Tag Archives: Research Tips

When Genealogy Research Yields More Questions Than Answers

I ran into one of those moments this weekend, when discovering a new piece of information only added to my list of questions. I am in the process of filling in details on a three Bannon sisters in New Haven, Connecticut.

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Until recently I hadn’t known they existed because they married shortly after arriving in New Haven and so were never listed as a Bannon in any Census or City Directories. I recently had downloaded an ebook copy of old New Haven births, marriages and deaths and decided to look for my family. I found the marriages for these three Bannon sisters and realized that the Preston and Shields families that I had seen mentioned in connection with my Bannon family were in fact related!

One sister, Margaret, married a Thomas Preston in 1843 in New Haven. This new bit of information did help to solve a lot of questions, the biggest being “where were our Bannons from in Ireland”. With a new surname to search, I found the headstone for Thomas and Margaret Bannon Preston in St. Bernard’s in New Haven and it stated that they were both from “Fermanagh”! This is the exact location that my Aunt Lillian had said that our Bannons were from. So I was excited. I felt like I was really making progress. Right off the bat though I ran in to one puzzle that I’m still confused about. Thomas’ headstone inscription looks as if it says that he died in 1897, when he was still living at time of 1900 Census as well as the 1902 publication of a biography of him. I’m hoping to find his death record this week, but in the meantime, I’m guessing that the headstone was erected years after his and Margaret’s death and whom ever erected it did not know when he died.

Thomas Preston
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Another exciting discovery was another ebook copy of an old 1902 publication that included biographies of prominent New Haven County residents and found that Thomas Preston was included. Not only did I get a lot of valuable info from the biography, but it also had a photo of Thomas! That was a major find!

I went on to fill in info on Margaret and Thomas’ children. I had a lot of info to work on including Census, and various newspaper announcements. One of their children, Thomas J, went on to be a prominent Catholic Priest. One daughter, Margaret, married John Waddock, who was President of the Alderman of New Haven and died fairly young at age 34. Another daughter, Mary Catherine, married someone named “Loughery” and this lead to more than a few questions, the first of which being “What was Mr. Loughery’s first name?”. First I’ll give you some of what I DID know.. In 1900 Mary Catherine lived with her widowed father and was listed with her maiden name. In 1902 biography she is listed as being “Mrs. Mary Catherine Loughery”. In 1910 she is living with her widowed sister, Margaret Waddock, and listed with her married name. These facts led me to believe that she was married shortly after 1900 Census and that her husband had died prior to 1910. I had looked for a wedding announcement earlier, but after looking for a possible husband in the New Haven City Directories, I realized that there were a couple of possible spellings for Loughery/Loughrey in New Haven, so I did a new search for newspaper articles with the new spellings and had success! I found the marriage announcement for Catherine Preston (She usually went by

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Katherine/Catherine/Katie) and Michael Loughrey.. but the date was 8 Sept 1891!! It’s definitely the correct Catherine Preston, even though for some reason they list her father’s name as Joseph! Ahh, you gotta love genealogy research!. So the date of the wedding leads to a whole new set of questions.. Why was Katie living with her father in 1900? Did Michael die prior to that? Were they divorced ro separated? When did Michael die? I still do not have the answer to those questions. Michael’s death record is another thing that I hope to find in the New Haven Vital Records. In the mean time, I’m going with the assumption that the couple separated sometime before 1900. I think that Michael may have left town. I’m basing the “separation” theory on the fact that in that time frame, the only females listed in the City Directories were widows. While Katie’s sister, Mrs. Margaret Waddock, was listed, Katie is not listed in City Directories either as a widow, or under her maiden name.

This whole research project can teach a couple of lessons for those of you working on your own genealogy research. The first being that you should always make sure to check multiple spellings of a surname, even if you are sure you know how the family spelled it themselves ( See my earlier post about my Ratcliffe/ Radcliffe family). Secondly, you cannot be too quick to base assumptions on one piece of information, no matter how legit it seems to be. I often go back and see if I can DISPROVE an assumption after it looks to be promising. In this case I wasn’t necessarily looking to DISPROVE it, but that is what happened when I found the wedding announcement. The third is to keep looking for new possible research sources. I’ll often google a family name that I’ve already searched for and find new things online that were not there the first time around. In this case, finding the newly uploaded ebook of New Haven families was a really great find!

So this week I’m off to scour the New Haven Vital records.. AGAIN.. in hopes of finding more concrete information on my elusive Bannon sisters. Of course the third Bannon sister, Ann, married a James Smith, so that should be loads of fun searching for a John Smith born in Ireland!! Not!!

Genealogy Research Helps Solve a Puzzle

Recently, a friend of ours told me that he had purchased an old miner’s helmet in an antique shop in Pennsylvania area. It looked as if it was some sort of token given to a dignitary or important person. He asked if I could do a little research to see if I could find out anything about the person’s whose name was engraved on a plaque with the helmet. The name was Dr. John Bradbury. I was lucky that there were not a lot of “Dr. John Bradburys” in the US during the time frame that the helmet was from and so I was able to come up with the following for my friend. It’s just another way that genealogy research can help to solve a puzzle!!

Dr John BradburyJohn W. Bradbury was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England in 1885. He was the son of Arthur and Georgina Bradbury. His father was a file cutter. In 1891 John, age 5, was living with his parents in Heeley, Yorkshire. By 1901, Arthur was deceased and John, age 15, lived with his widowed mother and siblings in Heeley. John was listed as being a “librarian”. In 1909 John emigrated to the US. His first job was as a librarian at Kodak Co. in Rochester, NY. In 1910 John was living in a boarding house in Rochester and working at Kodak. In 1917 John traveled back to England and at that time he was listed as being a “clergyman”.
John married Jeanne Beyrand who was born in Argenton, France in 1898. The couple was married in Europe in 1919 and moved back to the US that same year. In 1920 the couple lived in Cleveland, Ohio where John was a Baptist minister. By 1921, the couple was living in Lancaster, PA where John was the pastor at Olivet Baptist Church in Lancaster.

According to the History of the Wadsworth Ave. Baptist Church in New York City, Rev. John W. Bradbury was the Pastor from 1926-1936. In 1930, John and Jeanne were living in Manhattan, NY. City Directories and Passenger lists show the couple as living in NYC at least until 1950.
Sometime between 1936 and 1940, Dr. John W. Bradbury became the editor of a national Baptist weekly publication called The Watchman-Examiner.
Dr. Bradbury became a prominent speaker on the Evangelical circuit and traveled all over the country speaking at various religious meetings. There are articles noting multiple speaking engagements in the Scranton area of Pennsylvania. It is most probable that the “Miner’s Lamp” with his name engraved on it was presented to Dr. Bradbury during one of these occasions.

The Western Parentage Mystery and Why Viewing Actual Parish Registers is Essential

I was recently contacted by Shirley Hogue who was researching a branch of the Wardell family that is distantly connected to my line. Shirley and I have my 5xGreat Grandfather, Thomas Wardell, b. 1715 in common. Thomas had two wives.. Ann was his first wife, Alice Harrison was his second. Shirley descends from Thomas and Ann, I descend from Thomas and Alice. Shirley’s question revolved around the parentage of her ancestor, William Western. William was born in Theddlethorpe All Saints, Lincolnshire in 1812. His mother was Faith Wardell, daughter of Matthew Wardell and Dinah Portas. Matthew was the son of Thomas Wardell and first wife Ann.

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Now to the puzzle.. William’s baptism only lists one parent, his mother Faith. It was assumed that William’s father was George Western, Faith’s deceased husband. Shirley found a later document where William listed his father as “Thomas”. Shirley assumed that Faith had married a brother of George’s after George’s death since William’s name was Western and Faith always went by the Western surname. She was looking for some proof of this marriage and therefore William’s parentage.

This is where the value of checking either the actual parish registers or at least films of the parish registers rather than relying on indexed listings such as those on familysearch.org. Not to knock the database compiled by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. It is a wonderful source and a great place to find clues as to where to start your “real” research. I fear that too many researchers only check indexed listings and therefore do not get the complete picture nor all of the facts. First of all, almost all of the surnames that I have researched over the years have multiple spellings that different branches of the family used and/or are misspelled in different records. In this case “Western” is often listed as “Weston” in church and census records. If you only rely on searching indexes .. you may miss other members of the family who are listed under different spellings. Secondly, as is the case with this puzzle.. the indexed listing of William’s (and his sister, Matilda’s) baptism record leaves out vital information.

When I first found William’s baptism record on a transcribed listing for Theddlethorpe All Saints, and saw that only his mother was listed as a parent, I incorrectly assumed that it only meant that Faith’s husband was deceased by the time of William’s birth. I had also found a record for Matilda’s baptism in Theddlethorpe in 1809 that lists both parents, Faith and George Western. So I assumed that George must have died sometime within 9 mos or so of William’s birth.

After hearing from Shirley I decided that if George was deceased and Faith remarried, the marriage would most likely be listed in the Theddlethorpe All Saints parish registers so I ordered the filmed version from the LDS FHC. I had hoped that perhaps George’s burial would also be listed. What I did find ..was neither of those items, but instead two new bits of information that clear up some of the questions, and is often the case with genealogy research, make way for an entire new set of questions.

While waiting for the film to come in I started doing some online searching for anything I could find on this family. The first thing I found was quite the surprise.. it was a “bastardy bond” filed by Faith Wardell. It states: “BASTARDY RECOGNIZANCE dated 12 Feb 1812. Mother: Faith WESTERN widow of Theddlethorpe. Putative father: Thomas CROFT of Theddlethorpe Labourer.” I immediately contacted Shirley and we decided that this would indicate that William’s father “Thomas” was in fact “Thomas Croft” not “Thomas Western” as she had first thought.

When I finally got to look at the parish registers on film I found two interesting facts that were totally left out of the transcribed versions on familysearch.org. The first was that William is listed as “baseborn”. This means that Faith’s deceased husband was NOT William’s father. This is a huge item to leave out when transcribing a record.

The second surprise was a special comment added in to Matilda Western’s baptism record. While George is listed as her father, the clerk or minister wrote in above a “carrot” in front of the George’s name the following “as we may suppose but we have never seen him in this parish for upwards of a year”. Wow! So they are making the insinuation that George may not be Matilda’s father either!

William Western
Wm Western Baptism - Click to Enlarge
Matilda Western
Matilda Western Baptism- Click to Enlarge

The family had lived in Fulstow, Lincolnshire prior to Matilda’s birth and so I had hoped to find a burial record for George there, but the parish register films for Fulstow are missing the years when George is most apt to have died. I’ll have to keep trying to see if I can find a death date for him. In the meantime it looks as if upon the death of George Western, Faith moved to Theddlethorpe where she did have other family members living there. It looks as if she fathered both Matilda and William out of wedlock, possibly both with Thomas Croft.

According to William’s obituary ” about 1828 his mother & 2 of his Brothers & 1 sister emigrated to this country (US) settling in Cincinnati (Ohio) and in 1833 he & 1 sister came & also settled in or near Cincinnati ..” . In 1841, Thomas Croft was age 70 and living on his own in Theddlethorpe. This is quite probably William’s, and possibly Matilda’s, father.