Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Who’s Still Here

Have you ever researched a family line in which a traditional ethnic naming pattern resulted in many descendants sporting the same given name—leaving you in doubt as to exactly which Mary or Margaret you were discussing?

In the case of my Tully family, Margarets were definitely in abundance throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. This pattern did not stop with the marriage of Johanna Tully—my husband’s great grandfather’s sister—to Edward Ryan.

When the couple moved—presumably with all four of their children—it did not help that one of the daughters seemed to disappear. Nor was it helpful that census records for the household into which she supposedly married yielded records in which the wife’s name was overwritten by both the name Mary and Margaret.

Which one was it? Mary? Or Margaret?

Pertinent to the search was the fact that the two daughters’ mother, Johanna Ryan, had declared to that 1900 census enumerator that she was the mother of only two surviving children.

Thus began my quest to determine who was no longer here, and who was still living.

Starting with the one son whom I can affirm was still living in 1900, let’s take some time to review what we know about the children of Edward and Johanna Tully Ryan.

Today, we’ll begin our inventory with the one sure remaining child: eldest son James.

As James was born in 1852 in Ontario, Canada, by the time of this census, he was forty eight years of age. Around 1885, he had married—likely after arriving in Dakota Territory—a young woman by the name of Annie Guinan. By the time of the 1900 census, the couple had had eight children, six of whom were still living: Patrick, Daniel, James, May, Annie and baby "Margrete." All six of the children were born in Dakota Territory.

James was apparently in Dakota Territory in the early part of the 1880s, for a land patent was listed in his name in April of 1883. The grant was for land near Hoople, up by the border between Walsh County and its neighbor to the north, Pembina County.

He was also there long enough to go through the paperwork to request citizenship, as evidenced by his own report in the 1900 census. Indeed, he may well have been one of several possible applicants listed as James Ryan of Canada, referred to by the North Dakota State University Archives.

More important than all of that—at least for our purposes today—was the fact that James was still alive, come time for that same 1900 census in which his mother reported having already lost two of her children.

At least we know James was not one of those two lost children.


  1. I suppose the informant mis-heard or got confused. My great-grandmother claimed 4 of 6 children living. But the family Bible names another child born prior to the 6. What? Did she forget?

  2. Find A Grave Memorial# 37441071 shows Dennis Ryan (1856-1892)

    1. That's my next solid lead. We'll talk about Dennis tomorrow...


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