McCabe Family History

Our Family History

This history comes from Janet Allen (nee Pinkley). She did a lot of research and made a 20-odd page document which I am rewriting here in a back-to-front format. Meaning, we’re starting in ye olde days and moving forward. If I get anything wrong or if you have additions, please let me know.

A Long Time Ago….

The McCabe family started with the Gaels or Celts in North Western Scotland on the island of Lewis. Before that, they are believed to have come from Eastern Europe or the Middle East because linguistically, the Gaellic language is closest to these.

They first settled in Eire (which is now Ulster,  Ireland), in the kingdom of Dal Riada. Around 350 A.D. they invaded Pictland (Scotland) and settled along the western coast and islands of Scotland which was called the colony of Dal Riada. They now called themselves Scots.

Around 1,000 A.D., the Gaels were joined by Norsemen/Vikings who came to conquer, but then settled and intermarried with the natives. Black Olaf was teh Viking leader of the Isles of Man, Lewis and Harris (of Harris Tweed fame). His son Leod (1,200-1,280 A.D.) became clan chief, and this again passed down to his two sons Tormod (Norman) and Torquil. When their father Leod died, Tormod and Torquil divided the islands. Torquil became chief of the Isles of Lewis.

They were all of the same clan. The clan MacLeod (pronounced “McCloud” which means son of Leod). The MacCabes were a sept (group within a clan) of the Lewis MacLeods. At the time they shared the Lewis motto of I Birn Qunil I Se (I Burn While I See), as well as the Lewis tartan. The MacCabe family does have it’s own motto: Aut Vincere Aut Mori (Either Conquer or Die).

The MacCabes returned to Ireland in 1350 and became mercenary soldiers. They were gallowglasses, soliders hired by Irish lairds to protect them. Many other families were gallowglasses (most “Mc”‘s in Ireland were originally Scots and returned to Ireland as gallowglasses). Gallowglasses came mostly from Inse Gall (The Hebrides islands including Lewis & Harris). The term Gallowglass was derived from the words gall (foreign) and oglaigh (warrior), and given because of their Viking blood.

According to a fifteenth century account, they were “footmen which can be harnessed in mail (chain mail is armor made of thousands of iron rings) and bassinettes (chain mail hoods) having every man of them a kind of battleaxe”. This account also mentioned that they were brave, wayward, burly, big of limb, chiefly feeding on beef, pork and butter. Another account states that they had xanthous complexions (light skin and blonde hair). They were also called “Redshanks” since they were often bare-legged, even in cold weather.

They are credited with slowing the advance of the English invaders and were so highly regarded by their Irish lairds taht they received grants of land in Ireland. Over the centuries they truly became Irish, as gallowglasses to the O’Reillys and O’Rourkes and recognized as a Breffny sept. They located in counties Monaghan, Louth and Caven in North Central Ireland.

(Note: I found the following information which was taken from Edward MacLysaght’s “Irish Families” -John F.)

The Gaelic surname is MacCaba but was anglicized to McCabe. Caba is the Irish word for cap, hood or helmet. The name thus means, “the son of the helmeted one”. The O’Reillys and O’Rourkes were the principal septs of Breffny. The McCabes chief was “Constable of the two Breffnys”.

Ancient annalists trace the decent of the McCabes to Colla da Croich, the famous founder of the Kingdom of Oriel, from whom many Ulster families take their origin. Oriel territory took in modern Monahan, Armagh and part of Louth. It’s in modern Monaghan and Cavan that today we find the McCabes numerically strongest.

As hired mercenaries and foot soliders, the McCabes made their mark in the armies of the O’Reillys, O’Rourkes and MacMahons.

The principal families of McCabe lost their estates in the Catholic debacle after the battle of Aughrim in 1691. They lost everything in the confiscation that followed the defeat of the Stuarts and the military enforcement of the iniquitous penal laws in Ireland.

(Note: This is all I know of the McCabe side of history until the time that our McCabes came to The United States in the late 1800′s. -John F.)

A Long Time Ago….but this time in Bohemia

In 1526, King Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia died. Archduke Ferdinand of Austria became King of Bohemia and the country became a constituent state of the Habsburg Monarchy. The Austrian empire long subjugated the Bohemian ancesters, bent on the destruction of the culture. The capital was Vienna and the official language was German. Where the Bohemians spoke Czech. Shortly before Frank and Josefa Smakal’s births, the relationship between Bohemia and its autocratic ruler began to change.

With the coming of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the Czechs witnessed a resurgence of Bohemian nationalism, characterized by a rebirth of their language, and a weakening of Austrian control. The Revolution of 1848 failed to gain autonomy for the Czechs, but triggered the emigration tidal wave. The individual reasons for leaving remained complex, but changes to the country’s laws, rulers and economics created an atmosphere conductive to emigration.

At this time, Franz Joseph of the ruling Habsburg family became Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia and Apostolic King of Hungary. Bowing to growing unreast among his subjects, he began to loosen the fetters that kept the people in check for centuries. One of the first acts under his rule freed the serfs in 1849. The abolishment of forced labor among the peasantry created a labor shortage, which in turn necessitated increased mechanization in farming. Soon, only large land holdings could provide the capital for investment in farm machinery. Smaller farmers could not compete and were forced off their land, prompting many to emigrate. Aside from political and economic reasons, stories of opportunities in America from friends and relatives played a part in the increased emigration.

Following a war with Prussia in 1866, territorial losses diminished the power of the Austrian crown and resulted in the constitutional compromise of 1867, which recognized Hungary as a nearly equal ruling partner. The newly formed Austro-Hungarian Empire, still under singular Habsburg rule, but with separate parliaments, liberalized the emigration laws when it adopted the new constitution.

Personal reasons for leaving now combined with the freedom to choose. Also weighing heavily on their emigration decision was the prospect of being drafted into the Austrian army, especially following the Prussian defeat. Joseph Smakal and John Ramaizl may have been avoiding the draft.

It was not unusual for Bohemian women to emigrate ahead of the men. However, the pattern usually involved several wives traveling together. Once the women established a foothold in the new land, they would send for their husbands. Mary Smakal was single when she emigrated.

When arriving in America in 1870′s New York City, no Statue of Liberty greeted them. The federal depot at Ellis Island did not exist. Instead, new immigrants passed through Castle Garden, an inspection station established by the state of New York at Battery Park. Although used primarily to protect the uninitiated from windlers and theives, officials here also inspected new arrivals for disease, provided information about boarding houses and employment and gave newcomers directions to destinations.

Limited opportunities existed. Their lowly economic state, after probably spending all they had on their ship’s passage, determined that they lived in the poorest and most densely populated sections of the city. Where they lived and worked were preordained by their immigrant status. Their unfamiliarity with English meant that they congregated in areas where people spoke their native tongue. Czech immigrants settled in the “Bohemian district”, Yorkville. Because Czech speaking immigrants had limited employment opportunities among English speaking Americans, they entered the one occupation undertaken by nearly all of their fellow Bohemians, cigar making.

The Austrian government, which monopolized the industry in Bohemia and employed only women in teh trade, operated a large cigar factory in the town of Sedlec. In the 1860s, several cigar makers from Sedlec emigrated to New York and subsequently wrote home about the good wages they earned. Soon others arrived to futher transplant the industry to the lower east side of Manhattan. By 1869, employment of women in New York City cigar factories had increased primarily because of the influx of Bohemian cigar makers. By the time our ancestors arrived in New York, cigar making had become a tenement industry.

Some cigar factories, situated within building where the workers lived, consisted of entire floors where many people worked together bunching, cutting and rolling tobacco into finished cigars. However, most of the “factories” consisted primarily of families working together in their living quarters producing goods for their employer, who was also their landlord. Men, women and children would work 7 days a week from the break of day until far into the night. The husband learning their wife’s trade out of necessity because they did not speak English and could not find other work.

As with their language, the Smakals and Ramaizls continued to practice the religion of their homeland. Unlike many other Czech immigrants, they remained true to their Catholic faith. Since the Thirty Year War, the Austrian crown had forced Catholicism onto the Bohemian people. The government used the state run churches and corrupt clergy to further subjugate the people. After escaping the tyranny of the homeland through emigration, amny Bohemians cast of the last vestige of oppression by rejecting the Catholic faith. Our family however remained Catholic.

Our Actual Ancestors….

In 1883, John Ramaizl (B: Feb. 1853) and Mary Smakal (B: July, 1860) emigrated to New York from Bohemia. Mary was 23 and John was 30 when they emigrated. Within the following year they were married.

They had 7 children. Stanislav (Steve) (B: July 1884), Rose (Rosie) (B: August 1892), Josephine (Josie) (B: March 1898) and Charles (B: 1901). The 3 other children must have died in infancy or early childhood.

In 1900, the family lived at 1889 1st Ave. in Manhattan. John, Mary and Stanislav (15 yrs old) worked as cigar makers. Stanislav only 1 month of the year. Rose (7 yrs old) attended school. Josie was only 2 yrs. old. John and Mary could read and write. Mary could speak English, but not John.

Around the corner at 1907 2nd Ave, lived the McCabe family. James McCabe (B: July 1870) and Mary (Tucker) McCabe (B: November 1870) had 9 children but only 3 survived. Lulu (Lorella) (B: November 1891), Caroline (Carrie) (B: June 1892) and William (B: June 1895). At this time, Lulu was 9 and attending school. Caroline was 8 but not in school.

James and Mary married when they were 16. At this time they were 28. John was born in Massachusetts and Mary was born in New York.  Both of John’s parents were born in Ireland. Mary’s father was born in Massachusetts and her mother in Ireland. James was a coachman.

At 1891 1st Ave lived the Smakal family. Joseph Smakal was the head of the family, living with him were his wife Marie Smakal, their 5 children (at least 3 were boys) and his parents; Frank Smakal (B: 1834) and Josefa Smakal (B: 1831). Joseph was 32 and immigrated in 1882. Frank could not read write or speak English. Josefa could read and write but not speak English.

(Note: Was Joseph Smakal Mary’s brother who immigrated a year before her? Marilyn Field mentions that her father, Robert McCabe, mentions being with his cousins the Smakals. Also in 1910, both families moved. Both to the same street. Odds are high Joseph and Mary are siblings)

With the 1910 census in bad shape, the McCabe family could not be found. However, the Rameizl family now lived at 335 East 97th Street. Around the corner from 1st Ave. John and Mary Ramaizl were married for 27 years at this point. They listed their homeland as Austria Bohemia. John now spoke English. Stanislav no longer lived with them, but was married and lived nearby. Rose was 17 and joined her parents as an operator at the cigar factory. The census was in April and Rose did not attend school that year. Josephine was now 12 and Charles 9. Both attended school.

The Smakal family also moved. To 331 East 97th Street.  The parents were no longer living with them. Whether they moved or died is not known.

In 1920, there were changes to both Ramaizl and McCabe families. For the Ramaizl’s, John Ramaizl died on 1/28/1913. His wife Mary now lived at 333 East 97th Street with her sons Stanislav (35 yrs old) and Charles (18 yrs old), and her grandson Edward (10 yrs old). Stanislav’s wife was listed as being named Marie. Mary was no longer working. Stanislav was a painter in a wagon factory and Charles was a helper to an electrical contractor.

In 1920, at 1893 1st Ave. lived two McCabe families. James McCabe died between 1900 and 1920. His wife Mary was living with her daughter Lorella (29 yrs old). In the same building lived her son William and his wife Mary (Ramaizl) McCabe. They had 2 children, William (5 yrs old) and Robert (2 yrs old). Also, in the same building, Caroline (Carrie) (McCabe) Cooney lived with her husband John Cooney and their 5 children. John Cooney’s parents lived at 339 East 97th Street with their 2 younger sons. Neither Mary (Tucker) McCabe nor Lorella were working. William McCabe worked as a cutter in a shoe factory.

In 1920, Joseph and Marie Smakal were no longer listed. Marie Smakal did die in May of 1913 though. The gravestone was dedicated to “Our Beloved Mother” which indicates Joseph died first. Two of the Smakal sons lived at 333 East 97th Street (same building as the Ramaizls). The two sons were painters in wagon or auto factories (with Stanislav Ramaizl?) and the 3rd son was a carpenter with an electrical contractor (with Charles Ramaizl?).

Several of the Smakals and Ramaizls are buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery in Astoria, Queens.

In 1930, the McCabe family is lost again. They are not living near the other families in Manhattan anymore. On the back of a picture, it mentions they were at 1981 Pilgrim Ave. in The Bronx at some point in 1930, but the 1930 census lists a different family.

In 1930, the Cooney’s and Smakal’s are still listed in the same place.

At this time it was the Great Depression. Mary (McCabe) Pinkley told stories of getting free breakfast and lunch at school, of a basket showing up on the doorstep at holidays and of the general embarrassment of being poor. But she also spoke of family parties when teh bed would be stacked high with visitors’ coats and the first ones to bed would snuggle under and be warm until the guests went home. The Cooney family visited often.

Mary (McCabe) Pinkley and her sister, Florence (McCabe) Jakobsen slept with Mary “Baba” (Smakal) Ramaizl. Mary talked of her fondly and Janet Pinkley remembers asking if her mother did anything since the stories were always about Baba. Baba spoke in Czech and the three older siblings knew many Czech words and phrases. Baba also cooked the good Czech food that showed up at many family parties. Knedlicky omacka (chicken and dumplings) and Bramborovy Knedlicky a zeli (potato dumplings with sauerkraut and port). Baba and Rose (Ramaizl) McCabe made homemade noodles and spread them out on the beds to dry before cooking them.

Rose did the American cooking. According to Florence, Rose may have been embarrassed at being poor. She didn’t like going out. But Florence and Mary spoke of trips downtown to visit the family or friends with their Mom. They would spend all their money getting there and count on someone giving Florence (the cute baby of the family) a dime. Rose would use the dime for the subway or trolley while Mary and Florence ducked under the turnstile without paying. Apparently Florence also got the best Christmas and Easter presents, a doll perhaps instead of the black stockings Mary received. Mary also spoke about a chocolate bunny that she and her brothers took bites from, always from the back so that Florence didn’t know the bunny she was saving was slowly disappearing.

William McCabe seems to not have had a real job, but was more of a handyman doing odd jobs. According to his death certificate he was in construction. But jobs were hard to find during the depression years. He at one time owned a big motorcycle with a side car. He would take the children fishing in it. He was very musical, as his father James had been. James, who played piano for the old silent movies. He also played at Irish wakes. He was also a coachman for the funeral parlor and his pay for playing was in drinks. Good thing the horse knew the way home, because James always woke up at his own doorstep. William led his children in music. All of the siblings could dance and sing, and apparently this was their entertainment at night.

The McCabes lived in a mostly Italian neighborhood in The Bronx. There were other naionalities but many of their friends were Italians. It was the days of Al Capone and mafia crime families and Mary used to say that some of her friend’s fathers and uncles were involved. In fact, she remembered being asked to “run numbers” for neighbors. They would give her slips of paper with numbers written on it and tell her to take it to a certain store. She also remembered nights when the electric power would go down, the lights would dim and they knew that some criminal was being put to death in the electric chair at Sing Sing prison not far away. Sometimes it was a man from the neighborhood. She said they were nice people and good to her and her family.

They bought some of their food from peddlers who drove big wagons pulled by horses. When the ice man came in the summer the children would beg for chips of ice, or just take chips as they fell under the wagon. The ice came in blocks as big as hay bales and would have to be chipped down to fit in peoples “ice boxes”. They were actually boxes that you put ice and food in and set on the window sill to keep things cool. Presumably you did not need the ice during the winter. The fruit and vegetable peddlers came around and so did the butchers selling meat. If you wanted a chicken or duck you picked out one from the cage of live ones and the butcher killed it right there at the wagon. Mary mentioned that when her father wanted beer, he would send her or one of her brothers to the tavern with a small tin container with a handle and the bartender would fill it for $0.10. Supposedly they bought their milk their same way (in a pail).

Mary also said that they lived near a church, St. Theresa’s, and it became their playhouse on rainy days. She specially liked dipping her fingers in the wax candles and pretending they were long fingernails. She always made it sound like they had a happy childhood with lots of friends.

In 1939, things again changed. Mary (Tucker) McCabe died. Mary “Baba” (Smakal) Ramaizl was ill at the same time. Mary McCabe (18 yrs old) mentioned that Baba told her not to worry, she wouldn’t die yet because they were working on the funeral home and it was closed. 3 weeks later Baba died. After her mother died, Rose (Ramaizl) McCabe was heartbroken. Later that year she was taken to the hospital with pneumonia and never came home. She died six months later. Rose’s husband William McCabe and son William were away in upstate New York working for the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). A government program to give people jobs. Robert McCabe was married to Mary (Lane) McCabe at this time. Florence McCabe was 12 and was sent to live with Rose’s sister, Josie and her family. Mary was left in the apartment by herself . She says she never slept and heard voices all night. The landlady said the apartment was haunted. It had been a tavern many years before and someone had been hanged from the rafters in the basement. Mary moved in with Josie as well, but soon moved again, with their brother Robert and his wife Mary and two daughters, Marilyn and Susan McCabe. They lived there through World War II. While living there Mary married Raymond Pinkley and had her first son Dennis Pinkley. Mary and Robert then had a 3rd child, Bobby McCabe.

In 1961, Mary and Raymond Pinkley bought land in Roscoe, NY for a summer home. For years the Pinkley and Robert McCabe families spent a few weeks together there each summer. The Jakobsens would come for shorter periods (and eventually bought what was left of the original farm) and sometimes William McCabe and his wife Jean would come. Robert eventually bought some of the land down the hill and built another house. The families would plan their vacations together and for at least one day out of the two weeks together the whole extended family would show up and share food and fun. Sometimes even the Roms and Cooneys would show up.

(Note: Do you have anything you’d like to change or see added? Let me know below….)

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)


Your Message

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>