Friday, August 30, 2013

Taking a Look at the Kelly Family

We may have much to be thankful for that the short-lived Catherine Kelly didn’t marry her beloved until after the 1880 census.

Of course, that sounds rather mercenary of me. At least, it would if we were any closer than a date approaching one hundred twenty nine years removed from her death.

At any rate, that serendipity affords the genealogy-crazed (such as myself) the luxury of locating Catherine within her family of birth.

In ascertaining Catherine’s past, the 1880 census is the first step in sketching out her family tree. From that, we find Catherine in the Fort Wayne household of John and Johanna Kelly, along with her younger siblings, Mary, Patrick and John. It’s plain to see, since Catherine and thirteen year old Mary were born in Ireland, followed by brother Patrick’s birth in Indiana in 1869, that the family likely had emigrated from their Irish homeland sometime around 1867 or 1868.

Stepping backward in time to the previous decade’s census with a little leniency as far as spelling goes, it is not too difficult to once again find the Kelly family—this time fashioned as Kelleys rather than Kellys by whoever noted the census details.

A quite faded version of the family’s record makes it hard to ascertain from the ages that we have the family corresponding to our 1880 record. Catherine’s father John’s age appears to be written as forty—sixteen years younger than the age given for the census ten years later. A problem.

In addition, the siblings listed don’t seem to match up. Of course, we wouldn’t expect to see any entries for those born after 1870, so that would eliminate any mention of baby John, who arrived in the household in 1876. But in the 1870 census, we find a listing for a son, Timothy, apparently born to the couple in Ireland in 1860. Where was Timothy in the 1880 census? Could he have married and moved out of the household by age twenty?

Interestingly, just as was mentioned in Catherine’s wedding announcement in 1883, her family’s entry in their first United States census record in 1870 showed them to be resident in the Sixth Ward of the city of Fort Wayne. Unless the political lines were redrawn in between census years—or unless there was another John Kelly family in that same area, which could be likely with a surname as common (and commonly misspelled) as Kelly—it is quite possible that these two census records represent one and the same family.

Just to make sure, though, we’ll need to search for more records that can give us a clue what became of eldest son Timothy. Or find one of the family’s more contemporary obituary listings containing a pattern of names matching these for descendants. To uncover further confirmation that we've got the right Kelly family, we’ll take a closer look at what else we can find, tomorrow.


  1. The Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel 25 September 1901 › Page 2 has an article of interest. Unfortunately, I can't make my way clear of the OCR gibberish.

    1. My eyes sympathize with you over that OCR readout, Iggy, but thanks for mentioning that article. As it turns out, I have a copy of it, myself, thanks to a different resource.

      Although that Timothy Kelly is not the same one as Catherine's brother, we will discuss him in a few days as well. I'll share a transcription of the article you cited at that point. Thanks again for finding it!

  2. Fades Census but at least it is readable. I am certain you will find Timothy someplace. Working someplace no doubt:)

    1. Well, you know me and my woes over my eyes...yes, it is readable...sort of...

      Unfortunately, I did find this Timothy, which I'll mention shortly, as well as another Timothy, who is one and the same as the one Iggy just found, too.

      As with all Irish names, there seem to be many answering "present" to the same ones. Hard to sort it all out!


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