Monday, May 11, 2009

11 May -- What was my grandfather's name?

My maternal grandfather, Charles Cadwell, was a tall and taciturn man, an engineer who taught at Case Institute of Technology when it was a young and struggling college. Earlier he had briefly mined for silver in Mexico, had been elected surveyor of Ellsworth County, Kansas, when still in his teens (he took the job to pay for his education at Case). He invented Cadweld, an electrical bonding method for joining railway track, and developed a piece of equipment still in use today. He was a formal man, always in hat, white shirt, and tie even when gardening.

Grandpa's grandfather, it turns out, was Irish immigrant Patrick Cadwell, who left Ireland in 1847 and brought his wife Bridget and their five children to this country. Family legend talks about "seven souls in an old wooden boat" who crossed the sea to America.

The search for information about the Cadwells has occupied many months of our family history study. As we learned more about them, we began to understand that the name Cadwell may have been given them only after they arrived in New York State. The best immigration records we have found show a Codale family. Records of a deed signed by Patrick and the seller, improbably named Encyclopedia B Dewey, give his name as Caddle.

Patrick was illiterate, not surprising since he was an Irish peasant. But he made sure that his children attended school, and the three who survived to adulthood all became, at least for a time, schoolteachers. The love of learning and teaching is a strong thread running through the Cadwell family ever since.

So what was Patrick's REAL name? Codale, Caddle, Cadwell? None of them are common surnames. Codale and Caddle can be explained by imagining him earnestly telling a court clerk, or a ship's officer, his name in his Irish brogue. There are Caddles in Ireland, including County Meath near Dublin, where Patrick had lived as a young man. The arrival of Cadwell into the mix is more of a mystery, because of that "w" sound. Did the children, learning American English and wanting to leave Ireland behind, specify the pronunciation? Did they hear of other Cadwells and decide, as children do, that father did not know best?

Of all the stories, of the travel by sea, the Mexican adventure, the intriguing strongly-held belief that Bridget had been a maid for Queen Victoria but quit to marry Patrick, nobody in the family had ever heard of any variation on his name. He was Patrick Cadwell, no question about it.

That may be part of the reason we are reluctant to look further into the name question: Cadwell is just too good a name -- easily spelled, easily pronounced, just uncommon enough -- to give up.



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