Friday, September 30, 2016
A Step-Daughter in the Mix
Having made no progress in ascertaining the connection between the two Fort Wayne Kellys—John and Timothy—through a closer look at the latter's children, we'll soon move on to see what can be discovered about the younger Kelly's unnamed widow. But before we do, we need to stop for a moment and consider one additional "daughter" listed in his household for the 1900 census.
This "daughter" was named Margaret. According to the census, she was thirty one years of age in 1900. In fact, the record showed her to be born in January of 1869—not quite nine months before the Kellys' son Timothy arrived in September of that same year.
If you thought that birth sequence was what brought the poor first wife of Timothy Kelly to her premature death, don't worry yourself over such an injustice. Ellen Hannan Kelly died in 1875, not 1869. And, as we didn't discover until finally reading Timothy's own obituary, that same Margaret was listed as his step-daughter—a good reminder to never base all your genealogical assumptions upon one record, even if it is a government-issued document.
Noting that Margaret was nowhere to be seen in the Kelly household for the 1880 census, it's safe to assume she arrived in this family upon her mother's marriage to the widower Timothy, which occurred shortly after the census was enumerated for that year.
While the thirty one year old Margaret was listed in the 1900 census under the surname Kelly—an unfortunate ink blot where the otherwise meticulous enumerator had begun to spell the name as Kelley rendering the indexing of that record now as "Kellog"—that was unlikely to be her own surname. Within the year, according to Timothy Kelly's 1901 obituary, she was by then known as Mrs. Margaret Sweeney.
If you think the logical next step in determining anything about this Kelly family's origin is to trace any information on Margaret Sweeney or her Irish immigrant mother Mary, you are thinking about the same way I did when I last tackled this problem. Fortunately, there is now such improved access to multiple additional records than my last research attempt.
Our next step, then, will be to trace what can be found on this Margaret Sweeney, supposedly born in Indiana in 1869 to a mother who declared she had not arrived on our fair shores until 1875. A grand trick, if one can pull it off.
Still, vastly improved resources aside, I can already tell you this research trail has some frustrating twists—a reminder to never lose sight of which government documents are based not in fact, but in what is reported to be fact. The two, as it turns out, are not always the same.
Above: The Timothy Kelly household in the 1900 U.S. Census for Fort Wayne, Indiana; courtesy FamilySearch.org.