Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Reconstructing That Family Constellation

Trying to confirm the rightness of genealogical discoveries sometimes leads exploration into more than one generation. At least for me. I need to make sure all the puzzle pieces fit together nicely before assuming any one particular name should be snapped into place in the family picture.

With Ann Kelly—an unmarried adult living with her siblings in 1860, missing from the household by 1880—I had my guesses that she had become the mother of the niece, A. M. Crahan, who surfaced in Ann’s former Kelly household by 1880. It was as if Ann had exchanged places with the young Miss Crahan.

Though I did find a married Annie Crahan living in the same town—Lafayette, in Tippecanoe County, Indiana—I wasn’t sure I had found the right family. But what other Crahans were there? This was the only one I could find in 1880.

There was a son listed in the household of Annie Crahan and her husband Mike, fortunately. Since I haven’t been able to glean any helpful information online to determine whether I had found the right family, perhaps wandering down the son’s line might turn up some clues.

Turning to the Find A Grave site where I had found his parents’ burials, I searched for the son, John. I made sure to keep in mind the alternate spelling of Creahan, since I wasn't finding much under the spelling as Crahan.

Luck seemed to be turning for me. There, I found not one, but two John Creahans buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery. Both appear to have been born at roughly the same time—not helping much. Each was married. The one John, though, tragically also lost his wife—named Catherine—at an early age, leaving young children behind. Thankfully, an efficient Find A Grave volunteer had posted a copy of the obituary, indicating that this John’s parents were named Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Creahan. Although it’s tempting to think about the possibilities, seeing that the young wife Catherine’s maiden name was Dolan—after all, Ann’s brother Thomas married a Dolan—I won’t go there now. Consider it sufficient to rule out this John as the possible son of Michael.

The other John may be likely, or not. I still need more information, of which there is very little online right now.

Trying to figure out who the Crahan daughter might be is more difficult to determine. For whatever reason, only her initials were provided in the 1880 census. If  they were the correct initials, that would still leave many possibilities for given and middle names—and that is only if “A. M.” remained unmarried for the rest of her life. Add in the possibility of a married name, and the search becomes unwieldy.

If Ann did indeed marry this Michael Creahan, it is unlikely that the two children were hers, though—despite the label of “niece” on the 1880 Kelly household entry. Both the children’s years of birth predate Michael’s first wife’s passing in 1869. With Ann’s age given in the 1880 census as forty, she would be unlikely to have had any children of her own after that point.

It all makes a convincing scenario—but only if that Crahan really did morph into Creahan. If it became Crane or stayed as Crahan, or went farther afield, such as Graham, the chances of reconstructing this part of the family would become much less likely.

…except, of course, for one slip of a hint offered up on Ancestry.com. It was for an obituary, which could be provided if I cared to order it directly from an Indiana library.

I did.


  1. Spelling is atrocious in the census records...such a disappointment sometimes:( Today I had a Lawrence spelled Lorence.

    1. Oh, I totally agree, Far Side. Researchers have to get creative and employ a wild imagination, sometimes. Right now, I'm attending a genealogical conference, and I noticed in the program notes a speaker has mentioned the need to get creative with "schpelling." Made me smile and think of Iggy's cartoons...

  2. Those census takers and their initials! They have caused grief for me more than once. I can't wait for you obituary to arrive and hope it holds a gold nugget of a clue.

    1. Oh, Michelle, especially for those Southern records. It seems like Southerners took a fancy to using initials for a good period of time. It might have been fashionable for them, but you and I realize how it drives researchers to distraction!

  3. I just hope it wasn't something like "Ah-ummm" that converted in A M!!


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