Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Who’s In the House–Agnes Carrington

Most of my research has been on my maternal grandfather’s line.  I have not done much work at all on my grandmother’s line, mostly since I have a couple of cousins who have been working it for a long time.  My grandmother, Olga Lagonterie (1899-1986), was from St. Lucia, another small island.  Of course, she eventually came to St Croix, or she wouldn’t have met my grandfather.  In fact she came to St Croix in 1927, with her mother, Blanche Lagonterie (b. 1867) and sister Blanche Lagonterie (b. 1901).  In the 1930 census, all three were living in Christiansted, renting a house belonging to my grandfather’s family.
Section of 1940 Census showing household of Blanche Lagonterie
By 1940, the younger Blanche had moved to New York and Olga had married my grandfather, Ludvig. The elder Blanche, age 74, was living in Christiansted but had moved to 47 Company St. My cousin pulled the 1940 Census page and noticed something very strange.  In Blanche Lagonterie’s household there was listed another person, Agnes Carrington, age 16.  She is listed as an Adopted Daughter.  Since I had never heard of an adopted daughter, I asked my family.  No one had ever heard the name.  So we wondered: 

Who’s Agnes Carrington, and what is she doing in my great-grandmother’s house in 1940?
Close Up from 1930 Census showing 22 and 23A Strand Street
According the the 1940 census, Agnes Carrington was born in St. Croix around 1924, so she should have been present in the 1930 census.  A search found no Agnes Carringtons, so I broadened the search somewhat.  I looked for anyone named Agnes in St Croix born around 1926 and found an entry for an Agnes Codrington, age 3 10/12.  Looks promising.  When I pulled the actual image, I noticed something very interesting.  In 1930 she lived at 22 Strand Street in Christiansted.  My grandfather and his sister Claudina lived at 23A Strand Street.  Right next door, across Market Street.

A little looking (ok, a lot of looking) told an interesting story of Agnes and a reasonable guess why she was in my great grandmother’s house. 
1883 St Croix Matrical showing new owners of 22 and 23A Strand St
The story begins back in 1883.  That’s when, according the the St Croix Matricals (land and house tax), my great grandfather Christian Andreas Conrad purchased the house at 23A Strand Street.  That same year, one John Morton purchased the house at 22 Strand Street. These houses were each corner houses across Market Street.  As we’ll see, John Morton was Agnes Carrington’s great-grandfather. 

Sometime between 1890 and 1901, John Morton married the widow, Mary Ann James.  Mary Ann and her husband Abraham James were the parents of Juliana James, born about 1880.  Mary Ann and her daughter must have moved in with John Morton.  Shortly after their marriage, John died.

According to the 1901 census, the house at 22 Strand Street belonged to Mary Ann Morton.  Juliana was 21 years old by then, but apparently had already had two children: Agusta Villiar and Victor Hubert, presumably by different fathers.  In 1901, my grandfather was 7 years old, just two years older than Augusta Villair and 5 years older than Victor.  He most certainly knew the children and probably played with them.

By 1911, Juliana had married John Moorhead and had borne several Moorhead children, all living in the house at 22 Strand Street.  I have not located a marriage record, but it seems likely that they were married close to 1901.  Their third child, Helena Moorhead was 7 in the 1911 census.  My grandfather was 10 when Helena was born so he certainly knew her well, as Augusta and Vincent’s little sister.

In November 1917 a full census of the population was conducted following the transfer of the islands to the U.S.  This census is currently used as the 1920 U.S. census.  In it, Helena Moorhead is listed as 10 years old.  This seems to be an error, as other sources seem to indicate that 1904 is correct.

Helena Moorhead seems to have had a relationship with a Henry Carrington in early 1923, because on Sep 6 of that year, Agnes Carrington was born.  Agnes lived at 22 Strand Street.  My grandfather was 29 when Agnes was born and worked as an accounting clerk with the Government.  He had a great sense of humor and loved children so I’m sure he knew Agnes as she grew up.

Within a couple of years, Helena began another relationship with her future husband, Eldred Holm.  Eldred was the son of Karl and Victoria (Bastian) Holm, according to baptismal records of Helena and Eldred’s first child, Vincent Holm in January 1926.  It seems that Eldred left St Croix shortly after Vincent’s birth.  New York Passenger lists show him entering New York on 23 Aug 1926, never to return.

More searching of the passenger lists show Helena Moorhead arriving in New York, alone, on 25 July 1929. She was not travelling with her children Agnes and Vincent. The list gives her birthdate as 15 Jul 1904, supporting the claim I made earlier.  I have not been able to find either Helena or Eldred in the 1930 census, but the St Croix census shows the Agnes and Vincent , aged 3 and 2,still living at 22 Strand St with Mary Ann Morton, their great-grandmother.  Also living there were two of the Moorhead children.  The census listed all the children as “grandchildren”, even though two were “great-grandchildren”.  John Moorhead and Juliana (listed as Lillian) were living at 12 King Cross St with their two minor children, Hugo (aged 16) and Elma (aged 12).  The other children were living with other family members nearby.  (I have yet to completely reassemble the family).

In 1940, I located the Holms in New York.  Helena and Eldred were married, living on East 103rd St with their three young children, all born in New York City.  None of the children from St Croix were living with them. Both of them were still in St Croix. Vincent Holm, age 11 is listed on an addendum to the St Croix census apparently living with an aunt (possibly a Henrietta James).  And, of course, Agnes Carrington is listed, age 16, living at 47 B Company Street, with Blanche Lagonterie, my great-grandmother.

While this tells me who Agnes Carrington was, it doesn’t really completely answer the question, what was she doing in my great grandmother’s house?  To that I will have to speculate.

Ancestry User Tree entry for Agnes Carrington of St Croix
In my research, I found an Ancestry Family Tree from a user (unsourced) with the name Agnes Carrington from St Croix, born 6 Sep 1923.  Turns out, many of the details of the user tree are consistent with my research, although some differences appear.  The most interesting thing I found was the listing for Marian Morton (incorrectly identified as John Moorhead’s mother).  According to the tree, Marian Morton died in 1938.  Interestingly enough, my grandparents married in 1938.  The date got my imagination flowing and a narrative starting developing.

Before marriage, my grandmother Olga and her mother Blanche were renters, living at 6B Market Street, a house owned by my grandfather Ludvig and his sister Claudina, who lived together next door (23A Strand Street).  When Ludvig and Olga married, they took the Strand Street house, Claudina moved into the Market Street House, and Blanche moved a block away to a tiny Company Street house.  At about the same time, Mary Ann Morton, Agnes’ caregiver, apparently died.  This left Blanche, age 74 and Agnes, age 16, alone.  My guess is that they moved in together to take care of each other (not that Blanche would have admitted for a second that she needed any help).
Close up of intersection of Strand and Market Streets
I wanted to see who lived at 22 Strand Street in 1940.  I searched the census, page-by-page, and was unable to find it.  I’m used to not finding people, but it’s pretty odd to not find a whole address.  I looked at a map of Christiansted and saw that 22 Strand Street was located on the corner of Strand and Market Streets, directly across the street from 23A Strand Street.  Now, when I was little we used to visit my grandmother.  I remember playing on this corner and I recall that the lot was vacant.  There is no house at 22 Strand Street.

To confirm this, I spoke with my mother and she said that there never was a house on the corner.  The only thing she remembered was a barbershop, next to the vacant lot, owned by a Henry Moorhead.  So it appears that by 1940, the house at 22 Strand Street was gone, perhaps burned down.  Perhaps around 1938.  At least by 1940.  That’s why it isn’t in the census.  Much like an ancestor who no longer appears in the census, the house was dead.  So with the passing of Mary Ann Morton and the loss of the family house, it’s easy to see my great grandmother taking in Agnes.  After all, what 74 year old island woman can’t use a teenage girl to boss around?  (If you’ve read the book Transfer Day, you will get the picture right away!)

As for the barbershop my mother remembers, Henry Moorhead was Agnes’ uncle.  He’s listed in the 1940 census as a barber, owning his own barbershop.

The Ancestry user tree says that Agnes married James Alexander Johnson and died in the Bronx, New York in June 1976.  They had at least 4 children.  Of course, this is unsourced so I haven’t verified it.  I have sent an email to the tree owner, but haven’t heard anything yet.

So how about the “Adopted Daughter”?  Well, island women aren’t overly concerned with technicalities, or accuracy for that matter.  I can easily see Blanche telling the census taker “She’s my adopted daughter”.  Ever try to argue with a 74-year old island woman? 

I have and believe me, it’s a mistake.


After posting this blog entry, I got a copy of a page from Blanche Lagonterie's diary from my cousin.  It contained this entry about Agnes.

It reads:

Agnes left my house without my knowing on the 1st April 1942.
She got married on the 17th of June 1942.


  1. i congratulate you on your effort of writing about your family history and doing so much of hard work for the same. I am sure it will generate interest among all the travelers on planning a st lucia holiday

  2. While Agnes might be gone, No. 22 Strand Street still lives on. There was a Government Act in 2008 to rezone the Plot No. 22 Strand Street, C'sted St. Croix from R-3 (Residential-Medium Density) to S (Special):