Saturday, August 2, 2014

Two Birds, One Stone

Make that more than two birds…

There was, after all, a smoking gun in the Julia Creahan Sullivan mystery. It came in the form of an obituary.

Upon my request, a kind soul from an online forum sent this obituary. I cannot begin to express how grateful I was to receive it the other day! While some may downplay online genealogy forums as “so nineties,” they still are a happening place where real people are willing to help real people find real answers.

Yes, I am in a superlative kind of mood.

When I first requested the obituary for Julia, I did so based on an index of newspapers in her hometown. Because Julia was no longer living in Lafayette, I supposed the Journal and Courier had just inserted a courtesy statement on behalf of family, acknowledging their relative’s passing in her current residence in Denver. But I wanted to see it, anyway.

That, however, was not entirely the case. Note how her hometown obituary went far beyond this to provide not only the link between our Julia and the names of all four of her children, but also to her parents and siblings. In addition, it gave the present location of her children—including married name for Regina, which we had just found in the Denver obituary—helping us locate the elusive Thomas F. Sullivan, Jr., who was still working for the railroad and thus risking unpredictable residential changes with the passing of each census record.

On top of that, Julia’s July 25, 1930, obituary provided confirmation of another detail I had found for her sister Anna’s children—in particular the one son who had become a priest. I had already noticed that in hints on Ancestry, but they were for family trees that contained other material which caused me to question accuracy, especially without any supporting documentation.

One surprise was the listing of Julia’s younger son’s name. The one we had known as Harry A. Sullivan—in fact, the one known widely about town in Denver as Harry—was listed in Julia’s obituary not as Harry, but as Ira. Since Harry seems like a nickname, I had always wondered about that—whether to research him as Harold or perhaps even Henry. I would never have guessed to look for Ira. But then, apparently, neither did anyone else, judging from his own burial information, given on a card requesting a military headstone. We’ll take a look at that tomorrow.

I couldn’t help noticing the name of the celebrant for Julia's funeral mass: William Sullivan of Crawfordsville. Why have a priest come from Crawfordsville? Wouldn’t it have been more reasonable to request a priest from her former parish, St. Ann, right in Lafayette? After all, that’s where the funeral was held. It makes me wonder if this might be a clue as to the family roots of her mysterious husband, the one I’ve never been able to locate—Thomas F. Sullivan, Sr. Would Father William Sullivan be Thomas’ brother? Or just someone with a coincidental common surname?
            Mrs. Julia C. Sullivan, a resident of Denver, Colo., died Thursday morning at 12:15 o'clock. at St. Elizabeth hospital, this city. Mrs. Sullivan came to Lafayette early in June to attend the first mass celebrated by her nephew, the Rev. Anthony Quinlisk, at St. Ann's church. She was taken ill while on the train and was removed to the home of her brother, John E. Creahan, 1924 Thompson Street. On June 26 she was admitted to the hospital.
            Mrs. Sullivan was born in Lafayette, the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Michael Creahan. She was a member of Immaculate Conception cathedral in Denver, where she had been a resident for the past 42 years. Her husband, Thomas Sullivan, died several years ago. She is survived by two sons, Thomas F. Sullivan, Kansas City, Mo., and Ira A. Sullivan, Denver; also two daughters, Mrs. Regina McClinton and Miss Florence L. Sullivan, both of Denver; one brother, John E. Creahan, this city, and one sister, Mrs. Ella Falk, Memphis, Tenn.
            Rev. William Sullivan of Crawfordsville, was the celebrant at a requiem high mass for Mrs. Sullivan Thursday morning at 7 o'clock in the chapel at St. Elizabeth hospital. The body was taken to the Vianco funeral home and later shipped to Denver, Colo. for burial. Thomas F. Sullivan of Kansas City, Ira A. Sullivan and Miss Florence Sullivan, of Denver, who were at their mother's bedside, accompanied the remains to Denver.


  1. Ira - whodathunk? A worthwhile visit to the forum, I'd say. And yes, forums are still useful partly because "older" genealogists who are used to boots to ground research are comfortable there. Ask and ye shall receive.

    1. Interesting thought on the dynamics behind forums, Wendy. You are probably right on, there. I hope, however, that more people become comfortable with frequenting the forums. They are such useful tools...and a way for us to practice a little giving back for all the help we've received from others along this research journey.

  2. Great info..sometimes persistence pays off. I know there are people out there ready to help most of the time:)

    1. My faith in humanity always improves after a visit to a genealogy forum :)

  3. Now THAT's an obituary!!!! Paid dirt!!

    And thank you thank you thank you to the person that found it for you!

    1. Agreed! I don't think I can say "Thank you" enough for this one!


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