had the initial C as a middle name. Was I actually getting to the bottom of the origin of Coy? Nope. I don’t even know if the C stands for Coy. I am now stuck. I have Walter the elder living and dying in New York City, but his father is still a mystery. I saw one reference to a Thomas, but that is not much to go on.

Great-great grandfather Walter's death certificate. What does the C stand for?

Great-great grandfather Walter’s death certificate. What does the C stand for?


I will keep poking about, and my friends at the State Library have found some additional interesting information, like a connection to Jersey City, NJ, and the fact that one of the Walter’s (I keep getting them confused) died from being hit by a trolley on Staten Island. There are still so may holes I need to fill—not the least of which is, where does the Coy come from? My nephew wants to know.

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