Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Other Catherine Kelly

It seems odd to have to reorient myself, every time I search the Kellys in Indiana. I have to stop and think which Catherine Kelly's family I'm currently seeking. The Catherine in Fort Wayne is the one whose burial in the Kelly/Kelly family plot introduced me to the possibility of Timothy Kelly's relationship to our Kelly family—which in turn started me off on that whole wild chase to find the source for the Danehy family's Irish roots.

This time, though, I'm seeking more information on a sibling in the other Catherine Kelly's family. This Catherine Kelly—if you've been around here at A Family Tapestry long enough to recall—would have been the mother in law of the Fort Wayne Catherine Kelly, except that she, as had the younger one, died young, likely after childbirth.

When I discovered the siblings of this elder Catherine Kelly, I had pursued the lines of descent of each one of them. Oh, there were a few who never married—like the resolute bachelor Mathew Kelly and his sister Rose—simplifying that research task. But there was also a curve thrown in for good measure in this Kelly line.

That unexpected pitch came from the youngest sister, Ann, whom I had assumed had followed in her older unmarried siblings' footsteps. Ann had simply disappeared from sight. There could only be one of two fates: premature death—or marriage.

It was an unexpected DNA match that hinted at the latter. Quite a while back, I received notice that my husband—since this is, actually, his family line we are talking about—gained two matches which aligned with that Kelly surname. The two matches were, in fact, half siblings to each other, so the parent in question was handily highlighted for the researcher administering their test results.

As seems to be the case with most matches I've experienced, I and the other admin took a long, hard look at both trees, examined each one of the multitudes of surnames listed, and decided we didn't see anything in common.

Well, at least it felt that way. As it turned out, there was one surname: Kelly.

(You knew it would turn out that way.)

The surprising thing was that this specific Kelly turned out to be the one I assumed had died young: Ann. It took a DNA match with the other side of the line to learn the rest of the story. Apparently, Ann had married, after all—to a local man who lived in Lafayette, Indiana.

Her husband's name was Barnard Doyle. Not long after they were married—sometime between 1875, when second son James arrived, and 1879, when third son Frank was born—the family ended up in Parsons, Kansas. At least, that's where I found them for the 1880 census.

It's a good thing I found the Doyle family then, for Barnard died two years later, in Kansas. Following soon after was Barnard's father, Joseph, an Irish immigrant from King's County (County Offaly) in the heart of Ireland, who had been living with Barnard's family. By 1885, Ann and her three sons were on their own.

This scenario is one of those times when a researcher feels deeply how painfully long twenty years can be, for the silence in the census records in that gap between 1880 and 1900 can hold mysteries still waiting to be resolved. The Doyle family may be one of those puzzles.

By the time of the 1900 census, oldest Doyle son, Joseph, was in another Kansas town—married, with children of his own. Second son James was nowhere to be found. "Anna" was apparently still in Parsons, living with her youngest son, Frank. By 1910, Ann may be the mother in law listed in the home of another Anna Doyle—if this younger woman was the wife of the missing James. It's hard to tell; the elder Ann's age was omitted from the record, and none of the others in the household were familiar names from previous records.

After that, Ann slips from view. No death record. No inclusion in the family burials with husband Barnard or his father Joseph—at least, as far as Find A Grave shows. As far as I know, this might—or might not—be the right Ann.

And that's where I was stuck, from the point at which I learned about these Doyle-Kelly DNA matches. Of course, I can just pretend genetic genealogy is based in science—that never-failing sure thing of modernity—and presume that, of course, that is our Kelly connection.

But this is genealogy—you know, that mushy realm of suppositions and family lore upon which academics delight in casting aspersions—and I would feel more comfortable if I had a paper trail to bolster those suppositions.

While online genealogy has boosted research progress exponentially in the past decade, there are some pockets where digitized material is not yet available at the click of a mouse. Lafayette, Indiana, is one of those places.

What Lafayette does have, however, more than makes up for that lack. If, that is, one can get to Indiana to see for ourselves.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Meanwhile, Back in Indiana . . .

It was heartening to locate the marriage record for Johanna, Mary Danehy's older sister, and her husband Cornelius Sweeney. Double cause for rejoicing to realize that marriage was registered at the same location as that for the birth of their son Philip only three years later.

I begin now to wonder whether that three year gap might indeed have been taken by the arrival of an older son, someone named after his father's father. There certainly was enough time for such an event to have occurred. Discovery of such a detail might possibly provide us a hint as to who Cornelius Sweeney's father was, and whether the family was still living at Millstreet in the prior generation.

When one genealogical detail leads seamlessly into the next discovery, it's hard to call it quits and recall just how far afield we are wandering from our original research goal. That's when I have to rein in this galloping runaway research juggernaut and refocus on original goals. Remember Mary Danehy? The second wife of widower Timothy Kelly? Who somehow was related to my husband's Kelly ancestors in Fort Wayne?

Yeah, those Kellys. I was trying to figure out if, by connecting the people, I could simultaneously connect them to their homeland. While Millstreet is a solid answer for place of origin, it still brings us to County Cork, not the expected County Kerry of our family's own Kellys, whose patriarch, incidentally, married a woman named Falvey, who was decidedly from County Kerry, not Cork.

Oh, dear, we've gone quite far afield.

Admittedly, while the exercise did nothing to lead me closer to the Kellys' home, it did lay out a wonderful path back to the homeland for the Danehy family. And if you are a Danehy descendant, you are welcome.

In the meantime, it feels like it is time to regroup and reassess our research direction. You win some, you lose some. You can't move forward without exploring all avenues, even if some of them turn out to be false leads.

I'm not too discouraged about this lack of progress. There still is that double DNA match which points to this type of connection, one between the Kellys, Falveys and Danehys. The whole lot of them could turn out to be cousins, just one generation prior to my stopping point. And it may, after all, pay to take the journey back just one more step.

Meanwhile, another DNA match has beckoned, and I'm off on that chase, as well. As they used to say in the news media: news flash! Because...I'm not writing you from California any more. Now, I'm in Indiana. And I'm looking for another set of Kellys. On the opposite side of the state from Fort Wayne, in a place called Lafayette.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Maybe This is The One

Having found a promising entry in County Cork civil registers for the 1868 birth of Philip Sweeney, son of Cornelius and Johanna, the next step was to see if there were any marriage records for his parents at the same location.

Once again, a transcription of an old "collection" at provided the trailblazer to hint at the right place to search. Now that the Irish civil registers are provided online, I returned to see what could be found for Philip's parents.

The Ancestry report indicated that I need to be creative with spelling. They had located a record for Swinyrather than Sweeneyand Cornelius' given name abbreviated as Cor's. However, the rest of the entry was promising: a bride named Johanna Denehy, the same location as Philip's birth in Millstreet, and a date for the marriage set at a discreet distance from his December 1, 1868, arrival. According to this Ancestry transcription, the date of the marriage was 26 February, 1865.

From this point, I went to the Irish Genealogy website to see what I could find to replicate that Ancestry report.

While the civil registrations for birth records that we viewed yesterday included digitized images of the original records, that was not soat least as far as I could tellfor the marriage records I was seeking today, even for those only a few years prior to Philip's birth.

Still, the search engine brought up a result for a Cornelius "Swiny"just as the Ancestry collection had indicatedbut it only showed the transcription for Cornelius, alone. No mention of the wife or any further details than the year of the marriage.

Undeterred, I did a second searchthis time for Johanna, spelling her surname just as the Ancestry record had indicated: Denehy. Sure enough, the returns quarter, volume number and page number matched the entry for Cornelius exactly.

I'd say we have a match.

Above: "On the Saco" undated oil painting by German-American landscape artist, Albert Bierstadt; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Whatever Can Be Found —
Now That We Can Find It

Can a hint served up by Ancestrythe kind that says only that it comes from "Select Births and Baptisms" with no other source givenreally be reliable? After all, I'm finding some tempting notes about the Irish-born son of Cornelius and Johanna Danehy Sweeney; I'd like to know whether they are reliable.

All these "collections" of previously assembled transcriptions may have been helpful trailblazers in the past, but now that Irish records are being digitized and coming online at a dizzying paceIrish genealogist John Grenham characterized the resultant euphoria over this development as becoming "Punch Drunk"it may be possible to go straight to the source to verify those older reports.

So when I saw several shaky leaf hints insisting that my guyin this case, Phillip Sweeney, born in Ireland in 1868was listed in this or that "collection," I took the high road to find out just where I could lay eyes on the original document.

Grenham does provide several links for those archived records coming online at such a dizzying pace. One recent addition I already knew, thanks to the international buzz over its arrival, was that of the Irish Civil Registrations. Despite his family's being Catholic, because of Philip Sweeney's arrival in 1868, I knew his registration was sure to be included in the recordssomewhere in Cork, where all indicators seemed to be pointing for his family's origin.

True, one of the "collections" I had found had already mentioned a location in County Cork: a place called Millstreet. The record transcription provided by Ancestry, however, was so sparse as to be nearly useless. It confirmed the name of the child and his year of birth, which matched what I had gleaned from elsewhere. But knowing the Irish, this search was sure to be filled with the treachery of spelling variations and incorrectly-recalled dates. Besides, the record didn't even confirm the names of the parents. Clearly, I needed something more than this.

Because now we can, I headed to the Irish website which now contains those images, clicked on "Civil Records," and entered my search query. Sure enough, a result came up for a Philip "Sweeny" born in County Cork in 1868. Clicking below the transcription on the hyperlinked term, "image," in no time, I was staring at the very entry made in the register for the son of Cornelius Sweeney and Johanna "Denahy."

It was indeed for a birth registered in the District of Millstreet. I learned that Philip was born on December 1, 1868, in a place called Rathcool, Dromtariffe. I could see, further, that Corneliusthe reporting partyleft his mark, for he couldn't sign his own name, and that he did so in the district office on the sixth of that same month.

If this was the right Philipand my, oh my, how many chances there are to get an identity wrong in such a casethen I was just gifted with the location of the Sweeney residence almost twelve years before they left for America. If the family stayed in one place for long, it might also mean this was the place where Cornelius and Johanna were married, too. Perhaps this location would also show me the records for some others in this extended familyat least on the Danehy side, where so many documents had already woven this family together and identified them as former residents of County Cork.

Could that mean they were all residents of this same area, Millstreet?

Above: Excerpt from the Irish Civil Registration for the district of Millstreet in County Cork, showing the December 1, 1868, birth of Philip, son of Cornelius Sweeney and his wife, Johanna Danehy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Wedding Bells — Where?

Realizing that Johanna Danehy had married her husband, Cornelius Sweeney, not in Fort Wayne where the family lived, but somewhere back in Ireland was helpful. At least it provided the bait to tempt me to look further, back in the family's homeland. But before I could check out any documents, back in Ireland, I needed to have a clearer picture of just who comprised that family constellation before the Sweeneys left County Cork, Ireland, for Allen County, Indiana.

Fortunately, both Johanna, born in 1847, and her husband Cornelius Sweeney, born in 1846, lived long enough to be included in the 1900 census in Fort Wayne. There, they reported that Johanna had been the mother of five childrenthree still livingand that the couple had arrived on American shores in 1880. They had only been in this country for twenty years at the point of that census. Cornelius claimed he had been naturalized.

But who were those three remaining children? Only one still lived with his parents: eighteen year old John Joseph Sweeney, born in Fort Wayne barely two years after his parents arrived in the country.

It was back to searching for death certificates at, where the recently placed Indiana Death Certificates collection was seemingly well-timed to arrive just before I needed it. There, searching for an unknown Sweeney child with parents named Cornelius and Johanna, brought up just one more result: that of John's older brother, Phillipthe one I had already found, thanks to the Catholic Cemetery burial records at the Genealogy Center.

While I had already found the cemetery's record for the third remaining childa daughter, Julia, who had married a local man named James DoyleI couldn't locate any death record confirming her family information.

Still, by all reports, the older two children were born in IrelandJulia's Irish origin we surmise, according to her headstone, in 1867, and Phillip the following year. Phillip's death certificate flatly stated he was born in Irelandjust "Ireland," precluding any hope of clerical error including more information than was required.

Yet to be completed is a search for newspaper accounts of their passingor any other mention that can be found of any of the family members. All in good time, though, for this search needs to be conducted in a systematic manner.

Or does it? Those bright, shiny objects presenting themselves as shaky leaf hints at are sometimes irresistible. What is an innocent researcher to do when presented with two tantalizing possibilities for birth records for one of the children of this very couple? Perhaps these will be the documents that lead us back to the Danehy family's origin. If they can corroborate with any marriage records for Cornelius and Johanna, I'd consider that case closed.

Above: The Fort Wayne, Indiana, household of Cornelius Sweeney from the 1900 U.S. Census; image courtesy

Monday, October 17, 2016

Getting Those Hints

Perhaps it was because her sister, Mary Danehy, had gotten married after arriving in the U.S. that I had assumed such was the case for Johanna Danehy, as well.

The first record I had found for Johanna was that of her burial at the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne. There, I found her alongside her husband, Cornelius Sweeney, in Section B, lot 516, as we discussed the other day.

Working my way backwards in time, as genealogists are accustomed to doing, I discovered it wasn't a long stretch at all from her death in 1912 to the earliest document in which I found her in America. That first glimpse of Johanna Danehy Sweeney's family constellation was provided, courtesy of the 1880 census.

There, living one house down from her brother Michael Danehy on Bass Street, Johanna cared for a small household: just her husband and one son, thirteen year old Phillip, no doubt named for his maternal grandfather.

I'm not sure why the knowledge of Irish naming patterns didn't set off bells in my head, for I surely am aware that a son named for his mother's father meant a son who was second-born. But it didn't occur to me, when I first found this record, to go seeking whatever became of that firstborn son.

Nor did the obvious entry for place of birth in that same census prompt any questions in my mind. I was so lulled into assuming the same pattern for one sister as the other that I didn't notice it in the least.

It wasn't until reviewing the family's burial records last week that something jogged my mind to wake up and pay attention to these telltale details. Lo and behold, son Phillip was born in 1868in Ireland. Which meant not only would an older brother have been born there as well, but that his parents were married in Ireland, as well.

Truth be told, I was plodding along my mind-numbed way for quite a while...until a hint from Ancestry broke into my foggy reverie and suggested there might just be a marriage record for a Cornelius Sweeney and a Johanna Danehy in Ireland.

You know those shaky leaf hints we all are so fond of scorning?

Yeah, one of those.

Thankfully, I took a look. At just about the time I was writing my post for last Friday. Hmmm...this will take some more thought. And a bit of time to check it all out. With the weekend behind me now, that's exactly what I did.

I do feel justified in taking caution to not ricochet in the opposite direction and gullibly glom on to every hint thrown my way, for those Irish naming patterns can turn around and shoot you in the foot if you are not careful. After all, not only did I find telltale signs of a marriage in County Cork for Cornelius and Johanna, but another for Cornelius and Ann. With spelling variations for the surname Sweeney going wild in the pages of various church registers, this was going to be a search that banned all jumps to conclusions.

The beauty of finding the right record, of course, would be the concurrent identification of the exact place where the entire family originated in County Cork, Ireland. Wherever Johanna got married would likely be the place the Danehy family once called home. Depending on how long Johanna and Cornelius were married before leaving for America, there is the possibility that, just like her father had left behind one son when he left the country, she and her husband might have found themselves doing the same, as well.

Above: "A Wooded Path in Autumn," 1902 oil on canvas by Danish artist Hans Andersen Brendekilde; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Just Passing Through

Oh, the drama hidden within the boundaries of the places we sometimes are just passing through.

Every now and then, our family business sends us to places we've not visited before. Last week, I had the opportunity to spend a day in the city of Willits, California, while my husband conducted a seminar there.

Whenever I have such an opportunity, I like to glean a bit of the history of the region. Willits is such a small townright now, the population has dipped below five thousand, a trend begun at the dawn of the new millenniumI hadn't thought there would be much to discover. Tucked away in the redwood forests of the northern reaches of our state, it is no surprise that this remote hideaway in the hills is not a population magnet. What could possibly have happened, throughout history, in a place so tiny?

Willits doesn't lack for natural beauty. We drove ina task requiring more than three hours travel northward from the much more populous Bay area—under cover of night, to the drizzle and sputtering rain heralding the official rainy season that constitutes northern California's autumn. When we awoke the next morning, the hills were wrapped in a magical mist. Narrow, winding country roads beckonedas well as the old-fashioned ambience of the downtown. I had to check out what makes this place what it is.

Perhaps it is years of genealogical research that shapes the way my mind takes in information. To know Willits better, my first instinct was to learn about its history.

I quickly discovered a not-so-sleepy town with its own checkered past.

There are some good parts. The area around Willits has been known for years as the later-years residence and final resting place of the legendary Seabiscuitthe thoroughbred race horse whose comeback story became a symbol of hope during America's Great Depression. The California Western Railroad's Mendocino County linenow a heritage railroad popularly dubbed the Skunk Trainstill runs some excursions from Willits westward through that scenic redwood country.

But Willits, in that checkered past, is also one of the haunts for the notorious activities of Charles Earl Bowlesbetter recalled by his moniker, Black Bart. Among other activities in Mendocino County, Black Bart held up the June 14, 1882, stagecoach run from Little Lake to Ukiah. The coach was headed to the county seat of Mendocino from the township of Little Lakethe very place that soon became known as the city of Willits. On board the coach that day was Little Lake's postmaster, Hiram Willits.

If Hiram's name seems vaguely familiar, it is because the locale he served was soon to become his namesake city. Hiram Willits, arriving in northern California from Indiana before the 1860 census, obtained several large parcels of land in the area, some as early as 1862. In particular, one became the parcel upon which the original town's settlement was established.

Life in that original settlement in the 1860s was likely no different than any other rugged pioneer territory. Despite its remote situation, news of the day was just as passionately debated in this remote outpost as in the rest of the countryin the case of the new town, coming to a head on election day in 1867 with a shootout between members of a family advocating the cause of the South and a family supporting the North. Within barely fifteen seconds, three members of the pro-Union Coates family lay dead, including Abraham Francis Coates, who had just registered to vote the last January, likely upon turning twenty one years of age.

Such a sudden turn of events was not isolated to this incident. Only twelve years later, three young men suspected of theft and reckless behavior became victims of a triple lynching.

While everyday life has undoubtedly become much tamer in these modern times, Willits has remained the site of a different kind of struggle. In a real-life scene very much like the one played out in the movie Erin Brockovich, litigation alleged that a local company had inappropriately disposed of hexavalent chromium over the course of decades, causing health problems among local residents.

Even the re-routing of the local highway can't detour around that inevitable clash of widely divergent opinions. Highway 101, the route stretching from the north end of Los Angeles upward through the rest of Californiaand, ultimately, wending its way along the coasts of Oregon and Washingtonhappens to shrink down to a two-lane road, becoming Main Street through the center of downtown Willits. Construction to build a bypass elicited strong feelings on either side of the issue. It will kill the central business districtor stop propping up excess business establishments. It will get rid of that impossible nonstop stream of annoying trafficor destroy the environment by sending unnecessary volumes of traffic into protected wetlands. It seems Willits doesn't lack for divergent opinions, no matter the era or the topic.

Though I have no roots in the area, it was nice to see the ever-familiar typical late 1880s local history genre had not bypassed a place as remote and tiny as Willits. Indeed, Mendocino County has at least two such volumes published, including the 1880 work by Lyman Palmer available at Ex Libris Rosetta, which I found, thanks to a mention on's wiki for Mendocino County and their book search utility.

Somehow, becoming familiar with research techniques for genealogical pursuits can be nicely cross-applied to discovering the local history of any place our family happens to visit, and it certainly adds an unexpected aspect to our travels, no matter how brief our stay.

Above: Excerpt from the title page of Lyman Palmer's History of Mendocino County, California, published in 1880 by Alley, Bowen & Company, San Francisco.     
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