Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Good Kind of Stuck

Do you ever find you cannot continue adhering to your research plan because, in sticking with your research plan, you’ve just stumbled upon something so neat, so long-awaited, that you can’t simply set it aside to carry on to the next thing?

Truth be told: today’s post was supposed to be about the rest of Richard Kelly’s story—his marriage, his wife, a few family items like who his daughter was. You know, stuff like that. It’s important. But…I can’t do that now!  I just found something!!!

Being quite premature about it, I just had to rush to check out what I could find on my newfound listing of names for Richard’s father’s parents. Let’s see. Prudent? Hardly; the parents’ names were Timothy Kelly and Catherine Flynn. There should be a few hundred pages of results for search terms like those.

And that’s only if the index the names were found in was properly transcribed. Indexes can be full of errors. Not to mention, death certificates aren’t entirely reliable for information on the deceased’s parentage, either.

But this is a bright shiny new toy, and I had to play with it.


So, what can be found with this? Knowing already that Timothy Kelly’s family originated in County Kerry, Ireland, I pulled up the FamilySearch website and entered the few terms I already knew.

I’m not sure I’m enamored with the current search capabilities at FamilySearch. It seems, when I enter terms for a child and his parents, I often get fed a list of results as if the child I had just entered were the parent, not the child. I had to play around with the terms to get the results I wanted by not entering the terms the way I thought would produce results I was seeking, but by entering them in an opposite way. Get that? Don’t worry, neither did I.

The bottom line, though, was that, having to slog through pages of results that a surname like Kelly would predictably yield, I did find something. Granted, it might not be my Timothy Kelly or his parents, but it is a Timothy Kelly with father Timothy and mother Catherine Flynn, for a baptism at a Catholic Church in County Kerry.

The date looks approximately right: November 9, 1828. It isn’t exactly perfect, if you go by the Catholic Cemetery records for Timothy’s burial in Fort Wayne. That record states he was born in 1829. Then again, the 1900 census gave his birth as September of 1828. Perhaps Timothy, himself, didn’t even know his exact date of birth.

The “Christening Place” in this particular FamilySearch index was listed as a Catholic Church in Castleisland. Looking on a map of parishes in County Kerry, Castleisland shows up on this map directly to the left of the words, “Northwest Cork.”

Was this where Timothy Kelly’s family originated?

To double-check, I went to the website, Irish Genealogy. There, the results were somewhat similar, somewhat disappointing. There was what seemed to be the same church record referenced: same day, same month. Parents’ names the same. But with the year given as 1821, not 1828.

How could what surely must have been the same document get indexed under two widely different years? I can see a “1” getting confused for, say, a “7”—but an “8”?

Pulling my trump card out of my back pocket—Timothy’s sister Margaret, whose death certificate was the document that got this whole search started in the first place—I could find nothing promising in the Irish Genealogy site, and a very doubtful possibility at FamilySearch. Did the family just vanish after one child? Or am I just stuck because I tried to jump ahead, trying to fly to the fun answers instead of carefully crafting my case, step by step?

It looks like my next step—after rounding out the story on Timothy’s son Richard, himself—should be to look at further records for Toledo, Ohio. Why did Margaret Kelly live there, rather than in Fort Wayne with her brother? If Timothy came to America as a child, did his family settle in Toledo rather than in Fort Wayne? Perhaps that will be a good place to resume the search for Margaret and Timothy’s parents.

Slow and steady steps may not be as exciting, but they certainly yield more reliable results.


  1. Not to be an apologist, but in defense of the "indexer" the are a lot things working against an accurate transcription.

    1) The original record was probably written with quill and inkpot. The record is very old and likely badly faded. Then it was likely poorly scanned in/photocopied. An eight written with a down stroke - reverse "S" would appear to be a 1 (the down stoke with it's fresh load of ink being the only thing to survive the years and copying)

    2) I work in an industry that transcribes lots of records (clinical trials) and even the cream of the crop working with superior document quality make 1-2% transcription errors. I suspect the "indexer" was a part time volunteer working with poor quality documents - might be making more like 10-20% errors.

    One thing we can relax on is that the "calendar change" of September 1752 is not a factor!

    1. Good points, Iggy. You would know. Kudos to all those indexing volunteers who have made finding these documents quickly a reality from the computers in our own homes!

  2. Jacqi. Great article. As I was reading it you reminded me of my dilemmas. Searching for my O'Sullivans in Co. Cork and Co. Kerry makes me crazy after an hour and I put my papers away and start again in a few weeks and the process begins again! Frustrating!!! My Cork roots are (I think) Castletownebeara BUT it said my gg grandfather was buried in the family plot in Co. Kerry. It's actually right on the border in Kilmackillogue Cemetary

    1. Oh, Lisa, how frustrating! I'm fervently clinging to the hope that all will become clearer as I learn the ins and outs of researching in Ireland. That's what I'm telling myself. On the other end of the learning curve, I hope I don't discover that I have to come up with a different platitude to quell my frustrations!

  3. I love a bunny trail. It's my favorite path.


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