52 Ancestors 2014, ancestor story, puzzling

Ancestor Story – John Costello, Man of Mystery – 52 Ancestors

Scanned Image 101200097John Costello is the patriarch of the family, front and center, looking away – Christmas 1950

I find it frustrating, strange, and utterly ridiculous that John Costello, my great grandfather is a brick wall.  But he is.  My mom knew him.  His three children are still living.  He is just right there – one generation away from my oldest living ancestors and yet I can’t seem to grasp his story.  I have tried many things.  I am in the process of trying a few things.  I am happily taking suggestions if you have them.

This is an outline of John’s life.  Some items have been proven, others have not.  Italicized items are so far, unproven:

  • John Costello
  • Born:  14 February 1893, Barcelona, Spain
  • Parents:  Vincenzo Costello/Castilla and Amelia Pallina
  • Immigration to US:  1915
  • Marriage:  1 January 1919, Spokane, Washington, to Mary Brown Young
  • Residence:  1920 – Spokane, WA, 1930 – Mead, WA, 1940 – Mead, WA
  • Death:  30 May 1966, Spokane, Washington
  • Burial:  Holy Cross Cemetery in Spokane, Washington

Here are the records I have been able to find:

COSTELLO, John & Mary Brown Young, Marriage RecordMarriage Record – This record puzzles me a bit.  The record lists the marriage date as 1 January 1918 and the filing date as 4 January 1919.  Family records list the marriage date in 1919.  I believe 1919 is correct and the Officiant hadn’t gotten used to writing 1919 yet as it was the first day of the year.

COSTELLO, John 1920 Census1920 Census – John’s father’s birthplace is listed as Italy and his mother’s birthplace is listed as Spain.   His year of immigration is listed as 1915, status – Alien.  His occupation is listed as Junkman in his own shop.

COSTELLO, John 1930 Census1930 Census – John lists both of his parent’s birthplaces as Spain.  He lists his year of immigration as 1914, status – Alien.   He lists his occupation as Express Driver of a Proprietor Wagon.

COSTELLO, John 1940 Census1940 Census – His occupation is listed as Operator of a Retail Tire Shop.

COSTELLO, John, Selective Service Card - frontCOSTELLO, John, Selective Service - backThis card was given to my mom by John’s daughter.  She said it is the only document she has about him.

COSTELLO, John, ObituaryObituary clipping found among family records – no date or paper name included.

COSTELLO, John - Funeral NoticeThe Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), Wednesday, 1 June 1966, page 9

John Costello, headstoneHeadstone photograph

Family Lore about John gathered from his three living children:

John was born in Barcelona and raised on a farm.  His parents may have raised bulls.  It is believed that he had three sisters – no names are known.  When John was a young man he decided to go to America for a better life and to escape farming.  His family was happy for him and had a big party to celebrate his future.  His two uncles each gave him a ring at the party.  He and his family were not literate and had not had the opportunity to attend school.  John left for America and apparently came through Boston {can’t find a record for this}.  Upon arrival he may have changed his name from Juan Castilla to John Costello.  His children disagree on this point.  John worked his way across the United States.  Somewhere around Ohio he spent some time working on a farm.  The farmer taught him the basics of reading and writing – his first experience with literacy.  Eventually he made it to Spokane where he lived out the remainder of his life.  No one is aware of any contact with his family back in Spain.  None of his children seem to have any more information and no helpful records.  The only document of any kind kept by the family is the above card.

Possible Leads:

COSTELLO, John, Alien File Number

I am hopeful that this Alien File is in fact John’s Alien File and I have begun the process of requesting a copy.  Hopefully it is filled with good details, the most important being the name of the Parish in which he was born and raised.

Catholic Church Records – John was raised Catholic.  He and Mary were married in a Lutheran Church.  He was buried in a Catholic Cemetery.  At some point Mary joined the Catholic Church so she could be buried by John.  I am trying to find the record of her baptism.  I am hopeful that their marriage was blessed in a Catholic Church and that part of that record may contain the name of the church in which John was baptized.  I am also seeking any Catholic Church records regarding John & Mary’s children with the same hope.

Church Record from Marriage – I have contacted the Lutheran Church where John & Mary were married to request any record the church has for their marriage and subsequent membership in the parish.  I had a nice phone conversation with someone but I have not received a reply and need to make contact again.

Possible DNA Tests – John has two living sons and two living grandsons {of his sons}.  I am considering having all four men take DNA tests to help me identify some cousins and possibly narrow down a more specific location in Spain in which to search.

And that is John Costello, my great grandfather – a man of mystery.

Do you have any recent brick walls like this one?  Do you have any ideas for me?

12 thoughts on “Ancestor Story – John Costello, Man of Mystery – 52 Ancestors”

    1. Today is the file run day for the National Archives in Kansas. They will bring his file in from off-site storage today! I’m really hoping there will be something, anything in that file that will help me.

  1. Wow: that’s a serious brick wall. I don’t have any advice, sorry. I have no experience of either US or mainland European records. I guess you could get in touch with a genealogy society in Spain and find out what sorts of records existed for the period he may have lived there. BDM would be pretty useless, but perhaps embarkation records? (clutching at straws here). The photo is brilliant btw. He definitely looks like a man who knew that he was the patriarch. Good luck!

  2. Ironically enough, my brick wall is John Costello. Only, I have a date of birth as 1896, and he lives out most of his days in PA.

    1. Hi Joni! Thanks for stopping by. Too bad our John Costello’s aren’t the same man, then we could team up. 😉 Good luck, I hope you find what you are looking for.

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