Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Back to our regularly scheduled program: oh Johnny, you're breaking my heart!

Right now, I am devastated.

Maybe that's a bit melodramatic, but the fact of the matter is, whereas I was tracing Charles Ricklefs' maddening spiral downward, his older brother John had seemed to, after 1916, drop off the criminal radar for the most part. He has a 1942 World War II draft registration card that has him living in Englewood, New Jersey, he's listed in the 1920 census in his parents' household on Elton Street in Brooklyn, and he's in a  June 1917 World War I draft registration as living with his mother. I conveniently ignored that it said he was working as a bricklayer in a New Jersey state prison. I had hope in my heart that somehow John had gotten himself onto the straight and narrow. But when it comes to people we are emotionally invested in (and I am becoming extremely emotionally invested in these two lost souls), we see what we want to see.

I had, in the course of my research, come across a couple of newspaper accounts of a John Ricklefs or John Rickless who escaped from a prison in Connecticut. In one story, his age was wrong. And my John was from New York. It had to be someone else.

But Ricklefs is not a common name out in the real world, must less within the smaller criminal population. This other John was also, like mine, from Patchogue, and served time in a New Jersey state prison. Just like Nancy Drew, I don't believe in coincidences. And like my boyfriend Sam says, I have an instinct for this stuff. Today my genealogist intuition is screaming at me to WAKE UP!!!! Because it now appears that not only did John serve in at least two maximum security prisons up the river but he was possibly in prison in New Jersey, Connecticut *and* Massachusetts between 1916 and 1936. Oh, and made several semi-successful escape attempts as well. ::Sigh::

And so while I had intended to tell the story of the brothers Ricklefs one brother at a time, in my next entry I think I will jump back in time to start Charles' story, while I try to sort out what exactly John was up to in what I had thought were quiet years. I'm going to have to look up more newspaper articles and try to navigate my way through the archives/criminal records of other states. I'm still waiting on more info from the New York state archives, and am now looking into getting my hands on any criminal court records I can find on Jack and Charlie - that looks like it might bring me back to a New York City municipal archive field trip.

Genealogy - the work, it never ends! :)

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