There is nothing so disheartening as to turn up empty-handed after a solid stretch of earnest genealogical research. Almost as scary a position to find oneself in, as a genealogy researcher, is the exact opposite: finding too many results for a search inquiry.
Granted, looking for Mary Kelly in Irish records seems a bit foolhardy. Of course I would find an overwhelming number of hits. Kelly is quite the popular surname in Ireland, after all—and Mary is a prevalent choice for daughters across the emerald isle. It seems like a daunting task to think I could isolate the one that would be, specifically, mine.
Though her father’s name was John—yet another hopeless needle-in-haystack assignment—her mother’s name offered a slight ray of hope. Johanna Falvey didn’t seem quite as common a name. Perhaps coupling the three different names could bring some results.
As we saw yesterday, I was able to narrow some of those search results down to a manageable number. Maybe a little more in the results category would be helpful. Not too many, not too little—I am beginning to sound like I’m smitten with a bad case of the Goldilocks Syndrome.
Yesterday, I had focused on exploring what resources would be helpful in my current quest from FamilySearch.org. For today, I tried my hand at resources at Ancestry.com. Yet just as FamilySearch seemed to offer too little, Ancestry seemed to offer too many. And none of them seemed to fit—either the date range didn’t match, or the parents had John without Johanna, or were in the wrong county.
I began to wonder whether I should just go back to square one. Yes, that means starting over again. In looking for traces of the John and Johanna Kelly family, I realized they were the last of our Irish immigrant families to arrive in the United States. Perhaps they—of all the families I’ve searched so far—might have been the most likely to carry records of their Irish origin to their new American homeland.
I had to groan when I realized that this Kelly and Falvey family were some of the first ones I had researched via the old-fashioned methods of cranking out microfilm records at a dusty, uncomfortable research center. Back when I did it, I hadn’t the slightest notion of what I was seeking. My approach was more scatter-shot: look for anyone with a connection to these Kelly names: John, Johanna, Timothy, Catherine, Mary, Patrick, and, again, John.
Of course, at the same time I was scrolling through the film on Fort Wayne church records, I was also seeking anything I could find on the other Irish family members we had in that same city. The Stevens and related lines kept me quite busy there, too.
In all that initial attempt, could I have missed anything I now know better?
That was what prompted me to revisit what now is a vastly re-organized website of FamilySearch.org to find the original microfilms I had once droned through. Wandering my way through the beta version on that “Catalog” tab on the website, I finally figured out how to pull up the results for Fort Wayne, Allen County, church records. Checking the obituaries for John and Johanna to confirm the location of their church home, I scrolled through just over one hundred search results to find the microfilm for Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church records.
Just as I remembered it from so many years ago, this church’s records spanned three reels of film—thankfully subdivided by reel number and item number to help hone my search. Not that I’m looking forward to it, I realize this may be a helpful exercise in reminding me to keep an eye open to the details of a stray notation by a priest—a mention of a former parish, a clue about a homeland origin. I’ve seen it happen before. Maybe one more pass through this way will bring up just what I’m seeking.
If nothing else, it will remind me of how grateful I should be about the finding aids at our fingertips today.