Saturday, May 31, 2014

One More Daughter

I’d almost say it’s a wrap, concerning the children of Thomas and Bridget Kelly of Lafayette, Indiana. Following the list gleaned from the 1880 census, we’ve found their sons James and William. While sons John and Thomas still have me stumped, we’ve discovered the married names of their daughters Rose (Miller) and Mary Ann (Munger)—no small feat in its own right.

But there’s still one more daughter: Bridget. Whatever became of Bridget?

The ever helpful Journal and Courier index didn’t seem to be of any help here, and the usual search titans of genealogy—Ancestry and FamilySearch—seemed somewhat weak-kneed at their task as well. Admittedly, there was a Bridget Kelley who died August 4, 1919, according to the Journal and Courier index, but Find A Grave reminds us that this was the mother Bridget who died, not the daughter.

It was on one of those late night searches—the kind where you either love or hate the search engine that is serving up results for your inquiries—when something flashed past my eyes. At first, I thought it was yet another of those horribly mismatched results—you know, the kind that make you scratch your head and wonder what the connection might be. The name—Elizabeth O’Connor—was totally unrelated to anyone in this Kelly family, but all the other details seemed to fit in perfectly.
            Father’s name: Thomas Kelly
            Mother’s name: Bridget Dolan
            Parents’ birth: both born in Ireland
            Child’s birth: Lafayette, Indiana

Only one problem: this person was born September 22, 1874. But the only child in Thomas Kelly’s household born in 1874 was named Bridget.

Who was Elizabeth?

With all those details provided in the Cook County death certificate lining up so neatly with our Lafayette Kelly family, this presented an odd predicament. I decided the best thing to do would be to seek an obituary.

The challenge would be to obtain one. Elizabeth had died in nearby Kane County—possibly visiting an adult child at the time—but her residence was given as Chicago.

Chicago, if you haven’t discovered by now, is a city with newspapers not given to the cooperative spirit of including themselves in digitization projects. Unless you live in or near Chicago and can access microfilmed copies of their newspapers, there are not many ways to obtain Chicago obituaries that don’t have additional price tags attached to them.

I thought I’d try a second route to figure out how this Elizabeth O’Connor connected with Thomas Kelly’s family: checking Find A Grave for an entry. After all, the death record even gave me the place of her burial: Mount Carmel.

But when I entered the data at Find A Grave, there was no result.

While Chicago may have some petulant newspaper publishers unwilling to play nice with the digitizing game, it is a city whose residents have a wonderful esprit de corps. One evidence of that assessment is the Chicago Genealogy group on Facebook—a next generation version of the old genealogy forums. I had signed up for this group long ago. While I’m not often on Facebook, I have found occasional visits to their site to be very informative for genealogical research tips regarding Chicago ancestors.

I posted my query, and it wasn’t long before people came to my rescue. Someone even mentioned that this Elizabeth—whoever she was—had faced the tragic moment no parent ever wants to face: the loss of her own young daughter. The Chicago group member posted the link for me. It was to a Find A Grave entry for Marie O’Connor. And it was at Mount Carmel.

Hoping against hope that the volunteer who posted the information for Marie was like some go-the-second-mile troupers I’ve encountered at Find A Grave, I clicked over to the memorial, and was not disappointed. There was the link to the entry for Marie’s mother, Elizabeth O’Connor.

Why was I not able to find that entry, myself? Who knows what gremlins lurk in my computer’s operating system.

That was not the only entry for which I had had zero search results. Trying to find Elizabeth and her husband, Joseph, in the census records was bearing no fruit as well. But last night, I tried again, and—how do these things happen in a logic-driven universe?—lo and behold, results popped up for Elizabeth and family for every census: for 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940—all at the same location on South Parnell Street in Chicago.

Evidently, this Elizabeth and Joseph O’Connor had two daughters—Mary, as the census records listed her, and her older sister, Catherine. Perhaps at some point, I can continue down the line and discover who Catherine married—and whether she was the one living in Elgin, Illinois, whom her mother was visiting on the fateful day of her 1946 passing.

Before I get carried away with what genealogy researchers are so well equipped to do, there is one specific point that needs to be established: despite the seeming coincidence tying Elizabeth Kelly O’Connor to our Thomas and Bridget, was she really the Kellys’ daughter Bridget, going by a middle name? Or do I need to keep searching?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Putting in My Bid For Long Lost Cousins

Sensing a chance to make productive use of cousin bait, once I discovered this Kelly line dangling from our second great grandmother Catherine Kelly Stevens’ brother’s family, I wasted no time in attempting to bring the record forward a generation or two. As much as I could, I wanted to pursue what could be found about Thomas Kelly’s daughter Mary Ann and her husband, Edgar Munger of Lafayette, Indiana. After all, if I could glean their children’s names—and then their children’s names—pretty soon, I might be talking about with a real live cousin!

Though there are easily obtainable census records for the Tippecanoe County area for 1900 through 1940, the going turned out not to be so easy. Oh, I could find Mary Ann and Edgar, all right. Soon after their 1893 wedding, they already had a daughter and a son. According to the 1900 census, Lela M. Munger had arrived in the household by August, 1894. Her younger brother, Eugene E., followed in April of 1897. Both were born, as were their parents, in Indiana—likely, right in Lafayette.

Another child was welcomed into the household by the time of the 1910 census: Thomas W., named after Mary Ann’s father and arriving in 1908. Along with that news, though, came somewhat disconcerting details: either his sister Lela had switched her first and middle name and “grown younger,” or she had been replaced by a hitherto-unreported fourteen year old sister with mirror-image initials. I’m voting that Marie L. was Lela M. in disguise.

By the time of the 1920 census, the only child left in Edgar and Mary Ann’s household was their youngest son, Thomas, now twelve. Ditto, 1930 censusand the 1940 census, where the entry for his occupation was “lawer” in “private practice.” Perhaps his father’s employment over the years as storekeeper at Purdue University helped fund Thomas’ education. Perhaps that also explains why I kept getting hits for state supreme court cases when I Googled Thomas’ name.

As for Thomas’ older siblings, who were by then long gone, I’ve been stumped. Regarding his sister, which name do I use to search for her? Lela? Marie? Even brother Eugene added a middle name—“Ed”—to his census record, making me wonder if in later years he chose to drop the first name entirely.

Not being able to locate any additional documentation via either or, I turned to that old faithful newspaper index at Tippecanoe County’s Indiana GenWeb site. Scrolling down the page for surnames beginning with M, I found one line mentioning the November 18, 1922, marriage of Eugene Munger and someone by the name of Farrell Voght.

Thankfully, that was an unusual enough name to gamble on getting results on FamilySearch, so I gave it a try. Surprise! There actually was someone by the name of Farrell Voght, showing up in the 1910 census—not in Indiana, but in Chicago, Illinois. Daughter of Fred and Mary, she was born in Iowa in 1898. In the 1920 census, it turns out Farrell must have been her middle name, for she was then listed as Mary F.

Somehow, Eugene must have ended up living in Chicago, himself, for his marriage to Mary Farrell Voght was listed in an index for Cook County, Illinois, marriages, not Indiana marriages.

But from that point, the bride with the unusual name—Mary Farrell Voght—apparently retreated into anonymity, for I could no longer find any trace of her, or her husband Eugene.

As for oldest sister Lela, not much could be found for her, either—unless, of course, we are willing to assume that the flight of fancy causing her to choose to go by her middle name for that one census record lasted for the rest of her teen years. For there, in that Journal and Courier index, was one mention for the wedding of a Marie Munger and a man by the name of Hobart Grandstaff. Could that November 5, 1919, date find its place in our family history?

Sometimes it feels as if researching family history without access to archived newspaper records is like flying blind. Those wedding announcements, birth announcements and even—especially—obituaries serve as landmarks to help identify the lay of the land describing a family’s future generations. I can’t see how I’d ever be able to identify potential cousins without tools like those.

Unless, of course, any of those cousins would come searching for me.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Small Towns and Surnames: A Detour

The funny thing about small towns is: the longer you stick around, the more you know about everyone else. Especially about how they connect.

I suppose it is the same thing with the researchers who shadow those ancestors who lived in small towns.

Somehow, in one of those late night research sessions—the kind where it seemed I was going nowhere—the name Kelley flew past my eyes as I scrolled impatiently through yet another list of seemingly mismatched search results on Sometimes that program can seem so intuitive. Other times? Well, I’ll just move on…

There used to be a time on FamilySearch in which I could resist the command to fill a name in the search bar, and instead leave it blank. I used to scroll past that first set of parameters, leaving them all blank except maybe the parents’ names at the bottom of the page—to see if I could force the issue and flush out a daughter for whom I had no clue about married name. Then it seemed FamilySearch changed their programming, and my little ruse was no longer permissible.

But here, on this late night research marathon, I started getting the same results I’d have gotten if I tried my little trick again. Names I had no way of recognizing were popping up in the search results—with parents’ names of Thomas and Bridget Dolan Kelley. With the town of Lafayette, Indiana, included in the parameters, these were the kind of results that could capture my attention.

Yet, there was something that seemed wrong about what I was finding. The marriage information on one document—an index, unfortunately, so I couldn’t check the handwriting on the original for myself—mentioned a Mary A. Kelley, daughter of Thomas. Her year of birth was 1871, which didn’t quite match the 1869 year of birth showing in the family’s 1880 census record. But that wasn’t what was holding me back.

What bothered me in this marriage document index was the name of this Mary’s spouse: Edgar S. Mugger. Mugger didn’t seem quite right—and, scrolling down the entry, I saw the discrepancy picked up where Edgar’s father’s name was entered. He was listed as “Wm. Munger.”

By that time, I also realized that Mary’s mother was listed as Bridget “Dolen or Donlen.”

Someone was indulging in a fit of uncertainty. Where was the arbitrator in this decision?

I took that as license to nurture my own doubt. I had a second reason for that: I had already run across that surname, Munger. Yes, in Lafayette. I’m telling you: knowing your small town can help in research minutiae.

I went to my database index to pull up that surname, just to make sure, though I already knew I was right. There was another Munger in my files. And this is where the detour comes in. I need to take you back to the 1860 and 1880 census of Thomas Kelley’s brother, Mathew—the unmarried brother who lived with his sister Rose, and at one time had shared the household with not only all three Kelley siblings, but with three little Stevens boys who had recently lost their mother.

Remember William?

It was that William who had, after the 1880 census, married a woman by the name of—remember, from a while back?—Alice Munger. She was daughter of a man who also bore that same given name: William H. And Alice’s mother, by the way, was not Susan Denny, as the transcription put it, but Susan Downing.

What a coincidence, don’t you think? Let’s check this one out. The 1880 census shows both Alice and Edgar in the same household, with Susan as mother. Unfortunately at that time, William, the father, was missing.

No problem. Just push back one decade and pull up that 1870 census. Same town, same two children—Alice and Edgar—and voilĂ ! Dad’s name: William.

Now, fast forward another twenty three years. Just a little over a year after William Stevens married Alice Munger, his cousin Mary Ann Kelly married Alice’s brother Edgar.

The small town effect must have held them spellbound, for Mary Ann and Edgar were easily traced in the decennial census records from the first one following their 1893 marriage through the last one before Edgar’s 1946 and Mary’s 1949 passing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Marriage and Sisters

The challenge for family history researchers has always been to discover what has become of the sisters in a family. That maiden name so often gets swallowed up in the minutiae of day to day life for the married woman—even wiped out of those all-important life documents at times. Fortunately, out of all the daughters of Thomas and Bridget Dolan Kelly, second daughter Rosa—or Rose, as she was listed in later documents—was the easiest to find. That discovery was aided by the decision to have her burial information engraved on the reverse of the headstone marking the Kelly family plot at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Lafayette, Indiana.

I can thank Find A Grave volunteer Amy H. for not only posting the photo of the front of the Kelly headstone, but walking around to the back to clearly capture this message:
Rose Miller
Daughter of
Thomas & Bridget Kelly
Died May 24, 1955

At first, I thought Rose was buried in the family plot, as had been some of her brothers, as well as her namesake aunt and uncle. But checking the plot location, I noticed that, rather than the family’s Block 101, Lot A, Rose’s actual burial location was at Block 102, Lot C, Grave 2.

Of course, I thought, she must have been buried with her husband, likely in the plot directly behind her parents’ location.

I tried looking for a Miller entry with the same plot location in Saint Mary’s Cemetery, but—at least on Find A Grave—the only workable entry that came up was for Rose, herself. That, unfortunately, would not be the route to provide hints as to Rose’s husband’s name.

Lest you think, “Why not look it up on FamilySearch?” let me advise you that no such entries came up—at least when I tried that as recently as yesterday. If I was to discover Rose’s husband’s name, there would have to be another way.

There was. Thankful, once again, for whoever that Joan Rodenberger was who posted the Lafayette Journal and Courier index on the Tippecanoe County Indiana GenWeb site, I scrolled through the “K” listings to find one for Rose. With the added bonus of gleaning her middle initial—“G”—I found the line item providing Rose’s wedding date (May 20, 1918) and the name of her husband: Clarence. Just in case I was the victim of a mis-transcribed entry, I cross checked that with the alphabetical listing for the "M" surnames. Yep, Clarence Miller.

I should have taken it as an ominous sign that not only was Clarence Miller missing from the cemetery entries for Saint Mary’s—where his beloved was laid to rest—but that I couldn’t locate the couple in subsequent census records after their wedding day.

What I should have done was pay attention to the listings I had found in the newspaper index for all the Millers. There were actually three Clarence Miller weddings mentioned in that index. Apparently, our Clarence was not the only Clarence Miller in town.

It took scrolling through the World War I Draft Registration Cards to locate any evidence of which Clarence Miller this mysterious groom might have been. This became one of those page-by-page projects, but thankfully yielded a result not long after I began the process. Found: one Clarence Miller. Occupation: fireman. Born November 2, 1884, he was residing at 730 South Fourth Street—along with his wife, Rose G. Miller.

So, with a research journey that began with the aid of a photograph at Find A Grave, I was able to eventually conclude who Rose Kelly Miller had married. Whether she and Clarence had a happy life together, had any children, or experienced anything else of note, I cannot yet tell. But that’s a start.

With that discovery, I could now add Rose to my list of found Kelly children. Gleaning the names from the family’s 1880 census entry, in addition, I could check off her name as well as her siblings, James and William.

Though I hadn't yet found Rose’s brothers John and Thomas, more than with those missing brothers, I knew I would experience difficulty in attempting to find Rose's sisters Mary Ann and Bridget—but thanks to a fluke when floundering around in, I did encounter a possibility for Mary Ann. It was only thanks to entering her parents’ names in the search bar that the suggestion came up: a marriage entry for a Kelley daughter. The other names on the entry were somehow mangled, so I was going to dismiss it out of hand and trudge on through the listings. How can I make sense of the index entry to a document over which even the transcriber is stumped?

Though the record might have been misread by the transcriber, there was something familiar about one of those names. I had to take a second look.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Finding the Children

Piecing together a family, one by one, from cemetery records seems to be a backwards way to approach filling in the blanks on a family’s history. Lacking any other data, though, it was worth the try to see what I could construct on the family of Thomas and Bridget Dolan Kelly of Lafayette, Indiana.

We’ve already seen that Thomas seems to have been buried in a family plot used by his two siblings, Matthew and Rose. Thomas, himself, carried the tradition forward one more generation, for the unmarried of his children also found their way into the same family plot. They account for the easy ones to be found in the next generation. The others—married, I presume—have been causing some research problems. Their whereabouts will be tackled later.

As for two sons of Thomas and Bridget—William and James—they were handily located thanks to Find A Grave, which provided the plot location for each of them. It became merely a hunt-and-peck mission to search all the Kelleys—and then, of course, check also the Kellys—for Saint Mary’s Cemetery, and compare notes on burial locations. If the given name matched any of the children’s names from the family's entry in the 1880 census, they were automatically added to the list.

It helped also to find that there is an online list indexing all the names mentioned in the local newspaper—the Lafayette Journal Courier—from 1902 through 1952. The list was compiled by Joan Rodenberger and posted on the GenWeb site for Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Clicking on the alphabetized list corresponding to the surname I was seeking, I could cross check Find A Grave entries against any newspaper mentions—in this case, likely to be obituaries—for the same name.

And so it was that I felt pretty confident about the Find A Grave entry for eldest son James, who died January 23, 1924. Scrolling through the “K” entries in the Journal Courier index, I can also see a death noted for James F. Kelley in the newspaper on January 21, 1924.

Oh, dear. Surely that doesn’t imply the newspaper editor was prescient. Perhaps it was an indexing error. Or more likely—as I’ve noticed such errors before with Find A Grave—perhaps the volunteer utilized the date of burial instead of the date of death for that final entry. At any rate, you can be sure I’ll be looking for a way to get my hands on a copy of that obituary.

The same thing seems to have happened for James’ younger brother William. The newspaper index gave William A. Kelley’s date of death as September 18, 1914. The Find A Grave entry countered with September 19. Hmmm.

Regardless, the Find A Grave entries show the same burial location for these two descendants as that of the rest of the family—at least those I’ve found so far.

I’ve yet to discover what became of siblings John, Thomas and Bridget. And while I think I’ve found Mary Ann and Rose, both of them will require a bit more explanation than I have room for here. Marriage can make things so much more complicated.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Kelly By Any Other Name—or Spelling

Even though I knew to expect spelling variations as I researched the Kelley family in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, every time I saw the alternate rendition—Kelly, without the extra “e”—it made me hesitate. You know me: I couldn’t suppress that urge to doubt, to double check.

Finding the Kelley siblings listed in the 1860 census helped begin the process of locating their final resting place—and gleaning the dates of those key life events. While I already mentioned what became of the unmarried Kelley siblings yesterday, there were apparently two—besides Catherine, our direct ancestor—who had married. Today, we’ll look at what can be found of the easiest to research of the two: Thomas.

Depending on which year the record was produced, Thomas’ given name was appended to either a surname spelled Kelley, or the slightly shorter Kelly.

While I have yet to find Thomas’ unmarried siblings in the 1870 census, it was fairly easy to locate Thomas. Easy, that is, if it was our Thomas who was already married, with three children. His surname, after all, had that year undergone that spelling change from the old, consistent Kelley.

The 1870 census showed Thomas’ wife to be named Bridget. Their family included six year old son, James, and four year old son John—strangely echoing the naming pattern begun by his deceased sister Catherine and her husband John Stevens almost twenty years before. Perhaps Thomas and Bridget were adhering to the tradition of the Irish naming patterns, thus suggesting that Bridget’s father’s name would turn out to be John. Daughter Mary Ann followed these two sons, still only one year of age.

The 1880 census—still sporting that shortened Kelly surname without the superfluous trailing “e”—showed a household full of children. Joining James, John and Mary Ann at the Green Street, Lafayette, home were newer arrivals Thomas, Rosa, Bridget and William. “Willie,” as he was listed in the census record, was a two-month-old baby at the time of the June 12 enumeration, with his birth month entered on the page as March.

By the time of the 1900 census, Bridget had been widowed, though she still had two of the youngest of her children with her—Rose and William. As the record revealed that seven of the ten children she had given birth to were still living, we can presume that represented the seven names we’ve gleaned from the 1880 census, encouraging us to seek out those names in census entries of their own.

But what if this isn’t the right Thomas Kelly family? Let’s see what else can bolster our confidence on this line and their relation to our own Kelly family.

Keep in mind, for this county, the only available online resources for marriages are various indexed iterations of the same marriage records. Thankfully, they provide a peek into who it was that Thomas married, and when. One index showed Thomas’ wife’s name to be Bridgett Dolan, and the date of their Tippecanoe County wedding to be January 20, 1864. Another index agreed—down to the date and county name—though dropping the extra “t” in the bride’s name. Both records kept the older Kelley spelling for the newlyweds.

Yet, that isn’t sufficient to insure that it was our Thomas Kelley’s bride. What can I do, stuck here in California at this point, though? There is no other documentation online that can help me out now. But we can possibly discern this through other circumstantial information.

An interesting thing happened when I tried tracing which—if any—Kelley or Kelly burials might be available for viewing online at the website, Find A Grave. Thankfully, as I mentioned before, one Catholic cemetery in Lafayette has a sizeable representation on that website, and apparently, the Kelley/Kelly family preferred utilizing the services of that particular cemetery.

I first pulled up the record of Thomas’ wife, Bridget, who had died much later than Thomas, in 1919. If you take a look at the photograph of the headstone provided at Find A Grave, you will notice that it is rather difficult to read the entry for Bridget’s name—while that of her husband is very clearly affixed right next to it. And yes, his name was Thomas.

While it is not as clearly delineated, apparently, both Thomas and Bridget were buried with a number of their children—and with Thomas’ two unmarried siblings, Matthew and Rose. By clicking the hyperlink for each of their names, you can see the cemetery plot location matches for each of them.

Yes, Matthew and Rose have their records entered as Kelley, while the headstone for the family plot reads, quite clearly, Kelly. But the fact that each of those previously documented unmarried siblings are both buried in the same family plot with someone sharing the same name as their brother Thomas almost surely rules out the possibility that one family chose to be charitable and share their burial ground with another, unrelated family—regardless of those idiosyncracies of spelling.

Unless I find out something wildly different when I send for the actual documentation for Thomas and Bridget, I’m going to presume these two Kellys belong to the same family as the other Kelleys.

Not to mention, by this same process, I was able to go through the Kelly and Kelley listings for Saint Mary’s Cemetery on Find A Grave, and locate all the rest of the family sharing that same plot location, yielding the pertinent dates for some of the seven surviving children of Thomas and Bridget mentioned in that 1880 census record—the last time the family was documented as being all together.    

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Same Address, Forever

Finding the 1860 and 1880 census records for the Kelley family near Lafayette, Indiana, opened up the possibility of tracing an entirely new line related to my husband’s great-great grandmother, Catherine Kelly Stevens.

The only challenge to pursuing that goal, however, was adhering to that tacit understanding that spelling was not the forte of nineteenth century census enumerators. What might show as Kelley in one year could just as easily be reported as Kelly in another decade.

Couple that inconsistency with the leniency with which the Irish-American families in those years reported their ages, and a whole world of uncertainty could open up for the tentative researcher.

As it turns out, though the surname for this family was spelled differently at times, they all seemed to end up in the same place—or at least nearby. That became the way provided to circumvent those reporting difficulties: the records left behind at each person’s passing, confirming the location of their graves in the same family plot.

Fortunately, the Catholic cemeteries in Tippecanoe County—most notably Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Lafayette—are well represented among the volunteer-driven transcriptions available online at sites such as Find A Grave. Cross checking for both variations on the surname’s spelling—Kelly and Kelley—I could reconstruct the vital statistics for most of the names represented in those two census records in which I had first located the family.

Drawing from the 1860 census, where the four siblings were living together with their widowed mother, Mary Kelley, I gleaned the tentative figures for their years of birth. Mathew was born around 1822, Rose following in 1827, Thomas a decade behind in 1837, and the youngest, Ann, arriving around 1839.

While the cemetery records on Find A Grave didn’t provide a year of birth, they did include age at death. A little math work showed that the dates were within a workable range, giving a vote of confidence that we are looking at the right Kelley family.

Mathew, the oldest of the 1860 listing, was listed at age seventy when he passed on August 17, 1895. That would put his year of birth as 1825, which wasn’t exactly the 1822 gleaned from the 1860 census, but the difference was still within reason. With the spelling of his name recorded only slightly different—as Matthew Kelley—he was buried in the Blessed Virgin Addition of Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Lafayette, in Bock 101, Lot A.

Buried in the same plot as his sister Rose, she had preceded him by several years, passing away on March 21, 1888. According to cemetery records, she was sixty years of age at the time of her death, putting her year of birth in Ireland at 1828, only one year off from that showing on the 1860 census.

What became of the other two siblings—Thomas and Ann—took a little more perseverance to uncover. Ann, apparently, had married some time after the 1860 census, adopting a surname that suffered some spelling variations of its own—something we’ll explore in a couple days.

Ann’s remaining brother, as it turned out, was buried—along with his wife and some of their children—in the same family plot where Matthew and Rose were located, but Thomas’ surname was spelled in the cemetery records and on the headstone as Kelly, not Kelley. His death on July 11, 1895—barely one month shy of his brother Matthew’s passing—coupled with the note “age sixty” to produce a year of birth of 1835, two years earlier than that 1860 census record had it. We’ll explore what can be found on Thomas and his children tomorrow.

How tentative it felt to include both Kelly and Kelley descendants in that one family—and all in the same burial plot. If it weren’t for the inclusion of the plot location in each entry on Find A Grave, I’d still be doubting whether I should include all those names in the same family. Spelling may be an artifact of our own modern times, but while it was certainly not as standardized a century ago as it is now, at least we can rely on the stabilizing force of that one constant, final address.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dissecting Exhibit A

There in the 1860 census—where I hadn’t been able to find it for oh, so many years—was the missing connection for the three motherless Stevens boys I had been seeking: a household containing what looked like the siblings of the now-deceased Catherine Kelly Stevens.

Of course, the 1860 census didn’t provide the convenient labels to inform us of familial relationships. We can handily deduce that James, John and William weren’t children of the head of the household—thirty eight year old Mathew Kelley—for they carried their own father’s surname, Stevens. As for the rest of the household, though, there was no way to easily sort out each of those Kelleys.

To start with, here is what we were given: a household with Rose Kelley, age thirty three, Thomas Kelley, age twenty three, and Ann Kelley, age twenty one. In addition to farmer Mathew, the residence included one other person bearing a label: “widow” Mary Kelley, age seventy.

It was fairly intuitive to guess that Mary was the mother of the household—but which ones of the rest were her children, and which ones might be in-laws? The age groupings lent themselves well to a scenario of mother Mary with sons Mathew and Thomas, with their respective wives, Rose and Ann.

But was it really that way?

To determine the right family constellation, I’d have to look to the next census—but finding these names clustered in one household in Indiana for 1870 proved to be a challenge I couldn’t surmount. Wherever Mathew and company disappeared for that subsequent enumeration, I don’t know.

Thankfully, the family made a reprise for the 1880 showing—well, at least two of them. As Iggy had mentioned in yesterday’s comments, by the time of the 1880 census, Mathew and “Rosa” had moved to Tippecanoe County. Along with them, also resurfacing after an absence during the 1870 census, was one William H. Stevens—still sporting that 1858 year of birth.

The beauty of finding them for the 1880 census was that this record provided a listing of family relationships. In this document, not only do we have verification that William was indeed the nephew of Mathew Kelley—thus cementing the relationship between William’s mother Catherine and this Kelley family—but we also confirm that Rosa was not Mathew’s wife, but actually his sister.

In every research foray, there is the likelihood that you’ll win some and you’ll lose some. Though we gained a clearer picture of the relationships between Mathew, Rose and William, we now were missing Thomas, Ann and Mary. With Mary at seventy years of age in the 1860 census, it’s likely she was no longer with the family—perhaps resting in that third, dateless, grave in the family plot at Greenbush Cemetery. If Ann were Thomas’ sister and not his wife, that would present another challenge to overcome. Searching for Thomas may well uncover what should be our next research move shortly.

There is one more detail we’ve gained by this 1880 census discovery, however: the possibility of a whole new branch of the Kelley line, with the appearance of the fourth person in Mathew’s household. Whoever A. M. Crahan was, as Mathew’s niece, she opened up the possibility of an explanation of what became of Ann Kelley.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Oh, Wow...
Oh, Wow...

Perhaps it is the protracted struggle to find that specific detail which just refuses to be found. Perhaps it is the effort. Perhaps it is merely the passing of time—lots of time—yielding nonetheless no results. Whatever the cause of the tension, once the obstacle breaks loose, it sometimes brings with it a flood of emotion.

After putting the Wednesday post to bed for the night, I couldn’t shake loose of the title I had given it: Where’s William? My mind kept wondering, so I supposed one more peek wouldn’t hurt. After all, there wouldn’t be anything to show for yet another attempt. I already knew that.

I pulled up and set my parameters, stubbornly deciding to include the year of birth matching that of his mother’s death: 1858. I knew there were several documents asserting that the date of William’s birth was really 1860, so I compromised and entered a date range that would capture both. After all, you know how it is with those Irish: the older they get, the younger they look on paper, until they get so young, they die—then when they can't deny it any longer, they get pinned with an age that’s really old.

I played around with the search parameters a bit. I also wanted to insert the surname Kelly—or Kelley, as some cemetery records had listed William’s mother and her plot-mates. It was my hunch that, if not some kind souls in their church, it was relatives who took in those three motherless boys after Catherine Kelly Stevens’ death.

But who? I didn’t know of any siblings Catherine might have had. All I knew was that she was buried with a Kelley named James, and another named Mary. I presumed they were her parents, but try as I might to find passenger records with a grouping of those three names, I failed. Nor could I find them in the 1850 census, the last census for which Catherine would have been included.

Looking for a Stevens sibling proved fruitless, too. While I did find a Declaration of Intent filed almost exactly one year after John Stevens filed his—attributed to a Hugh Stevens who followed the exact same route through New Orleans that John had taken—I could not find that name in any records in the Tippecanoe County area any time after the 1850s date in which he signed it.

So, late that night, I promised myself just one more “quick” look to see if I could find anything.

You know what happened.

Even narrowing the search terms, I was faced with the prospect of going, page by page through the results, in hopes of finding just the right William Stevens.

Pine Village in Adams Township directly to west of the city of Lafayette IN
Narrowing the document results to 1860, I did locate one possibility. A two year old boy named William Stevens showed up—not in Tippecanoe County, as I had expected, but in the John Quincy Adams Township of a neighboring county, Warren County. Just over the Wabash River from Lafayette, where John and Catherine Stevens had lived in the mid 1850s, Pine Village in “J. Q. Adams” Township was a straight shot down the road a piece. Like, oh, twenty two miles.

But close enough.

What caught my breath was not the fact that William Stevens was in the household of Mathew Kelley, but that he wasn’t the only Stevens in the household. There, along with him in that 1860 document, was a five year old James Stevens and a four year old John Stevens. Perfectly spaced to match, exactly, the ages of our missing three Stevens children.

And, oh: besides the listing for Mathew, Rose, Thomas and Ann Kelley, there was an older woman, seventy years of age, in the household. Her name was Mary Kelley.

Despite the late hour, I know it wasn’t the exhaustion of the day that lit upon me at that moment. There are just some times—sublime moments—which breathe upon you an inexplicable desire to tremble…or cry…or just stare unblinking at the simple report facing you.

It wasn’t my imagination. Seemingly on the same wavelength, Iggy found the entry, too. He emailed me with the link the next morning—his found courtesy of It was so gratifying to look at the digitized version of the actual document, to see it with my own eyes.

Still, that long-sought find brought with it more questions. What if this was just a coincidental matching of some fairly common names? Would it be likely to be the right family, given the different county location? And, more important, where were they all in the 1870 census?

I decided the best thing to do, to insure that I had the right family, was to trace this family forward in time. The next step would be to find Mathew, Rose, Thomas and Ann Kelley in census records for 1870 and perhaps even for 1880. That would be helpful, since the 1860 census did not include any indication of relationships between members of a household. And if I’d be so fortunate as to find records of one of these Kelley family members passing in a year recent enough to include report of his or her parents’ names and origins, I might even break through the barrier hindering me from accessing the next generation.

But all that would have to wait for another day. After all, I had promised myself "just one more look."

Map, above, showing the townships of Warren County, Indiana; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Revisiting an Old Cemetery

It’s been years since our family stopped by Lafayette, Indiana, the county seat of Tippecanoe County. Just over one hundred miles southeast of Chicago, it made a handy resting spot just off the Interstate on our way from family visits in Chicago to see relatives in Columbus, Ohio. I always was careful to have a quick research goal to accomplish on the drive by.

On one visit, we planned to locate the grave of Catherine Kelly Stevens—the young mother who had died just after the birth of her third son. Best I could tell, she was buried at a place called Greenbush Cemetery.

To prepare for that trip—a quick stop of only a few hours before we got back on the road—I had to make sure to glean all the details I could. Somehow, I located a record through a GenWeb posting—keep in mind, this was years before the widespread dependence on sites like Find A Grave. It showed a family plot at Greenbush Cemetery which included an entry for a “Catherin K. Stephens” who died May 3, 1858.

Not being able to find much on Greenbush Cemetery online, I resorted to asking around in the online genealogical forums of the time—Rootsweb and GenForum. I hadn’t even been able to find information on where the cemetery was located, much less where Catherine’s headstone could be found. All I could think of was arriving at a huge cemetery after office hours had ended, staring at rows upon hundreds of rows of grave markers with no clue where to begin searching.

I wasn’t going to let that happen to me this time.

I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but somewhere in the midst of posting queries to the online forums, I got a response from a volunteer named LouAnn Clugh. Not only was she eager to help by giving me directions to the cemetery, but she gave me her phone number and told me to call when I had an idea of when I’d be arriving in town.

The night before our family left for our road trip, I called LouAnn—remember, this episode predated cell phones, too. I was delighted to hear she had actually prepared for our arrival by going out to the cemetery herself, clearing out the area and leaving a marker to help me find the headstone.

“It’s a little hard to read,” she warned me.

I started getting concerned, wondering what I was getting us into with this adventure. My mind conjured up stories of forgotten burial places of centuries gone by, long deserted, all but for thorns and snakes and other vile intruders. I was losing my zest for this project rapidly.

LouAnn assured me it was nothing like I was imagining. Greenbush was just an old cemetery—no office on the grounds—and I simply needed to know where I was going.

The Greenbush Cemetery turned out to be one with quite a history. It was the site of some of Lafayette’s earliest burials. It even boasted a row of burials of Civil War prisoners—thirty three rebels captured from the battle at Fort Donelson who died while in custody in Lafayette. Somehow, my husband’s great-great grandmother was also in there.

It helped to have LouAnn’s marker pointing the way for us at Greenbush. As you can imagine, a simple slim headstone from 1853 would, by now, be looking quite weathered. When I saw how little of it could be read—let alone photographed—I regretted not being prepared to do a rubbing in hopes of eliciting hints about what those indistinct ripples on the stone were trying to tell us. Under the insignia for the church, one or maybe two lines where the name would have been were impossible to read. Under that could be barely made out the lines “wife of John Stevens.” The last three lines were the clearest, but still hard to decipher:
May 3, 1858
Aged 28 yrs.

LouAnn had also helped me by accessing the records for the Greenbush burials. It was she who informed me that Catherine was buried with a James Kelley, aged sixty years, who had died September 1, 1853, and with a Mary Kelley. Unfortunately, Mary’s entry in the records included absolutely no information—no dates, no age, no other explanation.

There was another person buried in that plot, too. A mystery person, her name was given as Mable Stephens. An infant, she was eleven months and twenty one days of age when she died on September 21, 1870. Could she have been a child of John Stevens and his second wife, Eliza?

It’s been years since my afternoon stroll through Greenbush Cemetery, aided by the assistance of that local genealogy volunteer. Despite all those years—and regardless of the hours I’ve put in on researching this family—I really know not much more than I did then about Catherine Kelly Stevens.

It took the promise of a trip to Catherine’s homeland to prompt me to revisit what I could find in the world of online resources that has opened up to us since my visit to the city of Lafayette so long ago. One of the first sites I visited in this last iteration of research forays was to Find A Grave. I was excited and encouraged to see that there was an entry there for Catherine—including a photograph of the headstone—but even more so, to learn that the volunteer who had posted that entry was none other than LouAnn Clugh, the very same person who had guided me to Catherine’s burial site so many years ago.

Thanks to Find A Grave, I was able to get back in touch with LouAnn to thank her for posting Catherine’s information. More than that, Find A Grave provided a clear picture of how dedicated this volunteer has been over the years. LouAnn has been a constant source of genealogical postings on websites and through many restoration projects—a real inspiration through what she has accomplished.

Catherine Kelly Stevens died May 3 1858 Lafayette Indiana
She told me that the photograph of Catherine’s headstone—which came out clearer than I remembered it—was still a challenge to capture digitally. With her permission, I’ve shared the photo as she posted it on Find A Grave, so you can see for yourself. She had properly washed the stone in hopes of seeing the letters pop a bit more—and I think some of them did—but the gap where Catherine’s name should be is still troubling. If it weren’t for having the cemetery records to rely on, there would be no guessing whose stone that represented.

Even so, there are some details that still keep me wonder: is this truly our Catherine Kelly Stevens?

Our Catherine Kelly Stevens’ headstone was found in Greenbush cemetery—maybe. It was in the same family plot as James Kelley (maybe her father?) and Mary Kelley (with no dates or explanation, but possibly her mother). But when I tried to figure out who the third person was—little Mable Stephens—I ran into clues that made me realize there is a very real possibility that, like so many other Irish names, this could simply be the resting place of yet another young mother with the very same name I’ve been seeking.

Photograph above, courtesy of LouAnn Clugh; used with the photographer's permission.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Where’s William?

While I am not entirely sure I’ve located the correct information on the Catherine Kelly who married my husband’s great-great grandfather, John Stevens, it has been possible to obtain some evidence about this particular Catherine Kelly. That, however, has only become possible, owing to records regarding her third-born and—ominously—final son, William H. Stevens.

I had already known that Catherine died young—best I can tell, in 1858—and that her untimely death was likely owing to complications following the birth of her third son, William. Perhaps as a result of the circumstances surrounding his arrival, William’s own date of birth had not been captured by any documents—at least not any that I can find.

That introduces a corollary difficulty in extrapolating the date of Catherine’s death, for depending on which document I rely upon to determine her baby’s date of birth, the year of her passing fluctuates somewhat. For instance, the 1900 census gives March, 1860, as the date William was born. The 1910 census advances his age, appropriately, ten years—providing a sense of confidence in this 1860 revelation.

Yet, to confirm this report, I am at a loss to find William in the 1880 census. He is not in his father’s household. The senior John Stevens had remarried soon after the loss of his first wife, and now had three daughters to raise.

Nor was William in his oldest brother’s home in that 1880 census. His brother James had married Ella Nash and was situated comfortably near the household of his in-laws—but with no sign of William anywhere on that census page. Their other brother—John Kelly Stevens, whom we’ve discussed in detail in the past—was also married and living across the state in Fort Wayne, with no sign of his brother William there.

That, incidentally, was the case even for the 1870 census. Though James and John were in the listing for the “Stephens” family’s household, along with their half-sisters—Sarah, Mary and Elizabeth—there was no sign of William. Ditto 1860, though William would have been an infant or very young child at that point—unless he was yet to be born.

On the other hand, a look at William’s June 8, 1939, obituary in the Lafayette, Indiana, Journal Courier, indicated the possibility of a year of birth a little earlier than 1860:
William Stevens, 81, lifelong resident of Tippecanoe County, died at 1 p.m. today at the County Farm where he had lived since 1935. Mr. Stevens had worked for many years as an employee of the Lafayette Street Railway Company. Surviving are the wife, and four children: Elmer, New York; Miss Ruth Stevens, New York; Mrs. Jesse Wood, Shoals; and Mrs. Delmar Bellinger, Ft. Huron, Michigan.

The implied year of birth as 1858, gained from this obituary detail, would conveniently match the supposed year of death of his mother, Catherine Kelly Stevens. But, given the absence of this child from his father’s census records, could it be possible that William wasn’t really Catherine’s son, and that she had died from other causes?

While indexed material is not as reliable as the documentation from which it is drawn, we do have three reports linking William to Catherine—but only vaguely.

One, a marriage index labeled Indiana Select Marriages, 1780-1992, provides the basic information on the June 29, 1892, marriage of William H. Stevens to Alice Munger in Tippecanoe County. Remember that bride’s name, Alice Munger, as we move through the various available indices to explore the evolution of transcription reporting.

The next entry I found was also extracted from the source cited above. A separate entry under the name “Wm. H. Stevens,” it included that same birth year of 1860, as well as the names of William’s father and mother. Seeing John Stevens given for the father’s name is predicable. The mother’s surname, however, was supplied as Riley—a discrepancy over which I’m not too concerned, seeing her first name was listed as “Catherne.” Perhaps that “R” was actually a “K” and the “i” really an “e.” I don’t get too concerned over this when I look ahead and realize that even the bride’s name wasn’t immune from clerical errors: Alice’s maiden name was provided as a choice between “Myer” or “Muryer.” Not at all the surname Munger which it was supposed to be. Perhaps the handwriting was so abysmal as to stump the transcriber.

Another source, Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941, provided “about 1860” as the estimate for William’s birth year, and transcribed his mother’s name as Catherine “Rilly”—a version from which the name “Kelly” could easily be extrapolated. In this case, again, William’s father’s name was cited as John.

Could the Catherine in the various transcriptions of William’s marriage record actually have represented a mis-read entry of the surname Kelly? With each of these instances being index formats only, with no provision allowing a glimpse at the handwriting in the original document, it is hard to tell. It seems reasonable to conclude that it was.

The question remains, though, about William: was he really the son of our John and Catherine Kelly Stevens? Why was he never in his father John’s household in any census records?

To settle the relationship question about William, two obituaries come into play. One, that of his brother John Kelly Stevens, which included in its 1929 listing of survivors, “one brother, William Stevens, of Lafayette.” The other, the 1926 obituary of his half-sister, Mary Stevens Mackessy, mentioned “another brother, William Stevens, of this city.”

Death record of brother of William Stevens with verification of names of their parents
With the first of these obituaries providing some confidence that William was related to a man for whom we know the parents were John and Catherine Kelly Stevens, and the second supporting the connection to that same elder John Stevens, it seems safe to believe that William’s mother was indeed our Catherine Kelly Stevens.

Still not being able to pinpoint the date of William’s birth, we’re nonetheless left with a fairly narrow date range of 1858-1860—both for William’s birth, and his mother’s passing.

With that, we’ll take a look at what can be found in Lafayette cemeteries for a Catherine Kelly Stevens who died there on or before 1860.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Another Kelly Connection

Pondering over the origin of John Stevens, Irish immigrant to Lafayette, Indiana, is not made any easier by examining the roots of his wife. As we’ve already discovered, research has been complicated by the fact that both John the father and John the son married women by the name of Catherine Kelly. Yet this earlier of the two Catherines has absolutely no paper trail to assist us in determining the place of her birth.

Family oral history had it that this Catherine came from Dublin, Ireland. I can’t support this in any way—and I get concerned about word of mouth when the one bearing the tale got confused, himself, over exactly which Catherine is which.

It would have perhaps made things easier for me, in this quest to research each of the Irish forbears, if John and Catherine had married before embarking on their trans-Atlantic odyssey. It appears, though, that they actually were married in Tippecanoe County, Indiana.

Even that introduces an element of doubt. The only record remotely matching the details of these two ancestors is a marriage entry in an index for a Catharine Kelly and John Stevenson. The date of the wedding was December 27, 1853—which fits, considering their oldest son, James, was born in 1854. While Stevens is not the same as Stevenson, admittedly, I can vouch for that same mistake being made in our family’s case even in current times, so I know it is possible. With spelling being what it was in those years, perhaps someone got carried away and added that last little flourish.

Or maybe I just have the wrong couple.

Monday, May 19, 2014

One Last Hurdle

In assessing all that needs to be done to ready myself for our planned research trip to Ireland later this year, there is yet one more surname needing further study: Stevens.

As much as I feel I know about the other Irish surnames in my husband’s family, the one we carry on a daily basis is the one I’ve been least successful at researching. How can that be?

I owe part of my difficulty to the unfortunate—though quite predictable—choice of given name for our earliest Stevens immigrant: John. But that is not the only reason I’m facing challenges. I’ve been told by some that the surname Stevens is not exactly an Irish surname. It is taken as an English name more than an Irish one.

Wikipedia designates the surname Stevens as “Anglo Saxon.” characterizes it as an English patronymic name derived from the given name, Steven, and provides maps indicating the prevalence of the surname in various parts of the United Kingdom—but not Ireland—in which the name occurred in the 1891 census. On the surname search section of The Irish Times, using data from Griffith’s Valuation from 1847 to 1864, it appears there are some Stevens families in several counties in Ireland, although The Irish Times also notes the larger proportion spell their name as Stephens rather than Stevens, and that this was also considered the surname of later English immigrants.

Fortunately—or at least that was how I felt when I first discovered it—I have a handy document to guide me to the location in Ireland from which our first Stevens immigrant came. True, I haven’t been able to push back in time any more since locating that document on a trip to Lafayette, Indiana, where the original John Stevens ended up, but I’m clinging fiercely to this slip of paper in hopes it will lead me somewhere.

The document—a declaration of intent—told me the story of John Stevens’ arrival in Indiana: that he was born in County Mayo, that he left Ireland via Liverpool, England, sailing to New Orleans in December, 1850, and then, presumably, up the Mississippi River and its tributaries to Lafayette, perched as it is on the Wabash.

Even though I was able to find another Declaration the subsequent year for a man named Hugh Stevens who repeated essentially that same route—assuming he was John’s relative—I was not able to trace either of them back to their homes in County Mayo. Nor, incidentally, was I able to find any trace, in subsequent years, of the mysterious Hugh.

Here I am, years after discovering those documents, still unable to even find passenger records for John or Hugh in New Orleans—let alone records of their life in County Mayo before that point.

Of all the stops we hope to make around the island of Ireland during our visit, County Mayo will be the one for which we are least informed. Though it is the surname we’ve carried down from those years long ago when John and Hugh first arrived on American soil, it is a name of which we know precious little.

To the Judges of the Tippecanoe Circuit Court in the State of Indiana:

John Stevens, being an alien and a free white person, makes the following report of himself; upon his solemn oath, declares, that he is aged 27 years; that he was born in the County of Mayo in the kingdom of Ireland; that he emigrated from Liverpool in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty; that he arrived in the United States, at the City of New Orleans in the State of Louisiana on the month of December eighteen hundred and fifty; that he owes allegiance to Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, and that it is bonafide his intention to become a citizen of the United States of America; and to renounce forever, allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty whatever; and particularly to Victoria, Queen as aforesaid of whom he is a subject.




Sworn to and subscribed before me, on the 4th day of August, AD 1851, Mark Jones, Clerk, T. C. C. by Fred W. Cole

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Back to Cranking It Out

There is nothing so disheartening as to turn up empty-handed after a solid stretch of earnest genealogical research. Almost as scary a position to find oneself in, as a genealogy researcher, is the exact opposite: finding too many results for a search inquiry.

Granted, looking for Mary Kelly in Irish records seems a bit foolhardy. Of course I would find an overwhelming number of hits. Kelly is quite the popular surname in Ireland, after all—and Mary is a prevalent choice for daughters across the emerald isle. It seems like a daunting task to think I could isolate the one that would be, specifically, mine.

Though her father’s name was John—yet another hopeless needle-in-haystack assignment—her mother’s name offered a slight ray of hope. Johanna Falvey didn’t seem quite as common a name. Perhaps coupling the three different names could bring some results.

As we saw yesterday, I was able to narrow some of those search results down to a manageable number. Maybe a little more in the results category would be helpful. Not too many, not too little—I am beginning to sound like I’m smitten with a bad case of the Goldilocks Syndrome.

Yesterday, I had focused on exploring what resources would be helpful in my current quest from For today, I tried my hand at resources at Yet just as FamilySearch seemed to offer too little, Ancestry seemed to offer too many. And none of them seemed to fit—either the date range didn’t match, or the parents had John without Johanna, or were in the wrong county.

I began to wonder whether I should just go back to square one. Yes, that means starting over again. In looking for traces of the John and Johanna Kelly family, I realized they were the last of our Irish immigrant families to arrive in the United States. Perhaps they—of all the families I’ve searched so far—might have been the most likely to carry records of their Irish origin to their new American homeland.

I had to groan when I realized that this Kelly and Falvey family were some of the first ones I had researched via the old-fashioned methods of cranking out microfilm records at a dusty, uncomfortable research center. Back when I did it, I hadn’t the slightest notion of what I was seeking. My approach was more scatter-shot: look for anyone with a connection to these Kelly names: John, Johanna, Timothy, Catherine, Mary, Patrick, and, again, John.

Of course, at the same time I was scrolling through the film on Fort Wayne church records, I was also seeking anything I could find on the other Irish family members we had in that same city. The Stevens and related lines kept me quite busy there, too.

In all that initial attempt, could I have missed anything I now know better?

That was what prompted me to revisit what now is a vastly re-organized website of to find the original microfilms I had once droned through. Wandering my way through the beta version on that “Catalog” tab on the website, I finally figured out how to pull up the results for Fort Wayne, Allen County, church records. Checking the obituaries for John and Johanna to confirm the location of their church home, I scrolled through just over one hundred search results to find the microfilm for Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church records.

Just as I remembered it from so many years ago, this church’s records spanned three reels of film—thankfully subdivided by reel number and item number to help hone my search. Not that I’m looking forward to it, I realize this may be a helpful exercise in reminding me to keep an eye open to the details of a stray notation by a priest—a mention of a former parish, a clue about a homeland origin. I’ve seen it happen before. Maybe one more pass through this way will bring up just what I’m seeking.

If nothing else, it will remind me of how grateful I should be about the finding aids at our fingertips today.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Just Beyond My Grasp

It’s been wonderful, knowing I can research details of my family history from the comfort of my own home, moving not much more than my fingertips across a keyboard. There are resources available, everything from, the long-established repository for all things genealogical, to fresh ideas, like Ireland’s brainchild for reaching out to curious descendants of the famine’s diaspora, Ireland Reaching Out.

My only problem: I seem to arrive at these promising websites either too early or too late.

Take With the roll out of their latest iteration of their website, the Church of Latter Day Saints incorporated the device of the “wiki” to create their own version of Wikipedia: a finding aid for genealogical research, honed down to the smallest geographical designations. Since I had recently discovered that FamilySearch included some Irish records for County Kerry—the very location of the next family on my get-ready-for-Ireland quest—I decided to do a search there for the family of our ancestors, John and Johanna Falvey Kelly.

Using only FamilySearch's database labeled “Irish Births and Baptisms 1620-1881,” I narrowed down my parameters until I reached a likely cohort of sixteen hits. Among that manageable number of results, there were four possibilities of specific interest:
·       Mary Kelly, born 18 September, 1864, in “Molahiffe”
·       Mary Kelly, born 20 March, 1867, in “County Kerry”
·       Mary Kelly, born 20 March, 1867, in “Molahiffe”
·       Mary Kelly, born 24 March, 1867, in “Currow”

Each of these results named as parents a variation on the spellings for John Kelly as father and Johanna Falvey as mother.

Googling “Molahiffe, County Kerry” brought several results, which I was eager to follow. The first one turned out to be the wiki page for FamilySearch’s entry by that name. “Wonderful,” I thought, “I’m finally getting to check out a FamilySearch wiki. I’ve always meant to do that.”

But when I got to the page, it was evidently the boilerplate format provided so a well-meaning volunteer could take the template and run with it.

Another Google result for my eager search on my new-found location was the County Kerry page on Ireland Reaching Out. This was a government-sanctioned program launched with much fanfare a few years back—and oh, how I wish I were part of the flagship enterprise that was feted with accolades upon their early successes—but it apparently has fallen out of the limelight. The latest entry for the County Kerry page for Molahiffe parish was dated January 30 of 2013.

Not to be discouraged, I try to remember how much I have yet to learn about these Irish ancestors, and how many resources are still out there, inviting me to mount this steep learning curve. After all, I only have four more months to learn so much.

Though all I could find online for Molahiffe baptismal records was a site that did not include any Kelly or Falvey records, I can take a look at other pockets of stuff online as I find them—like the old Rootsweb site for Kerry Online Records. I can even play around with the Surname Search page at The Irish Times.

I can refocus my sites on learning about the Lordship of Molahiffe—if, indeed, this is the region from which our Falvey ancestors hailed. Hey, this lordship comes complete with a castle. Wouldn’t it be cool to go visit it? After all, someday this keyboard traveler will convert from virtual to real traveler.
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