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Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 30, 2023, is Major League Baseball (MLB) Opening Day! The freshly cut grass. The player introductions. The first "Play Ball" of the season. There's simply nothing like ringing in another year of America's pastime. All thirty teams, across the United States, are scheduled to play tomorrow. My personal favorite, the New York Yankees are playing the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium.

I've been a Yankees fan for as long as I can remember. This desert dweller was born in New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City. But what does any of this have to do with genealogy? A not-so-long-ago discovery connected my ancestors to the Yankees in a rather unique way!

I often speak of my second great grandfather, the Kentucky Derby-winning horse trainer, Francis "Frank" Marion Taylor. For years I struggled to find any kind of marriage record for him and his wife, Anna Cook. Frank was born in Missouri. Anna was born in upstate New York. Their first child was born in northern California. They could have been married literally anywhere and no matter where I searched, I couldn't find anything.

My second great grandmother, Anna had a sister, named Mary Ellen Cook. Mary Ellen married an associate of Frank's, a Hall of Fame horse trainer, Samuel Clay Hildreth. This means, in addition to being professional colleagues, Frank and Samuel were brothers-in-law!

In 1925 Samuel wrote a book, The Spell of The Turf.¹ It is autobiographical and includes many anecdotal stories. In one account, Sam wrote, "I had fifty thousand dollars in the bank the day I was married. A few months later I was so flat they could have placed a water-level on me and found a perfect plane."² The story continues to share a time when Sam, Mary Ellen, Frank, Anna, and another couple rented an apartment in Chicago while they were racing horses in the area. Money was particularly tight and the three husbands raised all the money they could to back a single horse in an upcoming race. Against their husbands' protests and behind their backs, the three wives concocted a similar plan, and snuck off to the races. The husbands and wives ran into one another only after the race was over, as they were all attempting to board the same train home. They had all just bet every last penny of their remaining money on the same horse. And it paid off! Sam wrote, "The turf world has all kinds of celebrations that come after big stakes have been won. But I'll stake my reputation on the fact that racing in the last fifty years hasn't seen a happier celebration than the Simons, the Taylors, and the Hildreths had in Chicago the day that Tylarm won a race at Roby, Indiana."³

Returning to baseball, Sam and Mary Ellen were married on 04 August 1892. Sam wrote about meeting Mary Ellen and Anna in Saratoga, New York earlier that summer. The brief courtship was an uphill climb for Sam as he worked to overcome the reputation associated with being a "racing man." After he won over not just Mary Ellen, but her parents too, he encountered another difficulty.

"There was a new priest at the Cook's church in Saratoga and he wanted us to wait a week or two [before getting married]. You see I'm not what you might call a regular churchgoer, being just a plain member of all the churches. At any rate, Frank Farrell, who afterwards owned the New York Yankees baseball team and who was running some horses at Saratoga then, said he'd take us down to New York and get Father McCready at the Church of the Holy Cross, in West Forty-second Street, to marry us. That was agreeable to everybody concerned, and the same evening a party of us took the Albany boat for New York. Besides Mary and myself and Frank Farrell there were Mary's sister Anna, who later married to Frank M. Taylor, a racing associate of mine..."⁴

A future owner of the New York Yankees helped to facilitate the wedding of my second great grand aunt and her husband!!

Frank Farrell and Bill Devery, two notably disreputable men, purchased a defunct Baltimore baseball team for $18,000 and moved the team to Manhattan in 1903. The newly relocated team was named the Highlanders and was officially renamed the Yankees in April 1913. On 29 January 1915, Col. Jacob Ruppert and Col. Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston purchased the New York Yankees for $1.25 million!

The wedding story of Sam and Mary Ellen is a fantastic example of the importance of genealogical FAN Club or Cluster Research. Remember I mentioned the difficulty I was experiencing in tracking down a marriage record for Frank and Anna? Sometimes your direct ancestor is elusive. Researching the group of people surrounding your ancestor (i.e. friends/family, associates, and neighbors) may lead you right to what you were missing in the first place.

In this particular example, from Sam's book, we learned that he and Mary Ellen were married at Holy Cross Church, a Roman Catholic church, located in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, on West 42nd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. It is reasonable to assume, based on the relationship between these two couples, that Frank and Anna may have been married at the same church.

I contacted the church directly, who was able to provide an abstract of Frank and Anna's marriage record. Frank Taylor and Anna Cook were married on 28 June 1893 at the same church, by the same priest where Samuel Hildreth and Mary Ellen Cook were married less than one year earlier. This was during a period when churches weren't consistent in reporting to the state and therefore, despite exhaustive efforts, a civil marriage record has not been found.

So now you know the tale of how the New York Yankees helped me solve the mystery of my second great grandparents marriage. And on that note, let's play ball!


1. Samuel C. Hildreth and James R. Crowell, The Spell of the Turf (Philadelphia & London: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1926).

2. Ibid, pg 88.

3. Ibid, pg 94-95.

4. Ibid, pg 65.


Disclaimer: Each blog post is created and presented for marketing and entertainment purposes only but are based on larger research which adheres to the standards of The Board of Certification of Genealogists® as set forth in Genealogical Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry Imprint, Turner Publishing, 2014).

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Mar 30, 2023

Play ball! Quite a fascinating story. Go Yankees (my hometown team from the Bronx).


Mar 30, 2023

This is my first visit to your blog. Glad I came by!

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