Friday, June 27, 2014

The Guy With The Right Middle Initial

So, what about John Creahan from Lafayette, Indiana—the one with the right middle initial? Tracing the descent of our Kelly family from that Tippecanoe County location, it would be important to not get tangled up in the wrong line.

Apparently, our John Creahan, son of Michael and Bridget Kelly Creahan, was born in the same city about two years before the John Creahan who was son of Thomas and Catherine Cleary Creahan. I was thankfully alerted to that snare when I first found the obituary for the other John’s wife, Catherine Dolan Creahan, on her Find A Grave memorial.

Our John Creahan—John E. Creahan—was born about 1864. With the other John arriving around 1867, I struggled with records morphing John T. to John F., which then became dangerously close to John E. With the sole identifier differentiating between the two John Creahans being that fragile—and often mistakenly entered—middle initial, perhaps it was with some relief that I found the record of each man’s marriage. From that point on—that wedding day in 1891—I  could safely look for signs of wife May R. Frawley to insure I had the right John Creahan.

Perhaps Lafayette, Indiana, was too small a town to hold two John Creahans, for sometime in the early 1900s, our John moved his family—as had so many others in this Kelly line—to Chicago. There, in the 1910 census, was the Creahan family on Superior Avenue: then forty six year old John, with his wife listed mistakenly as Mary, along with their two children, Charles and Edna.

The move to Chicago was not long lived. By 1916, The Tippecanoe County Democrat was reporting that “Mr. and Mrs. John E. Creahan” had returned to the now-no-longer-existent Oakland Heights just outside their former hometown of Lafayette. Their daughter Edna returned with them, but while there was a fourth family member in the Creahan household in the 1920 census, that fourth person was May’s brother John, not her son Charles.

It turned out that the family’s detour to Chicago had been a fortuitous move for young Charles Creahan. By the time John and May decided to move back to Indiana, Charles was twenty four years of age—a young adult just hitting his stride in his own business endeavors. He decided to stay in his new hometown.

Who knows what makes families decide to move from one place to another. I can’t yet say why John and May Creahan chose to leave Lafayette to move to Chicago. It certainly wasn’t the kind of place where his niece or nephew had fared well—and maybe that’s what John found out, once he arrived there, himself. Maybe that’s what caused him to turn around and head back home. Still, that small segment of time leading up to 1916 was just what John’s young son needed to launch his own career and life’s trajectory. Such are those slivers of time that can make all the difference.


  1. Researchers less careful than yourself willy nilly combine and confuse people with similar yet different middle initials and then share their twisted trees all over the internet thereby perpetuating the confusion. This is such a good example of the benefits of slowing down long enough to get to know the people you research.

    I too have those ancestors that picked up and moved for seemingly no reason. Thank goodness for the little clues that help us track them.

    1. Thankfully, when ancestors moved, I have generally been able to figure out the rationale behind the move--for the most part. It's those cases of same names that worry me--the two with the same year of birth, same given and surname with maybe one little initial missing (or mangled). I get really cautious when it comes to dealing with them. Many times, it turns out that the twin identities are owing to the fact that the two are cousins, making the search even more frustrating. There's just something about getting everything--and everyone--right that is a gigantic motivator.

  2. Getting it right, and admitting when you goof up - that's how I always try to do it. Forgotten Photos, for instance - sometimes all you can do is say, "This might be" but a lot of people don't seem to hear "qualifiers". I just delete the comments I make when I find I am flat out wrong. Spreading mistakes is not what I want to be doing.

    1. Sometimes it helps to actually see the mistaken path laid out--to examine where the mistaken step was taken. I sometimes am concerned that someone might not read between the lines carefully enough to realize I'm writing about a hypothesis I'm testing, or even a mistake I've uncovered...but sometimes, we just have to know that people are going to make of it what they will. Hopefully, the trail already laid out--warnings of mistaken twists and turns included--will eventually be of help to someone else coming along the same way.


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