Randy Seaver put out his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge today. I’ve experience luck many times along the genealogy trail. I thought I’d write about two instances.
One experience stands out where research is concerned. It has to do with my Kelly’s. I had learned a bit about Martin and Catherine Kelly, but didn’t know anything about Catherine’s side, including what her maiden name was. I had begun to suspect it might be Dolan but I didn’t have any real proof.
Through researching the San Francisco city directory for 1879, I found that a Patrick Dolan lived at the same address as Martin Kelly–27 Minna.
I was able to trace Patrick to the day he died in June 1905. Unfortunately, he died a month shy of when California began officially reporting vital statistics at the state level and he died before the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco–so any locally recorded death record was lost too.
I had bought a copy of the “San Francisco Probate Index, 1880-1906: A Partial Reconstruction.” (Book published by the California Genealogical Society). As I was searching for names, I came across this entry on page 130:
Meincke, Mary Patrick Dolan: [dec] #32631 adm, Mary Meincke; obj, Bridget Wall; Mary Collis
Mary Meincke was the daughter of Martin and Catherine Kelly.
I sent for the paperwork on this. Mary Meincke was the administratix for Patrick Dolan’s estate. His probate case had not been completed by the 1906 earthquake and had to be refiled.
I ordered the probate file. The file spelled out the relationships between Mary (Kelly) Meincke and Patrick Dolan. There was a bonus reward. The probate had been disputed. Bridget Wall and Mary Collis, wanted a piece of the pie and they objected to the reinstated will. Bridget and Mary turned out to be Dolan cousins from Massachusetts. Because they disputed the will, I learned that Patrick Dolan had at least 3 siblings: Bridget, Margaret, and my ancestor, Catherine (Dolan) Kelly.
This was incredibly good luck! I had no knowledge of Patrick Dolan or of any cousins back in Boston. I found Patrick Dolan’s obituary from the information given in the probate file. These cousins back East were not mentioned. You could say that the 1906 earthquake and fire helped me unearth another branch of my tree. If the paperwork hadn’t been destroyed, Mary Meincke hadn’t filed to have the case reopened, and Bridget Wall and Mary Collis hadn’t disputed the will, I probably would still not know of these cousins.
An natural disaster made it possible for me to find out more information about my relatives.
The second pot of gold at the end of my rainbow involved recovering old photographs I thought for sure were lost for good.
I remember when I was little, my Grandma Shellabarger would show me old photographs from a satchel. I distinctly remember a rolled up class photo.
My Grandma went into a convalescent home in 1975. My parents took all her belongings. Her old photographs were kept in the bench seat in our kitchen. When my folks no longer needed a bench that sat 5 kids, they got new furniture. The bench went out in the shed.
10 years later I started working on the family tree. I found my Grandma’s satchel and she and I went through the photographs. However, she kept insisting there were more photographs. I remembered that old school photo and it was in this satchel. Still, my Grandma had lost many photographs in a flooded basement in the 1950s. Maybe she forgot that had happened and was recalling photographs that were destroyed at that time.
Around 2004-2005, my Dad was back in the shed after dinner. He came in and yelled for me. He wanted me to look at something. When he held out this moldy old satchel to me, I knew exactly what it was. It was the rest of my Grandma’s photographs!
There were far more photographs in this satchel than the one I had gone through 15 years earlier. These photographs went back as far as the 1920s and went through the 1960s. The long class photograph all rolled up was in this satchel.
I had an opportunity to show those photographs to my Grandma before she died in January 2006. Unfortunately, she was losing her eyesight and many of the faces were lost to her. Still, she recognized others and was able to recall the memories behind them.
If something had happened to the shed, I would have lost those photographs. It’s quite possible that someone could have found the old moldy satchel, found it too disgusting, and tossed it out. Thankfully, my Dad saved everything, we found the satchel, and the photographs were just fine.
Those are just two times when good luck came into my path and I found the unexpected. Sometimes you need a little good luck with genealogy.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com