Tuesday, August 11, 2020

In the House Where Two Margarets Lived


It might have been reasonable, in family history pursuits, to assume that concerning our ancestors, the elder preceded the younger, but in the case of the Toledo household at 324 Saint Mary's Street, it was the younger Margaret who died first. That younger Margaret, one of the Sullivan sisters who were nieces to spinster aunt Margaret Kelly, was born in 1861—at least according to the 1900 census—and by the time of her death in 1907, was only forty six years of age.

Margaret Sullivan had only been in the United States for less than a decade—if we can believe the census report that she had arrived from her native County Kerry, Ireland, in 1898. Like her aunt Margaret Kelly, she was a single woman who had likely moved to Toledo to be with her younger sister Katherine, who had been in this country since 1887.

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, to learn that there wasn't much to glean from her perfunctory death notice, published on the last page of The Toledo News-Bee on September 14, 1907.

Sullivan, Margaret, at her residence [?], 324 St Marys street, Friday, Sept. 13, 1907, at 11:40 p.m. Funeral from the home, Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 8 a.m., and the Immaculate Conception church at 8:30 a.m. Interment Calvary cemetery. Friends invited.

No mention of relatives coming from out of town, or surviving family members. No mention of much of anything at all which could confirm this was the right Margaret, except maybe her near illegible house number. The main point, however, was to cross-check this date with the death certificate records available online, just to insure we had the right Margaret.

Indeed we did, as it turned out from the confirming record online. Pulling up the document, I hoped that it would not be one of those records for which the key answers were "unknown." My main goal in following Margaret Kelly's nieces was to discover who their mother was. A Sullivan being the niece of a Kelly meant that the connecting relative would be someone with a maiden name of Kelly.

And it was. Margaret Sullivan's father was listed—predictably—as John Sullivan. And her mother? Abbie Kelly. If this series of nested theories adds up right, that Abbie Kelly should be Margaret Kelly's sister...and Timothy Kelly's sister, as well. Clustering those family members can help me sort out the multitude of Kelly and Sullivan births and marriages, back in County Kerry, where everyone, it seems, gave their children the exact same names.

But what about the other Margaret? She it would be who could, with the names on her own death certificate, lead us to the next generation for the Kelly branch of the family. If we can escape the dreaded "unknown" entries for Margaret Kelly's father and mother, we will have achieved our goal in taking this long research detour.

As it turned out, Margaret Kelly's death notice was not much more helpful than her niece's memorial. On the next to last page of the July 25, 1909, edition of The Toledo News-Bee, buried in the legal notices, it basically provided the same bleak wording: same address for her "late residence," same church, same cemetery. The only difference was the date and the fact that her procession began a half hour earlier than her niece's final journey. No family names mentioned.

When we went to pull up this Margaret's death certificate, we became once again fortunate to avoid that dreaded "unknown" response for her parents' names. I can't begin to express how such experiences in the past cause me to just slightly cringe as each digital image is brought up on the screen. But there it was, fully provided, as I brought up Margaret Kelly's own death certificate. 

As so often happens with this surname, Margaret Kelly's entry in both the newspaper insertion and the death record was spelled Kelley. But it was indeed the right Margaret, for the address was the same, and in this case, the surviving niece—Katherine Sullivan—served as the informing party.

The information "Katie" supplied provides us with the key to finding the next generation, back in County Kerry. The elder Margaret's parents' names? Let us now begin the search for—no surprise here—Margaret's father, another Timothy Kelly. And for Margaret's mother, we can now keep our eyes open for a woman by the name of Catherine Flynn.

The next question, of course, is: can we use this information to determine the relationship between Margaret Kelly's brother Timothy and the man in Fort Wayne with whom he purchased a joint family burial plot? Will this help us learn anything more about that John Kelly? And will that lead us to determine just where John met his bride, Johanna Falvey, back in County Kerry?

Another work in progress...


  1. What luck to find death certificates. I find certificates completed by daughters and nieces are so much more accurate than the information provided by male relatives. My grandfather filled out his mother's certificate with "unknowns" even though he had grown up with his maternal grandparents in the house.

    1. That's an interesting observation, Miss Merry. Perhaps that was the same dynamic operating in the experience we'll see in checking for the Sullivan reports, as well.


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