Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Company She Kept

I couldn’t help myself. I still wanted to know more about the mystery behind why the second wife of Timothy Kelly would be buried with the family of her first in-laws. Was it just custom? Was it a kindly gesture in the face of a widow’s lack of funds? Or fallout from an undying struggle between step-mother and step-children?

As we saw the other day, Mary Kelly was buried in a plot with a family of Sweeneys—but not, as we also discovered, with her own daughter, Margaret Sweeney.

Though I had found her burial plot listed as section B, lot number 516 in the Catholic Cemetery, there was no way, online at the Genealogy Center’s databases, to search through all the listings to find the names of the other people buried in that plot, short of searching by known surnames associated with Mary’s relatives.

There was, however, one other way around this problem of access to cemetery data: use a different database. How could I forget about Find A Grave?!

I took my search there, to see if I could discover any further details on the company of four Sweeney relatives buried in the same plot as Mary Kelly.

I started reading down my Sweeney burial list gleaned from the Genealogy Center, looking first at the record for Cornelius Sweeney, who died twelve years before Mary on March 11, 1901. Thankfully, there was such an entry on Find A Grave’s listing for the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne.

I’ve got to say the volunteer who set up the page for Cornelius Sweeney went beyond the call of duty. “OPPSheryl” not only provided the year of Cornelius’ birth—1846—but also included a photocopy of his March 11, 1901, obituary from the Fort Wayne News.

While the obituary was handy and provided some details on his relatively short life, it also maddeningly included the socially-favored manner of simply listing Cornelius’ wife and mother of his children as “a wife.” No name was given to help provide any connections or reveal reasons why Mary was included with this bunch.

We can, of course, glean a few hints from Cornelius’ last report. He was born in Ireland, as was everyone of concern in that generation’s circle around the Timothy Kelly family. Interestingly enough, Cornelius must have lived next door to Timothy’s 20 Brandriff Street home. The two men must also have seen each other regularly through their work, both being employed in Fort Wayne by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Their families attended church together—and may likely have also socialized in the same fraternal organizations.

That may have made for a nice neighborly relationship, but to share a gravesite based solely on such camaraderie? I rather doubt that would be only reason.

Thankfully, the Find A Grave site included more information. The volunteer, OPPSheryl, also provided the names of “calculated relationships,” including that of the very next person on our list to be researched: Johanna Sweeney, who, according to the Genealogy Center records, had died shortly before Mary Kelly, on January 2, 1912.

There was one other detail: unlike the entry at the Genealogy Center, on the Find A Grave link, Cornelius’ wife Johanna showed a maiden name.

It was Danehy—same as Mary Kelly’s maiden name. 
            Cornelius Sweeney died Saturday evening at his home, No. 19 Brandriff street, of pneumonia. He was 55 years old, was born in Ireland, and came to this country when a boy. For many years he had been a watchman at the entrance to the Pennsylvania round house on Lafayette street. He was a member of Daniel O’Connel council, C. B. L., and of St. Patrick’s Catholic church. He leaves a wife and three children, Philip and John Sweeney and Mrs. Julia Doyle. 
            The funeral will take place Tuesday morning at 9 o’clock from St. Patrick’s Catholic church. The funeral will be held under the auspices of Daniel O’Connell council, C. B. L.


  1. That is so typical of Find A Grave volunteers! :) You found a great helper!

    I find it most vexing when the "data" you want is "right there" but there doesn't seem to be any way to "get to it!"

    1. Yes, this one volunteer really made a difference for me right now!

      When there doesn't seem to be a way to "get to it" for that missing data, that's where network-building comes in handy. That's why I'm really liking social media. I think I may have found a work around for accessing that missing data. Here's hoping it produces results in a few days...

  2. Wow you've got one crazy mystery on your hands! It's so easy to get off your direct line when you're researching but oh the goodies you find!!!

    1. I can't help but wonder how much easier this search would have been if people had clearer handwriting and got a better idea of how to spell unusual surnames!


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