Does this sound familiar? I have an ancestor, my great, great grandfather with a very common name, John Carney/Kearney, and I have found very few records that can link the right “John Carney/Kearney,” out of the many wrong ones, to me. The first record I have is my great grandmother’s, Mary Carney Kreis Lauer, second marriage license application, where she lists her father as “John Carney” and her mother as “Mary Duffy.” No other identifying facts are given such as his address, occupation, or birth date. However, in the 1900 Chicago US Census, Mary gives her parents’ birth places as Ireland.
The second, and last, record that I have is a baptism certificate for Patrick William Kearney from 1877, born to “John Kearney” and “Mary Duffy.” One clue is that Patrick was baptized in St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago. He died only two years later and was buried in Calvary Cemetery near Chicago.
For the past several months, I have been looking at addresses and occupations for “John Carneys”, using the Chicago city directories online and trying to match these to the 1870 and 1880 Chicago US census documents, using Ancestry.com (fee-based) and HeritageQuest.com (can be used for free at home through most local libraries.) My non-strategy or haphazard approach has been to take each case individually, record my findings on a separate sheet of paper and place the sheets in a file folder. In between, I work on other lines.
Just yesterday, I realized that I need to have one place (instead of a pile) to record my findings so that I can really “see” what I have. Strategy # 1 -- create a spreadsheet/chart. I started with the 1870 Chicago US Census. In the HeritageQuest.com US census search window, when you search on a name in a particular state, a page comes up with all the appearances of that name in the different counties in the state. Here is what HeritageQuest shows for Cook County:
Because no addresses are given on the 1870 census, I decided to combine the census information with the city directory addresses – strategy # 2. Since “John Carney” is such a common name, there are six listed in the 1870 directory! I faced quite a hurdle. But I decided to look at the census page to check out if there were neighbors listed who had more unusual names. Then I might find their addresses to correlate with the “John Carney” on the same census page – strategy # 3.
With this backdoor technique, I was only able to find one address for one “John Carney” in the 1870 census – Wallace St. Even though I found some very unusual names of neighbors of different “John Carneys”, these names didn’t appear in the directory.
Although I only had one address for the “John Carneys” under investigation, I could still use the 1870 census to differentiate among the seven listed. I used the variables of age, marriage partner and name of children as eliminators. I was looking for men who were old enough (and too old) to have fathered my great grandmother in 1876. I used age 20 - 40 as the age range, which gave a birth year of 1836-1856. Using this strategy, I eliminated 3 men, leaving me 4 possibilities, but I knew the address of only one of them – Wallace St. I needed to go forward to the next census in 1880 where addresses were given.
By 1880, there were many more “John Carneys” in Chicago, 26 to be exact, but only 9 were born in Ireland. And 12 “John Carneys” appeared in the 1880 city directory. By using the same variables that I used in the 1870 elimination process, I was able to come up with 4 candidates from the census. But only one of the four target addresses appeared in the 1880 city directory –3558 Wallace St. While I could eliminate 5 of the 11 remaining listings using the census records, I was left with six to add to my list of possibilities!
But I am undaunted. I know I am closer to identifying my John Carney than I was before. And that is worth the three days of work this project took.