Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Neighbors on Brandriff Street

It may seem like some family history research leads us in never-ending circles. In the case of my husband's second great-grandmother, Johanna Falvey, and her husband John Kelly, it seems that no matter what lead I follow, it doesn't bring me straight to any answers. And yet, each step spirals around to connect with a point I'd already reviewed.

In trying to break through this particular family brick wall and move back another generation, I had hoped that following the Falvey side of this couple would yield more success than pursuing a name like John Kelly. We already know that would be a hopeless pursuit in Ireland—even if we narrowed down the search to "only" County Kerry. So I had focused on the Falvey side, in hopes it would be a somewhat less common surname to research.

And yet, here we are, coming full circle back to the street on which a possible relative to Johanna Falvey happened to live exactly next door to a possible relative of John Kelly. That came from pursuing a possible relative of Johanna's possible relative Daniel Falvey in a town not sixty miles from the town where a possible relative of John Kelly's possible relative Timothy Kelly lived.

Got that?

So now, we need to take a step back and review what we know about Timothy Kelly, the man who, along with John Kelly, had purchased a family burial plot at the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

It's been years since I last worked on the family tree of this Timothy Kelly—almost four years, to be exact. To look at the census record for 1880, about ten years after John and Johanna had arrived in Fort Wayne, it is easy to see that both sets of Kellys had settled in the same neighborhood. John and Johanna lived in a little house around the corner from both Timothy's family and that of Daniel Falvey on Brandriff Street, close to the rail yards where so many in this extended family gained their livelihood.

Rather than review the particulars on the family of John and Johanna, I'll just refer back to my introductory post from 2016 (here), if you are interested in brushing up on the details. Likewise for the information on the family of the other Kellys (here).

It was in researching the newspaper entries for Timothy Kelly that I learned of his connection to at least one relative who lived in another location in the United States. The one thing that seemed curious to me, in researching Irish immigrants in America, is that so many appeared to be the only one from their family to have moved away from their homeland in Ireland.

For those whose records don't reveal any details about their parents' identity, often the key to further discoveries is tracing their siblings—and yet, in these Irish cases, there sometimes was no sibling to be found in any mention of the family. Thus, my frustration in coming up empty-handed after chasing after clues about Daniel Falvey's parents in "Upper Sandusky."

In Timothy Kelly's case, though, there was a mention of a sibling. It was on the very last line of his own obituary in the Fort Wayne Sentinel on September 21, 1901. Simply put, the obituary mentioned, "Margaret Kelly is a sister of the deceased."

It was from a multitude of other searches that I learned anything more about Margaret Kelly. As you might suspect from a surname like Kelly, I couldn't just assume any person by that name—even in Fort Wayne—was the right Margaret Kelly, Timothy's sister. I needed to follow other news stories about this Kelly family to learn just where Margaret Kelly actually lived.

Thanks to some of those chatty one-liners in the social reports included in newspapers of that era, I discovered that some members of Timothy Kelly's family had traveled to Toledo, Ohio, to see about their ailing aunt Margaret. Sure enough—no surprise here, considering that common surname—there was a Margaret Kelly in Toledo. We'll take a look at what we can find about her, tomorrow.


  1. So many "common" names - amazing you could even find some hints!

    1. This is a case where you have to go very carefully, Miss Merry, but I can assure you I have read through hundreds of mentions of this family in newspaper insertions over the years. Of course, newspapers can--and do--sometimes get things wrong, but without that extra help, I don't think I'd get halfway as close to an answer as I have. There's still a long way yet to go, though...


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