Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Other Family

When we take a look at the history of our families, we begin to discover that it was no uncommon thing for a child to lose one—and sometimes both—parents along the way. With rampant disease, lack of modern medical techniques, and even the risks inherent in childbirth, mothers in particular often died young.

After the arrival of John Kelly Stevens’ brother William, that is precisely what became of their mother, Catherine Kelly Stevens. While her passing preceded the governmental convention of recording cause of death, the May 3, 1858, occurrence was most likely a result of William’s arrival.

While I am still at a lack as to what became of the boys in the interim—even for the 1860 census, I am unable to track their whereabouts—surely their father felt the pressures of providing the necessary maternal touch to their upbringing.

The answer to the family’s dilemma came with the December 1860 marriage of John Stevens to Irish immigrant Eliza Murdock. To their union were added three daughters: Sarah, Mary and Elizabeth.

Sarah, the oldest, like her half-brother John Kelly Stevens, moved as a young adult to the city of Fort Wayne, marrying a man whose parents (or close relatives) had also lived in Lafayette: Peter Donahoe. This woman has presented me with several difficulties in tracing her records. She was known in Fort Wayne alternately as Cecelia and Celia, with a middle initial “I” which provided no explanation for what became of her original given name, Sarah. Thankfully, newspaper reports have linked her to her “brother,” John Kelly, on more than one occasion, keeping me on track in researching this line of the Stevens descendancy.

Suffice it to say, though, in speculating which of John Kelly Stevens’ half-siblings might have been the source of the mystery news report that we're puzzled by concerning the young deceased child, Raphael Kruse, we can safely deduce that Raphael’s mother would not have been this woman, Sarah.

The middle daughter, Mary, also provides research headaches. Thankfully, in her case, those headaches are of another kind: she married a man by the name of John Stevens. Of course, her John Stevens, a resident of Chicago, may just as well have been invisible with a name so common in a city of so many Irish immigrants. With this John Stevens, Mary had two children: Robert John and May Stevens. The ill-fated and still invisible (I haven’t found trace of him yet) John Stevens supposedly died in Chicago in 1891, and Mary subsequently returned to her home town and married a man by name of Edward MacKessy.

Still no link to a Raphael Kruse.

Don’t hold out any hope for daughter number three. Best I can tell, Elizabeth died of “liver and kidney problems” in August, 1892, and was buried at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Lafayette. As far as I can tell, she died unmarried.

And yet, there were some signs that there was a Kruse family connection—tiny hints along the research way that I had never, in the past, been able to fathom. Try as I could, I had never been able to find the Kruse connection, and had dismissed it.

This newspaper report of the death of the poor young “nephew” of John Kelly Stevens prompted me to take up the search again.


  1. Perhaps the poor young man was an orphan and was "adopted." :)

    1. That certainly was a common occurrence back in that time period.

  2. Do they do things like "Nephew, twice removed" or would that make them more properly a "Cousin"?

  3. As I started reading your post, I was thinking that losing a parent or both was not usual in my family --- oops, think again. I have a couple of convoluted lines caused by just this occurrence. Guess I'd better take up the trail again. Nice post and interesting.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Joan!

      Yes, unfortunately, I think those occurrences were way more common in those times than we like to think they were.


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