Saturday, March 24, 2012

Surname Saturday - Riley

Thomas Riley is my oldest known Riley ancestor.  He is also one of my least known, genealogically speaking.  I have him fairly well documented for the last 40 or so years of his life, but his beginnings are a mystery.

Thomas Riley's first appearance in a US record is his marriage to Mary Ann McWeeney on 3 June 1865 at St. Dennis Church, Lockport, Will, Illinois.

He appears on the following US censuses:

1870 Lockport, Will, Illinois, age 40, Ireland, canal boat captain
1880 Lockport, Will, Illinois, age 45, Ireland, laborer
1900 Lockport, Will, Illinois, age 59, October 1840, Ireland, laborer, emigrated 1844, owned home
1910 Lockport, Will, Illinois, age 75, Ireland, own income, emigrated 1855, owned home

Thomas and Mary Ann had four known children:

Elizabeth (1866-1948) never married
James (1868-1906) never married
John Patrick (1872-1955) married Rena Clara Blanchard
Andrew (1880-1889)

Thomas died in 1915 and is buried without a gravestone in St. Dennis a/k/a South Lockport Cemetery.  His death record at the church states he was 75 and born in West Meath, Ireland.  Is there a "West Meath" or does this mean County Westmeath?  Thomas's birth ranges from 1830-1840 and his immigration from 1844-1855.

His last name can also be spelled differently.  The census records alone have Riley, Reilly, and Rihley.

I have a lot of clues but not a lot of certainty.  Are you related?  Do you have experience with Riley's and/or County Westmeath?  Let me know!

Riley Family in Lockport, circa 1913
Mary Ann McWeeney Riley (far left) and Thomas Riley (far right)

© 2012 Sally Knudsen


  1. Hi,

    I'm a new follower to your blog and Twitter. I found you through the 1940 US Census Ambassador Program. I enjoyed reading your post about Mr. Riley.

    I've always found it interesting how the differences in our ancestors age don't always coincide with the 10 years between each census. For example, your Mr. Riley aged only 5 years between 1870 and 1880, and aged about 15 years during the 20 year timespan between the 1880 & 1900 census. He made up for it between the 1900 & 1910 census, where he aged 15 years during that 10 year time period. I've found this age discrepancy in my own family's census data.

    I wish that I'd only age 5 years in a 10 year timespan. :)

    I look forward to reading more of your posts. You've given me inspiration to work on my own Surname Saturday post. Thank you!

  2. PS I've also friended you on Find-a-Grave. That's a great site, too!

    1. John O'Riley here, my brother James Riley is trying to find out what happened to Elizabeth Riley b. 1867, d. 1948, daughter of Thomas and Mary Riley. Any ideas? JO'