Friday, October 4, 2013

Spoke Too Soon

It always pays to go back and retrace your steps when hitting a roadblock. You never know when the results may turn out differently.

After grousing about lack of research progress the other day, I thought twice about my lousy attitude and revisited the Steve Morse One-Step website. I have learned, over time, that when it comes to search, sometimes less is more. What may have doomed my previous attempt to locate a potential ship for John Kelly and family on his declared date of arrival might have been that I included too many parameters.

Now, I know it seems counter-intuitive to assume that entering “New York” as port name might be the tipping point in the wrong direction, when talking about providing too much information. I mean—c’mon, this is Castle Garden we’re researching. It’s all about ships arriving in New York! Whether right or wrong, when I first did this search, that is what I had entered—and, if you recall, I got a great, big zero when it came to results displayed.

Last night, when I revisited the website to try again, I clicked on the choice, "Castle Garden Ship Arrivals," entered nothing but a set of dates for possible arrival—anything from August 15, 1867, through my target date, August 16 of the same year. Simple. Two days worth of arrivals. Nothing more.

The results that search brought up included only one ship from England that fit my targeted arrival date. While it didn’t include Queenstown in the listing—just Liverpool—I was still willing to take a look at all the passenger names. I did so for the only ship showing on the listing for the previous day, too. (If you happen to be an subscriber, log on to your account and you should then be able to view the passenger lists for the August 15 arrival of the Denmark here, and the August 16 arrival of the City of New York here.)

While I did find some Kelly surnames scattered among the other passenger names, I couldn’t find any semblance of a Kelly family—nor even a group including wife and children (assuming that John Kelly went on ahead to prepare the way for his family).

At least I was able to test out the One-Step process and how it “seamlessly” integrated with the scanned documents at I must say that the process worked quite smoothly. I first signed on to my Ancestry site, then opened another tab to search the One-Step site. When I looked at the results brought up by Steve Morse’s site, the ships’ names were all hyperlinked. All it took was a click of the mouse on the ship name to bring me to the scanned document in Ancestry.

And believe me, once that document was brought up, I scoured it line by line, seeking any sign that this was my ship.

I suppose as a cross-check, I can now use that process to go to each of the listings for the fifty-plus year old John Kelly and see if there are any mentions of his wife and children. But who am I kidding? That will be a tedious process, indeed. It may be a project to take on if I have lots of time to kill.

That won’t be anytime too soon.

In the meantime, what might be a better use of research time would be to send for a copy of that Declaration of Intent filed in Allen County, Indiana, by someone by the name of John Kelly. While he might be our John Kelly, he might not.

Once that copy comes in, I can always revisit this segment of my search and post an update. In fact, I’m already accumulating a stack of updates to do, as I await the arrival of obituaries from the Kelly family I’ve already written about. So adding one more to that post will be no problem.

Putting that report on hold will free us up to move on to the next step: taking a look at what we know about the other individuals comprising John Kelly’s family.

And now, if someone will cue up some traveling music, we’ll tap dance our way over to our next topic: what we can find about Johanna Falvey, the woman who became John Kelly’s bride.


  1. I have the YEAR my great-grandmother arrived in the US but nothing more specific. I've always assumed she landed in New York because she and her children lived there until 1905. I wish I could pin down a month!

    1. Oh how frustrating, Wendy! Did you try the One-Step site? If you narrow it down to that year, what are the chances that there would be more than a handful of people with the same name arriving in New York within those parameters?

      Well...unless her name was Smith. Or Kelly ;)

  2. One would think a name like Falvey would be a lot easier to trace!

    1. Well, one thing I can say about it is that what I learned in the process about the surname Falvey was quite a surprise. Touche for learning curves, though--at least they equip us to make a better-informed search in the future.


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