Thursday, June 26, 2014

Yet Another Omission

The selective mentioning of family members of Ella Creahan Fulk of Bloomington, Indiana, appears to have extended further than just her obituary's exclusions among her own children. If my independent research serves me well, Ella was survived by more than her one son, Lyman Fulk, and his two children. Of Ella’s three siblings from the childhood home of the extended Kelly family in Lafayette, it appears that one of them—her brother John—was still alive at the time of her passing. Should I just chalk it up to the idiosyncrasies of one local newspaper when I see other relatives’ names omitted, too?

To recap the names of the Creahan family of Ella’s own generation, we can go back to her step-mother’s obituary. At the point of Annie Creahan’s death in 1917, all four Creahan children were listed—in addition to Ella, they were daughters Mrs. J. P. (Anna) Quinlisk and Mrs. Julia Sullivan, as well as son John E. Creahan.

That middle initial provided for the son’s name turns out to be critical. If you remember the false lead I stumbled upon, finding another Creahan family in Lafayette, Indiana, via Find A Grave, you may recall that one of the children in that family was also named John. His middle initial was T. Important distinctions sometimes hang upon such seemingly insignificant details.

Our John—John E. Creahan—was likely still alive when his sister Ella passed away in 1933. Or was he? Bloomington newspapers, over the years, had included his name in chatter on the social pages, usually when he came to town to visit his sister, or when his sister traveled to Lafayette to visit him.

In the March 3, 1922, edition of The Bloomington Evening World—albeit with a misspelled rendition of his surname—one such visit was noted:
John Greahan of Lafayette is visiting his sister, Mrs. Ella Fulk, North Washington street. Mr. Greahan has not visited Bloomington for more than 30 years and remarked about the numerous improvements.

Not much later in the same year, the same publication noted on July 20:
Mrs. Ella Fulk, North Washington street, was called to Lafayette today on account of the serious illness of her brother, John E. Creahan. Mr. Creahan was operated on for appendicitis last month and has suffered a relapse.

Seeing the cause for alarm mentioned in this entry, I had presumed Ella’s brother had indeed predeceased her. Checking the index for the Lafayette newspaper did not confirm or deny that possibility. There were entries in the index for a John C. Creahan, passing away in 1937, and a Mrs. John L. Creahan, but no John E. Creahan. There was mention of a J. T. Creahan who died in 1924, nicely supporting such a story line as death following a 1922 surgery. Perhaps that J signified the given name John—but even if that were so, it would be for the wrong John Creahan. We already know what middle initial we want for this story.

Find A Grave resolved the issue by not only linking that 1937 date to John E. Creahan, but—oh, thank you, dedicated volunteer!—cross-referencing it to the entry for his wife, May Frawley Creahan.

So, John was still around in 1933 when his sister passed away. Who knows why Ella’s obituary in her hometown newspaper—the very paper which had mentioned John in more than one edition—would exclude mentioning her still very alive brother.

We can spend hours conjecturing why this might be so. Though I can’t say that would be the wisest use of our time, I can say one thing about such an experience: it sure lessens my confidence in relying on newspaper obituaries as a resource for my genealogical research. It solidifies my credo for research: never stop at one resource. It takes many snapshots to compose a full picture of a family’s story.


  1. The newspapers only print what they are given either from family or the funeral home. For example...we have a friend who was not included in her Mother's obit because they had a falling out 40 years ago...the obit makes it sound like she only had one daughter when in reality she had two.
    Sometimes the relative giving the info at the funeral hone knows nothing of extended family:(

    1. It's situations like your "falling out" example that make me wonder about such omissions, Far Side. I haven't written about it yet, but I just found another family obituary in which John is again omitted. Hmmm...

    2. My Great Grandmother's obituary only lists one son (she had 7) but only one was there for the funeral. The obituary also badly misspells the married name of her step daughter who I assume was in attendance given she lived in town (reporting her as Mrs. F. N Marvel and not Mrs. F. N. Arnold).

    3. Wow, Iggy...I can see missing one son, but six of them? There must have been quite a story behind that omission...

  2. That is really odd Jacqi! Often the obituaries really do create as many questions as answers, but thank goodness for them and the clues they do provide. (I have a friend that said she realized several years after her father's death that she had the wrong birth date put on her father's headstone!) You just never know......

    1. Your friend's experience is a good one to remember. Thanks for sharing that, Michelle. Especially in the case of the grieving family member also serving as the reporting party, there are so many possibilities for information to get scrambled, omitted, or substituted by outright incomprehensible details.

      But can you really blame them? There probably isn't any experience more stressful to go through than losing a loved one. That isn't exactly the time to keep cool and think straight. Some might. But not everyone.

      Just adds to that inspiration to always seek more than one way to corroborate details in our family history research.


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