Remember how as children we would play a game where we all lined up and whispered something into the ear of the child next to us and by the time it got to the end of the line the message was quite different? Well the same thing happens in family history--it happens alot. Things get misremembered or misunderstood and passed down the line as facts. It doesn't take more than a few generations either. I always heard growing up that my Grandfather's mother Maggie, who passed away when he was 18 months old, had died along with her older son in an epidemic that swept through their tiny village of Manchester, NY in 1907. The real story was somewhat different, her son Lloyd died at age four of scarlet fever; Maggie didn't pass until two years later of blood poisoning. As with most fables there is a grain of truth here, they did die in a short time span though not together, and there may well have been an epidemic of the scarlet fever that took little Lloyd.
More recently I was looking at the Quigley family in Rochester, NY. The matriarch Ann was the sister of my great-great-grandmother Maria McGarr O'Hora, and I was excited to discover this branch of the family had emigrated to the USA. I even found a descendant of Ann's who shared some of the family lore with me. I knew the youngest son was Daniel Quigley, and he lived with his aging mother Ann, seemingly until her death in 1913. I say seemingly because they lived at 3 Melody St. in Rochester until 1905 after which they abruptly disappeared from the censuses. Ann was buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester, and there is a website that lists all the burials, even those without stones are included since these are the original cemetery records. The thing is, Ann wasn't buried until 1913, where was she those missing years? I couldn't locate Daniel either in 1910, so I asked my new cousin if she had any ideas.
Her reply was mystifying. She wrote that her mother had told her Daniel disappeared and was found dead in Buffalo, NY and she knew nothing more about him. Looking at the cemetery website, I found that on 2 September 1916 a Daniel Quigley was buried in the same lot as Ann Quigley, but was that even "my" Ann who seemed to have left the planet before the 1910 census, being buried in 1913?
I began searching Buffalo newspapers, and having nothing else to go on, using the year 1916 in some of the searches. That produced nothing. Then I did a simple search at Old Fulton Postcards for ("Daniel Quigley" 1916). That did the trick, in the Syracuse Post Standard was this:
The body of Daniel Quigley, which has been held at the County Morgue since he was found dead in bed Thursday morning, was sent to Rochester yesterday.
The date of the newspaper was September 2, this was definitely the same man buried in Holy Sepulchre but I needed to be sure he was my relative, Daniel and Ann are not uncommon names and while the evidence pointed that way I wanted proof. The phrasing of the death notice seemed to indicate that there was an earlier article about Daniel, but searches failed to bring it up. The Old Fulton site does not allow page turning, but you can go to the index page, select a newspaper and view all the files for that publication. The only identifiers on the files are years and numbers, and there is a file for each and every individual page, so it can be time consuming, unless you know where to start. I right clicked on the article I had found and copied the file number. Going to the index I selected the Syracuse Post Standard, went to the year 1916 and looked for file 4093. Finding that, I simply skipped back 10 or 15 files to find the September 1 edition--easy peasy! There indeed was an earlier notice of Daniel's death:
Officials at the County Morgue late last night located a sister of Daniel Quigley who was found dead in bed at his rooming house on South Warren St. yesterday morning. The county coroner has ruled the death due to natural causes.
So there really was nothing nefarious about Daniel's death. The poor fellow just died in his sleep. He was only 50, which seems young, but then again his father only made it to 42. I still didn't have absolute proof this was my family member though. I figured there must have been a notice of some sort in the Rochester paper, and not finding it in a traditional search, I went back to the index. I selected the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and looked for the September 2 edition. This took a little longer since I had no file number, but finally I found the article.
Daniel Quigley died in Syracuse yesterday and the body will be brought to the home of his sister Mrs. F. Deyo, he leaves another sister Ann Hennessy of Kansas City and a brother John Quigley of Atkinson Street.
That was him alright, I recognized all those names. I can understand why the last two articles didn't show up in the searches I ran. The newsprint was in terrible shape, I could barely decipher most of it, but I'm confident I have it right. As with many stories about our ancestors, there is some truth to this one, Buffalo was the wrong city, but the rest is pretty accurate.
I'm curious where Ann and Daniel were those last years of her life, and if they were together. The last glimpse I have of them is in the 1908 City Directory of Rochester. Maybe the part of the story about Daniel "disappearing" is correct; perhaps after her death he wanted a change of scenery, or could it be he no longer wanted to care for his elderly mother and just skipped town? That's not the sort of thing likely to be found in newsprint, but I'm still looking for a clue...