Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Kelly Tally

Here it is: the tedium of cross-checking census entries for doubles of an ancestor’s name. I'll spare you; this one will be brief.

I’m searching for Timothy Kelly, brother of my family’s ancestor Catherine Kelly Stevens. Sure, his father’s name is John Kelly, and his mother is Johanna—but what is that among so many countrymen? As we’ve already seen, the same set of a dozen names got repeated often in the immigrant Irish community.

Just in the city of Fort Wayne in 1870, I was able to find seven John Kellys listed in the census. Admittedly, one of those Kellys was a single man with the improbable birthplace of “Wurtemburg” in Germany, rather than the usual emerald isle. But still. Six men by the same name in one city’s census records means that there is a margin for error here.

So, how about the number of residents owning up to the name Timothy Kelly? Fortunately, there were only four. The 1870 census showed one born in 1830, one in 1836, another in 1860 and one baby arriving in 1869.

Just in case the birth year I had gotten for our Timothy had been entered in error, I checked all of them to see if any of those Timothys had a father named John.

Phew. Only one.

So I think it’s safe to conclude that the record I found of a young Timothy’s premature death in 1876 could indeed, though sadly, be ours. Despite the cautions I always feel about using information gleaned from indexed records—such as the one at FamilySearch that I found for this Timothy—it helps to find other, corroborating records.

And there was another record to use. Provided by one of the local newspapers, it was a report of a tragic occurrence that explained why, no matter how diligently we searched, we would never find another mention of our Timothy Kelly after the 1870 census for Fort Wayne or any other city.


  1. How sad! Great work figuring out which Timothy Kelly was which, though. I really enjoyed reading this.

    1. It was sad to stumble upon that story--and then to wonder, with all the newspaper errors I've found, whether I had the right person or not. After all this, I feel pretty certain I do.

      Thanks for stopping by again, Erin. I always love getting to chat with readers!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...