Saturday, September 11, 2010

Who Knew a Visitation Register Could Be So Helpful

I am fortunate to have many family artifacts upon which much of my initial research is based.  There are two visitation registers in my possession: one for my great-grandfather, George Rottman, and one for my great-grandfather, John Ward McMahon.  When I initially found them I entered relevant family information in my database, such as the residence recorded for visitors.  The past few weeks have been spent fixing sources throughout my database, which sometimes has forced me back to the original source at which point I re-analyze it.  This is where my story begins.

Today I revisited the register for John War McMahon’s visitation for when he died in 1962.  There are pages of names and addresses of those who attended.  Years ago when I first reviewed it, there were many names I didn’t recognize.  Given the addresses of some, I concluded they were neighbors.  But there were still many unknowns that remained.


In the meantime, I went on doing my research using a variety of sources.  This led to the discovery of a “half” family I had no idea existed.  My third great-grandmother, Margaret RYAN, had been married prior to her union to my third great-grandfather, Timothy McMahon.  From her first marriage, at least two daughters were born: Mary and Margaret Murnane.  The only evidence (which is what I originally found that tipped me off to this half family) is the 1880  census for Margaret (Ryan) McMahon.  [1]  I did not believe it to be shaky evidence despite the fact that her husband, Timothy, was not listed in the censushousehold (nor have I been able to find him anywhere in the 1880 census).  There was Margaret, with sons Timothy and John, all of the right age and birth location.  But there under the two sons were two daughters, Mary and Margaret Murnane.

So I began to research these half-siblings and, long story short, learned that a friend from high school descended from Margaret’s union with the unknown Murnane making us cousins.  Obituaries for Timothy J McMahon, son of Timothy and Margaret (Ryan) McMahon, tied him to his “sisters” Mary (Murnane) Franklin and Margaret (Murnane) King.  Margaret King’s obituary tied her to “sister” Elizabeth (McMahon) Francoeur, a daughter of Margaret and Timothy McMahon.  I was pretty satisfied with the research completed to date, keeping in mind that most of it had been completed almost two years ago.

franklin Back to today and John Ward McMahon’s visitation register.  (John is the son of Timothy J. McMahon, who is the son of Timothy and Margaret (Ryan) (Murnane) condon-curranMcMahon.)  As I was combing through all the names in the register, one stuck out at me.  It was F J Franklin.  Having not looked at this particular family for awhile, I was surprise that it caught my attention.  So I headed to my database to see if there was an F J Franklin tied to Mary (Murnane) Franklin (aunt to John Ward McMahon).  I found Francis J Franklin and was pretty sure they’re one in the same.  As I continued to go through the names, two other names stuck out:  Mr. and Mrs. H L Condon and Beatrice Curran, right next to one another.  These are daughters of Margaret (Murnane) King (also aunt to John Ward McMahon).

Knowing that these three people attended the visitation for my great-grandfather further establishes proof of the relationship between the half families.  It also shows that even though I knew nothing of the half family, they evidentially intermingled at least until 1962 when John Ward McMahon died.

As I continued to examine more names, I found two in a row that had “(Grafton)” written to the side; a third followed that had “(Mary Grafton)” written to the side.  So off I went to my database to graftonlook at my Graftons, and sure enough there they were.  This family is related through John Ward McMahon’s wife’s side of the family.  Again, these names were foreign to me when I looked at the register years ago.  This is another family group that was researched with traditional sources and further supported today by the register.

I’m glad I took another look at this artifact.  Sure it gave me more clues about particular family members, such as where they were living and that there with alive in 1962.  But more importantly, the register further proved connections to two other families, which were initially found through basic research and typical sources.  This basically solidifies my confidence that I know what I’m doing when it comes to genealogy research.  Hallelujah!!  I must be doing something right!


1. 1880 U.S. census population schedule, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, enumeration district (ED) 96, p. 23, dwelling 129, family 295, Margaret McMahon; digital images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed December 17, 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll 192.



Sasha Mitchell said...

I have a visitation record from my husband's grandfather's funeral and I was also delighted (and surprised) by the finds I made there. Good work!

Becky Jamison said...

Wow, Julie. I love detailed study of families like you've written about here! Quite interesting and reminds me to check out any visitation registers I may come across. I hadn't thought of that--nor do I possess any. But I might someday! I enjoyed your story.

Heather Rojo said...

I have two guest books signed at both of my grandfather's funerals, but *alas!* there were no addresses or notes after each name. I have pieced together some of the folks by asking relatives about the name, but I wish I knew more about the rest of the mystery guests who signed the books. I wonder what happened to all the books from weddings, anniversary parties, retirements, coming out parties, etc....

Nancy said...

I liked this post because it shows how important it is to review documents again after having done more research. Names that didn't mean much at the beginning can suddenly help make a connection when looked at a few years later. Good post. Thanks.

J.M. said...

I loved reading your post. Not only was it a great reminder to look over older documents again, to see if they can tell you something new, but it also showed that it's not just the 'traditional' sources that can help you piece together you ancestry.

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