Sunday, September 8, 2013

Shadow Family Tree

Almost as long as I’ve been researching the Kelly family of Fort Wayne, Indiana, I’ve known there was a parallel family—one sharing that same surname, which may or may not turn out to be related. In my research files, this other Kelly family grew into a shadow family tree—one I just knew would eventually turn out to connect with our Kellys, but one for which I could never seem to uncover the connecting root.

One of my first clues to this relationship, of course, was when John Kelly Stevens’ wife, Catherine Kelly Stevens, died young. When I finally found her grave site, I asked the cemetery staff who owned the plot. That was how I discovered it was co-owned by her father, John T. Kelly, and that other Kelly—Timothy Kelly.

Over the years, in accumulating local mentions of John Kelly Stevens and his family, I’ve found several newspaper articles reporting him working alongside another officer by that name, Kelly. Take this one, for instance, from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette of June 5, 1907:
Patrolmen Kelly and Stevens had one of the races of their lives early yesterday morning. They were looking for two runaway boys and they ran across two lads on Barr Street who answered the description of the runaways. As soon as the lads discovered the officers they ran and the coppers gave chase. Patrolman Kelly caught his boy after a chase of many blocks east, and Officer Stevens effected his capture after a run into Lakeside....

Who was this other Kelly family? With a relationship as close as to jointly purchase anything—let alone a family cemetery plot—could they just be friends who, coincidentally, shared the same, fairly common, surname?

Of course, I couldn’t just sit there, wondering. Over the years, I’ve toyed with the possibility, but, making little headway, set it aside until the call beckoned me again.

Right now, that call is at it again.

Somehow, feeling as deflated about possibilities for success as I’ve felt in the past, I don’t want to go through the process again. However, remembering my rallying cry—that someone, somewhere, can now stumble upon these posts via a search mechanism like Google™—makes me realize that, in the case of the Timothy Kelly family, I need to practice what I preach.

So let’s take a look at what can be found about this family—this family that may…or may not…be related to our Kelly family.

The easiest part of finding out about this Timothy was locating him in the 1870 and 1880 census.

While the printing has faded in the 1870 census, it is still possible to make out the names and ages of Timothy, his wife Ellen, and each of their children. Their household, all Indiana-born, included nine year old Catherine, seven year old Mary, two year old Andrew, and baby Timothy—who most likely arrived in September of 1869.

Advancing ten years to the next census record showed significant changes. While everyone was predictably ten years older—thankfully, no handwriting fiascos or miscalculations muddied the record here—some were new to the list, and someone was missing.

Two new children had arrived at the Kelly household: seven year old son Richard and six year old daughter Deborah (listed here as Dabora).

Deborah must have been a babe in arms when her mother, Ellen, passed away on September 27, 1875. Ellen died relatively young—at the age of thirty seven. Whether it was in sympathy for the early death of the young mother, or as a commentary on how well she was liked in her community, an entry in the Fort Wayne Sentinel on the day of her funeral reported that
The funeral…was attended by an immense concourse of people. Forty-seven carriages followed the remains to their last resting place in the Catholic cemetery.

As for the “Patrolman Kelly” who “gave chase” along with his partner, John Kelly Stevens, it most likely was Timothy and Ellen’s son, Richard. As will be seen from later reports, Richard eventually rose to the rank of Captain in the Fort Wayne Police Department, surely meriting him as many newspaper entries as his (possible) relative-by-marriage, John Kelly Stevens.

Equipped with these records from the Kelly household on Brandriff Street near downtown Fort Wayne, we can now trace our way along the lines of descendant of this family’s children—and hope to find a distant cousin who knows what I have yet to discover. Or, we can struggle to work our way backwards in time, following Timothy’s line back to his homeland in Ireland, and hope to uncover a connection between the two Kelly families there.

We’ll start first with the path of least resistance: learning more about Timothy and Ellen and what became of them and their children.


  1. I would have probably just given go girl! :)

    1. Well, I did give up...for years. I guess it is all raising its ugly head again, and I just can't help it. I've got to do something about this little mystery!

  2. Ah, another case of the "Too many Margarets" syndrome! This time it's the which Timothy is which?

    It might take a while - but the way you persevere, I know you will crack this nut even if it takes years or decades!

    1. I'm actually already into the "decade" part, if you count the number of years I just shoved my notes into the Kelly notebook and ignored them. Funny you should bring up the Too Many Margarets syndrome. It is beginning to look that way, isn't it? And with that Irish naming tradition (which I'm not convinced always applies to Irish-American immigrants), I'm wondering whether another Timothy will surface shortly, playing the role of John's father. After all, his oldest son's name was Timothy...isn't that the name-after spot reserved for the father's father?


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