Some time ago, I was contacted by a fellow researcher who thought we might be related via the Gillan/Gillen family.
There were certainly a lot of coincidences. Both of our Gillan lines were from the same area in County Mayo, Ireland. Other relatives were able to give me a noncommittal "I think that family were cousins." It appeared that my great-great-grandfather, Hugh Quinn (who was married to Mary Gillan) witnessed the naturalization of Patrick Gillan, patriarch of the other Gillan line. It also appears that Mary's brother, Martin, witnessed the marriage of one of Patrick's children.
My Gillans and his kept popping up in each others' records. But then we encountered a very unexpected connection. My correspondent mentioned that one of Patrick Gillan's children had married a Maines, and I mentioned - off-hand, not thinking this was important information - that one of Hugh and Mary's children had also married a Maines.
The information we already possessed made it pretty clear that Mary Gillan Quinn's daughter Nora Agnes had married Ellen Gillen Maines's son William Augustus. The real question is whether or not they were related before they were married.
I went ahead and ordered their marriage license and certificate.
William Augustus Maines of Saugerties, NY, a postal clerk, married Nora Quinn of 924 E. 32nd St., Brooklyn, NY, on 3 July 1932. They were married, in Brooklyn, by Fr. John Fox, whose given address (3624 Glenwood Rd.) indicates that he was a priest at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church, which is probably where they were married.
Their marriage was witnessed by Terrence Quinn, Nora's brother, and Mary P. Gillen, who is clearly related to one or both of them!
I contacted the Brooklyn Diocese to find out whether they would have needed a dispensation to marry if they were related by blood. They would, as long as they were third cousins or closer! Of course, I have no idea of the degree to which they may have been related, so I'll have to request a search for the dispensation to find out if it exists. First, though, I need proof of death. I have an obituary for Bill Maines, d. 1962, which will suffice for proof that he is deceased. Next, I have to order a death certificate for Nora, who doesn't appear to have been mentioned in the newspaper when she died. I have a general idea of when she died (early-mid 1940s), but no idea where. (She was living in Saugerties, and was buried there, but a search for a death certificate in the town came back "no record found." Next, I have to look elsewhere in NYS.) Then I'll be able to request a search for a dispensation.
(But I'm not going to do it yet. From now through Christmas, I'll be foregoing genealogical records so as to be able to donate what they would cost to Colby's Angel Tree fund. Could you sacrifice a record or a luxury this month to give a child a chance at a new life?)