Note: I have written a summary of John’s early years based on evidence collected. If you are interested in viewing the evidence, please click the “More” tag.
John Joseph Keating – The Early Years
John J. Keating was born in April of either 1867, 1868, or 1869 in Camden, New Jersey, in the county of Camden. Census records given various information, and my copy of the death certificate was barely legible. Likely, he was born in April of 1868 but no further information has been located.
He appears to be the youngest son of Martin and Mary (nee Daley) Keating, both of whom who were born in Ireland and emigrated sometime between 1865-1867. They had six children: James (Dec 1858), Maggie (1860), Ella/Ellen (1863), Hannah (1865), and John (1868). Alll but the last two children are reported to have been born in Ireland. According to parish records, James Keating, son of Martin Keating and Mary Daly) was christened in Dec 1858 in County Clare, Ireland in the parish of Kilmurry Ibrickane.
Martin and Mary emigrated to Ireland sometime in the mid to late 1860s and moved to Camden. For the decade in which I could locate them, they lived in South Camden, near the waterfront. The neighborhood in Camden where the family lived was redeveloped after World War II and none of the houses still exist. Martin and Mary both worked as laborers, though Mary appeared to stay at home with the children for a few years. John’s home life appeared to be relatively stable for the period as his family remained at the same address for more than six years. When they did move, they remained in the same neighborhood.
Mary Keating, John’s mother, disappears from records after 1874, and Martin’s last known official listing is the 1880 census where he lives alone with his youngest children. I think Mary died in 1878 because I’ve found a death record for Mary Keating in that year and much of the information matches, but I have nothing specifically tying her to this family.
I located an article in the The Morning Post on January 22, 1881 that described a girl committing suicide in Brooklyn, New York. She was using the name Alice Somers, but her real name appeared to be Ella Keating. In this article, it suggests that after the death of their mother, the father returned to Europe, leaving the family destitute. There was an inquest in New York City where Maggie Keating testified that “Alice” was her sister and that they were from Camden (information from a Brookyn Daily Eagle issue). I’ll be writing an article about Ella Keating’s death that will link to these articles.
The only Ella and Maggie Keating that appeared as sisters in Camden that I’ve located belong to this family, so I’m reasonably sure that this describes John Keating’s childhood. His mother died when he was young, and his siblings scattered. John would have been around 13 when this happened and young enough to go to work.
At some point, he began working at John H Dialogue Shipyards as a riveter and was living with his brother at the time of his marriage. He was admitted to the hospital in April 8, 1890, according to the Camden Morning Post, for a puncture wound he received at work. The John H Dialogue Shipyards was also known as Dialogue & Company on the Camden Waterfront. It closed just before World War I broke out.
The 1870 Census
On June 30, 1870, John is recorded for the first time in the U.S. Census, living in the South Ward of Camden in Camden County, New Jersey. The surname in this census is Katen, which is a common misspelling — I’ve also seen as it Keaton.
Martin’s age is given as 35 (birth year 1835) and Mary as 33 (1837). Their children are: James (1858), Maggie (1860), Ellen (1863), and Hannah (1865). All of these children were born in Ireland, according to the census. Only John (1867) was born in New Jersey. This gives me a general idea of when they might have emigrated.
City Directories in the 1870s
In 1872, Martin Kating is living at 810 South Second Street in Camden. His occupation is simply “laborer” the same as the 1872 census.
In 1874, Martin is listed at the same address — this time his last name is Katen. Now, Mary is listed. Both are occupied as laborers.
In 1876, Martin is listed again at the same address — but this time, the spelling of his surname is Keating.
A year later, 1877, Martin’s last name is spelled Keaton, but he’s living at the same address.
In 1878, we have several Katens listed at the 810 South Second Street address. Martin is still a laborer, but this time, his three eldest children are listed: Maggie, Ella, and James. Maggie and Ella are operators and James is a fitter. This set of city directory listings has give me the best circumstantial evidence that the family I’ve located in 1870 is the family that my great-great grandfather belongs to.
The 1880 Census
On June 7, 1880, the Katen family is at 808 South Second Street. Martin’s name is listed “Norton” but the surname spelling is Keating. The location and ages is all that gives me the hope that this is the same family as John’s age is correct (he would be 13), and Annie (who is likely Hannah from 1870) but the elder children have moved out. Mary is now gone. I think that she’s passed away, but I’m unsure.
City Directories in the 1880s
In the 1881, there is no listing that matches the family.
In 1882, Martin is not listed in the directory, but his eldest son, James is. James is a brass finisher living on 711 South Fourth Street, a few blocks away from where his family was living.
In 1883, James is still a brass finisher, but he’s moved to 229 Pine Street. This is still in the same general neighborhood where the family has been living since 1870. There is a Hugh Keating boarding with him, but I don’t know who he is. I think he’s from Philadelphia. He’s likely a family relation, but I don’t know how he’s connected.
In 1888, James has moved to 1135 Locust Street.
In 1890, John is listed for the first time as a riveter employed at John H Dialogue, boarding at 229 Pine Street. James is now living at 1117 Locust Street. At some point during 1890, John moved to live with his brother.
In the marriage certificate to Florence Ottinger, John’s address is given as 1117 Locust Street — connecting him for the first time to James since 1878. A newspaper article in The Morning Post also writes that John Keating, aged 21, employed at Dialogue’s shipyard and living at 1119 Locust Street (possibly a misprint) went to the Homeopathic Hospital for a puncture wound.