All About Connections, Following the Kelleys to Iowa, Part 3

Part 1 Of this series of posts was about a woman named Mary Hibbard Stewart and the possibility of her being my 3rd great-grandmother. TL;DR: Mary lived near my 2nd great-grandfather John Kelley in two different states from 1850–1880.

Part 2 established that Mary was the right age, had not yet married John Stewart when John Kelley was born in 1825, and John Kelley, his wife’s father, and Mary were close neighbors in Henry County, Iowa, from 1856 to 1870 or so.

So now I want to look for any more ties I can make between Mary Hibbard Stewart and John Kelley.

I’m awaiting John Kelley’s death certificate. Usually, the names of the deceased’s parents are listed on these records. I could get really lucky and discover Mary’s name listed on it. Chances are, though, that other researchers of this family have already ordered his death certificate before me. So, probably, his parents’ names were left blank.

I’ve checked several newspaper archive sites and haven’t located Mary’s obituary. Obituaries often list the names of children and grandchildren. [Update: Mary’s obituary has been located.]

I also checked in the newspapers of York County, Nebraska, where the Stewarts lived before they moved to Washington State, with no luck. I’d like to look through the newspapers of Henry County to see if they mention a connection between the Kelleys and the Stewarts. Newspapers back then reported every little picnic and out-of-town guest, so there’s a chance I’ll find a link.

That leaves me with my dad’s and my DNA tests. I didn’t find any direct ancestors to Mary Hibbard in our matches. [update: we now have a direct match to a descendant of Mary’s!] But I did find this:

You’re looking at’s latest feature. It’s called Thrulines, and it’s a compilation of family trees based from people with whom my dad and I share DNA. At the top is Mary’s father, Ozias, and the next row down are several of her siblings. The far left guy shows that my dad and I share DNA with the 11 descendants of Mary’s brother Henry who have taken DNA tests. The rest of the tree shows descendants of 4 other siblings of Mary’s with whom we share DNA. So all signs point to us being related to this Hibbard family in some way.

John’s mother isn’t necessarily Mary, though. He could have decided to move with his aunt and her family since she had just lost her husband. But it’s not far-fetched to think she’s his mother. I was also thinking John Kelley’s father could be one of Ozias’s sons and his mother could have been a Kelley. I don’t think it was common for a child born to unmarried or divorcing parents to be given the mother’s last name back then, but it’s possible.

And that’s why I’m going to Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in a week!

Read Part 4. Sources aren’t necessary for this post, but here is a link to my Sources page.

John Kelly, son of Peter and Mary: Who’s the Daddy, Part 2

So with Peter Kelly, Jr, off my potential daddy list, I turn to his brother, John.

According to a family bible and his father’s will, John Kelly, son of Peter and his first wife Sarah Burgis, was born July 18, 1781, in Shenandoah County, Virginia. He married Screen Shot 2018-12-03 at 2.10.53 PMElisabeth Loar in Augusta County, Virginia, on May 6, 1803. He and Betsy had two children: Polly, born in 1804 in Staunton, and Nathaniel, born in 1806 in Greenbrier County, Virginia (now West Virginia).

John married Susannah Osborn on August 3, 1806, in Greenbrier County. (Since John remarried the same year Nathaniel was born, I am inclined to believe Elisabeth died in childbirth.) Susannah was the daughter of a well-known Baptist minister, Josiah Osborn. A biography of one of their sons states that John and Susannah had 12 children. I have only been able to nail down 6 from records so far: John in 1807, Sallie in 1809, Elizabeth in 1812, Martha in 1814, Peter in 1816, and Harriet in 1819. Other researchers of this family have listed children younger than Harriet, but how do we know whose children they are. As you will read in the next paragraphs, this family was big into housing extended family. In 1820, the family moved near Bellefontaine, Ohio.

There’s a John Kelly in the Logan County census records for the years 1820, 1830, and 1840. As this family has so many Johns in it, I wasn’t sure these records were for this John Kelly and his family. Remember that censuses before 1850 listed just the head of household’s name and their families were recorded as hash marks representing their age and sex.

The 1820 census has 8 people total in the family. The hash marks match the ages of John and Susannah’s children. The only kids missing are Polly and Nathaniel, John’s children by his first marriage, who would have been 16 and 14 years old. It could be that they may have stayed behind in Virginia with other family members.

The 1830 census lists 18 people in John Kelly’s house. That’s certainly more than the 14 (12 children, 2 parents) I was expecting. But even 14 is too many because it assumes John and Susannah had a dozen children who survived. Three of the new people are easily spotted; there are a thirty, a sixty and a seventy-year-old man in the hashes. Their presence on the census makes me believe John is housing more than one family—probably his or his wife’s parents and a brother or brother-in-law. Four of John’s children would be in their twenties at this time so they may not be living with their parents. Most interesting, there’s a boy between 5 and 9 years old, and a boy under 5 years old on the record. My John Kelley ancestor was born in 1825 or 1826. More on this in a few paragraphs.

John’s family is back down to 8 people in the 1840 census. Of course, most of his children were married and gone by this time. Harriet, the youngest daughter that I know of so far, would be 21. I looked ahead and noticed she would marry in 1842. There is a 90-year-old man listed. The two boys listed in the 1830 census also appear on this census, ten years older. Could one of them be my John Kelley?

John the elder’s wife passed away in 1844.

In the 1850 census, John is listed with people this time. John is 68, Martha Price is 36, Jonathan Yeck is 18, Mary Ann Williams is 16, John Price is 9, and Harriet Fuson is under the age of 1. I’ve verified that Martha is this John Kelly’s daughter, and Harriet Fuson is his granddaughter. I’m not sure who the others are yet. The fact that this is the right man in the right county makes me think the previous censuses are also him. My thinking here is, if we know he moved there in 1820 and he is listed there in 1850, he most likely stayed there in between.

In the winter of 1859, John Kelly dies in Logan County.


I can’t rule out this John Kelly as the father of my ancestor.

Reasons I’m leaning toward him not being the daddy: John Senior already has a son named John. The family bible lists Senior’s children rather meticulously; there are only 8 births listed, which leads me to believe 4 children did not survive birth.

Screen Shot 2018-12-03 at 2.14.43 PM.png
page 9 from the family bible in my possession (but procured from Margaret Gerdeman)

On the other hand, John was 43 in 1825 when my ancestor was born, so he could still have children. My ancestor named one of his son’s John Henry Osborn, which makes me think there’s a connection to Susannah. There’s the question of the missing six children John and Susannah are to have had, and the question of the two boys in the 1830 and 1840, who may be John’s or maybe somebody else’s. Of course, there’s also the possibility that John and Betsy or Susannah are my ancestor’s grandparents. John’s sons Nathaniel and John Junior are old enough to be my ancestor’s father. I guess I have my Who’s The Daddy? Parts 3 and 4 now.

The Two John Kelleys, Part 1

[Author’s Note: I am taking some time off writing fiction to spend on genealogy research. The posts on this blog are going to read more like research notes than a full article. Just a warning not to expect answers. You’re finding out about things when I do!]

So there’s this guy in Milan, Ohio, a small town a stone’s throw from Lake Ontario, in the 1850 census who bothers me.

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I had to splice two sections of a census page to make the image work, so I’ll transcribe the important parts. On the sixth of December, 1850, in Milan Township, Erie County, Ohio, a John W Kelley is listed with, presumably, his mother, Famour or Tamour Kelley, and his siblings; Mary, James, Ellen, Amanda, and Amelia. A shoemaker named William Whiten is also listed in the household. John was 26 years old (which sets his birth year at 1824), working as a clerk, and was born in Ohio, as was the rest of his family.

So a dude lived with his mom and kid brother and sisters and clerked it up in some unspecified industry in 1850. What’s the big deal?

Well, for one thing, there’s this:

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 1.19.50 PM.png

This marriage record is the earliest verified document of my 2x great-grandfather, John Kelley or Kelly (spellings back in this time weren’t as commonly agreed upon as they are now). He married Eliza Jane Hurd on 21 December 1854 in Champaign County, Ohio.

I should tell you that in most of my John Kelley’s later documents (obituary, death record, death records of his children) his middle initial is very pointedly used: John W. Kelley, the same as the other John Kelley who I will now refer to as Milan John.

There’s this:

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 1.34.37 PM.png

These are snippets of census pages from Salem Township, Champaign County, Ohio. On 16 July 1850, a census taker recorded a 24-year-old John Kelley living with the Enoch family. The Enochs were farmers, and it’s pretty safe to assume that John, who is listed as being in the same household (the numbers on the far left match for John Enoch and John Kelley), was working as a laborer for them.

And there are these:

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You’re looking at a random sampling of my 2x great-grandfather’s entry in other public family trees on Many of the researchers of my Kelley family believe that Milan John and the John Kelley who married Eliza Hurd are the same person, therefore, Milan John’s parents, Tamour and Patrick Kelley, must be our 3x great-grandparents.

Here are two reasons I think they’re wrong:

Why would Milan John travel 121 miles to be a farmer in Champaign County in July 1850 only to return to his cushier clerk gig by December 1850? I suppose it depends on what type of clerk he was, but wouldn’t it be easier to get a farming gig somewhere closer? Plus, the 1850 census shows Tamer had $2000 worth of property three years after her husband passed. That’s more than anyone in the community. They weren’t hurting for money. It doesn’t make sense that Milan John would migrate.

Why would researchers assume Milan John, who lived 121 miles away from Champaign County, be the likeliest groom of Eliza Hurd in 1854 than the John Kelly who actually lived in the county in 1850?

I have more reasons, but this entry is long enough and will be continued. And so begins my attempt to prove or disprove that Tamour and Patrick Kelley are my John Kelley’s parents.

My research strategy from this starting point:
• Tamour is an odd name. Looking her up might bear some results.

• Obviously, research census and vital records of John, Tamour, Patrick,  involved. But also track Milan John’s siblings: Mary, James, Ellen, Amelia, and Amanda. Families tended to stick together.

• Who are the peripheral people in these documents? John and Elizabeth Enoch? William Whiten? Chances are they are either family or close friends.

• Google Milan, Ohio, records. History of the county. Special censuses.


Sources for this entry can be found here.

Here’s a link to Part 2.

Shot By the Enemy

One of many forms detailing Thomas' injury in the war.
One of many forms detailing my forefather’s injury in the war.

My third great grandfather, Thomas Wilson, was about 46 years old when he enlisted in the 24th Regiment of the New York Cavalry. The document above is a form the doctor had to fill out in order for Thomas to receive government money. In my possession, I have a dozen more of his claims for an Invalid Pension spanning from 1864 to 1875. Each one has a mannequin-like diagram of a man (think Da Vinci’s Vetruvian Man) with an arrow pointing to the upper right leg indicating the source of Thomas’s complaint year after year. It seems the government required him to get a physical regularly to keep his soldier’s pension.

This document says that he was wounded on July 9th, 1864. He was shot in the right thigh “splintering the bone.” On top of that it describes an exit wound just left of the pubis. Youch! The wound was “received in the trenches before Petersburg from a shot by the enemy.” I will leave you to read the rest of the gory details in the document, if you so choose. The initialism GSW, by the way, stands for “gun shot wound.” That tripped me up.

Thomas received $4 a month because he suffered from “too much lameness to allow work of more than half a day.” I’ll say. Good thing he had his wife, Emily Patterson Wilson, and his sons and daughters to help him with the farm work. His oldest son, George, also fought in the war. Mary Jane, his oldest daughter, and Ambrose, his second son, were in their late teens and unmarried at the time. His youngest children, Joanna and Emogene, were still in school.* Ambrose, by the way, is the father of Fred Wilson in the fictional story I’m writing about my family.


From the Library of Congress archives
“In the trenches before Petersburg, Virginia, 1865” from the Library of Congress archives

The Battle of Petersburg, Virginia, or the Petersburg Campaign, was an especially gruesome one and significant to the outcome of the war. Petersburg was the seventh largest city in the Confederacy at the time and a center of transportation. A third of the soldiers involved perished during the 292 days it rumbled the country. Thomas probably fought in the initial battle. I say probably because the government website lists June 15-18, 1864 as the dates of the first battle. Thomas’s record states that he received his wound 21 days later. Considering those dates, the word before in “received in the trenches before Petersburg” probably refers to geography and not time. In other words, my man suffered his wounds in the trenches that are located in the ground before one enters the city, not before the Battle of Petersburg itself.

I found a genealogy website that lists an article where Thomas is reported to have been slightly wounded on June 29th. So, that seems to suggest that Thomas was in the trenches as the initial battle raged. Given the details I’ve read of the campaign, he is lucky to have survived it.

Whether he fought in Petersburg or not, Thomas’s story is fascinating to me. If I had known when I was in school that I had a direct ancestor who had participated in the Civil War (now I know of several),  I surely would have invested in the topics I was being taught. How could I not? In my family tree alone, I have probable ties to most of the major wars, Jesse James, Eli Whitney, the Quakers, and Susannah Martin, one of the first women accused in the Salem Witch trials.  And those are just the ancestors I know about now! But now I’m getting ahead of myself; those are subjects for future posts.

I’ve often thought it would be wise to teach a little genealogy in junior high school so students could discover how their family was impacted by the historical events they learn about in class. It would help students recognize that history isn’t just about memorizing random dates and places. It would also help teachers maintain their students’ interest . . . or maybe not everyone would be as geeky about it as I am.

Not long after he was mustered out (which is olde timey military-talk for ‘released from duty’), Thomas moved his family to eastern Michigan. He lived about halfway between the towns of Flushing and New Lothrop until his death in 1883. Thankfully, despite his wounds, he lived to the ripe age of 65.*

This isn’t the last you’ll hear of Thomas Wilson. I have more documentation to share. I actually edited out three more documents that directly relate to what I’ve told you so far about him. Plus I have war documents that helped me find his wife’s family, not to mention the story of how these documents landed in my hands in the first place! I just don’t want to smother you with everything I know.

I will, however, smother you with what these forms neglected to mention: Thomas’ parent’s names. In genealogical terms, that means Thomas is one of my brick walls. A brick wall in a family tree is a person whose paper trail ends abruptly. It’s frustrating to have his childhood be a dead end for me considering how much paperwork I have on his life as an adult. Other documents suggest he may have been born in 1817 in Morristown, New Jersey.* Other Wilsons and Willsons can be found living near Manchester, New York, where Thomas and his family lived before the war, but Wilson is such a common surname. I couldn’t find data on common surnames from back then, but lists it as the eighth most common last name in the country in 1990. Therefore, I don’t think I can safely assume that all of the Wilson/Willsons in the area are Thomas’s relatives. I have looked for other Wilson/Willsons in the area that were also born in New Jersey about the time Thomas was. I came up with one person: a man named Stephen Willson. Stephen was only in the area for one census and I have no idea where he moved after that. If anyone has suggestions of where I can look, please share!

Recently, I sent a friend who lives in nearby Rochester, New York, to the Genealogical Society near Manchester to look up Thomas and Emily’s marriage announcements. I was hoping there’d be something there listing his parents or his family. But no dice. (Thanks again, Kristy!)

*documentation of these facts available, just ask.