When I first started doing my genealogy research, I learned that my great, great grandfather, Henry Lewis, married a woman named “Anna Roche”. In fact, my great aunt, Grace Lewis” gave me the first first insight into a family that I had only heard of by name.

“Anna Roche was born in Brooklyn, but her mother came from Dublin, Ireland, where she was educated to become a doctor at the University there. If it was not that she was your great, great grandmother, we would not be writing this today. Your grandfather (Thomas) was about 4 pounds when he was born and she kept them alive in a little cigar box in the back of one of those old-fashioned coal stove’s. She kept him for one year, until he was a very strong baby.

Your great great grandmother had other children besides Anna Roche. She had Rose, Anna and another daughter and a son. I do know the boy moved to Cleveland Ohio and had seven sons. Rose married a man named Booth and had no children. Rose moved to Port Chester after her husband died and lived with one of her sisters who married a man named Gackstetter. They had David, Walter, John, Harold and Mabel. They were the ones I visited for many years and enjoyed very much. At one time Mabel and I, and one of her brothers came to visit you at your home in Larchmont. That it that is what you remember. No one in the family kept up with them but myself and now I have not heard from them in years. The other sister, Anna, lived up in Port Chester too, and had six girls and one boy. Their name was Hickey, bur all are married with different names. At one time they had a family gathering and there were 15 members of the family. Many more did not come. I do not know anything more about them today.”

But as I began gathering evidence of Anna and her children, I found that close to 100% of the researched documents cited Anna’s maiden name as Roach, not Roche. These records include death certificates from New York City and Census records. For example, the 1860 Census record which clearly shows Anna’s mother Margaret living with them, has Margaret’s last name spelled as “Roach”. Anna’s Death Certificate has her maiden name listed as “Roach” also.

In hopes of putting the name issue to rest , I decided I would visit Anna’s grave at Greewwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. But when I saw here grave stone, it had her name spelled as “Roche”. So at this point, I had believe that my relatives didn’t know how to spell her last name and,and just guessed that it was “Roche”. Since no legal documents pointed to the “Roche” spelling I could only go with the “Roach” spelling.

So moving on and using Aunt Grace’s letter as a base for my further research, I was able to track down those relatives in Port Chester, mentioned in the letter. I thought by solving this branch of the family tree, it might give me some useful clues in solving the mystery of the Roche/ Roach spelling issue. It took me a while because Aunt Grace was a bit confused. She thought that Anna’s sister, Rose, married “a man named Booth”. In fact, Rose did marry a Samuel Booth, but Rose was the daughter of Anna’s sister Bridget, not Anna’s sister.

Bridget married a man named David Reekie. Bridget and David had at least 7 other children, in addition to Rose. One of Rose’s sisters, Susan, married John Gackstetter and eventually wound up in Port Chester as told to us in the letter of Aunt Grace Lewis. Using Census records for the majority of my research, I was able to track down two living descendants of the relatives in Port Chester. We have exchanged addresses and telephone numbers and converse occasionally via email. It took some time, but I eventually tracked down the death certificate for Bridget Roach. She died in Dover, NJ on 29 June 1908. The Reekie’s spent about 10 years in Dover, before two of the surviving descendants moved to Port Chester, NY. The death certificate revealed Margaret’s husband’s name for the first time. It was Andrew. But it still cited their last name as “Roach”.

As a result of this research, I am now regularly in touch with cousin David Feser, another descendant of Bridget Reekie. He is also an avid genealogist. He is the great grandson of Robert Reekie, brother of Rose and Susan Reekie. He now lives in Chesapeake, VA.

When I first started the research on Anna Roach way back wehn, I made a half baked attempt at querying for a Roach connection in the Cleveland area using Ancestry.com’s Census Collection. It returned hundreds of possibilities. I quickly gave up. Without some basic information, I figured trying to find the Cleveland relatives would be impossible.

But several things changed recently. First, Ancestry.com began something called lifespan filtering. This simply removes results that are outside the possible lifespan of the person you are querying. So I decided to take a guess and enter the birth year of Bridget Roach as the birth year of someone with a last name of Roach who lives in Cleveland, Ohio. I also asked for results that only fall within 10 years, either way of that birth day. I figured a brother of sister would most likely be within 10 years of Anna. Then I also asked for an exact match birthplace of “Ireland”.

The very first match in a set of 168,373 records, showed a Patrick Roach in the 1880 Census. Patrick was born in 1835 in Ireland and was married to Elizabeth, also of Ireland. Together, they has one daughter AND SEVEN BOYS! Could this be Anna and Bridget’s “brother who moved to Cleveland and had seven boys?” It look promising, so I built a separate research tree to investigate this line of Roach’s. I spent hours looking for him and his kids in the 1870 Census without success.

From the 1880 census, I learned that Patrick was the Sexton of a Catholic Cemetery. The 1880 census also indicated that they lived at 928 Woodland Avenue. So with a quick Google, it was easy to figure out that they managed and resided at St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.

I immediately found an online form for the diocese and asked if they could help me with any information about the Roach Family. The same evening I also sent out an email for help on the Cuyahoga genealogy mail list and requested assistance from a RAOGK (Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness) volunteer. I asked RAOGK volunteer Norm Davis if he could possibly find a death certificate for Patrick. I had hoped that the death certificate would name his parents as Andrew and Margaret Roach.

The next day, Norm wrote back…

“Here is the obit. Unfortunately there were no death certificates in 1882. They started in Dec.1908 but there was a death ledger in place at the time and I will get a copy of it for you early next week.  The ledger will not give much info but sometimes it will verify some facts for you.  Being he died at such a young age I will see if there is a coroner’s report available.  I will keep you posted.”

Norm Davis

Id#: 0297665
Name: Roach, Patrick
Date: 11/15/1882
Source: Cemetery record;  Cleveland Necrology File, Reel #068.
Notes: Age 47. St. John’s Cemetery Cleveland, Ohio.

What a major set-back I thought. Without a death certificate, how could I ever prove that he was the long lost brother I was looking for? I had tried searching the Cleveland Necrology file before, but without a clue on what to search for, it returned hundreds of results. So I decided I would try to learn more about Patrick and his family. I also wanted to track down the descendants of the children of Patrick and Elizabeth.

I soon began receiving responses from people on the Cuyahoga Mail List. The first came from LAS500.

Footnote.com has the Cleveland Directories- There is a Patrick Roach listed
as Sexton at Woodland Ave Cemetery. I looked at the 1871 directory because
that  info was probably collected in 1870.  There are several other Roach
families listed with home addresses.

So that confirms that Patrick was in Cleveland in 1870 and that for some reason he is either not in the 1870 Census or there is a gross error in the recoding of information about him and his family.

Holly Timm wrote:

Below is something of a timeline for Patrick Roach using the known census
plus the available Cleveland city directory information from Footnote.com

1860 CENSUS living in the 6th Ward, carpenter
1861 not listed
1862 (not on site)
1863 (not on site)
1864 2 listed: one as hostler, Franklin House, w.s.
the other as joiner, h. Wheat
1865 carpenter, h. 5 Forest
1866 (not on site)
1867 carpenter, h. 28 Harper
1868 not listed
1869 not listed
1870 CENSUS not found
1870 sexton, Woodland cemetery
1871 sexton, Catholic Cemetery, res 923 Woodland
1872 carpenter, res. 30 Pier
1873 sexton, r. Catholic Cemetary [sic] 1874 sexton, Catholic Cemetery, r. 923 Woodland av.
1875 sexton, r. 923 Woodland av.
1880 CENSUS Supt Catholic Cemetery, res 928 Woodland Ave

Looks like he *may* have been gone from the city in the late 1860’s and
returned in time to be listed in the 1870 directory but missed in the 1870
census, either not in residence or missed by the enumerator.

The title page for the 1870 directory states it was published in 1870 for
the years 1870-71

This provided me with a work history for Patrick. I also soon received a response from Janet Tomaro at the Cleveland Dioceses.

Dear Mr. Hayes,

In reference to your recent request on Patrick Roche. I can confirm that he was the Sexton of St. John Cemetery in Cleveland and that he is buried there in a family plot. Unfortunately, I do not have any family history, but following is a list of all those buried with him.

This is all the information available to you.

*Margaret Roche age 63 4/25/1875 abt 1812
*Patrick Roche age 47 11/15/1882 abt 1835
Clarence Roach age 6 mos 12/27/1891 abt Jun 1891
Joseph S. Roach age 7 days 12/3/1899 abt 26 Nov 1899
Julia Roach age 34 yrs. 1/29/1900 abt 1866
Margaret Roach age 46 yrs 3/28/1901 abt 1855
Lillian Roach age 28 yrs 5/28/1901 abt 1873
John Roach age 73 yrs. 2/25/1902 abt 1829
George Roach age 2 mos. 8/12/1902 abt Jun 1902
Mary v age 65 yrs 12/8/1904 abt 1839
Catherine Hull age 40 yrs 2/4/1905 abt 1865
Valorie Hull age 15 yrs 7/7/1910 act 1895
Elizabeth Roach age 81 yrs 11/25/1912 abt 1844
Elizabeth Long age 43 yrs 8/22/1925 abt 1882
*Andrew Roche age 73 yrs 1/13/1934 abt 1861
*Patrich Roche age 70 yrs 3/5/1934 abt 1864
*Margaret Roche age 88 yrs 9/9/1950 abt 1862

The lot is in Section 7 row 5 Lot 2 Part 9/10.

It has been my pleasure to assist you in your genealogy search, and I hope this information is helpful. We usually provide 4 names at no charge and gladly accept any monetary donation.  Your contribution will help maintain the cemetery grounds, and provide a place where meditation and reflection can be enjoyed by all visitors. Should you have any questions please contact the cemetery by email, or (216) 641-7575. Sincerely

Janet Tomaro

WOW! Interesting! Some of interments are listed as Roach, others as Roche. This brought me closer to the idea that I had found the family of the brother I was looking for. This group of Roach/ Roche had conflicting name issues too. Using the Cleveland Necrology File, I quickly began piecing together who was who. The necrology file is a database of obituaries from the Cleveland area, dating back to the early 1800’s. It soon became apparent that there were members of two families here. One line came from Patrick’s family (d. 1882). The other came from what appears to be another brother named John (d. 1902). I was able to match all but two internment’s with a listing in the Cleveland Necrology File. And then there is a Margaret Roche who appears to be the mother of Patrick and John. She is about the same age as the Margaret I was tracking in New York. So now it appears that Anna and Bridget’s mother, Margaret, may have come to Cleveland to live with her son Patrick in her final years. Wow… everything seemed to be falling in place.

Using Ancestry.com’s Census Records, I quickly began building on the descendants of Patrick and John. I easily found members for the next 3 – 4 generations of family members along with numerous death records and obituaries.


Over the last several weeks, Norman has slowly been sending me a variety of interesting documents. These included:

  • The Last Will of Patrick Roach and associated Probate Records from 1885.
  • A Death Ledger for Patrick Roach who died Nov 14, 1982.
  • A Naturalization Record for a James Roche

Then just today, I receive the absolute confirmation I was looking for… from a surprising source… A second Death Ledger. Norman Davis, the very dedicated and generous ROAGK volunteer who first responded to me weeks ago, retrieved some additional records form me. He scanned them in and sent them to me via email. One of them was an additional Death Ledger from another source which gave many more details than the first one he sent many weeks ago. This one provided me with the following information.

  • Namer: Patrick Roach
  • Date of Death: November 14, 1892
  • Age: 48 years, 4 months old
  • Address at Death: 923 Woodland Avenue, Cleveland, OH
  • Born: Dublin, Ireland
  • Cause of Death: Dropsy ( An old term for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water. Usually caused by Congestive Heart Failure)
  • Burial Location: Woodland Catholic Cemetery
  • Father: Andrew
  • Mother: Margaret

Patrick Roach Death Ledger

That was the confirmation I needed. He was born in Dublin and his parents were Andrew and Margaret. That is consistent with the research of the New York Roche / Roach’s and makes him the perfect fit for Anna and Bridget’s brother.

So now that I have the confirmation I was looking for, I will try to make contact with some of the cousins related to the Cleveland Roach / Roche’s to see if they can contribute any additional facts.

Also,stay tuned for some additional news concerning the name issue. Some recently discovered documents may help explain things.