Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Running in the Family


From time to time, when I hear people discussing members of a family, I'll hear the phrase, "It must have run in the family." Perhaps it is in comparing pictures of siblings, or meeting someone's parent or child, that the similarities can jump out unexpectedly.

In piecing together a family tree, researching collateral lines can be just as helpful. Though we may not see those ancestors face to face—or even in photographs—learning something about their siblings can help guide us in our search to fully understand the family. Once we learn about an ancestor's siblings, we start to get those "aha" moments when we realize there are traits which run in that family.

Take the ice hockey player, "Red" Kane, I mentioned yesterday. I've been working on that family's tree longer than I had expected, simply because I haven't been able to locate adequate documentation. And yet, stepping forward into the unknown anyhow, I began to spot some similarities popping up in the possible members of that family.

It actually wasn't Red Kane himself whom I first found in my search, but a brother. Thanks to a hint at Ancestry as I stumbled about online, I found a border crossing for Red's brother John. Though whoever filled out the border crossing paperwork in 1945 got his name partially wrong—John Birchman Kane instead of John Bertram Kane—his birthdate and the name of his mother Lillian confirmed this was the right sibling.

The place he was destined for in 1945 was what caught my eye: the San Francisco Hockey Club at the Winterland Arena. I got the feeling he wasn't traveling across the continent from his native Stratford, Ontario, for the mere purpose of visiting a tourist attraction. He was going on business.

It wasn't until the other end of his life when I found the rest of the story. In his obituary, I picked up a few of the missing details from the earlier portion of his life. For one thing, John B. Kane went by the nickname Jeff (though the only mention of a hockey player by that name was for one season with the San Francisco team during the 1945-1946 season).

John was one of eight siblings who survived to adulthood. According to his obituary, John, like his brothers, "excelled in hockey." His obit noted that he played semi-pro in both San Francisco and Indianapolis, before returning home to Canada to play for the Toronto Winged Wheelers. Now that I've found that information for both John and his brother Francis, perhaps that trait, running in the family, may help guide me to the rest of the brothers.

It was the obituary which also helped fill in some of the blanks in John's own life, especially the many places where he lived, and the family members who remained—and may potentially be among my husband's DNA matches whom I've yet to place correctly in the family tree.

But following these traits and personal history turn out to be helpful in yet another way. Like piecing together colored slivers into a mosaic to make sense of the bigger picture, it is such glimpses of each family member's lifetime which helps me paint the picture of the larger family descended from our Dennis Tully, the immigrant from County Tipperary who settled in Canada. And this family in particular presents me with a challenge: there are several pieces of their picture which are still missing.

Prime among the missing puzzle pieces is what became of Dennis Tully's own grandson, the man who supposedly was father of these Kane brothers who lived and breathed hockey. Until I began finding obituaries for any of John's siblings, I had no idea what became of Frederick Hugh Kane. But now, at least I know he was out of the picture, according to this obituary, when his mother moved her children to Toronto when John was about twelve.

I'll do the math, of course, and keep looking for more documentation, but I'll also take my cue from the fact that hockey runs in this family's blood. Detail by detail, across all eight of the siblings who survived to adulthood, what I can find hidden between the lines may, in the aggregate, be what leads me to the answers I'm seeking on this family line. 

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