Saturday, November 30, 2013

In the House Where He Was Born

We’ve spent the last few months winding our way through the stories of all the children and grandchildren of John T. and Johanna Falvey Kelly—with the exception of one.

That one was the last of John and Johanna’s own children, a man who remained single and childless during his relatively brief life of forty nine years.

That last child carried the same name as the one who started this whole project off—John Kelly—though he sported a different middle initial. What that “J” stood for in the younger John Kelly’s name, I’ve not been able to uncover, nor have I found much else to help us get to know this man.

The younger John was the second and last of the children born to John and Johanna after their arrival in the New World. Following in the footsteps of his own father—as well as the many distantly-related Irish immigrants then arriving in Fort Wayne—the younger John sought employment in the “Pennsylvania shops.” Part of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen, his most recent position had been that of freight conductor.

It has been difficult trying to uncover any further information on the man. As you can imagine, there are—and were—a lot of John Kellys out there, and a search through the newspaper collections online yielded literally hundreds of fruitless leads. To be able to understand the choices he made that led to the life path that became his would take much more than what is now available to me. With a life as obscure as that which this man led, I may never know much more about his story than can be found in his brief obituary which appeared in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Living in his parents’ home at 1919 Hoagland Avenue—eventually becoming the home of his sister and brother-in-law, Patrick and Mary Phillips—John Kelly lived a life residing within the same four walls from cradle to grave, from an undisclosed day in February, 1876, to the afternoon of March 12, 1925.
            John J. Kelly, aged 49, died of a complication of diseases at 4:30 o'clock Thursday afternoon at the home of his sister, Mrs. Mary Phillips, 1919 Hoagland avenue. Mr. Kelly was a lifelong resident of this city and died in the house where he was born. He had been employed as a freight conductor by the Pennsylvania railroad and was a member of St. Patrick's Catholic church and of the Holy Name society. He was also a member of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen. One sister, Mrs. Phillips, and one brother, Patrick, survive.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Into a New Holiday Season

On the day that has in our time been dubbed “Black Friday,” I hope you have found a more ingenious way to express your ability to relax and take a break from pressures of the work world. I like the sentiment I found in one of my favorite blogs: “Only Americans would trample on top of each other to buy new stuff the day after they give thanks for the things that they already have.”

I, for one, have maintained a tradition of personally boycotting Black Friday sales. More than that, I wince every time I hear that someone has to work on Thanksgiving. Yes, I understand that emergency personnel, law enforcement, hospital workers and others staffing vital services can’t lightly shut down such operations. Believe me, our family became part of that narrative for years, checking the next year’s calendar to see what day of the week Christmas would fall on to calculate whether a little girl would have to wait until dinnertime to begin celebrating Christmas with her dad. But for nonessential services—like keeping the grocery store open so that people can redeem themselves for having forgotten the cranberry sauce for their fabulous dinner—I wince at what that means for families. Yes, the pay may be better when you add in holiday overtime, but what is the cost to family cohesiveness?

This year, the thought of how much history bears on our holidays has been impressing itself on me. I’m not sure why; perhaps the loss of a loved one brings on such melancholy around the holidays. Especially for those who feel called to preserve their own family’s micro-history, this concept should not be lost on us. Just as we are the ones to remember what our great-grandparents’ names are and where they came from, we are the ones most likely to pass down the traditions shared by family members over the years.

And it would be these same people who could become the catalysts to call our family’s heart back to home, to disentangle ourselves from the things that increasingly capture our attention and reconnect with each other.

I’ve heard some people mention that the only times they see their extended family members is during weddings and funerals. Weddings are understandably joyous affairs with built-in incentives to draw family together. But the season for weddings in any given family eventually passes, which leaves funerals the one remaining event to issue the gathering call. Why wait for funerals to get together with cousins, aunts, uncles? Why not resolve to re-institute the tradition of holiday gatherings?

I hope your Thanksgiving—and the entirety of this extended weekend—bring you much joy with your family.

Artwork: 1862 Lithograph, "Central-Park, Winter. The Skating Pond," by Currier and Ives; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Joining in the Thankfulness

Today, our family joins with many others across the nation to pause and reflect on our many blessings. While not everyone will find himself or herself seated around a table with others, and though not every table will feature a turkey and “all the fixin’s,” every one of us can find something for which to be grateful.

It’s been a rough month for our family. I mused, during a past Thanksgiving, on how the small size of my family might have become the impetus to draw me into family history research—the loneliness of sensing the camaraderie among those in others’ extended families was somehow missing in our small circle of four. And yet, this Thanksgiving, our family is now even smaller as, one by one, those of the older generation take their place in “passing over to the other side.”

Though life is tenuous, and people’s lives—when it is all said and done—fleeting, there is the comfort and security of tradition to grant us the sense that we are somehow part of something bigger than ourselves. Perhaps the narrative of the Thanksgiving remembrance—no matter which version you espouse—is one of those traditions that binds us together as one national family. Just as family history becomes the glue to bind us closer to our extended families—those third cousins and beyond that we are delighted to meet online—aspects of our national history such as Thanksgiving are the cohesive factor that can give our nation a sense of unity despite our many personal differences.

This season, may the sense of gratitude overwhelm and redirect your personal compass.

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Above: oil painting, "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth," by American painter Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, 1914; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain in Australia, the European Union, the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the artist plus seventy years

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Goodbye to Emma

With the sudden passing of Patrick Kelly at the age of sixty one, the next question might have been whether his wife had followed him in death shortly thereafter. Often, that happens with couples in a lifelong marriage.

Now twice-widowed, Patrick Kelly’s wife, Emma, outlived her second husband’s abrupt departure by twenty years. The daughter of a Württemberg immigrant (Frederick Carle) and an Ohio-born child of German extraction (Margaret Riesberger), Emma was perhaps a resilient survivor in her own right. She missed her seventy seventh birthday by barely one month, passing away on August 21, 1951. Among those in her family surviving her were sixteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Finding more information than that on Emma was a challenge—mostly owing to the invisible role women played in past eras. Even details normally considered appropriate to share publicly were often muddied by reporting errors. Remember the puzzle over who served as maid of honor at her wedding? Looking back on it now, it is easy to see how one option was given by the newspaper as “May Reseberger.” It was simply a combination of misspelling of given name of Emma’s next-younger sister Mae and substitution of her mother’s maiden name (also misspelled) for her own.

Even discovering Emma’s own middle name presented a challenge. Depending on which document was viewed, her middle name—thanks to indecipherable handwriting—appeared to be either Waterling or an improbable Walerling. In her eldest son’s World War I draft registration, though, it was given as Walberga—an alternative I prefer as most believable. Why? Because her mother, Margaret Riesberger, turned out to be daughter of a woman by that name, herself.

While Emma was most certainly occupied with the raising of a large family—she was mother to eight children, all of whom survived to adulthood—she also appeared to be a devout member of her parish. Her obituary mentioned the usual associations Catholic women were often a part of in that century. In addition to those familiar designations—belonging to the Rosary Society of her church, or the Sacred Heart League—there was one I wasn’t familiar with: the Daughters of Isabella.

Not being Catholic myself, I needed to look that one up. You may already be familiar with that auxiliary group to the Knights of Columbus. In a history of the formation of both the Knights of Columbus and the Daughters of Isabella, I discovered that the founding meeting of Fort Wayne’s council of the Daughters of Isabella occurred on April 23, 1923, which “drew 1,400 women inducted into the order at an imposing ceremony at the cathedral.” At the time of that first meeting in Fort Wayne, Emma’s youngest daughter was barely old enough to begin grade school. Perhaps participation in this church-based endeavor became part of what Emma focused her energies on as her children grew up and became more independent. By the time of her death, her children were certainly scattered about the Midwestern states—Detroit, Chicago, and Utica, Illinois—as well as those who still remained in the city of their birth, Fort Wayne.

Emma’s passing, marked by her obituary in The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette on August 22, 1951, denoted the end of an era for the Kelly family—that of transition from destitute Irish immigrants to born-in-America citizens of a promising future and the legacy of an “American Dream” that could still be passed along to their own children.
            Funeral services will be held Friday for Mrs. Emma W. Kelly, 76, who died at 5 a.m. Tuesday at the South Whitley Rest Home, where she had been a patient for three months. She had been ill for a year. She had formerly resided with her daughter, Mrs. O. E. Glass, 2903 Shawnee Drive.
            A native of Logansport, she had lived here the past 55 years. Her husband, the late Patrick T. Kelly, was a former employe of the City Utilities. She belonged to St. Patrick's Catholic Church, its Rosary Society, the Daughters of Isabella, the Sacred Heart League and the LCBA.
            Survivors, in addition to Mrs. Glass, include three other daughters, Mrs. John Gradel and Mrs. Paul Boyd, both of Fort Wayne, and Mrs. Willard Britten of Utica, Ill.; three sons, Fred W. Kelly of Detroit, Mich.; Emmett P. Kelly of Chicago, Ill., and Stephen C. Kelly of Fort Wayne; one sister, Sister M. Carmelita of the Third Order of St. Francis, stationed in Burlington, Ia.; 16 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
            Friends may call at the Getz & Cahill Funeral Home after 7 p.m. today. Services will be held there Friday at 8:30 a.m. and at St. Patrick's Catholic Church at 9 a.m., the Rt. Rev. Msgr. D. L. Monahan officiating. Burial in the Catholic Cemetery. The Rosary Society will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home and the Daughters of Isabella at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Sad Discovery

Now that we’ve met each of Patrick and Emma Carle Kelly’s children—Frederick, Kathryn, John, Emmet, Stephen, Helen, Marie and Mildred—I need just a couple more posts to bring the story of this family to a close.

Though blessed with eight children—seven of whom enjoyed success and long life—Patrick, himself, faced a sudden end. He had been serving as “watchman”—later designated, in some reports, as engineer—for the Number Three Pumping Station, part of the Fort Wayne Water Works, a one mile walk from his home. It was a regular job that Patrick held on to for thirty years—about as long as he and Emma had been married.

The report in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette mentioned that he had been sick for the past few days, but it wasn’t much to be concerned about. He had felt well enough to return to work the next Monday. Apparently alone at the time of his death, his body was discovered by another employee at midday.

The newspaper gave the supposed cause of death as apoplexy. While we know that term as synonymous with stroke, I still keep my online List of Archaic Medical Terms close at hand to confirm.

Patrick’s passing must indeed have been sudden, given the time frame in the report—and yet, it must have made family wonder how different the outcome might have been, had someone else been there to offer him help. Families always wonder about such “what ifs” when that “expected” moment we all know we must face comes about so unexpectedly.
            Funeral services for Patrick T. Kelly, aged 61, who died suddenly Monday noon of apoplexy while at work at No. 3 pumping station, Broadway and Rudisill Boulevard, will be held Thursday morning at 8:30 o'clock at the home, 831 Huestis Avenue, and at 9 o'clock at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. The Right Rev. Msgr. Joseph F. Delaney will officiate. Burial in the Catholic Cemetery.
            Mr. Kelly had been an employe of the city waterworks department for the last 30 years and was stationary engineer at station No. 3. His body was discovered at the station by Louis Nickerson, 13091/2 St. Mary's Avenue. Dr. E. A. King, deputy county coroner, investigated the death.
            Mr. Kelly had gone back to work Monday after having been ill at home for two days. He had not been seriously ill and felt well enough to return to work. He was born and reared in Fort Wayne and educated in St. Patrick's Catholic School. He was a member of St. Patrick's Catholic Church, the Holy Name Society of that church; Division No. 1, Ancient Order Hibernians, and C. B. L. of I.
            Surviving are the wife, Emma; four daughters, the Misses Catherine, Helen, Marie and Mildred, all of this city; three sons, Frederick, of Detroit, Mich.; Emmett, of Chicago, Ill., and Stephen, at home; a sister, Mrs. Mary Phillips, of this city, and five grandchildren. The body was taken to the Getz & Cahill Funeral Parlors and will be returned to the home late today.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Uproar in the Upper Peninsula

The California Genealogical Society has a poster—which it is now selling—sporting a slogan I’d like to borrow for today’s post. The poster proclaims:
Genealogy Research:
is just the
tip of the iceberg.

The poster goes on to explain that “Most research is done in: Libraries, Archives, Courthouses…”

While I’ve always known better, perhaps it is habit (or the path of least resistance) that results in  behavior that does not line up with my agreement to that statement. Where do I end up doing most of my research? Online. What should I do when I can’t find what I’m looking for? Go somewhere besides online resources. But I seldom do.

Perhaps to redeem myself—after all, it isn’t as stark a confession of shortcomings as that flat-out statement portrays it to be—I decided yesterday to share a story of how I ventured outside the four walls of my Internet Prison, into the wide world of books, newspapers, charts and documents beyond.

I mentioned yesterday that I had been pursuing the records of Mildred Kelly’s husband, Willard M. Britten. While Willard Britten had died and been buried in Fort Wayne, there was no sign of any obituary for him in the Fort Wayne newspapers—at least, none showing through the usual Internet-researching avenues.

It was nearly ten years ago when I decided to tackle this problem. Perhaps some people would have just discarded the challenge, thinking this wasn’t a direct line—not an actual ancestor. Unlike many researching family history now, though, I’ve taken up the challenge to not only research ancestors, but to follow their lines of descent down to the present, including those people who have married into my lines, like Willard.

So, what to do when you can’t find an obituary in a town located twenty five hundred miles away from you? Many times, I’d turn to those wonderful online genealogy forums and post a request for “some kind soul” to help with an obituary lookup. Believe me, there are many such “kind souls” out there who have helped me in the past—and for whom I try to pay it forward by returning the favor in kind by other genealogical volunteer work.

I’m not sure exactly what first step I took in trying to locate Willard Britten’s obituary. Whatever got the whole thing rolling, I can’t tell. But I do know that, in the end, I encountered a whole cast of players—both genealogy aficionados and other big-hearted people, willing to help.

I’ve gone back through my saved emails—I use a simple electronic folder system to organize my genealogy correspondence—to retrace my steps. Here were a few of the highlights of that search mission.

Using Rootsweb, one of my go-to sites at that time, I did a universal search for Willard Britten. Rootsweb featured a resource called Obituary Daily Times, which revealed that an obituary had been printed for Willard—not in Fort Wayne, the city of his residence since early adulthood, but in his native Iron River, way up north in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Problem number one: in order to obtain a copy of the obituary as referenced by the Obit Daily Times volunteer, one had to be a fellow volunteer in the system.

I wasn’t.

Not swayed in the least by this obstacle, I remembered that many libraries—at least at that time—would respond to requests for obituaries by sending a free copy via email, or sometimes even by the Postal Service. I went searching for names of libraries in the Iron County, Michigan, vicinity, as well as contact information for any genealogical societies there.

Somehow, I came in contact with three people in the area: a librarian, a distant relative by marriage of the Britten family, and the president of the local genealogical society. Incredibly, each of them was eager to help.

Since I had the actual name of publication, plus the date in which the obituary appeared, it was just a matter of finding someone—and now I had three someones—willing to look up the edition of the paper, copy the material requested and get it back to me.

Problem number two: there was a binder of the newspaper’s archived issues that turned out to be, mysteriously and unexpectedly, missing. Of course, you know which date it included. What happened to that binder?

There is more than one way to solve such problems. Thankfully, there was supposed to be a card collection of clipped obituaries held at the local history museum for the county. Perhaps one of these eager volunteers could go check that out?

Problem number three: the card was not in its usual place in the collection.

Of course, all this was a great disappointment to me, even though I’m not even related to the guy. Beyond my own disappointment, though, it seemed to ramp up a number of people in that small town very far away.

Thankfully, by this time, a volley of emails and vested interest in seeing this thing through took on a life of its own. Apparently, some of these other people were caring as much for my quest as I—a total stranger to them—was.

Before I knew it, I had more information on the family than I had counted on receiving. The Society president sent me information from the card collection on the obituary notices for others affiliated with the Britten family in Iron River. In addition, for those family members who had moved out of the area, she included hyperlinks for those counties’ websites and records, in case I wanted to follow up there.

In addition—hey, this is a small town and everyone “knows” everyone else—the president realized that there were still family members in town, and gave them a call, outlining the details of records confirmed through her interviews, sending along their addresses and phone numbers. Her presumption was, “if she is an aunt like me,” that relative would know “everything” about family members—“birth dates, addresses, married names, etc.”

Little wisps of details about Willard’s life and surroundings started coming out in the process. At one point, my contact mentioned that Willard was raised in the Nash District, and explained, “Localities up here often take the name of the mine that was in operation nearby”—in this case, for iron ore.

After realizing the bound book for 1988 of the newspaper in question was missing even in the newspaper’s own office, this woman headed back to the museum to double check the missing card file there. In the process, she ran into one of the founders of the museum, who asked what she was looking for. Turns out, the man actually knew Willard and went to school with him, remembered that he moved to Fort Wayne, and that he was “a good baseball player,” having played ball together. He also remembered an incident in which Willard had fallen off a horse and had knocked out his two front teeth.

That man’s name and email address got added to my list of contacts, too.

Meanwhile, separate from all this activity, a librarian in town was also working on my puzzle. As it turned out, she was not employed by the public library, but by a local high school library. It was summer vacation, though, and this woman was spending her free time on projects she loved: adding photographs of cemetery headstones to Find A Grave, adding data to the county’s GenWeb page, and organizing a host of other history- and genealogy-related projects. (Discovering that I was from California, she mentioned that she had, recently, been out West, but “could not wait to get home to where I meant something to someone.” Describing all the projects she was involved in—which arrangements required the permission of others in her community, she mused, “It is wonderful to live in a small town where I am trusted.”

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as described by this librarian, is a place “where there is nine months of winter and three months of company.” I had initiated this quest for the Britten obituary, as it turns out, right in the middle of those “three months of company.” That summer, in the midst of what seemed to be a fruitless search, someone at the museum remembered that, in addition to the missing bound volume of the newspaper, they also kept an unbound volume of copies of the old newspapers, and took our undaunted librarian out to a dusty old padlocked building which stored, among many others, the 1988 issue I was seeking.

In the end, I got my copy of Willard Britten’s obituary, sent to me from this librarian-cum-agent of the Obit Daily Times, via her contact in that organization. I, in turn, sent letters of appreciation to this librarian, the ODT editor, as well as the genealogical society president who had also been such a diligent researcher. Now that I had the elusive obituary, I posted a copy on the forum for Allen County, Indiana—where Willard spent his working and retirement years—and received a note of thanks from the Genealogical Society president there.

And, after all that, I decided it would be a nice gesture to volunteer to do some indexing for the organization that gave me my first clue in this search in the beginning: the Obituary Daily Times.

Not all searches, I suppose, will be as eventful as what I experienced with Willard Britten’s obituary. But there is one thing I think we can all glean from the experience—no, two:
  • First, there are so many more resources for genealogical research than those that can be found online.
  • There is a whole host of wonderful volunteers out there, sharing—and even amplifying—your own fascination with family history, and they are both willing to donate their time and effort to help you achieve success in your search and to let their enthusiasm inspire you to turn around and do likewise.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Baby of the Family

After what seemed to be the traditional event, every two years or so, of a new infant gracing the Fort Wayne household of Patrick and Emma Carle Kelly, perhaps the couple thought their Marie was going to be the baby of the family. After Marie’s birth in 1911, there was no new arrival to take on that role.

It wasn’t until six years later—in 1917—that someone finally showed up to claim that enviable spot. New baby Mildred Agnes Kelly arrived on the same day as her older sister Helen’s birthday: March 29.

True to form for this family, something had to be recorded in error on her birth records. Leave it to the county to satisfy that requirement: listing the Kellys’ new daughter as Agnos Kelley.

The following April 15, the new baby was baptized at Saint Patrick Church, with sponsors listed as George Wagner and Maria Carroll.

Unlike some of her older siblings, who must have hit a sweet spot in the Society pages of their city’s newspapers, Mildred seemed to lead an unobtrusive childhood.

At the age of twenty two, she did the predicable: met and married a man, settled down to domestic life and had five children—three daughters and two sons. Unlike her siblings, though, she married a man from far away Upper Peninsula in Michigan—specifically, Iron River. Born and raised in that town we’ve stumbled upon when I tried my hand at researching what I hoped would be a related Flannigan line, this Willard M. Britten left home and moved to Fort Wayne specifically to find work at the Zollner Corporation, a foundry and supplier of pistons to such companies as Ford, General Motors and International Harvester.

While I have no way of knowing—I have yet to access any newspaper articles or other documents to indicate differently—I presume life settled down to the predictable after Willard and Mildred exchanged vows on October 14, 1939. Willard had a steady job—he worked at Zollner until his retirement in 1980—and, perhaps a sign of the times, Mildred eventually also sought employment outside their home.

As much as I like to assert that life became more endurable—actually, quite blessed and pleasant—for those children and grandchildren of parents fleeing the destitute conditions of post-famine Ireland, even in this new century, their descendants had moments that awoke them from any dreams of paradise on earth. The tragic episode in this couple’s life came when their then-thirty-three-year-old son, Dennis, died from injuries received during a house fire in 1983. While the rest of Dennis’ family survived, the sudden shock of this loss must have left an indelible mark in the memories of his entire family—including that of his now-elderly parents.

While I can’t say for sure, I wonder if this tragedy hastened the death of Dennis Britten’s own parents, for his mother, Mildred, died only three years later. Dennis’ father, Willard Britten, died on his seventy-fourth birthday, two years after the loss of his wife. As I’ve been told several times, there is just something different about suffering the loss of one’s own child—no matter the age. It is an experience that turns the nature of life upside down.

The six grandchildren left behind at Willard and Mildred Kelly Britten’s passing would be third cousins to my husband. Of course, we have never met them—nor any of the children of Mildred Kelly’s siblings. All I’ve been able to glean about these family members has been found through the same research methods you’ve no doubt utilized in learning about your own family history.

There is one experience which I found quite different in this particular paper chase, though, involving the obituaries of this couple. I need to mention, first, that the absence of any obituaries here in this Kelly series is due to the possibility that some of the grandchildren of Patrick and Emma Kelly may still be alive. In respect of these people’s privacy, I’ve opted to omit transcribing any record of those (though they are certainly available elsewhere online). Then, too, I’d like to extend an invitation to anyone reading this series who realizes that you are related to this line: please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

The one experience I gleaned from researching the story of Willard and Mildred helped encourage me to press on, even when results don’t seem to yield anything promising. There are apparently road blocks in the journey to document our families’ stories that are not insurmountable. Having the ability to access information so easily via online resources has, in one way, weakened our research muscles that would otherwise push us to get out there and find what we need.

I’d like to talk more about that tomorrow.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Scrambled Names and Missing Data

By the time we reach Emma Carle Kelly’s seventh child, you’d think we’d have the hang of these doubtful documentations. We’ve certainly had our practice keeping things straight for her other children—Helen, Stephen and Emmet—to say the least!

With Patrick and Emma’s baby girl born March 20, 1911, it all begins to amount to so much déjà vu.

To start off with, on April 2, 1911, the Kellys’ new arrival was baptized—as were all their children—at Saint Patrick Church in downtown Fort Wayne. While I had only the microfilmed version of the document to rely on (and believe me, it was difficult to read), I could barely make out the details of the sponsors’ names: Henry and Anna Peters.

I think.

I have no idea who that couple was. If relatives, they are not any I’ve discovered yet. If friends, well…welcome to a new century, where people were not so set on clustering around extended family to the exclusion of everyone else.

About the time of this happy occasion at church, the county government was celebrating in their own kind of way—by documenting the child’s name as Anna Marie Kelly.

While Anna Marie has a nice ring to it, as the child grew up, apparently she didn’t think so. Witness the eight year old daughter of Patrick and Emma in the 1920 census: listed as Marie. Check her out in the 1930 census: now claiming her name as Marie A. Kelly.

When she married—three days before her twenty-sixth birthday—she signed her name to the marriage license application as Marie Ann Kelly.

Something tells me an individual and her own parents would know better than a government hireling what her name was.

Becoming Marie A. Boyd—her new married name—didn’t mean the end of name problems. Thankfully, we now had her husband’s name to help track the record and keep this Kelly daughter separate from the other Marie A. Boyds in town.

Our Marie married a man by the name of Paul Brice Boyd. Son of Whitley County, Indiana, transplants to Fort Wayne—Alfred Leroy and Cora Ellen Agnes Collins Boyd—Paul was actually a Fort Wayne native. The young couple stayed in Fort Wayne their entire life, as did, apparently, their two children—a daughter and a son, whom they named after Paul’s brother.

I say apparently, because I have no way to trace that through the end of Marie’s life story. You see, while I can find her husband’s obituary—published in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette on Thursday, November 28, 1974, two days after his death—I can’t find Marie’s obituary.

Well, let me amend that. I can find an obituary for Marie A. Boyd. There is one dated February 27, 1979, in the Gazette. But that would never do. For one thing, Marie was mentioned as a survivor in her sister Helen’s 1985 obituary. Then, there is the 1986 obituary of her baby sister, whom we’ve not yet met, which also listed her among the family’s survivors. Don’t think there are any reporting errors there.

So, who is this other Marie A. Boyd?

It appears that this other woman was, herself, victim of some clerical reporting errors.

To witness, scroll down the Boyd listings for the Allen County area obituaries to see the entry for Marie A. Boyd. See? The print date was 1979. (You can also scroll a little further to see the print date for Paul Boyd’s own obituary.)

Then, take a look at the Fort Wayne Catholic Cemetery burial listings for all Boyd entries through 1983, kindly provided to us through the efforts of the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library.

Notice the entry for Paul Boyd’s burial. It lines up fairly well with the November 28, 1974, obituary entry we just saw. Also, notice the fine print on his cemetery details. It notes his next of kin to be his wife, Marie A. Boyd.

I’m sure it hasn’t been lost on you, if you are checking all these links as I’ve provided them, that there is a burial entry for a Marie A. Boyd listed just above Paul’s entry. However, in addition to showing a different burial plot, you may have noticed that this time, her record specified what that A stood for: Alma.

In fact, her given date of death matches that of the mistaken obituary which I’ve been disabused of thinking was our Kelly descendant. Note, too, that this Marie A. Boyd had her daughter Jean Neher listed as next of kin. That is not a name in our Kelly family tree.

The clerical issue popped up when I started pursuing this Marie Alma’s information. Thankfully—and this is sometimes a hit-or-miss proposition when researching burials—not only did Find-A-Grave have an entry for this woman, but a volunteer provided additional information. Evidently, she was actually known as Alma Marie Gocke Boyd, and her headstone read Alma M. Boyd. While relying on headstones hasn’t worked too well in the past for me, all this is enough to satisfy me that the 1979 passing of that “Marie A. Boyd” was not for our Marie, but for Alma.

Just to be sure, though, I took a look under Boyd listings, 1984 through 1993, in the Catholic Cemetery records at the Genealogy Center, for our Marie’s given date of death in 1989—and there she was! So, too, for the Find-A-Grave page, though there was precious little information provided.

But what about Marie's obituary? Where was it? Was she really supposed to be listed as Anna Marie instead of Marie Ann? Believe me, I tried all those variations in looking up any leads, with no luck. While I’d love to find Marie’s obituary to trace her line forward and possibly connect with distant cousins, the information I’ve already gleaned will have to suffice.

Whether her memory was perpetuated through the device of an obituary or not—whether in Fort Wayne or wherever her children may have settled by the 1980s—there are still tokens of her life left behind that can help me recreate a bit of who this Kelly descendant was.

As for those who knew her best, I’m sure she still lives on in their memory.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Shrinking Household

As we go down the list of Patrick and Emma Carle Kelly’s children and follow their life stories, we eventually get to the younger siblings whose arrival in the household was ten years or more after that of the firstborn. The last three children in the Kelly household happen to all be daughters.

Of those three youngest daughters, the one we’ll focus on today happened to be the one who married next to last of the daughters, so she was still showing in her mother’s household for the 1940 census, along with her brother Stephen, whom we met yesterday, and her oldest sister Kathryn.

It was a challenge to find any information on this particular daughter. With a name like Helen Kelly—sounding so close to that of the by-then well known Helen Keller—perhaps our Helen was doomed to be one of those having a name claimed by many others. At least, that’s the way it seemed in the Fort Wayne newspapers.

Apparently, there was a Helen Kelly marching through Allen County divorce court reports for quite a while, claiming she needed release from her husband and his unbearable drinking ways. She, thankfully, predated our Helen’s adult years by half a decade.

Not to be outdone, there was a Miss Helen Kelly, from Las Vegas, New Mexico, whose name was splashed about the Society pages with the announcement that she was a guest of this or that resident of Fort Wayne. She seemed quite the popular visitor—but again, she was not our Helen Kelly.

My most favorite not-our-Helen story was that of the Helen Kelly who had married a man by name of Gould, then decided to divorce him in favor of a marriage to a “prince of Albania.”

As for our own Helen Kelly, well, I didn’t find much in those Fort Wayne newspapers. Perhaps like most younger children in large families, she was on the receiving end of the hand-me-downs of life.

I do know that she was born March 29, 1909, in Fort Wayne, and that she lived her entire life in that city.

I also know that, on June 22, 1940, she married a man by the name of John Gradel—a German-born immigrant whose widowed mother still lived in Germany.

I’ve often wondered what worries, fears or even risks Helen got swept into with that decision to marry. On the eve of her marriage, her future mother-in-law was most likely living in harm’s way as war began ravaging the European continent. Then, too, with the soon-approaching involvement of the United States in World War II, recent German immigrants to America were seen with increasing hostility—even threat of internment.

Whether that became part of the narrative for Helen and John’s life story, I had no way of knowing, until recently.

At first, all I could tell of their family story was that, five years after their marriage, they had a son—their only child—Michael, who died at the age of sixty two in 2008. From his obituary, I learned that Michael was a Vietnam vet and, other than his service abroad, he lived and worked in Fort Wayne until the point of his retirement.

Perhaps Michael’s service in the military, it turns out, was inspired by his father’s own example. Though a German immigrant himself, John Gradel was a United States Army veteran of World War II. His likely absence from the home during that time may be the very explanation for the family’s one and only child not being born until five years after John and Helen were married.

If it weren’t for those brief mentions of service in the obituaries of both Helen’s husband and that of her son, there would be very little detail to glean about the woman or her family life. Her own obituary, printed shortly after her death on July 10, 1985, included only the customary list of family survivors. Perhaps she carried on the tradition of her mother and remained a stay-at-home mom in an age in which women were no longer doing so, for there was no mention of occupation, affiliations or associations.

As a final nod to family tradition, the brief obituary mentioned one more custom: Helen Kelly Gradel was buried in the Catholic Cemetery in the hometown she never left: Fort Wayne.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Instructions Said, “Hold”

Every now and then, in reviewing documentation for the various ancestors I’ve researched, I run across curious handwritten notes, meant for clerical eyes only. Such was the case last year when I stumbled upon the underlined instructions added to my husband’s maternal grandparents’ marriage license: “Don’t Publish Ages.”

As I progress through his Kelly family lines, with the next son of Patrick and Emma Carle Kelly, I’m confronted with another such enigmatic note.

Stephen C. Kelly, arriving on June 7, 1907, was no stranger to clerical issues. After all, his very date of birth didn’t escape documentation problems. The Allen County Index of Births assured me that Stephen arrived on June 7. Now, looking back on this after having discovered the discrepancies in his brother Emmet’s records (as we saw yesterday), I should have looked more closely. But how was I to know when I was hand-cranking my way through the microfilm of Saint Patrick’s Church baptismal records? I was just overjoyed that I found anything, period.

You’d think that seeing his name on the baptismal record spelled as Stephan Carroll Kelley might have given me a clue. But no. I chalked it up to the usual Kelly-versus-Kelley recordkeeping, and moved on from there.

Then I got to his marriage record and found other discrepancies. Like a totally different middle name: Carle.

Okay, I can understand maybe a hard of hearing priest not getting it that the boy’s middle name was intended to be his mother’s maiden name. After all, naming a boy Carroll back then wasn’t as unusual as it might seem today.

Sometimes I don’t know when to be patient and understanding of those entrusted with passing on clerical records, and when to realize I should keep looking for the real name.

I did have a few outside clues about Stephen and his early life, though. Unlike his older brother Emmet, Stephen showed up in a few warm fuzzy news reports, like when the May 6, 1916, Fort Wayne News published his name among those—including his cousin Celeste Phillips—receiving First Communion at Saint Patrick Church. And there was even his photo in The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, to the far left in the front row of graduates from the church’s grammar school, on June 12, 1921.

But then, there was that marriage license application.

In our age of at-your-fingertips, scanned and digitally-reproduced, duly indexed documents, there was not one entry for Stephen Kelly’s marriage license at, but three.

I don’t know whether it was just coincidentally the time for the Allen County bureaucrats to change their format for marriage license applications, but Stephen’s decision to finally give up bachelorhood—he was, after all, still living as a single man in his widowed mother’s home, according to the 1940 census—came at a time when the county seemed to tap dance around the changes.

First, for his license application, there was a blank page—all except for the section on the very bottom of the empty form, where Stephen C. Kelly and Maxine Morton Griner were duly noted as joined in marriage by Judge H. Wayne on April 6, 1946.

That was the customary form that started off with the heading, “Application is hereby made for a License for the Marriage of,” and the entire body of the form left blank. I had seen that form completed and on file for so many of Stephen’s older Kelly cousins—the left side completed by the groom, the right reserved for the bride. Why was his left blank—all except for the bottom, where both the clerk and the Judge signed and completed their piece?

There was more, thankfully. A second scanned entry appeared to be an attachment stapled to the usual application. It had blank lines to be completed only by the bride. From this form, I gleaned her date of birth—December 28, 1919, being twelve and a half years younger than her intended—and that she was daughter of city policeman Rex Morton and his estranged wife (and tavern owner) Alice Carey Morton. Sounded like an interesting couple in their own right.

I also learned that this was Maxine’s second marriage; later, I learned that she had already had a son from her first marriage.

Unlike the old, side-by-side applications, that newer second page only yielded information on the bride. It took a third application page—once again, stapled onto an old form—to glean the information on our groom. This document—when I finally got to it—became the first glimpse I had of Stephen’s father’s middle name (his middle initial “T” standing for Timothy).

It also provided me that date of birth that didn’t quite line up to what I had previously found.

Perhaps I should just heave a sigh and tell myself, “Join the club.” There are so many discrepancies out there when it comes to researching this family history stuff. Surely I am not the first to uncover these research woes. All you can do is collect the documents, record your sources, and fervently hope you haven’t just uncovered some strange sort of coincidence—like two people with the same name and same parentage born one day apart in the same city.

So there it was: Stephen’s application no doubt stapled above that of his wife, all attached to the blank sheet with the judge’s signature at the bottom. Finding each page separately was alarming, but once it was all put together, it made sense. Maybe that was the week for changing application forms in Allen County. Who knows.

At this point, the question I have is: why did someone write and underline the word, “Hold” at the top of Stephen’s license application?

Now that’s what I’d really like to know.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Not Clowning Around

As I go through the descendants of the corollary lines in my husband’s Kelly families, it all seems so routine to list each member of the family and let them have their moment of online fame in the retelling of their life story.

When I get to the next son of Patrick and Emma Carle Kelly, though, I have to stop and smile. Unbeknownst to this 1903 arrival, his name would soon become a well-known and beloved name not only in the United States, but in many other countries as well.

But not because of him. It would be because of someone else who, though coincidentally sharing the same name, was neither related to nor known by him.

That name was Emmett Kelly.

Believe me, the chance encounter with that name in my family history research was enough to cause me to pause and dig in, searching for any possible connections. Add to that the secondary coincidence that the “real” Emmett Kelly was buried in Lafayette—the very Indiana town where our other Kelly line had settled since the 1850s. I was barely two months into writing this blog when I first posted on my attempts. I assure you, I was hoping for some confirmations.

As it turned out, there was no connection—at least, as far as I can determine up to this point. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying. There is that second Kelly line I’ve yet to ponder, once I can find my way around a certain brick wall.

Back in Fort Wayne, where this Kelly family had been since the late 1860s, Patrick’s son was baptized at the family’s church—Saint Patrick—on October 25, 1903. His name was recorded on the baptismal certificate as “Patrick Emmit” and his godparents were listed as “William Steavens” and Lillian Dalton.

Someone obviously was very spelling-challenged.

I have to pause at this juncture and admit, once again, my sense that choice of godparents was, typically, reserved for relatives is only partially vindicated with this couple’s selection. William “Steavens” is, of course, my husband’s grandfather, Will, whom we’ve already met through both the series on his father, John Kelly Stevens in Fort Wayne, and that of his wife, Agnes Tully’s family in Chicago. Will, by this time nineteen himself, was cousin to this little child he was promising to sponsor in 1903.

As far as Lillian Dalton goes…well, I have no idea who she was. Maybe that is someone I’ll need to follow up on. Or not. She may just be a family friend.

Apparently, Patrick’s newly arrived son, baptized on this date in 1903, was victim of more than one clerical error. The date of birth was listed there as October 21, 1903. However, in an index of Allen County births drawn up by the Indiana Works Progress Administration, the birth was reported as occurring on October 20.

In addition, it seems that, despite the entry in the baptismal record, his middle name was intended to be Patrick, not his first name. Which is a shame, for not only was he deprived of bearing his father’s name as his own first name, but that choice subjected him to multiple spelling variations of his subsequently-designated first name.

Starting with the priest’s recording of the spelling as Emmit, a subsequent Cathedral priest—whose name just happened to be Robert Emmet Kelly—may have influenced how those in the Fort Wayne Catholic community naturally assumed this child’s name should be spelled as well: one “t,” not two. A sign of further confusion, a census taker recorded his name as Emet, removing not only that final “t,” but an additional “m” as well.

As if this weren’t enough, once the “real” Emmett Kelly became better known, people assumed our Emmet would follow suit and spell his name the same way.

In his growing up years in Fort Wayne, our Emmet evidently attended the same parochial school associated with his family’s parish as had his older siblings. Sometime after the 1920 census and before his marriage in 1926, Emmet finished his schooling and headed for the big city—Chicago, in this case—for better employment prospects. For almost his entire working career, he served as pressman for the Chicago Tribune.

After establishing his career, Emmet returned to Fort Wayne to marry Mildred L. Hanes, daughter of Anthony and Cora Lily Kimes Hanes, on August 24, 1926. They immediately set up housekeeping in the Chicago area, where they became proud parents of four sons and one daughter (who died in infancy).

After a full life of sixty eight years, Emmet returned to Fort Wayne one final time. Upon his passing on July 12, 1972, he was laid to rest in the same cemetery in his hometown where his infant daughter and one son were already buried. Ironically, church records now were more generous in bestowing superfluous consonants, and his cemetery record had him listed as Emmett—perhaps following suit of the Chicago and Fort Wayne newspapers in which his obituaries had been published.

Set in stone at last, though, was the spelling with which he had been known throughout his growing up years: Emmet P. Kelly.

We can only presume that, this time, they got it right.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reassessing Some Assertions

Though the oldest child listed in the census records for the Patrick Kelly family of Fort Wayne was Frederick, we’ve already seen that he was actually Patrick’s stepson. After the arrival of the first child born to Patrick and EmmaKathryn, whom we met Sunday—the family was blessed with the child who was actually Patrick’s first son.

According to records from Saint Patrick’s Church, this son was baptized as John Clifford Kelley on May 6, 1902, shortly after his birth on April 26. Despite my assertion of a couple days ago regarding most godparents of that time period being family members, Clifford—as the family called him—had sponsors at his baptism whose names don’t fit into any family history reports I’ve been able to find: Clifford J. Moran and Mary Agnes Dalton. Perhaps there was a significance in the baby’s middle name being the same as his godfather’s first name—a story I’ll have to pursue at another time.

It hasn’t been easy, finding any records of this child’s early years. While other Kelly relatives had their names inserted in society page reports about birthday parties or first communions, Patrick’s son John Clifford either had an evil twin in town, or was up to no good at a very early age, based upon reports I could glean from the various Fort Wayne newspapers.

Of course, the frequent switch between spellings of Kelly versus Kelley, combined with the preferred usage of his middle name instead of his first name, John, added a challenge to that search.

What I did find, in The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel on May 24, 1918, probably was our Clifford Kelly, though. The page three insert in the Industrial News section simply mentioned,
Clifford Kelley has accepted a position in the small motor detail department of the Fort Wayne Electric works as bench and machine operator and has started on his new duties.

Some time before the end of 1920, though, the young Clifford found a more promising position with a company called either Dudlo or Dudio—the optical character recognition programs scanning old documents such as the books and newspapers of that time period driving me to distraction (not to mention, my own eyes, too). Even now, performing a Google™ search on the term yields results for each of the variations—both asserting it is Dudlo and Dudio.

Whatever the name, the enterprise was cutting edge for its time, and Patrick Kelly’s son Clifford became a small part of it.

That position didn’t last long, however, as I learned from an obituary appearing in The Fort Wayne News Sentinel on February 28, 1921. Whatever cut a successful young man down two months before his twentieth birthday made me realize I’ll have to revise another assertion I’ve made about this generation of the Kelly family: that life in this new century was going so much better than it had been in his parents’ era.

What could cause a young man to lose his life so soon? I wished that the death information provided in such services as still included scanned copies of death certificates, so I could observe the cause of death—as well as ascertain that illegible handwriting hadn’t been incorrectly transcribed. Now, all I could do was try to read between the lines in a brief obituary.

One clue I found was that Clifford had been hospitalized for six weeks before his passing. Thinking of the time period, I wondered, could it be due to the flu epidemic? Not being one for sterling memory when it came to high school history class (never could retain those dates), I had to look up when the devastating pandemic had occurred.

While the date range of the epidemic did indeed take in the year of 1920 at the tail end of its destruction, owing to another clue in the obituary, I realized Clifford lost his life due to a different cause.

The obituary mentioned that Clifford actually died at a hospital. Fortunately—though I found this somewhat unusual—the specific hospital was mentioned. Since the name of the hospital was not one I recalled from other family news, I once again tried my hand at genealogy-research-by-Google™.

The name of the facility was given as “the Irene Byron hospital.” Given that the family lived near downtown Fort Wayne—not to mention, that the family was Catholic—the presumed hospital of choice would have been Saint Joseph’s hospital, but evidently that was not the case for Clifford.

I found my first clue about this other hospital from a website page of Allen County's Health Department, which called it the Byron Tuberculosis Sanatorium. The facility was named in honor of Patricia Irene Byron, appointed Superintendent of the Allen County Tuberculosis Hospital, who subsequently served as a volunteer army nurse during World War I. She herself, apparently, contracted tuberculosis and died at Camp McArthur in Texas in 1918.

Following four months of illness, including the six-week hospitalization at the Sanatorium, Clifford became the first to leave the Kelly family home, the young, athletic man succumbing to the disease on February 28, 1921.  
            J. Clifford Kelly, 18-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Kelly, 831 Huestis avenue, died at 7 o'clock this morning at the Irene Byron hospital where he had been a patient for six weeks. He had been employed at the Dudio plant until his illness four months ago. He graduated from the St. Patrick's parochial school, and was a popular member of the Holy Name society and the Lyceum Athletic association.
            Surviving are the mother, and the father who is engineer at the No. 3 pumping station; four sisters, Catherine, Helen, Marie and Mildred, and three brothers, Fred, Emmet, and Stephen, all living at home.
            Funeral services will be held at the home Thursday morning at 8:30 o'clock and at the St. Patrick's church at 9 o'clock, with Rev. Joseph F. Delaney officiating. Burial in the Catholic cemetery.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Growing Family

While we’ve already met the oldest of Patrick and Emma Kelly’s children, it may be easier, in meeting the rest of the large Kelly family, to allow the census records to serve as a group introduction, before meeting each one of them individually.

Unlike the era in which Patrick’s family emigrated from their homeland, poverty-stricken Ireland, the generation in America, where Patrick raised his own family, was obviously blessed. There were still the risks of epidemics and being caught unawares by other rampant diseases, but life in a family in which jobs provided a steady income with which to purchase needed food and supplies had its impact on how many of the family’s offspring survived childhood.

All told, there were eight children in the Patrick Kelly family. As Patrick, himself, was the first in his own family to be born in the New World, he likely received part of the blessing of the new land to pass along to his descendants. By the time of his marriage to the widow Emma Carle Brown, he already had a steady job and the means to provide for a sizeable family.

Following the arrival of Emma and her son Frederick, the couple announced the birth of their daughter Kathryn in September of 1900. In predictable fashion, about a year and a half later, they welcomed their son John Clifford Kelly. Moving along at about the same clip, another son—Emmet Patrick Kelly—arrived in the fall of 1903. After an uncharacteristic gap of three and a half years—causing me to suspect the death of an infant, a miscarriage, or other such loss—another son, Stephen, arrived in 1907. And just to provide some variety, nearly two years later, a daughter arrived in 1909: Helen Margaret.

The snapshot of that tally is handily provided in the form of the 1910 census for Fort Wayne, which shows Patrick employed as an engineer with the city’s Water Works division. His wife, Emma, declared herself to be mother of six children, all of whom were living at the time of the census, dismissing my speculation about the gap between sons Emmet and Stephen.

The family tally, however, was not yet completed. The best place to observe the entire family unit intact was in the next census record, for 1920. There, completing the family circle, were daughters Anna Marie, arriving in March, 1911, and Mildred Agnes, born in March, 1917.

Each of them had their own story—with details as varied as the individuals in a large family can produce. Most of them remained in Fort Wayne their entire life, although a few moved out of state as they pursued their own careers.

In following each of these Kelly children’s own lines, I could see the fingerprints of the unfolding timeline of the twentieth century imprint itself on their destinies. In some ways, they were each children of their times, as much as they were children of Patrick and Emma. And those times allowed them each to see great changes in what was still accepted—and what was, ultimately, discarded as “old fashioned.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

First Born, Second Oldest

It sometimes took the complex arrangements of the large families of the previous century to produce puzzling situations like the one outlined in today’s post title. As we’ve already reviewed, Patrick Kelly and his wife, Emma, were married after she had been widowed. Her son, Frederick William Brown, was apparently adopted by Patrick—either informally or legally—but was actually Patrick’s stepson.

The oldest child born to Patrick and Emma thus became the family’s second-oldest child.

There are some complicating matters involved in tracing the documents for this second-oldest child. For whatever reason, her baptismal record at Saint Patrick’s Church in Fort Wayne shows her as Catherine Mary Kelley. While not precisely accurate, the “Kelley” spelling is forgivable—it certainly was an oft-repeated variation. Perhaps the same lenience should be granted to the spelling variations found for her first name: all sorts of versions beginning with “K” instead of “C.” To top off the matter, I’ve found the middle initial claimed to be either “M” or “A”—with “M” the preferred version, seeing that her marriage license sported the name “May,” which is quite close to the church’s assertion that it was “Mary.”

So much for sheer confidence in official documentation.

However the reporting parties chose to spell her name, Kathryn arrived on September 12, 1900. Regardless of these clerical discrepancies, her baptismal record yielded one tantalizing tidbit of information. Perhaps you recall, at the start of this Kelly series, how I agonized over a different Kelly family which I couldn’t quite link to my own Kelly line, despite such familial clues as becoming co-owners of a family burial plot. I have yet to figure out how that Timothy Kelly line relates to my family’s descent from John T. and Johanna Falvey Kelly.

Besides the cemetery plot co-ownership, here’s another sweet clue: the sponsors listed on Kathryn Kelly’s baptismal record just happened to be Richard and “Louiza” Kelly. Richard, you may remember, was the son of Timothy Kelly who went on to serve for many years as a captain in the Fort Wayne Police Department, working alongside baby Kathryn’s uncle, John Kelly Stevens. While I understand, in our current times, that friends are as likely as family to be designated as godparents, back in the time in which Kathryn was born, it was more likely that those willing to serve in that capacity—no mere nicety, but a real possibility in an era in which many children did lose their parents at young ages—were family members.

But how?

This first daughter of Patrick and Emma Kelly also provided some curious details in her later years. Though she was the first-born among the couple’s children, she was the last of all eight children to be married. In a reversal of her mother’s own situation, Kathryn met a widower with one son, whom she eventually married—in the very same church in which she had been baptized forty eight years earlier—on June 5, 1948.

That same church was there again in Kathryn’s waning years. Though the life narratives of this more recent generation of Kellys took on a decidedly different cast than that of her parents’ generation—she apparently serving as a bookkeeper at a Fort Wayne construction company for many years, rather than the stay-at-home model her own mother knew—the Mrs. Oliver Earl Glass spent her last months in a convalescent hospital before succumbing at the age of seventy three. Besides her husband and stepson, Ronald, all who were left in her family by that point were three of her younger sisters, who joined together after Kathryn’s May 24, 1974, passing in the same church in which their life stories had all begun: Saint Patrick Church.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Oldest in the Family

Sometimes, young widows are fortunate to find a second opportunity for love, marriage and family. In the case of the young widow Emma Carle Brown, who had just suffered through the turmoil of losing her husband of three months to suicide, we’ve already discovered that she later married Patrick Kelly of Fort Wayne—he’s the one linked to our Stevens family, and the reason I’m pursuing more information on this family line.

What was somewhat unusual about Patrick and Emma’s situation was that Emma entered this second marriage with a two-year-old son while Patrick, unlike many of that era marrying widows, was a bachelor when he and Emma wed.

The newly formed Kelly family eventually boasted eight children—four girls and four boys. That first son, though, was step-son to Patrick, and half-sibling to the other seven children.

Since the 1900 census showed the new Kelly family unit with Frederick bearing his own father’s surname, I wasn’t sure how to trace him through the timeline of the 1900s. He apparently assumed the same surname as the rest of the family for the 1910 and 1920 census records. But what would he do, once he was on his own? Keep his step-father’s name, or revert to the name of his birth?

It was the World War I draft registration card Frederick filled out in 1918 that confirmed that, out on his own, he still chose to employ the surname of his adopted father, rather than that of his natural father. (The draft registration form, by the way, also was my first clue as to what the “W” in his mother’s name might signify: Walberga.)

Thankfully, after the 1920 census—the last census record for which son Frederick was still in the home of Patrick Kelly—it was not difficult to locate a marriage license for him. On January 2, 1926, Frederick married Myrtle Trumbull, daughter of Harvey and Della Vandeford Trumbull. Their ceremony was in Fort Wayne.

Somewhere beyond that point, Frederick found work in Detroit, Michigan, and for the subsequent two census reports, he and his family—still under the Kelly surname—lived there.  Frederick and Myrtle must have been in Detroit shortly after their wedding, for their oldest daughter—Rosella, according to the 1930 census, Rosalie if you rely on the 1940 version—was born in Michigan somewhere around 1927.

When I first started researching this line, I had often wondered, “What if he changed his name?” How could I track this family’s line? But apparently, there was enough assurance in this relationship between step-father and step-son for the bond to remain. Perhaps it was because Patrick was the only father Frederick would be able to remember, coming into the relationship at such a young age. Whatever the reason, it does make me wish I knew more about the day-to-day relationships between first-born Frederick and all the half-siblings that followed him into the Kelly family.

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