Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shirt-tail Relatives


It was probably about 1959 and I was ten years old when I first heard the term “shirt-tail relative”.  I was trying to figure out why Jo O’Meara and her daughter, Ginny, were invited to almost all of our family holiday celebrations.  I asked my grandmother exactly who the O’Meara family was.  At first she told me that they were old family friends, but as I questioned her, she said that they were “shirt-tail relatives" to my grandfather, and that the relationship went way back to Ireland and no one really knew what the relationship was.  That was interesting, but that was the extent of the conversation.   

Flash forward to about 1994 when I began to get interested in genealogy.  Sadly, all of my older relatives on my maternal side had already passed away.  Such a hard lesson to learn…find out all you can from your family while they are still here!

Anyway, I could not find a connection to the O’Meara family.  I knew that Jo O’Meara had been my great-grandmother’s best-friend.  And Ginny O’Meara had been close friends with my grandfather, his sister, and his first cousin.  I had pictures of all of them together throughout the years.  My great-grandfather’s parents had died when he was a young child and he was raised by his older sister.  It was her daughter who was so close to Ginny O’Meara.  So it seemed that the connection was somehow through my Murphy family (my great-grandfather was Edward R. Murphy).

Researching my Murphy family, I learned that my great-great-great grandmother was Alice Reed Murphy.  As I continued to research the family, I kept coming across the name “Peter Reed” associated with my Murphy relatives. I also was finding connections with both my Murphy families and the Peter Reed family with the Nicholas Reed Heneberry family in Peoria.  And I learned that Nicholas Reed Heneberry’s mother was a Reed.

 I did fairly extensive research on the Peter Reed family, but did not find a proven connection to my Murphy family, other than Peter Reed being godfather to different Murphy members, etc.  And Peter Reed was from County Kilkenny, which is where my Murphy family originated. As was the Nicholas Heneberry family.

I had found census readings on Peter Reed and learned that he had ten children.  (One of them had married my great-great grandmother’s brother.)  Peter Reed’s oldest child, Margaret “Maggie” Reed married David Charles Ryan in 1878.  They had ten children.

It wasn’t until I returned to my interest in learning who Jo O’Meara was that I thought to send for her death certificate.  Oh, my.  Her parents were David C. and Margaret Reed Ryan.  Peter Reed was Jo O’Meara’s grandfather.

Have I made absolute proof of the relationship between my Murphy family and the Peter Reed family?  Nope.  But the connections seem too close to be just coincidence.  My best speculation at this point based on dates of birth is that Alice Reed’s father was brother to Nicholas Heneberry’s mother.  (Alice born  about 1801, Nicholas born 1807).  Peter Reed was born in 1832.  My best guess there is that his father was Alice Reed’s brother.

So, if you are still with me here…that would mean that Johanna Ryan O’Meara was my great-grandfather’s second cousin once removed.

Wow!  Talk about strong, long-lasting connections through time and space.  The families came to Peoria, Illinois from Ireland around 1850, and up until Ginny O’Meara’s death in 1978, the families remained close.  That gives me a rather nice warm feeling!  It also makes me wonder if Ginny O'Meara had married and had children, would the close connection have continued?  I like to think that it would have. 

Below are a couple of definitions that I found for “Shirt-tail relatives”:


very distant relative by marriage or a family friend that one claims with honorary status the same as a close, well liked relative



A shirttail relative is someone who is either a relative by marriage, distantly related (say, a third cousin), or a family friend who is an honourary “relative”.

Well, by the time I got interested in finding out about these families, I guess they fit the definition of shirt-tail relatives.  But they sure didn’t back in the 1800’s!!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947


Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947 are fairly new records on Ancestry.com. Part of the description of the records is “Index entries derived from digital copies of original records.”  I have been finding this Index to be invaluable in my research lately.  Below is taken from the Ancestry.com site describing what is in the Index records:
While details may vary based on information required on the original and whether the form was filled out completely, entries in this index may list
  • name
  • gender
  • race/ethnicity
  • birth date
  • birthplace
  • age
  • occupation
  • residence
  • street address
  • marital status
  • spouse
  • date of death
  • place of death
  • place of burial
  • date of burial
  • cemetery name
  • father’s name and birthplace
  • mother’s name and birthplace
  • FHL film number
The FHL film number refers to a microfilm copy of the source held by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This is a wealth of information! Below is an example of how I have been able to use the Index in my research.

This Index helped me to identify information about two brothers that I was doing research on.  The Index helped to identify one person as belonging to the family I was researching and identified the other as not being the son that I was searching for.

Patrick Bennett and Anna Smyth married in1862 in Peoria County, Illinois.  They are listed in the 1870 Peoria Illinois census with the following children: James, Rosa, Elizabeth and Thomas.  I have not been able to locate the family in 1880 records. I have found Patrick in 1900 living in a retirement home.  His wife, Anna, had died in 1892.

I had not been able to find records on any of the children, other than there had been a child, Kate, who was born and died in 1871 and was buried with her mother.

Searching for the oldest child, James Bennett, I found the Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index and there was a listing for a James Bennett.  His parents were listed as Patrick Bennett and Anna Smith.  I had found who I was looking for!  Now I had birth, death and burial information along with the facts that he was single, and worked at a restaurant.  It also showed where his parents were born.

I had found census records for a Thomas Bennett who was born in 1868, which matched the 1870 census information that I had for the Thomas Bennett born to Patrick and Anna Bennett.  I found further census records, and a marriage record for him.  He even lived on Smith St. in Peoria, the same street where Patrick Bennett was living in 1900.  However, when I searched his records in the Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, his parents were listed as Theodore and Catherine Bennett.  Not a match at all.   Of course, I was disappointed, but also so glad that I had the information so that I was not putting out wrong information about Thomas Bennett.

If you have ancestors from Illinois, be sure to check out this resource.  Because the Index begins in 1916, it includes people who could have been born as early as 1816 (if they lived to 100!), so don't let the parameters of the dates stop you from searching!   

Friday, February 3, 2012

Who did Lucina Adamson marry???

Lucina Adamson was born to Aaron W. and Martha J. Thompson Adamson in about 1842 in Illinois.  She was the fourth of seven children.  Lucina is listed in the 1850 Crittenden County, Kentucky census, living with her mother, grandmother and siblings. Lucina is listed as age eight.  (Lucina's father died shortly after 1850.  During the 1850 census he was staying with his uncle's family in Harrison County, Indiana).   Lucina's mother remarried in 1852 in Edwards County, Illinois. In 1860, Lucina is listed in the Richland County, Illinois census living with her mother and new-stepfather, Joseph Hedrick, along with her siblings.

Lucina married John M. Dewhirst on 17 October, 1861 in Richland County, Illinois.  Sadly, John Dewhirst died of typhoid on 22 March 1862 in Clay County, Illinois.  They had only been married five months.  I have not been able to find any record of John Dewhirst enlisting to serve during the Civil War, so it is not clear if that might be where he was infected with typhoid or not.

The mystery begins at this point...what became of Lucina?  I have not found a listing for Lucina Dewhirst in the 1870 Illinois census.  Then one day I came across for a listing for Lucina Dewhurst in the Illinois State Marriage On-line Index (on the Illinois State Archives website) that listed her marrying Washington Lewis in Clay County on 16 October 1863.  Wow, was I excited! 

Well, I was excited until I realized that the Washington Lewis living in Clay County had married Nancy Wattles in 1862 and they were still together as a family in the 1870 Clay County, Illinois census.   Apparently, the Washington Lewis who married Lucina Dewhurst was not the same one that was living there in Clay County in 1870.  Even stranger, I could not find Washington Lewis listed in the 1865 Illinois census in Clay County, Illinois, or even in Illinois.

I sent for and received the copy of the marriage record.  The Index had the marriage date wrong...the marriage took place on the 13th of October, not the 16th. 



Searches for either Washington or Lucina Lewis for 1870 and 1880 turned up nothing.  I have tried George Lewis, thinking that perhaps his first name was George, but again, nothing has been found.

So, who did Lucina marry?  Did both the clerk and the minister get the groom's name wrong on the records?  Or did the Clay County Washington Lewis have a relative who came through and married Lucina?  And if so, where did they go?  What became of Lucina?

The only other thing that I know about her is that she was not living by 1900, according to the census record for her mother, where it showed that her mother had eight of twelve children living.  In 1866, Lucina's brother had a daughter born who was named Ida Lucina "Lulu" Adamson.  Was she named after Lucina?  Was Lucina alive in 1866 or had she died?