Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Concerning Creahan Cousins

When someone hands a genealogist an obituary, what do you suppose would come next? Every name, date, and detail would be vacuumed off the page of newsprint and deposited into a family tree database, of course.

I know I would. Wouldn’t you?

Now that I’ve tentatively identified Michael Creahan’s wife—the first one, not the second one, as I was surprised to discover last week—I’ve also gleaned four possible distant cousins to our Kelly line in Lafayette, Indiana. I best be checking these four Creahans out to see if I can find any distant cousins from that family.

One of the first steps I took was to look for Kelly connections. I hesitated to try searching using the surname Creahan—even though that would seem to be the logical choice in this case—because the name was riddled with spelling woes. As I’ve already discovered, the name had shown up on FamilySearch and in every permutation imaginable—everything from Crehan versus Crahan, to Craghan, Cuhan, and even Csehan. Adding miserable handwriting specimens to the spelling challenge was a recipe for catastrophe.

So I tried something different. I’ve mentioned this trick before: leave the initial search box empty, then fill in other details in the boxes below that for parents’ names. In this case, I searched on for residents of Tippecanoe County whose marriage records included the spouse’s surname drawn from Anna Creahan's obituary, plus the target person’s parents' names as Michael and Bridget. And, since Bridget’s maiden name was relatively safe in the spelling and transcription categories, I entered Kelly.

From that attempt on, I received hits for three marriages: Anna Crehan to John Quinlish, Ella “Csehan” to Scott W. Tumison, and John E. Crehan to May Frawley. Those matched up rather nicely with Mrs. John P. Quinlisk, Mrs. Ella Fulk, and John E. Creahan of the 1917 obituary of their step-mother, Anna Cunningham Creahan.

At least I hoped so.

While the only one missing from the obituary list of surviving step-children was Mrs. Julia Sullivan of Denver, Colorado, I thought this was an encouraging start. For one thing, it lined up rather nicely with the 1870 census record I was able to find, showing the Creahan family just after Michael had lost his wife, Bridget Kelly Creahan. The oldest child, Ellen, was born about 1859, followed by Julia in 1861, John in 1864, and baby Anna in 1867.

The bonus about this 1870 census find was the possible indicator that not only did Michael marry a Bridget, but his mother’s name may also have been Bridget—at least, his household included an eighty four year old woman by that name. In addition, another member of the household, fifty three year old Patrick, may have been Michael’s brother. Of course, with the 1870 census lacking any indicators of relationships, it would be premature to assume this, but it doesn’t hurt to file these notions away for further testing.

Finding the 1870 census also helped point the way to the 1860 census—although frustratingly, and perhaps on account of the spelling woes encountered with this surname, I was only able to locate the 1860 census record for this family on But there it was—transcribed as Creham—including Michael, Anna, and baby Ellen.

My next step, of course, will be to try and locate any records to corroborate these findings. Locating death records for the next generation would be handy, if they include the decedent’s parents’ names. I have already found enough clues to tip me off about going cautiously here. After all, besides the spelling woes, I’ve located marriage records for the September 21, 1998, Tippecanoe County wedding of John Quinlish and Anna Crehan and John Quinlisk and Annie Clemons. Both records were gleaned from indexed collections, and it’s my guess that, occurring on the same date, they represent two mis-copied versions of the same occasion. Regardless of the cause for the discrepancy, that clues me in to the need to proceed carefully.

Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to also find obituaries for each of these children of Michael and Bridget Creahan—to find another confirmation of their parents’ names. With a green light like that, I’ll be off and running, seeking information on the next generation of these Kelly descendants. I may be finding myself some Kelly cousins after all.


  1. If it isn't varied spellings, it's the indexer's transcription. As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, "It's always something."

  2. You know something.... I bet there were some "deaf" or hearing impaired folks back then, just like there are now, and I can see that in an age before hearing aides, how folks would just stumble and bumble along -- Crea-han and Cle-mon could have been the same "name" and misheard. Who knows...

  3. Anna's death certificate, lists her birth date as Sept 2 1874, again that is second hand information. Since Anna was in the 1870 census, I like the date of 2 Sept 1867 for birth date


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