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What to do when family accounts are false?

What to do when family accounts are false?

Posted: 1343055161000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Connell
Hey all,

I've been looking into my father's history, and have been hitting some real barriers.

My great-grandfather passed when my grandfather was only 2 according to family accounts. The only real accounts though are from my grandfather's sister, who was 4 at the time.

My great-aunt's story is what she heard from her mother as to her father's passing. She was told by her mother that he had died from injuries sustained while trying to save some kids from a runaway carriage.

My great-aunt's last, and one of very few recollections of her father was of him sitting on the front porch with his coat and hat on, waiting for the ambulance to take him.

I've looked through the New York times, and while this story does exist, it's for an Officer Martin Connell who was potentially mortally wounded while saving some kids in the same situation, also run over by the wheel as the story goes, although it was an automobile.

Now, Martin is her grandfather's name, not her father's.

We have no date or cause of death from any official or unofficial source for her father Patrick J. Connell, or his father Martin, or his brother Henry who also left behind a wife and 5 kids within a few years.

Patrick J Connell (My G-Grandfather) and Henry Connell were only in their 40's and 50's, both with 5 young children in Hell's Kitchen. Both arrived in New York from Ireland in 1878.

There's also a story about a sister Annie Connell, another Great-Aunt, who died in childhood. Family accounts say that she was the victim of poisoning by a "crazy nurse" who put something in the lime juice while she was in the hospital for a minor ailment.

I found the actual article, and there is a very lengthy account of a dillusional cleaning woman working in the nursery who put oxilic acid (bleach) in the lime water which was used in mixing the bottles.

But the names of the dead don't show any Connells, or Annies.

There's a chance one of those 4 who were recovering did not recover and that was her, but it seems slim.

There's also no death info for her either.

So, long story short, I feel as though my Great-Aunt was fed a lot of stories from her mother that don't have any connection with the people in question, despite being based on actual events.

She is the only source for family history during that time period, and family history essentially ends with her.

Any thoughts, suggestions, ideas?

Dan O.

Re: What to do when family accounts are false?

Posted: 1343058490000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1344119624000
Everyone has encountered the same problem. NEVER go by family stories since much of the 'information' changes from year to year, depending upon who said what and when.

"She is the only source for family history during that time period, and family history essentially ends with her."

Absolutely not true. Tracking your family history does not depend upon any relative giving you the information. It is all up to you, building your tree starting at you, working back to your parents, grandparents, etc., by getting documentation (BMD certificates, baptismal information, marriage records, etc.)

Go to your local library and get a couple of books on genealogy/doing family history and follow the advice and steps. Take a look at Ancestry's and's free research guides. When you get stuck, post queries on these boards. Be sure to follow the advice given in Board FAQ.


Re: What to do when family accounts are false?

Posted: 1343104477000
Classification: Query
Thanks HH,

I didn't mean to imply that she was the only source of history, but rather the's only source of family accounts of that history.

I have numerous records now, but I still have some gaping holes.

My G-Grandfather Patrick Joseph Connell was last listed on my Grandfather's (John Joseph) birth Cert in 1911, the 1915 census shows my G-Grandmother Margaret (Divers) Connell as a Widow.

What's odd is my G-Grandfather's brother lived in the same building, and he apparently died in that same time period, within a few years, also leaving behind a wife and 5 kids.

I have scoured every record I can, from here, FamilySearch, the New York Times, and have yet to be able to find a date of death for my G-Grandfather Patrick Joseph Connell, or his brother Henry, or his father Martin, or his mother Mary (Keegan).

No dates of death, no causes, nothing.

It seems NYC is a black hole for genealogy. My Grandfather had a brother Martin Connell who was born in 1905, married a Margaret in 1920, and had 2 kids by the 1925 census, but that's all gleamed from a few census records.

I can't find birth info for him, or marriage info, or birth info for their children. I also don't know what became of him or his children, though my Grandfather's orbit implies he was still living in 1969, though my father never portrayed it that way.

Dan O.

Re: What to do when family accounts are false?

Posted: 1343602423000
Classification: Query
Since you have their address you may be able to determine what church they attended. Were they Catholic? Some church records are available on microfilm through the LDS library. Other records are still held by the parish or diocese. Church records will have marriage, births/baptisms, and more important for you - deaths and burials. If your ancestor did die in New York he may have had a church funeral.

Do you know where Margaret is buried and did you check with that cemetery for her husband? Have you contacted the New York City vital records for a death record for Patrick Connell?

Re: What to do when family accounts are false?

Posted: 1343608472000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Connell
Checking Margaret's cemetery plot is a good idea, I hadn't thought of that.

Margaret passed on Dec 25th, 1946, roughly 33 years after her husband Patrick.

I recently discovered that my Great-Uncle Martin had more than one spouse, and more than one child, something that was I was never told about, though my mother did know he had more than one wife, but she seemed reluctant to discuss what she knew further.

Another nail in the coffin for the Annie story, Anne was born in 1906, and died at 3, the story took place in 1912.

The most likely source of info on Patrick J. Connell's death would be Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where Patrick's last child, my grandfather, was baptized 2 years before he died. It's the last official document with his name.

Dan O.

Re: What to do when family accounts are false?

Posted: 1344111199000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1344111383000
It sounds as if you are only looking online...? Have you tried to search/get ACTUAL NY death records for Patrick Joseph Connell between 1911-1915?

Here are four possibilities
Surname Given Name Age Death Date Certificate County Soundex
Connell Patrick 49 y Jan 4 1913 373 Kings C540
Connell Patrick 48 y Jun 21 1913 19565 Manhattan C540
Connell Patrick 55 y Jan 4 1915 538 Manhattan C540
Connell Patrick D 58 y Apr 5 1912 10986 Manhattan

Do you know his birth date/year? Have you found him in the 1910 US Census?

Re: What to do when family accounts are false?

Posted: 1344112589000
Classification: Query
Do you have Margaret Divers Connell's obit? It MIGHT inlude her husband's death year.

Did she remarry? If so, do you know when? That could also help you narrow down his death year.

Re: What to do when family accounts are false?

Posted: 1344114277000
Classification: Query
City directories might help you to narrow down death years, too. In which area of New York did they live?

There are New York directories online at,, etc...

Re: What to do when family accounts are false?

Posted: 1344167602000
Classification: Query
The one who died in 1913 at 48 seems the most plausible.

I haven't obtained the actual record yet because:

A) Even the index was hard to locate in NY
B) You have to pay $$ for actual copies, and without any certainty I was much less eager to pay.

However, I plan on ordering a copy of that one soon.

Dan O.

Re: What to do when family accounts are false?

Posted: 1344168066000
Classification: Query
Margaret Divers never remarried from what I know.

Margaret (Divers) Connell passed in 1946, on December 25th.

I'm having a helluva time tracing her as well, she was born in the States, her mother became ill and her father took her and her brother (unnamed) to Mayfield, Cork, Ireland to be with her mother's family.

Her mother got better, her father died in Ireland. Her mother remarried a man with the last name Jordan and had 2 kids before coming back to the States.

However, according to the story, Maggie was around 16 the first time she met her half-siblings, so she likely came back before her mother did.

Maggie was born in 1877, January 21st I believe is the date.
I can't locate her in the 1880 census, but it's possible she was already in Ireland.

Her parents names were Hugh Divers and Hannah Mulcahy, and Hanna Muclahy's mother's maiden name was Sullivan.

What bothers me with Maggie is that I know she had a brother, but not his name. I know she had 2 half-sisters, but have not been able to trace them either. One died at 20 during childbirth (Irene?), the other lived on Maggie and her were close (May).

Dan O.
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