52 Ancestors Week 18: Will I Find Martin Kelly’s Will?

52 Ancestors Week 18: Will I Find Martin Kelly’s Will?

It’s week 18 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge and I’m still here.  LOL  This week the theme is Where There’s a Will.  I had a little trouble with this theme because I only have one ancestor’s will in my collection.

Rather then presenting that one will again (I’ve posted about it in the post “Will of Thomas A. Jones” and “There’s Still More to Learn about Thomas A. Jones“.  I thought I’d ask this question about my ancestor, Martin Kelly: “Is there a will?”

Martin Kelly came from County Roscommon, Ireland during the Potato Famine.  I do not know if he was married to Catherine Dolan, also from County Roscommon, before or after immigration.  At first, they lived in Manchester, NH where their first child was born, my gr gr grandmother, Margaret (Kelly) Jones.  By 1850, they were in Roxbury (Boston), MA and by 1855 they trekked across the country with three children in tow to San Francisco, CA.

Martin started as a horse trader in the city.  Then, in the 1860s, he opened a boarding house.  His wife was the housekeeper and his children had various age appropriate duties. His oldest son, Michael, was the bar keep in the late 1870s.

Martin owned two boardinghouses on Mission Road boardering San Francisco and San Mateo counties at the time of his death.  They were the Six Mile House and the Seven Mile House.  This map from 1894 shows the location of the 7 Mile House.  It is clearly marked way up at the top of the map.  It appears the Six Mile House fell inside the boundaries of San Francisco County.  (Click for a larger view.)

7 Mile House, Mission Road, San Francisco on an 1894 map

My image of the Kelly’s was a family scrapping to get by–renting out rooms and running a saloon to make ends meet.  San Francisco was a rough city in those days and not exactly the place to raise a family.

So, color me surprised when the San Francisco County and San Mateo County land records were added to familysearch.org and I found several entries for land purchases and transfers concerning Martin Kelly.  Unfortunately, because the records are spotty at best for San Francisco, I only have index entries for most of them.  But, thanks to newspaper listings and records in San Mateo County, I found that my 3rd great grandfather owned a heck of a lot of land!

He died in 1899. The Kelly’s are buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, CA. (Thanks to a FindaGrave volunteer for the photo!)  Catherine Kelly’s name is figured prominently.  Other family members are listed on different sides.  Martin Kelly’s name was never added to the tombstone.  It is a curious thing considering his wealth at the time of his death and the fact that he had three adult children living in the city who could have had his name added.

Kelly tombstone proves my ancestors were in San Francisco

The search for Martin’s will started in San Francisco.  Many probate files were lost in the 1906 earthquake and fire.  There is a partial reconstruction of the probate records, but Martin Kelly was not listed.  I found entries in the land records pertaining to the sale of land from his estate from 1900 to 1902.  This included land in San Mateo and the Half Moon Bay Colony.

The executor of his will, Patrick J. Canavan, handled Martin Kelly’s estate.  In 1902, 8 lots were sold for $558 to Henry Mourot of Redwood City.  This land was part of the Mission Street Extension Homestead Association.

This got me to thinking. Since he lived between the boundaries of the two counties, could Martin Kelly’s probate been filed in San Mateo County rather than San Francisco?  This would be awesome for me.  I have not heard of the destruction of any San Mateo County records because of the earthquake.

The records are not online at familysearch.org.  The collection information does not list probate records.  Going through the card catalog doesn’t show any mention of probate records for this county.

With limited means, I have to play the waiting game.  Maybe in the future, the records I need will become available online.  Then, I’ll be able to add Martin Kelly’s will and all that it includes to my collection.

If you are interested in searching for probate records in San Francisco prior to 1907, there is a published index:  “San Francisco Probate Index: 1880-1906:  A Partial Reconstruction”.  It is published by The California Genealogical Society.

If you are interested in probate records after the 1906 earthquake, there are published indexes split into two volumes.  “San Francisco Probate 1906-1942: Register of Actions, Volume I (A-K)” and “San Francisco Probate 1906-1942: Register of Actions, Volume II (L-Z)”.  These volumes are also published by the California Genealogical Society.

Map Source:
Library of Congress website. “Official Map of San Mateo County, California.” San Francisco, CA : Schmidt Label and Lith. Co., 1894.

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Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com

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