Two long lost families, separated by an ocean, were reunited last month, but not before learning that they had lived a few blocks away from each other in Woodhaven.
Edward Gall, an Englishman, had two families that never knew about each other, and his ancestors, after years of searching, finally connected over the last few weeks, shortly before the untimely passing of Gall’s last remaining daughter.
Maryann Mallon is currently a hospital employee in Seminole, Florida, but she was raised on 74th Place in Woodhaven by her parents and near her two aunts. Maryann’s mother, Edith, and her sisters, Maude Ellen and Elaine, knew that they had a half-sister, who was born after their father Edward Gall left Woodhaven for St. Michaels, Barbados, and remarried, but they had no idea how to find her or even where to begin looking. Edith, Nell, and Lainie gave up hope that they would ever locate their half-sister, and rarely spoke of their father’s second family.
“Our family is of English ancestry, and the English don’t do very much talking,” said Maryann of her mother’s reluctance to discuss their family history. “I knew that my mother had a half-sister that was 20 years younger and living in Barbados, but not much else. I’ve known since the 70’s, but that was back before computers, and there was no way to find people.”
As computers and networking technology became more advanced, Maryann began dipping her toes into online genealogy, casually posting notices about her grandfather and his children whenever a new website would come her way, believing that it was something of a lost cause.
“I knew that, the way I was doing things, they would have to be looking for me too if we were going to connect,” she said.
Fortunately for Maryann, her long-lost aunt and cousins were looking for her. According to Maryann, her aunt Joan and cousins Rosie and George were casually typing in Edward Gall’s name into an online search engine when they discovered some of her postings. Though they found the posts in June, they didn’t reach out to Maryann until later in the year, and began exchanging emails in November.
After the two families traded facts about their shared patriarch and determined that they were in fact related, they began to share stories about their lives. Joan, who is half-sister to Maryann’s mother, Edith, was born in Barbados in 1937, one year before her father died. After growing up in St. Michaels, Joan came to Queens for a visit, during which she met and married her husband. The couple had two children who they raised in Woodhaven, a mere 19 blocks from the Mallon family. Maryann recognized the irony of the situation, saying “it meant so much to us to find them, and to know that they were so close by.”
When Maryann and Rosie discovered that they both grew up in the same neighborhood during different decades, they quickly bonded over their childhoods. They both attended Franklin K. Lane High School and shopped a the same stores.
“When I talked to Rosie, she said that she had the best childhood in Woodhaven, and that’s exactly how I feel” said Maryann. “I still have the same girlfriends that I knew on my block as a baby. Rosie’s in a different generation, but she still had the same childhood.”
Three weeks after connecting with her long lost nieces, Joan, who had a history of heart troubles, passed away in a hospital near her Connecticut home. Joan and her children had been planning a 2009 trip to Florida to meet Maryann and her cousins face to face, and although Joan will never have the opportunity, her kids are still planning to go. Elaine’s daughter, Patricia, was able to visit Joan in the hospital and meet the family that she never knew.
Maryann expressed her disappointment that she would never be able to meet her aunt in person, but was thankful that she had the chance, however short, to get to know her.
“We only knew about her for three weeks, but I still believe that when Joan passed, my mother and my aunts were waiting for her on the other side,” she said. “I want to believe that they finally met.”