Family history is lived forward, but often discovered backward. So in good Aristotelian fashion, one starts with the living and peels back the onion generation by generation, resolving contradictions and oral traditions along the way. Bits and pieces accumulate, not always in logical order. In the course of the interview, several things ancestral emerged.
- Pop-pop had never known his paternal grandfather, who had died when his father was only ten.
- He was no longer certain of that grandfather's name, but thought it might have been James or John.
- He had married Anne Lynch, who had worked for "a miller and his wife."
- They had all lived in Washington, NJ, where the railroad yards were.
- His grandfather had been killed on the railroad when he was caught between two coal cars and crushed to death, sometime he thought in the 1880s.
|The railyards in Washington NJ, c. 1880s|
Armed with this somewhat fluffy information, TOF wrote to the NJ Vital Statistics, and asked vaguely about Flynns killed on the railroad in Washington NJ in the 1880s. Bureaucrats were more nimble in those days and, after all, how many Flynns could have been killed in railroad accidents in Washington NJ in the 1880s?
One was the aforesaid great-great-grandfather, whose name turned out to be John Thomas Flynn. The other was a Martin Flynn.
He was John's younger brother.
So 5bro Pat and TOF heighed off to Washhington NJ in search of graveyards and found at St. Rose of Lima, Oxford NJ (directly through the RR tunnel from Washington) a tombstone to John Flynn and Anna Flynn and children John, Patrick and Martin. How many John Flynns could there be at St. Rose of Lima married to an Anne/a with children named John, Patrick and Martin?
In this case, unrelated. At least, so far as we know.
Pop-pop also recalled that his uncle John Thomas Flynn married a Kate O'Neil, "who was the daughter of the police chief in Bayonne, NJ." No one seemed to know much else, but did not think they had any kids. That should be easy enough to check. How many police chiefs named O'Neil could Bayonne have had in those years?
|Chief John O'Neil|
|Chief Cornelius O'Neil|
The lesson here, insofar as there is a lesson, is the Rule of Two.
Whatever it is you are looking for, there are likely two of them. Whatever you think you've found, there's probably another one.
The Incomparable Marge had a great-grandfather yclept Charles Harding Harris. His death certificate names his father as Joel Harris and his birthplace as Missouri in 1877. Lo and behold, the 1880 Census (there is no extant 1890 Census) lists a Joel Harris in MO with a son Charles of the right age.
The 1910 Census for Chickasaw Nation (the part which became Love Co. OK) lists Charles Harris and his wife Sadie (Holland) while that for Phelps Co, MO also lists a Charles of the same age with father Joel and a brother Oliver Perry Harris carried over from the 1880. So is there another Joel Harris lurking about? Too bad if there is, because this Joel was married to a Sinia Jane Chisenhall and had as a father Greenberry Harris and surely those names are unique!
To top it off, the records are not always accurate. People do not always age 10 years between Censuses. The informant is not always the family and neighbors might not know particulars. In 1900, most of the survivors of John Flynn's family were living in Trenton with the daughter, Bridget Flynn Sawyer, but the Census-taker listed them all as "Sawyer." In 1850, Anne Lynch was listed with her parents in Washington NJ and again as a domestic servant with a farmer named A. Miller. In three different Censuses, Charles Harris, his father's birthplace is listed as Kentucky, Iowa, and Connecticutt, resp. So things are not always cut and dried.
That's what makes it fun.