Monday, September 23, 2013

Some Things Can Make You Shake

This past week has been one of those weeks. While I was attending a meeting, my car, parked curbside, was side-swiped by a hit and run driver last Wednesday. I never saw or heard a thing. Even though I was not in the car when the impact occurred, it made me shaky afterward, just thinking about the implications.

Two days later, my husband went on an overnight, out-of-town business trip without me. When he returned the next day, he told me he had had one of those see-yourself-in-a-coffin dreams and remarked how vivid the dream had seemed. Okay, chalk that one up to too much talk about genealogical research on cemeteries and death certificates. It didn’t help that the day after that, we received a call informing us that his cousin’s son had just died. Then I got shaky.

Reviewing all the basic documentation I could find last week on my current research project—that of Richard Kelly and how his father, Timothy, was connected to my husband’s great-great grandfather, John Kelly—I spent a few hours scrolling through summaries of the three hundred six newspaper reports I found mentioning anything about Captain Richard Kelly of the Fort Wayne Police Department. As you can imagine, that was tedious work.

After passing at least two hundred of those articles, I ran across something that made me perk up. It was a brief mention buried on page two of The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette on May 31, 1909:
Captain of Police Richard Kelly, accompanied by his wife, spent Sunday in Toledo at the bedside of Mr. Kelly’s aunt, who is dangerously ill. Captain Kelly returned last evening.

No sooner had I found that, than up came another like it. Evidently, the aunt had survived that narrow brush with death in May, only to be summoned again two months later. This time, she couldn’t resist.
Captain Richard Kelly will go to Toledo to-day, having been called by the death of an aunt, who was the only surviving member of his father’s family. He will be gone several days.

I noted the date: published in The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette again, this one was on July 25 of that same year. I kept a tight hold on that date. This might be important.

Nor could I let go of that phrase, “the only surviving member of his father’s family.” Oh why couldn't it have included a name?! But at least I now had a date. If I could find this one, it might turn out priceless.

But what if it was one of those typical newspaper errors? What if it was really just someone from his parents’ families? Worse, what if it wasn’t even a relative of his dad or his mom, but of his stepmother? Searching for the multiple name possibilities seemed daunting, even if I now had the date narrowed down to a few days in July, 1909, and the city specified as Toledo rather than Fort Wayne.

There was nothing to do but just sit down at the computer and begin to slog through the possibilities. I’d never get to the conclusion if I didn’t begin the process.

Last night, I did just that.

I remembered having already run across a recent mention of Richard’s father’s sister, so my first step was to review my notes on the family. Keep in mind, I haven’t yet discovered how this Kelly family is related to our own, so I have nowhere to plug this family’s records into my own database, so no way to keep it as organized and searchable as I’d like.

Regardless, I zeroed in on where I remembered last seeing that mention of a father’s sister: in Timothy Kelly’s own obituary. The search took me back to the September 21, 1901, edition of the Fort Wayne Sentinel—exactly one hundred twelve years before this very shaky weekend. There it was, on the next to last line of the entry: “Margaret Kelly is a sister of the deceased.

I had already done due diligence in seeking any further information on this Margaret Kelly, and had set it aside as a lost cause. That was when I searched for her in Fort Wayne.

Now I had Toledo to consider.

Unfortunately, seeking a name like Margaret Kelly is still a challenge. It doesn’t matter whether the search is conducted for Fort Wayne or Toledo or elsewhere. There are a lot of Margaret Kellys out there.

The Find A Grave website didn’t have anything promising. The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center’s Ohio Obituary Index, despite containing nearly three million notices, didn’t include anything on Margaret—Kelly or Kelley. I nixed the Ohio Historical Society’s online Death Certificate Index because it only covered deaths beginning with 1913. My hopes spiked when I discovered the Toledo Library had a resource for looking up Toledo obituaries online, but dashed when I found out it had a wimpy start date of 1970. Google™ News included The Toledo News-Bee and had the editions for the dates I was seeking, but the newspaper apparently didn’t publish obituaries. Period.

With such an unpromising start despite all these great Ohio resources, I didn’t hold out much hope for finding my Margaret—if indeed it was to be a relative of Timothy Kelly’s at all—in all my usual places. Regardless, I plodded over to FamilySearch, entered the parameters after her name, and held my breath for Margaret.

There was an entry.

It was for a Margaret Kelley. I didn’t mind. This wouldn’t be the first time.

It had a date of death matching the range I’d found in those newspaper reports about Richard Kelly’s absence from work for his aunt’s funeral. It was for Toledo in Lucas County, Ohio. And—in the nick of time for the new legislation authorizing the gathering of personal information of the decedent—it included her parents’ names.

If only the reporting party wasn’t shaking as much as I now am, and gave the right information, after such a long struggle over fruitless attempts and false leads, I now know the names of Margaret’s—and thus Timothy’s—parents.

You’ll find it quite predictable to discover that they were Timothy Kelly, senior, and Catherine Flynn.


  1. I am glad YOU are okay and weren't in the car - but getting it repaired will be an aggravation no one wants or needs.

    Your husband seems to have that "premonition" trait that seems to run in families (Irish or otherwise) - I too, get flashes / dreams like this - but can never put my finger on anything... something happens - whatever it is.

    1. The car is already in the shop. Let the aggravation begin! ;)

  2. Oh well done for your perseverance on this problem! I'm sure they were pleasant shakes at the end there, not the nasty kind. This is why we do it, isn't it? The thrill of the chase - but with no danger to anyone or harm caused to small furry creatures!

    1. Oh, it is definitely the thrill of the chase. Last night made it all worthwhile! Doubly worth it for being such a long time in the making.

  3. Congratulations on your find, Jacqi! And sorry to hear about your car, and the death in your husband's family. At least you had a little good news to offset the bad.

    1. Thank you, Shelley. Yes, the timing of this good news certainly helped.

  4. Thanks for introducing me to two new search sites I didn't know were there! The Ohio Obituary Index and Death Certificate Index have been filed in my bookmarks for future use :)

    1. Great, Danni. I hope you find them useful! Actually, Ohio has quite a few handy research resources.

  5. So glad you were not in the car. That happened to our daughter along the freeway, she left her car and caught a ride with someone she knew and when we returned her car was totaled. She was pregnant with our oldest granddaughter at the time.
    You are making progress.
    Oh those death dreams, they are scary but we cannot control the subconscious:(

    1. Even though your daughter was not in the car when it was wrecked, I bet it still was a shaky feeling to know what happened. Glad she was spared that trauma--and your granddaughter, too--but it sure makes you think!


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