My interest in family history started as a child from listening to my grandparents, who were wonderful story tellers. Both my father’s parents lived into their 90s and my mother’s mother lived to be 95. They were all colorful characters and made me intensely curious about their origins. I was especially intrigued by my grandmother’s father, Sam Pollak, who literally drowned before her eyes when she was a baby!
I was also very curious to learn about the McCoy family to see if they had anything to do with the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud of West Virginia. My McCoy ancestors are from "West by God Virginia" as my grandfather Paul McCoy used to say, but they seem to have been peaceful farmers, well educated, rather civilized lawyers, who liked to sing. Paul told me that once a Hatfield totted out a rifle, pointed it at him and told Paul to “git” off his porch!
On my father’s side my Scot Irish roots in West Virginia come from John McCoy (1750-1816) a weaver and his wife, Hesther (Easter, Esther) McCarty (c. 1757-1850.) While many Scot Irish emigrated to America in several waves from 1718 to the start of the Revolutionary War, this McCoy family came later. Possibly the first to come to America was an older son William McCoy/McKay, who came from Clogher in Tyrone County around 1801/1802, and lived for a while in Philadelphia where he married Catherine Kearns about 1803 before relocating to Lewistown in Mifflin County Pennsylvania. John and Esther McCoy and several of their children arrived in July 1802 in Wilmington, Delaware on the ship Mohawk having sailed from Londonderry in Tyrone Northern Ireland. John and Esther sailed with their children (including my g-g-grandfather Joseph McCoy junior, John McCoy, junior, Abraham, James, Jane, Sarah and Margaret.) John, James, Hesther, John, Sarah and Joseph McCoy traveled as a group with one chest and one bundle to hold all their worldly possessions.
I was quite intrigued to learn of my maternal grandmother’s Jewish roots since Connie McCoy was a practicing Episcopalian. The families of both her parents—Sam Pollak and Julia Wolner were Jewish and spoke Yiddish. (One of my grandmother’s sisters, Wilma Pollock, wrote The Upps of Suffolk Street, about a Jewish matchmaker named Kuppelman Upp, no doubt named for Koppelman Wollner, her grandfather.) Apparently, Sam and Julia decided that it would be easier to be Protestant than Jewish and were married by a minister. Nevertheless, Julia’s parents, Koppelmann Wollner and Caroline Fleischman, are buried in the Jewish cemetery, Salem Fields on the border of Queens and Brooklyn, N.Y.
My mother's father, Prescott Barker Wiske, is descended from a colorful character, Johnny Whiskey, who was born in England and like so many young men was impressed (forced against his will) into the British navy at an early age. He fought at the Battle of Trafalgar. Johnny ultimately came to America as a prisoner because he was captured aboard the Macedonian during the War of 1812. Since our young nation had so few frigates, Stephen Decatur decided to salvage the Macedonian for American use rather than sink her. Johnny Whiskey was held prisoner with the surviving crew of the Macedonian in a barn in New London, Connecticut.
My mother, Jane Wiske, a gifted artist, was born and died in Bronxville, Westchester County, New York. Her parents, Prescott Barker Wiske and Kathryn Utz (Granny), moved from New York City to Mount Vernon (next to Bronxville) in the 1890s.
On her 18th birthday, my mother Jane had dinner with her future mother-in-law, Connie McCoy. Jane would eventually marry my father, Rawley Deering McCoy, about twelve year’s later. My mother and I both attended Bronxville High School. Several of my teachers taught my mother at Bronxville High School in the 1930’s.