Mary Mahoney and Kate Lyden constitute two of the most difficult ancestors I have traced and they happen to be mother and daughter.
Mary Mahoney is my maternal great-great-great grandmother. She married three times, and her daughter Kate, was my great-great-grandmother. My own own grandmother, told me many stories of Kate growing up, of the bar she owned with her second husband and the fire that claimed it at some point in my grandmother’s childhood–I would imagine in the late 1940s.
Over the weekend, I was offered a $1 subscription for the month of July for Find My Past, which has a ton of English parish registers as part of their database. The usual price for this membership is about $19.95, which is not something I’ll be able to add to my budget at the moment. Based on the site thus far, it is definitely one I’m keeping bookmarked for future financial splurges.
One of the most useful pieces of research I did in my early genealogical research was a surname census search of the Smicks in South Jersey. I was able to trace hundreds of descendants of the original ancestor, Johann Philippe Schmick from his arrival in 1748 to about 1920-1930.
I decided to attempt a similar project with the Games of Suffolk.
Ten years ago this summer, I had a long weekend from work and saw an ad for Ancestry.com. I had always been mildly interested in my own family history–an outgrowth of my overall adoration of history. I signed up for the 2 week free trial and have continued since.
In 1999, my mother had had a genealogy project for her graduate class and had traced her mother’s family once they arrived in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1892. My mother’s research depended on an elder’s cousin’s materials and built upon that. Both had done the majority of their research before the explosion of online genealogy in the last decade and a half. By the time I embarked on my own journey, I nearly drowned in all the digital records.
Eliza Ann Game was my maternal great-great-great grandmother. Her daughter (my great-great grandmother) Alice left Leeds in the 1890s with her husband Daniel Trainer. They came first to Worcester, Massachusetts before coming to Philadelphia, where my great-grandfather, Harold Trainer, was born. By 1920, they had moved to Collingswood, New Jersey. Harold married Beatrice Crompton, and in 1939, my grandmother Beatrice Trainer was born.
That was the extent to which my mother was knew the family line. It pretty much ended with Eliza and her husband William, and even that information hadn’t been really sketched out in detail. The UK censuses and FreeBMD Index were not really around so we had a death certificate for Eliza in 1905, a shadowy knowledge that William had died at some point before then and what had happened to William and Elizabeth’s eldest son, John William (his death in 1922).
My mother’s cousin had corresponded with some British relatives connected to the youngest daughter of Eliza Winstanley, Ann Eliza, who married Robert Dain. From there, the cousin constructed her vision of William and Eliza’s children: one son (John William) and four daughters (Elizabeth, Alice, Clara, and Ann Eliza). And that was it. The cousin and my mother spent more time looking at the American children of Daniel and Alice, which was definitely more feasible at the time.
A few months after I began my own look into the family and became more familiar with genealogical records in the UK and how to read them, I realized that so much of what we thought we knew about William and Eliza, Daniel and Alice was completely wrong. More on Daniel and Alice later. This is Eliza’s story.
For a long time, the end of Mary’s life was a mystery. She simply vanished from the records, and not a single story was passed down about her life. I knew she must have died before my grandmother was born in 1938, but beyond that, I had nothing.
And then in 2021, I gained access to the Newspapers.com Plus membership. I did a search for Mary Cannon in Camden County, New Jersey but did not find an obituary.
I found a marriage notice.
This woman had married a fouth time, to widower, Charles Sellick/Sillick, aged 78. He was from the area, and the article describes them as looking for helpmates. I don’t know yet what happened to Charles — I’m still not positive I have the right spelling for his last name — but using her fourth marriage, I finally located the last piece of Mary’s puzzle — the end of her life.
Mary Mahoney Hartman Lyden Cannon Sillick died on Dec 16, 1937 and was buried in New St. Mary’s Cemetery. She’s not listed in any of the indexes for burial, so I don’t know if she’s buried with any of her children, but at least I know where to look now. It’s nice to put Mary to rest — at least this part of it. Her early years remain a mystery.
Mary Mahoney was born sometime between 1858-1863 in Pennsylvania. There are various dates given in the census records found at Ancestry.com.
Birth Date Without Official Record
In 1900, her specific birth date is given as September 1862. She lists her age as 37, which does confirm she’s born in the later half of the year, between June-December.
In addition, Mary’s parents are both listed as being from Pennsylvania.
In 1910, her age is listed as 52, which is somehow fifteen years older than she was ten years ago. So that would put her birthdate around 1858. Her parents are split in their nationality: her father is from Pennsylvania, her mother from Ireland.
In 1920, her age is given as 57, which puts her back in 1862/63 birth date. This time, her parents are both from Ireland.
In 1930, her age is 66 which makes that September 1862 date to be most likely. Curiously, the birth place of her parents was first written as unknown, then crossed out and US was given for both.
Beyond census records, the only other record I have with regards to a possible birth is a marriage license for her third marriage to George Cannon in June 1889. Here, Mary says she is 28 years old. This again, does seem to corroborate a birth date of September 1862.
As already insinuated, Mary’s parents are not consistently listed in census records. However, on her marriage license, their birth places are given as Ireland. Given their names, there is no reason to assume that is not true. On that record, Mary lists her parents as William Mahoney and Mary McNulty.
Beyond those names, I only know two more facts about her family: Mary had at least two siblings. A sister, Catherine, and an unnamed brother. I know they exist because my grandmother had a huge suitcase full of photos, and several in her handwriting:
Catherine’s caption, in my grandmother’s handwriting, writes that this is Great Grandmom Mahoney’s sister, and in the corner of a larger version of it are the words “Aunt Catherine”
The brother’s photo is listed on this smaller version as Grandmom’s Brother, but the larger version says Great-Grandmother Brother. There is no name given. I have, when trying to search for him, tentatively called him William.
I have been unable to trace this family further, due to their common Irish names and the time period.
So what are my ways forward to trace Mary’s family? Her birth is not listed in the online database of Philadelphia births at Familysearch.org, nor are any of her siblings. I might look for church records, but for a variety of reasons, I’m unsure of her religion (later on that).
I’ve hit a bit of a brick wall here, at least for now.