Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lightning Strikes

Seeing Harry A. Sullivan designated as “Senator” in that June 11, 1922, Denver Post article I quoted yesterday may have turned out to be more than just the coincidence we had assumed it was. While I haven’t yet been able to find any indication that our Harry was indeed elected to any such office—whether state or federal—he apparently did seek election to a local office.

It was a routine entry in the April 24, 1921, edition of the Post that clued me in to his political aspirations. The article was headlined, “Number of Offices Without Candidates as Elections Loom.” Harry Sullivan would be just the kind of guy to step up and volunteer for the position. He was, however, not the only one to respond to that call to serve.
            With only two days left for the filing of petitions of nomination with the elections commission, a number of offices remain without candidates. Councilmanic district No. 5 has no candidate in the field.
            Harry Sullivan, overseas veteran, has filed for city auditor. W. H. H. Cranmer, bond broker and an ex-soldier, is also a candidate for city auditor. Others who have filed for the same office are Alvin H. Pickens, now a deputy under City Auditor Stackhouse, and Roy D. Paul….

And no, that entry was not a fluke. His name was repeated on a list in the Post the following Thursday, April 28:
The candidates whose names will appear on the ballot follow:
For auditor—Harry A. Sullivan, Alvin H. Pickens, George D. Begole, Roy D. Paul, W. H. H. Cranmer, Herbert Fairall….

That entry was on page fifteen. Lest any Denver voter might have missed the mention, another announcement was placed on that same day—by his “friends,” of course—on page four:
Harry A. Sullivan
Candidate for City Auditor
Election May 17, 1921
Headquarters, 224 Drexel Hotel
(This space donated by friends.)

Reaching back to his days of service during World War One, Harry found an advocate willing to speak on his behalf as the time until election day grew short. In a brief statement on May 15 headlined, “To the Voters of Denver,” his commanding officer, Rice W. Means, put in a good word for him in the Post.
            Harry A. Sullivan was an officer in the 157th Infantry during its entire war service. He proved himself to be a man of ability and integrity. He was a fine disciplinarian, and yet is the most popular service man in Colorado today. The men love him. He is an independent candidate for City Auditor. I appeal to every patriotic citizen in Denver, regardless of politics, to vote for this worthy young man. I was his commanding officer, therefore had the opportunity to learn of his character and ability. In my judgment he will make the best City Auditor of any of the six candidates for the office. On election day remember SULLIVAN FOR AUDITOR.

While I have no idea how the election went for Harry Sullivan, I don’t suppose, in a six-way run-off, that he fared too well. After all, there weren’t any mentions of Harry in the newspapers following the election. And as we’ve already seen, Harry found other ways to become involved in political action in the following years.

However, there was one interesting tidbit that I discovered, courtesy of the Denver Post, just two days after Rice Means’ recommendation was published. Granted, it contained an attention-grabbing headline: “Lightning Strikes Candidate’s Home as He Campaigns.” Tucked into the article—at least from our vantage point ninety three years later—was just the kind of confirmation I had been seeking: a connection between Harry Sullivan and our Kelly descendant, Julia Creahan Sullivan.
Lightning struck the home of Harry A. Sullivan, candidate for city auditor, at 1015 East Tenth avenue while Sullivan was campaigning on the downtown streets Monday. Mrs. J. C. Sullivan, mother of the candidate, and Mrs. J. R. Saunders, a friend of the family, who were in the house when it was struck, were uninjured. The lightning ran down an electric wire without doing damage.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Fight of Good Citizens

After Denver resident Harry Sullivan resigned from his post-World War I position as manager of the city’s demobilization bureau, there was an unusual year-long hiatus from mentions of his name in the local newspapers. I doubt this active advocate for the nation’s former soldiers had forsaken his sense of mission during that time. He was, after all, now working as the Colorado state “organizer” for the American Legion—and from the sound of the many press reports about this dynamo in his former position, there was still much work to be done.

It wasn’t until the Rocky Mountain News gave a progress report on January 6, 1921, that we get an idea of what Harry had been up to, lately:
            …To abolish poverty and employment seeking by former service men and women, and to provide self-employment, a bill creating a more generous homestead law for them will be introduced in congress next week by Representative William N. Valle of Denver. The proposed bill was drawn up by Harry A. Sullivan, national committeeman from Colorado of the American Legion.

Perhaps behind-the-scenes work was taking up more of Harry’s time, as he no longer seemed to be the darling of the Denver newspapers. Or perhaps this June 11, 1922, entry in the Denver Post helps paint the picture more accurately:
            Senator Harry Sullivan and Buddy Griffith, two local players, have been making their home at Model, Colo., where they both are homesteading. The club has been winning with regularity, and challenge any club in southern Colorado.

Though I have no idea what the reference to “Senator Harry Sullivan” might mean, the Post did clue me in on two things: that Harry was back to playing ball, and that that homesteading law he had drawn up must have worked out quite nicely for him as well.

So, if Harry no longer lived in Denver, where exactly did he live? Model, Colorado turned out to be an unincorporated area in Las Animas County, far to the south of Harry’s hometown of Denver. Close to the New Mexico border, the closest town of any size was the county seat, Trinidad—a municipality which, even now, only has a population of nine thousand people.

Trinidad Colorado in 1907

Wondering what impact such a remote location might have exerted on the American Legion organizer’s effectiveness, I was relieved to find evidence in the Rocky Mountain News that Harry was back in the game—the political game, that is—with a mention on August 4, 1922:
            …Harry A. Sullivan, Colorado department member of the national executive committee of the [American] legion, was the chairman of the evening…

Apparently, Harry was back in town for the occasion of a gala event of the American Legion in Denver. The evening’s proceedings were also covered that same day in the Denver Post, which reported on commentary from the evening’s speakers.
            The chief duty of the [American] legion…is at present the care of disabled veterans. [American Legion leaders] expressed confidence that the pending bonus legislation will be adopted.
            Harry A. Sullivan, Colorado department member of the national executive committee of the legion, presided at the banquet….

Shortly thereafter, the Post revealed results of additional political maneuvering, possibly an outgrowth of the behind-the-scenes networking that had enabled Harry to be so successful in his various positions advocating on behalf of returning soldiers after the war. On August 26, their report revealed
            The Ex-Service Men’s Political league of Denver was formed Friday night at a meeting held at Howe Hall, on California street, more than 300 former service men attending.
            Support for ex-service men who are candidates in the current political campaign, and for other candidates classed as “worthy,” is pledged by the league. Harry Sullivan was chosen permanent chairman….

On the eve of Veteran’s Day, 1922, a Denver Post article indicated the planned activities, the next day, for Harry’s old division, the 157th Infantry. In addition to other speakers, Harry Sullivan was slated to address his old regiment, after which, it was promised, a “lively entertainment program” would follow.
            Members of the 157th infantry will march in the parade 200 strong, but not in a body, it was announced Friday. Members of the organization will march with their respective ex-service men’s organizations. The annual banquet and reunion of the 157th will be held at the Albany hotel at 6 o’clock Saturday evening.

As the year of 1922 drew to a close, Harry once again was mentioned in the Denver newspapers, this time to indicate yet another step in his career trajectory. In a long article in the December 31 edition of the Post describing the noteworthy career and planned retirement of the “First U.S. Woman Deputy Marshal,” a postscript included the other personnel changes anticipated in the Marshal’s office in 1923. In the blip of a mere line of type, Harry’s name once again made its appearance.
            Thomas Keenan, also a deputy on [U.S.] Marshal Burris’ staff, resigned his position Saturday, and will enter the employ of the Colorado Fuel and Iron company.
            Harry A. Sullivan has been appointed to take Keenan’s place

Photograph, above: Business section of Las Animas County seat, Trinidad, Colorado, as it appeared in 1907, fifteen years before Harry Sullivan moved to a homestead in an unincorporated area of the county; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Showing Them What They Should Do

It was less than two weeks after his arrival home from France at the close of the first World War that our (possible) Kelly descendant, Harry Sullivan, was off on another mission. This time, his task took him from his hometown of Denver, Colorado, to a nearby western city—Salt Lake City, Utah. The Denver Post noted his mission only tangentially on May 8, 1919:
Lieut. Harry Sullivan, who just returned from France with the 157th division, is leaving Denver today for Salt Lake City, to help the Mormon City in their Victory Drive there. They are away behind Denver and Harry is going to show them what they should do.

What, exactly, the Post meant by “Victory Drive” or why—and how—Salt Lake City was considered to be “away behind” in their progress in the drive, the article didn’t explain. Perhaps this was something everybody knew at the time—but something for which, unfortunately, I can’t find any answer almost one hundred years later.

A possible explanation came several months later, in the form of a November 26, 1919, Denver Post headline,
Governor Shoup Authorizes Expenditure From the Contingent Fund for Sleeping Accommodations in Windsor Hotel for Soldiers.

The long article that followed not only provided context, but quoted our Harry Sullivan extensively. Evidently, once back home, Harry was again finding his way regularly into the newspaper headlines. This time, he offered his opinion on the Governor's decision.
            “It is needed—Lord, how it is needed!” exclaimed Harry Sullivan, manager of the municipal free employment agency and himself an overseas man. “There are 500 ex-service men who are applicants for jobs and many are destitute. I am stating it conservatively when I put the number of penniless ex-soldiers in Denver at 200. A lot of the men are married and have children. A married man in the army cannot save, for his pay goes to support his wife. When he is discharged from the army and his pay stops and he is jobless he is up against it. Every day I hear facts that would melt a heart of stone.
            “I have just returned from Cheyenne, where I managed to place a few men in machinists’ jobs with the Union Pacific. But Wyoming has a considerable number of jobless men herself. There is a scarcity of machinists throughout the country. The large majority of our ex-service men were general office clerks, stenographers, salesmen, night watchmen, and these are hard jobs to find right now. Besides, we have quite a few who want work on the farms. These men are eager to get any work at which they can make a livelihood.”

Not long after—evidently, his plea in the newspaper was widely read—Harry was once again referenced, providing a progress report in the December 1 issue of the Post:
            …At the demobilization bureau, in the Chamber of Commerce building, Harry Sullivan, manager of the employment bureau, announced at the close of the day twenty jobs and ex-soldiers had been connected. In addition, there were many inquiries from employers…
            “People are beginning to call up by phone and offer assistance,” said Mr. Sullivan…

Following on the heels of that report—and just in time for Christmas—the Denver Post, on Sunday, December 21, 1919, published this headline:
State Will Continue Bureau For Getting Jobs for Ex-Yanks.
Governor Shoup Sets Aside $1,000 From Soldiers’ Contingent Fund for Maintenance of Work Under Harry A. Sullivan.

Harry continued serving as manager of the employment bureau of the Denver demobilization bureau from the time of his appointment, shortly after arriving home from service in France, until he offered his resignation at the end of January, 1920.

At that point, the task was not yet over. Harry was just taking the opportunity to move to a position from which he could access even greater possibilities to serve. He was now taking on the new role of Colorado state organizer for the American Legion.

After his resignation, a February 1, 1920, Post article highlighted Harry Sullivan’s accomplishments on behalf of returning soldiers after the war:
            Mayor Bailey has received the resignation of Harry Sullivan, manager of the Denver demobilization bureau, effective immediately. Mr. Sullivan accepts the new position of state organizer for the American Legion and already has entered upon his duties of organizing posts of ex-service men throughout the state. The mayor has not indicated whom he will appoint as the successor of Mr. Sullivan, to what has grown to be a joint state, city and federal office devoted to the bringing of the job and the soldier together.
            Since he entered the work as manager, Mr. Sullivan has supervised the placing at work of more than 6,000 men. He has handled a difficult and onerous position so successfully that in the report of Governor Shoup’s committee for the relief of ex-service men and women special commendation was paid him personally.
            Before the campaign for the relief of the destitute discharged soldiers last November and December, Sullivan had distributed all his savings, about $500, to the needy, and was devoting the major portion of his salary as manager, $150 monthly, to the same purpose. He has tried law suits for the ex-service men, obtained their allotments, mileage and transportation when some mistake or red tape had brought about an impasse, and has kept the Colorado delegation in Congress busy seeing that red tape unwound rapidly.
            Altho the crisis is passed, there is great need for the continuance of the demobilization bureau for the next three or four months and Mr. Sullivan so recommends to the mayor.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Over There

Trying to reconstruct the World War I tour of duty of Denver resident Harry Sullivan has not been an easy task. For one thing, there was no draft registration card—Harry, apparently, did not wait to be told to get involved; he volunteered. In fact, he did so before the United States was even officially embroiled in the European conflict. Mention of his “vacation in the mountains” pinpointed June 26, 1916, as the date Harry left Denver to report to the Golden rifle range, a facility operated by the Colorado National Guard—nearly ten months before the U.S. declaration of war in April, 1917.

While the Denver papers mentioned Harry’s ties to the “157th Division”—or the “157th Infantry,” as it was called in other newspaper reports—just as we encountered in researching Harry’s own name, it seems there were doubles, even, for the name of Harry’s military unit. Trying to trace the lines—yes, that was even called “lineage” in one instance—of Harry’s division felt remotely like trying to follow the lines of track entering a Chicago rail yard.

To get an idea of what, exactly, the 157th Division constituted, I traced the line through several Wikipedia articles. It appears one must take care in sorting out which 157th is being referred to. The “157th Field Artillery Regiment” seems to be the unit that included our Kelly family descendant, Harry. It was both an infantry and a field artillery regiment of the Army National Guard. It served as part of the 40th Infantry Division during World War I.

Reading that the 40th Infantry Division was organized at Camp Kearny was an encouraging sign to someone like me, unaccustomed to how the military seems to appreciate mash-ups of what seemed to be specifically numbered units. I recalled the newspaper article noting that Harry had been at Camp Kearny.

It was helpful, also, to read the “lineage” of this specific unit. With a history starting in 1879 with designation as the 1st Infantry Battalion of the Colorado National Guard, once war was imminent in 1917, the entire regiment was drafted into Federal service, then re-designated as the 157th Infantry, part of the 40th Division.

Somehow, between Camp Kearny and wherever in France the 157th was sent, they became part of the National Army, a blend of the regular United States Army, the various units comprising the United States National Guard, and those assigned to duty from the eventual draft.

According to one narrative, the 157th Infantry arrived in France in August, 1918, as part of the 40th Division. However, the division as a whole did not serve together, but troops from the 40th were assigned out to other, more experienced combat divisions as needed. Thus, Harry could have served anywhere the 40th supplied replacement soldiers.

Though the armistice went into effect on November 11, 1918, the 157th Division did not return stateside until the following spring. A number of different dates are offered in various online sites—certainly not providing clarity to our questions of where and when, exactly, our Harry Sullivan served. However, with the Denver Post article pinpointing Harry’s arrival home as April 26, 1919, it certainly provided a window on at least this one soldier’s timeline.

A photograph in a wonderful collection at the Denver Public Library provides corroboration for that date. Showing a parade of the returning “157th Regiment” marching in formation down Sixteenth Street in downtown Denver, the photograph is dated that very same day, April 26, 1919. (While I’m unable, at this point, to obtain permission to share this photo, you may view it by clicking here to be redirected to the source.)

While Harry’s arrival home must have been a relief to his mother and siblings, Harry apparently intended to heed the words he remembered General Pershing say in his address to the troops still in France:
Now you are going home and your services as soldiers will soon cease, but you will still be in the service of our country, for you will take up the fight of good citizens, and I know you will not fail.

Within days, he was off to his next project. Though the war was over, Harry’s own personal battle to overcome difficulties on behalf of many others was about to begin.

Above: Cover to the sheet music for the 1917 George M. Cohan war song, "Over There." Courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

In the Service of Our Country

So the young lieutenant returning home to Denver after the Great War was welcomed by two sisters with the right names—Florence and Regina Sullivan—but was reported to have been welcomed by the warm embrace of a mother named Katherine Sullivan. Not Julia.

I dunno…call it wishful thinking, but I’m hoping the “C” in “Julia C. Sullivan” wasn’t just there to represent her maiden name, Creahan. After yesterday’s discovery, I’m sincerely hoping that “C” was meant to stand for a middle name of Catherine—which, of course, would often be misspelled as Katherine.

I’m still in pursuit of everything that I can find about the descendants of my Kelly family from Lafayette, Indiana—including Michael and Bridget Kelly Creahan’s daughter Julia, who had moved to Denver, Colorado, sometime before her marriage there in 1888. I’ve been trying to reconstruct this family constellation, line upon line, but those efforts have been thwarted on many fronts. The minute I finally feel like I’ve found substantial evidence to connect the right Julia Sullivan with the one I knew as Julia Creahan, it seems there’s another twist in the story.

In the process of conducting this research, however, I slowly got sucked in to the story, itself. With Julia’s son Harry’s charming story splashed throughout the pages of Denver newspapers, I couldn’t help being captivated. Alright, I admit it: Harry Sullivan became my new “ooh, shiny” decoy. Whether he turns out to be family or fascinating diversion—and after yesterday’s newspaper article naming his mother as Katherine, not Julia, it isn’t looking too hopeful for the family side of the equation—I had to follow the rest of the story as it unfolded in the Denver papers.

One question was, “So where did Harry go, once he was sent ‘over there’ to fight in the Great War?” Reconstructing that record of service is not so easy, but I think I’ll be able to explain some of the details in tomorrow’s post. But for now, I’d like to share just one excerpt from a Denver Post article appearing in the January 13, 1920, edition.

The article was a two-page spread about the man of the hour, General John J. Pershing. The Post had put together the in-depth article, including personal recollections “showing the soldierly and personal side of General Pershing” by a number of Denver residents who, in service in France, had met the general personally. Among the Denver men quoted in the article was—you guessed it—Harry A. Sullivan.
            …Harry Sullivan vividly recalls the day when General Pershing inspected the 157th at Point de Loma, France, just before its departure for home.
            “It was a proud day for all of us,” says Mr. Sullivan, “when the commander-in-chief told us we were a fine looking body of men and had performed our work well, in a manner meeting all expectations.”
            “‘Now you are going home and your services as soldiers will soon cease, but you will still be in the service of our country, for you will take up the fight of good citizens, and I know you will not fail,’ he told us.
            “He has a remarkable memory. When he saw Col. Pat Hamrock, commanding the 157th, he stopped and said: ‘Where have I seen you before, colonel? Your face is familiar.’ Colonel Hamrock replied that it was out in California in 1911, and the general, shaking hands, immediately recalled the circumstances.”

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Missing Link

…is still missing.

What appears at first to be the smoking gun conclusively connecting this Denver guy we’ve been researching—Harry A. Sullivan—with the family of our Kelly descendant, Julia Creahan Sullivan, ends up with a frustrating twist of details.

Chalk it up to another in a long line of aggravating journalistic errors—and believe me, I’ve found many to complain about over the years—or see it as proof that I’ve been, yet again, barking up the wrong family tree.

Either way, there is one single word in this April 26, 1919, Denver Post article that provides me no end of frustration.
            One of the happiest family reunions witnessed Saturday at the station was that of the Sullivan family, who welcomed home their son and brother, Lieut. Harry Sullivan, a former semi-professional baseball player of Denver.
            Mrs. Katherine Sullivan of 817 East Tenth avenue, the mother, was the first to catch a glimpse of her son, and she lost no time in edging thru the crowd and throwing her arms around the happy soldier. Regina and Florence, his two younger sisters, were next on the reception committee to cry a little and smile a whole lot over the return of their loved one.



Friday, July 25, 2014

Where’s Harry?

In trying to locate any information on Harry Sullivan, son of Julia Creahan Sullivan of Denver, Colorado, it seemed fairly uncomplicated—up to a point. At first, finding his name in the various documents and reference volumes at the beginning of the 1900s was straightforward. Right off the bat, we could see nine year old Harry in his mom’s home in the 1900 census. In the 1910 census, there he was again—albeit listed with an age that had not advanced commensurate with that ten year time span—still in Julia’s household.

By the time we had taken a peek at the 1913 city directory, looking for this possible Kelly descendant, it was easy to see Harry was still in the household of Julia C. Sullivan at the same Grant Avenue address that was showing in the 1900 census.

Whether we had found the right newspaper articles for this Harry Sullivan or not, there was a steady stream of mentions in the local papers—a regular showing, in fact, until right up to that last mention in the Rocky Mountain News on Monday, June 26, 1916. While I had shared just a section of the report the other day, here’s the full article:
The O’Fallons defeated the McGinnity All-Stars yesterday at the sunken gardens by a score of 14 to 6. The features of the game were the hitting of Trout, Gaut and Richmond for the winners and the all-around playing of Harry Sullivan, who lifted out three timely hits and made several great catches at the short field. Sullivan leaves today for a brief vacation in the mountains.

Apparently, the “brief vacation in the mountains” to which the News referred was not an idyllic getaway for Harry. While he did end up heading to the mountains, he was going on business—a different kind of business. After all, this was 1916. There was a war going on—although the United States did not embroil itself in the conflict until April, 1917.

Given the number of Harry Sullivans I had been finding in Denver at the time, I was hesitant to believe the next newspaper entries were for the same man. Gone were the fan-pleasing kudos for the popular baseball player—although there were indications that the military Harry was one and the same as the baseball Harry. Apparently, at just about the same time as that June 26, 1916, article was printed in the Rocky Mountain News, Harry was heading for training camp as part of the Colorado National Guard.

It didn’t take the News long to follow Harry’s trail. The July 7 edition that year carried a line drawing of the man, captioned:
One of the best known and most popular baseball players in the state, a member of the Colorado National guard, now at the Golden rifle range, who has been promoted from private to sergeant major of the First battalion, Sullivan, alert and shrewd, a lad who can always be depended upon, is making quite a hit with the “higher ups” at the range. He joined the guard at the first call for men, and his rapid promotion is the talk of the town.

He was up in the mountains, alright—up at Golden, Colorado—and was already beginning to see a rise in his new status in the Guard.

Harry was gone from Denver for the rest of the summer playing season and well into the winter, judging from the next appearance of his name in any Denver papers. The News promised on January 15, 1917, that
Harry Sullivan and Shorty O’Connor, well-known local ball players, who have been stationed with the national guard, expect to be back by March 1.

They were back—although a little later than March first, as promised—but not for long. The March 18, 1917, News gave his fans a glimpse of what Harry had been up to in the past few months.
Hail, hail: the famous boys are here! Harry Sullivan and Shorty O’Conner, the best-known players of corner lots, are scheduled to arrive in town today. They have been at the border with the Prides of Colorado, at the Brownsville (Texas) military camp.

Perhaps Harry remained in Denver for a few months, for the News mentioned him once again on May 23, 1917, as part of an article on local military developments:
            Two squads of women, each with eight members…gave a finished exhibition of preliminary army drills at the third meeting of the Colorado woman’s regiment at the Brown Palace hotel last night.
            Under the direction of Capt. Charles H. Doke of the first separate battalion of infantry, drill master, assisted by Sergt. Harry Sullivan, the squads of young women easily acquired the drill and gave promise of becoming first-class soldiers….

Not long afterwards—on July 24—yet another promotion was announced in the News for Harry:
Sergt. Harry Sullivan has been promoted to second lieutenant….

By June September 7, 1917, it seemed that life was returning to normal for Harry—almost. He was back to playing ball in Denver, according to the News:
Headed by Lieut. Harry Sullivan, a baseball nine composed of some of the best players at Fort Logan will play the American Beauties at Thirty eighth and Wyandot street Sunday afternoon.

That, however, seemed to be short-lived. There was another mission on the horizon for Harry. He made one more visit to Denver, mentioned in the News on June 12, 1918—this time from a military post in California. Perhaps this provides the explanation why we couldn't find this Harry in the Denver city directory for 1918:
Lieut. Harry Sullivan, who has played ball with many different clubs on the lots of Denver, is here on a visit from Camp Kearny, Cal. He will miss many of his team mates as pretty nearly all of them are in Uncle Sam’s service.

What became of Harry Sullivan after this point, in terms of his participation in the war, was not clear—until after the war was over. Even after the armistice on November 11, 1918, no further mention of Harry appeared in the paper until two articles printed in May, 1919.

One of those two mentions appeared in the Denver Post on May 18, and gave a glimpse of where Harry had been, and what business obligations still awaited him.
Lieut. Harry Sullivan, who just returned from France with the 157th division, is leaving Denver today for Salt Lake City, to help the Mormon City in their Victory Drive there. They are away behind Denver and Harry is going to show them what they should do.

The other article, short and sweet, provides us with—almost—just the familial connection which we were all hoping for.

Photograph: Panoramic view of Camp Kearny, California, taken in January, 1918, about the time Harry Sullivan may have been there in training; courtesy Library of Congress via Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Denver: Doppelgänger City

Have you ever gotten so mired in your research, so unsuccessful in seeking ancestors from one particular city, that you began to feel like you had entered some type of twilight zone?

When it comes to Sullivans in Denver, that’s how I’m feeling right now. With multiple Thomas Sullivans to mask any success in finding either the father or the eldest son of the family I'm seeking, along with several false leads concerning the mother, Julia Sullivan, such quirks of the population are certainly making me apprehensive about jumping for joy just because I’ve found an entry for anyone with those names in early-1900s Denver.

Could it be any different, now that I’m seeking Julia’s son Harry? What are the chances that this Kelly descendant would be mom to a successful local athlete?

After that run of enthusiastic newspaper reports about semi-pro player, Harry Sullivan, I had to take a step back and assess everything else that could be found. Wedged in between all those other newspaper accounts of the much-liked all-round sports guy Harry, there were indicators that didn’t add up to the dates and details I knew about the Harry who was Julia’s son.

Take this July 17, 1915, entry in the Rocky Mountain News, sandwiched in right after the remark about the “most popular player of the Cottrells”:
Harry Sullivan, the popular and well-known lawyer of our town will appear in a Colonial uniform Sunday.

Note: that wasn’t a sports uniform being mentioned in the paper—at least I think it wasn't. Nor was this man popular for his sports accomplishments: he was a lawyer.

Not that I have anything against lawyers, you understand. It’s just that I can’t see a well-known lawyer having enough free time to consume on so many athletic endeavors. Or dramatic presentations.

But I’ll take a look at it, anyway. May as well entertain the possibility. This Harry may turn out to be more well-rounded than I at first suspected.

One way to find occupational clues would be to check the census records. However, since this newspaper article was printed in 1915, it falls right in between two census enumerations. For someone as young as our Harry, anything can change in a ten year period.

As it turns out, the 1910 census showed our Harry as a clerk, just as his older brother was listed. However, though his brother Thomas’ employer was easily decipherable as “R. R. Office,” the enumerator’s handwriting was just this side of illegible. Perhaps it was hopeful thinking that led me to assume Harry’s type of employer was “Lawers O.”

Before I could figure out whether our Harry was an athlete or a lawyer—or both—I ran into this second volley of newspaper entries.

From the Rocky Mountain News on September 16, 1915, this one-liner:
            Harry Sullivan says it’s nothing to it. Why, everybody in town keeps him busy buying insurance.

What? Being a lawyer or selling insurance? This little entry printed ten days later in the Rocky Mountain News column “Athletic Salad” seems to indicate that the athletic Harry was one and the same as the insurance Harry. Does this mean we nix the attorney—or that young Harry was moonlighting?
            Salad Editor: Is Harry Sullivan any relation to the late John L. Sullivan? Did he ever milk cows in Racine, Wis.? What business is he in at present?—Just a Bug, Pueblo
            A—No. B—Not on records. C—Insurance mostly.

But a subsequent newspaper article in the December 3 Post seems to make him out to be a high school football player, though our Harry was much closer to twenty five than eighteen by this time.
            West Denver High school football players yesterday elected Harry Sullivan as captain for the 1916 grid season. Sullivan played left half for the West Siders this year and was a star performer.

Only a month after that announcement, sports columns popped up in the Denver Post, written by someone named Harry Sullivan. This couldn’t be the same guy as the high school football captain. Was the columnist for “High Kicks” yet another Harry Sullivan in town?

Just how many Harry Sullivans were there in Denver? Could the city directories give any help here?

Let’s take a look at the city directories available for Denver in that time period. I could only find two close enough to match the date of those 1915 newspaper mentions: one before the date (in 1913) and one afterwards (in 1918). Let’s see just how many Harry Sullivans there were in Denver back then.

Counting the Harry Sullivans in the 1913 directory, I found four: a plumber, a bartender, someone whose entry just showed his residence on a street called Hooker, and our Harry A., listed as a clerk for a concern known as C. W. Waterman. Judging from the many results of a Google search for the name C. W. Waterman, it’s a fairly safe assumption that Harry was working at one of Denver’s law firms. I’m just not sure that would qualify him to be labeled as a lawyer, as the Rocky Mountain News had maintained in its July 17, 1915, report. Then again, I can’t see Harry the plumber or bartender Harry being called an attorney, either.

The 1918 city directory wasn’t any more help than that. By then, the Harry Sullivan count in Denver was down to two, neither of which was our Harry—which leads to the question: what became of Harry A. Sullivan?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wild About Harry

It isn’t often, in researching family history, when we run into famous—or even noteworthy—individuals whom we can call relatives. When I run across such possibilities, my first reaction is to dismiss such a notion.

In chasing down the children of our Kelly descendant Julia Creahan Sullivan, that is exactly what I thought to do when I encountered story after story about a well-liked local semi-professional athlete named Harry Sullivan. I thought surely this wasn’t our Harry.

Just in case, though—it’s hard to walk away from potential resources right at hand, only to find later that they shouldn’t have been discarded—I dutifully transcribed the many articles mentioning this Harry Sullivan’s name. One never knows.

The first mention I found about this Harry Sullivan came up in the January 12, 1913, edition of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News. It was explaining the unusual organization of this man’s sports team. This would be only the first of many commentaries on his athletic ability.
            Harry Sullivan, the popular Five Points athlete, is rounding his men into tip-top shape. “Sully” has a club at 507 Twenty-third street, which is open the year round, and nearly twenty-five boys are working under his direction.
            The Independents, as they are known, don’t make a specialty of any one sport. They go in for all of them. Basketball, soccer, baseball, football, boxing and wrestling are all hobbies of the Five Pointers, and they have an organization which is doing much to develop the boys living in that district.

A little over a year later, Harry popped up again in the Denver Post:
            With the signing of Harry Sullivan, the widely-known short stop the Page Hotel team now have one of the strongest lineups in the city and the bunch of sluggers on that team are bound to dismay many a pitcher around Denver before the season is over.

At the beginning of 1915, Harry Sullivan seemed to be of enough interest to Denver sports fans that even his personal health became part of the public record. Both the Post and the Rocky Mountain News carried stories on January 29. Here’s the take from the Rocky Mountain News:
Harry Sullivan, one of the best known members of the semi-professional baseball circles of the city, as well as one of the most popular, is in St. Luke’s hospital, where he underwent a minor operation Wednesday morning. He is resting well and at his present rate of improvement will be out shortly.

He seemed to have recovered well from his health ailment, for on June 17 of that year, the Rocky Mountain News noted:
Harry Sullivan, the most popular player of the Cottrells, is certainly playing the game of his life, hitting good and running bases great.

The next season, he was back in the newspapers again, with such positive press as “the all-around playing of Harry Sullivan, who lifted out three timely hits and made several great catches at the short field.”

Whether this was the son of the Julia Creahan Sullivan I am seeking, I couldn’t yet tell. There were, after all, some other entries about this Harry Sullivan that made me wonder. Maybe there was more than one Harry Sullivan being mentioned in the Denver newspapers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Like Mother, Like Son

Sometimes, it takes a monumental effort to get back on track and resume genealogical research. Besides outside catastrophes, there are so many other ways to lose focus on the task at hand.

That task—in case it’s been so long, you’ve also suffered from that amnesia—was to find what became of Kelly descendant and Lafayette, Indiana, native, Julia Creahan Sullivan. We already know she moved to Denver, Colorado, and married a Thomas F. Sullivan there—following which occasion, Thomas disappears before 1900 and the trail goes cold.

About all we know at this point is that there are a lot of people named Thomas Sullivan in Denver. And a lot of people named Julia Sullivan.

Since I wasn’t sure whether the Julia Sullivan I had isolated in the limited Denver-area records available online was the right Julia, I tried working my way down her line of descendants, in hopes of finding a death record showing her maiden name. Wouldn’t you know it, there were no records of her passing available online—with the exception of the hope of a 1930 obituary I’m awaiting for a woman who might be Julia Sullivan—so the next step was to try for records of her children.

Researching the oldest—whom I presume would be Thomas F. Sullivan, Jr.—didn’t work out for the same reason I couldn’t find his namesake father: too many Thomas Sullivans out there in Denver. Trying to find any mention of Julia’s daughters in that era of the Invisible Woman seemed futile. So I thought I’d capitalize on the one remaining son: Harry A. Sullivan.

Since there are relatively few records online for the city and county of Denver—forget that, how about the entire state of Colorado?!—my first move was to scour the online newspaper resources to see what could be found. After all, GenealogyBank does include a selection of newspapers published in Denver up through the early 1920s.

Just as I had found for Julia, however, I now discovered for young Harry. While you may share my misconception that Harry is not a common given name, that misconception will be quickly disabused by the pages upon pages of hits for that simple search at GenealogyBank. There are, apparently, even more Harry Sullivans in 1900s Denver than there were Julia Sullivans.

From the third page of the Denver News exactly one hundred twenty two years ago, I discovered Harry was the victim of a crime of passion:
            Harry Sullivan, the victim of Peter Augusta’s vengeful knife, is still alive, but still has no more chance of life than was at first reported in The News. The man’s wonderful strength and vitality alone keep him alive.
            The Italian still preserves an impenetrable silence in regard to the affair.

And soon after—on May 12, 1895, presumably in the course of the court case addressing the issue—the same paper revealed just why that occurred.
            Peter Augusta’s crime…had a motive. The Italian discovered that the woman with whom he was living had Harry Sullivan for a lover. Finding him in the house, using the stiletto, he killed in cold blood the rival in the affections of the woman….

Considering our Harry Sullivan had his name listed in the subsequent census, I quickly eliminated that possibility. Still, you can see what I mean about losing focus.

Nearly fifteen years later, the Denver Post carried another quirky Harry Sullivan story. This February 19, 1910, entry—headlined, “Deserter Commits Suicide in Saloon”—provided a curious divertissement, too, in the form of a letter written by the man, himself. This, as you will see, proved to be yet another false lead.
I am tired of living. After I am gone please put my picture in the paper. I am a deserter out of the army. My right name is Lyle Commers of Louisville, Ky. I have a mother and five sisters in my home town. Goodby. (Signed) HARRY SULLIVAN
P.S.—Don’t forget to put my picture in the paper.

Apparently, the Denver Post editors didn’t see fit to include that photograph.

By the time I reached this May 26, 1911, entry in the Rocky Mountain News, I was fairly jaded when it came to such false leads. Who knows if this might be the right Harry Sullivan?
            Leah J. Sullivan has applied for a divorce from Harry A. Sullivan, charging non-support. They were married January 13, 1910.

Leah, by the way, was apparently the former Leah J. Weidensaul, whose entry in one of the few Colorado indices available online led me to another document revealing that this was for sure not the Harry A. Sullivan I was interested in. Why? Harry and Leah’s 1910 census entry revealed he was born in New York—not the Colorado native our homeboy Harry was.

It’s said that forewarned is forearmed, and at this point in researching Harry Sullivan, I realized that he, just like his mother, was one of many bearing the same name—sometimes down to the very initial of the middle name.

About this time, I also began seeing a spate of sports announcements about a phenomenal player by the name of Harry Sullivan. With these other false leads now under my belt, I was prepared to ignore everything I was finding and just focus on wedding and funeral announcements. By then, in my search, I was only up to the time period of the Great War, likely far before any obituary might appear for young Harry. If it weren’t for a sweet homecoming story in a Denver paper in early 1919, I wouldn’t have found the clue to—possibly—help connect the dots.

Monday, July 21, 2014

So, Ask!

Apparently, I triggered a volley of disgruntled responses with yesterday’s post. Of course, I could chalk that up to the inattentiveness of my senior editor—who, it was pointed out, also neglected to insert the phrase “devastatingly handsome” before the entry about the “fun-loving emcee.” Perhaps, it would have been a wiser course to simply have added quote marks around the title, “Three Things You Might Not Know About Me,” implying by those quotes the name of an as-yet unrevealed creation, rather than the promise of an action to be taken by the author. Especially an action for which some of you have expressed your expectation of fulfillment.

I am so puzzled by that revelation. I mean, here I sit, an unassuming genealogy blogger, writing my heart out, day by day. Believing in the natural process of osmosis, I figure there is much to be learned by reading between the lines. Inference is a handy skill to cultivate.

Besides, what’s there to know? I may seem to be The Intrepid Introvert, but the reality of it all is more like “Fuddy Duddy” than Fantastic. Not even close to Mysterious. Definitely not Outrageous.

Granted, I don’t mind writing the stories of ancestors who could be labeled as fantastic—or even mysterious or outrageous—but when it comes to writing about, well, me, it seems to lack that same verve. I know some bloggers see it differently, and are quite willing to fling their virtual selves across the blogosphere with abandon. Thankfully, others approach the task with a modest grace (and even a welcome touch of humor), like How Did I Get Here’s Andrea Kelleher, who has chosen to participate in the “Book of Me” meme initiated by Julie Goucher of Angler’s Rest.

I’ve never been one for taking up my keyboard and following memes. I’ve got too much else to write about. I sometimes find myself in a dither over the thought that, if I don’t “get this all down on paper,” all that research will somehow be lost to subsequent generations. That would be such a horrible crime.

But since you brought it up…what three things would it be that you, as reader, are seeking? If there are three questions you are just dying to ask, well, ask on! If not, then fine. Suffice it to say there are many more than three things you might not know about me—as I might not know about you, either.

If we were ever to meet, face to face, we’d discover we know very little about each other. On the other hand, if you have been stopping by A Family Tapestry on a regular basis (as I have at your blog as well), in that hypothetical face-to-face meet-up, we might discover there is quite a bit we do already know about each other. Digital life can be such an enigma.

All the more reason to someday find a way to connect.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Three Things You Might Not Know About Me

At the close of our genealogical society’s Spring meeting season—like many other societies, ours takes a seasonal break during the summer months—we typically host a potluck dinner. This is an informal time without speaker or business agenda. We like to use this final month of the season for a no-requirements social event.

Usually, we take this occasion to allow informal sharing in the style of “Bring Your Ancestor to Dinner” or similarly-titled event, when in round-robin fashion, each member takes a moment to talk about a favorite genealogical find of the past year. In this show-and-tell time, we’ve learned a wide variety of details about our local history and the residents who made it happen.

This year, our society wanted to add a different activity. While “Bring Your Ancestor to Dinner” helps us learn what each member has been researching for the past year, we still don’t know very much about each other. Our president, Sheri Fenley, got that revelation one day while chatting with fellow D.A.R. members. Some of the ladies—regulars at the city’s symphony concerts—mentioned their surprise at seeing one of the gentlemen from the genealogical society at the latest concert. He didn’t seem like the type to fancy classical music.

From that observation, Sheri realized there might be a lot of other assumptions each of us makes about those with whom we share only the briefest of times in our monthly society meetings. That’s when she came up with the idea for a game to launch at the annual potluck dinner.

The game was simple: each member planning to attend the potluck was asked to submit, in advance, a list of three personal details that others might not know. The list was emailed to one board member, sworn to secrecy, who would assemble the game.

Drawing up an answer key—in which each fact was carefully linked to the correct person—the facts were then separated from the answers and scrambled, to be read aloud by the event’s emcee. Each person attending the dinner was given an answer sheet with each numbered blank line provided for filling in the response. The names of all participants were printed on the reverse of the page, to help players remember everyone else’s name.

Then, our fun-loving emcee stood up and read the clues, one at a time. Participants were given time to fill in the answer after each clue. The goal: to obtain the highest number of correct matches between clues and the society members who claimed them. There would be prizes.

And oh, what clues they got. One woman had played her violin at the World’s Fair. One had learned to double clutch a truck at the age of seven. One was born in a lumber camp; another in the midst of New York City. Two had climbed to the top of Mount Whitney. There were tap dancers, cheerleaders, Girl Scouts, gardeners, crafters. They confessed their hometown love of five cent cupcakes from the downtown Woolworth's store, or escapades like rappelling off three story buildings. Some shared their travel experiences—to South America, Europe, and even to “The Center of the World”—and some divulged their childhood nicknames.

When the game was up and the right answers revealed, the amazement exploded into a volley of conversation. Each comment usually began with, “I didn’t know you….”

It’s funny how we can go regularly to meetings, sitting next to the same people every month, and yet never know much more about them than their names and the mutual passion we share over genealogy. Without detracting from our mission of supporting genealogical research—and in the guise of something as fun as a simple game—we got to learn “Three Things You Might Not Know About Me” and do a little community-building for our own organization at the same time.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

That Common Bond of Place

It was slightly unsettling, spending a day perusing the thousands of entries placed in the “Information Wanted” classified section of the Boston Pilot. While the anchor of each brief plea was the parish and county from which each missing person originated in Ireland, the remainder of the text demonstrated the complete loss of that sense of home. The missing persons were often characterized by the itinerary of towns from which they were last known to have been. The Irish were seen in steamers from Nova Scotia to New Orleans, on their way across the continent to California or the northwest, and at every point in between. They rarely seemed to stay in one place long enough for desperate relatives’ letters to catch up with them.

Perhaps the experience, for me, was unsettling precisely because I need a sense of Place—a connection to my surroundings, an affinity with the details of those surroundings. In a way, the place where I stay, in part, makes the person I am. I am not just linked to that place, I am also created and shaped by that place.

Place is an entity that not only shapes me, but connects me to the others who are likewise being shaped by their place. We gain something in common by sharing that same Place.

When I think of Place and its role in shaping the many ancestors whose contributions to my family also, in part, make me who I am, I realize what a special role Place plays in genealogical studies.

I think of the abiding presence of a place like Perry County, Ohio, to my mother-in-law’s forebears—Catholic Alsatian refugees eventually finding their way to the interior of what was then a newly-formed state, recently converted from its designation as Northwest Territory. The many branches of her family stayed in that same county for nearly one hundred fifty years.

I think of the molding influence of a place like Prussia—that monolithic governmental machine from which my father’s grandparents and mother escaped, a place so rigid and forbidding, its refugees still clung to the fear it engendered for two full generations after being freed from its clutches. The silence that Place instilled in those it birthed was invincible—I still struggle to unlock that family’s secrets.

I think of the strong sense of family—through “no matter what”—fostered by the essence of Place in the Irish-American south side of nineteenth century Chicago, as so clearly modeled in the supportive role played by the Tully and Stevens families there. The community values, anchored by the Church, became the umbrella sheltering those transplanted families from urban forces which elsewhere seemed to tear families apart. What was there about the Place of Chicago that enabled these Irish to thrive, when the rest of the diaspora—at least as portrayed in The Search for Missing Friends—seemed to disintegrate and disappear?

Perhaps the one danger the Irish faced in leaving their homeland was that very loss of home—of Place. Whatever essence they left behind in their forced march away, it could only be retrieved when in the collective, the refugees from that homeland reassembled to recreate their sense of Place within the borders of a new land.

That is not an experience exclusive to the immigrant Irish, of course—the many Chinatowns, Little Italys, and even Little Saigons are testament to that. But for those descendants of the wandering Irish, it is quite possible those dynamics will also work in reverse: because of the lasting bond forged by a sense of Place, a trip to Ireland may indeed seem to be a journey in which we are returning home.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mourning: a Sense of Community

It was late Wednesday when I wrapped up my day-long research trip and returned home just before midnight. I wasn’t in the door more than five minutes when my family accosted me with the day’s news: a crime of unimaginable violence had unfolded right in our own city—along streets I drive on a daily basis—and in the space of an hour brought us as a community to a place we’d never been, never wanted to be, before.

Incredibly, only three people lost their lives in the hail of bullets showered by the roadside of an unassuming suburban neighborhood.

Though the one innocent victim—a woman taken hostage during a bank robbery gone bad—is no one I know (well, she’s become the ubiquitous “friend of a friend”), I feel violated. Though the horror didn’t happen to me, in an inexplicable way, it did.

The same crime that was perpetrated on her—and on the other two (surviving) hostages dragged from their place of employment—has happened to me. And to my neighbors. And to everyone in this city.

If you perceive the message this event is telling you, that same crime is happening to you, too.

Those of us who research family history also, by definition, align ourselves to a sense of family. We have an affinity to kinship. Whether by the nature of our DNA or the nurture of familial considerations, in our families we share a common bond.

While it is not as widely acknowledged, there is a bond one step beyond family. It is that of Community: a sense of belonging to something larger than just our own family. Community brings us that feeling of “We’re all in this together.” Community brings with it a sense of shared responsibilities—we support each other’s rights to co-exist peacefully—as well as a respect that enables us to not only work together but also value life together.

When an act so egregious in its disregard for human life is paraded out in the presence of an entire community, it is an act directed toward not just the one whose life was arbitrarily taken, but to every member of that injured community.

There are some who feel that Community is dead—that people are too isolated, too absorbed with “self” to care about any broader assembly of those neighbors with that common bond of place. But Community is not a thing of the past. It is a sense that still can revive when we acknowledge what befalls others in our vicinity as happening to us, too.

While I customarily reserve this space for daily observations about the micro-history of my own family’s stories, what our city has just gone through has knocked the words out of me. I’m sure you’ll understand—if you wonder what I’m referring to, perhaps some links will spare me from explaining the horrendous details. Our city’s newspaper has covered the event (including a photo-documentary), as has a publication in a neighboring city to the south. I’m sure other news agencies have weighed in with their own commentary. There certainly were enough of them represented at yesterday’s press conference.

What happened to those misfortunate others in our city on Wednesday has happened to all of us here, too. As we feel one family’s loss becoming our own, we revive that languishing sense of Community. Hopefully, though through tragedy, we may restore that sense of Community to its potential as an effective force for good.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Desperately Seeking

Yesterday, I spent the entire day, sequestered in a genealogy library in a town two hours’ drive from home. It was a long day, indeed, for me and a research buddy—who is driven and task-oriented, I might add.

The reason we headed to that specific library was that the facility boasted a sizeable collection of books on Irish genealogy. If you haven’t noticed, that’s my own task-driven obsession of late.

Since I was there, and since the library had it, I took the opportunity to get my hands on the real, multi-volume bound collection of The Search for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements in the Boston PILOT. The Pilot, if you weren’t up on this aspect of Irish immigration research, was the newspaper in Boston which, for the eighty five year span from 1831 to 1916, published classified ads placed by those seeking their Irish sons, daughters, husbands, wives, siblings or, in some cases, actual friends who had not been heard from since leaving their homeland. The value of the volumes, originally published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (but now available in searchable form online at as well as through Boston College), is in the fact that each name listed came with a complete description of the person’s origin in Ireland, latest known whereabouts, and often the names of relatives.

Of course, my eye was attuned to any mention of specific members of our own family’s tree, like James Kelly, our ancestor who arrived in Lafayette, Indiana, some time in the 1840s. Here’s one 1852 example of an entry seeking a James Kelly—though unfortunately not ours:
Of James Kelly, from Youghal, parish Youghal, co. Cork, who left home about 5 yrs. ago, landed in Boston & went to New Hampshire—not heard from since. His wife, Catherine Kelly, otherwise O’brien, and child, is in this country and would be glad to hear of his whereabouts.

I imagine they would.

Some of the details included in these classified posts painted quite the picture, as did this father’s submission in 1851:
Of James Kelly, who left his parents in Yanticville, on Sunday 31st August last. He is about 16 years old—stout build, black hair, wore black cloth pants, Alpacca sack coat, glazed silk cap. Any information of him will be thankfully received by his father, John Kelly, Yanticville, Connecticut.

Looking through the listings can tend to give a skewed view of the life of Irish immigrants in the 1800s. Some postings seemed to border on the melodramatic, or even hysterical. Under each day’s heading, “Information Wanted,” would be the entries of those desperately seeking any news of those missing.

One plea directed anyone with knowledge of missing siblings Edward, Catherine and Lucy Hayes to “Please address their afflicted and disconsolate mother, Mary Hayes,” carefully noting a reply address, should those three wayward children have forgotten their own home address.

Another entry, seeking James Smith of parish Ballybeacon in County Tipperary, pleaded, “Please address his sister Ellen, (who is impatiently awaiting an answer).”

There were comments about missing siblings who were “a little insane,” as well as exhortations that named individuals’ responses would be “of an advantage” to them. (Reading some comments like those, I couldn’t help think of a mustachioed Snidely Whiplash holding sister Nell hostage, while intoning those lines as bait for the unsuspecting absent brother.)

After having spent time thumbing through the entries, I realized the books were leaving me with the surely misrepresented impression that there were Irish immigrants flying hither and yon, all over both the United States and Canada, as well as beyond the South Pacific to Australia and New Zealand, leaving in their trail those bewailing their inattentiveness to the ones left back at home.

Sadly—or, no, on the other hand, perhaps it’s just as well—none of our Irish ancestors seemed to be listed among those being sought by family and friends back home, leaving me, one hundred sixty or more years later, to be still desperately seeking those ancestors, myself.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Three Weeks and Counting

After months of stressing—will the passport come in time and will the school say yes to the application?—we are now staring down a short three weeks until takeoff when our fearless foreign student heads for University College Cork (with empty-nester parents trailing behind).

Hard to believe it is so quickly here.

Not that all tasks are completely done. There are thousands of minute details that keep popping up, insisting on instant attention. Housing. Transportation. Phone service. Health insurance. What goes in the luggage and what doesn’t make the cut. Even the plugs for electronic equipment. The logistics required for this expedition far more resemble those of moving a household than taking a vacation.

First on the agenda, once arriving in Ireland, will be said student’s summer session survey of archaeological digs currently being conducted in the vicinity. Our intrepid student is blogging about her adventure from start to finish—well, at least that is the intention—and hopefully the digs will feature prominently in her posts for those first few weeks on the Emerald Isle.

After a week’s break in early September, the fall semester will begin in earnest, filled with an enticing combination of anthropology and political science classes—with a bit of Irish Studies thrown in for good measure. This is, after all, Ireland.

By October, her parents will find their way to Dublin, then eventually to Cork, to reunite (briefly) with their daughter. Then, it will be off to see the sights of Ireland—mostly in hopes of tracking down what can be found of the many surnames in our heritage along the western shoreline of the island. Starting just up the road from the city of Cork, we’ll explore the 1848 stomping grounds of the Malloys and Flanagans from Parish Ballyagran at the County Limerick border. We’ll wander our way west to County Kerry to explore the territory the Falveys and Kellys forsook to head to Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the late 1860s. As we go farther north, we’ll explore Ballina on the River Shannon in County Tipperary, home of the Tully and Flannery families, who headed to Canada in 1848. And if we can figure out anything more on the Stevens line, we’ll extend our trip up to County Mayo.

The capstone of this excursion will come at the end, when we spend a week in the library and archives in Dublin under the expert guidance of researchers in a program arranged by genealogist Donna Moughty. Even that week will have its grand finale—participation in the Irish national genealogy event, "Back to Our Past."

Hopefully, by then, I will have reaped the benefit of some serious research of my own in preparation for this adventure. Wouldn’t it be grand to walk the very streets an ancestor once walked, or see the church where an ancestor was baptized, or even meet a current-day descendant of a common Irish ancestor?

Whether it all will come down to that—or not—I can’t yet tell. But if we never try, we’ll never know.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“Local Brevities”

With the ease of the modern cyber world, we tend to forget the drudgery encapsulated within the term, “search.” Today, when we say “search,” we think of a task as effortless as moving a few fingers through a brief set of keystrokes. There was a time, though, when the word “search” implied expending a diligent effort.

Despite that magic of the Internet, in this past week, I’ve exerted that old-fashioned kind of search effort in seeking what could be found about our Kelly ancestor, Julia Creahan Sullivan—the Indiana woman who, in her father’s obituary, was noted as being a married resident of far-distant Denver.

Because Julia’s maiden name was so prone to misinterpretation at the hands of government record keepers, the surname had been rendered with multiple spellings. Such as Crehan. And Crahan. Believe me, I’ve seen far worse permutations in the span of years since Michael Creahan’s arrival in New Orleans in the late 1840s.

With that many choices for spelling, searching for any newspaper mentions of either Julia or her husband Thomas presented a challenge. Couple that with the many people in the Denver area also claiming to be named Thomas Sullivan or Julia Sullivan, and it is no surprise the search task could become a wearying proposition.

Nevertheless, I did manage to churn through hundreds of hits served up by GenealogyBank, the one subscription service I use which happens to include Denver area newspapers.

Let me simply say it was a lot of work to get to the point where I came across a promising entry. In the April 12, 1888, Rocky Mountain News under the page five column heading, “Local Brevities” was nestled this tidbit:
Marriage licenses were issued yesterday to Thomas Sullivan and Julia C. Crahan…

Thankfully—since GenealogyBank does not enable the reader to capture website page addresses for specific finds in any of their newspapers—I had copied down the exact text as I found it that day. A good thing, as it turned out, for trying to replicate that search has subsequently yielded nothing—an unsettling realization.

That brief mention—it was just a blip in a column full of dry recitations of names—was the first step. Next was an attempt to see if any record of the marriage would show up in online records. Heading to, I bypassed the usual fill-in-the-blanks on the “Search” page, scrolling instead to the bottom of that page, where I could select the specific geographic region I was pursuing.

Under the heading, “Browse All Published Collections,” I selected the hyperlink labeled, “United States,” then on the next page, chose Colorado, the state I was seeking. Right away, I could see proof of what I suspected: FamilySearch does not provide an over-abundance of records for that particular state. In fact, there were only five options, of which three were still not indexed—for the uninitiated, that means you have to hunt and peck through the images to find what you are seeking.

Of those five choices, the state census predated the time at which Thomas and Julia would have been setting up the Sullivan household, so that was eliminated as a possible source of information. Likewise, the statewide divorce index, while beginning in 1900, was unlikely to yield much help. Their listing of Colorado County Marriages looked like a possibility, but besides being unindexed, it turned out not to contain the county I was interested in researching. And the last choice—Denver County Probate Case Files—while tempting, was a browse-only proposition.

That left only one possibility among the five offerings on FamilySearch: the Colorado Statewide Marriage Index. Clicking on that specific file brought up the search bar moment of truth: would I find Thomas Sullivan included in the index?

Though it didn’t mean much additional information, the answer is yes. A scanned copy of a handwritten card confirmed the following:
Sullivan, Thomas
Crahan, Julia C.                     4/11/88
Cath. Priest                            John B. Guida

At this point, though I may not know much else, I have confirmation that our Julia married a Thomas Sullivan—well, at least expressed the intention to do so—obtaining their marriage license in Denver, not Indiana, one day before the entry in the Rocky Mountain News appeared.

For what it’s worth, the date became modestly helpful when I realized that the oldest child listed in widow Julia Sullivan’s 1900 census entry—Thomas F. Sullivan, Jr.—was born the very next year.

The added bonus—though at this point it may seem like minutia—was that the marriage index and license announcement provided the detail of a middle initial for Julia. While I had at first presumed the “C” was short for her maiden name, when given in addition to that surname it might provide an explanation regarding another puzzle piece I encountered during all this newspaper searching: the possibility that Julia used more than one given name.
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