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?


  1. I've had the same weirdness happen with Findagrave: I enter a name. Nothing. I enter a cemetery and search for a particular surname, and the name I was looking for pops up. Same spelling. Why did it not pop up the first time?? Crazy!

  2. I have found that punctuation in names causes grief at times.

    Find A Grave is using the ' apostrophe. If you cut and paste the name out some documents, you actually get a different symbol -- O’Connor looks like O'Connor but the apostrophe in the first is from Microsoft Word and it results in no hits in Find A Grave and the second one, from notepad, does.

    The details are better explained here:


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