While Charles Andrew Creahan, well-known businessman in the Chicago area, saw his life’s trajectory arc from obscure origin as the son of Irish-Americans in rural Indiana to successful board member and president of his own company, his sister Edna never left her quiet life in Lafayette. Second-born child of John and May Frawley Creahan, she was welcomed into the world on an undisclosed day in January, 1895, and remained in town until her burial there in 1961.
What little can be discovered about Edna is now there online for all the world to see: census records for 1900 through 1940 (though the record for 1900 won’t come up in FamilySearch, nor will the record for 1940 come up on Ancestry), city directories as late as 1960, and the entry provided at the end of the tale, courtesy of the volunteers at Find A Grave.
There was, of course, a smattering of newspaper mentions, thanks to online newspaper archiving services. For instance, the Bloomington Evening World mentioned, on the front page of its August 14, 1917, edition:
Miss Edna Creaham, of Lafayette, is the guest of Lyman Fulk and family and Mrs. Ella Fulk, south Grant street.
Other than a visit to her aunt and cousin, however, not many details emerged that could help a family history buff reconstruct a sense of Edna Creahan’s life. She never married, it is clear, and remained in the family home, likely until the time of her own passing. There was never a mention of career or even temporary occupation in the census records, nor in the Lafayette city directories.
Into such a dearth of information, a mind steeped in family history research would rush in to fill the vacuum with questions. What did she do all day long? Who peopled her social circles? What did she think of her lot in life? Did she act the wallflower as foil for her brother’s obvious flair for success? Did she resent her role in life?
If we were discussing a recluse as notable as Emily Dickinson, we could flip through the pages of her poetry as confirmation that yes, this was a life worth knowing. In stark contrast, with a life as obscure as Edna’s, she could have been a darling of her social circle, but without a significant product or service to define her, hers was a life unconfirmed, a slate left blank. To be remembered, a life needs someone to report it.