Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day - Hugh Kelly

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, this post is what I discovered about my great-great-grandfather, Hugh Kelly, while at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

When it comes to my Irish ancestors, I expected to find nothing about Hugh and loads about Catherine Murphy and Thomas Doran. Of course, just the opposite happened. The Dorans and the Murphys are as elusive as ever but I'm following an interesting trail to find Hugh Kelly's family and it's quite surprising where it leads. Keep in mind that what you see matches what we already knew about Hugh Kelly, but it is not conclusive proof that we've found the right family. If you have information that helps support this conclusion or disproves it, I'm very interested in hearing about what you have. Let me know!

When I first went to floor B2, the British floor, at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, I asked to speak with someone with Irish expertise. A gentleman named Mark chose to help me. I told him where we found Hugh and his family in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois and that I had his Naturalization Declaration of Intention and his Certificate of Naturalization.

Hugh Kelly's Naturalization Declaration of Intention - dated 1863

Hugh Kelly's Certification of Naturalization - dated 1866
I showed him that it said he was from County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. He looked and said, "It tells us what port he came from." Why is it that I can overlook some of the most important information in a document? I couldn't make out what it said and asked him what he thought it said. He replied, "Well, that part is definitely Scotland. This other part, I think, yes, that definitely is Glasgow. That's unusual." He went on to explain that when someone from Northern Ireland left home for America, they didn't typically go to Glasgow first. They'd take a ship heading directly to America rather than sail to Scotland for a first leg of their trip. Some Irish families would sail for Scotland to live in hopes for a better future there.

Mark said that made him happy. Tracking a man named Hugh Kelly in Ireland would be near impossible but tracking someone with that name in Scotland would be substantially easier. He helped me do a search in the 1841 Scotland Census for a Hugh Kelly that would be the appropriate age to be my Hugh Kelly. While Hugh's headstone indicates he would have been born in 1822, his age listed on the US Censuses suggest he was born in about 1829-1830. We found one Hugh Kelly that was born in 1829, living in Old Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire, just outside of Glasgow, with his parents and siblings. This census listed Hugh, his parents and older siblings as being born in Ireland but his three younger siblings being born in Scotland. Each of the males in the family were listed as being coal miners. Hugh's sisters were listed as being "cotton pickers" or "cotton boarders". Even a 2 year old boy, John Graham, listed as living with this family, was listed as a coal miner. Somehow I think that was a mistake by the enumerator or the person doing the transcription.

Mark suggested tracking down Hugh's ship and his name on the passenger list and also seeing if we could find his family in County Fermanaugh. I went to the second floor to find what I could about his trip to America. On his Declaration of Intention, Hugh stated that he arrived in New York City on April 8, 1847. With the help of friendly library staff, I was able to find Hugh Kelly indexed on a passenger list that arrived in New York City on April 9, 1847. The ship was the Ann Harley and had arrived in New York from Glasgow, Scotland.

Everything lined up perfectly. I'm having a difficult time finding his name on the passenger list myself but he was listed on the index. The closest I can find on here myself looks more like "I Kelly". I find it interesting that the indexer found the name Hugh Kelly on a passenger list that matches almost exactly what Hugh told us about his voyage to America. I also did a search on's "Passengers arriving in New York from Ireland 1846 - 1851", which was free leading up to St. Patrick's Day. They also index a Hugh Kelly on board this ship, although they indicate he would have been born in 1818. Odd, since the only name I could think would be his says he was 20 years old in 1847.

I then went back to B2 and looked at the Irish Tithe Applottment Book index cards and found one Thomas Kelly living in County Fermanaugh in 1828.

It states he lived in "Clincorick, Co. Fermanaugh". I looked up this town in the location name index of Ireland and can't find it in any standard or alternative name list. I asked the Irish expert for his help and he said he didn't recognize it. He asked another Irish expert on staff and they didn't know either.

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of Irish documents to use to trace the family in Ireland. I'll keep a lookout for any that might help.

So, if what we found here is correct, here is the story of Hugh Kelly:

Hugh was born about 1829 in or near a tiny town with a name similar to Clincorick, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, to Thomas and Velat (Violet) Kelly. He had four older siblings at the time of his birth. They were Charles, Ann, Velat, and Margaret. Some time between the time of Hugh's birth and when he was two years old, Thomas and Velat took their family to either Derry or Belfast to catch a boat to sail to Glasgow. Once there, they settled in Old Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, just outside of Glasgow. Once settled there, Thomas and Velot had three additional children, Mary, Elisabeth, and Sally. Hugh lived there until he was about 20 years old, at which point he boarded the ship Ann Harley and sailed from Glasgow to New York City. Where else in the US he may have traveled between 1847 and 1858 is unknown. By the time he was 30 years old, he had settled in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois. He married Catherine Murphy in Clark County, Missouri on November 21, 1858 and it was noted that they both were living in Warsaw, Illinois at this time. Catherine had two children from two previous marriages and the couple went on to have five additional children. The family lived on College Hill in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois. He worked as a section boss on the Santa Fe Railroad. Hugh died on November 1, 1887 at the age of 60 and was buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Be sure to see what you can find about your Irish ancestors!

1 comment:

  1. I've done further research and determined that the Hugh Kelly that was the son of Tom and Violet Kelly in Old Kilpatrick, was not my great-grandfather. You can read more about this here: