Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Finding Some Answers
Uncovers More Questions

Two steps forward, one step backward seems to be the dance step for genealogy research.

In some cases, it is more like one step forward and several steps backward.

Locating the obituary for our mystery man—and possible relative—Timothy Kelly provides a chance for us to do that genealogy dance step once again.

The obituary comes to us, thanks to a volunteer at Find A Grave, who posted a microfilmed copy of it alongside the entry for Timothy's burial at the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne. The story originally appeared in the September 21, 1901, edition of The Fort Wayne Sentinel. A similarly-worded report ran the following Wednesday, September 25, on page two of The Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel.

With the predictable headline, “Timothy Kelly Expired This Morning,” the article’s sub-heading explained, “Was an Old Shop Foreman; He Helped to Build the Pittsburg Road and Had Long Lived in Fort Wayne.”

If there’s one thing I’ve been able to glean from the records I’ve so far stumbled across for this family, it’s the Kellys’ address. Apparently, my one step forward is to be that we are talking about the right Timothy Kelly here—the one who lived at 20 Brandriff Street.

So far, so good.

I suppose we could consider the declaration of his birthplace to be a plus—until you realize that finding a Kelly in the midst of County Kerry might be a challenge. It would have been a nice addition to the narrative for the obituary to provide the names of Timothy's parents, but apparently that was not the tradition for that era.

What, indeed, did the obituary mean by explaining that he “came to America when a mere boy.” Does that mean he was traveling to the United States with his parents as a seven year old? A pre-teen? Or, for those eras in which one wasn’t considered to have become a “man” until he turned, say, thirty, does that mean Timothy came to America when he was "only" twenty five? What does “mere boy” mean to the middle America of the turn of the century?

Having answers to questions like those are a mere nicety in the face of the way I'm stumped about the remaining relatives. Right up front—as you’d expect, having just read yesterday’s post-cum-gripe-session—seeing the only daughter listed here as “Mrs. Frank Pence” nearly sent me into orbit. Which daughter might that have been? Catherine? Mary? “Dabora” (as she was recorded in the 1880 census)? I know now, but only after a considerable search.

The one redeeming feature of this obituary was that it provided an explanation for the “Margaret Kelley” that had suddenly appeared in the household for the 1900 census. Now sporting the married name Sweeney, Margaret was listed in Timothy’s obituary as a step-daughter.

However, if you think that dance is now over, let me assure you that uncovering this one woman’s married name turns out to actually be a step backwards. In this case, it would have been more helpful to have known her husband’s first name—for, as you will see in a few days, I haven’t been able to find any further information on Margaret, despite the “gift” of her married name.

And the “gift” of an emergent family constellation with that tidbit about a sister named Margaret? Forget it. I haven’t been able to find her in any Fort Wayne records either.


Anyone else care to tango?
            Timothy Kelly, a pioneer railroad employe and for many years a resident of Fort Wayne, died at 9:30 o'clock this morning at his home, 20 Brandriff street. Mr. Kelly was 62 years of age, and death was due to Bright's disease. He had been in failing health for some time, but it was only within the past week that his condition came to be regarded as critical.
            Mr. Kelly was born in county Kerry, Ireland, but came to America when a mere boy. He helped to build the Pittsburg road, located in Fort Wayne in 1857 and was for many years foreman of the Pennsylvania car shops in this city. Failing health compelled him to retire from active work several years ago.
            He was a faithful member of St. Patrick's Catholic church, and the surviving relatives include the widow and four children: Andrew J., Timothy, jr., and Richard Kelly, and Mrs. Frank Pence. There is also a step-daughter, Mrs. Margaret Sweeney. Margaret Kelly is a sister of the deceased.
            Funeral announcement will be made later.


  1. Replies
    1. Ya know...I was never good at all that fancy footwork...

  2. I really like your "About Me" in your Profile. Beautiful words! Dani Oldroyd

    1. Dani, thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words!

  3. Good sleuthing Jacqi, I've used addresses in articles to find the "right" ancestor. A useful tip.

  4. Thanks, Ellie. Addresses have come in handy from time to time--as long as I can find them in old census records.

    Of course, the challenge is to determine if and when each city shifted their numbering system, to be able to identify the property in the current system. I'll be posting soon on one of our trips through Fort Wayne, when we actually mapped out where each family property was, and went to visit those sites.

    The interesting thing was, though it was nearly one hundred years later, some of those houses were still standing--and occupied!

  5. I suspect "young boy" back then was "pre-teen" at the oldest - many of them went to work at such tender ages of 9-10-11 years old in the coal mining country - a common place for the Irish.

    The Irish were treated very poorly as they built this country's early "infrastructure" (canals, railroads, worked the mines, ect.) by the dint of some very, very hard labor. Pick, shovel, axe, and sledge hammer - and lots of sore muscles. In return, a lot of them died of dreadful illnesses that are nearly gone today (like Typhus).

    1. Good point about the early age for heading to some hard labor--although I suspect that, despite those serious long hours at work, many of those young men were still considered "boys." I'm hoping to send for copies of naturalization applications to gain some clarity on just when Timothy arrived in the States.

      Iggy, you are so right about the dreadful work conditions and requirements endured, especially in such workplaces as the old coal mines. On the other hand, my husband was just telling me about beginning to read Leon Uris' novel, Trinity, in which is included descriptions of such despicable conditions and pressures as to make me see clearly that emigration out of those circumstances in Ireland and into work on American railroads or mines might have been considered "bettering" one's lot.

      A sobering thought.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...