Thursday, September 7, 2023

When Parts of the Story are Missing


Researching a less-familiar family line can feel somewhat like finding your way down a dark hallway, blindfolded. That's the feeling I'm left with, once I entered the line of Dennis Tully's grandson, Frederick Hugh Kane. It's been that thin line of hockey connecting each of Frederick's children—and, eventually, leading me to them.

The key to finding each of these children was taking a leap into the dark and locating an obituary for at least one potential child. Then, using the names of that person's siblings listed in the obituary, branching out to locate more documentation on the next sibling. Once again, step by step, comparing names to move to another sibling, until I complete the family constellation. 

It hasn't been easy. The last sign I could find of Frederick Hugh Kane—other than his own Find a Grave entry—was his appearance in a few census records. In 1911, he appeared in his parents' home in Perth County, Ontario. At that point, he was twenty one and single. Ten years later—though with no sign of any marriage record—he was not only married to Lillian, but was father of three: baby Frederick and daughters Mary Ethel and her mama's namesake, eldest child Lillian Ruth.

From that point, the elder Frederick's next appearance in 1931 was as a married man, yet in the household of his sister Ethel and her husband, Frank Harkin. No mention of Frederick's wife or children, at least in that household. Frederick's burial in 1954 was the next record I could find for him, buried alone, but in the same cemetery as that of his sister Ethel.

Meanwhile, from the obituary of one of Frederick's children, John, I learned that their mother had moved them to Toronto when John was about twelve. Since he was born in 1925, that meant his mother moved the family in 1937—several years after her husband appeared in his brother-in-law's household for the 1931 census.

There is a story missing here, of course, but likely not one I'll be able to access. While there is always a need to be discreet with family details—although some governmental entities divulge more documents with the public than others—it is the continuing story of the DNA connection which I'm seeking.

I could likely fill in the blanks in my own mind as to what became of that family. But now that I've found the obituaries for far more children than those whose names appeared in that most recent publicly shared census enumeration, I've begun piecing together the family constellation. And that's really all I had been seeking: a way to confirm where DNA matches belong in our family tree.

Genealogy, for me, has always functioned somewhat like an algebra equation. When I find myself missing a key detail—the "x" of the equation—I simply have found ways to re-arrange the known facts to isolate the variable. When the known facts are readily accessible—and we all know which states or provinces share more than the others—we can pencil in that algebraic genealogy calculation quite handily.

There are other realms, however, where even if we are missing the documentation, we can read between the lines and guess what might have occurred. And that is where discretion comes in. Perhaps there are parts of the story which are better laid to rest, for the peace of mind of those who remain, if for no other reason. 

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