Monday, August 20, 2012

More than you ever wanted to know about the Rothwells and Mulvanys* of Kells, Co. Meath (but rather less than I want to know about them)

As I related in an earlier post, I was recently blown away to discover that two associated Mulvanys (James and John), both from Kells, Co. Meath, and both living in Brooklyn from the 1850s on, were both married to women with the maiden name Rothwell (Bridget and Ann). James Mulvany and Bridget Rothwell were my 3x great-grandparents, and John Mulvany and Ann Rothwell were, it seems, related to them some still-unknown fashion. In 1860, the two families were living in the same building in South Brooklyn. In the 1880s, members of both families were buried in the same grave.

In my last post, I promised to let readers know "where these two Rothwell-Mulvany families take me." It occurs to me that this might have given the impression that Part II would be a wrap-up, a conclusion. When I said that this discovery "might have blown my Mulvany line wide open," or that this discovery "changes everything," it might have seemed like I was suggesting that it had led me to an answer.

I'm going to say up front that that's not the case. Of all the things that this discovery changed, what stayed the same was that I'm dealing with questions, not answers. More questions than ever, really.

Here's how I'm trying to answer those questions.

I went to the Irish Family History Foundation's website and was able to find the marriages of Bridget Rothwell and James Mulvanny, 2 March 1850, and of Anne Rothwell and John Mulvany,  19 July 1851, both in Kells. An Anne Rothwell is one of the witnesses for James and Bridget's 1850 marriage, and a James Rothwell is one of the witnesses to Anne and John's wedding. (A James "Bothwell" immigrated later in 1851, listed on the ship's manifest immediately beneath a James and Bridget Mulvaney.)

Manifest of the John Hancock, 13 November 1851

I was not, however, able to find birth records for Bridget or Anne Rothwell. I have no idea who Bridget Rothwell Mulvany's parents are: they're not listed on her marriage record, or in her obituary, and she died long before New York City (rather, Brooklyn) required they be listed on her death certificate. However - Ann Rothwell Mulvany lived to the ripe old age of 90, dying in 1921, well after New York City (long unified) began asking for parents' names on death certificates. That certificate - something I would never have thought important to order, before this unexpected discovery - obviously became the very next item on my list of records to acquire.

It showed up recently, and, of course, it didn't quite blow anything wide open, but it did offer some clues. Ann's father's name is recorded as John. Her mother's name is unknown.

Death Certificate, Ann Rothwell Mulvaney, 30 September 1921

Now, buried with John Mulvany (Anne's husband) were James and Bridget as well as a John Rothwell, whose age indicates that he is of the same generation as Bridget and Anne (not their father). John Rothwell died 21 December 1894, and his death certificate gives his parents' names as John and Mary.

Death Certificate, John Rothwell, 21 December 1894

That they both have fathers named John suggests that he and Anne, at least, might have been siblings. However, according to the records available on the IFHF site, the only John Rothwell who was having kids in Kells in the 1830s (or any time thereabouts) was married to a Rose, not a Mary. And while John and Rose have a son named John of approximately the right age to be John Rothwell, son of John and Mary, they don't have a daughter named Bridget (but then none of the Rothwells in Kells have a daughter named Bridget who's anywhere near the right age), and their daughter named Ann is about 5 years younger than she should be. Five years here or there shouldn't seem like much, but being born in 1837, like this Ann Rothwell, would have made our Ann Rothwell a mere 14 years old when she married John Mulvany in 1851. It would also mean, if all these Anns are really the same Ann, that she was only 13 when she was a witness at the wedding of Bridget and James. (One source I just found, after a quick google, suggests that there is currently no minimum age for witnesses under Canon Law.)

Even more than the Mary/Rose discrepancy, and the lack of a Bridget, this seemed to raise a significant objection to my hope that I was identifying the correct Rothwell family. My understanding is that marriage before the late teens or early twenties was quite rare in most European countries. (Not recalling the several sources where I had read this, I checked Wikipedia, which quotes an average age at first marriage of 25.) It seemed unlikely that Ann Rothwell had married at 14. Unlikely, not impossible. But it certainly didn't point to this being the correct Ann Rothwell.

I remembered that there was one more record I should be looking for in Ireland, the birth record of Ann and John's firstborn son. In all U.S. census records, their children are identified as American-born, with the exception of their eldest son, Michael, who is routinely recorded as having been born in Ireland. I knew when he was born, within 2 or 3 years, and if they married in Kells, I could be reasonably sure he was born in Kells. (One thing that I know, but can't get around, is that just because Bridget's obituary says she was a native of Kells, and just because both couples married in Kells, doesn't mean that any of them actually was born in Kells. But Ireland has a lot of towns, and so far this is the only one with any indicated connection to the Rothwells/Mulvanys, and so I'm looking here, until I have reason to look elsewhere.) I was just making sure to accumulate all the records associated with this family, and I quickly found out just why that's so important. I easily found the baptism of a Michael Mulvanny, born in Kells to John Mulvanny and Anne Rothwell, on 19 September 1851.

Did you do the math? He was already being baptized 2 months to the day after his parents' wedding. All of the sudden, marriage at 14 doesn't seem quite so improbable - at least, no more improbable than pregnancy at 14!

So there's a good chance that Ann Rothwell Mulvany is the daughter of John and Rose Rothwell, and was born in Kells, Co. Meath, in 1837, got pregnant at 14, married John Mulvany (parents to be determined), gave birth to a son, and soon thereafter immigrated to the United States. But where does that leave John Rothwell (son of John and Mary)? And where does it leave Bridget Rothwell Mulvany, who, after all is my direct ancestor and so the Rothwell whose parents I most want to find?

Ann's early marriage sent me back to the records to look at Bridgets again, Bridgets who fall outside of the age range that had originally seemed reasonable. There is a Bridget Rothwell born in Kells in 1805, but I still don't like the looks of her. This would put Bridget's age off by a solid 20-25 years in all later records. That's an entire generation. And then there are 2 Bridget Rothwells born in 1839, one to James and Mary, the other to Thomas (mother's name not recorded, but likely Catherine). An 1839 birth date would put Bridget's age off by about a decade in later records. (The several later records I have with ages or birth years indicate birth in 1829, 1832, 1815, 1832, 1832, 1828, 1828). It would also mean that she was married at 11.

Eleven. It couldn't be, could it? Just in case, I went back to check the birth records in Kells again. If we had another one of these babies that came not quite 9 months after the wedding, I wouldn't be so sure. But no babies showed up in the 9 months after the wedding, nor, indeed, were there any at all born to James and Bridget in Kells before their 1851 immigration. That makes their earliest known child Mary Ann Mulvaney, who was baptized 7 April 1852 at St. Paul's Church in Brooklyn, and who is most likely the same Mary Ann who was buried in the Mulvaney-Rothwell plot at Holy Cross Cemetery on 6 June 1854. With 25 months separating James and Bridget's marriage from Mary Ann's birth, there's no evidence that shotguns were involves in the union, although 25 months is long enough that I might suspect there was another pregnancy, if not another birth, in there somewhere. (Unless she really did get married at 11, and didn't hit puberty until some time after the wedding. But I think that would be a highly unlikely situation.)

Then I had another idea. Back when I was searching the IFHF for Rothwells, and searching for Mulvanys, it seemed necessary to limit my search to Kells.  Mulvaneys in particular are quite common in Meath, and Johns and Jameses don't exactly narrow down the search very much. But Rothwell-Mulvany couples are much less common, and I realized I could search the whole county to find out if there were any other couples from these families, or if our couples had had children baptized anywhere other than Kells. This was a brilliant idea, which nonetheless yielded only the two marriages and one birth that I already knew about.

That's all I've got, for now, and it certainly isn't an answer. My next step is to check the Board of Guardians minute books, 1839-1917 from the Kells Poor Law Union; the Court Records of Kells, 1851-1921; and the book Kells Burial Grounds, County Meath, by author Eileen Hewson. I'm hoping they offer me something, because if they don't, I'm not sure what other avenues to pursue.

Of course, there's a reason I called Part I of this post "On ordering every record of everyone, ever." I discovered the Rothwell-Mulvany link by accident, when I ordered a death certificate that I didn't think would teach me anything of much importance.  There's information you didn't know you needed in places you didn't know to look for it, which means that if the above promising sources don't bear fruit, I'll be spending months, maybe years, working my way through the acquisition and analysis of the death certificates (and other records, where they exist) of the combined 16 children of the two Mulvany families, hoping for another thunderbolt out of the blue.

*Although my family spells the name Mulvaney, it seems to have reliably been Mulvany before about the 1890s (sometimes Mulvanny, but never Mulvaney), so I tend to drop the e when talking about the 19th century, and add it back in when talking about the 20th. For the sake of not confusing the heck out of people, I'm trying (sometimes failing) to stick with one spelling per post.