Sunday, August 3, 2014

Connecting Dots

Leave it to the hometown newspaper to publish the small details the big city paper missed. Whatever the reason, I’m glad our Kelly descendant, Julia Creahan Sullivan, finally found her rightful place in the family constellation, thanks to the obituary published in the town of her birth, Lafayette, Indiana.

Since that discovery, I’ve been merrily attaching files to their rightful owners, now that I feel confident that the Denver Julia was indeed part of the Lafayette Creahan family.

Meanwhile, there’s been more to discover on Julia’s son, Harry. While he didn’t turn out to be a real senator, he did maintain an active life of involvement in the specific areas we’ve already noted. Though it will be harder to trace any news of his later pursuits due to lack of digitized newspaper resources, these documents will eventually be available.

In the meantime, as I already mentioned, I’m thankful, on behalf of all genealogy enthusiasts, that the formality of a request for a military headstone was one of the documents someone thought to preserve. I’m also grateful that, on the application requesting Harry’s headstone, the bureaucrats were thorough enough to write in the fine print about his military service. If you are an Ancestry subscriber, you may view the document by clicking here.

Though filled with acronyms and other abbreviations I won’t even pretend to understand, the red-penciled remarks on Harry’s “Application For Headstone or Marker” provide more traces of his story than I’ve been able to piece together elsewhere. Remember, Harry wasn’t drafted to serve in the first World War. He enlisted. But he came into the service through the avenue of the Colorado National Guard. Perhaps that is the reason I’ve not been able to find his military information through the usual online means.

After Harry’s death on September 9, 1950, his sister Florence—still using the surname Sullivan so apparently not married after all those years—completed the form, requesting a flat marker to be installed at his grave site at Denver’s Mount Olivet cemetery. She didn’t make her request until the following December 28.

Written over the black ink of the original form were several corrections in red ink. Harry’s year of birth was amended to 1892. His date of enlistment was corrected to read 26 May 1917. The note “40 Div” was added next to the line indicating he was part of the 157th Infantry. A note was added that he was born in Colorado, and that his May 15, 1919, discharge was an honorable one.

Though there was no indication given on the page at Ancestry, I clicked the forward arrow anyhow, in hopes that the next page would not just display the next application, but a continuation page for Harry’s application. I’m so glad I did. I learned quite a while ago that it was worth the loss of a few extra seconds to take a peek. Sometimes, you can be rewarded quite handsomely for your patience.

In this case, page two of Harry Sullivan’s application came up. The red ink continued on the back of his form to reveal that Harry had enlisted in the Colorado National Guard on June 24, 1916, and—after some abbreviations that make no sense to a non-military person like me—that he re-enlisted in the Guard on May 26, 1917. After that entry followed a volley of dates and abbreviations, indicating a string of positions (I guess) in which Harry enlisted and from which he was subsequently honorably discharged. One of those notations, indicating his position as first lieutenant, showed “apmt terminated under Hon conditions” on March 5, 1934.

While I tried looking for Harry’s burial information via Find A Grave, I couldn’t locate it—even using the name “Ira A. Sullivan,” as his mom’s Indiana obituary had indicated. Of course, it helped to first know that Denver’s Mount Olivet cemetery isn’t exactly located in Denver—it is located in Jefferson County. Unfortunately, though over eighty percent of the grave markers have already been photographed and added to Find A Grave, that still means there are nineteen percent of thirty thousand burials yet to document. Apparently, Harry Sullivan's is one of those.

There is always the possibility that, if I put in a request to some kind soul among the many Find A Grave volunteers out there, I can obtain a photograph of Harry Sullivan’s headstone at Mount Olivet. On the other hand, it may have to be a task I take up myself, once our family heads back that way to visit relatives.

However, photograph or not, considering there is more to learn about this active advocate for local veterans, even if online newspaper holdings tend to vanish after the early 1920s, we may find write-ups noting Harry’s passing. After all, he was relatively young at the time of his death. Likely he was still doing what he apparently did best: network among those who had the power and the inclination to do what was needed on behalf of the state’s many veterans.


  1. I put in a request in Find A Grave for photos of Julia, Harry and Florence's gravestones.

    1. Thank you so much for doing that, Iggy! Can't believe how quickly that request got completed!

  2. So happy that connections were found:)

    1. Thank you, Far Side. I'm pleased, too. Funny, though, that I never found any other records under that name, Ira Sullivan. Wonder if that was yet another newspaper mix up.


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