Finding the widowed Johanna Falvey Kelly in the 1900 census, still in the Fort Wayne home in which she and her husband John had raised their family, I notice one thing: the young couple included in her household had been married for barely a month.
Mary Ann, at that point the oldest of the surviving Kelly children, had just promised her groom, “I do,” in a church ceremony the past May 23. The June 29 census record carefully noted Patrick H. Phillips to be the son-in-law in Johanna Kelly's household, and recorded the number of years the couple had been married as zero.
As if to be consistent, the record keeper also noted the number of children born to the couple so far as zero, and—you can sense a trend developing here—the number of children still surviving as…zero.
Not to end the rally at this point, the census taker kept on a roll: Mary and her new husband also both had their birth dates entered as March, and—striving for consistency here—he noted the year of their birth each to be 1867.
You know how newlyweds are. They do everything together.
It took moving to the next census record to gain a picture of what happened in the interim in the Phillips household. By 1910, Mary’s mother had passed away and her husband Patrick had assumed the place of head of household. In the span of those ten years, apparently the couple had become parents of six children, though only four showed in the census listing. With the surviving daughters’ births spaced nearly equally, every two years, my only conjecture is that either the two youngest children were the ones who had been lost, or possibly one or more of the deceased children could have been twins.
The four remaining girls—Helen, Grace, Margaret and Mary Celeste—were not the only ones to complete the household. Mary’s younger brother John still called this place home—at least, when he wasn’t away at work as conductor for a “steam railroad.”
Perhaps John worked for the same company as his brother-in-law, Patrick, who listed his own occupation as switchman for the railroad yards. However, considering the history of the many railroads operating at that time in the Fort Wayne area, it is quite possible that the brothers-in-law were employed by entirely different organizations.
Moving to the next decade’s census record, however, reveals a hint of the trouble that had unfolded in the local railroad business. The telltale remainder of the difficulties borne by this one family after the unfortunate—though not entirely rare—workplace incident the 1920 census reduced to use of the convenient abbreviation, “Wd.”