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 Ancestry.com 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 FamilySearch.org, 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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

All I Wanted Was a Clue

It is sometimes frustrating, looking for ancestors in larger cities. It is so easy to run across a name that matches your target name exactly—but turns out to represent someone totally unrelated to your own line.

That’s the problem I’ve been having in trying to trace Julia Creahan Sullivan, daughter of Michael and Bridget Kelly Creahan of Lafayette, Indiana. Sure, it would have helped if Julia had chosen to stay at home, where the population was magnitudes smaller than in her adopted city of Denver, Colorado. But she didn’t.

Granted, we’ve been able to eliminate several Julia Sullivans in this search as non-candidates for this Julia’s identity. But there is still one small matter to address: is the Julia Sullivan I’m trying to trace in Denver the right Julia Sullivan? After all, even this one might be the wrong one.

All I’ve wanted to find was one document identifying this Julia—or whichever other one it might turn out to be—as the correct descendant of Michael and Bridget Creahan. All I’ve gotten so far is a promising lead, with a Julia Sullivan who, though widowed, had a son with the same name as the man our Julia had supposedly married.

Perhaps Colorado is one of those states which chose not to divulge documents identifying their past residents. It certainly has been difficult locating any records to help me find what became of this Julia—especially the date of her death, the key to a death certificate which would answer my questions in one simple page.

At this point, I’m left with the connect-the-dots routine of piecing together information via each year’s city directory and comparing it to census records showing the family members—in hopes that tracing the descendants would one day lead to a document with the coveted mother’s maiden name entry to resolve my dilemma.

As for archived newspapers, while the occasional hit can be immensely revealing, most of the articles I’ve uncovered with the names of Julia, her mystery husband, or their children have turned out to be for others with the same name. In seeking Julia’s husband, Thomas, in Denver newspapers, the many search results I’ve found have named victims of barroom brawls, perpetrators of crimes, and participants in other escapades which may or may not have been those of the man I’ve been seeking—results frustratingly not much different than those I’ve experienced while seeking information on Julia, herself.

In the theory that this Julia Sullivan is the right one to pursue, I’ve tracked her through the census records from 1900 through 1930. In both the 1900 census and that for 1910, the widowed Julia claimed the same four children—sons Thomas F. Sullivan, Jr., and Harry A., plus daughters Florence and Regina. By the time of the 1920 census, the household composition changed slightly to show only one child missing—the eldest son, Thomas, who may have been one of the two married Thomas F. Sullivans showing in the annual city directories. Maybe.

The 1930 census may have been Julia’s last. There, she was listed as the sixty year old head of household, now with only two of her children—Harry and Florence. Regina, missing from the household, may have married or, as often happened back then, died early. By 1940, Julia herself was missing from the Sullivan household, with the two remaining Sullivan descendants, Harry and Florence—both still single professional people—listed with an older woman designated as their maid.

There is no burial information on Julia that I can find. No obituary. No handy Find A Grave listing. The only trace of a possibility might be a line found back in Julia’s hometown, in the index for names mentioned in the Lafayette, Indiana Journal and Courier:
Sullivan, Mrs. Julia  d - 10 July 1930.

How likely is that to be the same Julia Sullivan as the one who left home over forty years earlier to become part of the adventure of life in a booming western town like Denver?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

While We’re on Logan Avenue…

As the family of a different Julia Sullivan bid their mother a final goodbye at the Logan Avenue Chapel in Denver, apparently another Julia Sullivan was waiting in the wings to make her appearance in local newspapers. Chalk this one up as yet another genealogical research woe of historical newspapers when it comes to researching ancestors with fairly common names.

Still seeking whatever information I could find on the Julia Creahan Sullivan who had left her childhood home in Lafayette, Indiana, in the 1880s to move—married or unmarried—to Denver, Colorado, the more I searched, the more I seemed to brush up against her doubles in town.

I’m not sure the term doppelgänger had yet attained its in-vogue status.

After discovering the reference to the chapel on Logan Avenue for the grief-stricken Julia, widow of the wrong husband (Stephen J.), perhaps I had been sensitized to the reference to “Logan” in conjunction with “Sullivan.” Besides, after the tell-all obituary for the Sullivan heiress, one could not escape knowing about her “nervous breakdown” and lingering illness.

I couldn’t help divulging an unkind wry smile upon spotting this headline in the Denver Post:
Mrs. J. Sullivan Gives Details of Suffering
Now Feels That Her Trouble is Entirely Eliminated by Use of New Tonic

See for yourself how well the narrative fit the unfortunate Julia Sullivan’s scenario:
            When seen recently at her home, 18 Logan street, city, Mrs. Julia Sullivan spoke interestingly regarding her experience with the new tonic “Tona Vita,” now being introduced in Denver by specialists sent here for that purpose.
            Mrs. Sullivan said: “I have been sick for a long time, during which I have tried all kinds of doctors. Besides that, I took every medicine that I thought would do me any good. I am one of those that want to enjoy life and be happy, but I know that without good health that is an impossibility. Neither the doctors’ treatments or the medicines that I took gave me any relief and I was beginning to give up hope….

Of course, this article post-dated the 1907 passing of the false Julia Sullivan, appearing in the paper on May 9, 1912. It served only to add yet another Julia to the mix. (See? I warned you.)

Frustration over all these reports of other Julia Sullivans drove me to the Denver city directories. After all, while Denver in the early 1900s was nowhere near the size it is today, it was home to almost 134,000 people at the time of the 1900 census. Granted, the city’s population increased by another twenty five percent by the time of the subsequent census, so there was certainly room for more than one woman by the name of Julia Sullivan. I began to wonder just how many that might be.

Only happy to oblige, Ancestry.com popped up a few results for city directories in Denver containing the name Julia Sullivan. Granted, these were for yet another ten years beyond the 1912 Tona Vita Julia, but they would suffice. After all the newspaper entries I had found for others claiming the same name as our Kelly descendant—oh, and did I mention, “capitalist”?—Julia Sullivan, my curiosity was to see how many Julia Sullivans could be found in Denver.

The 1923 directory told me there were four: beside our Julia, one a resident of Clay Street, one listed as “Mrs.” Julia Sullivan on South Lincoln, and one being the Tona Vita Julia—whom the directory listed as widow of Patrick.

By 1927, all that was listed was the Julia Sullivan on Clay Street—now identified as widow of Michael Sullivan—and our Julia. Apparently, the Tona Vita wasn’t working for the other Julia.

Unfortunately for my research, dates later than this exceed the stretch of time for which Denver newspapers were digitized for the online services I utilize. If I hope to find anything more recent on our Julia Creahan Sullivan—I’m thinking an obituary would be a nice addition to the collection, not to mention an answer to several questions—I will somehow need to take this directly to the source.

Not seeing a trip to the Denver area in my near future, my next best option is to trace what can be found on our Julia’s four children. Perhaps something reported on her descendants could boost our confidence in whether we have, indeed, isolated the right Julia.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Close, But Not Our Bloomington

While we’re struggling to discern which of several Denver capitalists calling themselves Julia Sullivan was our Julia Sullivan—the Kelly descendant whose family lived in Lafayette and Bloomington, Indiana—we add two more newspaper clippings to the mix.

One, from The Daily News on October 3, 1907, told the predictable rest of the story about the Julia Sullivan whom we met yesterday. Sadly, as often happens, not long after she lost her husband, Stephen J. Sullivan, this Julia died as well.

The newspaper acknowledgement of her passing was brief, headlined as “Widow of Pioneer Mining Man Summoned by Death.” Though the short entry will be useful for any descendants researching her line, we’ve already discovered they would not be including any of our Kelly family.

However, the article was also helpful in that it gave a bit of this Julia’s origins. The city name, Bloomington, jumped out of the newsprint and caught my eye right away—but only momentarily. That Bloomington was followed by “Md.” rather than “Ind.” But what a coincidence. After all, our Julia had a sister who had moved from Lafayette to Bloomington—Indiana, that is.
            Julia Sullivan, widow of Stephen J. Sullivan, a prominent mining man, is dead at the family residence, 1673 York street. Deceased was 54 years old, a native of Bloomington, Md.

A Denver Post article the previous day had provided a bit more detail on the woman’s background, as well as that of her quite successful husband, and focused on the deplorable condition of her health in her last months.

While the article leaves me with no doubt that our Julia Creahan Sullivan, “capitalist,” was not the same as this Julia Sullivan, it was interesting to see what details were considered to be vital for inclusion in an obituary of that era, and for the now-deceased woman whose life was about to be commemorated at a chapel on Logan Avenue in Denver.
            Just fourteen months after the death of her husband, Stephen J. Sullivan, a well-known mining man, Mrs. Julia A. Sullivan succumbed to a breakdown which resulted from the nervous shock and died at midnight last night. For seven months she has not left her bed, although for over a year she has been failing.
            For two years before the death of Mr. Sullivan the two traveled for the benefit of his health. Mrs. Sullivan chose to do the nursing herself and her constant attendance at his bedside wore her vitality and energy and the shock of his death, Aug. 6, 1906, left her a nervous wreck. She was born in Bloomington, Md., fifty-four years ago and came of an old Southern family. With her husband she went to Leadville in the early mining days and Mr. Sullivan became recognized as a successful man. He managed the Little Jonny for some time and operated for himself the Breese and Penn claims. Later in life he was heavily interested in Mexican properties. He left a fortune of $500,000 when he died last year.
            Mrs. Sullivan is survived by three sons and two daughters. S. J. Jr., Robert and Leo Sullivan, Mrs. Daniel G. Monaghan and Miss Eva Sullivan. The family home is at 1673 York street. The funeral will be held from the Logan Avenue chapel on Friday morning, the music being furnished by the Queen’s Daughters choir. Mrs. Sullivan was an honorary member of that organization and Mrs. Monaghan was at one time president.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Initial Assessments

Having already found a Julia L. Sullivan and a Julia C. Sullivan professing prowess in real estate transactions in early 1900s Denver, Colorado, I take that revelation as a clue to proceed cautiously as I attempt to uncover what became of our Kelly descendant, Julia Creahan Sullivan. Though she—Julia Creahan Sullivan, that is—claimed on her 1900 census entry to be occupied as a capitalist, she apparently had plenty of company among women sharing her name.

Once again, it appears that this will all come down to the matter of a single stroke of the pen: one initial, settled between the “Julia” and the “Sullivan” that each of these women claimed as their own, unique identifier.

The search for the right Julia is not over yet, for there is the instance of yet another Julia Sullivan that has surfaced in archived Denver newspapers from that time period. A Denver Post headline on Monday, August 27, 1906, announced
          Widow of Mining Man Willed One-Half of the $400,000 Property.

Okay, you know me: I had to check current value for that inheritance. According to my favorite online inflation calculator, that $400,000 would be worth a cool $10,526,315.79 now.

Not bad. With a cache of that size, I could see that Julia Sullivan considering herself a capitalist.

But was she our Julia Sullivan? Not really. Again, it all came down to initials—and, of course, to the additional identifier of the husband with whom she was associated. In this case, it turns out Julia was known as Julia A. Sullivan, widow of Denver mining expert, Stephen J. Sullivan—not our Julia’s mystery husband, Thomas F. Sullivan.

To quash all hopes of familial connection, the Denver Post article spelled out the names of the descendants named in the Sullivan will. As you may notice, none of these names match the four children listed in our Julia’s household in the 1900 census.
            The estate of Stephen J. Sullivan, mining expert and capitalist, amounting to upwards of $400,000 will be divided by the terms of his will entirely among the immediate members of his family. Mr. Sullivan died Aug. 6 at his home, Seventeenth and York, and his will was probated today in the county court. All the heirs live in Colorado.
            The first beneficiary named in the will is the widow, Julia A. Sullivan, who is given one-half of the entire estate absolutely. The oldest son, Stephen J. Sullivan, Jr., is named as executor of the will to serve without giving bond, and the remaining half of the estate is disposed of as follows: Mrs. Ellen Joyce, sister of the testator, is given $5,000; J. A. Sullivan, a brother, is given $5,000; Mrs. Bridget Bishop of Leadville, a sister-in-law, is given $1,000. Robert A. Sullivan and Miss Eva Sullivan, son and daughter, are left a special bequest of $5,000, the testator explaining that this is the amount he gave the other children on their attaining their majorities.
            After these bequests have been paid all the remainder of the estate goes share and share alike to the children, Mary T., Stephen J., James L., Robert A., and Miss Eva Sullivan….

Thursday, July 10, 2014

High Finance in the Mile High City

What can be found about a Julia Sullivan who claimed to be a capitalist in Denver at the turn of the last century? Too much, it turns out.

I turned to the local newspapers to see what reports might have been published about our Kelly descendant, Julia Creahan, who claimed such a lofty occupation for herself.

For some reason, Julia had left her hometown of Lafayette, Indiana, to live in Denver, Colorado. Somewhere along the line—although where is not yet entirely apparent—she met and married a man by the frustratingly common name of Thomas Sullivan, who then stepped out of the picture after the couple’s arrival in the Centennial State.

If the 1900 census declared Julia Sullivan to be a capitalist, then surely some report in a local newspaper would reflect that feminine financial prowess, I figured. I was rewarded for that hunch when I found a small announcement buried on page eleven of The Daily News in the business section of the March 25, 1898, edition.
Julia L. Sullivan yesterday transferred to the Julia L. Real Estate, Loan and Investment company several lots in West Elyria, Harman’s subdivision and a tract of farming land. The consideration named was $50,000. The company has recently been incorporated and Mrs. Sullivan turned her properties into it.

Lest you find $50,000 to be a trivial amount, let me remind you—by way of my favorite online inflation calculator—that that amount would be the equivalent of $1,388,888.89 in today’s dollars. Not bad for a widowed mother of four living in a rented home in Denver.

Oh, I get it—the home must have been owned by Julia’s trust fund. Silly me.

With a one-time transaction such as this, surely Julia’s financial dealings would be mentioned more than once in the Denver newspapers.

They were. Highlighted within a two-page diatribe about the “victims” of a local real estate mogul by name of Sullivan was this entry in the July 13, 1902 Denver Post:
Of late years nearly all Sullivan’s transactions have been in the name of “Julia Investment company,” named for his wife, Julia Clise Sullivan. She is practically the company, and as trustee he does all the business. It is not generally known among his creditors that the “Julia” is not incorporated in this state.

Oh. Apparently, the “C” in this Julia’s name did not stand for “Creahan.”

Come to find out, this Julia’s husband was known about town as A. B. Sullivan—the “A” standing for Augustus, according to a sidebar to the 1902 diatribe—not Thomas. If “Julia Investment Company” were one and the same as “Julia L. Real Estate, Loan and Investment Company,” we might safely have assumed that this capitalist was not our Julia Sullivan.

However, Julia C. and Julia L. may not necessarily have been the same woman. Come to find out, there was yet another Julia Sullivan in town—another one with considerable holdings of her own.

Above: Photograph of Denver, Colorado, looking northwest from the steps of the state capitol in 1898—the same year as Julia L. Sullivan's $50,000 Denver real estate transaction was recorded; courtesy United States Library of Congress via Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Widow With Attitude

From the obituaries of her father and step-mother, it is obvious that Kelly descendant Julia Creahan Sullivan was at one time married, and at a later time, not. Whether that later time indicated her loss through widowhood is not yet apparent, and in the end—as I’ve since observed while trawling through census entries in the “wild west” flavor of her adopted hometown of Denver—may not reveal anything.

While Internet-powered genealogical research may be a wonder to behold, the only search results I had previously been garnering were those of a Thomas and Julia Sullivan of Colorado Springs. While the names sounded right, as we discovered, the maiden name for that Julia turned out to be no match for our subject.

It took that tedious route of cranking through several options on umpteen pages of results on both FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com before I narrowed the search down to one possibility: a widowed Julia Sullivan in Denver’s 1900 census. Could this be our Julia? Without the name of a husband included in the entry, it was hard to tell. I couldn’t find any corresponding records—marriage, death, newspaper reports—to connect what I knew about our Julia with what could be discovered about this Julia.

There was one other hint, though: an oldest son named Thomas. I don’t want to make the mistake of assumption here, but I’d say that could qualify this census entry as a possible candidate, so I took the liberty of further examination. Here’s what I noticed.

First off, this Julia reported to the census enumerator that she was born in Indiana. That was a good sign. She also told the enumerator she was born in January, 1867. That was not a good sign; the 1870 census showed our Julia in her father’s household at the age of nine, not three.

On the other hand, this Julia—as well as ours—reported her parents were both born in Ireland. I’m willing to make some concessions here, while I await further corroboration from, well, who knows where at this point. There really isn’t much out there that I can access online so far.

The Sullivan household on Grant Avenue contained five residents in 1900: in addition to the widow, there was oldest son Thomas, aged eleven, followed closely by his brother Harry, then a four year gap in the birth sequence before the arrival of daughters Regina and Florence. Two year old Florence likely provides the delineating point for possible dates of death for her father Thomas—if, indeed, “widow” wasn’t the era’s euphemism for deadbeat dad.

What can be gleaned about the missing father was that he was born in “New Hamshire”—an entry serving double duty by not only reporting the senior Thomas’ origin, but heralding the warning that we are working with a dyslexic enumerator.

Why would I say dyslexic? Taking a look around the very page upon which the Sullivan household was listed, I noticed, for instance, that a neighbor worked as a “Sitchman” for the railroad. And, in a very careful hand, the enumerator made note that Julia’s own occupation was “Captialist.”


Okay, U. S. Census enumerator Frances A. Sigler may now posthumously entertain the claim that he (or she) made me actually look up the term. After all, maybe there was an occupation known as captialist (although my spell-checker doesn’t seem to think so).

So what woman at the dawn of a new century would display the pluck of not only choosing aught but demure “homemaker” as her occupation, but go so far as to claim she was a high rolling capitalist?

Apparently, more than one.

And more than one known as Julia Sullivan.

Life in early 1900s Denver, Colorado, must have indeed been gloriously colorful.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

One More Line

In tracing the descendants from a recently-discovered additional branch of our Kelly line in Lafayette, Indiana, I still have one more child of Bridget Kelly Creahan to follow up on.

That is no small task.

First comes determining the name of this Creahan daughter’s husband, so that in their era of invisible women, I can still assure myself I’m tracing the right person.

We uncovered our first clue as to this daughter’s married name and whereabouts when I located her step-mother’s 1917 obituary. If you remember when I received the Monroe County Public Library’s email with the newspaper clipping regarding Anna Creahan, I discovered this missing daughter was referred to as “Mrs. Julia Sullivan” and that her residence was far removed from her native Lafayette, Indiana.
She is survived by the following step children: John Creahan, of this city; Mrs. Ella Fulk, of Bloomington; Mrs. Julia Sullivan, of Denver, and Mrs. John P. Quinlisk, of this city.

Trying to find a Julia Sullivan in Denver, Colorado, was not working for me—perhaps now you realize why I didn’t write about these Creahan children in birth order, eh? I did locate a Julia Sullivan, but she lived in Colorado Springs, not Denver. While the trip between the two cities today is an easy drive on the interstate—we’ve done that for years, flying in to visit Stevens relatives in the Springs—it would have been an arduous journey back in the time when Anna’s obituary was written. I doubted that was our Julia Sullivan.

Thankfully, while searching through all the material I could find on the other Creahan children, a simple line in Anna’s husband’s obituary made all the difference. Written at Michael Creahan’s passing nearly two years prior, it bridged just the right span of time to present Julia’s “proper” married name. Still listed as a resident of Denver, Julia was this time noted to be “Mrs. Thomas Sullivan.”

While a surname like Sullivan does not present an easy task when it comes to family history research, at least the ability to match the husband’s given name with that of his wife allows us a bit of an edge. But—I warn you—it still isn’t much.

From the front page of The Bloomington Evening World on Monday, May 17, 1915:
The death of Michael Creahan occurred at Lafayette Saturday caused by paralysis and a complication of diseases. The deceased was 88 years old and came to this country 68 years ago from Limerick, Ireland at the age of 20. He engaged in the contracting business most of his active life. All of his life in this country was spent in Lafayette with the exception of ten years during which he resided at New Orleans. His fatal illness was about of a month’s duration although he had been failing for some time. The children are Mrs. Ella Fulk of this city who was at his bedside at the time of his last moments, Mrs. Thomas Sullivan of Denver, Col., and Mrs. John Quinlish, of Lafayette. Lyman Fulk of this city, a grandson of the deceased is in Lafayette to attend the funeral which will be held at the St. Ann’s church tomorrow morning at nine o’clock, of which Mr. Creahan was a devoted member.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Little Collection of Americana

It took yet another trip over the weekend before I could achieve my Fourth of July goal. The bonus was that there were three additional pieces to add to my new Southern Potteries collection when I returned to the antique shop on the day it finally was open.

If strike one was forgetting to check the shop on the evening when we were first in town and strike two came when I drove back on the Fourth of July—a twenty minute drive to the north of my home—then I’m certainly glad that my third trip was a charm and not my chance to strike out.

The prize was the platter and serving bowl I had spied while in town on another errand last week—two pieces of Blue Ridge china made at the company where my grand aunt Chevis Davis Chitwood Kyte once worked as a decorator in Erwin, Tennessee.

The unexpected bonus was the discovery of a serving piece and salt and pepper shakers in an entirely different pattern, also a design of Southern Potteries, Inc.

While collecting pieces of Blue Ridge China may be all the rage in some circles, that is not why I succumbed to the notion of becoming a collector. My purpose is not to learn everything there is to know about the many unique patterns which sprang from this creative enclave—and believe me, there are some who are well versed in every permutation—but simply to have and to hold a piece of my own family’s heritage. When I look at these faded pieces with their crackled glaze, I see not the product lines of a commercial entity, but the handiwork of someone just like my aunt, working where she used to work, doing what she used to do, day in and day out in her own hometown.

If genealogy as a concept could ever become converted to something tangible, this is it. Getting my hands on those pieces of china is like reaching out to touch someone in my family whom I never had the chance to know.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

An Unobtrusive Life

While Charles Andrew Creahan, well-known businessman in the Chicago area, saw his life’s trajectory arc from obscure origin as the son of Irish-Americans in rural Indiana to successful board member and president of his own company, his sister Edna never left her quiet life in Lafayette. Second-born child of John and May Frawley Creahan, she was welcomed into the world on an undisclosed day in January, 1895, and remained in town until her burial there in 1961.

What little can be discovered about Edna is now there online for all the world to see: census records for 1900 through 1940 (though the record for 1900 won’t come up in FamilySearch, nor will the record for 1940 come up on Ancestry), city directories as late as 1960, and the entry provided at the end of the tale, courtesy of the volunteers at Find A Grave.

There was, of course, a smattering of newspaper mentions, thanks to online newspaper archiving services. For instance, the Bloomington Evening World mentioned, on the front page of its August 14, 1917, edition:
Miss Edna Creaham, of Lafayette, is the guest of Lyman Fulk and family and Mrs. Ella Fulk, south Grant street.

Other than a visit to her aunt and cousin, however, not many details emerged that could help a family history buff reconstruct a sense of Edna Creahan’s life. She never married, it is clear, and remained in the family home, likely until the time of her own passing. There was never a mention of career or even temporary occupation in the census records, nor in the Lafayette city directories.

Into such a dearth of information, a mind steeped in family history research would rush in to fill the vacuum with questions. What did she do all day long? Who peopled her social circles? What did she think of her lot in life? Did she act the wallflower as foil for her brother’s obvious flair for success? Did she resent her role in life?

If we were discussing a recluse as notable as Emily Dickinson, we could flip through the pages of her poetry as confirmation that yes, this was a life worth knowing. In stark contrast, with a life as obscure as Edna’s, she could have been a darling of her social circle, but without a significant product or service to define her, hers was a life unconfirmed, a slate left blank. To be remembered, a life needs someone to report it.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

In Passing

If it weren’t for a passing mention in a business report regarding the board of directors of an East Chicago bank, I wouldn’t have known anything about Charles Creahan’s death—well, other than to assume that a man born in 1892 would certainly no longer be with us. Just as had occurred with other Kelly family descendants such as his cousin, Lyman Fulk, any news of Charles’ last days was wrapped in silence. There was nothing to find online—no obituary, no burial record through Find A Grave or other such websites.

I tried seeing if I could flush those details out of hiding by searching for any information on the last days of his wife, Mabel. I have a tentative location for her own death—the area around Dayton, Ohio—but even she fell through the cracks when it comes to obituaries available online or through the Montgomery County library’s obituary index. And really, if it wasn't our Mabel who moved to Ohio to reside with an as-yet unnamed daughter, this may well turn out to be a search for a woman who ends up being someone else with the same name.

It was one of those newspapers that did get included in an online archive that provided me my only hint as to what became of Charles Creahan. Thankful that NewspaperArchive.com had included The Hammond Times in their collection, I was able to locate this one entry. Note how Charles’ name and date of his death were sandwiched in between what is otherwise an extraneous list of names of former business associates in this Sunday newspaper mention on January 12, 1958—so you won't miss the point, as I almost had done, I've highlighted the pertinent phrase. This was not an easy find—nor does it help me discover just where it was Charles Creahan passed away, or even where he was buried.
Riley Banks Elect Four New Directors

            Four new directors have been elected to the boards of the First National Bank and the Union National Bank in East Chicago.
            They are Edwin J. Carlson, president of the Indiana Forge and Machine Co.; Edgar J. Higgins, president of the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of East Chicago; Thomas J. Leyden, executive vice president of Riley Company, and Ivy J. Shuman, executive vice president of the two banks.
            The new directors replace Charles A. Creahan, retired former president of the Calumet Foundry and Machine Co. of East Chicago, who died Aug. 26; Oliver E. Mount, presently an industrial consultant and former secretary-treasurer of American Steel Foundries, who now lives in Franklin, Tenn.; John J. Block, who retired Dec. 31 as a vice president of Riley Company after 41 years’ service, and Joseph S. Walkowiak, who retired Dec. 31 as vice president of the Union National Bank after 43 years of service.

Friday, July 4, 2014

As American as Apple Pie

While you may be busy today, occupying yourself with picnics in the park—or barbecues in the backyard—I am fervently hoping to add one unusual item to my holiday to-do list: visit an antique shop.

Yes, I know there are traditions more American than that, made to fill up this national day of celebration. Come to think of it, unlike some people I know, I find antiquing is not even my cup of tea. Or, ahem, grande caramel frappucino. But for this holiday weekend, I am going to add that one item to the list.

I have a specific reason for this task: I’m hoping, in some small way, to commemorate an ancestor I’ve never met, personally, whose life has lived on in the childhood stories I remember from my mother: my grand aunt, Chevis Davis Chitwood Kyte.

My daughter has long been trying to talk me into driving to a town to the north of us, to browse through the antique stores downtown. It was just the other day that I finally agreed to join her. I had something specific I needed to find. We were on a mission, and she knew just the place to accommodate my hope to quickly accomplish that goal.

But you can’t just rush into an antique shop, grab your selected item, slap some money on the counter and run out the door. There is an ambience to the place that must be respected, a protocol to heed. Life inside the doors of an antique shop must move at the proper pace.

While I was following my daughter—the one more experienced in such antique-shop decorum—I tried to feign interest in the, well, junk (don’t kill me yet—I promise this will be a worthwhile divertissement) cluttering the aisles and closing in on me from the walls. I couldn’t help but notice two out-of-place pieces of pottery on a humble wooden stand.

I picked one up to have a closer look.

And then, turned it over, just in case.

If you have been journeying with me through the research on my family tree that I have been journaling all along here, perhaps you recall the story of my grand aunt Chevis. It was she whose rather painful life experiences ended in an early death from cancer. These life experiences, I’m hoping, were somehow assuaged by the beauty Chevis created at her job at the pottery company in her hometown Erwin, Tennessee. You may recall the post I wrote about that same Southern Potteries company.

I never had inherited any pottery from that cheerful collection of now-renowned folksy artwork—believe me, after my own aunt passed away last November, I looked carefully through all her collectibles, hoping there was a piece to commemorate our common relative. The style of the artwork, however, was imprinted in my mind’s eye. One never knows, ya know?

Fast forward to that moment when I—stranger in an antique shop, trying not to look to my left or my right, fixed solely on the task I had come to accomplish, spending not one penny more—walked past those two items. They were marked with the right name, but something was wrong. There was a smear on the wording. The familiar logo wasn’t included. But the style…the style seemed right.

I can be a tightwad when it comes to spending money unintentionally. Besides, I’m a researcher. So, what did I do? Resist the urge to buy—and promise myself I’d research the identifying stamp further when I got home.

Last night, it just so happened that we were joining friends for an early Fourth of July concert in the park in that very same town to the north. Afterwards, we planned to wander the downtown area, which on Thursday evenings is converted to a farmer’s market and street faire. I promised myself I’d take a detour into that antique shop, in the hopes that those two Southern Potteries pieces were still there. After all, these two are my piece of America. My roots are intertwined in the history of that company.

Of course, I got caught up in the moment, and forgot my mission for the evening. But I’m already determined to make another trip. Part of me is hoping the two items are still there, and that I can still buy them at the reasonable asking price. The other part of me is nagging, “But why are they so cheap?”

That’s the part of me that I will be telling, “Shut up.”
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