After reading about the many honorable achievements of Kelly descendant Harry A. Sullivan of Denver, Colorado, it was no surprise that the question of grandchildren was brought up in the reader comments. Harry was definitely the can-do kind of guy all of us would like to have known. However, when his mother Julia Creahan Sullivan died in 1930, she apparently left four busy adult children, none of whom had any descendants of their own.
With a more extensive obituary thankfully supplied from her hometown newspaper in Lafayette, Indiana, it was a bit easier to find traces of what became of Julia’s son, Thomas. According to the 1930 report, he was then located in Kansas City, Missouri. Indeed, it was rather easy to go back and pick out a 1920 census entry showing him and wife Catherine living in that very city, with Thomas serving as ticket agent in a railroad office there. That was corroborated by the finding of Thomas’ 1917 draft registration card, reporting his employer as “Rock Island,” likely the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad.
On the day Thomas Francis Sullivan signed that registration card, he was apparently already married. If we are to believe the 1920 census—and, with the right states of birth for both parents, plus indication of the right age for Thomas, we have no reason not to—then his wife’s name must have been Catherine.
Or was it? Finding Thomas Sullivan in the 1930 census in Kansas City was more of a challenge. Despite widening the circle to cross over the state line into Kansas City, Kansas, there was no sign of any Thomas Sullivan married to a Catherine. There was, however, a Thomas Sullivan of just about the right age, married to someone named Mary, living in Shawnee, Kansas.
It just so happens that, if one were to check a map, it would be apparent that Shawnee straddles the outer beltway of the current Kansas City metro area. Could Thomas, husband of Mary in Shawnee, be the same as Thomas, husband of Catherine in Kansas City?
Following that same couple—their age difference and states of birth seemed to track throughout the decades—we find that the 1940 census tries to help by inserting Mary’s middle initial in the record. No surprise: it is K. Katherine? Of course, it doesn’t help that the same record shows Thomas’ middle initial as S, not F.
The only consolation was that, though there was another Thomas Sullivan found in census records of the area, that person’s state of birth was Illinois—not a match for our Colorado son of Julia. However, not making our dilemma much easier, there coincidentally was a Thomas F. Sullivan back in Denver, who had also married a woman named Kate.
Perhaps that was why there is a Find a Grave memorial for a Thomas and Mary C. Sullivan at Mount Olivet—the same cemetery in which our Thomas’ siblings and parents were buried. Tempting as that bit of information may be—that Thomas and Catherine apparently had a son—it is likely not our Thomas Sullivan.
If the 1930 and 1940 census records for Shawnee, suburb of Kansas City, were indeed for Julia’s son Thomas, they do not indicate signs of any children for the couple. If that is so, then Thomas and his wife join his married sister Regina in also remaining childless. Couple that with their sister Florence—a lifelong school teacher in an era where such women who wished to keep their position remained single—and their unmarried brother Harry, and that adds up to a total of zero grandchildren for our Kelly descendant who left her hometown in rural Indiana for the adventure of life in the booming 1880s city of Denver.
Though Julia’s four children were not remembered by any descendants, theirs were contributions remembered—at least, we can hope it was so—in a very different way by the communities they benefited.