Finding Mary (my search for The Curse)


Not long after finishing my blog on Charles Chapman, I took a short break and happened to go to Find-A-Grave’s Interesting Epitaphs just for some fun reading. This is when I discovered Mary C Dolencie. I didn’t find the curse unusual for a tombstone except that it isn’t 200 years old. It’s from 1985. This piqued my curiosity so I Googled her and discovered that she thought her neighbors hated her and were all against her.

According to locals, she was into feeding or taking care of a large host of cats. Others say that it was her feeding of the pigeons, which I assume lead the birds to leaving a large amount of airborne gifts on their cars. Most of this information is second-hand and are what the locals have heard over the years. Another thing is that Whaling Port is not a town. It was her housing association, which is near Ancient Cemetery. And this is where Mary is buried. Two other quick things, she left the bulk of her estate to the local SPCA and attempts to contact her family were unsuccessful. So what was her story? Why would someone leave a curse nowadays? I decided to make her my next blog, if I could find her. The best website I found for my starting information was here:  Cape Cod Times

After starting her tree I did some general searching to see what popped up, both in records and newspapers. With an odd surname like hers I also did a search on Find-A-Grave and found only two people named Dolencie in the entire country. One was Mary and the other was a William Dolencie who was buried in Florida. One thing I had to find out was if Dolencie was her married name or not.

That was answered immediately when I found her in the 1940 Census. Mary is living in New Hyde Park, Nassau, New York. First up is her mother Rose Dolencie, 54 years old and a widow. She also shows as being from Austria and that she also lived in Nassau county in 1935. Next is Mary and she is a 34 year old divorcee. She says she was born in New York (not true) and that she is a secretary for some movie company. Then comes her brother William (the other grave from earlier). He is 29 and a clerk at a grocery store. It also shows him being from New York (also not true). Lastly is Dorothy. She is 13 and from New York. She is also Mary’s daughter. Notice that both Mary and Dorothy are using the Dolencie surname. So Mary got married before 1927 and divorced before 1940. You’ll find them at line 36.  1940 Census

Unable to find any marriage and figuring that Mary was probably still married in 1930, I searched for her mother in the census for that year. I found her easily and in the same town, except in this census her husband is there. He is Joseph, 54, from Austria and is a linotypist at a newspaper. Then there is Rose and she shows they got married about 1903. This was back in the old country because the census shows the entire family arriving in America in 1910. Next is Mary, who is now from Austria and a bank stenographer. Based on her claim in the census, she got married about 1925 and is now divorced in 1930. William is also now from Austria and again a grocery store clerk. Little Dorothy is now only four but notice her surname. It was initially Godesky but that name has been lined through so that she is now a Dolencie, or vice versa. At least now I had her father’s surname. They begin on line 8.  1930 Census. I searched high and low for the marriage and never found it, but I did find a likely candidate locally. My gut tells me though that she may not have actually gotten married in the first place. 

Since I now had both of Dorothy’s surnames I decided to try and find her using both of them. I never once found her using the Godesky name though. The first I found her was in the early 1940s attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Because of this, I was able to get her picture from their annual. Here she is.


More on Dorothy in a bit but for now lets get back to Mary and her family. Since I had ended up working her tree back in time I decided to keep going that way. This meant searching for them in the 1925 New York State Census. It turned up fairly quickly and the enumerator had spelled their name this time as Dolence. This isn’t too bad really. I saw their name butchered a lot worse during the research. Anyway, like most state censuses, it doesn’t have a ton of facts. It does show Joseph as a printer, Mary as a stenographer and 14 year old William as a student. They are living in North Hempstead (Nassau County), New York and all are from Austria. They are also still immigrant aliens.  1925 Census. They start at line 25.

Working back still, I next found them in Queens, New York for the 1920 US Census. The two main things that stand out are the fact that now they state that they arrived in America in 1912 instead of 1910 and that they speak Croatian. Let’s discuss these two items briefly. First, it’s normal for the arrival year to vary from census to census. The thing to remember is that the closer you get to the arrival the more accurate it will probably be. 1920 is only eight years after the event so it’s more likely to be remembered correctly. For example, if you asked the four of them in 1950 you’d probably get 4 different answers. The second thing to discuss is their nativity. You have to keep in mind that on any census involving immigrants from Eastern Europe you’ll find their place of birth change. It can be confusing but the reason is that their countries were in a lot of strife for a long time and their countries (or portions thereof) would change hands several times. You’ll see immigrants change their home country from census to census depending on what country it actually was that year. Anyway, here is the census. They are right in the middle of it. 1920 Census

If their 1912 arrival was fairly accurate then they should be in the 1915 State Census so next I went after it. Found them in New York City and nothing is particularly of note except that now their name is spelled Doleman. Everything else is correct. 1915 Census

Although I had searched for their arrival earlier I had been unsuccessful. Trying again, I had the same result. Taking a break from it I went other directions for anything to show up. I found Mary in the 1938 San Francisco city directory living at 2186 Vallejo Street. Taking to the newspapers, I then found a small item about Dorothy becoming a Girl Scout in the San Francisco area. 8 Aug 1937. We already know that Mary didn’t live here long because she was back in New York for the 1940 Census. 

Going back to her parents and searching turned up her father’s WW1 draft card. In it we see that they are living in Queens and his birthday was 18 March 1880. Getting back to searching for their arrival I finally hit paydirt when I came across their departure from Glasgow, Scotland on 23 December 1911 aboard the SS Caledonia. The passenger list shows the four of them but now Mary’s name is Sora or Zora and William is Milway. Departure

Now that I knew when and on what ship, I was quickly able to find their arrival in America. This occurred on 2 January 1912 in New York. Immigrant arrivals are much more detailed on passenger lists than for American citizens and I am so glad they are. On the first page they claim to be Croatian and that they had been living in Agram. This is the German name for Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Before going to the second page you’ll need their assigned numbers on the left edge of the page. Theirs are 4 through 7. Now, going to the second page you’ll see a lot more useful information. The first thing that stands out is that Joseph states that they are going to see his brother-in-law. This means we now have Rosa’s maiden name, Percic. Of course, it could be that Percic was married to Joseph’s sister.  Continuing to the right I happened to notice that all four of them have blue eyes. At the far right he claims that all of them were born in Yakovo, Croatia. Arrival 1   Arrival 2 

I’d now gone back as far as I could so it was time to move forward again. Hitting the newspapers once more, I found one small item indicating that Mary was living in Wayne, New Jersey. In it she was buying property in Pocono Lake Shore in eastern Pennsylvania. This is near the town of Stroudsburg. 1959 News.  I mentioned Stroudsburg because this is where I next found Mary. These clipping are generally about either real estate or society-type items. It appears that she moved there by 1964. The last of them come from 1969. Oct 1965  Nov 1965  Jan 1966  Apr 1966  Nov 1966  Mar 1967  May 1967  Mar 1969  May 1969. After this I never found another thing about her in the newspapers.

I went back to Dorothy and found her arriving in Newark, New Jersey on a flight from Puerto Rico on 15 June 1951. The passenger directly above her on the list is a Frederick T Jackson. Both he and Dorothy list their address as 101 Delafield Avenue  in Staten Island. Later research on Fred Jackson revealed this to be his parents’ address. Flight

We are at the point where I will give you the rest of the story on each of the people in this blog. Let me first say that their surname appears to have really have been Dolenčić.

  • Joseph (Josip Dolenčić) apparently died sometime about 1935. I was never able to find any death information on him though. I also never followed out his or Rosa’s siblings which may have helped in that regard.
  • Rosa (Ruža Perčič) lived out the rest of her life in Nassau County, passing away there in Merrick in November of 1974. I’ve assumed here that Rosa was Percic’s sister. I may pursue this later. 
  • William Roger (Milivoj Dolenčić) married a Charlotte M and they had one son I know of named Robert. William died 31 August 1977 in Broward County, Florida. Charlotte passed away 26 July 2009 in Nassau County.
  • Dorothy Ruth Dolencie was born in New York on 18 June 1926 and appears to have married Fred Jackson about 1951 or 1952. They had one daughter I know of. This daughter and her attorney husband are known in the Washington DC political circles so they shall remain nameless. Dorothy passed away just a few years ago in Virginia on 13 Aug 2012. Fred is still alive so I’ll leave him anonymous.

I was able to track down pretty much all of the descendants of Joseph and Rosa because there weren’t that many. And of course they shall all remain nameless. 

Now lets talk about Mary. She was born 14 May 1906 and died 9 November 1985. As far as her name, it was Zora. I believe the C stood for the proper Croatian spelling of it, Çîðà. If anyone from that area can validate or correct this for me I would appreciate it. As for the curse, eastern Europe has always been a superstitious place. Remember that this is where Transylvania is located and the land of the Gypsies. And I even saw a documentary on an area over there that still drives stakes into some of the recently deceased to prevent vampires. So it’s really not all that surprising that Mary would still have some of those beliefs from the old country. I do have to wonder though what those last years were like for her. Also, how did this low-paid stenographer end up becoming a small-time real estate mogul? She sounds to me like she was a pretty savvy woman. And as far as the stories about her, that’s what they are. Most of the information is second and third-hand, so not exactly eyewitness accounts. However, keep in mind that I’m not a huge fan of homeowner associations. So here’s to you, Mary.

Update 15 Oct 2017:  Found her fathers death info today. He died in Hempstead, New York on 10 Jan 1936.

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Thanks for stopping by! -Ray

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