Monday, March 26, 2012

Mystery Monday: Back to the Drawing Board

Mystery Monday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks us to share mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in our family history research which is currently unsolved.  With any luck fellow genealogy bloggers will lend their eyes to what has been found so far and possibly help solve the mystery.

On a recent Surname Saturday post, I wrote about my great grandfather John Fleming Walsh.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself for the detective work I conducted to discover his parents and siblings.  Using a few clues in photos and numerous census records and my powers of deductive reasoning, I put together what appeared to be a pretty complete family record.  Except for a couple inconsistencies with initials which I easily dismissed as census-taker error, I had concluded John Walsh’s parents were John and Ellen Walsh, and his brothers were Patrick, Thomas, and Edward all of whom were in Portsmouth, Virginia, just streets away from John. 

Then this happened.  In Googling for information about vital records, I found that the local history room of the Portsmouth Public library has an index to marriages.  My great-grandparents are in the index! 

Click on image to enlarge

Now, there are no column headings to tell me for sure what information I found, but if I’m reading this right, John’s parents are named Patrick and Mary, not John and Ellen.  Drat.

Not the end of the world (although it felt like it at the moment).  I searched for Patrick and Mary Walsh, but I could not find such a couple in Virginia.  There are plenty of Patrick and Mary Walshes in Dakota Territory, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Illinois.  In the ONLY census where I can confirm MY John Walsh, he claimed to have been born in Virginia.  Maybe that’s not true either, who knows.  The marriage index on FamilySearch says John was born in Ireland.

I went to thinking maybe there would be a clue to this Patrick and Mary.  Instead I found John J. Walsh Jr. and Ellen Murray Walsh buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Portsmouth.  Ellen (1869-1894) and John J. Jr. (1894-1895) – looks like mother and son to me.  This also looks like a wife for the John J. Walsh that I had THOUGHT was my John Walsh, the widowed son of Ellen Walsh of the 1900 Portsmouth census.  The dates are right.  And that name Murray is the same maiden name of Thomas Walsh’s wife Delia. They must have been sisters or cousins, but I have not found them together in a census. 

So it’s back to the drawing board. 


©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. mysterys are a interesting part our research. Can you contact the library to get reference to the columns.

    1. I intend to do that. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    2. Wendy, you have so many neat research tricks on here. I'm going to need to really settle down and read some of your past posts and recommendations.

      Have a wonderful week,

      Kathy M.