Posted by on Feb 22, 2014 |


Cigar Strippers circa 1909

One of the more impressive things that we learned about Lizzie through the 1910 and 1920 United States Federal Censuses is that she carried the titles of “forewoman” and “fore-lady” at the M.C.A Cigar Company. By adding her maiden name of “Nestor” to our search found another record from the 1900 United States Federal Census, where the widow, “Lizzie Nester,” is found living with her sister and brother-in-law, Ellen and Joseph Cardinal.

A quick scroll to the right shows us that she was a…


… “Cigar stripper.” Umm. Excuse me? A cigar stripper? Before your mind entertains certain exotic skills, just know that a cigar stripper “…’strips’ the center vein out of tobacco wrapper leaves.

With this information, we know that Lizzie worked at the cigar factory for at least the 20 years, starting out as a cigar-stripper before being promoted to “forewoman/fore-lady” somewhere between 1900 and 1910.

But there’s more to this cigar story than meets the eye.

  • Her husband, Patrick, was a cigar-maker.
  • Her brother-in-law, Joseph, was also a cigar-maker
  • Her sister, “Maggie” (Margaret), was a cigar-stripper
  • And in 1910, even her son Edward was listed as a “shipper” at a cigar factory.

It makes me wonder. Perhaps M.C.A. was responsible for the Milligan’s relocation to from Montreal to Boston? Perhaps Joseph already worked at M.C.A., and referred his in-laws?

But What Happened to Patrick?

But most important of all, what happened to Patrick between between 1886 and 1900. We know that he lived with his wife and infant son in 1886 Montreal. Fourteen years later, his widowed wife and son were living in the United States, while she worked as a cigar stripper. So, obviously he died somewhere in between, but when? Did he die in Canada before Lizzie and Edward immigrated, or did the three of them come the the United States and he died here?

This process is teaching me patience. I can’t force things. Instead, I just need to wait for clues to lead me to answers. But that’s where the anxiety comes in. In the back of my mind I know that sooner or later, my clue-trail will hit a dead end, leaving me hanging with regards to some part of the story. The fact that Patrick is nowhere to be found only increases my anxiety.

Sources for this blog post:

Library of Congress: