Saturday, August 9, 2014

No Clue on Kelly

With the close of the story of Julia Creahan Sullivan and the family she raised in Denver, Colorado, I’ve come to the last of the descendants of the siblings I stumbled upon in the family of Catherine Kelly Stevens, my husband’s great-great grandmother. From a lowly start of just the one Kelly family member—Catherine, whom I obviously discovered years ago quite easily because of her place in the direct line—I serendipitously stumbled upon records revealing several of her siblings, traced their lines forward, then watched each of the lines seemingly fade away.

My hope in all that was to unearth one sibling whose records might include a clue—just one tiny clue was all I asked—to reveal where this Kelly family might have originated. Of course, we already knew that point of origin would be in Ireland; that was clear from the many census records found from 1860 onward in their adopted home in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. But where in Ireland? That question has been my prime focus.

To recap, Catherine and her siblings—Mathew, Rose, Bridget, Thomas and Ann were all I could find—had all moved from their Irish home with their parents James and Mary, traveled to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi to Lafayette, Indiana. With the exception of Catherine and her parents, there they remained—except for the one census record for 1860 showing them temporarily in the next county—until each of them was buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery there. Dying earlier than the rest of her siblings, Catherine was buried with her father, James, in Greenbush Cemetery, where her mother Mary—though in an unmarked grave, coupled with incomplete cemetery records—was likely also buried.

Both Catherine and her sister Bridget died at relatively young ages—Catherine in 1858, Bridget in 1869. They were mothers of young children at their passing. Though they had two brothers who died many years later—Mathew and Thomas both died in 1895—their later dates of death failed to bring them up to the point when governmental records included the kind of information genealogical researchers find of interest. Thus, my hope of capturing that record of “mother’s maiden name”—well, I’d even have settled for more information on their father—will have to go unsatisfied.

Try as I might to locate a record of any of James and Mary Kelly’s grandchildren that would contain clues as to the family’s origin in Ireland, I could not. Pushing down yet another generation wouldn’t help, either, being too far removed from the time of that late 1840s arrival in this country to have been remembered—unless, of course, the genealogist’s perpetual hope of finding the informed, genealogy-astute and fabled distant cousin would magically be granted. I can still hope.

Despite sifting through a lot of data for not much headway in the quest for ancestral origins in this line, the effort did uncover a few interesting details—and even a heartwarming story. Yet it would be impossible to think that, supplied with the names of the entire family unit, we could connect this James and Mary Kelly with their point of origin in Ireland. There are not only just too many Kellys in Ireland, there are also likely to be repeated patterns of parents James and Mary with sons Mathew and Thomas, or daughters Rose, Catherine, Bridget and Ann.

Since our trip to Ireland is now barely two months out, it will be time to take a step back and review what’s been found and what’s yet to be achieved before our departure date. With time so short now, the focus will shift from the generic search for family lines to an approach of making specific connections with locations and potential resources in Ireland.


  1. Time to make the "list" and check it twice! :)

    1. Actually, I have to be obsessive about it. I'll probably check that list twenty two times!

  2. I think 12 times should be more than enough!

    And seriously, I hope somewhere a lead turns up - there is probably a record of some sort somewhere - it might be in an unexpected place though.

    Perhaps even in New Orleans.

    1. Well, I still have two more months to keep looking ;)

  3. I know I probably missed a few of the postings, but did you ever find church records for this Kelly family in Lafayette, Indiana? I have had some luck in finding birth origins from marriage and some baptismal records.

    1. That's a good point generally, Lisa, and I'm always grateful for those parishes whose historic records have been digitized and made available to researchers online.

      I usually stop by in Lafayette when we make our yearly trips back east, usually going to their county historical association. Contacting the church for early records, not so much good fortune there.

      I actually only stumbled upon this line of the extended Kelly family recently, so haven't been back east since finding them. With our trip to Ireland coming up soon, I doubt I'll be seeing Lafayette for another year, at the least. It will certainly be worth the try--especially since other branches of this Kelly family either stayed in Lafayette, moved to Chicago (the other place I go regularly), or to other nearby Indiana communities.

      Somewhere, as you said, there just might be that record containing exactly the material I'm seeking.


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