If there is anything else as challenging, in genealogy research, as trying to find an ancestor with a name like Smith or Jones, I’d nominate the surname Brown as a strong runner-up for that possibility.
In order to find out anything further on Emma Brown, the mystery wife of Patrick Kelly, we have to not only take a step away from the 1900 census for Fort Wayne, Indiana, but also move away from online research and delve into microfilmed documents. Thankfully, I was able to attend to a lot of this research during trips to Fort Wayne in years past. But I also had to rely on microfilms ordered through the local Family History Center, and then diligently slog through them, page by agonizing page, until I located the documents showing possibilities of matches—especially for Emma’s son Frederick’s baptismal record.
Since the 1900 census already told us that Emma’s son’s name—presumably from a previous marriage—was Frederick Brown, and since we already knew from (dubious) newspaper reports that Emma came from Logansport, the next step was to see what was available from Cass County, Indiana. Frederick’s likely year of birth was around 1898, so presumably, his parents’ wedding would have taken place in 1897 or earlier—but not too much earlier, as Emma had already reported that she was the mother of only one child. Besides, at the age of twenty five in 1900, she was unlikely to have been married before 1891.
Armed with those generous parameters, I made one more assumption before launching into the wide unknown, seeking marriage records for the Brown couple. My assumption—and fervent hope—was that Emma and her first husband were married in the Catholic Church in Logansport. Conveniently, there were records from Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church in Logansport available through microfilm. In addition, I found an entry in the first volume of the Index to Marriage Record 1850-1920 for Cass County, Indiana (from the 1940 Cass County WPA collection, volume 1, Book 16, on page 312).
You won’t want to know what it says.
But I’ll tell you, anyhow.
We are now tasked with finding information—not only for someone with the common surname Brown, but with a first name of John.
Do you know how many John Browns there are out there?
Mercifully, there were a few other details. Just a few. For one thing, Emma’s husband was actually listed as John H. Brown—a minor consolation, as we contemplate further searches for the man’s information. But an understandable addition to help distinguish him from the rest of the crowd. Plus, we now have a date of April 22, 1897, for the wedding—a chaste nine months and one week prior to Frederick's birth.