Monday, September 30, 2013

Getting the Right Declaration:
Here’s the Set Up

The quest we are now launching sounds like it has the makings of a bad joke: “What started in Ireland, ended up in Fort Wayne, and happened between March, 1867, and July, 1869?”

When it comes to researching a name as common as John Kelly—even John T. Kelly—it is likely there are several possible answers to that question. Add the typical alternate spelling, Kelley, and the multiplied possibilities could be daunting.

Thankfully, step one—looking for filings of the requisite Declaration of Intent for those wishing to make their new American residence official—is expedited, at least in searching for Allen County residents. The online databases at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center offer a streamlined way to glean the information needed to select the right John Kelly.

If the "Applications for Naturalization 1844-1906" database at the Genealogy Center is all inclusive, it appears there were five different men answering to the name John Kelly who filed their first papers in Allen County, Indiana.

Keeping in mind that John’s surname was often spelled by the alternate “Kelley,” I took a look under that spelling for records, as well. You’ll be glad to know the tally was upped by a very welcomed goose egg. There were no Declarations filed by anyone named John Kelley—at least as far as the Genealogy Center database was concerned.

Of those five candidates to be claimed as our John Kelly, which ones fit the parameters: arriving in America from Ireland after March, 1867, but before July, 1869?

Here’s our original working list:
·        John Kelly, arrived in Boston in April, 1871
·        John Kelly, arrived in New York City in August, 1850
·        John Kelly, arrived in Detroit in May 188? (yes, the date included a question mark for the final digit)
·        John Kelly, arrived in New York in August, 1867
·        John Kelly, arrived in Detroit in May 1858

Right away, the perfect candidate seems to emerge: the fourth entry, arriving within our parameters in 1867. Though that date would mean travel with a five month old infant, it still allowed plenty of time for the family to make the rest of the journey between New York harbor and Fort Wayne, completed most likely by rail, before John and Johanna’s next child arrived in July, 1869.

But wait—not so fast. The entries in the online database also include ages of these men. Let’s make sure the age matches that of our own John Kelly.

I’m not sure what the database hoped to signify with the additional entry of the ages—did the age entered mean upon date of arrival, or at the point at which the man filed his Declaration of Intent?

Regardless, it is quite evident that, whatever that age signified, it would have to represent a man who was relatively older than the typical Irish immigrant, a single laborer in his twenties.

On the other hand, determining our John Kelly’s age presents its own challenge. If we base his age on the record provided by the 1880 census—sixty six when the census was taken—we can presume he was born in 1814. However, if we believe the ripe old age indicated on his 1892 obituary—eighty four—we are required to push his year of birth back to 1808.

Let's go back to those men, all named John Kelly, who filed their Declarations of Intent with Allen County, Indiana, and take another look. Each entry in the database gives the date in which the papers were filed. Let’s assume the age given linked to time of filing.

A quick glance reveals that, while some of these John Kellys filed their papers as early as 1856, some as late as 1876, and two filed a day apart from each other on October fifth and sixth of 1868 (whereupon I sense, if not a bad joke, at least the makings of a bureaucratic comedy of errors), the only one filing papers who was not in his twenties or thirties was the lone fifty two year old man who filed on October 5, 1868. Though the math would put his date of birth as 1816—somewhat later than our 1814 estimate extrapolated from the 1880 census—the fact that the dates given for his birth vary so widely elsewhere leaves some latitude for such a possibility.

If this one entry is indeed our John Kelly, his record—hopefully with the type of information we seek—lies tucked within Book Four on page 453 of some dusty old volume at that county seat in Indiana.

If this is our John Kelly, his document provides a clue for our next step: his arrival from Queenstown in Ireland was in New York City on August 16, 1867.

Now, on to the punch line: to find the ship’s passenger list—and hope we don’t discover this was only a bad joke, after all.

Illustration: Artist's conception of aerial view of the southern tip of Manhattan, New York, featuring Castle Garden in Battery Park; unidentified artist circa 1880; courtesy Library of Congress via Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Make That John T. Kelly

I did not pull the lucky ring on this genealogy merry go round ride. Researching someone with a name as common as John Kelly will not be easy.

But you know I’m up to it. At least this time, I’ve found clues.

Since John Kelly was an immigrant to Fort Wayne, Indiana, discovering his origins will likely mean connecting with his family from the previous generation. Sometimes, this ride brings me so close to that goal, I think I can almost reach out and touch it.

Pinpointing the Kelly family’s arrival in Fort Wayne isn’t too hard. All it takes is a good look at a census record to spot the brief window of time in which the cross-Atlantic journey could be made.

Take the 1880 census, for instance. John, figuring as head of household, declared his age to be sixty six, which gives us a tentative birth year of 1814. His wife Johanna, quite a bit younger at fifty, was likely born in 1830. The listing of children, given with the location of their birth, provides us the tool with which to pinpoint the family's arrival in the United States. Oldest—and the one we’ve already met—was their son, Timothy. He, along with his two sisters Catherine and Mary, was born in Ireland. Arrival of the youngest of those Irish natives was in March of 1867.

The first of John and Johanna’s children to be born in the United States was their son, Patrick, who joined the family in July, 1869. That date draws the final line for the family’s possible arrival times in Fort Wayne.

That leaves us with a range of travel times no sooner than March, 1867, and no later than July, 1869, for the family to leave their homeland and arrive in one of the many American harbors. Given the challenges of cross-Atlantic travel at that time, for Johanna’s sake, one would hope that range was even a bit narrower.

With emigration dates in that range, the Kelly family’s arrival certainly pre-dates use of Ellis Island—but it does fall nicely within the time period in which Castle Garden functioned as America’s first immigration station. If, that is, John Kelly and his family traveled from Ireland to New York City.

If, however, John Kelly chose a route similar to that of one of our other Irish immigrant families—John Stevens, who journeyed to Lafayette, on the other side of the state from Fort Wayne—he and his family might have sailed for New Orleans and then up the Mississippi.

Or, the family could have followed the steps of another one of our Irish ancestors and, instead of heading to America, gone north to Canada, and through the Great Lakes, made their way to the Midwest via such cities as Detroit or Chicago.

So, you see, trying to track someone by such a name as John Kelly could be a real challenge here, with multiple choices for travel routes. It certainly would be nice to have a little help with this one.

With something as simple as the insertion of an initial—“T,” in this case—it wouldn’t seem to make much of a difference. At this point, though, I’ll take anything. Remember, I’ve been around this block before and come back empty-handed.

It took jumping to the end of John’s story to find that simple middle initial. In the quaint manner of nineteenth century obituaries—many words, few facts—I found that little detail. Here’s how The Fort Wayne Sentinel put it, wrapping up the week for death notices on February 27, 1892:
Homes Where Sorrow Dwells and in Which There is the Vacant Chair.
The following are the deaths reported by the city undertakers for the week ending February 27th:
...Jno. T. Kelly, 84 years, old age.

That little initial had enough staying power to be included in his obituary, too—assuring me that it wasn’t just a matter of editorial inattention. Under the headline, “John T. Kelly, a Pioneer, Called From Earth,” the text once again specified this particular John Kelly:
John T. Kelly died from the effects of old age at his residence 81 Hoagland avenue, last evening. The deceased was eighty-four years old and for many years was an employe in the Pennsylvania shops. He leaves a wife and family of grown children. The funeral will occur Sunday.

And, following that February 27 obituary, the next day a brief funeral notice made sure to carry that same little detail:
The funeral of John T. Kelly, of 81 Hoagland avenue, will be held this afternoon at 1:30 from St. Patrick's church.

Think this man wanted to make sure he wasn’t confused with any other John Kelly?

Of course, that probably wasn’t the reason that “T” trailed him throughout his years in Fort Wayne. But I’m certainly glad he saw to it that it was attached to what, otherwise, might have been the kind of name that could have gotten him lost in the crowd.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Back to the Main Highway

Like a weary explorer, returning from travels to a distant land, I’ve completed my journey through the twin Kelly families of 1880s Fort Wayne, Indiana. I surveyed all the possibilities for actual relationship between John Kelly and the man by the name of Timothy Kelly who co-owned his family plot in the city's Catholic Cemetery. Despite what looked like promising paths (but turned out to be rabbit trails), I return nearly empty-handed. With the exception of the ecstatic moment when I uncovered a report revealing the names of Timothy’s parents, I unearthed no momentous discovery.

I still don’t know how—or if—John and Timothy Kelly are relatives.

I’ve set this puzzle aside before, and it looks like I’ll have to put it to bed again for another year. Some different angles I can use to unravel the mystery will pop up in future brainstorming sessions, and I’ll be back at it again. It is always worth another try.

While closing the chapter on the Timothy Kelly family, I still have some unfinished business regarding the side of the Kelly family that I do know is ours. Returning to the burial records for that family plot at the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, I’ve run down the list for the burials connected with Timothy’s family, and then continued to pursue those members of his family who were buried elsewhere.

Starting tomorrow, though, I need to do the same for those burials in that family plot that belong to John Kelly, and then, as I did with Timothy’s family, explore those members of John Kelly’s family who were not buried in this particular plot.

All told, of the nine buried in the Kelly family plot, four were Timothy’s, four were John’s, and one—baby Willie—leaves me clueless about which Kelly couple were his parents. We’ve already discussed John’s son Timothy’s tragic premature death. Though John Kelly and his wife, Johanna, have been mentioned in several posts over the last few months, I’d like to include more detail about each of them in the next few days’ posts. And the baby of the family—also named John—will get a page of his own, too.

Beyond that, we’ll need to explore what else can be found about the remaining members of the John Kelly family. Though they are not buried in this specific family plot, they also lived and died in Fort Wayne. Two of them—Mary and Patrick—went on to marry and have families of their own, adding yet more stories to the lineup of future posts.

And, of course, we will need to revisit the one whose story got this whole exploration launched in the first place: Catherine, daughter of John and Johanna, who married John Kelly Stevens and gave birth to the Will Stevens we spent so much time with, about this same time two years ago.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lonely Grandchild

It was toward the end of Richard Kelly’s life when he relinquished his position as head of household and took his place, next door, in the home of his son-in-law. He had lost his wife, Louise, the year before the 1940 census revealed this change.

Though he was aging, the move wasn’t due to declining abilities. After all, he still was employed by the Fort Wayne Police Department, despite his reported age of sixty eight. It most likely was a mute testimony to the loneliness following the loss of a lifelong spouse.

The move, though, helps us see some of the life details of the next generation in this Kelly family. The census showed a household composed of three additional people. George Horton, the forty two year old head of household, being a Hoosier State native, had apparently taken as his bride Richard Kelly’s only daughter, Helen, who by now was thirty four, herself. Completing the family was thirteen year old daughter Joan.

The singular feature about this household unit was that the youngest member of that family happened to be the only descendant of the entire Kelly line proceeding from Richard’s father Timothy to take her place in that generation. As was her mother, she was an only child—and as her mother was Timothy’s only grandchild, Joan became his only great-grandchild.

There was more than initially meets the eye in this 1940 document, however.

Supplied instantly with the married name of Richard’s daughter, thanks to the shared household documented in the 1940 census, I turned next to to seek the Hortons’ marriage record. With much more detail than I’d ever found in earlier marriage license applications for Kelly family members, this scanned image provided a wealth of information, including such non-essential but nice-to-have details as George’s middle name (Robert).

It also pointed out one other key detail: the couple exchanged their wedding vows on April 21, 1937. With a thirteen year old daughter in their 1940 household having a birth year pre-dating that event, it brought up a question: whose daughter was Joan?

Apparently, George and Helen were each previously married. Though the 1940 census indicated that Joan’s surname was Horton, it could have meant either that she was George’s daughter and Helen’s step-daughter or that Joan was Helen’s daughter and George subsequently chose to adopt her. (Of course, it could also have signaled us that this was a careless census worker.)

Perhaps Richard Kelly did not have a granddaughter, after all.

It turns out the Horton wedding was not the only marriage record tucked away in the files. Thanks to cross-referencing with her parents’ names, it was easy to access Helen’s first marriage record, too.

Eleven years prior to the Hortons’ wedding, Helen had been the bride of one Herbert E. York. On May 29, 1926, the twenty four year old roofer set up housekeeping with his bride, and by the 1930 census, the couple were the proud parents of a daughter: Joan.

What occurred between that event and the couple’s divorce soon after—it occurred in 1931—is impossible to tell. There is no one to ask; if it weren’t for public documents, I wouldn’t even have known of these people’s existence, much less their domestic difficulties. Though Joan’s father didn’t die until 1952, I haven’t been able to find any burial information for him in Fort Wayne. With the gaps in historic newspaper collections hitting the very dates I’m seeking, it will be a long wait until I can obtain his obituary.

Joan’s mother, however, apparently remained with George Horton until his passing on September 17, 1972, in Wolcottville, Indiana. She, dying in 1987, took her place alongside him at the Catholic Cemetery back in Fort Wayne.

Try as I might to find any further sign of their only daughter, Joan, I did not succeed. Whether assuming her surname as Horton was correct, or just a figment of a census-taker’s imagination, no matter how I manipulated the variables, I couldn’t flush out any sign of what became her future.

Hopefully, that is a good sign—a sign that she married and eventually gifted her grandparents and great-grandparents with at least one, if not more, descendants.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Seeking Descendants

When you work on your family history, do you find yourself wandering down parallel lines? Or do you stay on the straight and narrow, backtracking through history, following the line from direct descendant to immediate predecessor, swimming upstream and upstream only?

As you probably have already guessed, I choose to meander.

I have some solid reasons for that choice—despite personality quirks that insure that persuasion—so before I explore the one descendant I’m particularly interested in now, I’d like to state my case.

Why Research Parallel Lines?

Just in my own experience, I’ve run across a few reasons for delving into the lines of those who were siblings of my direct ancestors. Here are some reflections on this process:

  • Can you say, “Brick wall”?

Knowing who the siblings are in the family you’re currently researching provides a key to work-arounds when you get stuck. If you can’t find parents’ names for your direct ancestor, for instance, perhaps that ancestor’s siblings may turn out to have documentation that yields the result you were seeking.

Case in point: While researching Timothy Kelly in Fort Wayne, not once could I uncover the names of his parents. He married in 1860—too soon for the government to require additional data collection. Likewise, he died in 1901, narrowly missing legislative changes for death certificates, too. However, his sister, though unmarried, died just after her state government began requiring the type of additional information that provided me with the answer I sought.

  • Now, can you say, “Cousin Bait”?

If you want to target the crowd-sourcing of your family history research project to people who have a specific, vested interest in your particular family, you really need to recruit cousins. If the ones you can call up or harass on Facebook won’t respond to your pleas for help, you’ve got to find other ways to recruit those extra sets of eyes and hands. That entails getting your family tree project out there where others can find you—but it also requires you to dangle those hooks that a potential cousin can latch on to. If you don’t display information on siblings of your direct line—that’s the “bait,” in case you were wondering—how will those potential cousins know that you are a viable connection?

Example: by working on all the descendants of this extended Kelly family in Fort Wayne, I documented enough names of the other branches of this tree that when people Googled their own family names, that search led them to my online queries and trees at and Rootsweb (not to mention the collection of names and data being added right here, daily). That’s led to email correspondence with a couple other distant Kelly family members that I would not have otherwise been aware of.

  • Call it another way to leave a family legacy.

Sometimes, I feel like people researching their genealogy get overwhelmed with their me-me-me focus. They want to know who is related to “me.” They want to know that great-great-ancestor is someone famous. Or rich. And if not that, at least notorious. While there are many wonderful volunteers out there “paying it forward” by helping with genealogical projects to benefit others—everything from local genealogical society efforts to the around-the-world army of volunteers indexing records for—we all could use a little redirecting in our genealogy focus.

After all, our family history research and its written results are the legacy we will leave behind. What more unselfish way to research that story than to include all the family members descendant from that key ancestor?

With the many online resources aiding us in constructing our family trees now, the focus is on the race backward in time. In contrast, when I think back to my earliest days of research—in libraries predating any electronic gadgets—I think of the books I pulled down from reference shelves. There, in many of those volumes, I could find titles that included the words, “The Descendants Of.” I am so grateful for those researchers I’ve never met—who probably were long gone before I was even born—who had the foresight to frame their genealogical questions with that forward perspective.

Wanting to Be That Kind of Researcher

Even if the parallel line I’m eyeing yields only one descendant, it still makes a worthwhile project for me. I want to do this because I want to find relatives. Perhaps it’s the small-family syndrome playing its way out in my life. It’s a call to find connections.

At this juncture in the Kelly family research, though, I find an unusual situation: Timothy Kelly’s six children gave him only one grandchild. With the potential to call this the last leaf on this Kelly tree, to research such a small parallel line hardly qualifies as brick-wall bashing, or even cousin bait strategizing. Why bother?

In the case of this one child—Joan Horton, as we find in the 1940 census—she may not represent a continuing line of descendants. Even if the line stops here, with this one 1940 mention of a descendant, we do a service by documenting what became of this vanishing immigrant family. We grant significance in the act of remembering others. We can certainly afford to present such others with this one dignity.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Back to That Research Plan

After being lured away from The Plan by the appearance of yet another bright, shiny research object, I promise to return to—and keep treading down—the decided-upon research path.

That is the repentant me speaking.

The bedazzled, wide-eyed, wonder-struck child genealogist in me is still jumping on the bed, shouting, “On to Ireland!” But I know I must wait and do this thing up right—as long as it hurries up and brings me to my stated goal fast.

So, back to Captain Richard Kelly and Fort Wayne we go, to line up all our vital stats, dot all our genealogical i’s and cross all our family history t’s.

There was one point I prematurely skipped. I mentioned Richard was out of his father’s household, come time for the 1900 census. I also mentioned that he traveled with his wife to the funeral of his mystery aunt in Toledo. Let’s take a closer look at what can be found about that wife.

According to Fort Wayne marriage records, her name was Louisa Miller, and she promised Richard Kelly, “I do” on October 23, 1895. Well, that’s what one index explains—and I rather believe it, as the image of the marriage license is also viewable online.

There’s only one problem with that date: another index transcribed another record, claiming the date was actually in 1896.

Could that mean there were two Richard Kellys? Or is this another transcription problem?

Thankfully, was able to include a digitized version of this marriage record, as well. Taking a closer look at this multi-page record, apparently an official someone inserted several records under the date 1895 in the midst of records clearly listed as 1896. Granted, that “5” was a little hard to see—what do you think? Was it a five or a six for Richard Kelly’s entry?

What is wonderful about this second source of material is that each marriage entry extends for several columns of information provided for both the groom and the bride. The “Record of Marriages” begins with the groom’s name in column one. From that point, you have to pay careful attention to the column numbers to keep straight which page you are on.

For the groom, the twenty four year old Richard declared that he was the son of Timothy Kelly (which we already knew) and Mary Barrett. Now, there’s the beginning of our problems. Granted, Richard was a mere child when his mother, Ellen, passed away in 1875. Perhaps she was really named “Mary Ellen” and people had dispensed with the formality of the first name. But I doubt that.

On the other hand, whatever Richard’s mother’s real maiden name was, all I know is that it is illegible. Here’s a sample of what it looked like on the 1860 document when Timothy and she were married:

About the only thing I can guarantee is that you didn’t think it looked like Barrett, either. I’m not sure what I should attribute that surname-out-of-left-field to, but I did take a look ahead to the very end of the long line of entries, and discovered that they were married by someone also having the name Barrett. Coincidence?

Richard’s bride was listed as Louisa Miller, daughter of August and Rose Palmer Miller. She was born in New Haven, a smaller town in Allen County. Louisa had claimed her age at next birthday to be twenty five, but it might have been a touch older, if we can believe what was reported by her parents on the 1870 census.

Whenever their wedding ceremony—my guess being 1895—Richard and Louisa were together almost as long as there are census records to help us tell. The childless newlyweds opened their house to Louisa’s sister Rosa in the 1900 census, but by the time of the 1910 census, baby “Ellen” (as it was recorded in that document) had arrived. The threesome can be found in the 1920 census, despite mangling of Louisa’s name and correction of their daughter’s name to “Helen M.”

That was the year a sweet newspaper announcement gave us a peek at the nature of their relationship and social engagement. With a nod to his former career status, The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette headlined the October 24 article, “‘Cap’ Kelly Married Twenty-Five Years.”
About thirty relatives and friends of the family gathered last night at the home of Police Clerk Richard Kelly, 127 East Leith street, to remind Mr. and Mrs. Kelly of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary which occurred yesterday. The affair was planned as a surprise which proved a complete success. A three course luncheon was served which was followed by music and games.

By the time of the 1930 census, Richard and “Louise,” rebounding from empty nest syndrome, had taken in a boarder. By this point, Louise had reached sixty years of age, and though still working, Richard was not far behind.

Before the time of the 1940 census could roll around, Louise was already gone—passed away on January 14, 1939. While Richard could be found in his daughter’s household for the 1940 census, he was not to remain there long. He joined his wife, buried at the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, upon his passing on February 22, 1945. If the age given in his record at the cemetery was correct, a birth date calculator pinpoints his date of birth as October 4, 1871—a long and productive life, sprinkled with some journalistic attention and administrative headaches.

In addition to the acclaim he received for his law enforcement duties, Richard had one other distinction within his immediate Kelly family: he was the only one of Timothy and Ellen’s children to have children of his own. Sisters Mary and Catherine had died, unmarried, in their youth. Brothers Andrew and Timothy were also left childless—Andrew through divorce and Timothy (as far as I can tell) never having married. Even their sole surviving sister, Deborah Kelly Pence, had not had any children of her own.

Richard and Louise’s daughter, Helen, leaves us the only family trail to continue pursuing in this particular Kelly line.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Good Kind of Stuck

Do you ever find you cannot continue adhering to your research plan because, in sticking with your research plan, you’ve just stumbled upon something so neat, so long-awaited, that you can’t simply set it aside to carry on to the next thing?

Truth be told: today’s post was supposed to be about the rest of Richard Kelly’s story—his marriage, his wife, a few family items like who his daughter was. You know, stuff like that. It’s important. But…I can’t do that now!  I just found something!!!

Being quite premature about it, I just had to rush to check out what I could find on my newfound listing of names for Richard’s father’s parents. Let’s see. Prudent? Hardly; the parents’ names were Timothy Kelly and Catherine Flynn. There should be a few hundred pages of results for search terms like those.

And that’s only if the index the names were found in was properly transcribed. Indexes can be full of errors. Not to mention, death certificates aren’t entirely reliable for information on the deceased’s parentage, either.

But this is a bright shiny new toy, and I had to play with it.


So, what can be found with this? Knowing already that Timothy Kelly’s family originated in County Kerry, Ireland, I pulled up the FamilySearch website and entered the few terms I already knew.

I’m not sure I’m enamored with the current search capabilities at FamilySearch. It seems, when I enter terms for a child and his parents, I often get fed a list of results as if the child I had just entered were the parent, not the child. I had to play around with the terms to get the results I wanted by not entering the terms the way I thought would produce results I was seeking, but by entering them in an opposite way. Get that? Don’t worry, neither did I.

The bottom line, though, was that, having to slog through pages of results that a surname like Kelly would predictably yield, I did find something. Granted, it might not be my Timothy Kelly or his parents, but it is a Timothy Kelly with father Timothy and mother Catherine Flynn, for a baptism at a Catholic Church in County Kerry.

The date looks approximately right: November 9, 1828. It isn’t exactly perfect, if you go by the Catholic Cemetery records for Timothy’s burial in Fort Wayne. That record states he was born in 1829. Then again, the 1900 census gave his birth as September of 1828. Perhaps Timothy, himself, didn’t even know his exact date of birth.

The “Christening Place” in this particular FamilySearch index was listed as a Catholic Church in Castleisland. Looking on a map of parishes in County Kerry, Castleisland shows up on this map directly to the left of the words, “Northwest Cork.”

Was this where Timothy Kelly’s family originated?

To double-check, I went to the website, Irish Genealogy. There, the results were somewhat similar, somewhat disappointing. There was what seemed to be the same church record referenced: same day, same month. Parents’ names the same. But with the year given as 1821, not 1828.

How could what surely must have been the same document get indexed under two widely different years? I can see a “1” getting confused for, say, a “7”—but an “8”?

Pulling my trump card out of my back pocket—Timothy’s sister Margaret, whose death certificate was the document that got this whole search started in the first place—I could find nothing promising in the Irish Genealogy site, and a very doubtful possibility at FamilySearch. Did the family just vanish after one child? Or am I just stuck because I tried to jump ahead, trying to fly to the fun answers instead of carefully crafting my case, step by step?

It looks like my next step—after rounding out the story on Timothy’s son Richard, himself—should be to look at further records for Toledo, Ohio. Why did Margaret Kelly live there, rather than in Fort Wayne with her brother? If Timothy came to America as a child, did his family settle in Toledo rather than in Fort Wayne? Perhaps that will be a good place to resume the search for Margaret and Timothy’s parents.

Slow and steady steps may not be as exciting, but they certainly yield more reliable results.

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.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Making a Name For Himself

Historic newspaper collections sometimes help bring to life the ancestors we puzzle over. For a specific—though limited—time frame in Fort Wayne, that has certainly been the case for our Stevens and Kelly families.

Remember all those reports I found on John Kelly Stevens, the jocular Fort Wayne policeman who happened to be my husband’s great grandfather? Just from his work in the downtown area coupled with his easy-going, talkative nature, there was enough newspaper coverage of his daily escapades for me to get a good idea of what the man was like.

If you think the stack of news reports for John Kelly Stevens was helpful, consider his (possible) relative, Richard Kelly, who for a time served not only as sergeant—as John Kelly Stevens had—but also as police captain. Yesterday, I considered that very thought: all three hundred six examples of it. If being a beat cop in Fort Wayne merited journalistic attention, being an administrator in the city Police Department meant being in a glass fish bowl of editorial inspection.

Richard Kelly—youngest son of Timothy and Ellen Kelly—was not always a police officer. Like John Kelly Stevens, he started out in one of Fort Wayne’s well known centers of employment: the railroads. Perhaps because his father was foreman at the “Pennsylvania shop,” it wasn’t hard for young Richard to gain employment there. By the time of the 1900 census, as a young married man, Richard reported his work to be brakeman for the railroad.

Sometime before the 1910 census, Richard was awarded his position as patrolman with the Fort Wayne police force. While I couldn’t pinpoint the date of his employment, we’ve already seen mentions of Richard’s work as patrolman from June of 1907.

Who can explain what seemed to be a meteoric rise to the top for Richard? The earliest reports don’t seem to be included in the newspaper collections I’ve scanned. But somehow, by early 1908, he began to see signs of favor from above. The Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel reported on March 11, 1908, that the Board of Safety had just the past week appointed Patrolman Richard Kelly as Captain of Police.

Don’t be too impressed, though. Remember, this is Fort Wayne. It all, apparently, came crashing down upon the next election. It must have been a rocky road in the interim between the November election and the change of regime that next January. Upon the election of Republican Jesse Grice, The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette mused on November 24, 1909,
It is understood that Police Captain Richard Kelly will retain his present position under the new administration, although nothing official has been given out…

Apparently, the mayor’s office had no such intention, as the Fort Wayne Daily News subsequently noted on January 3, 1910. The Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel affirmed on January 5: Richard Kelly was “reduced from captain to sergeant.”

Just as fast as the fall can follow the reinstatement. That, indeed, was what happened in Richard’s case. Upon the return of Democrat William Hosey to office at the end of Grice’s term, The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette noted,
Richard Kelly last night resumed his position as Captain of Police after four years of service as sergeant.

Who knows what impact the next mayor—a Republican again—had on Richard’s law enforcement career. At some point, news reports began to refer to him as “Police Clerk” rather than as Captain, and that is what was entered for his occupation in both the 1920 and the 1930 census records. While the 1940 census listed the more generic “policeman” for occupation, I can hardly believe that for the now-sixty-eight year old widower living in his son-in-law’s household; he was probably still serving, though, as police clerk.

Through that nearly lifelong span of work in law enforcement, Richard Kelly received his fair share of mentions in the local news. Whether for surprise night raids on gambling rings, for attempted rescue of victims of drowning, train wrecks, or gruesome work injuries, or for testimony in court proceedings, his name featured prominently. As a representative of the police department, he was sued for damages by local business owners, accused of corruption—even saw his wife accused by criminals—sent to recover escaped suspects who were being extradited back to his county’s jurisdiction. He spent his fair share of time in parades as well, and represented his local chapter as a delegate to the national convention of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Somehow, after those years of service, he was transformed from the man Richard Kelly, to the public figure Richard Kelly. News reports morphed to mention him in unofficial capacities—his brother’s and stepmother’s obituaries, for instance, mentioning Captain Richard Kelly as surviving relative. Richard Kelly’s vacations, sick days, trips out of town, family illnesses, and even his young daughter’s birthday party became news because they were Captain Kelly’s trips, illnesses or celebrations.

Thankfully, that status even spun off a benefit for me as Kelly family researcher—I found reports of his trips to Toledo to see about his one surviving aunt in her last days.

What surviving aunt?

If it weren’t for the fact that it was Captain Kelly’s aunt, there probably would never have been any newspaper mention of her at all. Since it did rise above the level of “blip” on my radar, it set me off on another chase: to find out just who this one surviving aunt might be.

Not to be impartial or anything, I fervently hoped it would be a Kelly aunt and not a sister of Richard’s stepmother. I certainly had yet to uncover any link to the prior generation of the Kelly family. This was my hope to make that connection.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sole Surviving Sister

The baby of the family always seems to find a special spot of recognition. From cradle to grave, it seems, those oft-repeated words will always echo in that child’s mind: “No matter how old you are, you’ll always be my baby.”

I don’t know much about the baby of Timothy Kelly’s family. She made her entry sometime prior to the 1880 census, sporting the phonetically-spelled version of her name duly noted by that year's assigned census taker for subsequent generations of genealogists to see: “Dabora.” I can just hear it now, with that Irish lilt, spoken with the accent on the second syllable. Perhaps that explains such a creative spelling for what surely was a common name.

Deborah Kelly had another mark to her early years: she was the last baby to be held by her mother, Ellen. Before Deborah even had the chance to reach her second birthday, her mother had already passed away. For Deborah’s growing-up years, there would be no mother left to rehearse those worn lines, “you’ll always be my baby.”

What would it be like to grow up, never knowing what your own mother was like? Perhaps as her stepmother stepped in to fill that role by the time of her twelfth birthday, she might have been resigned to accepting the only mother she would ever know. But somehow, that woman would never be the one for which Deborah was “her baby.”

Sometime between the time of the 1880 census and the next census record, Deborah’s two older sisters also met an early death. How did she feel to be the only female left remaining in the family? Did that somehow make her feel vulnerable?

With all the hardships apparently suffered as a matter of course in lives of that era, I can’t believe that people merely became hardened to the premature loss of life. I can’t help but wonder what the impact of these experiences would have been for that “baby” of the Kelly family.

At some point in her twenties, Deborah met a man from Ohio whose family had moved to the Fort Wayne area. Eventually, as stories of this sort went in that era, Frank C. Pence and Deborah Kelly decided to get married, and solemnized that decision on the first of June, 1898.

It is hard, from nothing but census records, to tell what kind of life the Pences lived. While family obituaries made it appear that the couple had moved out of the area—her stepmother’s obituary mentioned Toledo in 1913—that must have been a short-lived arrangement. The 1900 census showed the newlyweds living in the same household in Fort Wayne as Frank’s mother Sarah and sister Allie. The chicken scratch at the end of the line on their census reading seems to indicate Frank was a salesman for a photographer. The 1910 census showed them in Fort Wayne, too—with Frank at work at some sort of shop, if I read the census record right.

Perhaps that would be a retail shop, rather than a manufacturing shop, for by the time of the 1920 census, Deborah's husband was a merchant, selling cigars. Only the finest, I presume.

Perhaps the Pences were not much different than the rest of the nation, come time for the 1930 census. Was it hard times that was reflected in the fact that he was now working as a custodian at a local public school?

Ten years later, there he was, living in the same house with Deborah, working at the same custodial job despite now reaching the age of sixty eight.

While these documents don’t reveal much about daily life in the family of Frank and Deborah Pence, there was one final record that made me wonder. While the Kelly family plot was already full, as we’ve seen, and while it makes sense that those Kelly children who married and made homes of their own would not be included in those burial plans, I had thought that Frank and Deborah would still be buried in the same cemetery.

That was not so. I was surprised to see them buried, not in the Catholic Cemetery—the final resting place for the faithful of Deborah's childhood Church—but in a different location. There at the Lindenwood Cemetery, you can find both Frank and Deborah—he on March 4, 1944, and she following him a year and a half later. Deborah Kelly Pence left this world after seventy two years on November 6,1945, with no one left to mourn her loss—once again, part of the legacy of being the “baby of the family.”

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Last Burial

Exploring what could be found about the Kelly family plot in Fort Wayne, as we’ve seen, included some surprises—such as the baby Willie I’ve yet to otherwise document, and the mystery burial of Timothy’s second wife Mary elsewhere. All told, the family plot held nine burials, mostly of family who had died between 1874 and 1925.

With the burial of the eighth family member in 1925, it would be easy to presume that the lot was completely filled. Perhaps, on account of one burial being that of an infant, the Catholic Cemetery saw fit to include yet another family member in 1940: Andrew J. Kelly, son of Timothy and Ellen.

There is not much I’ve been able to find on Andrew, other than through the usual census documentation at A tour through the decades easily locates him as a toddler in the home of Timothy and Ellen in 1870, as a student at home with his father and siblings in 1880, and as a single working man in 1900.

Shortly after the 1900 census was recorded, though, things began to change for Andrew. By July 23, 1902, the thirty four year old saloon keeper had married Anna C. Russell, a woman seventeen years his junior.

Eight years into the marriage, by the time of the 1910 census, the couple was living in the very house where Andrew had grown up on Brandriff Street in Fort Wayne. Andrew was listed as proprietor of the saloon where he had worked for the last ten years. At home, well, it was hard to tell. There’s not much that can be extrapolated from the records, other than the fact that Anna was listed as a woman without any children.

About the only visible difference in the 1920 census was the fact that the census taker chose to spell their name as Kelley. Still on Brandriff Street, Andrew now worked as a janitor at a manufacturing business.

Not long after that, things began to change—or perhaps I should say things began to become discoverable through documentation. A small notice on page six of the August 21, 1920, edition of The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette under the column, “Court News,” revealed
A divorce was granted to Anna C. Kelly from Andrew Kelly in the superior court yesterday.
A closer look revealed a report in the June 18, 1920, Fort Wayne News and Sentinel when Andrew’s wife filed divorce papers for “failure to provide properly.”

It is hard to tell, in gleaning notes from historic newspaper collections, whether any given reports might be of the right Andrew Kelly. Perhaps it was this Andrew of whom a “Police Court” column on page 25 of the June 19, 1915, Fort Wayne News referred:
Andrew Kelly was one of the two drunks who drew fines this morning, and he begged hard to get off so that he could drive a four-horse float in the parade this afternoon. He is a teamster for the Porter Construction company and started for a drive with a team belonging to the company Sunday afternoon, but got as far as Calhoun and Grand streets, when he fell asleep in the rig as a result of too much cider.
The episode made it into the Fort Wayne Sentinel a few days later, with the further explanation that
Andrew Kelly took his employer’s pony team out to give himself and a companion a Sunday joy ride. They got a gallon of Hoffman’s well-known cider and when the police caught up with Kelly he was fast asleep in his buggy at Calhoun and Grand streets. He drew $1 and costs.
There were other mentions of Andrew Kelly’s name in various editions of Fort Wayne newspapers, mostly concerning his saloon license and business difficulties. These probably provide enough indication for reasons why he ended up selling his business and finding a job as a janitor. Perhaps that was his last-ditch effort to satisfy a wife who was threatening to divorce him for “failure to provide properly.”

Though shortly after that point, the historic newspaper collections I subscribe to go dark for editions of the Fort Wayne news, I tend to think Andrew’s life may have reverted to that quiet desperation felt by those who are left alone. I can only presume—well, it’s a good guess, given the Brandriff Street address—that it is our Andrew who showed up, apparently at his own old address, listed as a "lodger" in the 1930 census.

By the time of the 1940 census, at Saint Joseph's Home for the Aged, Andrew’s life was finished winding down. He bid his final farewells and called it quits on December 2, 1940. The Catholic Cemetery records gave his age as seventy three years, one month and one day. It seems almost anticlimactic, in the face of this sad recounting, to check that tally in a birth date calculator to see if it matches the November 1867 date given in the 1900 census as his birth, but I did. For what it’s worth, the results confirm his birth as November 1, 1867.

His vital statistics seemed to reduce him down to numbers on documents, duly recorded business licenses and court fines, and yet another file—his divorce settlement—telling him he was a failure yet again. What of the litany of life-shaping events that brought Andrew Kelly to that end? Those are articles no newspaper is likely to print. There is probably no source left now to tell that sort of story.

After that, all we are left with is a forlorn notation the Catholic Cemetery insisted on registering in his burial record: “divorced.”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Back to the Fork in This Road

Emerging victorious in the discovery of how to map at least part of Mary Danehy Kelly’s family constellation, I need to remember that this path I’ve now followed was—and still is—a rabbit trail. The goal instigating this rambling detour was to discover how Mary’s husband, Timothy Kelly, was related to our family’s John Kelly, father of John Kelly Stevens’ wife, Catherine.

Got that?

My presumption upon starting this quest was that John and Timothy Kelly were somehow related. After all, they were joint owners of a family burial plot at the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Since beginning this study, I can safely say that I’ve learned a lot about the Timothy Kelly family—there is even more yet to post—but it still hasn’t provided me any clues of his origins. Admittedly, I’ve found obituaries and documentation on some of his children, and even brief reports on the passing of his first wife, Ellen. We’ll continue the tour of this side trail in the next few days by rounding out what we know about the rest of Timothy and Ellen Kelly’s children.

There has also been much to discover about John Kelly and his wife, Johanna. Let’s just say that’s the diverting point—that branch in the road to which we need to work our way back. And we’ll do just that, barring any other bright, shiny genealogical temptations, after we complete the tour of Timothy and Ellen Kelly’s family tree.

I can’t guarantee that the study of each of these players in the Kelly family history mystery will yield any more results. We may find ourselves, upon completion of this assignment, wandering down yet another branch of this family—the Falvey connection—still in search of those elusive clues of the extended family’s Irish origins. The path seems to unfold only as we keep walking along it.

At this juncture, my only observation is that I’m reminding myself to enjoy the journey as well as relish arriving at the destination. It’s been a pleasant surprise, re-introducing myself to the possibilities for discovery at Find A Grave. Inspired by what I’ve found in the last few days, I’ve spent time searching surnames by specific cemeteries—like “Kelly” in the Catholic Cemetery. Skimming down the surname results page from such a search, I look for the icon of the picture frame—sometimes, those icons hint at not just family photographs but scanned resources like those wonderful obituaries tucked away on the memorial pages of the Sweeneys we just uncovered. Those provide details of arrivals from Ireland, early work histories and community involvement.

Isn’t that what we want to help us understand more of the flavor of our family’s history?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Christmas Gift of a Sister

The holiday shopping season is not yet upon us, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve already been bestowed with an early Christmas gift.

A very early Christmas gift.

Like a hundred-sixty-seven-year-early Christmas gift.

This gift came in the form of a baby girl who became the sister of Mary Danehy Kelly, the very woman and wife of Timothy Kelly of Fort Wayne over whose identity I’ve been struggling. She was born on Christmas day, and her parents named her Johanna.

Of course, I didn’t open that gift until a few nights ago, when it finally occurred to me to wander through the files of the Find A Grave website in search of answers to my Sweeney quandary. Remember, it was Mary Danehy Kelly who was buried in the Sweeney family plot, while her daughter Margaret Sweeney was buried in a Danehy family plot.

While going down the list of those buried in this Sweeney plot didn’t seem helpful—at least with the first name on the list, Cornelius—by the time I found the entry for Johanna Sweeney at Find A Grave, I changed my tune.

Let’s just say the discovery of Johanna Sweeney’s obituary, kindly inserted into her Find A Grave entry by a thoughtful volunteer, was worthy of a few rounds of Christmas carols, at the least.

You see, this Christmas baby apparently arrived in 1846 in the County Cork household of one particular Danehy family. And her surviving sister, all those years later, was named in her obituary as Mrs. Timothy Kelly.

Just to make sure no cruel editorial trick is being played on these eyes—after all, the photo of her headstone shows discrepancies already—I checked a couple other documents to see what I could find.

Sure enough, the 1900 census shows Johanna in husband Cornelius Sweeney’s household as mother of three surviving children. The document agrees with the obituary’s date of immigration as 1880, though it reports her date of birth as 1841. And the Sweeney family—Cornelius, Johanna and son John—is just across the street from the home of her sister, Mary Kelly.

Perhaps as evidence of how hard it is to discern Johanna’s and Mary’s maiden name as Danehy, a subsequent marriage license for son John has Johanna’s maiden name transcribed as Danchy. Of course, looking at the document itself, we can make out the name Danehy, but that is only because we’ve become sensitized to the issue of the multiple misspellings the family has had to endure.

At any rate, mistaken transcriptions, engraved headstones and all, I’m just glad to finally understand the connection between the Sweeneys and the Danehys—at least upon their arrival in Fort Wayne. Obituaries can sometimes tell quite a bit of the missing story. And volunteers can become wonderful aids in finding the missing pieces.

From an obituary published in The Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel, January 3, 1912:
            Mrs. Johanna Sweeney, aged 85 years, died Tuesday a.m. at 8 o’clock at the home of her son, J. J. Sweeney, 237 East Butler street, from dropsical complications.
            The deceased was born on Christmas day in the year 1846, in County Cork, Ireland, and came to the United States in 1880, coming direct to Fort Wayne, which has been her home since that time. She was a devout Catholic and a charter member of St. Patrick’s Catholic church, a member at the Rosary society, League of the Sacred Heart and of the Order of St. Francis. She is survived by two sons, J. J. Sweeney and P. J. Sweeney, of Fort Wayne; one daughter, Mrs. James Doyle, of Cleveland, Ohio; a sister, Mrs. Timothy Kelly, and a brother, Cornelius Danehy, both of this city.
            Funeral services Friday morning at 8:30 o’clock from the resident of the son, 237 East Butler street, thence in St. Patrick’s Catholic church at 9 o’clock.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Company She Kept

I couldn’t help myself. I still wanted to know more about the mystery behind why the second wife of Timothy Kelly would be buried with the family of her first in-laws. Was it just custom? Was it a kindly gesture in the face of a widow’s lack of funds? Or fallout from an undying struggle between step-mother and step-children?

As we saw the other day, Mary Kelly was buried in a plot with a family of Sweeneys—but not, as we also discovered, with her own daughter, Margaret Sweeney.

Though I had found her burial plot listed as section B, lot number 516 in the Catholic Cemetery, there was no way, online at the Genealogy Center’s databases, to search through all the listings to find the names of the other people buried in that plot, short of searching by known surnames associated with Mary’s relatives.

There was, however, one other way around this problem of access to cemetery data: use a different database. How could I forget about Find A Grave?!

I took my search there, to see if I could discover any further details on the company of four Sweeney relatives buried in the same plot as Mary Kelly.

I started reading down my Sweeney burial list gleaned from the Genealogy Center, looking first at the record for Cornelius Sweeney, who died twelve years before Mary on March 11, 1901. Thankfully, there was such an entry on Find A Grave’s listing for the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne.

I’ve got to say the volunteer who set up the page for Cornelius Sweeney went beyond the call of duty. “OPPSheryl” not only provided the year of Cornelius’ birth—1846—but also included a photocopy of his March 11, 1901, obituary from the Fort Wayne News.

While the obituary was handy and provided some details on his relatively short life, it also maddeningly included the socially-favored manner of simply listing Cornelius’ wife and mother of his children as “a wife.” No name was given to help provide any connections or reveal reasons why Mary was included with this bunch.

We can, of course, glean a few hints from Cornelius’ last report. He was born in Ireland, as was everyone of concern in that generation’s circle around the Timothy Kelly family. Interestingly enough, Cornelius must have lived next door to Timothy’s 20 Brandriff Street home. The two men must also have seen each other regularly through their work, both being employed in Fort Wayne by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Their families attended church together—and may likely have also socialized in the same fraternal organizations.

That may have made for a nice neighborly relationship, but to share a gravesite based solely on such camaraderie? I rather doubt that would be only reason.

Thankfully, the Find A Grave site included more information. The volunteer, OPPSheryl, also provided the names of “calculated relationships,” including that of the very next person on our list to be researched: Johanna Sweeney, who, according to the Genealogy Center records, had died shortly before Mary Kelly, on January 2, 1912.

There was one other detail: unlike the entry at the Genealogy Center, on the Find A Grave link, Cornelius’ wife Johanna showed a maiden name.

It was Danehy—same as Mary Kelly’s maiden name. 
            Cornelius Sweeney died Saturday evening at his home, No. 19 Brandriff street, of pneumonia. He was 55 years old, was born in Ireland, and came to this country when a boy. For many years he had been a watchman at the entrance to the Pennsylvania round house on Lafayette street. He was a member of Daniel O’Connel council, C. B. L., and of St. Patrick’s Catholic church. He leaves a wife and three children, Philip and John Sweeney and Mrs. Julia Doyle. 
            The funeral will take place Tuesday morning at 9 o’clock from St. Patrick’s Catholic church. The funeral will be held under the auspices of Daniel O’Connell council, C. B. L.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Lone Daughter’s Burial

If Margaret Sweeney wasn’t buried with her mother—Mary Kelly—and if she wasn’t married and buried with a husband, where was she buried?

It wasn’t easy answering that question. For one thing, there was no record of any deaths or record of any Sweeney burials at all with the given name Margaret—at least not in Fort Wayne’s Catholic Cemetery. While I found it hard to imagine an Irish immigrant of that era forsaking her faith and being buried outside the blessed grounds of her church's domain, I did look in the Lindenwood Cemetery for a Margaret Sweeney, too, but with no success.

Of course, I still wasn’t sure whether Sweeney was Margaret’s maiden name or a married name. Looking for marriage records through online resources proved fruitless, though, so I continued pushing through with the Sweeney surname.

Thankfully, it occurred to me that, just as Kelly had an alternate spelling of Kelley, perhaps the same could be said for a surname like Sweeney.

That was a hunch that paid off well. The Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center databases revealed there was a Margaret Sweeny who died in Fort Wayne in 1949, and was buried in the Catholic Cemetery in section O, lot number 268.

Whether that was our Margaret would be hard to tell. The online newspaper archives I subscribe to do not include dates as recent as 1949 in their collections for Fort Wayne, so pulling up this Margaret’s August fifth obituary (under the spelling Sweeney, incidentally) was out of the question. While it is true that I could pay a modest fee and request a copy from the volunteers at the Genealogy Center, the wait for an answer could take up to six weeks. I could be on an entirely different series of posts by then.

Besides, in this age of instant digital access, who can bear such a wait?! I had to find another way to figure out the likelihood that this was our Margaret.

The database for the Catholic Cemetery included this Margaret’s precise age at death. One thought was to verify whether the dates of birth matched. After all, I already knew from the 1900 census that someone in the family had declared Margaret's birth to be in January, 1869. Using the free birth date calculator from’s “official” research firm, ProGenealogists, I plugged in the age from the burial record—seventy nine years, eleven months and one day—and presto, the result: a birthday of September 3, 1869.

Hmmm. Well, at least we’re talking the same year.

Not to be defeated at this first juncture, I persevered. Surely there would be some online way to figure this out.

Who else could be buried in the plot with this Margaret? Could I rule her out as a family candidate through a guilt-by-association exercise? Or find some likely suspects to link her to the family names I’ve already uncovered?

As I mentioned yesterday, while I’m grateful that the Catholic Cemetery records are now included in the free databases available online thanks to the Genealogy Center, they are searchable only by name, not by lot number. The most obvious work-around was to start my guesswork with the extended family’s surnames and hope for the best.

I already knew there were no other Kelly family members buried in section O, lot 268, and apparently, neither were there any Sweeneys. Finding Margaret’s own record misspelled as Sweeny produced a short list in which she was the only member buried in this lot.

My only recourse in this hunt—short a discovery of a subsequent married name—was to revert to Margaret’s mother’s maiden name. That, as you’ve already discerned, came with its own spelling challenges. Our first introduction to the name, besides Mary’s marriage record under Donahy, was in the 1900 census, where two “boarders” were included in the Kelly household with the name Danahay. I’ve found other records spelling the name as Danehy and Denahy.

In this search for who else might be buried in Margaret’s burial plot, it turned out there was one other name: not a Sweeney, not a Kelly, but a Danehy.

Whoever this Margaret was who died in 1949, unless there was an extremely unlikely coincidence, she was somehow related to the Danehy family of Fort Wayne.

Margaret’s plot-mate was a man by the name of Philip Danehy, born in Fort Wayne in 1880. Over a decade removed from Margaret’s date of birth in 1869, this disparity suggested a more distant relationship. There were no other Danehy family members listed for this plot, nor could I find any under the other spelling variations.

Resorting to the tedious hunt-and-peck method I had toyed with over the weekend, I did manage to flush out another burial record for this plot—that of a woman named Edna M. Danehy Lynch. This Danehy relative was even further removed in age from Margaret, having been born in 1889.

With two Danehys buried in the same family lot as the mystery Margaret, I feel somewhat confident that this Margaret Sweeney was indeed Mary Kelly’s daughter. While I’d still like some more substantial verification—an obituary, for instance—I think we can consider it a high likelihood that we have found our Margaret.

I can’t help wonder, though, what family dynamics or circumstances played out in such a way as to result in Margaret being buried in a lot with those who appeared to be distant relatives of her mother. What went into the mix to result in Mary—a Danehy—being buried with the Sweeneys, while her daughter—a Sweeney—being buried with the Danehys?

I don’t suppose I’ll ever fully know how these events played out. But, at least in the case of the Sweeneys, I did discover a few more details to help connect the cast of characters in that cemetery plot.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...