Sometimes, when you look and look at the facts and they don’t lead you anywhere, you just have to set them all aside and come back to them later.
That’s what I did, regarding this whole Kelly puzzle, about ten years ago.
Back then, I had an email volley going with another researcher trying to make sense of that same Mary Kelly, wife of Timothy, whom I was tangentially pondering. Believe me, we looked at the family connections from every angle possible.
Of course, back then, Ancestry.com was a mere babe in arms, and the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center was someplace where you went. Newspaper databases—or any online research resource—were gangly, awkward teenaged monstrosities that took a lot of waiting for not much of a pay-off.
Admittedly, genealogy research has come a long way since I last visited the puzzle of the Kelly connections.
Even now, though, I somehow feel like I’m not making much headway. I still can’t, for example, find any marriage data for the mysterious Mrs. Margaret Sweeney. I’m still having trouble piecing together the family data for her mother, Timothy Kelly’s second wife, Mary. Whether digitally riffling through the online records for Kelly versus Kelley, or the quad challenge of seeking the right spelling—Danehy, Denahy, Danahy, or Danahay—the progress is defeatingly slow. (Not to mention, it’s just dawned on me that I have a triple quandary with the addition of spelling variation possibilities for Sweeney, as well.)
Thankfully, but only just last night, I made a breakthrough. It will take several posts to explain this all, I’m afraid, so please bear with me—someone will want to know this at some point, so I do want to post it online to connect with possible future searches.
What I realized in the process is that sometimes, not only do we need to set stuff aside and let it percolate in the back of our brains, but we can also use the help of consciously taking the facts and surrounding ourselves with all that data. Take a bath in it. Soak it up. Scramble the data around, like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Play “What If?” with lists of what we’ve found. Sketch it out on timelines and see how the dates and names jive.
I can’t tell you how many pieces of scratch paper I drafted in this quest to figure out Mary Kelly and her daughter Margaret. Let’s just say I’m glad I always keep a stash of paper scraps at hand.
I’ve shuffled those lists around, staring at them, playing with them, getting them into my mind, asking myself questions to see what’s missing from the picture taking shape from the lists of documentation I already have.
And then, a breakthrough. It all began with one simple question: If Mary was Timothy’s widow, why wasn’t she buried with her husband?
And if she wasn’t buried in the Kelly family plot, where was she buried?