The first clue to Sarah Jane WARD’s parents came from the 1910 US Federal Census. Sarah was listed with her husband and two children, living at 1252 Washburne Ave. in Chicago. Two additional females were listed as the head of household’s mother- and sister-in-law. The census breakdown is as follows:
|1910 US Census|
|McMahon, Sarah||Wife||35||IL||2 children born/living|
|McMahon, Timothy G||Son||6||IL|
|Ward, Bridget||Mother-in-law||69||Ireland||- Widowed |
- 8 children born / 4 living
- Imm. 1860
Knowing already that Sarah’s maiden name was WARD, I was fairly certain that Bridget was her mother. So it was off to search the 1900 and 1880 censuses in hopes of figuring out who her father was as well as the additional siblings.
Searching the 1900 Census
In the 1900 census, Sarah was living with husband, Timothy, at 50 Hastings in Chicago. I found a Bridget and Rose Ward living at 709 W. Erie Street in Chicago. The census breakdown for Bridget and Rose follows:
|Ward, Bridget||Head||62 |
|Ireland||- Widowed |
- 1 children born / 1 living
- Imm. 1860
|Ward, Rose||Daughter||20 |
I am pretty sure that this is my Bridget and Rose; the ages each differ from the 1910 census, but are still relatively close. The birthplace for each is the same, and Bridget’s immigration year is the same. The only significant difference is the number of children. Perhaps they misunderstood the question and only accounted for the one child living in the same household as the mother. I did not find any other possible matches, so I tucked this away for the time being and moved on to the 1880 census.
Searching the 1880 Census
I located a Sarah and Rosannah Ward in the 1880 census, living with father James and mother Dolly at 60 Emma in Chicago. The ages for the girls were consistent with the 1900 and 1910 censuses. Here is that census breakdown:
|1880 US Census|
Could Dolly be my Bridget? An age of 44 in 1880 puts her birth year around 1836, which is somewhat consistent with the 1900 census (YOB ca. 1838), and the 1910 census (YOB ca. 1841). I wasn’t really sure if this was the right family, so I hung onto it and moved on to other records.
Possible Marriage Records
I first looked at the Illinois marriage index available through the state archives. I searched for a groom with the last name of Ward and a bride with the first name of Bridget (there were no listings for a Dolly). This yielded two possibilities (marriages before 1875, which is when Sarah was born and occurring in Cook County):
- James Ward and Bridget Sheslan (17 May 1874)
- William Ward and Bridget Noonan (20 February 1873)
Working of the theory that the 1880 census was the right family, I obtained the marriage record for James and Bridget. It didn’t have much information, but I could tell that Bridget’s last name was written as Shevlan, not Sheslan as indicated in the index. Having no luck, I requested Sarah’s death certificate in hopes of tying her to these parents.
Sarah’s Death Certificate Leads to a Discovery
The first thing I looked at when I got Sarah’s death certificate was the parents names. And wouldn’t you know, they were listed as James Ward and Bridget Shevlin. Eureka!! So now I am fairly certain that I’ve got the right marriage record for Sarah’s parents. But this still did not confirm whether the 1900 and 1880 censuses were the right ones.
Finding Bridget’s Death Certificate
I then sought out a death record for Bridget. She last showed up in the 1910 census and I was unable to locate her or Rose after 1910. I searched the Illinois death index for deaths that occurred before 1916 and found only one possibility: Bridget Ward, d. 19 July 1912 in Chicago, aged 70. There were three possibilities in deaths occurring from 1916 to 1950, but I was banking on the fact that I hadn’t located her after 1910. So I obtained the 1912 death certificate.
At first I wasn’t sure if this was her. The information in terms of age (70), birthplace (Ireland), and marital status (widow) seemed to match. And then I saw two things, which solidified that this was the right person. First, the address listed as her residence was 1252 Washburne in Chicago. Sound familiar? It is where she was living in 1910. And second, the informant was Rose O’Connor, who I suspected was her daughter, now married and living at the same address.
What About Sister Rose?
I decided to do a little digging on Rose. I found a likely marriage record for a Rose Ward and a John O’Connor, who married on 25 December 1910. But it was highly suspect, as the ages for John and Rose were 23 and 18 respectively. Remember, Rose’s age in the 1910 census was 28. Some more digging turned up two birth certificates for babies born to a John O’Connor and Rose Ward. The first, Edward, was born on 24 May 1912, with a place of birth and residence of mother as 1252 Washburne Ave. in Chicago (placing her in sister Sarah’s household). The ages of father and mother were 31 and 29 respectively, which certainly seems to fit better. The second birth certificate was for John, born 14 August 1913. The residence for the mother was 1344 S. Ashland. Age of father and mother were 33 and 31 respectively, again very much in line with what they should be. So is the marriage record the right record with the wrong information? I’m still not 100% sure at this point; the marriage date of December 1910 does fit, as she was single in May 1910 (census) and married by July 1912 (mother’s death), but I can’t be certain.
Exploring the Chicago City Directories & Answering Some Questions
Today, I spent most of my time going through the Chicago city directories (as I’ve pretty much spent the last several days doing). I was focused on Bridget and Rose today in hopes of figuring out if the 1880 and 1900 censuses I found were in deed the right family. Below is a list of what I found working backward from 1912:
|1904||Rose Ward (wid. James)||499 W. 13th|
|1903||Rose Ward (Miss)||499 W. 13th|
|1902||Rose Ward (Miss)||499 W. 13th|
|1900||Bridget Ward (wid. Edward)||709 W. Erie|
|1899||Bridget Ward (wid. Edward)||709 W. Erie|
|1898||Bridget Ward (wid. Edward)||709 W. Erie|
|1897||Bridget Ward (wid. James)||709 W. Erie|
|1896||Bridget Ward (wid. Edward)||709 W. Erie|
|1893||Bridget Ward (wid. James)||60 Emma|
|1891||Bridget Ward (wid. James)||60 Emma|
|1890||Bridget Ward (wid. James)||60 Emma|
|1887||James Ward (laborer)||60 Emma|
|1886||James Ward (laborer)||60 Emma|
While they didn’t show up every year, there is enough here to put some pieces of the puzzle together. First, Miss Rose Ward is found in 1902 and 1903 at 499 W. 13th, which was also the home of her sister Sarah. In 1904, a Rose Ward is found, widow of James at the same address. The question becomes, is this really Bridget, who was the widow of James and this is simply an error (a listing for Bridget was not found), or misinformation about daughter Rose?
Working backward and finding a Bridget, a widow of Edward, listed at the Erie address, was pretty alarming, since the Erie address was what I theorized in the 1900 census. When I made it back to 1897 and saw “widow of James” I was pleased, as this still gives me some hope. More research is needed to prove or disprove this theory.
But the best thing I found was a Bridget, widow of James at 60 Emma; this is the same address for that family enumerated in 1880! To me, this puts a Bridget in that household, and makes the case that the Dolly listed in the 1880 census, is in fact Bridget. I am now fairly certain that the family I found in 1880 is the correct family. Finding James last listed in 1887 and then Bridget listed as a widow in 1890 also narrows down the approximate death date of James to 1887 to 1890. There are three potential matches in the Illinois death index, but one was stricken as a possibility after reviewing the obituary (note I also looked for Edwards, but none fit the criteria). That leaves two possibilities:
- James Ward, d. 30 July 1890 in Chicago, age 40
- James Ward, d. 17 November 1890 in Chicago, age 45
Update: Not even an hour after writing this, the first thing I did was check out the birth registers for Cook County at Family Search (it was recently updated from about 8% to 43% complete, so I thought I’d look again). And guess what I found? Sarah’s birth register with an address of 60 Emma. Can’t go wrong with that!
Another question was also confirmed. According to Bridget’s death certificate, Rose apparently married an O’Connor sometime between May 1910 and July 1912. Searches led to the possibility that she married a John O’Connor. A search for John O’Connor in the 1912 Chicago city directory turned up a John O’Connor, residing at 1252 Washburne, the same address where Rose was living at the time of her mother’s death (not to mention Rose’s sister’s address during the same time period). With that said, I am fairly certain that Rose did in fact marry a John O’Connor, but it still doesn’t prove whether the marriage record is the correct record or not.
New Questions Arise
Having more than likely confirmed that the family in the 1880 census is correct, that raises several more questions.
Bridget and James were married in 1874. Three out of the five children were born before 1874. Could James and/or Bridget been married before? Another look at the marriage license leaves in question whether or not Bridget was a Miss or Mrs. In the first instance, it looks like Mrs.; the second instance is faded, but looks like it could be Miss.
Based on the marriage and birth dates then, whose children are they? The 1910 census indicated that Bridget bore eight children and four were living in 1910. This is certainly not proof that the three children are hers, but I suppose it’s a possibility.
Did they have more children after Rose? The lack of the 1890 census makes this question a little more challenging to answer. My great-aunt seems to remember that there were more children, but she may have been thinking about the other children born before Sarah.
- Obtain a copy of each death certificate possibility for James Ward.
- Investigate the three children living in the household in 1880. Search for birth records, marriage records, censuses, and death records to start.
- Finish collecting the city directory entries for James Ward (pre-1886).
- Continue barking up Rose and John’s tree.
What do you think? Have I got it all wrong? Am I assuming too much? Do you have any suggestions to further this research? I’m certainly open to hear your thoughts, so be sure to leave a comment about what you think.
Source information available upon request.