Monday, July 5, 2010

Madness Monday - The case of the Missing Mary Kelly

I keep staring at the 1880 United States Census for District 235 in the Mill Precinct of Lancaster county, Nebraska. Many members of my Kelly family are listed. There's my great grandfather, Daniel Kelly, shown at age 22 as the head of the household. Shown next is brother Willie - or William as I know him from other records. Johnie (John), Thomas, Nellie and Maggie (Margaret) are all there. Then another William shows up. Based on the age and the fact that his birthplace is shown as Illinois, this is most likely Michael C. Kelly, not another William.

Here comes the more perplexing aspect of this record. The last person shown in the household is W. D. (William) Kelly, who is my great great grandfather and the father of all of these siblings. His age is shown as 45, which is probably close to being accurate. But a housekeeper? Somehow, I just don't think he would have given up farming at that age to care for the house, especially since daughter Maggie is also shown to to keeping house.

The other two "facts" about W. D. Kelly is that he is reported as a Female and Widowed! I'm 100% certain that he was male, and his wife, Mary Casey, did not die until 1886. That is confirmed on her tombstone and in newspaper accounts.

The bottom line - where is his wife, Mary Casey Kelly, in 1880? I'm stumped. She was not living with her daughter and son-in-law (Mary Kelly and John Fitzgerald) in 1880. However, she and daughter Nellie were shown living with the Fitzgeralds at their Lincoln mansion, Mount Emerald, in the 1885 Nebraska State Census.

My only explanation is that the census enumerator got the information wrong - or it was given to him wrong. Whatever the case may be, it drives me Mad - Monday or any other day of the week!


  1. Susan, do the stats fit Mary? This could be referring to her. I have a census that lists the widow by the husband's initials, widow, female, housekeeper, etc. Was W.D deceased at this time? Kathi M.

  2. Kathi - I think you have a pretty good theory going there. However, W.D. was very much alive at the time and he outlived his wife. Mary died in 1886 and W.D. died ten years later. Although - this could be a reference to Mary - so that would make her husband W.D. the missing person. Maybe I need to be looking for him in the census instead. Either way - one of them wasn't enumerated with the remainder of the family for this census. I appreciate your insight!