Thursday, July 29, 2021

An Offer They Couldn't Refuse


When I'm stuck with a research question—those pesky brick wall ancestors!—I have to pull back from that laser-locked focus on that particular problem to take in the bigger picture. That's when I reach for an overview of the situation which that ancestor might have been dealing with.

In the case of my father-in-law's great-grandmother's Kelly family, that meant being an Irish immigrant who, arriving in America, opted for the unusual choice of settling in the midwest.

Of course, I have questions. I still don't know exactly when the Kelly family arrived in Lafayette, Indiana, though it was at least by 1853, when Catherine Kelly's father was buried in that city. Nor do I yet have an idea of how the family arrived in Indiana—it could have been over land or, just as easily, via rivers.

In such a research pickle, I search for broad categories in genealogy-friendly resources. Prime among them is the wiki, which provides clues for possible next steps. This time, I looked for topics on immigration, Irish in America, and particularly Irish immigrants to Indiana or, more broadly, the midwest.

Between the FamilySearch wiki and some exploration on Google, I stumbled upon some scholarly articles in journals, and suggestions for books—some of which I'll mention later this week. But the first point that caught my eye was information which made it quite clear that the midwestern states, in seeing the flood of immigrants arriving on New York and Boston shores, did not sit idly by, hoping, "Oh please, oh please, pick me."

They went hunting for customers.

While the lore in many Indiana counties was that the Irish came there to build the canals, there were many Irish who arrived in Indiana long before the canal era. According to an article in The Hoosier Genealogist, "Irish Immigrants in the Hoosier Hills, "Those pre-canal Irish joined an already-established Catholic settlement that had its inception here in the early nineteenth century."

Indeed, contrary to the prevalent understanding that the Irish came to America in the 1850s on account of the famine there, the Potato Blight itself occurred in 1845—and even before that time, a large number of Irish had left their homeland as early as 1820.

While that 1820s immigration pattern was likely too soon to include our Kelly arrivals, such information helps to paint a picture of a pattern of settlement. Keep in mind that the river areas in what is now Indiana were once roamed by French trappers and traders with the Native American population there. The subsequent influx of French settlers brought with them their religious traditions, and thus the Catholic church followed.

With that initial step, Catholic immigrants from the British Isles, having previously settled in Maryland, traveled overland, first to Kentucky, then onward to Indiana. Among them, of course, were a number of Irish settlers. Eventually, communities of Irish Catholics formed around those initial French Catholic settlements in Indiana.

Closer to 1850, another factor influenced Irish immigration into the area: agents sent by midwestern state governments to entice Irish immigrants to settle in their state. In "Understanding Midwest Migration Patterns to Further Family History Research," an article by Rhonda McClure published in the BYU Family Historian, by 1850,

The states were just gearing up with their representatives and other efforts to entice immigrants to come and settle in their states. Eventually, thirty three states and territorial governments created immigration bureaus.

While Indiana wasn't the first to do so—that honor went to Michigan, followed by Wisconsin—several of the midwestern states sent agents to large ports like New York City with the sole purpose of recruiting arriving immigrants to settle in the state they represented. This was followed by publications designed to entice immigrants to settle in specific midwest locations and, eventually, advertisements in newspapers in European cities. Even further, one state governor suggested that "emigrant agencies" be set up in "chief towns in Europe" to attract specific immigrants to his state.

Of course, given the literacy rate of many of Ireland's poorest emigrants, written documents designed to target these arrivals may not have been the prime instrument to influence their choice of final destination. But it gives an idea of why many who followed the typical immigrant path at first—to New York or Boston—might have instead ended up, inexplicably, in Indiana. 


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

At the Far Reaches of the FAN Club


Could it be that the Irish stuck together in such an unlikely immigrant destination as Indiana? Searching through the census reports for each of the Kelly brothers—my father-in-law's great-grandmother's siblings—revealed nothing more than "farmer" or "laborer" for occupation. There had to be some way to deduce their origin in Ireland, and why they chose to migrate to Indiana.

Pressing my way through every branch of the extended Kelly family, looking at every census record and every other document I could find, I found myself far removed from the immediate family when I finally stumbled upon a clue. But was it a clue about the Kelly family? Or just a detail about the family of an in-law?

The youngest Kelly sibling was Ann, the one whose birth year kept changing with each decade's enumeration. She was the one who married Barnard Doyle, the son of neighboring Irish immigrants. While Ann was still living with her widowed mother and siblings in nearby Warren County in 1860, Barnard was at home on his parents' property in Tippecanoe County.

The head of that household was an Irish immigrant farmer by the name of Joseph Doyle. Unlike the few other Irish settlers in the area at that time, Joseph owned the property he was farming. He also had arrived in America earlier than the Kelly family, best I can tell, for his son Barnard had been born in Ohio about 1840.

What was handy about finding Barnard in his parents' household in the 1860 census was the confirmation of his father's identity, for at the end of their lives, both men ended up far from Indiana, buried in Kansas. Although Barnard's 1882 headstone was not helpful in that it mangled the name of the place in Ohio where he had been born, locating his father's memorial in the same cemetery proved more useful—if, that is, he turns out to be a part of the Kellys' "FAN Club" that led them to settle in Indiana, the Friends, Associates, and Neighbors in their personal circles.

Why? Because, like so many other Irish who died in America, Joseph Doyle had one detail included on his headstone: his origin in Ireland. Dying in 1885, only a few years after his son, Joseph made sure that anyone considering his final resting place knew that he was "born in Ferban, Kings Co. Ireland."

Of course we'll have to unpack that statement somewhat, before we can determine the place he once called home. The name Kings County is not what that area is called in the country of Ireland today. Now, it is known as County Offaly.

The designation of "Ferban" needs some revision, as well. A slight spelling rearrangement yields the currently correct town name of Ferbane.

That, however, is only the origin of my father-in-law's great-grandmother's youngest sister's father-in-law—admittedly a stretch. The question then becomes: did the Irish coming to Indiana immigrate as a cluster? Or independently of their fellow townspeople? Could Joseph Doyle have been a front runner for several of his neighbors back in County Offaly, leading them to a better life in the improbable destination of Lafayette, Indiana? This may be a challenge to determine, but there are more resources to consider.

Such is the process of research. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Enticing Immigrants


What brought our immigrant ancestors to America? Many people who consider that question assume their families made the journey merely in hopes of finding a fresh start in a better place. While that may have been true, it wasn't a notion which simply occurred to people without any added prompting. There were others out there, making the reverse journey in hopes of attracting settlers to their specific prospects. Whether for employment, purchase of land, or other reasons, you can be sure there were people out there, promoting their project to anyone willing to take the risk to settle in America.

In trying to determine just what brought my father-in-law's Kelly family to Indiana, it hasn't been lost on me that there were at least two possible beacons blaring the way to Indiana for Irish immigrants. One was the availability of fertile agricultural land near newly-opened shipping routes. The other was the opportunity for gainful employment through either the canal projects in the earlier years of the nineteenth century, or the railroad projects of the latter part of that century.

We've already noticed the agricultural opportunities in western Indiana advocated by Connecticut businessman Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, but what I hadn't yet mentioned is Ellsworth's efforts to advertise 200-acre parcels of the land he was selling. How far and wide that promotional effort stretched, I can't say, but it provides only one of several such advertising efforts bringing people to the midwest.

While the call of agricultural opportunity might have seemed the most reasonable for mid-century Irish immigrants, who in their homeland were primarily experienced with farming rather than trades, this might not have been the most-heeded call for the Irish to settle in western Indiana. More likely—depending on the time frame—would have been the help wanted ads for laborers to build the canals or railroads crisscrossing the area.

The Wabash and Erie Canal, for instance, was the impetus for growth in many cities along its towpath, Lafayette being one of them. The canal reached Lafayette by 1843, but many Irish laborers were already working on the state's canal system much earlier. By 1837, there were already a thousand laborers working on Indiana's canals, most of them of Irish origin.

Later calls for large numbers of laborers were due to the demands of railroads, not only in Indiana, but across the nation. In Lafayette, one railroad, the Monon, operated mostly within the state of Indiana—but work on such projects began later in the 1850s.

Although I don't yet have the date of the Kelly family's immigration, it is likely that the call of the railroads would not be what drew the family to Indiana, based on some inferences that they had arrived earlier in that decade. Still, it would be useful to catalog any occupational references we can glean for each member of the Kelly family during their years in Indiana. Tomorrow, we'll see if that provides any insight or connect them with others from specific regions in Ireland.

Above: 1847 poster selling parcels of farmland along the Wabash River valley in western Indiana; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


Monday, July 26, 2021

Gleaning Inferences


Have you ever noticed, in researching your Irish ancestors, that the older they got, the faster they seemed to age? Judging by the records, in tracing my father-in-law's ancestors through each decade's enumerations, his Irish relatives so preferred being young that they lingered at those beneficial ages far longer than their non-Irish neighbors might have done—but once they approached a respectable old age, they really accelerated their aging process. How amazing to have aged only seven years in the time span between two enumerations—their working years kept them so young!—only to catch up with those ponderous senior ages all in a rush before finishing their race at a ripe old age.

Those were the ancestors whose biographical reports kept me on my toes. Those were the ones I couldn't trust to provide one simple report of their age for the hapless census taker. I had to trace ancestors like those through every decade's report, just to make sure I had a clear picture of their year of birth.

Such details became important when I couldn't find any passenger records to help me trace the family line back to Ireland. After all, what else can I use to confirm I have the right Mary Kelly? There has to be some other constant identifier I can use.

It has turned out to be quite the challenge to trace the moves of my father-in-law's great grandmother's Kelly family in Indiana, just by the few records they left in their wake upon arrival in their new homeland. Unlike other Irish immigrants in my father-in-law's line who proudly provided lasting details of the home they left behind—such as William Flanagan's impressive grave marker claiming his origin in "Parish Ballygran" in County Limerick—the Kelly family had no such tradition.

I'm not left with nothing, however, on this trail of the Kelly family. This is when I resort to inferences—those hints gleaned by reading between the lines on the few documents I can find. Because I can't simply use records for Catherine Kelly—remember, she was the sister who, married to John Stevens, died after the birth of her son William—I turn instead to whatever reports I can find on her siblings. But because of the unreliability of the self-reported ages these ancestors provided over the decades, even those documents need to be considered in the aggregate.

To start with, Catherine Kelly Stevens had at least five siblings: Matthew, Rose, Bridget, Thomas, and Ann. Each one of them, as Catherine had been, were born in Ireland. From that simple detail, we can glean a possible earliest point at which the Kelly family could have left Ireland—if, that is, we can determine just when the last Kelly child was born. And that is where the problem over self-reported ages is introduced into our research quandary.

The youngest, Ann, eventually married a son of another Irish immigrant couple, Joseph and Mary Doyle, who in 1860 were living in Shelby Township in Tippecanoe County. In the 1860 census, living the next county over in Pine Village, Ann reported her age as twenty one. So did Barnard Doyle, in his parents' household.

After their marriage in Tippecanoe County in 1872, the next census showed Ann's age as thirty nine, instead of the expected forty one. Of course, after that point, we are handicapped in our survey by the missing 1890 census, but by 1900, Ann was reporting her age as fifty four, when we might have expected to see a more sedate sixty one. By the time of the 1910 census, Ann was living with her widowed daughter in law, who likely had no idea what age to report, and thus left the entry blank.

With just those few ages we are able to glean from census records—assuming any of them are correct reports—Ann could have been born in Ireland as early as 1839 or as late as 1846. Thus, even if Ann's family decided to leave home with a newborn infant, they couldn't have arrived in America before 1839.

Taking the harvesting of available records even further, it might theoretically be possible to look to the 1900 census to glean reported dates of immigration for the Kelly siblings. Ann herself reported arrival on American shores in 1860, but we already have doubts about that. Her appearance in the 1860 census in Indiana when the enumeration was taken in June doesn't rule out that report, but makes me doubt it for other reasons, prime of which is her sister's death in Indiana after her third son in 1858.

Her siblings, however, don't cooperate with this effort, at least on the immigration count. Matthew, the oldest, died in 1895. Next oldest sibling Rose died even earlier than that, in 1888—though her obituary mentioned that she had been in Lafayette for "over thirty years." Next younger sister, Bridget, died even earlier than the other two, like her sister Catherine succumbing to complications of childbirth in 1869. And next-to-youngest Thomas Kelly, like his brother Matthew, died in 1895.

While that doesn't pinpoint a date of arrival for the Kelly family, inferences from four decades' census enumerations at least provide a limited span of years for their immigration. This opens up possibilities while restricting us from a more impossibly broad search. There are, however, a few other considerations concerning details we can glean on the Kelly family's reports. We'll keep exploring those, tomorrow. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Letting DNA Direct the Connections


For the most part, my family history pursuits have been directed by documentation—a paper chase back through the generations, confirming familial connections via the evidence of birth records, marriage records, death certificates and wills.

Then came DNA and the ability to deduce relationships through the keys of genetic genealogy. That pedigree chart began expanding sideways, gaining collateral lines in each generation—all the better to confirm relationships with that burgeoning DNA match count at the five DNA companies where my husband and I tested.

It's no surprise, given the nearly seven years since we took our first DNA tests, that those trees have grown exponentially. Since today marks one of my biweekly counts, I can say that my husband's family tree has, in the past two weeks, gained 605 individuals, and now stands at 22,619 individuals. That mainly is owing to the fact that this month, I've been focusing on a research goal regarding my father-in-law's family.

As a corollary to that documentation process, every week I look through the new DNA matches in each of our accounts. On the Ancestry DNA account, in particular, I try to link new matches to the right tree, and flag that DNA match's profile page in my tree. In addition, now that Ancestry has added a section to allow subscribers to indicate whether a match is on the paternal or maternal side of the tree—and indicate how close the confirmed relationship is—I try to keep as many of those new matches correctly designated as possible.

This means finding the right place in all those collateral lines to add the DNA match. I might, for instance, have the grandparent of that DNA match already included in my tree, but not the specific matching individual, which means some updating is in order on the tree.

Once that is taken care of, the next step is to select the "shared matches" tab at the top of each match's screen. With that step, I can easily locate any other distant cousins who belong on the same branch, and link their DNA match to their profile page in my tree.

Step by step, letting the DNA matches guide my work of filling in the branches in the tree, I get a more complete picture of the family's many lines. The more individuals I'm able to connect in this spaghetti bowl of thousands of DNA matches, the easier it becomes to see how others relate, as well. Each separate task—researching the paper trail, and connecting the genetic genealogy results—blends with the others to accelerate the process. Not to mention, there is a certain sense of gratification to see how many matches now bear the insignia of a linked relationship in my tree.


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Three Young Siblings


Not all the photographs we rescue from antique shops are hundred year old gems. Some abandoned family collections include more recent treasures.

Such was the case when a thoughtful fellow researcher alerted me to the cache of family photos at a local antique shop belonging to my former mother-in-law. When I went to the store to rescue what I could find of Marilyn Sowle Bean's collection, there were many pictures of family members whom I remembered including in the tree I built for her family.

There were, however, many others I didn't recognize. Some of them emerged from the "who is this?" pile and staked their claim in the "known family" pile as I sorted through each picture in tandem with building out the collateral lines in Marilyn's family tree. Considering Marilyn was born in 1928, most all of her relatives are now long gone. Matching names and faces would have been a challenge, had it not been for Marilyn's persistent habit of labeling everything.

Remembering that Marilyn, an only child of a woman who was oldest of nine children of Oliver and Ragna Brague, grew up in southern California without meeting many of her mother's siblings back in Wisconsin—let alone her cousins—I was surprised to see how many photos she had of her mother's nieces and nephews. While the miles may have prevented the families from getting together in person, I suspect a lot of letter writing took place over the years, accompanied with family photographs.

One such photo, likely sent first to Marilyn's mother and eventually passed to Marilyn, was of three young children born to her mother's youngest sibling. That baby brother, Daryll Brague, was born only a few months after Marilyn, herself, putting Marilyn in the unusual position of being older than her own uncle.

Just as Marilyn would have done, her mother was likely the person who affixed the careful label naming the three children, followed by the explanation of whose children they were—Daryll and his wife Harriet—and, most importantly, the date the picture was taken.

I wonder whether Marilyn ever got to meet her young Wisconsin cousins—or even her aunts and uncles who were nearly the same age as she was. The two branches of the family seemed so separated, by the point at which I knew them. I wonder, too, whether any of them still have a copy of this 1962 photograph, and pull it out of its spot in their family albums to compare facial details with the most recent arrivals among their great-grandchildren.


Friday, July 23, 2021

Deep and Wide


As we take a deeper dive into the history of the James Kelly family's chosen American home in western Indiana, we need to ferret out any clues about the arrival of these brick wall ancestors. Turns out that whether the Kelly family came to the Lafayette area intact as a family, or through a serial process of immigration, not only will gleaning inferences about the family constellation help us, but so will the history of the founding of this Indiana city.

One thing is certain: when the city of Lafayette was founded in 1825, the city fathers had in mind the usefulness of the nearby Wabash River, with good reason. Up through the mid 1700s, French traders' routes from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico took advantage of travel on the Wabash. While it is now no longer considered navigable to the extent of previous centuries, up through the mid 1800s, the Wabash was accessible by steamship for a considerable distance north of where it joins the Ohio River.

Lafayette, situated on the southeast bank of the Wabash River, became one of the river's shipping centers. Adding to that profitable advantage, by 1843, Lafayette became one of the stops on the Wabash and Erie Canal. The benefit of that situation to local farmers cannot be overlooked, as the route of the canal was credited with growing several of the cities along its towpath, including Lafayette. Farmers who had previously expected minimal returns for sale of their crops—unless they could be transported to larger markets—now had opened to them the opportunity to sell to a wider market. In one example of that time period, a bushel of wheat which, at best, could command a sale price of forty five cents now could be sold for a dollar each.

Water was not only the answer to commerce and especially agricultural trade, but it was the primary route for transportation of settlers. For us in modern times, it may be difficult to change our mindset about travel from that of the land routes of roads or railways to that of waterways, but as researchers it is important for us to think in terms of available navigable water routes.

The impact of river travel is an important consideration when we are exploring how our immigrant ancestors arrived at their seemingly isolated destinations. In looking to the FamilySearch wiki to find an article specifically speaking to immigration to the state of Indiana, I found it significant that the report indicated, for arrivals before 1850, that "most immigrants" reached Indiana by a water route. Not surprisingly, the result was that, of the three main regions of the state receiving in-bound settlers, land along the Wabash River figured prominently. 

With an influx of settlers plus the means to favorably augment trade, it followed naturally that someone would see the value in promoting sales of land for agriculture nearby. That became the third draw by 1838 when land speculator Henry Leavitt Ellsworth published a booklet designed to promote investment in the region's agricultural advantages. By 1845, Ellsworth put his money where his mouth was, and moved from his native Connecticut to oversee sales of the ninety three thousand acres he had purchased around Lafayette.

While all those benefits of the Lafayette area make promotion seem a logical move for the young city, we still need to ask ourselves what the motivation might have been that drew such immigrants as the Kelly family to this—rather than any other—location. Far beyond the generic promise of profitable farming, we need to examine just what the Kelly family—and other Irish immigrants like them—might have found attractive about a relatively new region such as the Wabash River area near Lafayette. We'll consider more details about what drew the Irish to Indiana when we return to this topic on Monday.


Above: The Wabash River is clearly featured in this 1868 "bird's eye" map of the City of Lafayette, distributed by the Chicago Lithographing Company from artwork by A. Ruger; courtesy United States Library of Congress via Wikipedia; in the public domain.

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