Sunday, June 26, 2016
Gleanings From the Back Channel
Every now and then, someone stumbles upon an old post here at A Family Tapestry and adds a comment about how a name mentioned happens to be connected to the reader's family. That, of course, is precisely what I love to see—especially if it means I can connect with a previously unknown part of this extended family I'm researching. However, getting deeper into the details of the relationship is not always something appropriately done in such a public setting, so I try to take such discussions into a more private venue.
That is exactly what's been happening lately, as much-appreciated visitors arrive, usually courtesy of Google searches, and offer their perspective on some of the posts here, dating back a year or more.
I've just had an online conversation with a researcher who is pursuing all the branches of his tree, which coincidentally happen to intersect with a Kelly branch on my husband's tree. How timely that note is! This Kelly line is the one of the families which once—around 1850—settled in Lafayette, Indiana. And Lafayette just happens to be one of the stops on our upcoming trip back east.
Lafayette, not much more than an hour's drive from Chicago, was where my husband's second great grandfather—the mysterious and untraceable John Stevens from County Mayo in Ireland—ended his immigration journey and settled down. It was his New World.
While I can find quite a bit on his descendants, there is not much documentation on John or his first wife, poor Catherine Kelly, who likely died shortly after the birth of her third child. We are so fortunate that her parents had also immigrated to the United States, for her widowed mother performed the grandmotherly duties of raising Catherine's three young boys while John presumably worked—and likely looked for another wife. The third son, William, probably knew no other parents but his grandparents Kelly, and even after his father, John, remarried, I couldn't locate him until I discovered the census entries for his grandparents.
There he was, not only in the 1860 census with his brothers, but even as late as the 1880 census, found in the Kelly household, along with a cousin in much the same circumstances.
It's that cousin—listed there in 1880 as A. M. Crahan—whose direct family line was the one in question in my email conversation yesterday. A complicated line to document, it involved the death of another sister of William Stevens' own mother. Documents providing details in conflict—such as differing dates of birth or name variations like "Stevenson" instead of Stevens—made me very wary of what I was finding. I really want something more than just this tenuous paper trail, but sometimes, things like that are the only documentation we are going to get.
What I'd really like is for some Kelly descendants to surface, do their DNA tests, and show up as matches on my husband's results.
I do, actually, have one potential Kelly match already—but for yet another Kelly sister whose marriage documentation has somehow eluded me. You can be sure I'll be stopping in Lafayette to see if I can find any records of this other Kelly woman's existence—and marriage. But now I'll be adding yet another Kelly female to my search to-do list.
It's conversations like these—comparing notes with fellow researchers in the background—that help build these shaky cases. When we delve further back in time, beyond the time when civil records duly noted the very events genealogists need to have confirmed, it sometimes hinges upon the clues held privately in family collections—a family Bible, or letters, or cherished papers handed down from generation to generation—which can sometimes reveal what we suspected all along. Sometimes, these items are the only way to confirm relationships.
Well...that and DNA testing. A match on a Kelly descendant's DNA test would certainly help me feel a bit more confident about what I'm finding.
So, in those back channel conversation with newly-met possible relatives, you can be sure I'll not only be asking, "Are you my cousin?" But I'll be following that up with a request for participation in DNA testing.
It's always good to find a new cousin. Even better to find additional ways to confirm the relationship.