#52Ancestors: Great Grandmother Sarah Kennedy, a Tough Woman to Research

Kennedy Sarah Headstone
Buffalo Cemetery, Cheektowaga, Erie County, New York. Lot 3, Section F, Grave 1.

My 3rd entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.

The theme for Week 3, Tough woman — Who is a tough, strong woman in your family tree? Or what woman has been tough to research?

Sarah Kennedy Prayer Card
Prayer card for Sarah Kennedy Flanagan.

My 3rd ancestor is my great grandmother, Sarah Kennedy (abt. 1898-1930), and she has been one of the toughest people for me to research.

The main reason Sarah is so difficult to research is that my grandfather Michael John Flanagan (1927-1997), her youngest child, never knew his mom. Sarah died of tuberculosis in 1930, orphaning him at 3 years old. Her husband, my grandfather’s dad, Patrick Thomas Flanagan (abt. 1897-1928) died of the same disease just 1-1/2 years earlier. Two months before her death, Sarah had become so ill that Grandpa and his four older brothers had to be committed to an orphanage, the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home in Buffalo, New York. After the boys’s brief stay at the GRCOH, they were split up, with Grandpa never really knowing his brothers well– except for one who reunited with him much later in life.

Records Challenges

Aside from Grandpa not knowing his mother, the biggest difficult in researching Sarah has been my failure to locate records for her, and inconsistencies in the records I have found for her.

  • I have not been able to get a death certificate for her from Erie County, New York. She died in the city of Buffalo.
  • I have not been able to confirm her birth year or location, or obtain a birth or christening record for her. While most other records indicate that Sarah was born in Cumberland, Allegany County, Maryland, the GRCOH records state she was born in Hyman, Pennsylvania — a locality I cannot even find. The census, death, and marriage records I have for Sarah even list conflicting birth years.
  • Sarah was not truthful on her marriage record to my great grandfather about a previous marriage. She indicated none, despite marrying first husband Frank Ward 12 years prior.
  • No other family — of Sarah’s, or of her husband’s — appear to be buried in the same cemetery as her. Someone paid to bury her in the Buffalo Cemetery (this was not an indigent cemetery or grave). The current cemetery operators confirmed Sarah’s site and service were paid for, but they don’t have a record of who paid, and they don’t have a record of any other family buried there.

No Other Researchers

Often I can use clues provided by other family members or even from strangers researching the same person or family to help break through my own genealogy ruts. But these stepping stones just aren’t available for Sarah.

  • None of my grandfather’s siblings are living, and few of his siblings had children of which I am aware. Because the siblings were split up and became lost to teach other, I don’t even really know which of his siblings had children and might still have living descendants.
    • The brother that Grandpa reunited with late in life has some living children, but my branch no longer knows how to contact them.
    • Grandpa’s half sister (who was of adult age when their mother died) does have descendants living, with whom I am in contact on Facebook, but they don’t have any info on Sarah.
  • I have not identified a single other descendant of Sarah who is on Ancestry Member Trees or other genealogy forums. I see her name pop up on some other public trees, but in just a brief reference as a collateral family member– no one has any real facts and records for her, or seems to be actively researching my Sarah. Just me.

Next Steps

Other than finding birth records for her three oldest children (Wards, half-siblings of my grandfather), I didn’t have any Sarah breakthroughs during my research trip last year to the Family History Library. I go again next month, so I will keep looking.

I am pretty sure that further breakthroughs will have to wait until I have the money and time to visit the localities I have identified for her, so I can search for leads and records in person.

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#52Ancestors: My 4th Great Grandpa James Darnley Immigrates from Scotland 1865

My 34th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

I have fallen way behind in this challenge again due to continued health issues the last few months, but I am trying to catch up by the end of the year.

My 34th ancestor is my fourth great grandfather, James DARNLEY (1832- ). This James Darnley is the father of James Patterson DARNLEY (1856-1908), whose murder I blogged about last week.

Ships List. Caledonia, steerage, 1865. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.
Ships List. Caledonia, steerage, 1865. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

James Sr., a miner, immigrated to the United States in 1865, along with his 7 year old son James Jr. and his 9 year old daughter Jeanette [Janet]. The family arrived at the Port of New York on 16 October 1865, on board the Caledonia (part of the Anchor shipping line), which embarked from Glasgow, Scotland. They crossed the Atlantic in poor steerage accommodations, sharing space with the ship’s cargo.

No wife for James Sr. or mother for the children accompanied the family on their journey to America. The first wife of James Sr., Anne BODMAN (married in April 1857), was already dead at this time.

Darnley New York Times advertisement
This advertisement in the New York Times ran the very date the family arrived (16 October 1865). It is for the return voyage back to Great Britain, on the Caledonia. The price for steerage passage was $30 U.S. Dollars (I assume, per person). My ancestor and his children traveled steerage from Glasgow, paying in British currency. Source: Newspapers.com.

By the time of the 1870 U.S. Census (enumerated 7 July 1870), James Sr. had remarried — to Margaret METZ (b. 1845) — and settled with their family in Lanaconing, Allegany County, Maryland. Both James Sr. and James Jr. were employed as miners. James and Margaret’s first child, 2 year old Jane, was born by this time.

 Darnley 1870 U.S. Census. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.
1870 U.S. Census. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

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#52Ancestors: Discovering The Name Of My 2nd Great Grandfather, Joseph Kennedy!

Kennedy Surname

My 4th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

My 4th ancestor is my 2nd great grandfather, Joseph Kennedy (1876-?). No, not the father of the U.S. President (although my conservative grandmother used to like to tease my conservative grandfather that he was related to the liberal Kennedy clan).

My Joseph Kennedy is the father of Sarah Kennedy (?-1930), of whom I know very little because she (and her husband) died and orphaned my grandfather Michael John Flanagan (1927-1997) when a toddler. Grandpa knew nothing about his grandfather, other than that he thought his last name was Kennedy. Until recently, I was not even sure if Kennedy was Sarah’s maiden name…I kept hearing the surnames Kennedy and Ward applied to her prior to her marriage to Grandpa’s father. In March 2012, I finally found Sarah’s marriage records: to Patrick Thomas Flanagan in 1925, and first to Frank J. Ward in 1913. Sarah identifies her father as Joseph Kennedy on both marriage records, and identified her birthplace as Cumberland [in Allegany County] Maryland.

With those marriage records providing his name and my first clues, I went in search of a father-daughter combination of Joseph Kennedy and Sarah Kennedy on the 1900 U.S. Census–the first Census on which Sarah would have been enumerated, based on her estimated birth year–in Maryland. I found them about a week later. According to that Census (taken 6 June 1900):

  • The family lived in Lonaconing, Allegany County, Maryland. No street name or number.
  • Joseph and Sarah (age 1) lived alone, even though Joseph is listed as married.
  • Joseph is described as: the head of household; white; born October 1876 (age 23); married for 3 years; born in Maryland, father born in Maryland, mother born in Virginia; a coal minter (but unemployed for 2 months); able to read, write, and speak English; and renting a house.
Census image
Courtesy of Ancestry.com. Click image to view a larger copy.

I found a possible lead, at the same time, for Joseph on the 1880 U.S. Census in Frostburg, Allegany County, Maryland. Joseph’s age and the birthplace of his parents jive with what was recorded on the 1900 U.S. Census. But I need to do a bit more cross-referencing before I chalk this up to a strong lead. If only that elusive 1890 Census were available…

I still need to prove through vital records that Joseph is indeed Sarah’s father, and that he is my 2nd great grandfather, but I feel good about my hunch, at least as far back as the 1900 Census (and I hope to get some of that documentation during my visit to the Family History Library next week for RootsTech!). I feel less sure about the 1880 Census connection, but will keep plugging away to find corroborating evidence.

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