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:

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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:

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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.

Mother Tamar: The Two John Kelleys, Part 2

First things first: To understand this post you will need to read Part One.

My thought that Tamour Kelley’s odd name might yield search results paid off. There were two exciting hits at

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So this death record says Tamar Kelly died of “rheumatism” on 3 May 1870 in Milan, Ohio. She was 68 years old, widowed, and born in Cincinnati. She resided in Milan and her death was reported by A B Forster.

From this record, I can be pretty sure Tamar will be in Milan in the 1860 and 1870 censuses. If she lived in Milan in 1850 and died there in 1870, chances are she didn’t move away in between. Knowing she was born in Cincinnati in 1802 will probably come in handy later. The line in the “Month” column of the deceased’s age looks like a smudge so I won’t infer that Tamar was born in April. Since all of the records are signed by this Forster person, I assume he’s the town doctor and not a relative of Tamar’s to be researched. How did he know where Tamar was born, though? One of her children must have been there to help the doctor fill out the form. So at least one of her children lived close enough to be present at her death.

I have a habit of reading all of the names on a record and one stuck out to me: Amelia Beardsley. Didn’t Tamar have a daughter named Amelia? *looks back* Yes. Amelia Kelley was 12 in 1850, so in 1870 she would have been 32. That checks out. Could that Amelia be Tamar’s daughter?

Hit Two:

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Okay, the parents’ names match and the town matches. According to the 1850 census, James Kelley was 19 (born in 1831) so he was more than old enough to marry someone in 1856. This is probably Milan John’s brother James.

It’s strange that Tamar’s censuses didn’t show up in my search. She should be in 1860 and 1870. Maybe her name is misspelled. It’s also possible that she remarried and has a different name.

So what’s next?
• Look for Amelia Kelley marrying a Beardsley in Milan area sometime between 1850 and 1870.
• Look for James and Fannie Kelley in 1860 and 1870 censuses.

Sources for this post can be found here.

Here’s a link to Part 3.