Saturday, October 1, 2016
From the time she first appeared in any records for the Timothy Kelly household, Margaret Sweeney became that tantalizing unknown factor which always tricked me into hoping she would lead me to some pertinent detail about the family's origin—you know, the Big Revelation.
In the 1900 census, she was listed in the "Kelley" household as a daughter, right in the middle of the stack of adult children all possessing that same surname. Still, I knew she couldn't have been a daughter, because the previous census record—completed only months before the widower Timothy Kelly married her mother in 1880—showed no sign of Margaret.
At the point of the passing of her supposed father—at least according to that 1900 census—she suddenly was dubbed Mrs. Margaret Sweeney. And yet, diligent searches to find her marriage record to the anonymous Mr. Sweeney yielded no results, at least in the Fort Wayne area. By the time her mother, now known as Mrs. Mary Kelly, died in 1913, the woman's own obituary listed all the Kelly children as her own, not just Margaret—a kind gesture, to be sure, but one I've already ascertained is not entirely accurate.
Still, no sign of where the Sweeney surname came in.
If government records are to be trusted—and, face it, even government employees can make mistakes—Margaret was a single woman at the time of the 1900 census. One year later, in her step-father's obituary, here she was, suddenly listed as Mrs. Sweeney. Yet, there were no credible reports of any marriage between a Margaret and a Mr. Sweeney in the Allen County records. Not, at least, for that year.
Granted, during that time period, it was sometimes a sign of respect to call an older woman by the title Mrs., whether she was married or not. Perhaps that was the case for Margaret, despite the fact that her by-then thirty-something age would be far from elderly.
I entertained another possibility. Perhaps Margaret came by her surname via her mother. Could Mary Kelly have previously been married to a Sweeney?
Another goose chase that quest turned out to be. I couldn't find much convincing documentation, at least if we isolated ourselves to the region where the family had settled—Fort Wayne in Allen County, Indiana.
Besides, though I have no image for the document, a transcription of the marriage record for her mother and the widower Timothy Kelly indicated a different surname for Mary: Danahy. That's what was recorded for their wedding on September 22, 1880, in Allen County.
It was through cemetery records at the Allen County Public Library's Genealogy Center that I finally had located burial dates for Mary Kelly's daughter. Apparently, Margaret died on August 4, 1949. With that knowledge—and now that digitized versions of these records are available—I was able to locate a scan of her actual death certificate, matching both name and date of death, with hopes of revealing the names of her parents.
Wouldn't you know it, now that I can see the actual document, I'm stopped dead in my tracks by the disappointing entry for parents' names: Unknown. My only consolation prize is that the certificate noted that Margaret had never been married. Where did that Sweeney surname come from?
Furthermore, if Margaret were a Sweeney, wouldn't you expect her to be buried, back in Fort Wayne, with the other family members sharing her name? But no, it was her mother who was buried in the Sweeney family plot. Edged out of the Kelly family plot, where the honors went to the Kelly children's own mother, Ellen, second wife Mary Kelly was buried with Cornelius Sweeney and his wife Johanna.
Margaret? When she died in 1949, perhaps there was no more room in the Sweeney plot. Margaret was buried in the burial plot for someone named Philip Danehy—the same surname her mother Mary had once claimed.
Above: A section from the death certificate for Margaret Sweeney, daughter of Mary Denehy Kelly; image courtesy Ancestry.com.