Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A to Z April Challenge: N is for Nell

This is Day 14 of the A to Z April Challenge.  My theme is women with unusual names although I must cheat now and then or I’ll have a name and no story.

is for “Cousin Nell.”  That’s how I first “met” her:  Cousin Nell.  Her photo appears here and there in my great-aunt Helen Killeen Parker’s photo album.  Helen came along when writing funny captions under photos was what the cool people did.  Since most of her captions say “So Lazy,” “Being serious,” “Tough Bunch,” and the like, I can’t identify many friends and relatives.  But Cousin Nell – her name is there picture after picture.  Always “Cousin Nell.”

But HOW was she a cousin?  Helen’s mother (my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh) had married twice.  So was Nell the daughter of Mary Theresa’s brother or sister?  John Killeen’s brother or sister?  John Walsh’s brother or sister? 

Not knowing any siblings for either of the husbands, I just started searching the obvious:  Nell Killeen.  Nothing.  Nell Walsh.  There was a Nell Walsh, right nearby in Portsmouth, Virginia, just streets away from the Killeen-Walsh home on Charleston Avenue. 

Nell Glynn Sullivan Portsmouth, Virginia about 1919
Cousin Nell
about 1919

I gave myself several good pats on the back.

Then my Aunt Betty gave me an envelope of photos that had belonged to Helen’s oldest sister Lillie Killeen.  It turns out she and Cousin Nell had kept in touch over the years, and Lillie had saved some of the letters.  Nell had married Edward Francis Sullivan, and they lived in San Pedro, California.  How ‘bout that!

Nell sent Lillie her granddaughter’s engagement announcement in the paper.   And that’s when Nell’s genealogy came rolling out.  Shoot!  She wasn’t Nell Walsh afterall.

Heck, she wasn’t even NELL. 

She was ELLEN Frances Glynn, daughter of John Joseph Glynn and Mary Bridget Killeen who was sister to John Killeen, a.k.a. Husband #1.

Ellen “Nell” outlived all her Killeen cousins.

For Numerous Nice News and Notes, visit the A to Z April Challenge.


18 comments:

  1. That must make it so difficult when family names are used to find the proper registered name. We have an 'Aunt Fod' in our family but nobody remembers how she got that name or quite what her real name was.

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    1. Now "Fod" is an odd one. Nell doesn't really sound like a nickname.

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  2. I have an Aunt Cookie. As a kid, I always thought that was a strange name. It took me a few years to realize that it wasn't her real name. (It's Lillian.) :)

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    1. My mom's good friend was Cookie, and her real name was Lucille. My sister knows some girls Cookie, Candy, and Taffy.

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  3. I just figured out who Aunt Toots was in my husband's family :-)

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    1. Oh funny. Now, is the "oo" like in "boots" or like in "books"?

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  4. Yep, those nicknames can really throw one off the trail or in Nell/Ellen's case completely across the country. I had to draw a Tree Map to keep up with all those Cousin/Not Cousin/Nell/Not Nell twists and turns. After Mahulda, I bet you figured Nell was going to be a snap. I can hardly wait for your w'O'man.

    My Letter 'N'...Needle Nests
    Sue CollectInTexasGal
    AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Bee

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    1. Sorry for the spoiler, but "O" is rather a snooze. Be sure to come back for S and X though!

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  5. Wow! A big thanks to Aunt Betty for giving you that envelope! Those pesky nicknames and name changes that we aren't aware of can certainly lead us down the wrong research path can't they?

    My great-grandfather decided to change his name from Watson Emory to Frederick Emory. I've wondered why he chose the name Frederick, but I may have figured it out. Is there a blog post coming about my hypothesis? Why yes...yes there is.

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    1. I'll be on the lookout for the mysterious Watson-turned-Frederick. Should be a goody!

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  6. I have Nell in my Danson family down three generations, where it was short for Ellen. I do like your alliterative final lines to your postings. I know some writers decry alliteration, but it always appeals to me and I like to come up with something appropriate where I can.

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    1. I have my own cousin Nell, but that's her name, not a nickname.

      I like alliteration in small doses, and I do it just on A to Z to focus on the letter of the day.

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  7. WELL, I am shocked about cousin Nell!!! WOW.

    Glad to know our cousin Nell is a real Nell. =)

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  8. Can't you just hear those tongues wagging about this one? You must have a lot of fun discovering so many unexpected surprises in your research, Wendy.

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    1. Solving a mini-mystery is quite thrilling, I must admit. If I solve a BIG mystery, I'll probably have a heart attack.

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