52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Ambrose Lawrence O’Connell

I have accepted a challenge that was given by Amy Crow at No Story Too Small. Amy is blogging her way through the year; one week at a time, one ancestor at a time. Or should I say 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I thought I would start off with my paternal grandfather since he is the one that I hardly knew, he passed away when I was 4. My memories are vivid, but there are only a few. I have blogged about him a few times in the past, you can find them here.



Photo courtesy of Terri Foote; used with permission.
Photo courtesy of Terri Foote; used with permission.

Early Life

Ambrose was born on 17 Dec 1905 in Berlin, Coos, New Hampshire to Dennis and Rose (Springer) O’Connell. He was the first born child to this couple and would soon be followed by a brother, Linus and sister, Theresa. The children were raised in Washington and Saratoga Counties, New York. Living in various towns such as Hudson Falls, Glens Falls and Moreau. In 1917, life changed for the family. Dennis, Ambrose’s father left the family and moved to Thorold, Canada. To this day, research and interviews have not uncovered the reason for his leaving the family. But, it left Rose to raise three children twelve and younger.

It is possible it could have been the stress of extended family living with them. In 1910, Rose’s mother, Marie and brother, William were living with them in Moreau. But, that is just speculation. It is also possible that it had to do with Dennis’ upbringing since his mother died when he was 12. But that is a story for another day.  I have no clear reason as to why he left, just that he did and never returned to the family home.

Married Life

Ambrose married his first wife, Rosalia B. Reikowski on 7 Dec 1923 at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Chicago, Cook, IL.  Ambrose and Rose had 2 children together. Their marriage ended in divorce sometime before 1928, due to Ambrose being physically violent.

Ambrose married again, this time to Janet Hannah Barr on 12 Dec 1928, in Hamilton, Wentworth, Canada. Ambrose and Janet had 1 child, Robert. No information beyond the US Federal Census has been found on Robert, to date.  Ambrose and Janet’s marriage also ended in divorce due to Ambrose’s infidelity and heavy hand. Their divorce was finalized on 29 Aug 1944, in Chicago, Cook, IL.

Sometime between marriage number two and marriage number three Ambrose started using his middle name, Lawrence as his given name; Preferring to be called Larry.

In 1945 he married Margaret (Ida) Jaeger and they had three children together. Though Larry still had his issues, he remained married to Ida until his death.


Larry and daughter Theresa
Larry and daughter Theresa


Through his three marriages Ambrose had 6 children and unfortunately, he only raised 3 of them through adulthood. Robert lived in the area and his half siblings only remember meeting him once when they were already teenagers. No one has seen him since. Family story states that Robert might have had a problem with alcohol and died because of it. No records have been found to prove or deny this, at this point.

The stories that have been told about Ambrose is that his parenting technique was probably not so great and that he was definitely a better grandfather than he was a father.


Since there is obviously so many broken connections in this family, there is no way to tell how many grandchildren Ambrose actually had. From his marriage to Ida, there are eight grandchildren and five step grandchildren or a total thirteen altogether. The last grandchild was born in 1990 and obviously has no direct ties to him.


Ambrose died from a heart attack and was found crumpled up at his workstation by a coworker on 28 Feb 1975 in Chicago, Cook, IL. His funeral was probably the first one I attended. My only memory of that day is sitting in the front row of seats with my Grandmother, Ida.

My Personal Memories and Lessons Learned

As stated earlier, I have blogged about my memories of Ambrose. Each memory is sweet and filled with love. My personal research into his life, though it was difficult, opened my eyes to my family life and I have learned plenty. Each ancestor has a story, whether it is good or bad, there is a reason to tell it. It makes your family make sense. Though Ambrose was violent with his wives, and it was recorded in divorce records, it does not change my opinion of a loving grandfather who spent his free time with his grandchildren.

**Sources provided upon request**



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  1. What a thought-provoking post. I sometimes think that television has conditioned us to think in terms of good guys and bad guys. But people are rarely so easy to pigeon hole. It’s nice that you were able to know the good side of your grandpa.

    1. Thanks, Diana. A few family members really loved to dig in how bad he was. These people were younger than me and really had no memories, just replied on the stories from select family members. Because they did not have any memories of their own they loved throwing the bad stories out there. This was all before I started the family research. Yes, his divorce papers confirmed what has been told. But, as someone who remembers him as a grandpa, I choose to hang on to the good memories no matter what I read. The documents only tell part of the story and it is up to us to give the the full story.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Thanks, Tracy. No more bad stories, for a bit. This is definitely going to be a challenge for me. I have not blogged weekly in forever.

  2. Your grandfather may have had issues in life but good on you for remembering the good in him. We all know documents don’t tell the entire story. There was love in him otherwise you would not have experienced it. I am really enjoying your posts. Thanks for sharing this personal story.

    1. Thanks, Bernita. This is probably one of the harder stories in my line. Though I do have a few out there that are not so great. I have come to realize that it is not about what the records show for the ancestors we knew, it is about the person they were at the time we knew them.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, I appreciate it!

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