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.    


  1. Extra "e"s... extra "t"s... Ugh!!!

    1. The "e" I can cope with. The "t"??? Sometimes those extra letters make me wonder what people were thinking. Gilding the lily.


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