Friday, May 30, 2014

Putting in My Bid For Long Lost Cousins


Sensing a chance to make productive use of cousin bait, once I discovered this Kelly line dangling from our second great grandmother Catherine Kelly Stevens’ brother’s family, I wasted no time in attempting to bring the record forward a generation or two. As much as I could, I wanted to pursue what could be found about Thomas Kelly’s daughter Mary Ann and her husband, Edgar Munger of Lafayette, Indiana. After all, if I could glean their children’s names—and then their children’s names—pretty soon, I might be talking about with a real live cousin!

Though there are easily obtainable census records for the Tippecanoe County area for 1900 through 1940, the going turned out not to be so easy. Oh, I could find Mary Ann and Edgar, all right. Soon after their 1893 wedding, they already had a daughter and a son. According to the 1900 census, Lela M. Munger had arrived in the household by August, 1894. Her younger brother, Eugene E., followed in April of 1897. Both were born, as were their parents, in Indiana—likely, right in Lafayette.

Another child was welcomed into the household by the time of the 1910 census: Thomas W., named after Mary Ann’s father and arriving in 1908. Along with that news, though, came somewhat disconcerting details: either his sister Lela had switched her first and middle name and “grown younger,” or she had been replaced by a hitherto-unreported fourteen year old sister with mirror-image initials. I’m voting that Marie L. was Lela M. in disguise.

By the time of the 1920 census, the only child left in Edgar and Mary Ann’s household was their youngest son, Thomas, now twelve. Ditto, 1930 censusand the 1940 census, where the entry for his occupation was “lawer” in “private practice.” Perhaps his father’s employment over the years as storekeeper at Purdue University helped fund Thomas’ education. Perhaps that also explains why I kept getting hits for state supreme court cases when I Googled Thomas’ name.

As for Thomas’ older siblings, who were by then long gone, I’ve been stumped. Regarding his sister, which name do I use to search for her? Lela? Marie? Even brother Eugene added a middle name—“Ed”—to his census record, making me wonder if in later years he chose to drop the first name entirely.

Not being able to locate any additional documentation via either FamilySearch.org or Ancestry.com, I turned to that old faithful newspaper index at Tippecanoe County’s Indiana GenWeb site. Scrolling down the page for surnames beginning with M, I found one line mentioning the November 18, 1922, marriage of Eugene Munger and someone by the name of Farrell Voght.

Thankfully, that was an unusual enough name to gamble on getting results on FamilySearch, so I gave it a try. Surprise! There actually was someone by the name of Farrell Voght, showing up in the 1910 census—not in Indiana, but in Chicago, Illinois. Daughter of Fred and Mary, she was born in Iowa in 1898. In the 1920 census, it turns out Farrell must have been her middle name, for she was then listed as Mary F.

Somehow, Eugene must have ended up living in Chicago, himself, for his marriage to Mary Farrell Voght was listed in an index for Cook County, Illinois, marriages, not Indiana marriages.

But from that point, the bride with the unusual name—Mary Farrell Voght—apparently retreated into anonymity, for I could no longer find any trace of her, or her husband Eugene.

As for oldest sister Lela, not much could be found for her, either—unless, of course, we are willing to assume that the flight of fancy causing her to choose to go by her middle name for that one census record lasted for the rest of her teen years. For there, in that Journal and Courier index, was one mention for the wedding of a Marie Munger and a man by the name of Hobart Grandstaff. Could that November 5, 1919, date find its place in our family history?

Sometimes it feels as if researching family history without access to archived newspaper records is like flying blind. Those wedding announcements, birth announcements and even—especially—obituaries serve as landmarks to help identify the lay of the land describing a family’s future generations. I can’t see how I’d ever be able to identify potential cousins without tools like those.

Unless, of course, any of those cousins would come searching for me.

7 comments:

  1. If this cousin bait doesn't work, nothing's going to!

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    1. Somehow, I keep thinking I'll still need to grab some pom poms and jump up and down, waving my arms wildly...

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  2. keeping a positive outlook about your cousins! . Eugene may have gone by Gene...my husband does:)

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  3. I feel for you about the digitization of newspapers. I want the Joliet, Illinois papers real bad!

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    1. Lisa, do you know about the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection? They are still in process with their digitization, but they include some Joliet newspapers. Only downside: they are listed on this page as from the "Juliet Signal," but when you bring up a page, it clearly says Joliet. The date range so far is from 1846 through 1864.

      All in good time, it seems, we will have our wish!

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    2. Thanks. Didn't realize this paper was there. Wish it was more 'newsy' with local social news.

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