In Part 6, I found documents proving that Mary Stewart and my great-grandfather John Kelley were more than friends and neighbors. My cousin also found bible records listing John Kelley’s birth and marriage in a Stewart family bible. It was pretty safe to infer that John Kelley was Mary Stewart’s son, but we didn’t have anything that said it outright.
Later that night, my cousin was on Ancestry researching all of the new family members we’d just learned about. After leaving York County, Nebraska, Mary Stewart moved to Chehalis County (now Grays Harbor County), Washington Territory. Her son, Walter King, and her daughter, Elizabeth Stewart Tyler, were both living in the Montesano area in 1883 when she passed away. We found the following obituary in the York Republican (York County, Nebraska) on March 21, 1883:
Died, at Montesano, Washington Ter., Febr 12th 1883, Mrs Mary Warren Stewart, age 85 years. The deceased, a cousin of Thomas Burgess, was born at Windham, Conn. She came to York County with her son J. H. Stewart, of Stewart Precinct, in 1868, sharing with him the rigors of the wild pioneer live. Eight years ago she went to Washington Ter.
Two facts are mentioned in the obituary that we hadn’t known before: the name Warren, and Thomas Burgess. Is Warren Mary’s middle name? Is it a married name? It certainly feels like a family name, but so far we have turned up no Warrens in her lineage.
And then there’s Thomas Burgess. Mary’s aunts on her father’s side did not marry any Burgesses. That leaves her mother’s side, the Flowerses. I don’t know much about them yet, but the name Burgess gives me a place to start. To be named so prominently in Mary’s obituary, Thomas must have been a big deal in York County. He should be pretty easy to find.
The last name Burgess is also interesting because John Kelley’s unknown father probably has Burgess relatives. Long story short: The descendants of John Kelley (me included) share DNA with descendants of several children of a Sarah Burgess and Abraham Kelly. They are most likely John’s paternal grandparents. Could it be that Mary Stewart and John’s father were related?
While all of these questions were swirling in our heads, my cousin found the will of one of the people listed in the family bible, Walter King. In it, he gives some of his estate in Washington Territory to a familiar person:
“I hereby give and bequeath to my half brother John W Kelly, one third of my property…”
There it is! It’s not Mary saying John is her son, but it is very close. Walter’s will goes on to bequeath the other two-thirds of his estate to his half brothers, J. H. Stewart and Thomas Stewart, thereby linking the four men.
I’ve personally been trying to track down John’s parents for 10 years. This blog has at least 20 entries on the dead ends I’ve encountered and the false leads I have followed. I even started this blog series by researching an entirely different family! So this find is deeply satisfying. We know who John’s mother was. We know he had several siblings, some of whom lived near him. These are the kinds of finds that keep me digging into my family tree.
What’s even better? That descendant of Mary and James Stewart who gave us the bible pages sent us another treasure.
May I present my 4th great-grandmother, Mary Hibbard King Kelley Stewart.