Thursday, September 29, 2016

Seeking Whatever Became of
Those Two Kelly Daughters

Finding young women of past centuries through genealogical pursuits can sometimes be tricky. The assumption is often that they "disappeared" from records because they were married, but their new surname is lost to subsequent generations because it was never noted in a family history. A second supposition is that the child died at a young age in an era in which published obituaries might be more of a financial burden than some immigrant families were able to bearat, coincidentally, a time prior to the thorough gathering of civil records related to the jurisdiction's deaths.

While I can locate ample information on the other children of Timothy and Ellen Kelly of Fort Wayne, Indiana, wouldn't you know it would be the two adolescent daughters, Catherine and Mary, who evaded my research grasp. Thus, I was left with those two possible fates: marriage or death.

Fortunately for those attempting to trace their family in Fort Wayne, there are ample online resources to help resolve my quandary, thanks to the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library. My first move, then, was to seek any records for these two Kelly daughters in the library's resourcestaking care to not confuse this Catherine and Mary with the two daughters of that other possible Kelly relative, John, who also bore the very same names.

The Genealogy Center has several resources that came in handyalthough all, as it turned out, for nothing more than to confirm there was no entry for the two women I was seeking. Remembering that the Kelly surname was just as likely to be entered with the spelling K-e-l-l-e-y as the one I was accustomed to, I had to be careful to search each resource twice, once for each spelling variation.

Before I got started seeking those two Kelly daughters, I checked my parameters. Catherine and Mary Kelly were last seen in the 1880 census record, and absent from the 1900 census. Because Catherine was born about 1861 and Mary in 1863, that would have meant seeking daughters aged thirty nine and thirty seven, respectively, by the time of that 1900 censusthe point at which, had they still been alive, they certainly would have been married, if out of their father's household.

Checking the library resources, I turned first to the listings of the Fort Wayne Catholic Cemetery. If the two Kelly daughters had died soon after the 1880 census, it would make sense that they would be buried in the Kelly family plot, where their own mother had been buried in 1875. However, there was nothing there for a Catherine or a Mary of a young age, dying in 1880 or beyond, using either spelling variation: Kelly or Kelley.

No problem. There were still other resources. Fortunately, thanks to the Indiana Works Progress Administration, an index was compiled of old death records for Allen County, with dates ranging from the 1870s through the 1920s, which the library had compiled into a searchable database. Checking there for both surname spellings, though, yielded nothing for an age-appropriate entry for either Catherine or Mary. Strike two.

There were other databases available online at the library's Genealogy Center, thankfully, so the game was not up with this defeat. I tried my hand, poking through a number of themeven tried the Coroner Records Database, in case our two damsels in distress found themselves in dire straits.

One possibility emerged in the database listed as "church burial records." Why that database didn't correspond to the information in the Catholic Cemetery database, I don't know; perhaps these included burials in unmarked graves. However, there was a listing for a Kate Kelley, buried on April 18, 1882, whose only other information provided was that she was twenty years of age and had been born in Fort Wayne. Her funeral, according to the database, was held at the Cathedral.

Knowing there were likely dozens of Kate Kelleys in the area who could have been this unfortunate young woman, I noted that as a possibility, and kept looking.

Fortunately, her family wasn't so destitute that they couldn't afford an insertion in the local paper. According to the "Area Newspaper Index" for obituaries dated from 1837 through 1899a collection gleaned from a previously-assembled index which, unfortunately, didn't include source information for many of the newspaper entriesthere was a funeral announcement published on April 18, 1882, for a Katie Kelly. Included in the abstract was the note that this Katie was a daughter of Timothy of 20 Brandriff.

Game over—at least for our Catherine Kelly. This was the address for Timothy Kelly's household.

While that conclusively wraps up the search for Catherine, what about her sister Mary? While there were several entries referring to young people named Mary Kellyor Kelleythey all were either for children of a much younger age, or for adults whose date of birth would be much later than our Mary's.

I'd like to hope that this daughter of Timothy and Ellen Kelly made it to an enjoyable and rewarding adulthood, but somehow, I don't think that had happened. My one clue is that of her own father's obituary, published in the Fort Wayne Sentinel on September 21, 1901, which included mention of only one daughter: Mrs. Frank Pence, the baby of the family called Dabora in the 1880 census.
     Timothy Kelly, a pioneer railroad employe and for many years a resident of Fort Wayne, died at 9:30 o'clock this morning at his home, 20 Brandriff street. Mr. Kelly was 62 years of age, and death was due to Bright's disease. He had been in failing health for some time, but it was only within the past week that his condition came to be regarded as critical.
     Mr. Kelly was born in county Kerry, Ireland, but came to America when a mere boy. He helped to build the Pittsburg road, located in Fort Wayne in 1857 and was for many years foreman of the Pennsylvania car shops in this city. Failing health compelled him to retire from active work several years ago.
     He was a faithful member of St. Patrick's Catholic church, and the surviving relatives include the widow and four children: Andrew J., Timothy, jr., and Richard Kelly, and Mrs. Frank Pence. There is also a step-daughter, Mrs. Margaret Sweeney. Margaret Kelly is a sister of the deceased. 

Whatever became of Timothy Kelly's daughters Marywhose name wasn't even entered in records of area deathsand Catherine, whose burial location I've yet to find, will have to remain a puzzle for the next iteration of searches on behalf of this family. For now, suffice it to know neither of these Kelly daughters remained to marry and have children of their ownor descendants who might, one day, hope to find our family through a chance inspiration to spring for a DNA test.

Above: "Street Scene," watercolor by Irish landscape artist Rose Maynard Barton (1856 - 1929); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain. 


  1. I'm too far behind with my reading to comment on all your post - but will try to catch up from here forward and go back to earlier ones if I can later.

    Interesting you found the one daughter. That was a challenge indeed. As for Mary, I would offer one other alternate possibility - she ran off and was "disowned." I've a few family members that were "removed" from the family this way.

    1. Your theory seems to be the most plausible of all I've run across, so far, Iggy. I'll keep working on it, of course, but the main way to discover it will probably be locating her baptismal record, back in Ireland, I think.

      Welcome back, Iggy! Although I've certainly missed your comments, it is totally understandable. Glad to see you back, again!

  2. You found one of them! Persistence pays off! :)

    1. Yes! And as sad as the news must have been back then, to discover it now means I won't be wondering whether her descendants might have been the root cause of those hundreds of DNA matches I still can't figure out!


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