Genealogy is a game. A game with no real winner, since there's always one more generation you can't find. And it is based upon the idea that no one ever lies about their age, their homeland, their parentage, the parentage of their children, how many children they have, and so forth. Which is, of course, extremely unrealistic.
But I can't stop searching. The infinite capacity to not know.
On Tuesday nights, Sophia goes to dance class and I take my one sheet of paper with this week's genealogy questions, my wallet, and my keys to the county library HQ and sit in their special collections section hunched over a microfilm reader mumbling to myself.
I recently googled something like "genealogy living with uncertainty" because I've come to a point where I cannot find anything that says I'm wrong, nor can I find anything that says I'm right, about the one line I am most keenly interested in figuring out. Irish, of course, which just piques interest even more because of the penal law challenge. But these are Irish I can't even straighten out all the way on US soil.
And the google search brought up a message board with that same sort of frustration. In the end, the author said, there are so many lies built up around secrets and half-truths that the best you can hope for is to research people who are probably a lot like the people you are descended from. That unless you are strangely obsessed with genetic relationships, the daughters who aren't really daughters but instead are nieces, the mother-in-law who is really a kindly elderly cousin who took your wife in, the son that's really a neighbor from back in the home country that you took under your wing--these become the family you search for, the people you really find.
I am probably never going to know for certain if the Edward Blake who committed suicide after murdering a man in his bar is the same Edward Blake who married Bridget Kidney in Kansas City 30 years before that moment.
If he is, I'm never going to know why he and Bridget left their sons and moved to East St. Louis and then adopted a niece who maybe isn't even their niece, or maybe Bridget Kidney was married before and really is Bridget Toohey or maybe she really is Bridget Dewine/Kidney like Ellen and Mary back in Kansas City and the Tooheys are cousins or an aunt or someone who was simply nicer to her and took her in when she left KC.
I go back and forth: her adopted daughter Mollie says Bridget is a Toohey on the death certificate. She even has parents' names in the parish funeral record. Why would she lie? Or, why not? If Bridget is a Toohey, what's the deal with Bridget Kidney on the marriage certificate?
Kidney and Dewine are related last names (anglicized Irish). Ellen's mother Mary Dewine, living with Bridget and Edward in KC before they disappear. Their sons living with Ellen and Pat Cronin, and Mary Dewine in 1870. What happened to their eldest son Richard after 1880? And their daughter Mary? Why is Ellen Dewine sometimes and O'Brien other times in church records?
Could I be conflating two Bridgets? Is that even possible? Could Kidney/Dewine have died and then he married Toohey?
They are in the 1860 census and the 1861 birth of their daughter; their sons show up in 1870 but they do not. And then the other Bridget and Edward, or the same, show up in 1880. Nothing in between. There was a war, you know...but Edward isn't a veteran on any schedule. There's no death records of an Edward and Bridget Blake before 1880. They are the very same birth years in KC and in EStL. Same names.
And the Edward Blake that show up in the 1870 census in East St. Louis, living with Franzis, whose age matches Bridget's, with a daughter named Mary whose age matches the mysterious Mary who don't know anything about? FRANZIS. The handwriting is clear. Bridget and Franzis would be hard to confuse even with the thickest of accents. Franzis. But? That Edward and Franzis never appear again. I know sometimes I'm Bridgett and other times I'm Sarah. Could she have been tricksy the same way?
Could I have it wrong? What parts?
To complicate matters, I've researched a lot of Tooheys of every danged spelling possible (Blake is sooo easy; Touhy Toohey Tooey Tuey Tuohy Toohy Toy Tohey Tohey makes me a little crazy). And there is one place, one time, with a household that has Dewines and Tooheys living together.
Is Ellen Dewine living with the Toulhey family in Baltimore in 1850, with Catherine Dewine and Bridget Dewine living in the same ward as household servants, the same Ellen and Catherine and Bridget later in Kansas City? Did the Tooheys move from Ireland to Baltimore (the names match, the ages, the crazy) to East St. Louis and then persuade Bridget and her new husband to come stay near them? Is Mary Dewine's maiden name Toohey? Or Houlihan, which is the maiden name of Bridget Blake's mother listed in Bridget's funeral record?
Did Bridget's aunt Eleanora have Bridget and Edward move to Illinois, a Union state, after a family falling out with Ellen and Pat Cronin? But if so, why leave your young sons behind? Was there hope that a good life could be restarted in EStL and then Richard and Edward D. could be sent for? And then the war got bad and they wound up growing up in KC with their aunt and uncle?
Then I think about my family, my immediate family. The 1970 census will have my mother in South County and my father in North County. The 1980 census will have them married, living in Palm Desert California with two children. The 1990 census will have them married, living in Webster, Texas, possibly Pearland, with 4 children. The 2000 census will have them in South St. Louis with two daughters, with one son down in Texas and a married daughter a block away.
But A LOT happened between 1970 and 1980, and then between 80 and 90. A lot.Who's to say the same isn't true for Bridget and Edward?
Maybe they moved back to KC or maybe their sons lived with them for an extended period of time in the middle. I know Edward D. continued on in KC from 1880 to 1887 or so, from city directories, but then he moves to St. Louis. For what possible purpose except that his father had just committed suicide and maybe his mother wanted him closer?
There of course, a bricklayer, Edward meets Charles Dawes or his brother Henry Daniel Dawes, and their father Henry--bricklayers all--and through them their widowed sister Jennie, still living with her father-in-law, brother-in-law, and her three currently living children. All those relatives except for one child are dead by the time Edward D. and she are married and have a son of their own. And then Edward D. dies before his son is 3 years old: Jennie survives two husbands and 11 children and dies in her youngest son's house with a daughter-in-law who thinks she (Jennie) is a witch. She probably was. That's my line. My grandfather is the son of Jennie's youngest son, Eddie (again), the grandson himself of Edward and Bridget, who may or may not be the Edward and Bridget I've found myself creating a story for.
I know why. They're Irish, they're urban, they're immigrants. But more: my husband's first name is Edward and I'm Bridgett. I can hear the bell on their mantel shelf ring and it is the same tone as mine. Even if the story in my head cannot be proven, cannot possibly be factual through and through, it is truth. It's who they are now.