I am so tired of you, Margaret Dolan Coyne!

Do you have that one ancestor or relative who drives you nuts?  I don’t mean those who are still living.  You know, the one who no matter how many databases you search, microfilms you roll through, and indexes you go through, they managed to slip through the cracks.  It appears they went through life and left no trail.

Such is the case with my third great aunt, Margaret (Dolan) Coyne.  I would not have known about Margaret had it not been for her brother’s probate file.  I’ve mentioned it many times on this blog.  Patrick Dolan died in 1905, but his probate was not completed before the earthquake.  When his niece, Mary (Kelly) Meincke, refiled the papers after the disaster, relatives from back East came forward claiming their were the one and only true heir.

Margaret’s three children, Bridget Wall, Patrick Coyne, and Thomas Coynecame forward.  I’ve been able to research Thomas and Bridget a little.  I have found them living together at the time of Thomas’ death.  I’ve found Bridget’s marriage index entry listing her parents.  I can follow Bridget’s family all the way through the present.

What I can’t find is the existence of their parents.  A researcher who helped me years ago, thought Bridget might have been living with another Coyne family in 1860 and 1870.  So far, I can’t connect anything to that family.  But, I cannot find Patrick and Margaret (Dolan) Coyne or anyone that reasonably matches them within the census records or vital records.  I’ve checked Milford, Roxbury, Boston, and even Dorchester (all locations given in various records on Bridget and Thomas) There is no couple that fits the bill.  There isn’t even a couple with the wrong names who has the three named children.  I’ve use Soundex, wildcards, and thought up any which way to spell Coyne.  Nothing has rooted them out.

So, I’m left with a problem.  The court records confirmed the relationship.  They even contacted someone in Ireland for proof.  Unfortunately, the testimony for the witnesses is not in the probate file.  I’ve got the questions but no answers!  How annoying is that?

Now I am left to wonder…

Were records forged to prove a relationship that wasn’t there?  Have I been chasing these Coyne’s who may not really be related to me?

Is it possible the Margaret and Patrick never came to America, but their children did?  Or, were they living in another state?  Bridget claims to be born in Boston, MA, and Thomas in Dorchester, MA.  But, I have no birth records to prove this.

Maybe they were dumped in Massachusetts by fairies.  That seems to be the most plausible explanation at this point.

I have a friend searching for Patrick Dolan’s naturalization records.  I am hoping that he continues to be the gift that keeps on giving and leaves me a clue that I can follow.  At this point, I do not know if the Dolan siblings came to America married or unmarried, together, or one by one.  Perhaps Patrick’s naturalization records will give me a puzzle piece I can lock into place.

Right now, I’m left with a family attached to my tree, but I’m really not sure they are who they say they are.  I hope they are.  Otherwise, I’ve wasted a heck of a lot of time researching someone else’s people.



Mary Collis, Take Three

There are times when I am more efficient than I thought I was.  I was beating myself up for misplacing Patrick Dolan’s probate file when it hit me.  I took copious notes from the massive file!

I pulled down the Kelly/Dolan binder, flipped to Patrick Dolan’s section, and began reading.  After going through the notes, I was right.  There is no location listed for Mary Collis.  Her cousin, Bridget (Coyne) Wall, is specifically noted as being “from Boston, MA”, but not most of the other people.

There are very few mentions of Mary Collis.  Patrick Dolan’s estate was first opened 28 Jul 1905.  Mary (Kelly) Meincke was appointed the administratix at that time.

Then, the 1906 earthquake struck and the file was lost.  On 7 Apr 1907, Mary Meincke reapplied for the probate case.

Initially, the heirs were listed as:

Mary Meincke, niece

Catherine McSweagan [sic], niece

Matthew Kelly, nephew

All of them residents of San Francisco.  Already there are problems.  Patrick’s obituary lists two nephews:  William Dolan and Michael Dolan (of whom I have not be able to track down).  As Mary (Kelly) Meincke was in charge of Patrick’s affairs, she must have been aware of their existence.  Did they die before 1907?

Notices were placed in newspapers in San Francisco and Boston.  And, that’s when all hell broke loose.  The first objection was filed 13 Aug 1907 by Bridget Wall.  Then, followed three other Boston cousins claiming they were the true heirs of Patrick Dolan’s estate and no one else.  Bridget Wall’s attorney went as far as accusing the Mary, Catherine, and Matthew as frauds.

On 13 Aug 1907, we see the first mention of Mary Collis.  Her attorney makes the same claim as Bridget Wall’s.  There is a mention in the file at that time with Mary Collis name and the phrase “appearing at that time”.  It follows Bridget Wall and Patrick Coyne’s names, too.  I’m not sure if this means they appeared before the court in San Francisco or their representatives did.

26 Mar 1908, depositions were taken by two people.  One was Thomas Burke, Esquire, of Brideswall, Corroboy, Athlone, Ireland.  He was a material witness brought by Jesse W. Bryan, the attorney for Bridget Wall.  He was examined in Ireland by P. Robert Kelly, an attorney.

On the same day a deposition was taken by Mrs. Hanlon of Cambridge, MA.  She was examined by Charles Hall Adams, Esq. of Boston, MA.

Bridget Wall also gave a deposition.  This is the only place was residency is listed by the heirs names.  It lists hers as Boston, MA.

On 16 Oct 1908, there was a final distribution of the estate.  The heirs were to divide $3430.45.   This is where Mary Collis looses out:

“Mary Collis, illegitimate daughter of Bridget Dolan, deceased sister of Patrick Dolan”

That phrase knocks Mary Collis off the list of heirs–and takes her inheritance with it.

I am not sure why, but the estate is not divided evenly between the Meincke’s, McSweegan’s, Kelly’s, and Coyne’s.  Perhaps there was already partial payment to the San Francisco group prior to 1907.  Or, maybe the court turned up something that proved the Coyne’s were full relations of Patrick Dolan’s and the others were not.  Whatever the case, Bridget Wall and Thomas Coyne got 1/4 of the estate and the rest only got 1/6.

Most of the money was paid out 16 Oct 1908.  The probate case was closed 12 Aug 1915.

The information above is all that points to Mary Collis being a part of the Dolan family.

A couple of things are curious to me.

1.  Who was Thomas Burke and what did he know about the Dolan’s?  Was he speaking on behalf of Mary Collis in Ireland?  Or, was he providing information on the Dolan’s from local records?

2.  If Bridget Coyne gave testimony, why didn’t Mary Collis?

It is frustrating to know that their is someone I need to attach to my tree, yet, I have so little information to go on.  It’s next to impossible to research a name without a locality and time frame.


One more question about Mary Collis

After I wrote my blog post last night about Mary Collis, daughter of Bridget Dolan, something occurred to me.  How do I know that Mary Collis ever came to America?

Every thing I know about Mary Collis came from the refiled probate records for her Uncle, Patrick Dolan.  I have part of that file in my binder under Patrick Dolan.  The majority of the file is packed away somewhere in a yet to be located box from moving two years ago.

I am guessing that since I made no entry on your family group sheet for residency that it was not specified in the probate file.  The file was very specific in some place and not so in others.  For instance, there is testimony from a lawyer in Athlone, County Roscommon, Ireland, and a woman who lived near the Coyne cousin’s in Boston, MA.  While the file contains the questioned asked, it doesn’t contain the answers given.

So now, I’m back at square one.  I have Mary’s name, her mother’s name, and the fact that she was alive up until the probate was settled in 1915.  That’s it.

How can you find a person if you aren’t even sure what country they lived in?