Catalani story

Bartholomew Menchine and Louisa Lilbourn

by Conrad and Judy Terrill, Jan. 2012
(Picture of Bartholomew added Aug. 2016)

Click on an image to access a high-resolution version

This is not a finished story, but rather a research story, one that is in progress right now.  It presents what we have learned to-date, cast in quasi-story form.

August 2016: William George Menchine has contributed a very interesting one-page history called "George Menchine 'Forty-Niner'", written by his grandfather, also William George Menchine (1870-1935), in 1930. Click here to view this history (PDF, 1.5 MB). This, and numerous new records that we have found have rendered our history of the Bartholomew Menchine and Louisa Lilbourn family outdated. One important fact we have learned is that Zipporah Menchine was a daughter, not a son. We plan to soon write a new version of the story.

Charles A. Catalani
(c. 1846 - 1905)

Elizabeth (Kehoe) Catalani
(1862 - 1932)

We’ll start from a grandson of Bartholomew and Louisa—Charles Albert Catalani (Judy’s mother’s father’s father), who was born sometime around 1846 in Italy and died in Newark, NJ, in 1905.  Judy learned from her mother that Charles was from Florence, Italy, and that he had two maiden sisters there who refused to join him in Newark, because “America is too barbaric.”  (Judy never understood this until she visited Florence some years ago, and saw what a beautiful city it is, and had the menu at a restaurant sung to her in operatic style by a waiter.)  Judy has heard from her mother and her mother’s Catalane relatives that Charles was a Captain in the Italian Army, and spoke a number of languages, and loved opera.  On 27 Oct. 1874, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Newark (now a Pro-Cathedral—a former Cathedral), Charles married Elizabeth Kehoe, daughter of Peter and Mary (Doyle) Kehoe, of Belleville, NJ.  Perhaps what initially attracted him was her wonderful voice, as a soloist at St. Patrick’s.  From their marriage record we learn that Charles’s parents were Alexander and Angeline (Menchine) Catalani.  We know that Alexander was born in Italy and Angeline was born in England.

Ray Michaels, a cousin of Judy’s, has told us that he heard that Charles Catalani was from Lucca, Tuscany, not far from Florence.  Civil birth registration records for Tuscany are available on microfilm through the Latter-day Saints Family History Library.  We’ve searched through these records from 1842 to 1849 and did not find a record for Charles, who should have appeared as Carlo Alberto Catalani.  We’re beginning to think that he was not born in Tuscany, but instead somewhere else in Italy.  From the 1900 U.S. Census we find that Charles came to America in 1870, and was soon thereafter a naturalized citizen of the U.S.  He settled in Newark and opened a millinery shop on Broad Street.  Judy has heard that he made occasional trips to Europe to purchase material.  We’ve found his name on only one passenger list so far: “Mr. Ch. A. Catalani,” 32, merchant, an American traveling in a first class cabin who arrived at the port of New York on 11 Sep. 1878 aboard the S.S. France.

Charles’s parents, Alexander and Angeline, never left Italy, as far as we know.  We know nothing more about Alexander, except that “Alexander” (Alessandro, of course) was perhaps his middle name, since the family knew of him as Charles A. Catalani.  Likewise, Angeline may have been Mary Angeline.

Bartholomew Menchine
(in the early 1860's)

A baptism record for Angeline Menchine can be found through FamilySearch, a powerful FHL finding aid.  The microfilm record tells us that Angeline Menchine, daughter of Bartholomew Menchine, image maker, and wife, Louisa, of the parish of Rye, Sussex, England, was baptized 20 Mar. 1822 at Rye.  (The parish of Rye is in southeast England, on the English Channel.)  A marriage record tells us that Bartholomew Menchine, bachelor, and Louisa Lilbourn, spinster (meaning not previously married), were married by Banns at Rye on 22 May 1818.  Both were of the parish, and both signed with their marks, a ‘+’ for Alexander and an ‘X’ for Louisa.  Bartholomew and Louisa had one other child baptized at Rye, daughter Siderina, on 23 Mar. 1819 (we’ve ordered the microfilm for this record).  We have no idea what kind of “image maker” Bartholomew was.  Perhaps he painted portraits, or scenes.  This was two or three decades before the development of photography, of course.

Our next (chronologically arranged) record is an item in The London Gazette (“Published by Authority”), Friday, 31 Oct. 1828, p. 20 of 21.  The London Gazette is the most important of several official journals of record of the British government, and a large part of this particular issue is devoted to the hearing of cases for the relief of insolvent debtors (such as Bartholomew):

“Bartholomew Menchine, formerly of Emblas-Street, Wrexham, in the County of Denbigh, and late of No. 29, Pit-Street, Liverpool, Lancashire, Straw-Hat-Manufacturer.”

Arrival of prisoners at Lancaster
Castle, 1827

This item was one in a long list of cases to be heard at the fall session of the Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors.  Bartholomew’s case was to be heard on the third and last day (24 Nov. 1828) of a session at Lancaster Court-House, indicating that he was being held prisoner at Lancaster Castle Gaol, the largest debtors prison outside of London at this time.  Bartholomew had perhaps suffered some calamity which rendered him unable to pay his debts, and was sent to Debtors Prison as the result of a suit filed by one or more creditors.  He could have been held indefinitely if his creditors so wished.  An interesting article featuring the story of a mid-19th C debtor confined to Lancaster tells us that conditions at Lancaster were not bad, compared to those at Marshalsea and other debtors prisons.  “Tales of fairs, mock elections and concerts abound.  Etchings, done by a man who was himself incarcerated in Lancaster Castle for debt, show well-appointed rooms, complete with servants, fires and what seems to be a plentiful supply of food and drink. ...”  We don’t know how much time Bartholomew spent in prison, but we do know (how we know will become apparent below) that his son George was born in Wrexham, Wales, in January of 1830, so perhaps his creditors decided not to oppose his discharge at the hearing and George was released soon thereafter.  If Bartholomew had been incarcerated longer there should have been a Gazette notice of a later hearing.  The 1851 debtor mentioned in the article cited above served his full term—18 months.

Son George Menchine was to lead a very interesting life, which we’ll soon sketch; but first, from his 1900 U.S. Census enumeration record, we learn that his mother, Lousia Lilbourn, was born in Wales.  George himself, according to a 1904 obituary, was born in “Wexam,” Wales.  Since there is no Wexam in Wales we assume Wrexham was meant. (Wrexham is at the northeast corner of Wales; Liverpool is 25 miles to the north and Lancaster is 45 miles further north.)  It’s reasonable to hypothesize that Louisa too was born in Wrexham, or in the surrounding countryside.  According to the 1829 Pigot Directory for Northern Wales, Wrexham was at this time a large market town (population 11,000 in 1821), whose “inhabitants retain the language and manners of the old English.’  Market days were Monday and Thursday, and an annual “great fair,” lasting a fortnight, commenced on 23 March, while minor fairs commenced on 6 June and 19 September.  There were three straw hat makers in Wrexham in 1829, and again in 1835, but Bartholomew’s name was not listed in the Wrexham part of either directory.

Since Charles Catalani, son of Bartholomew’s daughter Angeline, was born in Italy around 1846, we know that Bartholomew took his family back to his native country before then.  We also happen to know (more below) that a Joseph Menchini, whom we believe to be another of Bartholomew’s children, was born in Italy about 1840, so we think he took his family to Italy in the 1830’s.

1849 ad for ship to California

George Menchine’s 1904 obituary also mentions that George came to the U.S. in 1848 with his father’s family.  It mentions further that George went to California the following year and was successful in the search for gold.  So George was a “49’er,” in the California Gold Rush.  We have not yet been able to find Bartholomew and family on a ship passenger list, or in the 1850 U.S. Census, but we have found him in the 1860 Census, in Newark.  “Bartholomew Manching,” 67, born in Italy, owned $200 of personal estate.  No occupation was listed.  A John Manching (probably Bartholomew’s son), 36 and born in England (so born ~1824), was a miner.  We doubt that John was mining in Newark, so it’s likely that he was somehow involved in the California Menchine mining operation.  It would be interesting to know where he was born.  Since we know of no Rye baptism record for him we presume he was born in Wrexham.  And since Bartholomew was 67 by 1 June 1860 we now know his approximate birth year—1792-1793.  “George Menchini” can be found in California still, in 1860—age 32, single, born in England and living in “Township 6” in Calaveras county, with a post office address of Mokelumne Hill.  Residing with George was Joseph Menchini, 20, single, born in Italy.  For both, the occupation listed was “mines.”  Mokelumny Hill was an extremely wild place at the start of the 1850’s.  For a stretch of seventeen weeks in 1851 there was at least one homicide a week [Wikipedia].  A ‘vigilance committee” reduced the crime rate by 1852 and the town became the county seat.  The gold started to run out in the 1860’s.

By 1865, according to IRS tax assessments, George Menchine was in Newark, with a “milliners repairs” business at 144 ½ Broad Street.  Joseph Menchini showed up in the assessments the following year, with an address of 89 ½ Broad Street.  A “Zipporah Menchine” showed up in the assessments throughout the period 1862-1866 (the duration of this first income tax, which was meant to fund the Union’s Civil War expenses).   Zipporah’s business in ladies’ bonnets was at 220 Broad Street.  We assume Zipporah was another of Bartholomew’s sons.  We haven’t found him in any census records.  “Zipporah” might have been the pronunciation of his Italian given name.  Common Italian names which sound somewhat similar are Giampiero and Gianpierro.  Perhaps he was John, but the common Italian name for John is Giovanni, and that for Joseph is Giuseppe.  We have not found Bartholomew, John, “Zipporah,” or Joseph Menchine in the 1870 Census.  Perhaps Bartholomew died in Newark in the 1860’s.

George Menchine married Ellen Graham, daughter of Robert and Eliza (nee Redmurde), on 2 Oct. 1865 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Newark.  His parents’ names are given as Bartholmew and Louisa (Lilburn) in the parish record.  By June of 1870 George and Ellen had two children—Grace, 4, and William, born in February of 1870.  A Robert Menchine, age 20, a clerk in a store, born in England, was living with George and family.

We’ll stop our research story at this point, except for a few aftermath items.  George Mechine kept up his millinery business on Broad Street in Newark for twenty years.  His presence in Newark is likely what brought nephew Charles Catalane there from Italy in 1870.  In 1885 George moved his family to Washington, D.C., and began a new eighteen-year career as a guide at the Capitol.  Fluent in Portugese, French, Spanish, Italian, and several dialect languages, as well as English, he was able to make the tour more interesting for many foreign visitors.  He died 18 Jan. 1904.  Among those he left living were two sisters and one brother.

Ron Menchine (1934-2010)

A great-grandson of George Menchine, Albert Ronald (“Ron”) Menchine was the radio voice of the Washington Senators from 1969 (when Ted Williams arrived as manager) to 1971, when owner Robert Short moved the team to San Antonio, Texas.  Ron broadcast the Senators’ last game, on 30 Sep. 1971 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, against the New York Yankees, not in his usual ebullient manner, but in a monotone to suit his dark mood, lambasting Short repeatedly.   His final soliloquy is famous (see a YouTube video of a Ron Menchine tribute at Nationals Park on 28 Sept. 2010).  He was also an avid and well-respected baseball card collector, and authored a book called A Picture Postcard History of Baseball, published in 1997.  And he acted in two movies: “The Seduction of Joe Tynan” (as Senator Aikers), and “All the President’s Men” (as Post Librarian).

If you know of other records, stories, pictures, etc., pertaining to the Bartholomew and Louisa Menchine story, please let us know (contact Conrad at  We'll be happy to work with you.