Monday, August 10, 2020

Tracing a Timeline in Toledo


In researching a family's history, I like to pinpoint the family's whereabouts in every census record I can find. That way, I can spot when new members are added to the family—whether through births or through other means like a widowed in-law moving into the household. Watching the family's listing in each decade's record also shows me whether they still lived in the same house and what other details might be provided, given the ever-changing list of questions plied with each enumeration.

Thus, when I discovered that my target ancestor—Timothy Kelly of Fort Wayne, Indiana, who might or might not be related to Johanna Falvey's husband John Kelly—had a sister in Toledo, Ohio, that called for tracing yet another connection.

Timothy Kelly's sister Margaret was, at least according to the 1900 census, an aging single woman living with two Sullivan nieces. All three were from Ireland, although Margaret's niece, also named Margaret, had arrived in this country much later than her younger sister Katherine.

Together, they lived at Aunt Margaret's home on Saint Mary's Street in the thirteenth ward of the city of Toledo. That was in the 1900 census.

Since niece Margaret had only arrived in the United States in 1898, there was no sense trying to locate the household in the 1880 census, so I decided to start my decennial search headed in the other direction. I looked for fifty nine year old Margaret Kelly ten years later, and found...nothing.

Perhaps she had already died. After all, the 1910 census would have captured a snapshot of a sixty nine year old woman by that point. I tried looking for the other Margaret, who in the 1900 census was twenty years younger than her aunt. Nothing.

There was nothing left to do but see if the youngest of the nieces had outlived the rest of her household. Thankfully, Katherine was indeed in the 1910 census—along with the surprise addition of yet another Sullivan sibling: Mary.

Pushing forward another decade, I discovered that Mary and Katherine Sullivan were still together, but that they had moved to a new location in the city: 201 Sumner Street. There was another surprise: the addition of yet two more Sullivans to the household—a niece and a nephew. Now, the two oldest Sullivans were proprietors of a grocery store—likely, the reason they moved—and the younger members of the household had immigrated in 1910 to help run the family enterprise.

With all these details gleaned from this brief journey through the Kelly and Sullivan timeline in Toledo, I realized I had a few dates and documents to round up. I had long ago tried to trace what became of this aunt, Margaret Kelly, but had failed on two accounts.

For one thing, having no firm date of passing, I had no way to insure I'd find the right Margaret Kelly to request her death certificate. But the complicating factor was that, unlike so many other newspapers now included in archival collections, the Toledo newspaper was inaccessible, and pleas on online genealogy forums of prior decades for obituary lookups yielded nothing.

Looking for Kelly ancestors can be challenging.

With time, though, more records get added to collections, more documents get digitized and shared, and it always behooves a researcher to revisit past research pathways to double check on updates.

Sure enough, this time I was able to locate the death certificate for the aunt, Margaret Kelly—Timothy Kelly's sister. Not only that, but thanks to Google, the Toledo newspapers have now been almost completely scanned and posted online. My quest to discover more about Margaret Kelly's family is soon to be completed.

Well, sort of. We all know we never "finish" our family trees. Whatever we find about Margaret Kelly will answer my one question, sure—but it will also bring up a multitude of other questions along with the finding of that one answer.

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