Mary Alice “Ma” Burgess Siffrinn

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Mary Alice “Ma” Burgess Siffrinn, born July 1880 in Pennsylvania and married to Peter Lewis Siffrinn, born February 12, 1880 in Stolburg, Germany, was my great-grandmother. My mother told me that she was the sweetest person on that side of the family. There is a picture of her in mom’s wedding album, all dressed up in her Sunday best with her hat and gloves. She also told me that Grandmother Siffrinn would turn off her hearing aids when doing the dishes in the kitchen and if you snuck up behind her and whispered very softly, “Ma, would you like a beer?” Even without those hearing aides she could hear you and would say “Yes!”


I was 2 when she died and she called me “Cassie.” I don’t remember anything about her, even searching the picture of her I can’t conjure up any distant images or familiar smells.


I wonder if she knew of her heritage, of the history behind her maiden name. She may not have known that her third great grandmother was Thankful Snow, daughter of Nicholas Snow, Mayflower Pilgrim, married to Joseph Burgess who was descended from Thomas Burgess “The Goodman Burgess” and Dorothy Waynes of Massachusetts.


Thomas Burgess arrived in America in 1637 and lived in Sandwich, Massachusetts. He is mentioned in many of the early records of Sandwich. A marriage license was found for Thomas Burgess and Dorothy Waynes for 1628 at Tanfield, England, parish of Chester-Le-Street, Durham County.


Mary Alice was the seventh cousin once removed of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Elizabeth Burgess, Thomas Burgess,’ daughter would start the line that would end up with President Roosevelt.


Her father Benjamin Franklin Burgess was a Civil War veteran. His enlistment on August 7, 1862 would be only one of a flood of men that would join ranks in the Chemung county, New York area. He was promoted to Corporal March 9, 1864 and was one of the 118 wounded at the Battle of Dallas, Georgia, May 25, 1864. His wound was to his hand and after his return to battle August 10, 1864, he would be captured while foraging at Rutledge, Georgia during Sherman’s March to the Sea through Georgia on November 18, 1864. He was held prisoner in Richmond, Virginia until February 24, 1865.


Her aunt Harriet H. Burgess would marry Truxton LaFrance. Truxton was interested from an early age in using steam power to drive water pumps. The city of Elmira, New York would purchase the first steam powered fire engine that Truxton invented in the late 1870’s. He would die in 1895 of a heart attack when Mary Alice was just 15.




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