Friday, August 9, 2013

What I Still Don’t Know

Despite managing to uncover the “smoking gun” in this current genealogical adventure, as sometimes happens, the discovery came with hidden baggage. Yes, I did confirm the relationship between our family’s John Kelly Stevens of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the suddenly-deceased Lafayette child, Raphael Kruse. But the process yielded even more questions than we had when this quest began.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get ahead.

How the world has conspired against me:

Why, if Eliza was the widow of someone named Clark, did her marriage record to John Stevens list her as Eliza Murdock? The omission of that one little detail caused me untold hours of frustration trying to locate her in local documents—instead of as Eliza Clark, as it turned out she was listed in the 1860 census.

Come to think of it, why can’t I (even now) find John Stevens listed in the Lafayette census for 1860 together with his three young sons? I can find James and John Kelly with the family unit in the 1870 census, but even then, where was the baby, William?

Why, if Eliza’s second husband John Stevens had Eliza’s brothers conveniently listed in his obituary, could I not find them together with Eliza in earlier Lafayette census records before she was married? Come to think of it, why was it so hard to find any credible candidates for those brothers in subsequent census records?

Who was Eliza’s mom? The 1860 census suggests Sally. The 1870 census disagrees, listing her as Sibba—and no, that isn’t a case of someone writing “a” and “l” sloppily.

On the other hand, a Find A Grave entry for Eliza’s brother James suggests their mother was named Sabina Kelly.

Sibbie. Sabbie. Sally. Sigh.

What about Eliza’s dad? By 1860, Eliza’s mother was already widowed. There is no sign of Eliza’s parents in the 1850 census, but that might have been because they had not yet arrived from Ireland. And yet, the Find A Grave entry for the family has a note that Eliza’s father was named John Murdock. An unsettling addition to that note claimed that he died in 1853 in Wayne County, Indiana. Why Wayne County? Especially considering the family had settled in Tippecanoe County. How many miles away are those two counties? Was that the route they traveled during immigration? Is this a likely lead? While grateful for the “free” information, I have my doubts.

Besides, who was Eliza’s first husband, after all? They were apparently married in Ireland, not Indiana, if their daughter Helen-Ellen-Nellie was also born in Ireland. But did Eliza come all the way over to Indiana as a young mother and a widow? Searching the old Saint Mary’s cemetery in Lafayette for all Clarks yields no possibilities.

And searching for “Clarke” in the Saint Mary’s cemetery on Find A Grave yields absolutely nothing.

Admittedly, Find A Grave doesn’t include every burial existent in the cemetery, but I’d be laughed to scorn by the good folks in the cemetery office if I called up asking for information on a Clark with no first name or date of death. And, oh—could you also check that for C-l-a-r-k-e, too?

Sometimes in genealogical research—even if you find that proverbial smoking gun—you just have to succumb to leaving the scene of the “crime” without knowing the rest of the story.

For now.

You can be sure, though, that this is one scenario I’ll be revisiting in the future.


  1. I've found the pre-1870 censuses to be very difficult to work with - they being so "male-centric" An Irish woman on the frontier back then would have been remarkable - but many of them were as invisible as "servants" (as many of them were indentured or otherwise).

    1. The clue for me should have been that a single woman near a frontier region wasn't there all on her own. Likely, she was traveling with family. I think I was more frustrated with myself than anyone else, though, in getting thrown off the trail by that simple mis-labeling as "domestic."

  2. Ps my latest project re: the sailors cap has me grinding teeth in frustration -

    I've found a new to me cousin - but...

    1. Hooray for the new cousin find at least! But I know you won't give up yet. Can't wait to hear what you discover.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...