Monday, June 30, 2014

Her Hand in Marriage

Staying in the greater Chicago area through the decades, Bridget Kelly Creahan’s grandson, Charles Creahan, apparently continued his association with what became the Calumet Foundry and Machine Company. After his March 7, 1914, marriage to Mabel Eckstrom—daughter of Swedish immigrants August and Annie Wilson Eckstrom—the young couple eventually became parents of two daughters, Helen May and Joan L. Creahan.

While undoubtedly, Charles’ demanding business schedule landed him within the same quandary as many other successful men—juggling a non-stop schedule at the office with cries for more attention at home—eventually, he and Mabel found themselves passing through those landmarks of parenthood.

While we can only guess as to the events filling and influencing their private lives, we can at least watch the decennial census records tick off the progression of time with governmental regularity. There in the 1920 census—a document drawn up by an enumerator who possessed what, arguably, amounted to the worst handwriting I’ve encountered on a census record—Charles, Mabel, Helen and Joan were listed in East Gary. By 1930, the family was listed in a household within the city of Gary—having either moved, or having seen the city limits expand to engulf their home—with Charles still listed as Secretary of the foundry with which he had been associated since its reorganization announcement back in 1916.

Just before the 1940 census tally began, though, the Creahan household experienced the inevitable. Ohio-born Robert Lee Woods had somehow found his way to the Chicago area and gotten to know Charles Creahan’s oldest daughter, who by now was in her early twenties.

A brief entry buried on page fourteen of The Hammond Times on Wednesday, September 21, 1938, told the inevitable tale—as well as providing a corollary snippet concerning Charles’ own rising fortunes.
CHARLES CREAHAN, president of the Calumet Foundry, gave his daughter, Helen, in marriage last Saturday when she became the bride of Robert Lee Woods in Gary.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Twin Cousins

No, this is not a post about The Patty Duke Show, though the thought did prompt my mind to wander back to that sitcom relic of the 1960s.

In this case, I’m thinking of a pair of reports found in the Lafayette, Indiana, Sunday Record on April 25, 1915. There, to start it all off, on page eight in the sixth column, was a typical birth announcement:
A son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Lyman Fulk, of Bloomington, Ind.  Mr. Fulk is a former resident of Lafayette, and is the son of the late Homer Fulk.

While the birth announcement was for a child born to a Bloomington couple living nearly one hundred miles away from Lafayette, as we’ve already discovered, proud papa Lyman Fulk had several ties to Lafayette—among them being, in addition to his former residency, his relationship to the Michael and Bridget Kelly Creahan family, of whom his aunt Anna Quinlisk and uncle John Creahan still lived in the area.

There are a couple interesting details about this announcement.

The first detail, if you were reading the newspaper column yourself, would likely jump off the page and grab you—if you knew anything about this extended family tree. That detail also happened to be a birth announcement, but it was the particulars that caught my eye—again, it was one that was filed about proud parents living far from Lafayette. And its placement happened to be the very next entry in the same column as the previous birth announcement.
Born, to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Creahan, of Chicago, a son. The father is the son of Mr. and Mrs. John E. Creahan.

Within a matter of days—possibly even on the same day—the wives of cousins Lyman Fulk and Charles Creahan bore sons who would carry on their respective fathers’ surnames as part of the next generation of Creahan and Kelly descendants.

The second detail about these twin news reports is not so readily observable. While Lyman and his wife, Phyllis Hostetter Fulk, would name their April 15, 1915, arrival Richard L. Fulk—Richard, likely after Lyman’s paternal grandfather, the Indiana state senator from Bloomington—there is no other record I can find of the son of Charles and Mabel Eckstrom Creahan. By the time of the next census in 1920, the only children listed in the Creahan household were daughters Helen and Joan. No son. No child whatsoever born in 1915.

However, given the many newspaper stories I’ve already found offering untraceable reports, I’m not prepared to bring on that melancholy mood just yet. Perhaps these boys were twin cousins separated shortly—and tragically—after birth. Or maybe one was just a figment of an overworked newspaperman’s imagination.

It won’t be the first time someone has gotten the story all wrong.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Local Boy Makes Good

Perhaps it was with some parental pride that John E. Creahan opened the pages of The Tippecanoe County Democrat on May 5, 1916, shortly after returning to his hometown from a fourteen year stay in Chicago.

Life in rural Lafayette, Indiana, was vastly different than that in the city, where John and his wife May had raised their two children, Charles and Edna. Still, while John struggled to support his family as a switchman for one of the many railroads moving goods through the Midwest’s main freight capital, as his son came of age, the younger Creahan found the Chicagoland opportunities opened up to him a world of possibilities.

By the time of the 1910 census, Charles—then eighteen—was employed as a clerk in a steel foundry. Apparently, as the next few years flew by, Charles’ skills caught the eye of key people who knew how to make a difference in the Chicago business world. By the time his father had returned to Indiana, the twenty four year old Charles Creahan had ended up as part owner and board member of a Chicago area foundry.

After his parents had settled back in Lafayette, Charles and his wife, the former Mabel Eckstrom, traveled to his childhood home to visit the elder Creahans. It was on the occasion of his arrival in Lafayette that the local newspaper took the opportunity to report Charles Creahan’s most recent business accomplishments in that May 5, 1916, edition.
Has Made a Success.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Creahan, of Gary, Ind., are visiting the parents of Mr. Creahan, Mr. and Mrs. John E. Creahan, of Oakland Heights. The many friends of Charles Creahan will be glad to know of his success in the business world. He left here with his parents at the age of ten and while now but 24 years of age, yet has successfully held important positions with the Pullman Car Co., of Pullman, Ill., and other big concerns. In January of this year, with several associates, he organized a big foundry company with headquarters at Gary, Ind., and of which company he is one of the board of directors and secretary of the parent concern. He is now known among big concerns in Chicago and the Calumet region as an expert bookkeeper and detail man.

Perhaps that 1916 Democrat article could be considered a brag piece. Keeping in mind how many omissions and misrepresentations I’ve observed over the years at the hands of newspaper reporters, I'm thinking a double-check to find corroborating reports might be a wise precaution before accepting such glowing terms.

Fortunately—and thanks to Google Books—I found such a confirmation from the pages of one of those dull, dry trade journals that only those in the profession could love. A mention in the October 9, 1919, edition of The Iron Trade Review, buried on page 101, covered the pertinent details in a column perfunctorily entitled “Business Changes Recently Announced By the Trade.”
Since Oct. 1, the name and office of the Gary Foundry & Machine Co., East Gary, Ind., has been the Calumet Foundry & Machine Co., 148th street and Railroad avenues, East Chicago, Ind. The foundry and machine shop at East Gary is operated as plant No. 1 and the foundry, formerly the East Chicago Foundry Co., together with the pattern shop, formerly the East Chicago Pattern Works, as plant No. 2 at East Chicago. William H. Kleppinger is president of the combined companies; P. S. Graver is vice president; W. F. Graver, treasurer, and Charles A. Creahan, secretary.

What may have come off as a “local boy makes good” story for the Lafayette newspapers turned out to be a lifelong story of success. Indiana native Charles Creahan, having seemingly come to Chicago by the happenstance of parental dictates, found it quite worth his while to continue his big city associations long after his parents decided to return home to the quiet countryside of Lafayette.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Guy With The Right Middle Initial

So, what about John Creahan from Lafayette, Indiana—the one with the right middle initial? Tracing the descent of our Kelly family from that Tippecanoe County location, it would be important to not get tangled up in the wrong line.

Apparently, our John Creahan, son of Michael and Bridget Kelly Creahan, was born in the same city about two years before the John Creahan who was son of Thomas and Catherine Cleary Creahan. I was thankfully alerted to that snare when I first found the obituary for the other John’s wife, Catherine Dolan Creahan, on her Find A Grave memorial.

Our John Creahan—John E. Creahan—was born about 1864. With the other John arriving around 1867, I struggled with records morphing John T. to John F., which then became dangerously close to John E. With the sole identifier differentiating between the two John Creahans being that fragile—and often mistakenly entered—middle initial, perhaps it was with some relief that I found the record of each man’s marriage. From that point on—that wedding day in 1891—I  could safely look for signs of wife May R. Frawley to insure I had the right John Creahan.

Perhaps Lafayette, Indiana, was too small a town to hold two John Creahans, for sometime in the early 1900s, our John moved his family—as had so many others in this Kelly line—to Chicago. There, in the 1910 census, was the Creahan family on Superior Avenue: then forty six year old John, with his wife listed mistakenly as Mary, along with their two children, Charles and Edna.

The move to Chicago was not long lived. By 1916, The Tippecanoe County Democrat was reporting that “Mr. and Mrs. John E. Creahan” had returned to the now-no-longer-existent Oakland Heights just outside their former hometown of Lafayette. Their daughter Edna returned with them, but while there was a fourth family member in the Creahan household in the 1920 census, that fourth person was May’s brother John, not her son Charles.

It turned out that the family’s detour to Chicago had been a fortuitous move for young Charles Creahan. By the time John and May decided to move back to Indiana, Charles was twenty four years of age—a young adult just hitting his stride in his own business endeavors. He decided to stay in his new hometown.

Who knows what makes families decide to move from one place to another. I can’t yet say why John and May Creahan chose to leave Lafayette to move to Chicago. It certainly wasn’t the kind of place where his niece or nephew had fared well—and maybe that’s what John found out, once he arrived there, himself. Maybe that’s what caused him to turn around and head back home. Still, that small segment of time leading up to 1916 was just what John’s young son needed to launch his own career and life’s trajectory. Such are those slivers of time that can make all the difference.

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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Two? Or Three? Still Not Sure

Newspapers may be a wonderful source for details on your family history, but they come wrapped with a flaw inherent in time-sensitive print media: reporting errors.

So, when I come across a newspaper article reporting that Homer and Ella Creahan Fulk of Bloomington, Indiana, had two sons—and yet, I’ve seen other reports of an additional daughter—what’s a family history researcher to do?

Never stop at one report. That’s solidly become my motto in this genealogical pursuit.

Even after locating a census record and a death record indicating that Ella Fulk—well, in the case of those Chicago records, make that Ella Faulk—did indeed have a daughter, here comes another newspaper report from the family’s hometown, insisting the Fulks had just two sons. What gives with that? And it was even in Ella’s own obituary, no less!

I’m beginning to wonder if Bloomington newspapers just had something against the daughters of their residents—at least in the Bloomington Telephone. Though I find no such corroboration elsewhere, the newspaper reports I’ve been able to locate on the family both indicated that Homer and Ella had only two children: sons Lyman and Robert. Frustrating. Especially when I'm trying to trace all the descendants of my Kelly family from Lafayette, Indiana. That includes daughters, too.

Ellen Creahan Fulk of Lafayette IN died in Memphis TN but was a long time resident of Bloomington IN


            Mrs. Ella Fulk, a former resident of Bloomington, died Sunday at Memphis, Tenn., where she has been making her home with her son, Lyman Fulk, manager of the Memphis plant of the Nurre company. Word of the death was received by J. M. Nurre, president of the company. Mrs. Fulk, who was about 70 years of age, became ill Friday, and died Sunday noon.
            She was the widow of the late Homer Fulk. Besides the son, Lyman, she is survived by two grandchildren, Helen Marie and Dickie Fulk. Another son, Robert, died at his home in Chicago a few years ago.
            While a resident of this city Mrs. Fulk was a member of the St. Charles Catholic church. She had many friends here and visited in this city last year. Her home was formerly at Lafayette and the body is to be taken there. The family is expected to come here after the funeral.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Little Life

Almost as a postscript, after I hit the “publish” button on yesterday’s blog entry, a little bit of additional information grasped my attention. Sandwiched between the many other listings at for our Kelly family's descendant, Robert Fulk—the Chicago version of that surname’s spelling rendered it as Faulk—there were two other records which revealed a surprising, but brief story.

It was a record of birth that began the scene—the record of an unnamed Faulk son, born in Chicago on the evening of February 10, 1920. With the parents’ names entered as Robert Charles Faulk and Gertrude Pryor, it certainly was a document regarding our Chicago Faulks.

The date, though, prompted me to turn back to the records I had gleaned for yesterday’s post, just to double check. Yes, that date did seem familiar. It was only one day before the date for Gertrude’s own passing.

I have no way—yet—to know whether Robert and Gertrude ever gave that tiny child a name. You see, everything happened so quickly after that birth—an arrival I can’t imagine heralded any joyful reception. Within six hours, that little life was officially documented as expired—too soon to even pronounce a given name for the baby. The death record noted his date of death as February 11, 1920, which was, of course, that familiar date which caught my attention—the very day the child’s mother had also passed away.

While the newspaper back in the hometown of his father stated that the baby’s mother had died from pneumonia, this tiny paper trail made me wonder what the rest of the story might be.

On Valentine’s Day of that year, it was not one love that was buried at Mount Olivet, but two.

Monday, June 23, 2014

What Happened in Chicago

Just as I had done the other day, taking my time to wander through lists of any documentation I could find on for descendants of the Homer Fulk family, I spent yesterday camped out in the world of historical newspaper archives. Bit by bit, I’m hoping to reconstruct the descendant lines of our Kelly ancestors in Lafayette, Indiana.

After the arrival in Lafayette of the Kelly family from their undisclosed hometown in Ireland, it hadn’t taken long for the branches of Bridget Kelly Creahan’s family to disperse beyond the Indiana county where they originally settled. Oldest daughter Ella had married Homer Fulk, son of a state senator from Bloomington, nearly one hundred miles south of Lafayette. While we’ve already traced as much of the life of her youngest son, Lyman Fulk, as can be found in Indiana—and the few hints we’ve found, indicating the family’s move to Tennessee—it appears that Ella’s other two children headed, upon adulthood, in the opposite direction.

Chicago had been the destination for Homer and Ella’s daughter Mary who, as we’ve already discussed, married a Chicago man named Charles Slater. That city also became home to Mary’s brother, Robert Fulk—or, as he constantly was listed in Cook County records, Robert “Faulk.”

It was thanks to the many tidbits on the social pages of Bloomington, Indiana, newspapers that I could piece together Robert’s life during the years from the mid 1910s through early 1920s. On page four of The Bloomington Evening World on October 12, 1916, I gained my first clue from the explanation of Ella’s current housekeeping arrangements:
Mrs. Ella Fulk, who has been making her home with her son, Lyman Fulk, south College Avenue, will go to Chicago tomorrow for a visit with her son, Robert.

Over the years, there would be many such entries in the Bloomington newspapers, with Ella noted as traveling to Chicago, or returning from Chicago—along with her trips back to Lafayette to visit her brother John Creahan and sister Anna Quinlisk.

At one point, though, the newspaper actually provided a report of substance. The October 22, 1917 edition of The Bloomington Evening World mentioned that
Mrs. Ella Fulk has returned from a two months visit in Chicago. Mrs. Fulk went especially to attend the wedding of her son, Robert Fulk to Miss Gertrude Pryor.

Now, that was information! It was hard to zero in on someone with a name like Robert Fulk in a place as large as Chicago. Especially considering that his surname was routinely re-invented as Faulk, I couldn’t be sure the results was delivering were for the right man. Checking on a marriage record for Gertrude Pryor gave me a second way to verify I had the right person.

Of course, I hadn’t banked on the possibility that Gertrude, herself, might have had a second identity. The Bloomington newspaper must not have considered it quite proper to mention that Robert had, ahem, decided to marry a woman who was not exactly a “Miss.” Gertrude, in fact, had not only been previously married, but apparently was also mother to two children.

Not that that situation was rare or looked down upon. I can’t possibly read between the lines to decipher why the newspaper had reported the marriage the way it had. But in Cook County, the 1917 marriage record showed Gertrude as the former Mrs. Hopkinson. It was easy, in the subsequent census report less than three years after their marriage, to tell that the two children listed as Harriet and Charles “Faulk” were too old to have been Robert’s own descendants.

What was eerie about that 1920 census, though—enumerated on January 20 through 21—was that it was taken only days before Gertrude’s own passing. I wasn’t aware of that turn of events until I found—again, through—an article in the February 12 edition of The Bloomington Evening World:
Mrs. Ella Fulk received word this morning of the death of her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Robert Fulk, of Chicago. Death was due to pneumonia. Mrs. Fulk was unable to go on account of illness but her son, Lyman, left for Chicago this morning.

I wondered, after that point, what had become of Gertrude’s two children. Already suffering the loss of one parent, they now faced this second bereavement. Did the census listing showing the two as Harriet and Charles Faulk—instead of Hopkinson—indicate that Robert had legally adopted these two step-children? I couldn’t tell, because I was unable to find Robert in any subsequent census reports, despite taking the time to linger on and explore all the hints and possibilities.

It wasn’t the historic newspaper collection that told me the rest of the story, this time. Instead, I had to jump over to—which I find to be a great working partner to—to uncover what had become of Robert Fulk in Chicago.

Just as Chicago had not been good for Robert’s sister, Mary—who had died young after moving to the city, herself—and just as it had not been a supportive milieu for Robert’s new wife, the city did not serve Robert well, either. Perhaps it later became the source of unbearable memories for him—or perhaps it just was too unhealthy an environment. It is hard to tell from what little documentation I’ve so far been able to locate. All I know is that, only four years after losing his wife, the forty year old Robert, himself, died in Cook County, Illinois, on January 16, 1924.

As were so many in his extended family, he was buried back in the hometown of his mother, in the family burial plot at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Lafayette, Indiana.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Looking For Family
in All the Wrong Places

If it weren’t for the powerful search capabilities of genealogy tools like, I suspect a lot of us would have many more brick walls stalling us than we do now. I know I sure was stuck with my Kelly descendants, the Homer Fulk family of Monroe County, Indiana. With the exception of her son Lyman’s 1920 census entry, after the 1900 census, I could find little of Homer’s widow, Ella, until Find A Grave revealed her place of burial in Tippecanoe County in 1933.

Thankfully, spending a little time leisurely ambling through all the possibilities suggested on Ancestry yielded some direction. Granted, there are times when I seriously doubt the thinking behind the algorithms employed for the purpose, but yesterday was, delightfully, not one of those days.

My first discovery revealed that I had made an erroneous assumption: that Ella had died in the same town in which she was buried.


Remember her son Lyman’s move to Tennessee? Apparently, not only did he and his wife move to Memphis, but his mother had joined the couple as well. For whatever reason, though he hadn’t shown up in any census records there—at least, none that I’ve been able to find, so far—Lyman lived at the same address given in his mother’s death record for her own residence at time of death: 1762 Overton Park Avenue.

Speaking of Lyman, his whereabouts were divulged a little more fully by Ancestry as well: city directories for Chattanooga revealed that he was living there as early as 1923, prior to moving to Memphis.

But it was marriage records for Lyman’s older sister—alternately listed as Marie and Mary—which gave up the location of their mother for the 1910 census. Apparently, as revealed by Ancestry, Mary had married a Chicago man by the name of Charles Slater on January 31, 1906. Charles, his bride Mary, and his mother-in-law Ella "Faulk" were all living together, still in Chicago, by the time of the 1910 census—a handy record that divulged the additional detail of both women’s total number of children.

In Ella’s case, I now have confirmation—in direct opposition to the Bloomington, Indiana, news report at Homer Fulk’s passing—that she was mother of four children, three of whom were still alive in 1910. I’m presuming those three would be the Marie, Robert and Lyman who were with her in Lafayette, Indiana, for the 1900 census, thus resolving the dilemma of guessing which two were the “real” children, if the newspaper report had been correct.

In Mary’s case, the total number of children given in that 1910 census was zero. Perhaps, this was only because they were relatively newly married. Perhaps, however, this signaled a more serious underlying cause—something borne out by the revelation of the death record, only four years later, of this thirty two year old woman.

Though the Ancestry search capability allowed me to find Ella and her daughter in Chicago, it was not a completely easy trail to follow. One index had the spouse’s surname as Slater, but the other one rendered it Seater. The addition of the non-phonetic alternative meant twice as many searches for someone with as common a given name as Mary. I hadn’t made much headway punching in the two alternatives, so I took a detour to that handy resource, the Indiana GenWeb index of the Lafayette Journal and Courier newspaper, to find any mention of a Mary with either of those two surname possibilities. Sure enough, a death notice for Mary F. Slater on January 23, 1914, provided the confirmation I needed to select the right documentation for a number of these life events.

Now that I had enough information on Mary’s married name, I took a look at the Monroe County Public Library index, where I had previously found Ella’s obituary entered—though I’m still awaiting arrival of that news clipping—to see whether Mary would also be mentioned in Bloomington, Indiana, her childhood home. And there it was—an obituary on the front page of the Bloomington Evening World, published on January 24, 1914. Though the website carries some papers from Bloomington, unfortunately that date was not among their holdings. That leaves me wondering whether I should request yet another obituary from the Monroe County Public Library, when I’m still awaiting the one I had ordered over a week ago.

While pondering that little quandary, I did poke around the Bloomington newspapers at, because I’ve yet to locate Ella’s third child, Robert. What did I find there? A possible clue, besides the marriage of Ella’s daughter Mary, linking the family to Chicago—from the Bloomington Evening World on November 2, 1920:
Mrs. E. Fulk has returned home after spending the summer with her son, Robert Fulk, at Chicago.

I’m sure that, given more time, I would have unearthed even more clues as to the winding trails of this Fulk family. Search engines do have a way of supercharging our search capabilities, for which I’m thankful. But I also am mindful that genealogical research is like untangling an immense chain: the farther you go, the more the secrets unravel and the mystery unwinds. If only I had eternity to unlock all of these hidden resources the unraveling chain leads me to—but I don’t, so the daily peeks at what lies in the near future will have to suffice the curious mind for now.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Change of Name, Change of Home

When the trail seems to go cold when researching ancestors, sometimes it’s best to stop the pursuit, pull over to the side of the road and ponder the situation. Since I hadn’t found much on the current focus of our Kelly family descendants—the clever comedian and traveling salesman, Lyman Fulk of Bloomington, Indiana—it was time to do just that.

Granted, I had already been able to sort out the particulars of one research challenge that had me stymied—the spelling dilemma that presented itself in some records as the surname Fulk, and others showing the name as Faulk—and that was a help. But it appeared I was facing another roadblock—one I couldn’t yet discern. Though I had located Lyman as a young married man in his hometown—along with his wife Phyllis and children Richard and Helen—I wasn’t able to find the family in the 1930 census or beyond.

One day, bouncing between and, I ran across a suggested record for someone whose middle name was Lyman. I figured it was worth my time to investigate, and pulled up the World War I draft registration card for someone named Frederick Fulk. Like Lyman, he lived in Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana, and was married to someone named Phyllis and—wait, his middle name was Lyman! This was Lyman Fulk!

This discovery reminded me not to forget the several ancestors I’ve researched over the years, whose middle name had been used as a first name. While I had presumed that the name the Fulk family had used in addressing this man was his first name, that was actually not the official version.

A second caution was witnessing what had happened with this very government document that had shown me his correct first name: the registrar entered it wrong on the very first line, thus forever dooming this document to be indexed under the spelling, Fredrick. That, however, is not how Lyman spelled the name, himself. Take a look at his pristine, clear handwriting. You are my witness: his name was indeed spelled Frederick.

So now, instructed on the real first name for the man—and alerted to the possibilities for yet another pairing of misspellings—I went back and tried searching for more records on this Kelly descendant.

Any more luck? No.

Times like this encourage the desperate researcher to consider anything—even far-fetched anythings. I kept seeing an indicator of a single man, born in Indiana in 1885, showing up in the 1940 census for Memphis, Tennessee. That city—Memphis—brought to mind the newspaper article I had seen the previous day on Lyman’s several business trips to various cities. One of them was Memphis. Could he have liked it so much that he decided to move his family there? But if this Lyman in Memphis was one and the same as my Lyman Fulk, where was his wife? Phyllis, born in 1890, would have just turned fifty, much too young to already have made Lyman a widower, as this census entry indicated.

I tried poking around Find A Grave to test a hypothesis that the Fulk family had moved from Indiana to Tennessee. Of course, Find A Grave, though a wonderful resource, can be spotty in places—it all depends on the commitment and thoroughness of local volunteers. No entry on the website can mean—possibly—nothing.

With more searching, a record did turn up for the popular soprano who had charmed Bloomington residents with her singing. That record was not in Bloomington, but in Memphis, showing me that there was a family move from their Indiana hometown.

Sadly, the then forty nine year old wife of Lyman had been stricken down by an “acute” case of leukemia, and within a span of less than two months, had succumbed to the disease. Though it seems incredible that the Lyman and Phyllis Fulk of Bloomington were one and the same as the Lyman and Phyllis Fulk of Memphis, what may have been witnessed were merely the changes wrought by the stress of invincible disease. While I have no way to know the stress, pain, or hopelessness faced by the couple in those last few months, one look at the details on Phyllis’ October 15, 1939, death certificate provides silent confirmation of the agony that must have faced the man.

Now far removed from the support system the family enjoyed back in Bloomington, Indiana—after all, not only were the two young people the darlings of the town's newspaper reports, but Lyman's grandfather was apparently a former state senator, affording the surname some ongoing recognition in town—what became of Lyman? Did he remain in Memphis? Try to return home to those he knew in Indiana? It seems his grief swallowed him up, and sucked him out of the limelight and into a twilight this researcher has not been able to pursue.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Finding What I Already Had—Almost

Recently, I’ve been feeling much the same as Dorothy must have felt when she returned to the Wizard of Oz, only to find that her hard-won victory, keeping those ruby slippers on her own feet, was already capable of bestowing upon her the very wish she had sought him to grant. The realization lately dawned upon me that, despite the fantastic service provided by the Monroe County Public Library, I already have the means to obtain Bloomington newspaper clippings. It’s called, and for whatever reason, I had totally forgotten about my subscription there—until, that is, I read Iggy’s comment containing a link to that very service.

Well, duh. Why I didn’t think of that, myself, I don’t know. Call it a season of over-commitment, I suppose.

So, back to my subscription at NewspaperArchive I went, to see what I could find on Ella Creahan Fulk, her deceased husband Homer, and their youngest—and most unusually-named—son, Lyman.

Not that I’m saying Lyman is an unusual name. It’s just that it’s less common than his older brother’s name (Robert) or his sister’s name (Marie). And if I’m going to trace this Kelly line’s descendants, I may as well start with the path of least resistance.

Pulling up the name Lyman Fulk at NewspaperArchive produced quite a collection of results—just under five hundred entries, in fact. And that’s just for the newspapers in Bloomington, Indiana.

A few quotes help reveal one of the reasons why he merited so many mentions in Bloomington newspapers. The Bloomington Evening World assured its readers on Wednesday, April 7, 1915, that “the appearance of Wink Weaver and Lyman Fulk on any amusement program is a guarantee of its success.”

A later edition provided another clue. The May 27, 1919, report discussed an “act by the premiere comedians Lyman Fulk and Robert Hamilton.” I’m not sure what happened to Wink Weaver by this point, but evidently Lyman was still in the business of pleasing his audiences.

In addition to mentions of Lyman’s acts throughout the 1920s, it appears some performances were a family affair, with “Mrs. Lyman Fulk” either providing accompaniment, singing soprano solos—sometimes in Civil War period costume—or conducting junior choirs or girls’ choruses.

That, however, was not Lyman’s main calling in life, for early on, the Bloomington Evening World announced “The friends of Lyman Fulk insist that he be a candidate for coroner” in the upcoming 1916 Democrat primary—which, upon declaring his candidacy, pitted him against candidate H. R. Barrow.

Regardless of how that election turned out, even this was not his calling. A March 17, 1919, report in the Evening World revealed that he was a “traveling salesman for the Nurre Mirror Plate company,” providing some corroboration for what was somewhat difficult handwriting to decipher on the 1920 census. Apparently, as he traveled, his whereabouts were reported by the paper back home—mentioning his far-ranging business in Midwest cities such as Memphis and Chicago.

With nearly five hundred mentions in the NewspaperArchive results, you’d think there would be one providing me with the very obituary I was seeking—that of his mother, Ella Fulk, who had passed away on May 28, 1933. However, as often happens in archival collections of newspapers, the series of dates in the collection can be spotty. Apparently, 1933 in Bloomington, Indiana, was one of those spots.

While Dorothy may have only had to click her ruby heels together and assert, “There’s no place like home,” it will apparently take a bit more than that for one particular obituary to materialize before my own eyes. It’s just as well that the down-to-earth offer tendered by the Monroe County Public Library still stands.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

One Small Wish Granted

Despite demonized online genealogical sites these past few days, barring me from seeking the answer to one small research quandary—what, exactly, was the name of Kelly family descendant Ella Creahan’s second husband—I can’t say the time was passed without any light notes. Social media was abuzz with complaints over loss of access at and related sites Find A Grave and, but some took the inconvenience with a measure of grace. Diana Haddad of Family Tree Magazine's blog Genealogy Insider summarized the best of the wry, smile-inducing observations regarding the denial of service attacks suffered by these companies in her post yesterday.

Hopefully, the tumult has subsided and those of us not spirited away by World Cup fanaticism can resume a measure of normalcy—which, in many cases, means getting back to some serious genealogy research.

As I mentioned yesterday, uncovering two dissimilar surnames for Ella Creahan’s second marriage—added, of course, to her first married name rendered alternately as Fulk and Faulk—got me curious. Which was the right rendition? I thought a visit to Find A Grave might resolve the Fulk versus Faulk question, if not provide clues to the second marriage’s struggle between records claiming the name was Timmons versus Tumison.

I had already attempted finding mentions for either surname via the Indiana GenWeb index for the local newspaper in Lafayette, Indiana, where Ella had, for most of her life, lived. Strangely, though the index ranges from 1902 through 1952, I couldn’t find reasonable possibilities for any of these surnames.

Find A Grave, which had stubbornly resisted my attempts to gain entrance for two whole days, finally produced a few hints. The first was the entry for Ella’s first husband, Homer Fulk—yes! It was Fulk—which corroborated his date of death as April 10, 1892. Taking a closer look at that entry, I thought the grave location looked familiar, so I checked back at Ella’s own Find A Grave entry. Remember, I had presumed she was buried in her parents’ family plot, since the grave location seemed to match. As it turned out, both she and Homer were buried at the same location in Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Lafayette.

So what about that second husband—Scott, whose surname was transcribed as Tumison for an index to the Tippecanoe County marriage records, but listed in the 1900 census as Timmuns? What was available on Find A Grave for him? After all, beyond that 1900 census, I couldn’t find any further sign of him in either version of his name.

There was a Scott Timmons listed in Find A Grave, but I can’t entirely be sure it is the same person as Ella’s Scott. For one thing, there is no entry for the date of birth of the one candidate that came up in the search results. A second item is that his record notes that he died, not in the city where he was buried, but across the state in Fort Wayne. Finally, his was not a burial in the local Catholic cemetery. This Scott Timmons died June 11, 1926, at the age of sixty one—making this a possibility—and was laid to rest in Spring Vale Cemetery.

There is, of course, one remedy to this puzzle. Remember, Ella’s own obituary was published back in the Monroe County newspaper in her first husband’s hometown, Bloomington. That’s the home of that nifty library which provides copies of obituaries for a modest service charge. Noting how quickly they turned around my last request, I suspect we will have the answer to these questions in a matter of only a few more days—as long as the library’s servers have not been attacked by the same high tech plague assaulting those others of our favorite online genealogy resources.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Finding More Questions Than Answers

Sometimes, a quest to discover more on an ancestor’s line not only finds a researcher coming up empty-handed, but burdened with more questions after the search than before beginning it.

Couple that challenge with some temporarily downed Internet resources for genealogical research, and those persistent questions just have to be set aside for another day.

I had run into some difficulties, once I had discovered that Michael Creahan of Lafayette, Indiana, had been married to a woman descending from our family’s Kelly line, trying to trace what had become of all the descendants. So far, I’ve documented my trails as I explored the family of Michael and Bridget Creahan’s daughter Anna. I’ve also begun a tally of findings for their older daughter, Ellen.

And then, suddenly, I couldn’t get on the Find A Grave site to confirm some details I was seeking. Compounding that issue, the next night’s research session found me wrestling with an uncooperative—which, judging from their Twitter stream, had been experiencing technical difficulties of their own.

That, of course, leaves me unable to show you some other material I had found—indexed records containing abnormalities that were frustrating, at the least, and demanding corroboration of documentation at best.

What I can mention, while all research action online comes to a screeching halt, is that Iggy is on the right trail, with the information he shared in some comments yesterday. The 1900 census information he posted from Ancestry—if I can ever get on the site to check it out again—is very likely the same record I had located on

The trouble with online access difficulties, when researching genealogy through sites like and, is that Ancestry would have allowed subscribers to view all the census details—like years of marriage and the mother’s number of children—while FamilySearch, depending on year of the census record, may or may not allow this more detailed view. Of course, right now, I can't tell what Ancestry's record shows because each attempt brings with it a frustrating error message. Perhaps, if I put this one to bed, I can hope the morning will bring better accessibility.

Fortunately, in general, in the case of the 1900 census, we can look—at both sites—at the details of the digitized record. In addition to the year of marriage for the former Ella Fulk (or Faulk), which Iggy had mentioned, we can see via that Ella claimed to be mother of only three children—all of whom were still living—thus confirming that all three of the Timmons children in the 1900 household were not Ella’s.

That presents some other research pursuits, for which the current online obstacles will keep us at bay. First is the question: why three Fulk children? The news report that Iggy had provided of Ella’s husband’s passing—Homer Fulk from Bloomington, Indiana—had indicated that the couple had had only two children. Which one of the three in the 1900 census wasn’t theirs? After all, Homer’s brothers had evidently predeceased him; perhaps one of these “children” actually called him “uncle” rather than “daddy.”

Another problem was the actual name of Ella’s second husband. Remember my mentioning, a while back, the spelling woes I had encountered in researching this Creahan line? One entry I had found yielded the spelling as Csehan—admittedly far afield from the other spelling variants, as well as one coming from the less reliable source of a transcribed index.

In that “Csehan” entry, the woman was listed as “Ella T. Faulk Csehan.” Why the Faulk before the Csehan? It makes it appear as if Csehan was her former married name, and that the correct maiden name was Faulk, not Crehan. If it weren’t for the corroborating facts of Ella’s parents’ names—Michael “Cseham” and Bridget Kelly—I might have lost confidence in this resource entirely.

Add to that loss of confidence the added difficulty of this husband’s name rendered as Scott W. Tumison—certainly not the Scott Timmuns that was provided less than a year later in the census record.

What I’d like to do—once everyone gets their websites up and running again—is search for the burial records for each of Ella’s husbands. I’m presuming I will find Homer Fulk’s burial information in Lafayette, Indiana, as he had died in that city, rather than in his hometown of Bloomington. But if so, why wasn’t Ella buried along with him? Understandably, if her second husband had been previously married, at his passing he would be buried with his first wife—but I’d still like to track that one down, too, if only to resolve what, exactly, his surname should be. There’s quite a difference between Timmuns and Tumison.

Then, for additional corroboration, I’d like to find further records on each of the children, mainly to confirm the parents’ names. After all, there is always that possibility that this isn’t the right Ella. I’d sure want to know that before pursuing this line any further—wouldn’t you?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Another Messy Possibility

Sometimes, finding one handy clue in tracing a family’s descendants only leads to other puzzles. I had found it quite serendipitous, locating the true identity of Michael Creahan’s first wife, Bridget—a heretofore unknown sibling of our family’s Catherine Kelly of Lafayette, Indiana—but now that I’ve delved into the lines of the Creahan children, I’m beginning to weary at the twists and turns.

After having located the obituary for Michael Creahan’s second wife—thus, step-mom to his four young children who had lost their mother in 1869—I began tracing the clues to their whereabouts through time. We’ve already discussed one daughter, Anna Creahan Quinlisk, bringing us up to the present day with some findings that wandered all the way from Indiana to deposit themselves nearly at my own doorstep.

Next, we began the search for another daughter, Ellen—or Ella, as she evidently preferred to be called. While we were able to locate Ella and her husband, Homer Fulk, in Bloomington, Indiana, in the 1880 census, I hadn’t found any other census possibilities. Discovering her grave, via Find A Grave, back in her hometown of Lafayette, Indiana, I began wondering whether she had died childless.

That supposition may turn out to be a premature conjecture on my part. Apparently—though spelling variations still continue to plague this quest—Ella may have had at least one son. Granted, my census discovery is still liable to the pitfalls of mistaken identity, so I hesitate to bring this up. But let’s say that tentatively Ella had a son named Lyman. At least, it sure looks that way in this 1920 census record showing an Ella Fulk in the household of her son, Lyman Fulk of Bloomington, Indiana.

There are some promising details here. Ella, age fifty nine at the time of this enumeration, was just the right age to corroborate the finding of one year old Ellen in Michael and Bridget Creahan’s 1860 census record. Then, the family lived in Bloomington, where I had last found Ella in the 1880 census.

Granted, that record was obtained forty years prior to this 1920 census, but it did give us a working start to reconstructing the family backwards through time.

That’s when I ran into the sticky parts. My next move was to search for a 1910 census with both Lyman and Ella—possibly even with Ella’s husband Homer in the picture. It didn’t turn out quite so nicely packaged.

What I found for 1900 brought me back to Lafayette, Indiana, where Ella was born and where she had married Homer. Only this time, Ella and her son Lyman were in the household of a man by the name of Scott Timmuns—at least, I’m presuming the Ella in this household was Ella Fulk. Ella was actually listed as wife of Scott Timmuns, and Lyman was said to be Scott’s stepson.

Fifteen year old Lyman evidently had two siblings in the household with him: eighteen year old sister Marie and seventeen year old brother Robert. A little more spelling magic had occurred in 1910 as well, for the surname was now magically transformed to be Faulk instead of Fulk.

In addition to the three Faulk children, Scott Timmuns had three children of his own: thirteen year old Elmer, eleven year old Flora, and five year old Bessie. It is hard to determine, from this document alone, whether any of the children were also Ella’s. My presumption at this point, based on the gap between the ages of the two Timmuns girls, is that Scott was a widower with two children, and Bessie drew up the “ours” portion for the blended family.

Before I can come to that conclusion definitively, though, I’ll need to seek out several other sources of documentation—likely some marriage information, a death record for a former wife for Scott and a former husband for Ella, and even some documentation for the children, themselves.

Of course, that obituary for Ella—sent for this past weekend—would come in handy if it contained as much detail as the last obituary I received from the Monroe County Public Library. But I’m still waiting on that.

In the meantime, we now have several names to trace in census records and other resources online. One way or another, we’ll hopefully discover why—or if—Ella Creahan ever was the wife of Homer Fulk of Bloomington, and later married Scott Timmuns back in Lafayette, Indiana.

I keep reminding myself: if I were attempting to negotiate this puzzle a few decades ago, I’d still be waiting for a government agency to stuff a Xeroxed copy of a document in my stamped, self-addressed envelope within their allotted six to eight weeks time frame.

Patience has certainly been redefined for another generation of genealogical researchers.

Monday, June 16, 2014

News Flash: She’s In!

Confirmed: one acceptance to a study abroad program in Ireland for a certain college senior this upcoming fall semester. Despite all the ups and downs of the application process, the long-awaited acceptance letter is finally here. Well, actually, we only discovered it Sunday evening after all the Father’s Day festivities, but it had shown up in her college email box last Friday night. We missed a whole weekend of celebrating the news. We’ll have to take a rain check on that one.

The destination for our daughter’s studies will be University College Cork, where she will focus on courses reflecting her anthropology major, as well as a class for her political science minor. The best part of her course selections this fall is an early-starting class in archaeology which will offer hands-on opportunities in site visits to a number of current digs throughout Ireland.

While the advance notice arrived via email, it will be followed by official letter through the mail. Included will be the details on arrival procedures and semester calendar. We will be quite busy with travel and housing arrangements in the next few days—first, to get our college student set with the necessary details, and then, to follow with our own travel plans.

We do, after all, plan on visiting this particular student sometime during her semester in Ireland—well, visiting her and a few other significant spots in Ireland. At last, we can begin planning that itinerary in earnest!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day Sentiments

Days like today, celebrating fathers, seem to be so precisely appropriate for those who immerse themselves in family history. There would, after all, not really even be a family to research, if it weren't for fathers and mothers. And isn't it the constant quest of genealogists to find the name of that next generation's father and mother? While others may celebrate their father today, we researchers have the goods to celebrate generations of fathers.

Francis Stevens of Chicago IllinoisIt was during the series on my father-in-law, Frank Stevens, that I came across the best Father's Day card I ever read. Not because of the art or design do I say this, for the graphic design of the card was rather bland. But it was the message, delivered in the form of a simple poem, that grabbed me.

Shopping for Father's Day cards recently, I realized the trends in greeting cards are quite different now than then. I can't really say just what it is that makes these cards different. There seems to be more of a "me" focus. And the sentimentality sometimes rubs me wrong. I do have, after all, a highly honed snark factor, myself—diametrically opposed to such sappiness.

Perhaps the difference in the card was owing to the fact that this particular Father's Day card was sent by Frank to his father, Will Stevens, during the war era. Just taking one look at the patriotic colors and military insignia provide the clues. It offered a straightforward representation that was easily identifiable: we salute fathers just as we salute the flag that represents the country we love. A subliminal message as clear cut as that is unmistakable. Squishy feelings lend themselves much more easily to sappiness, but when someone has definite feelings about something or someone, it's so much easier to come straight out and say it. That's commitment. Why is it that our complex relationships today form a barrier to that?

After shopping for Father's Day cards this week, I needed an antidote to all those mushy sentiments. While I do like to find just the right card, with a tasteful balance between creative artwork and well-put sentiment, I often have to chose one side over the other. Rarely can a card satisfy on both accounts. I confess my choices often fall to the side of apt expression. Perhaps that is why I want to resurrect this seventy year old Father's card and offer it to you as my greeting for your own Father's Day. May you celebrate the unmistakable bonds that you share with your own father—whether in person or in memory of the one you call your Dad.

A Fathers Day Tribute card from seventy years ago

To you life is a magic cup
That overflows with zest,
And time again you share its gifts
That others may be blest.
Now let the cup be passed to you,
And others make the toast,
For you who make an art of life
Deserve the tribute most!
inside of a seventy year old Fathers Day card

Saturday, June 14, 2014

More Spelling Woes

She is survived by the following step-children…Mrs. Ella Fulk of Bloomington…

After going as far as I could with the descendants of Michael and Bridget Kelly Creahan’s daughter, Anna M. Creahan Quinlisk, I realized that complaining about being stuck at the brink of discovering living cousins was fruitless—especially considering there were three more children of this Kelly ancestor waiting to be discovered.

I headed back to that long-winded obituary of Michael’s second wife, the former Annie Cunningham, to check the married name of her other step-daughter.

That name, on the obituary, showed, simply enough, as Ella Fulk, but I know that wasn’t "simple enough" to save me from another search fiasco. Right off the bat, I remembered the family’s last census listing—under the spelling “Creham” before her mother’s tragic early death—where the newlyweds’ first child was listed as Ellen. Well, that’s forgivable, I suppose, as I’ve seen others with that given name opting for the shorter—perhaps sweeter—version as Ella. But even in the 1870 census, where she was now the oldest of four children, she was listed as Ellen.

But Fulk? Hadn’t I seen a record insisting her married name was actually spelled Faulk? That’s how it was showing in the marriage index entry for Homer L. Faulk and Ella T. Crahan. Right, blame that on those useless indexed records!

Were there any children added to this September 2, 1879, marriage? Not by the time of the 1880 census, though the household of Homer and Ella Fulk included a sister-in-law by the surname Miers, perhaps providing a hint for future searches. By the time of the next census in 1900, it seemed next to impossible to locate Ella or Ellen, either by Faulk or Fulk.

And yet, I knew she had to be around, at least up until 1917. That’s when her step-mother’s obituary named her as a resident of Bloomington, Indiana. Poking around in both and seemed to show several Ella Fulks (and all the appropriate variants) dying in Indiana before that point—with no possibilities listed past that point. I was running into a brick wall on this line before I even started.

A light bulb went off in my late-night-researcher brain: why not try the same resource which so easily got me the obituary that started this whole chase off? After all, the city of Ella’s residence, once she was married, was Bloomington, part of Monroe, home county of the library with that excellent obituary index service. I may as well support the business ventures which have already proven their success.

I checked out the Monroe County library’s index once more, puzzling over which spelling variation to attempt for my first try. I entered Ella Fulk, and was immediately rewarded with the information I sought: the seventy year old woman’s obituary appeared in the May 29, 1933, edition of the Daily Telephone. Just to make sure I had the right Ella Fulk—after all, there could be others—I pulled up the website for Find A Grave and hoped a volunteer had made the entry.

And there it was: Ella Fulk, buried in the same cemetery in Lafayette, Indiana, as her parents and other members of her childhood family. Her date of death was given as May 28, 1933, just one day off the obituary date given at the Monroe County Public Library.

With Ella's burial occurring back in her childhood hometown, rather than that of her husband, it made me wonder whether she had been long widowed, and possibly childless. I won’t have to wait long to find that out, though, for the handy service provided by the Monroe County Public Library will undoubtedly deliver a digital copy of the obituary to my email address within only a few days.

Hopefully, it will include enough hints to bring me to the next turn in this family trail.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Twenty Four Hours: Still No Response

It’s been twenty four hours since I posted a private message on Facebook to a possible distant cousin. Still no answer. What’s up with this?

Apparently, instant gratification has not yet made its presence known in the field of family history research. Social media connectivity notwithstanding, it’s the people who need to make the connections, not their communication devices. And people need time to warm up to the idea of engaging with total strangers—family or not.

In the meantime, the impressive prowess of search engine Google keeps me informed on a host of possible cousin connections for this newly-discovered branch of my husband’s Kelly family. It’s incredible, don’t you think, that a family of Irish immigrants with a surname as common as Kelly could have slipped in, unnoticed, through the back door of this country—arriving through the port of New Orleans and sailing past the 1850s countryside along the Mississippi to the Wabash River destination of Lafayette, Indiana—and yet have their descendants of the fourth and fifth generation tracked through multiple online resources almost two centuries later.

It was on Find A Grave that I located burial information on the Anna Crahan whom I had originally discovered through Mathew Kelly’s 1880 census record. Listed as niece to Mathew, the head of household, she was identified there only by her initials. That mystery was resolved, once I located her name in her step-mother’s obituary, years later. That record clued me in to the name of the man she had marriedJohn P. Quinlisk.

Like a chain reaction, each discovery led to new facts—like the census records for the new family, adding children over the years—until I came to the Find A Grave record of her son, John P. Quinlisk, junior, and his wife Edith.

What was interesting about Edith Quinlisk’s entry on Find A Grave was that it contained a transcription error that made me take a closer look. While the headstone itself showed her date of passing as 1989, what I had originally seen was the year on the transcription: 1929. A date that early threw me off, and I dismissed it out of hand—at first.

I had seen other indications for this woman leading me to think that she had died in California, rather than in Indiana, so I went looking for other entries on Find A Grave. Rather easily, I discovered one for an Edith V. Quinlisk who died there in Sacramento County on December 16, 1989.

Fortunately, this Find A Grave memorial came complete with one of those serendipitous entries including family information. While not an obituary, it was a brief listing of Edith’s family constellation, including the names and locations of her children, provided by one of her grandchildren. What more could I ask?

That, and an obituary for one of her sons, found through, was enough to equip me to go looking for possible cousins. During my foray into additional Internet resources, I once again also ran into the Lafayette Journal and Courier newspaper index, as well as the websites for various Lafayette public library genealogy holdings and databases, and the Indiana State Library Genealogy Database for marriages. Bit by bit, I am adding to my repertoire for finding aids to Indiana’s past records beyond just the government documents, themselves. I’m keeping a file of these valuable resources for future research, you can be sure.

As I track how these generations unfolded through history, it eventually leads me to the point where I run out of dusty old archives and into the broad daylight of modern times. And that is a decision point. Do I continue the search to try and connect with those who are related to our family? Or do I satisfy myself with knowing a stranger’s name—and maybe city of residence—and leave it at that?

I, for one, want to push the envelope out just one more generation. Unlike the books, documents, and microfilms which have no vested interest in revealing their secrets to me, the flesh-and-blood repositories of family heritage in this current generation may or may not be willing participants in my quest. Unsure of whether I care to turn salesperson to further my cause, I hesitate at this precipice of the decision point, though I realize just one favorable invitation will be all it takes for me to transform this precarious decision point into my personal tipping point.

I’ve never been so impatient about getting to yes.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

…But What If I Do?

If you ask almost any genealogist what his or her personal goals are in doing family history research, among other responses would likely be that of finding cousins. "Cousin bait," we often joke, leads to that very result. I've often claimed that goal, myself—until, that is, the threat stood up and stared me in the face.

Spending a long afternoon and evening yesterday searching through digitized records at yielded enough material to locate what may be living descendants of the 1898 Creahan and Quinlisk marriage I mentioned yesterday.

Only problem: I’m not yet entirely sure that the Anna Creahan who married John Quinlisk is actually the A. M. Crahan listed as niece in the 1880 Lafayette, Indiana, household of Mathew Kelly. Of course, the first initial sure fits nicely with a name like Anna. It’s the wildly varying dates of birth given for that Anna, over the years, which has me doubting.

Nevertheless, it was quite easy to trace a family name like Quinlisk. Before I knew it, I had rounded up an entire family constellation of possibilities.

Most of the thanks goes to Find A Grave. I simply went to that website and entered only two search terms: Quinlisk for surname, and United States for cemetery location. That gave me just under two hundred possibilities to wade through—not too bad a task for a quiet evening.

Couple that handy listing with some Google action on specific sibling names, garnering newspaper results as well, and instead of musty old reports of ancestors long gone, I found myself staring at names of people living right here and now—in one case, a potential cousin living not more than an hour’s drive from my own home. Quite a thought, considering I live a good two thousand miles from Lafayette, Indiana.

Could any of those current-day descendants of John and Anna Creahan Quinlisk tell me what I can’t figure out about their ancestors? This is my chance to find out.

That very opportunity, however, is what froze me in my tracks. Suddenly, those "distant" cousins are getting too close for comfort.

True confessions: I may be talkative, but I’m a talkative introvert. I can write pages upon pages of my thoughts and ideas, but when it comes to meeting someone face to face—or even on the phone or through correspondence—I can become almost tongue tied. I’m not given to reaching out glibly to strangers. I didn't inherit my grandfather’s gregarious southern style. I was born a northerner. It’s almost as good as in my genes. Meet me as a stranger in an elevator, and I’ll assume the polite elevator etiquette stare: straight ahead. Saying hello is just too personal a commitment. Sticking my neck out and initiating a conversation with a stranger? I’m not too sure I could pull that one off correctly, even if it were to meet a potential cousin. I’d hate to have the genealogy police out after me.

Regardless, no matter my reticence, I did send out a message to a possible cousin I found through last night’s research. Who knows what will come of it. Actually, I may be more terrified of someone answering than not answering.

Reversing roles, I’m not sure what I’d do if someone reached out to me with a stupendous announcement like, “Hey, we’re cousins!”

On the other hand, isn’t this the very thing I keep wishing would happen? You better be careful what you wish for, my elders used to tell me. Sometimes those wishes come true.
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