How can I solve the mystery of Mary Collis?

How can I solve the mystery of Mary Collis?

Last week, I finished off my Individual Summary project with Mary Collis.  Looking over the little information that I had for her made me want to find out more.

This story starts with Patrick Dolan, my 3rd great uncle.  He died in 1905, but his probate records were lost in the 1906 earthquake.  His niece, Mary (Kelly) Meincke, was the administratix.  She refiled for a new probate in 1907 as the estate had not been settled before the earthquake wiped out the records.

According to law, an announcement had to be posted in Boston, MA newspapers where Patrick Dolan once lived and had some family relations.  What happens next is how I learned I had a whole line of my tree in Massachusetts.

The cousins on the East Coast came forward and disputed the Meincke, McSwegan, and Jones descendants right to Patrick Dolan’s estate.  This battle raged on until 1916 with testimony in San Francisco, Boston, and Ireland.

Everyone but one relation got a chunk of Patrick’s money.  That was his niece, Mary Collis.  In the court proceedings it was learned that Mary was an illegitimate child of Patrick’s sister, Bridget Dolan.  Therefore, she was due nothing.

Since finding the probate records about 10 years ago, I’ve tried to track down everyone listed.  I’ve been able to find bits and pieces about everyone except Mary Collis.  I haven’t found her in the census, city directories, or vital records.  It makes me wonder if I’m barking up the wrong family tree, so to speak.

Some things I don’t have the answer to:

1.  Did her mother ever marry?  She is listed as Bridget Dolan, deceased, in the probate file.  Does this mean she never married or that the people giving information didn’t offer her married name?

2.  According to other records, the Dolan’s were from Cam, County Roscommon, Ireland.  Bridget’s father’s name was Michael Dolan.  Can this help me search out Bridget and Mary?

3.  Did Bridget Dolan come to America like her siblings?  If not, then I’m looking for a Mary Collis born in the wrong country.

4.  Is Collis Mary’s maiden name or married name?  Since I don’t know what her surname was at birth, I’m not sure how this surname fits in.

5.  Since I’m having rotten luck finding Mary Collis, is it possible “Collis” is a typo?  Could her surname really be Collins or some other variation?

I’m really not even sure where to start with this one.  I thought if I worked in Roxbury and Boston where the rest of the family lived I would happen upon her.  But, the name Mary Collis is a common one.

I would like to throw this out there.  If all you knew about someone is there name, their mother’s name, that they were from Massachusetts, and that they existed in adult form from 1907 to 1916, how would you go about the search?

I’m hoping that some day I can give Mary back her history.  Legitimate or not, she is my relative, and she deserves to have her story told just like everyone else.  And, by finding Mary, I may be able to find Bridget.  Wouldn’t it be nice to put them both back in the tree where they belong?



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2 thoughts on “How can I solve the mystery of Mary Collis?

  1. My first thought was that the surname should be Collins, as you mentioned.
    Other first thoughts: look for her andthe family in city directories.
    Track her mother everywhere and look for a daughter. Did she go by Mary Dolan, not Collis?
    How old was her mother Bridget when/if she left Ireland? Mary might be in Ireland.
    Find Bridget on ellisisland (use Did she come with a daughter.
    Look for relatives on censuses in Boston and Roscommon. Look for Mary in the household.
    I think Mass. had some off year censuses. Try familysearch for 1905/1915. If not there, find them somewhere else.
    Consider this possibility, which I know happened in the part of Ireland my mother’s family came from: Bridget gets pregnant. Everyone disapproves. She has the child. They force her to put the child up for adoption and then run Bridget out of Ireland.
    It’s early here, but that’s all I can think of now. I’ll bookmark the post and look at it later down the road.
    P.S. I came here from Randy Seaver’s blog. You published your link correctly in the comment. But the link that you filled in to identify yourself (the one that opens when you click on someone’s name) did not work.

    Ed H

  2. Ed, thanks for your comments. Collins has crossed my mind, too. I try to keep it in view when I’m searching for Collis. I’ve gone through the census records (state and federal) from 1850 to 1920. I’ve looked through birth, marriage, and death records. I believe I’m missing some important fact about Mary Collis and wish that the probate file had given addresses.

    I think your scenario is plausible. The probate file clearly states Mary Collis is illegitimate. I can only assume that there must have been some proof to that fact since people in that era wouldn’t normally given up that information easily.

    Some people are so frustrating! I thank you for your suggestions.

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