Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Not Out of Nowhere

Finding the will of Irish immigrant Philip Denehy in Allen County, Indiana, was a wonderful serendipity. Not only did the brief document include the names of each of his children, but it provided some directions as to where to find each of these survivors. I now knew, for instance, if I wanted to pursue more on the details about youngest son Daniel, I would have to move my search to Mackinaw, Michigan.

Better news than that, however, was the revelation that Philip's oldest son had remained in Irelandin County Cork, specifically.

While this was partially useful information, it of course had its own down side. At the time the will was drawn up in 1885, there would certainly be more records available in Ireland than in the 1860s, when some of the relatives were considering leaving for America. That was a good thing for genealogical research.

The difficulty resided in one typically Irish trait: the tendency for families to utilize a naming pattern for their children which, after centuries of such repetition, tended to create a sort of feedback loop in the generations. Multiple sons all naming their firstborn male after the same father could have research repercussionsespecially if all these said sons were born about the same year.

The thought of trying to look for one Philip Denehyor Danehy, or Denahey, or, well, you get the ideawho had a wife Ellen and a son Jeremiah in County Cork would still be a challenge. I needed more specifics.

This is where I turned back to that discovery from Mary Denehy's own census record taken after her marriage to Timothy Kelly. There, in the 1900 record in Fort Wayne, the Kelly household had two lodgers. You may have noticed the name of these two young men when I discussed the 1900 record before. It was a spelling variation of the very surname that Mary, up until the point of her marriage, also bore: Denehy. Or, to be more precise in the actual transcription, "Danahay."

At first, when I shared this discovery with the small circle of DNA matches all puzzling over just how we match, the one Denehy relative I was corresponding with noticed the ages and relatively recent arrivals of the two young Danahay men, and mentioned in his response his belief that they were probably not younger brothers to Mary, but more likely to be nephews.

Operating on the theory that these twoCornelius Danahay and James Danahaydid not just pop in to the Kelly household in Fort Wayne out of the blue but had a specific reason for making the journey inland after their trans-Atlantic voyage, I wanted to pursue their own trail. My thinking was that the similarity of their surname and Mary's maiden name couldn't merely be a matter of coincidence. There had to be some sort of connection.

To bolster that line of thinking, it was possible that the reason Jeremiah didn't follow his father and other siblings from Ireland might have been that he had already marriedand possibly had already established a family of his own before everyone else chose to emigrate.

While that theory may turn out to be the case for Philip's son Jeremiah, that alone couldn't generate enough search terms to pinpoint the right person. At this point, other than Jeremiah's own name and a guess as to year of birth, I didn't even know his wife's nameto say nothing about the names of any children.

Discovering that Mary's father confirmed in his will that he had an older son back in County Cork got me thinking: could this Cornelius and James from Mary's 1900 household in Fort Wayne be related to Mary's brother Jeremiah? Could this mark a second wave of immigration to Fort Wayne from the extended Denehy family?

Above: The Timothy Kelly household in the 1900 U.S. Census for Fort Wayne, Indiana; courtesy


  1. I really enjoy following your family adventures.

    1. Thanks so much, Miss Merry! I keep holding out hope there will be a momentous discovery, just around the next bend in this twisting research journey...

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Iggy! And thanks for your discoveries on behalf of this search!

  3. Me too and I am caught up again! I was gone for four days and now I am back and planning a 90th birthday gathering for my Dad. No rest for the wicked and those leaves keep falling:)

    1. Wow! A 90th birthday? You will be the one who knows exactly what would be the most enjoyable for your dad. Glad to see you back, though, despite those pesky falling leaves! You are one busy lady.


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