Monday, July 23, 2012

On ordering every record of everyone, ever.

Like most people with limited time and funds, I tend to focus primarily on my direct ancestors and turn to more distant, tangential lines only when necessary. But a few months ago, I had an extra line on the request for photocopies that I was about to send to the Family History Library, and on a lark, I spent $2.00 on the death record of a very tangential relative, not expecting it to add anything to my body of knowledge besides her cause of death. Boy was I wrong! When the record arrived, I read it, did a double take, read it again, and realized it might have blown my Mulvaney line wide open.

My great-great-grandfather was Patrick Mulvaney, whose parents were James Mulvany and Bridget Rothwell. Patrick was born in Brooklyn, NY, but his parents were, by all indications, from Kells, Co. Meath, Ireland. Now, while James and Bridget (Rothwell) Mulvaney from Kells were raising their family in Brooklyn, there were several other Mulvaneys in Brooklyn. Deputy Sheriff Mulvaney doesn't seem to have been a relation, though goodness knows I wish he was, what with all the newspaper appearances he made in the course of doing his job. Luke and Edward Mulvaney seem to have been rather more well-to-do than my Mulvaneys, and they don't appear to have ever interacted. But John and Ann Mulvany - they must have been relations of some sort.

The two Mulvany families live in the same neighborhood. Heck, in 1860, they live in the same building! James and Bridget Mulvany and their children are living in the same building as John and Ann Mulvany and their children. They never show up together on the census again, but members of each family end up buried in the same grave when John, James, and Bridget all die in the 1880s. They're joined in that grave by James's brother Mathew and a John Rothwell who must have been related to Bridget, right? There is every indication that these families are related through James and John Mulvany. They could be brothers, maybe cousins, but I've been working under the assumption that the two men are related somehow. And then . . .

I have an interest in the life and story of John and Ann's daughter Julia. Her story is not one that I'll be ready to share until I know how all the pieces fit together, but I'm interested, right now, in trying to learn as much about her as I can. She's quite a collateral relative - at most, the first cousin of my 2x great-grandfather - and hers is the record I ordered on a whim. She died in 1928. When it arrived, I read it, and then, as related above, did a double take and read it again. Then I asked my husband to read it. Did the handwriting look the same to him? Did that really say that her mother's maiden name was Ann Rothwell?!

I've spent all this time assuming that the two Mulvaney families are related paternally, because their fathers share the same last name. I still think they're related - circumstantial evidence points to it, perhaps even more strongly now - but now there's every possibility that they're related maternally instead of - or in addition to - paternally, because their mothers also share the same last name.

Stay tuned to find out where these two Rothwell-Mulvany families take me!

Part II is here


Jasia said...

Very nicely written! And what a stroke of luck that you ordered that all-important record. I love reading about research like this. Thanks for sharing your discovery in the COG!

Joan said...

Kathleen, your well penned story of the Mulvaneys and Rothwells makes my heart sing --- for a variety of reasons, not the least being that never again will I hesitate at ordering "just one more" record. Thanks for a great post.

Mel said...

I'm a believer in finding everything that is out there. You never know what record might have that detail you're seeking. This was a great discovery! I enjoyed reading about how you pieced it all together.