This week as part of my organizing and verifying genealogy document project I started on the McSwegan folder on my computer. I got several things input which was awesome.
Then I hit a mystery. I found a child noted as nephew in the 1900 Census for Charles McSwegan. Very few people in this line were married let alone had children so it stuck out like a sore thumb.
After some research, I realized that the Charles McSwegan listed as nephew fit the profile of the son of my Gr Gr Gr Gr Uncle, Thomas McSwegan. Thomas was married once before he married my Gr Gr Gr Gr Aunt, Catherine Kelly. He and his first wife had two children: Charles and Lizzie.
I didn’t know what happened to his first wife, Margaret. Thomas and Margaret lived up in Sacramento during the late 1860s. The rest of the McSwegan’s were in San Francisco.
I figured that Margaret died young. If so, what happened to Charles and Lizzie? Why didn’t Thomas and Catherine take them in when they married? I’ve got Thomas and Catherine’s 1880 Census record. It doesn’t list either of the children. I searched high and low in the census for Charles, but could only find the two mentions. He’s in the 1870 census with his parents and the 1900 census with his Uncle.
Naturally, I had to find out why. I went off to do some research on ancestry.com. I found plenty of census information on Thomas’ brother, Daniel McSwegan, but that didn’t help me one bit with Charles!
I decided to check the California Digital Newspaper Collection to see if I could find some answers. After about 4 hours off and on of research, I found Margaret’s death record, an article on Thomas being arrested for brandishing a weapon in public, Charles’ obituary, and this:
I’ve got twenty one more newspaper articles to go through. Instead of emptying my existing folder, I’ve added even more documents to go through. At this rate, I will end up with three times as many documents to go through as I started with.
But, what’s a genealogist to do? I couldn’t leave Charles McSwegan out there hanging. It was a mystery just begging to be answered.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com