Monday, July 14, 2014

All I Wanted Was a Clue

It is sometimes frustrating, looking for ancestors in larger cities. It is so easy to run across a name that matches your target name exactly—but turns out to represent someone totally unrelated to your own line.

That’s the problem I’ve been having in trying to trace Julia Creahan Sullivan, daughter of Michael and Bridget Kelly Creahan of Lafayette, Indiana. Sure, it would have helped if Julia had chosen to stay at home, where the population was magnitudes smaller than in her adopted city of Denver, Colorado. But she didn’t.

Granted, we’ve been able to eliminate several Julia Sullivans in this search as non-candidates for this Julia’s identity. But there is still one small matter to address: is the Julia Sullivan I’m trying to trace in Denver the right Julia Sullivan? After all, even this one might be the wrong one.

All I’ve wanted to find was one document identifying this Julia—or whichever other one it might turn out to be—as the correct descendant of Michael and Bridget Creahan. All I’ve gotten so far is a promising lead, with a Julia Sullivan who, though widowed, had a son with the same name as the man our Julia had supposedly married.

Perhaps Colorado is one of those states which chose not to divulge documents identifying their past residents. It certainly has been difficult locating any records to help me find what became of this Julia—especially the date of her death, the key to a death certificate which would answer my questions in one simple page.

At this point, I’m left with the connect-the-dots routine of piecing together information via each year’s city directory and comparing it to census records showing the family members—in hopes that tracing the descendants would one day lead to a document with the coveted mother’s maiden name entry to resolve my dilemma.

As for archived newspapers, while the occasional hit can be immensely revealing, most of the articles I’ve uncovered with the names of Julia, her mystery husband, or their children have turned out to be for others with the same name. In seeking Julia’s husband, Thomas, in Denver newspapers, the many search results I’ve found have named victims of barroom brawls, perpetrators of crimes, and participants in other escapades which may or may not have been those of the man I’ve been seeking—results frustratingly not much different than those I’ve experienced while seeking information on Julia, herself.

In the theory that this Julia Sullivan is the right one to pursue, I’ve tracked her through the census records from 1900 through 1930. In both the 1900 census and that for 1910, the widowed Julia claimed the same four children—sons Thomas F. Sullivan, Jr., and Harry A., plus daughters Florence and Regina. By the time of the 1920 census, the household composition changed slightly to show only one child missing—the eldest son, Thomas, who may have been one of the two married Thomas F. Sullivans showing in the annual city directories. Maybe.

The 1930 census may have been Julia’s last. There, she was listed as the sixty year old head of household, now with only two of her children—Harry and Florence. Regina, missing from the household, may have married or, as often happened back then, died early. By 1940, Julia herself was missing from the Sullivan household, with the two remaining Sullivan descendants, Harry and Florence—both still single professional people—listed with an older woman designated as their maid.

There is no burial information on Julia that I can find. No obituary. No handy Find A Grave listing. The only trace of a possibility might be a line found back in Julia’s hometown, in the index for names mentioned in the Lafayette, Indiana Journal and Courier:
Sullivan, Mrs. Julia  d - 10 July 1930.

How likely is that to be the same Julia Sullivan as the one who left home over forty years earlier to become part of the adventure of life in a booming western town like Denver?


  1. Now wouldn't that be ironic! The Wizard of Oz Syndrome - like Dorothy who traveled so far only to find what she really wanted was right there at home all along.

    1. ...and I could sure use a good fairy right now, the kind that taps her wand and makes it all so, for me to have the obituary, cemetery documentation and death record showing this Julia's maiden name. It's sounding more and more like a fairy tale, the further I delve into this line.

  2. I'm still surprised there were 3 (if I counted right) Julia Sullivan's running around in Denver back in 1900!

    1. At first, I was surprised as well, Iggy, but perhaps the name Julia was all the rage back then. Who knows.

      There may even have been more than three, because I discovered that married women listed under their husband's name would only be counted if I had scanned the entire set of Sullivan entries--not just those alphabetized under the first name "Julia." I think I noticed a fourth Julia Sullivan that way...there might be more, but I just couldn't bring myself to do the grunt work. Three is enough to confuse me ;)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...