Thursday, September 12, 2013

That’s Not How They Explained It

Having read the obituary of Timothy Kelly, who died in Fort Wayne in 1901, we now know that his remaining children, at that time, were four: Andrew, Timothy, Richard and Deborah (hiding under the alias of Mrs. Frank Pence). We also discovered that the Margaret who had appeared in Timothy’s household for the 1900 census under the name Margaret “Kelley” was actually a step-daughter—one who, according to his 1901 obituary, went by the name “Mrs. Margaret Sweeney.”

Perhaps as a gracious commentary by a step-mother’s family, by the time Timothy Kelly’s second wife died in 1913, the family listed the descendants as if they all were her own children. There was no mention of step children, though three of the four remaining members of the family were indeed that to Mary Kelly.

On the other hand, editorial stumbles could make us doubt the magnanimity of that gesture. Perhaps it was just a matter of an editorial oversight. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette asserted in their version of the obituary on page fourteen of the February 14, 1913, edition that she had been born in “Cook county” in Ireland. The competing Fort Wayne Sentinel rushed to correct that blunder to “County Cork,” but went on in their page two entry on that same date to omit Margaret’s surname, making me wonder whether the Sweeney entry was the correct version, or a mistake. The fact that the Sentinel also revealed its own slack editorial hand doesn’t help my confidence level in their reporting: “There are also one brothers [sic]—Cornelius Danehy, of this city.”

Thankfully, the Journal Gazette happened to mention the name of two of Mary’s brothers—Cornelius and Hugh—setting that record straight again. Or is it? I almost feel as if I should be keeping score—the newspaper with the least amount of net editorial errors winning my confidence seal of approval.

Even the cemetery seemed to want to race for the crown in the blooper department. While the Allen County death index (admittedly a secondary source) clearly indicated the date of Mary Kelly’s death as February 13, 1913—and the Catholic Cemetery records concurred—what should appear for the engraved entry upon the widow’s headstone? A date one month shy of the correct version.

Perhaps because of the status her stepson Richard had achieved by the point of her death, she was accorded an inflated level of honor in her obituary’s headlines—at least in the Journal Gazette. The obituary was announced with the banner, “Mrs. Mary Kelly, Pioneer Resident of Ft. Wayne, Dies.”

Fort Wayne? Yes. Dies? Obviously. Pioneer? Well, I haven’t been able to find proof of that in census records up to this point. Then again, as we shall soon see, this woman’s family line has become one that’s led me on a quite unfruitful chase.
            Mrs. Mary Kelly, widow of the late Timothy Kelly and mother to Police Sergeant Richard Kelly, died at 9:45 o'clock last night at St. Joseph's hospital, where she had been a patient for the past two years, suffering from diabetes.
            Born in Cook [sic] county, Ireland, Mrs. Kelly came to Fort Wayne with her parents when a young girl and spent the remainder of her life here. Her husband was for many years foreman of the Pennsylvania car shops. At her death Mrs. Kelly was aged 61 years, seven months and six days.
            She was one of the original congregation of St. Patrick's Catholic church and was a member of the Rosary society and the Sacred Heart league.
            Surviving are two sons, Richard and Andrew J. Kelly, of this city; two daughters, Mrs. Margaret Sweeney, of Fort Wayne, and Mrs. Frank Pence, of Toledo, and two brothers, Cornelius Danehy, of this city and Hugh Danehy, of California.
            The exact time of the funeral services, which will be held from St. Patrick's Catholic church, will be announced later. Interment will be made in the Catholic cemetery.


  1. So Mary was a "Danahy."

    There were two brother(S)... Cornelius and Hugh listed - so the plural seems right.

    1. Yes, a little proper English grammar for our clue there...

      I suspect there were more than two brothers, but I have to remind myself that that would be getting sucked down a rabbit trail. Must. Not. Go. There.

      Oh, and "Danahy"? That's only one version. I've found so many others. Steeling myself to avoid temptation. Again.

  2. I've gotten off on more than one genealogical tangent. It's way too easy so good for you for being able to resist the urge!


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