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March 24, 2011

A Step By Step Analysis of a Genealogy Search

A few days ago I spent some time looking over my McGinnis genealogy. I like to do that every once in a while. It helps to attack genealogy challenges with a fresh eye, and often I spot a clue I overlooked the first time around. Sometimes I spot areas where I need to find more to fill in gaps.

This time I realized I'd never gotten around to searching my aunt's family. My Aunt Marge was married to my father's brother. I knew her maiden name was Cahoe, her father was Norman Cahoe, her mother Jessie McMillan, and the Cahoe family were from Guelph Ontario, but that was it. I'd never asked my mother about her, and had not  searched for more details. I don't search back very many generations on collateral spouse lines but I do like to know a little more about each spouse.

Finding Norman Cahoe

I immediately headed to where I found Norman Cahoe easily in the 1911 census for Guelph Ontario. He was 25 years old, born in Ontario in August 1885 according to the census) and living with his 58 year old widowed mother Susan. Susan gave her birthdate as July 1852 and place of birth as Ontario.  This was easy and I was confident the rest of my search would go well. I was wrong.

The next two pieces of information were also found fairly quickly. One was a Border Crossing Record for Susan and Norman dated July 1910. The index on showed they were crossing at Vermont which puzzled me but a look at the image revealed that in fact they crossed at Port Huron Michigan. An interesting and misleading error with Ancestry's indexing!  Susan was said to be a 60 year old widow (which didn't match the 1911 census but as we all know, ages can vary from one record to another). Norman was a single man aged 28 and they were on their way to Detroit. They listed their nearest relative in Canada as Susan's daughter Elizabeth Cahoe Swindlehurst. Exciting - now I had another family member and what looked like her married name.

Finding Susan's Death Record 

Leaving that record for a bit, I continued my search for Susan and Norman in earlier records. I hoped to find Norman's father's name. But no luck. I did however find Susan's death registration and now my quest became more challenging. Susan died in Guelph in 1926. Her son Norman was the informant and she was listed as living in the same home as him. A researcher might assume that Norman would know quite a bit about his mother since he had lived with her for so long. And in fact he'd provided her father's full name (John Cowan born Ireland) as well as her mother's (Mary Thompson born Scotland).

But he'd also given her age as 89 years old and her date of birth as July 31, 1836. That was very different from the census and Border Crossing record, but it was definitely the right Susan Cahoe. But her date of birth in the census was 1852. According to the Border Crossing Record it was circa 1850. And now her death record (with info provided by her son) gave 1836.  That seemed wrong to me because it would make Susan almost 50 when Norman was born. Not impossible but something to keep in mind as I continued my search.

The Quest for Susan Becomes More Intriguing

And now my search became more difficult. Try as I might  I could not find Susan or Norman or Elizabeth (whose age I didn't know) in 1901, 1891, 1881 or earlier census records. I used wildcards. I used Susan* to allow for Susannah or Sussan. I tried Norm* to allow for a shortened name.  I tried C*ho* as the surname. Finally after many hours of searching I decided to use only first names, no surnames, and Norman's birth year plus/minus two. Bingo. There they were in the Guelph 1891 census as Kehoe. Kehoe? My heart skipped a beat. The Kehoe family first intermarried with my McGinnis family in  1831 - almost 100 years earlier.

The Kehoe (also spelled Keogh) family were among the first Irish settlers in Puslinch Township (very near Guelph). They had lived briefly in New York where two Keogh sisters met and married two McGinnis brothers. Then the families settled in Puslinch.  I was, as the British say, gob-smacked. I never realized that Aunt Marge connected to this family. I'm quite sure she had no idea either.

Contradictions Galore

What else did I find? Many more confusing and contradictory details from various records came to light. Taking them all and studying and analyzing them carefully provided me with new clues and leads. I still have more to find but here's a summary of what I've found so far:

1900 Census Detroit Michigan - Sarah [sic] Cahoe, 51 born July 1848 [yet another year of birth!!], widow, had 4 children, 2 are living, father born Ireland, mother Scotland, immigrated 1890, says she is naturalized [note to self - hunt for her naturalization record] living with son Norman born August 1883. He says his father was born New York and mother in Ontario. Another clue revealing father's place of birth

1891 Census Guelph Ontario - William KEHO [sic] age 47 b USA, father born USA, mother born England with wife Susan, 46 [giving estimated year of birth as 1845], daughter Amy (or Anny) age 22 born Ontario and son Norman 7 born Ontario.

So it appears William Kehoe died between 1891and 1901.  I have not been able to find his death in Ontario or Michigan.

Birth Records Ontario revealed several children born in Guelph between 1881 and 1898 to James Swindlehurst and Elizabeth Gaven, with one record showing Elizabeth's surname as (drum roll please!) Keogh in brackets with the surname Gaven written above.  Their first child was named Susannah and was almost certainly in honour of Elizabeth's mother. But why the surname Gaven?

Marriage Records Ontario revealed a marriage in 1881 for James Swindlehurst and Elizabeth Gavin [sic] who said she was 21 years old, born in Eramosa Township to parents John & Susanna Gavin.  Bingo! Susan(nah) was apparently married twice - to John Gavin/Gaven/Gavan and then to William Kehoe/Cahoe/Keogh. And if daughter Elizabeth was born circa 1861 then Susan(nah) was surely at least 16 years old, so I might assign a tentative year of birth of 1845 or earlier. 

I love it when a genealogy search has so many twists and turns you feel like you're in a maze and can't quite figure out which turn to take next!

1881 Census Guelph - William Kehoe age 37, wife Susan 38 with 3 daughters: Elizabeth 21 (yay - she is the Elizabeth who married James Swindlehurst), Annie age 14 (she must be the child Amy/Anny age 22 in 1891) and another daughter age 7 whose first name is very difficult to read. It looks like Teno and I've not yet figured out exactly what the name says.

1871 Census Eramosa - Susan Gavan age 28 with daughter Angelina age 3. Is this the Susan I am looking for? Who is Angelina? Where is Elizabeth who should be 10 years old. Where is her husband John Gavan?

Ontario Death Records - John Gavin died August 1875 in Eramosa Township. He was age 77 and born Ireland. Is this the husband of Susan?

Still Searching

So I am still on the trail of the elusive Susan.

Here is what I have found:

* 1926 Death in Guelph
* 1911 Census Guelph, widow with son Norman
* 1910 Going to Detroit Michigan with son Norman
* 1900 Census Detroit Michigan, widow with son Norman
* 1891 Census Guelph with husband William Kehoe and 2 children (1 son, 1 daughter)
* 1881 Census Guelph with husband William Kehoe and 3 daughters
* 1881 Marriage in Guelph of daughter Elizabeth Gavan to James Swindlehurst

Where oh where is Susan before 1881??!!

Here is what I have not found yet:

* Death of William Kehoe between 1891 and 1901, probably in Ontario or Michigan
* Susan Cowan/Gavan/Kehoe in 1851, 1861 and 1871 census
* Deaths of John Cowan and/or Mary Thompson Cowan (Susan's parents)
* Census records for John Cowan and wife Mary (Susan's parents)
* Census records before 1881 for William Kehoe who was born circa 1846 New York
* Birth record for Norman Cahoe 1883-1885 in Ontario
* Marriage record for William Kehoe/Cahoe/Keogh and Susan Cowan Gavan circa 1875-1883
* Death record for Anny/Amy Gavan born circa 1869 Ontario


txlynnage said...

I enjoy your blog immensely! Your blog isn't a repeat of collected information. It is your own research that gives historical and informative information.I can't wait to hear more about your search!

Keep up the good work!
Laura Flanagan

Ginger Smith said...

Great post and pretty easy to follow this one! Although I did get a bit confused by the daughter Elizabeth who married, it all came together in the end. Thanks for sharing! I wonder why the move from Guelph to Detroit then back to Guelph?

Anonymous said...

isn't Teno - Tina? I've seen it transcribed like that a few times - could be short for Christina.

Anonymous said...

and Annie & Angelina are the same person...

Genealogy Blogger said...

@Anonymous - Annie and Angelina could be one person BUT here is a gal called Annie Angelina Gavan born right time and place to be the one in the 1871 census -- and she is getting married in Carleton in 1891 (a long way away!) Name: Annie Angelina Gavin
Birth Place: Guelph
Age: 24
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1867
Father Name: William Gavin
Mother Name: Susan Hambridge

So if we believe the marriage record
she is the daughter of the wrong Gavan and Susan.. She dies in 1896 in Carleton.

Anonymous said...

yes, I saw that Annie Angelina too.
born in Rockwood or Guelph & buried in Beechwood Cemetery.

Also - I think your Susan's father's name might be Gowan, not Cowan, but it's hard to tell.

Anonymous said...

Teno might be Georgina Lillias Gavin, born 10 Jul 1873 in Eramosa Twp. Not sure if there ever was a John Gavin, other than Susan's father.

Genealogy Blogger said...

@Anonymous - Thank you this is VERY interesting! (The illegitimate birth of Georgina) Now I'm left with many more questions and ideas to mull over and try to track down. My head is spinning but it's all good!

Sassette said...

I love the steps that you have shared with us in your search. You have to love the twists and turns that our research can bring. There always seems to be more questions, than answers, and hopefully you will break through and find the documents you need to help.

I have come across a very similar situation with 2 of my direct ancestors and it can get very frustrating at times through the years as I keep searching, and yet still can't come up with the information that I seek.

Best of luck with this branch of your family tree.