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.


  1. Well, some people aren't too good with telling time - perhaps the newsroom had a mildly defective calendar? :)

    Sounds like you are really on a tear tracking these folks down! I can't wait until you go "back" and see where they all came from...

  2. Making progress sorting them out! :)

    1. Sometimes, it reminds me of that saying, "When it rains, it pours." There's such an ebb and flow to all this. Right now, I'm on the overwhelmed side...


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