• Nicola

Adventures of Enoch Dingley

I have always admired Enoch Dingley, my husband’s great great great-uncle, as someone who did not let his disability hold him back.

Ellis Island.

Enoch was born in Rowley Regis in 1862 to David and Emma Dingley. While young he contracted scarlet fever which left him deaf.[1] He was apprenticed to a wheelwright and would work at this trade for the rest of his life.[2]

Despite being what was described then as a deaf-mute he travelled several times to New York and eventually settled there. The first definite date he arrived in America was 1894 but there is an Enoch Dingley who entered New York in 1884. His occupation is not very clear but appears to involve glass.[3] Whether this is ‘my’ Enoch, is unclear but on several future census he often gives his arrival date as around this time. Enoch is not on the 1891 census in the UK so it is possible that this is him and he has spent 10 years in New York. The US census for 1890 was destroyed and the 1892 census for New York is missing. This glassworker arrived back in the UK from New York on 13 July 1894.[4]

On 26 September 1894 Enoch was back in New York.[5] Three years later he returned to the UK with an American wife, 2 young children and a babe in arms. Both Enoch and Annie are described on the passenger list as deaf mutes. Annie, was three years younger than Enoch and the children were: Emma, born 1889, George born 1892 and Alfred who was described on the passenger list as an infant.[6] This is most likely Edwin A Dingley who was born in New York in 1896/7. In 1901 the family were living in a back to back house on Parsonage Street in Oldbury. There were was another son Joseph, born in Oldbury on 14 June 1899.[7]

On 27 June 1901 Annie, Emma and the baby, Joseph, arrived back in New York on SS Cymric.[8] A short time later on 11 September, Enoch, George and Edwin arrived on the Oceanic back in New York.[9] In 1905 the family were living at 151 Chester Street in Kings (Brooklyn) and there was a new baby, Helen, born in 1902.[10] What was surprising was that a year later on 7 October 1906 Enoch and Annie were married at 587 West 145th Street! The wedding was conducted by St Ann’s Church for Deaf Mutes and Annie’s maiden name was Schafer but her parents’ surname was Cobane which indicates that she was married before.[11]

In 1910, Enoch and Annie were at 219 McDougall Street, Brooklyn.[12] They give '21' as the answer to how long they have been married - in fact it was barely 4! It is a reasonable date to give though considering the age of the children. It might give us a clue as to the approximate year they met - 1889 - the year that Annie married Michael! In 1920, they had moved around the corner on to Hull Street. Enoch was still a wheelwright and the two sons: Edwin and Joseph were working as chauffeurs.[13] Enoch died on 16 April 1926 of transverse myelitis.[14] Annie died on 19 August 1945.[15]

What about Annie's life before Enoch? Annie attended the