Friday, June 19, 2015

Revisiting Resources and Ryans

If there is one thing I've learned this year—and most recently, from following the lines of the Ryan and Guinan families—it's to remember to go back and look again for more records. If you are stumped with any of the ancestors you are researching, make an appointment with yourself to return to this same turf in a year, or even in six months, to revisit all the sites where you previously had struck out. Chances are good to very good that you will, upon your return, find new resources that hadn't been there previously.

It was good, taking this Guinan detour while muddling over my Ryan family connection. Granted, the connection seemed to become more and more tenuous. First, I moved from my husband's direct line, which went back to John Tully of Ballina in northern County Tipperary, to John's sister Johanna. With Johanna's marriage to Edward Ryan, somewhere in Ontario, Canada, I picked up the Ryan trail as the family surfaced in the Dakota Territory—later to become the state of North Dakota—and then abruptly vanished as mysteriously as they had appeared. To find clues on what had become of them, I branched out further to examine their in-laws, the siblings in the Patrick Guinan family, who, as I discovered later, moved back to Canada, just like the Ryans.

The end result—now that I've found additional newspaper holdings at various online repositories—was that I located obituaries on those related Guinans, providing just the explanation I was seeking. Now that I've found a source for Winnipeg area newspapers, I also have come full circle, back to the Ryan family that was first in question.

I had suspected that, as had the Guinan family, much of the Ryan family had returned to Canada. The Ryans, however, seemed to branch off in two directions. One side went further west, settling in Saskatchewan, with some of their descendants eventually going all the way to British Columbia. The other side gravitated toward the more urban setting of Winnipeg in Manitoba, almost directly north of their former home in North Dakota.

Edward and Johanna Ryan's son James was one who headed for Winnipeg—well, at least that is where he eventually landed. Just as I had discovered for his brother-in-law, Thomas Guinan, James left behind one item of interest to genealogical researchers as well: a thorough obituary.

There may well have been reason for this, as you will see in a moment. Apparently, James was connected to someone who also not only had ambition, but managed to accomplish what he dreamed.

Like his brother-in-law, Thomas Guinan, James Ryan had both a news report of his passing, and a follow-up article on his funeral. The latter, published in the Winnipeg Free Press on September 25, 1939, described him as a "pioneer resident of Manitoba." However, though it was interesting to read that the Monsignor sang the high mass, the only detail that seemed to provide any family connections was one listing a pallbearer as Stanley "Guiman"—likely, Thomas Guinan's second-oldest son. The brief mention that James Ryan had died at the home of "his daughter, in Chicago, Ill." was almost useless, omitting a key ingredient for genealogical research.

Thankfully, an earlier article, published in the same paper on September 20, provided more detail. It named the daughter—Margaret—and indicated that James was "a resident of Manitoba for more than 60 years."

The September 20, 1939, article nearly mirrored the life's history of James Ryan's brother-in-law, Thomas Guinan. James was
born in Paris, Ont., and was raised on a farm in Huron county. In 1878 he moved to western Canada and landed in St. Boniface from a Red river boat.
Of course, just as was necessary for the news report on Thomas Guinan, it seems the story on James Ryan may also need some fact-checking. The numbers don't seem to correspond with what I've found on census records, either in Canada or in the United States. However, according to the Winnipeg Free Press,
For a time he worked as a carpenter with the construction department of the C.P.R., and served in various capacities in the building of the line between Cross Lake and Jackfish Bay. He later returned to farming and for many years farmed in both Manitoba and North Dakota. In 1911 he retired and moved to Winnipeg, where he resided until recently.

Of course, there was the obligatory—and eagerly sought—section on those in the family who survived him.
Surviving, besides his son Joe, are two other sons, Patrick E., in Winnipeg; and Daniel F., of Vernon, B.C.; a daughter, Margaret, of Chicago, Ill., and Ann, in Winnipeg. 
For what seems to have been such a pedestrian life, it seems unusual to see, not merely an obituary, but an actual news report—the headline alone ran for three lines—of James Ryan's death. One might wonder why he rated so many valuable column inches—complete with photograph insertion—for what must have been a life story shared with many of his peers.

The answer to that question was likely provided with one small detail included toward the beginning of the article.
Mr. Ryan was the father of Joe Ryan, manager of the Blue Bombers rugby football team, and a member of the Winnipeg Free Press sports department.



  1. Interesting bit that might be of help to all us researchers - a, u, and o's can more or less crop up interchangeably in the records - not that I would have ever expected Guinian to be spelled Gainian (or Ganiun!)

    1. P.s., I've never understood the "disproportionate" interest in "performing artists" be it sports, song, or race horses.

    2. Oh, and to complicate matters on those a, u, and o reading problems, some old styles of script writing often made the letters m or n look like u. Who knows how "Guinan" might have turned out to be indexed.

  2. One obit gave you lots of names...good thing his son had connections or it would be in the back pages:)


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