Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#52Ancestors (37) Mary Ann McWeeney Riley

Mary Ann McWEENEY is a paternal great-great-grandmother.

Her parents were Patrick McWEENEY and Mary Ann, whose maiden name is still unknown. She was the third of six known children, including Ellen, Francis, John, Patrick and Andrew.

She was born in 1843 once her parents reached North America. But she was not born in the United States; she was born in Montreal, Canada. Based on US census records, her younger brothers were all born in Illinois. I know from their birth date ranges that they came to Illinois about 1845.

This past summer, I did a little digging in the local court archives in Will County, Illinois, and was able to uncover some probate files for this family. I learned that her father Patrick was from County Leitrim, Ireland. More specifically, I learned her older sister Ellen was born in something similar to 'Latham' in Leitrim. Well, that narrows down future searching! Patrick's wife, the unknown Mary Ann, had a childless sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Charles CLIFFORD, who also were residing in Lockport, Will, Illinois.

Her father Patrick was a farmer and purchased at least 40 acres on the north side of the Village of Lockport in Will County. This part of the county was near the being-built Illinois and Michigan Canal. Patrick died in October of 1851. Shortly after, his property was transferred to his widow. And then Mary Ann died in 1862.

Their daughter Mary Ann married an Irish immigrant named Thomas RILEY in 1865. Thomas and Mary Ann had four children: Elizabeth, James, John, and Andrew. They lived in Lockport for the rest of their lives.

I am fortunate to have this three-generation photo of the family, taken about 1913:

Mary Ann is on the far left and Thomas on the far right. Mary Ann died in 1922 at age 79.

I have recently made contact with descendants of some of the other McWeeney children, so there is more work to be done and hopefully, more connections to be made, especially back to Ireland.

© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#52Ancestors (36) William McDonald and Nellie Thomas

Last week, I introduced my great-great-grandmother Anna Harriet McDonald. She was the middle of three daughters born to William McDONALD and Helen 'Nellie' THOMAS.

William McDONALD worked his adult life as a laundryman, owning his own shop for several years. He was born in Scotland. All records state November but the year varies from 1844 to 1848. When he came to America is another mystery: the 1900 and 1910 censuses are either blank or list 'unknown.' And based on his death certificate, he was born on November 31st!


The earliest record I do have is his marriage. By tracking him backwards in time, I found that he married Miss Nellie THOMAS in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio on 3 October 1875. William and Nellie then had three daughters:

Bessie, born 1877 in Ohio, married Perry STREETER in Lansing, Ingham, Michigan
Anna, born 1878 in Michigan, married first Lawrence HUMMEL in Adrian, Lenawee, Michigan
Nellie, born 1880 in Michigan, married Harry BELT in Adrian, Lenawee, Michigan

His wife, Helen 'Nellie' THOMAS, was the daughter of William THOMAS and Hila Melissa HASKINS of New York. The THOMAS family was enumerated on the 1850 census in Buffalo, Erie, New York and in later years in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio. The information on Nellie's death certificate was extremely detailed:


This entire McDONALD family died amazingly young. Nellie died in 1904 at age 47 and William in 1911 at age 66. All three daughters followed shortly thereafter, each leaving young children:

Bessie Streeter, 1915, aged 47
Annie Abbott, 1915, aged 46
Nellie Belt, 1917, aged 47





© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

#52Ancestors (35) Anna Harriet McDonald (1878-1915)

Anna 'Annie' Harriet McDONALD was a maternal great-great-grandmother. While not truly a 'black sheep,' she was certainly persona non grata in my family.

Annie was born 5 December 1878 in Adrian, Lenawee, Michigan. She was the middle of three daughters born to William McDONALD of Scotland and Helen THOMAS of New York.

Annie married Lorenz 'Lawrence' Simon HUMMEL in Adrian in 1896. They had two children: my great-grandfather William in 1896 and his sister Alma in 1903.

In a previous post about her husband, we learned that Annie filed for divorce from Lawrence, citing 'extreme cruelty' yet Annie left her husband and children behind for a tiny monetary settlement. It appears there was already another future husband in play. Their divorce was finalized in Hillsdale County, Michigan in June of 1909. Later that year, Annie remarried.

Husband #2 was Bertie J. ABBOTT. He was recently divorced and had a young son. Bertie and Annie married in Detroit and they spent time between Michigan and Ontario, Canada. Bertie worked as a railroad engineer and that may explain their various residences. They had no children of their own.

In 1915, Annie died in Windsor, Ontario after a year-long battle with tuberculosis. Though her death record states she was buried in Adrian, no cemetery marker has yet been located. She was only 36 years old. Her husband Bertie went on to marry two more times before his death in Montreal in 1930.

This is the only known family photo of Annie:

Lawrence, William and Annie Hummel
c 1896
© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#52Ancestors (34) John Joseph McBride, in pictures

This week's post is a tribute to my grandfather, John Joseph McBride. He was the namesake of his father, who died before my grandpa was born. He was a first generation American, born to immigrants from England and Scotland. Grandpa lived his entire life (1909-1994) in Joliet, Will, Illinois. His friends knew him as 'Mac' or 'Red,' though the black and white photos don't share his hair color very well. I miss you, Grandpa!

with older brother Robert, c 1911
in a parade, c 1916

wedding day 1934

family, c 1948
© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#52Ancestors (33) John Joseph McBride: A Victim of Proofreading

My great-grandfather, John Joseph McBRIDE, lived a hardworking but short life. Born in Birtley, County Durham, England in 1873, he emigrated to Illinois with his parents, Daniel and Mary Ann, in 1880. In 1902 he married Margaret Donaldson KERR. They had one young son, and two infants that died. Margaret was pregnant in 1909 when 'Joe' came home from work one afternoon and succumbed to pneumonia. He died in Joliet, Will, Illinois.

Will County is my home county in Illinois. It borders Cook County and Chicago to the southwest. Joliet has always been a fairly large city (today over 100,000 people), and has supported various newspapers over the years. The longest running is the Joliet Herald-News. Other papers came and went, especially in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The main branch of the Joliet Public Library has all of the available newspapers on microfilm.

The Will County Clerk's office has two huge binders containing the indices of deaths. They have the binders (thankfully!) because Will is a 'certificate' county and not a 'ledger book' county. It is much more difficult for the staff to locate a filed certificate than for a patron to review a chronological ledger book. My research practice has always been to review the index first and search for an obituary at the library. Especially if the person is not a direct ancestor, I'd rather spend a quarter to print the article than $13 to order the death certificate.

I found that two newspapers had an obituary for John in 1909:

The above notice was published in the Joliet Evening Herald on Wednesday, 10 March 1909. It has true and useful facts.

This second notice appeared in the Joliet Daily Republican also published on Wednesday, 10 March 1909.

Holy typo, Batman! I wonder how the error in the second notice happened. Eighty-six is a whole lot different than 36.

Had I only found the second notice and not yet known much about this family, I would have been searching for records for a long, long time. This instance certainly shows that finding as much documentation as possible for your ancestors is so important. 

Just because it was printed in the newspaper doesn't mean it's true!

© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Life and Near-Death in Fort Wayne

As summers go, this year's seems to have moved faster than ever. The days of a family vacation are long past. My oldest traveled to Alabama for his national college track meet, and my youngest and husband drove to Colorado to fish. Me? Busy being mom. I finally decided to take a mini-vacation (Mom-cation?) of my own and visit the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I left on Sunday morning, expecting to take a leisurely drive to Fort Wayne. The trip would be 3-4 hours from my exurban Chicago home. There is no direct interstate route to Fort Wayne, so it was an old school, back roads roadtrip.

Travelling east on the 80/90 Tollway, my first stop of interest was South Bend. I don't particularly care for Notre Dame as a sports team (we say 'Notre Dumb' - sue me), but I decided I'd drive through the campus. It was really like I never left Chicagoland with the constant construction. Really. But I did manage to get this shot of the Golden Dome.

Next stop...Elkhart. There was a driveable garden quilt display that sounded interesting, especially as my mom is a quilter. Me = techy. Mom = crafty. In Elkhart, which has a lovely downtown, I stopped at the Wellfield Botanic Gardens. It was a beautiful spot tucked away from the main town and filled with flowers and statuary. It was a perfect stop to shoot some pictures and stretch my legs.

I located one piece of quilt artwork. Then I also located this:

uh oh...

Time to go! The thunderheads were really building quickly. My weather app showed some pretty serious activity brewing to the south (I was headed southeast) so I jumped back in the car, located the next Indiana state highway, and hit the road. 

I traveled about 20 minutes and the sky, though not dark, just opened up. Now I am a Midwestern girl. I've seen tornadoes and had them damage my neighborhood. I've been in blizzards, hailstorms, 110 degree heat. But driving along, alone, with the wipers on extra-high and being pelted by rain was not the plan I had in mind for a vacay.

As I white-knuckled it, I came upon some emergency lights ahead. Slowing down, I saw in front of me a tanker truck, a freshly cracked tree, and a power line in the road. In a chicken-or-the-egg scenario, I don't know which came first, but it was most definitely storm-related. I used my inherited GPS skills (thanks Dad!) and maneuvered my way out of the town, still with the rain pelting and still with the wind roaring. The next road sign told me it was only 28 miles to Fort Wayne. It would not have helped to stop along the road, so I kept driving and thinking about my trip's purpose: genealogy. It gave me something to contemplate, and it also made me realize that I cannot die out here in the middle of Indiana because I have all of my research in my computer in the back of my car and I've never gotten around to publishing or creating any tangible product as a legacy and I need to find more information and I need to print it all out.


Nearing Fort Wayne and Interstate 69, the rain had not let up. At all. By the time I entered the highway, other drivers were already merging to the shoulder and waiting out the storm. When a State Highway vehicle drove slowly in the left lane with HIS blinkers on, I decided to exit and wait. After about 10 minutes, I drove the last tension-releasing bit of the journey and made it to my hotel. You know when your radar shows really blood-red in the center of a storm? That's what I drive right through.


I learned upon check-in that my free whirlpool upgrade was granted and that was exactly what I needed!


Then I had a small dinner as the storm cleared. The planner that I am wanted to drive by the library to get my bearings and learn where to park before it opened Monday morning. You'd think these were concert tickets I was waiting for! I also had a collateral family buried in Lindenwood Cemetery in Fort Wayne and I wanted to visit their graves. Fortunately those two parts of the evening came off without a hitch :)  Driving around Fort Wayne was pretty easy and Lindenwood is beautiful - rolling hills filled with huge old trees.

Monday morning, I checked out of the hotel and requested my receipt because it wasn't under my door. For whatever reason, I was never actually connected to a room. The manager was terribly apologetic (I didn't much care what happened, I just wanted my receipt!) and didn't charge me for the room! Monday was already 1,000 times better than Sunday.

I drove downtown and decided to park in the library's underground lot ($1 an hour) rather than determine where and for how long I could park on the street or in a municipal lot. Walking into the lobby was amazing. The ACPL is really a beautiful building.

Before my trip, I perused the online catalog so I wouldn't waste a lot of time. I decided to make a list of possible obituaries to find in their microfilm reels first, and then see what else I might find. I did not plan on any specific research problem or family - this trip was more about experiencing the facility.

my Michigan people are in that drawer!

For any of you who have spent any time reeling microfilm, the reading room was a little bit of research heaven. There were about 40 carrels and 10 computer setups, plus a printer. I used the computers and while the saving is a little tedious, it worked well and I copied my items onto my own flashdrive. Research-wise, I didn't have nearly the luck I was hoping for, so in the interest of time, I moved along to the books.

Books. And books. And books. All about genealogy. Happy sigh.

this is only half of the United States...not kidding

The books were organized by geography and family. I wandered the rows of the various locations my families had lived. They were generally organized from east coast to west coast and then by state, county, city, and small places. I hung around New York for a while, and then I wanted to go to Michigan. And I couldn't find it. I asked for help was led to the other side of the genealogy center, to the fancy automatic bookcases.

They let anyone push those buttons!

my Michigan people are in between those cases!

Next stop, family genealogies. This was slightly easier to negotiate because, you know, the alphabet and all. But the shelving route was also a little circuitous. I did manage to find quite a few very informative books. You may have noticed I didn't mention copying. Because I didn't. I simply used a scanning app on my phone. I did have my Flip-Pal but did not use it. There were also Star Wars-like copy machines, but I didn't use those either. In this modern era, I saved everything I needed by phone or flashdrive. Amazing. And I really don't need any more genealogy paper 'decorating' my workspace. #amiright

After seven hours in the library (yes I took a quick lunch break in the downstairs cafe), I headed home.

It was a wonderful, if slightly harrowing, trip.

My ACPL tips:
  1. Go!
  2. They love technology - bring your own and save time
  3. Spend your time in the book stacks - much of the microfilm collection can be found in online databases
I will definitely be going back. After I check the weather.

library selfie

© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Monday, August 11, 2014

#52Ancestors (32) Daniel McBride, A Man of Three Countries

Daniel McBRIDE was my great-great-grandfather on my paternal side. He was born in Ireland around 1840. After living for many years in northeast England, he emigrated to and died in Joliet, Will, Illinois in 1902.

Ireland. The mysterious ancestral motherland of so many Americans, myself included.

In his wife Mary Ann's biography, I shared the basic details of their lives. Daniel is one of those 'brick walls' that I would like to conquer.

After locating the family in Joliet, Will, Illinois, I determined they came from England. It was easy to find the family on the English census records of 1871 and with their birth families in 1861 prior to their marriage. Daniel was kind enough to me to live with his brother Edward and sister Jane - but no parents - in 1861 in Birtley, County Durham, England. In later years, Edward and Jane both note County Tyrone as their place of birth so I think that is an appropriate assumption for Daniel as well.

Daniel and Mary Ann McALEER married in Birtley in 1865. The marriage record lists a Daniel McBRIDE as Daniel's father. I ordered Edward's and Jane's marriage records as well, and they were also children of Daniel McBRIDE. So far, so good.

As an aside - if you have English ancestors, ordering their vital records from the General Register Office is easy and surprisingly reasonable. And really, who doesn't get excited receiving a crown post envelope in their mailbox?!

After reviewing a microfilm of St. Joseph Catholic Church records from Birtley, I also noted a Bridget McBRIDE LEE(S) as a witness and/or sponsor in several McBRIDE family records. Bridget married Samuel LEE (or LEES) and I located a marriage record on FamilySearch.org in the townland of Magherafelt in Derry in Ireland. They also eventually lived in Birtley, County Durham. Now THAT is a clue!


I cannot find any record of these McBRIDE siblings in England on the 1851 census. Since they would have been teenagers then, unless they had a parent with them, it is probably unlikely they had yet left Ireland. Perhaps by then one or both parents died? Perhaps they simply left for a chance at a better life after the famine? I can only speculate.

My other modern clue to this old family is DNA. I was fortunate to have my father tested and have learned he fits the Northern Ireland haplogroup R1b1b2a1a2f2, which is a fairly specific group possibly descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages. Now that would be pretty cool, but right now I'm happy to make a solid connection on Irish terra firma through Daniel McBride first!

Are you connected? Let me know! I know my American cousins but so many more are still in England and Ireland. Have any unique Northern Ireland or County Tyrone research tips? Let me know those, too!

© 2014 Sally Knudsen