Friday, August 24, 2012

Oh Yes He Was!

It was an invitation to attend the ordination of a young man to the priesthood in Chicago, Illinois. The date was set for early April in 1929. The handwritten notation on the bottom right edge of the invitation asserted, “My cousin.” But the name of the invitation’s subject—John Bernard Davidson—showed nowhere in my family data.

Who was he?

The invitation had been neatly folded and tucked amidst my husband’s grandmother’s papers. Agnes Tully Stevens had saved so many mementos of family significance, and this one piece merited such a recognition.

If the invitation hadn’t been tagged by Agnes’ daughter Pat, I wouldn’t have known of the relationship. And yet, I wasn’t sure whether that was a benefit or a bother—I couldn’t get to any online clues that would produce a paper trail of relationship.

I set the project aside. For a year.

In a tribute to the explosive increase in digitizing archived data, what I couldn’t find online last year has magically left its trail in the ether this year. Thanks to helpful readers’ comments, yesterday’s post on this dilemma produced more online clues. Like a chain reaction, the more we look into this paper chase, the more that can be found.

After mentioning finding the young Reverend John B. Davidson in the 1940 census in yesterday’s post, in the reader comments, Wendy picked up the trail, locating his record for 1930 and uncovering the key: the 1920 record in the household of Margaret Davidson and her brother Patrick Tully. Iggy provided the link to the smoking gun: the scan of the 1920 census record at

Of course, Tully is the surname that this search would be all about! Yet, the question remains: which Patrick Tully—for there were several of them. That puzzle, it turns out, will be resolved shortly, for an earlier census—for 1900—shows the household of Robert and Margaret Davidson with their firstborn daughter named (what else?) Margaret. Included in that record is another Margaret: the mother-in-law of head-of-household Robert. The elder Margaret’s surname is Tully.

So Margaret Davidson is the former Margaret Tully, daughter of another Margaret Tully, and sister to another Patrick Tully. This could get tricky.

For now, a possible scenario corroborates what we’ve already suspected: Irish immigrants Michael and Margaret Tully have several children—three of them born in Ontario, the rest after they move to Michigan—who eventually settle in Chicago. Their daughter, Margaret, marries a fellow Canadian immigrant, Robert T. Davidson, in Chicago in 1897. The newlyweds have several children of their own, including son John Bernard Davidson, while through the years also providing a home base for other Tully relatives.

So he was a cousin! Well, a cousin of sorts. If this is the right branch of the Tully line, then Agnes’ father John would be brothers with Michael, and Agnes’ daughter Pat and Michael’s grandson John Bernard would be second cousins.

When it comes to as grand an occasion as an ordination, though, who’d be counting? When it’s time for celebrating, “cousin” will suffice.

The Reverend John Bernard Davidson
announces his
Ordination to the Holy Priesthood
His Eminence, George, Cardinal Mundelein
Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary Chapel
Saturday, April the sixth
nineteen hundred and twenty-nine
cordially invites you to attend his
First Solemn Mass
Sunday, April the seventh
at eleven-fifteen o’clock
at the Church of the Holy Rosary
South Park Avenue and One hundred thirteenth Street
Chicago, Illinois

Reception in Church Hall
Sunday, three to six


  1. I hope no one in your family now having children, even remotely considers naming a baby girl Margaret. :)

    I am, for some reason, reminded of an old movie named "The Trouble with Angels" (1966). I can't quite put my finger on why. Anyhooo...

    Looks like your family tree grew a complete branch overnight. :)

    1. You'll be relieved to know the last of the Margarets seem to be those of our own generation...although there are still more to come in this next generation. Although now, we will hopefully insure that those family tree branches are tangle-proof.

  2. You are moving right along..we have the same thing in my husbands family with Louis and Louisa's..and then James. Makes research a nightmare. Have a great weekend:)

    1. Almost makes you want to meet whoever that first one was that inspired all these namesakes. Must have been someone special. Or someone who really wanted to be remembered!

  3. Funny about that cousin/second cousin thing. My daughters are very close to MY cousin, so even though they are 1st cousins once removed, they refer to themselves as cousins. So yeah, I think especially where photos are concerned, "cousin" is just a catch-all term.

    1. And with those large families--as in this case--an older cousin might be old enough to be the age of another cousin's parents! That's how I grew up. What turned out to be my first cousins once removed, I only knew as "cousins."


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