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.
Enoch was born in Rowley Regis in 1862 to David and Emma Dingley. While young he contracted scarlet fever which left him deaf. He was apprenticed to a wheelwright and would work at this trade for the rest of his life.
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. 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.
On 26 September 1894 Enoch was back in New York. 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. 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.
On 27 June 1901 Annie, Emma and the baby, Joseph, arrived back in New York on SS Cymric. A short time later on 11 September, Enoch, George and Edwin arrived on the Oceanic back in New York. In 1905 the family were living at 151 Chester Street in Kings (Brooklyn) and there was a new baby, Helen, born in 1902. 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.
In 1910, Enoch and Annie were at 219 McDougall Street, Brooklyn. 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. Enoch died on 16 April 1926 of transverse myelitis. Annie died on 19 August 1945.
What about Annie's life before Enoch? Annie attended the Institute for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, in 1880 she appears on the census as a pupil there, as well as at home with her family.
The Deaf Mutes journal which is available to search on the Internet Archive mentioned Annie’s marriage:
“Miss Annie Cobane, who was here temporarily in the spring of 1886, was recently married to Mr Schieffer, a classmate. We all hope Annie is getting along nicely in her new location.”
She married Machiel/Michael Schiefer on 10 February 1889 at 331 West 24th Street, as in her wedding to Enoch the marriage was conducted by St Ann’s Church for Deaf Mutes. Their children: Emma and George were born in New York on 21 December 1889 and 30 November 1892. However, in Machiel’s naturalisation record in 1925 he states his only child is Emma and that he does not know where she is living. It seems possible therefore that George is in fact Enoch’s child even though he was registered as a Schiefer and this would prove that he was in New York prior to 1894.
Between 1888 and 1895 a special census was carried out with the intention of gathering statistics on deaf family members and their hearing relatives to determine whether deafness was genetic and how it impacted family members. It recorded information about the deaf individual's parents, siblings, spouses, and children. It’s a great insight into the deaf person's family tree
Some of the questions they were trying to answer through this census included:
Are marriages of deaf persons more liable to result in deaf offspring than ordinary marriages?
Are marriages in which both of the partners are deaf more liable to result in deaf offspring than marriages in which one of the partners is deaf and the other is a hearing person?
Are certain classes of the deaf, however they may marry, more liable than others to have deaf children? If so, how are these classes respectively composed, and what are the conditions that increase or diminish this liability?
Aside from the question of the liability of the offspring to deafness, are marriages in which both of the partners are deaf more likely to result happily than marriages in which one of the partners is deaf and the other is a hearing person?
The census is available to view on Ancestry. Annie and Michael as newlyweds filled in the census on 13 March 1894 but did not answer all the detailed questions. We can still learn that Michael was deaf and that Anna had been deaf since birth, they were currently living at 348 East 54th Street in New York. That Anna’s parents were Joseph and Mary and that they had 5 hearing children and 1 deaf child.
Michael has been difficult to track through the records due to the many possible spellings of both his first name and surname. I have been unable to identify him on the 1900 US census or the 1905 New York State census.
In 1910 Micheal was living alone at 1590 Third Avenue, Manhattan. He was working as a tailor. He describes himself as married and that he has been married for 20 years, this would match up with the date that he married Annie. I cannot find any details of a divorce. Divorces were hard to obtain and scandalous it was not unusual for couples to separate without the benefit of the law. They would then pretend to be single or widowed, and often remarry, usually in another state. This appears to be what has happened with Annie and Michael which makes both of their subsequent marriages possibly bigamous. Annie abandoned Michael in order to be with Enoch. Running off to England in 1897 I suppose gave them the chance to present themselves to his English family as legitimately married and perhaps they intended to remain in the UK. Then when they returned to the US they could present themselves to people there as a married couple.
When I started to research Enoch I had no idea of the tangled web I would uncover. My biggest regret is that I do not have a picture of him or Annie. I wonder if there is one out there somewhere...
 Passenger List. SS Australia. Arrival in New York 15 September 1884. DINGLEY, Enoch. Year: 1884; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 480; Line: 1; List Number: 1194 www.ancestry.co.uk. Accessed 1 August 2019.
 Board of Trade (Great Britain). Passenger list for Havel arriving Southampton from New York. DINGLEY, E. (birth year 1868). 13 July 1894. Collection: Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960. www.ancestry.co.uk. Accessed 5 August 2019
 Passenger List. SS Majestic. Arrival in New York 26 September 1894. DINGLEY, Enoch. Year: 1894; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 632; Line: 28 Collection: New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957. www.ancestry.co.uk. Accessed 1 August 2019.
 Board of Trade (Great Britain). Passenger list for Britannic arriving Liverpool from New York. DINGLEY, E. 1 July 1897. Collection: UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 www.ancestry.co.uk. Accessed 1 August 2019
 Passenger List. SS Cymric. Arrival in New York 27 May 1901. DINGLEY, Annie. Year: 1901; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 0199; Line: 20; Page Number: 217. Collection: New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957. www.ancestry.co.uk. Accessed 1 August 2019.
 Passenger List. SS Oceanic. Arrival in New York 11 September 1901. DINGLEY, Enoch. Year: 1901; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 0222; Line: 3; Page Number: 70 Collection: New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957. www.ancestry.co.uk. Accessed 1 August 2019.
 Census records. United States. Brooklyn. 1 June 1905. DINGLEY, Enoch (Head). State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 21 E.D. 13; City: Brooklyn; County: Kings. www.ancestry.co.uk. Accessed 1 August 2019
 Marriages (CR). United States. New York. 7 October 1906. DINGLEY, Enoch and Annie Schafer. Collection: New York, Episcopal Diocese of New York Church Records, 1767-1970. www.ancestry.co.uk. Accessed 1 August 2019.
 Census records. United States. Kings County. 14 April 1910. DINGLEY, Enoch (Head). Year: 1910; Census Place: Brooklyn Ward 25, Kings, New York; Roll: T62