Genealogy Imagined From a Deathbed Rant, With an Imposter, On Yonder Sea



Jane was not related to us.  We first met her as an adult in 1891, in Renton Dunbartonshire (DNB). She was a recent widow. We did not know her deceased husband’s particulars, but hunch urged us to ask, if by long shot, he might be our biological great grandfather. He vanished after failing to marry his partner.

Life evidence on “great grandfather” was as strong as a butterfly’s wake. John Kelly was a British Subject, born somewhere in the US about 1859. He happened by a farm in the Holytown District of Bothwell Parish to become our history. At least, we think that the case,  for he had a child in Lanarkshire, precisely on the birth day that our  adopted grandfather would later claim as his. These knowns spanned April 1881 to May 1882. Then, he was gone. Now came this Scottish widow-Jane Kelly, with two children who were born in the US several years after the disappearance. Oh my!  

Jane was topical in Chapter Sixteen entitled “John and Washerwomen”. These new data are offered as Update 1 to the book, published April 2018. Enough detail will be incorporated from the book, to make this read relevant, to those who have not read it.

If widow-Jane were to be of real help with the great grandfather question, we would need to know her whereabouts and activities before 1891. We closed the book because she was not forthcoming and deemed the matter  a curiosity. But that threatened the life of the cat. So, Addendum 3: Deathbed Rant explores her life more fully. It still leaves great grandfather on his fanciful limb concening their queried connection but brings us closer to  resolution. 

In 1881, an unmarried Jane lived in Renton whose data looked similar to the widow, except for her county of birth. The inevitable question: were single-Jane and widow-Jane, one?  Addendum 4: Imposter  provides a major elimination, making it more likely true. 

Widow-Jane remarried in 1896 and revealed that her mother’s name was Catherine. Jane gave Main Street as her own usual address. Main Street in 1851 was also the last known residence of a Catherine who was data-similar to the mother. Was Catherine on Main Street in 1851, the mother of Jane, on Main Street in 1896? That popped to mind with an underlying query: did this disappeared Catherine bear a child, “Jane-presumed” around 1860? Addendum 5: Yonder Sea answers the questions. 

Update 1 includes these addenda:

  1. “Deathbed Rant” Jane McIlvaney/Kelly/Carroll or Mckernan. 
  2. “Imposter” Jane Carroll 1881 vs Jane Currol 1871. 
  3. “Yonder Sea” Catherine McCormick b 1841, Dunbartonshire Scotland. 

Notes and Sources for all addenda will appear as a whole, at the end of Update 1.

Update 1 Addendum 3 DEATHBED RANT Jane McIlvaney/Kelly/Carroll or McKernan 

Jane all but knocked us down in Scotland’s Census 1891.2 Thirtyish, she was all dressed up as Kelley, a widowed Scottish mother of two US-born daughters; Mary J in 1885, and Catherine, 1887. She kept mum on US states of their birth. That her own age computed to born about 1859, well, that dazzled us.

The issue was not who she was, rather, who was her deceased husband? But for his potential, she would be irrelevant. Yet, who she was, would soon be posed, too.

Truth is, we were on the lookout for unmarried John Kelly, a British Subject, born in the vast United States, around 1859. He had only once, been enumerated in a Scotland census; that of 1881.2 His facts were a one-time data grab, so, uncorroborated.  He was a farm servant and ploughman near Legbrannock, Holytown Lanarkshire, last seen in 1882, registering a non-wedlock son in Cambusnethan.3 That son was potentially our grandfather.  The overall search for great grandfather was a whole other issue; this is about Jane.

There was more to Census 1891 that kindled the notion of possible connection between widow-Jane and great grandfather. Yes, she was a Kelley with US-born children. It was that she had an interesting boarder; an age-peer, co-worker, Agnes Dougan. Game on, when it was soon discovered Jane’s second mother-in-law was an older Agnes Dougan.3 Oh, coincidentally that Agnes was from Carfin, which was right by Legbrannock in Holytown. We would be better off, had we not taken the bait, with the likelihood of relationship, so remote.

We documented Jane in a variety of ways: her second marriage in 1896, three censuses, and her children’s marriages.2 3 The detail was stable, so it seemed credible to assert that she was born to Bernard Carroll (or Carrol) and Catherine McCormick, in Campbeltown Argyllshire, trending toward 1861. Further, that her first husband was laborer, John Kelly, so spelled, and her second, Arthur McIlvaney (or variants), a ship riveter. Noticeably, all records of events, were of Roman Catholic ceremony. Nothing gave up birth states for her children or US status of her deceased husband. Yet, we had the essential skinny on widow-Jane; we knew her  parent’s names, her place and timeframe of birth. Why pay for more?

The detail on hand led us to a Scottish US-Jane in New Jersey, whose data was both promising and sketchy. It will be revealed, third next.The ticket was to meld US-Jane with Scotland’s widow-Jane.  

To do so, we needed to know precisely what happened to widow-Jane before 1891. Alas, there was no start point. No Jane birth document was issued for Bernard Carroll and Catherine McCormick. They had no register of marriage. No census, ever. All we had was  a contested Census 1881 for a single-Jane all on her own, in Renton.

We paid for more. Death records of both children were located.Nothing new on Jane, as expected.  Instead, they updated their father’s occupation to cabman or coachman.  From our perspective, that was an improvement. Coachman: one managing a horse and a carriage. Their previous description of him as a laborer worked too. Our John was a ploughman: one managing a horse (in Holytown, likely a Clydesdale) and a machine. Not too far-fetched, one for the other, if a young adventurer from the US, making a passage through Scotland. Sure, one fancier of clothes than the other, but then, the young do what they need to do. Good enough to invest more time.

Jane was a coy subject from beginning to end. There were simply too many iterations of Carrol, Kelly and McIlvaney to cope with. Melsinney even. 2 She and Arthur could not be plied from Census 1911, despite an all-points bulletin. But then, he died in 1902, and she reverted to Kelly.  His death report and her Kelly census were ultimately opened.3 Nothing new; we were wasting resources going for more widow-Kelly.

Meanwhile, we were working on the US side. Assuming the Jane Carroll in Renton’s 1881 Census was ours, she would have likely missed US Census 1880 and the 1890 Census was destroyed. Her deceased John Kelly had no age or birthplace yet, and he and his girls were stateless.  Such incognito family could not be discerned at any state that conducted interim censuses. John was not documented in Scotland, thus, he must have died in the US, between 1886 and 1891, undiscovered. No ship’s manifest was found to expose them. They were a lost cause, to detection, in the US. The game seemed over.

Less is more. Wanting to be deluged with birth particulars for anywhere Jane Carroll, only these minimal criteria were input to the whole wide world at Family Search (FS): 4   

Name: Jane Carroll Born: 1855-1865. Mother: Catherine McCormick

The output was stunningly sparse. It was only this from New Jersey, US Marriages 1678 – 1985:

On September 27, 1884, Jane Carroll at 25, married John Kealy, born 1859, in Saint Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Newark, Essex County New Jersey.  Her parents were Catherine McCormick and Bernard. Spouse’s parents were Michael and Bridget. [Luckily, with one-of-four surnames cited; McCormick was the one most needed.]

Hold up! There are way too many unknowns for this to be meaningful!

Family Search, then revealed this from New Jersey births 1670-1980:

Female Keley – born 13 Apr 1885 – was born to John Keley, 26, born Ireland and Jane Carl, 26, born Scotland, in Essex, New Jersey, United States.

And newly this, from New Jersey Births and Christenings 1660 -1980:

Mary Jane Keely – born 13 Apr 1885 – was christened April 30 at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic – at Montclair, Essex, New Jersey, on April 30. Mother: Jane Carroll. Father:  James Keely. [It did say James, an anamoly.] [Note also: Mary “J” was used in Scotland’s Census 1891.]

Newly this too; since Montclair was specified in the newly found record above: 

A John Kealy was found in the 1880 Census of Montclair.4  He was a coachman, born 1861, Ireland.  [Of course, this is anecdotal and disconnected from the rest of his life. Plus, he was a boarder.] 

Kelley, Kelly, Kealy, Keley and Keely. Carroll, Carrol, and Carl.  Name variants and phonetic spellings, same or different people, who knows?  So much evidence to digest, all circumstantial.

Except that, Scottish Jane Carroll were fairly rare for those born between 1855 and 1865; the Birth Registry held but five plain Jane Carroll and one Jane Carl; none to Catherine McCormick.3  Competition seemed accounted for, but, there can always be an unfound document of rebuttal.

We have a three very sketchy finds. One could be the wedding of John Kelly and Jane Carroll in the US in 1884. As well, birth record and christening for their Mary, born 1885. Quite the tease!  

Now, we are still evaluating if Jane’s John Kelly could have been our US-sourced great grandfather. About the US-born vs Ireland-born thing: experience shows that in Scotland, the “where born” census question was up for interpretation, sometimes to “where from”. If widow-Jane’s Irish John Kelly were to have been in Scotland for census 1881, he may well have expressed his place of birth as the US, having recently disembarked from that continent.

This is where the book left off. A lingering what if. Every avenue of further exploration seemed blocked. Except that, we had not located Jane’s record of death. Looking for it would prove a fool’s errand anyway.  Nothing new will be found on Jane.


A daughter who had informed before, would inform again, now differently: 

Jane McIlvanney/Kelly died at 99 Main Street, Renton DNB at 84.3 Same address as the widow-Jane Kelly, in 1911.3 Kate reconfirmed that Jane married John Kelly, a coachman, but added domestic servant. Jane’s mother was Catherine McCormick. Her father was Bernard McKernan. Jane was born in 1856.

Jane’s daughter, Catherine (Kate) Quinn was her informant.

OUT, LIAR! Outliers we screamed! Why would anyone put two cents on those final two details? They matched with nothing!

Unfortunately, no one dies twice for a redo of obit. Obviously, if a suitable 1856 birth record is found, it will have to stand. We will forever be faced with an unarguable birth document of 1856, for a person who lived an 1859-1861 scenario.


Just pretending that Kate had it right, life documents for new-Jane were begrudgingly researched.

Birth 1856: Jane McKernan? No.

  • Jane McKearnun was born September 27, 1856 to Bernard McKearnun and Catherine McCormick, in Campbeltown, Argyllshire. 3
  • Darn!

Parental Marriage 1855: In Campbeltown Argyllshire.

Catherine McCormick to Bernard Carroll? Nope. To Bernard McKearnun? No. To Bernard McKernan? No! No. No. No  Catherine Skiffington to Bernard McKeregan? 3 OF COURSE!

Catherine McCormick was hidden inside the Skiffington document.  It was the second marriage for both. They were born in Antrim Ireland; Bernard about 1815, Catherine 1818. He had five surviving children. She had three.3

The Skiffington children were easily gotten from Censuses 1841 and 1851. They could be followed forward because they were born in Scotland.  Mary died before Census 1851. Information on the Skiffington half-siblings would prove key, to hypothesizing new-Jane’s path forward. 

Skiffington Censuses 1841 and 1851:2 3  Children: Mary b 1838, Ellen (Helen) b 1840, John b 1842, and James b 1846.

Bernard’s children were born in Ireland in a timeframe that showed the family was new to Scotland for Census 1851. That is, only if the 1851 Census for Bernard Kiargan, below, was correctly picked for them. Son of his second marriage, Michael McKiargan, would be born in 1859, making the census match more likely.  

Kiargan Census 1851: 2 3   Bernard and Mary. Children at home: Margaret b 1833, Helen b 1843, Elizabeth b 1845, and Catherine b 1847. Ireland births and name morphs made them impossible to follow.

The new couple would have the following children: Jane McKearnun b 1856 and Michael McKiargan, b 1859, Campbeltown ARG.3


New-Jane was not found with her family beyond 1861, when she was four.  Her parents stayed in Campbeltown until their deaths, and her brother, at least through 1891. These census picks, found at ScotlandsPeople,  illustrate the ever changing surnames used.3 The changes may have been artifact of the enumerator interpretation of the spoken word. The head of household was new to Scotland.  New-Jane’s census picks will follow.

  • 1861 McKinvin 
    • An iffy pick, but person profiles fit for Bernard, Cathrine, Jane and Michal.
  • 1871 McKerrell 
    • This data was anchored as it included step-son James Skiffington, born 1846 Campbeltown, and specified Antrim as the Ireland birthplace of the parents.
    • McKerrell may be the genesis of Carroll, although it seemed not to be re-used in the family.
    • Jane was missing.
      • She may have died in the past decade, undetected. Or, have incurred any one of numerous events, such as adoption or emigration, to be out-of-the-picture, now and maybe forever. Or, she could be elsewhere, working. 
  • 1881 Kerrigan 
    • This family was found at the same address as used for McKerrell
  • 1891 Kiargan 
    • This census was for Michael and his family with Agnes Stewart. It was anchored by matching addresses for census and death witness below.
    • Kiargan was last used by the family in 1851. Michael was born McKiargan.

Death: Bernard McKernan and Catherine McKiargan/Skiffington/McCormick

  • Bernard died in 1888 at 73.3 His first wife was Mary McDonald. His father, Bernard was a mason. His mother was Margaret McCormick. 3
  • Catherine died in 1891 at 73.3 Her father was Michael McCormick, a crofter; her mother, Helen McGill.

Both died in a Campbeltown poorhouse.  Michael McKernan informed for his father. No one informed for Catherine. We were SO hoping that Jane would have done so, to see how she might have signed off. Of course, her Jane, may not have been new-Jane, or widow-Jane

Presuming new-Jane lived on, here are her census picks:

  • 1861 McKinvin – With family in Campbeltown. Born Campbeltown 1857. 
  • 1871 Kergan – In Campbeltown. Born there in 1857. A servant, on her own. 3
    • This is a turning point, as we have lost Jane’s anchor.
    • We may have incorrectly picked Jane McKearnun’s birth as relevant to our story, even if a Catherine McCormick lay behind the Skiffington name. An alternate namesake may be hiding under another’s birth document. This is how data conflation can take hold. 
  • 1881 Carroll – Renton. Single-Jane Carroll reporting Glasgow birth, in 1861. 2 3
  • 1891 (Carroll) – Renton. Widow-Jane Kelley noting a Campbeltown birth in 1859. 2 3
  • 1901 (Carroll) – Renton. Widow-Jane McIlvaney/Kelly; born Campbeltown 1861. 2 3


Good name, Skiffington. Saved the day more than once. In all Scotland, there were around 30 in 1841. Elders were from Ireland. In 1881 there were 46, of which 14 were in Holytown.3 In fact, a family of six lived on Carfin Road. Not far from a family of McCormick. Not far from Agnes Dougan. Not far from great grandfather. Ah, but due to Irish extraction, relationships were impossible to discern. We live and breathe the circumstantial.

James Skiffington anchored the search at Census 1871, when “Bernard-who” was speaking as Bernard McKerrell.  James married Elizabeth Hamilton.3 Their 1891 census was at Old Kilpatrick, DNB with four children born there between 1879 and 1888.2 Old Kilpatrick is about seven miles from Renton. Ellen, or Helen, Skiffington, born 1840, married James Hamilton, in Glasgow, in 1860. They remained in the Glasgow area.  New-Jane was emancipated so young, it would not be surprising if she spent time with half-sister, Ellen in Glasgow, and/or, if she followed her half-brother, James to Dunbartonshire. She was not found in their censuses. Widow-Jane’s grandchildren bore names consistent with half-siblings of new-Jane.

If new-Jane became single-Jane, it would now come as no surprise should she interpret the census question in 1881 of “where born”, as “where from” (recently), and report Glasgow. On the other hand, no reason is apparent for her to have fudged her age.  


John Skiffington, born 1842, could not be definitively followed, but may have been in High Church, Glasgow as a boarder and baker’s shop man in 1861.2 3  A John Skiffington, an engineer, correctly aged was aboard the Devonian to New York, in 1870. 4 He was not found in any US Census. Catherine’s children proved more transparent than Bernard’s who were impossible to follow. A shame because they may have played a part in new-Jane’s life.

  • The question is: did a half-sibling offer new-Jane, a US destination? The key to where she met her husband, John Kelly, and who he was, may be hidden there.


  • There may yet be an undiscovered true past for widow-Jane, born 1859–1861 of Bernard Carroll and Catherine McCormick. Her daughter Catherine’s documents attested variously, that widow-Jane was born of  Bernard Carroll and Bernard McKernon. The age statement also could be in error.
    • We should not lose sight of another Catherine McCormick addressed in Chapter 16 of the book. She was of unknown particulars or liaison, who registered her illegitimate son James McCormick, in Campbeltown Argyllshire in 1858.3 We saw potential in her, as Jane’s mother, too.  It is also possible that this James was actually Jane.  Yet, we must come back to the rant. 
  • In any case,
    • We have learned nothing more, of great grandfather.
      • The Scottish widow-Jane married a John Kelly, yet unidentified, with whom she had two daughters in the US, mid-1880s, and then, she returned to Scotland with the children.
    • New, single, US and widow-Jane remain anywhere from one to four persons.
    •  New-Jane brought no insight on widow-Jane for the period 1871 to 1891
      • We cannot assess if single-Jane was widow-Jane
      • We cannot claim that US-Jane was widow-Jane
      • We cannot know if widow-Jane met great grandfather
      • Double darn.


Jane Carroll, born in Scotland in the mid-1800s, wed an elusive John Kelly (or Kealy) in New Jersey in 1884. Our likely direct ancestor was a data-similar John Kelly. We sought Jane to ask if the two John were one, but she had several aliases. It took Kate Rabbit to sort things out. CLICK for our true genealogical mystery series.

Update 1 Addendum 4: IMPOSTER  Jane Carroll of 1881 vs Jane Currol of 1871 

The 1881 Census of Renton, Dunbartonshire (DNB) lists a Jane Carroll born 1861 in Glasgow. She was a boarder, a Turkey Red Dye worker and single. She was discussed as single-Jane in Chapter 16 “John and Washerwomen” in “Double Genealogy: the Adoption Witness”. 1

Single-Jane was possibly the youthful version of widow-Jane Kelley (maiden name Carroll), in Renton’s 1891 Census, who was also a dye worker.  The spoiler was that Findmypast (FMP) credibly suggested that instead, her citation corresponded to Jane Currol who was found in Census 1871.2 Ms. Currol was born to parents who were inconsistent with widow-Jane. An additional conflict was that single-Jane claimed Glasgow birth, as did Ms Currol, while widow-Jane was born in Campeltown.

FMP and other genealogical sites commonly offer hints on ancestors that either point to their past or future path. They are offered as hint, not guarantee. We wanted their assist to be in error, so, of course we challenged it, albeit not successfully so, in time for the book.

Constructed according to the 1871 census, imposter-Jane’s family could not be found in any other census, or its members in Scotland’s BMD Registers. She seemed a dead end that had to remain on the books, as a downer to the desired match of single to widow Jane.

The odds of widow-Jane’s husband being our US-born great grandfather would be increased, if the two Renton Janes were one.  That is, if widow-Jane were in Scotland, coincident with great grandfather, in the early 1880s.  Recall, she had two US-born children between 1885 and 1887 and all were in Scotland by 1891.2 Why would bereaved she, of Argyllshire, bring her wee ones to Dunbartonshire unless she had already established herself there? In fact, both she and single-Jane were engaged in hand print work. 2

The stakes were high; it was simply intolerable that Jane Currol remained unresolved, messing up the already ridiculously suppositional story line.  Why would she now yield to discovery? Despite the realization that some genealogical puzzles cannot resolve, say, because the real time data was never collected or were corrupted, her ledgers were reopened.

The underlying 1871 Census at ScotlandsPeople (SP) agreed with FMP in that Currol correctly reflected spelling in the original document.2 3 However, Currol had been penned but once, at the household head level. The balance of the family were ditto marked; no second chance.

ASIDE: The head of household was Irish; the enumerator heard the Irish name with Scottish ears. It is not hard to understand how names on censuses often suffered.  While the enumerators always could, many lay, whether Scottish or Irish, neither read, nor wrote.  Offering consistent spelling for their names over life’s documents, truly would have been a struggle.


With renewed zeal, commonly known as a heap of tedious toil, the Currol family of 1871 began to look suspiciously like the 1861 Carran family.3 Carran’s address in 1861 was the same as that used by the Curran family in 1851.3

SP said that Jane Curran was born to William Curran and Elizabeth Jones in 1859, Glasgow, Her birth home was at the same Muse Lane address of the above Carran and Curran family censuses. 3 The five Currol siblings of 1871 were all born in Glasgow – but they were found in Scotland’s Birth Registry as Cunan, Carran and Curran.


  • FindMyPast correctly interpreted the original document that is held at ScotlandsPeople, when they cited Currol in its Census 1871 display of what this column finds to be the Curran family. Although correct, we feel it represented an underlying factual error. The conundrum began with the original, or source document when, in 1871, Curran was probably misspelled as Currol.

That is how it goes in research. The source must be accurately stated, for in the end, it is entirely possible for two families to have existed, twin in all respects, except for “an vs ol”. Whomever offered the hint at FMP directing Currol of 1871 to Carroll of 1881 may know something that we do not. We hope to further explore this notion of right, while wrong, on the blog “Double Genealogy: the Adoption Witness” under “Writing Genealogy”.

  • Imposter-Jane Currol aka Jane Curran is eliminated making single-Jane Carroll far more likely to be widow-Jane Kelly (Carroll). But, still no shoe-in.
  • Worth the work!

Please scroll to end of Addendum 5 for Notes and Sources, or to Comment.

Update 1 Addendum 5: YONDER SEA Catherine McCormick b. 1841 DNB, Scotland. 

Widow-Jane Kelly self-reported as daughter to Bernard Carroll and Catherine McCormick, in her register of re-marriage, in 1896. 3 Yet, evidence of her birth to these parents was never found. Her marital address was Main Street, Renton, Dunbartonshire (DNB) Scotland.  These events were topical in Chapter 16 “John and Washerwomen” in “Double Genealogy: the Adoption Witness”.1

Catherine McCormick b 1841 DNB, likewise, lived on Main Street, Renton, at Census 1851.2 She, the child of James and Mary McCormick, was within mothering age, for Jane. She was sought because Jane’s earlier life path was unknown. Catherine could not be definitively declared her mother, at the time of the book.

Catherine was orphaned by 1855 and her family left Scotland by 1861.3 Her brother, James, was the only sibling successfully documented through the crucial timeframe. His path took him to Ireland by 1861, then to England.2 3 He returned to Scotland, by the early 1880s.2 We guessed that Catherine bore “Jane-presumed” illegitimately in Argyllshire, with the siblings on the way to their Irish roots. We thought the rest of the family stayed in Ireland, undetected. Except, perhaps Jane-presumed returned along with James and became single-Jane, resident of Renton DNB in 1881.  

A newly acquired manifest of the ship “Sevilla” shows that, instead, Catherine followed her brother, Henry, to New Zealand, in December of 1859.5 All siblings, except James, followed Henry, including Ana, who otherwise may have been at a Glasgow Seminary, in 1861. Henry moved his own family of four, including a son Henry, who apparently perished aboard ship.

James, who was already wed and with children, remained behind, as the book correctly detailed.2 3 His family did not include any unaccounted “daughter” who might have been an undercover Jane-presumed, of Catherine. Catherine brought no child with her aboard ship. A later birth delivery would have occurred in New Zealand. For Catherine to meet our criteria now, she would need to have left an illegitimate child, born in Glasgow or Campbeltown, behind. That seems not to comport with a family, so close, as to emigrate, as a unit.


  • Catherine McCormick b 1841 DNB was not widow-Jane’s mother.
    • This ends our interest in Catherine, as far as the book is concerned.

SUPPLEMENT: Catherine McCormick b1841 Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

To beg her pardon, we will update Catherine’s nuclear family, from its inception in Scotland, and antecedent in Ireland, until her 1859 departure to New Zealand.  It was a very instructive data grab on its own accord. Perhaps her descendants will find this useful.

When one has a tricky genealogical challenge going on in Scotland, they are lucky indeed, to find an ancestor with an event in 1855. It was a pivotal year, record wise.  Life’s passages of birth, marriage and death (BMD) that had historically been written in Old Parish Records (OPR) at the Kirk level, would now be centralized to Statutory Register. The result was less quaint, standardized and more informative. Similarly, the 1851 census was first to capture relationship data within families, as well, parish level birthplace data for Scotland-born. This made Scotland effectively searchable from 1850s, forward.

Catherine’s father, James McCormick died in 1855. 3 It surely was the year to die, if wishing to be richly memorialized. Not long afterward, the Scots did a paperwork reduction thing. Darn! But, his readout was better than anything of today.

He was a 60 year old tailor, son of a namesake tailor. His mother was Susan Laferty. James was born in Londonderry, Ireland. For Ireland-born residents of Scotland, 1855 was an especially good dying choice, for this detail on county of birth. Cause of death and place of burial were also provided.  His deceased wife was Mary Carr. The couples’ issue was listed in entirety: Henry, then 30; Mary, 24; James, 20; Susan, John, 16, Cathrine, 14; Jessie 13; and Ana 9.  Henry, as informant, noted that Susan had already passed.

The obituary pointed to this OPR Marriage: James McCormick wed Mary Kerr in Edinburgh, 1826.3 Mary’s father was cited as James Kerr. OPR births for their children showed both Carr and Kerr, for Mary.    

The household was at Bonhill DNB for Census 1841.2 By 1851, James was a widower in Renton. 2He reported his birthdate as 1801 in both censuses. With deference to his self-report, over that of son and obituary witness, Henry, James probably died at 54, not 60.  Further, James called himself grocer laborer in 1841 and tea dealer in 1851. Tailor may have been an error, or a trade he learned from his father, that he resumed in his decline.

Census 1851 revealed Henry as a cabinet maker. Cabinet maker was among the occupations gathered on Sevilla’s manifest. Two siblings were engaged in print field. This was hand dye work, connected to the Turkey Red Dye industry. Hand print was Jane Kelly (Carroll’s) trade as well, although, clearly now, not an association to be had. Catherine was still a scholar, in this, her last Scotland census.

Aside: Henry McCormick b 1801 Ireland, was with the James McCormick family in Bonhill in 1841. Perhaps a visiting brother. He was not in Renton in 1851 and may have been in Kirkliston, with wife Bridget and daughter Ann. That connection is conjured because the oldest children of James were listed in the 1851 census, as born in Kirkliston.  Kirkliston is not far from Edinburgh. The imagining here, was to support James McCormick of Ireland, connecting to Mary Kerr of Scotland in Edinburgh, in 1826. As well, to show prevalence of McCormick of Ireland, in the area.

Notes and Sources. Double Genealogy: the Adoption Witness; Update 1, Addenda 3-5

  1. Double Genealogy: the Adoption Witness. Published by This is Update #1, Addendum #3 published July 2018. Copyright © 2018 Marilee Wein.
  2. Documents accessed at FMP: Findmypast Ltd, Website: ©brightsolid online publishing ltd. ©2017 Findmypast and with thanks to Findmypast The underlying data are attributed as follows: Census data at ScotlandsPeople 1841-1911 are © Crown Copyright National Records of Scotland. Birth, Marriage and Death data (BMD), including Old Parish Records (OPR) at ScotlandsPeople are © Crown Copyright National Records of Scotland
  3. Cited Birth, Marriage and Death data were found in Old Parish and Statutory Registers at ScotlandsPeople and are © Crown Copyright National Records of Scotland.  This includes but is not limited to: 1854 McCormick, James – Dallas, Janet (Catholic Registers Banns and Marriages MP 914133, Port Glasgow, St John’s. © Scottish Catholic Archives.  James second marriage, after return to Scotland from Liverpool, England: 1885 McCormick, James (Statutory registers Marriages 646/2 75) 1855: McCormick, James (Statutory registers Deaths 494/4) 1855: Skiffington, Catherine (Statutory registers Marriages 507/1 51) 1856: McKearnun, Jane (Statutory registers Births 507/1 128) 1859 Curran, Jane (Statutory registers Births 644/7 490) 1896: Carrol, Jane (Statutory registers Marriages 493/ 14)

Cited census data 1841-1891 was found at ScotlandsPeople and are © Crown Copyright National Records of Scotland.  Included are information on Statutory Registers. This includes, but is not limited to: 1871: Kergan, Jane (Census 507/10/ 9) 1871 McKerrell Barnard (Census 507/ 7/ 20)

  1. Documents Accessed at Family Search (FS): ©2017 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

New Jersey, Dept. of State, Div. of Archives and Record Management, State Archives at Trenton: citing NJ Marriages, 1678-1985 and NJ, Births, 1670-1980 film 494199 and NJ Births and Christenings 1660-1980.

United States Census Data. Affiliate and data custodian: The United States Archive and Record Administration (NARA) College Park, MD.

UK Birth, Marriage, Death and Census Information. Underlying data are © Crown Copyright, National Archives Specific citations: Scotland Marriages 1561-1910 database, FamilySearch and Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 database, FamilySearch

“New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 26 November 2014), 419 – 19 Jul 1879-12 Sep 1879 > image 557 of 1165; citing NARA microfilm publication M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration

5 Record of the ship “Sevilla” which sailed from Glasgow Scotland to Dunedin New Zealand in 1859 was found at

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14 thoughts on “Genealogy Imagined From a Deathbed Rant, With an Imposter, On Yonder Sea

  1. This is my great great grandmother that you are writing about I have been trying to find out about her past for quite some time .


    1. Margaret, I am totally thrilled that Jane’s kin has found her past!!! That means her John Kealy is yours too. And her Campbeltown past and the Skiffington’s too. I wonder what you think of her, this ordinary, yet extraordinary person. She had my heart as she made her way alone. She would just not let me stop, until I had understood her path. Imagine her resolve; the young widow returning to Scotland with wee ones, in those days. As they say, you couldn’t make her story up! You must be so proud!


      1. Thank you so much for your quick reply ,I have ordered the book so that I can let my family read about Jane’s story can’t wait until it come comes to Scotland . I thought that you would like to know how her life continued, Mary married John Stevenson who was a roof slater in a family business of builders who have a building that they built and it is called Stevenson’s building which contained a public house and housing ,my grandmother who was called Margaret was born in one of the flats and later Jane her sister arrived , Mary died young of brain cancer and her husband followed a few years later of T.B. both girls then went to live with their grandmother Jane in Renton , she continued to work in the textile industry while bringing up her grandchildren , granddaughter Jane had an accident and fell down a flight of stairs and spent the rest of her life an invalid unable to work, so Jane Kelly’s life continued to be a hard one . I did not know anything about the life that Jane had ,nothing was mentioned about her daughters being born in America it was not until my daughter and I started to looking into who we were from and where they came from ,I had always heard about Granny Kelly from my mother and her sister May and my grandmother but nothing about her adventures . When I told my aunt May about her going to America and her daughter being born she was amazed no one had ever said anything about it , she was flabbergasted about John Kelly she had never heard about her being married twice ,so Jane was a mysterious character all of her life , I would have loved to have met her. Thank you so much again for solving some of the mysteries ,my daughter could not believe that I had found you and your story,


      2. I just loved your reply and all its news! Thanks for getting the book; hope you enjoy it. It is amazing that Jane held her story in, given how interesting she was. Through writing the book and this blog, I’ve learned that the hard lives we know our ancestors lived, often came at high emotional cost. Jane’s parents ended up in the poorhouse, and she was emancipated very early. Then she was widowed, early, and abroad. We have no idea of the why of things. The book is on my grandfather, who was apparently adopted, although maybe he did not know. The blog (under “Before Memories”) details my other grandfather. He had a tragic emigration from Norway, which he left at 11. He claimed he had been born in Wisconsin, and synthesized a different youth. This from a man of no deceit, which I expect was the same, for Jane. Wounded people, strong people who made the best of things and cared for everyone else. PS I would have loved to have met Jane too, had a picture, anything!


      3. Love me my ScotlandsPeople. They provided the only two known instances of that John Kelly. His only data points provided are: John Kelly (twice), a British Subject(once), born somewhere in the US (once) about 1859 (once), resided in Lanarkshire Scotland between April 1881 and May 1882 as a plowman (twice). That is actually much less information to go on, than I had for Jane Carroll because there is no central database for US birth, marriage and death, and often no state repositories either in that time period. As you saw in Jane’s work, her date of birth was stated anywhere from 1856 (verified by a birth document)-1861. Having only one citing of John for 1859 does not feel solid. Even so, the US Census lists over 700 John Kelly born about 1859. The only hope is to find him through association, such as through Jane. You probably saw, though, that Jane’s husband’s true name was probably John Kealy, while my John had his name spelled Kelly twice. (Jane changed the name to Kelly when she returned to Scotland). I had to research Jane exhaustively to find that key piece “Kealy” that disqualified her John. There are other places to look, such as Poor Relief in Lanarkshire that have come up empty. Also, papers or pamphlets of the day which may have specified the farm-lad from the US. I shall continue the search.

        ScotlandsPeople are wonderfully helpful and the site logical and easy to use. May I ask what county you live in?


      4. Hi I live in Scotland and still have contacts in Renton so trying to find out about the baby, I have been in contact with a Stevenson descendant so maybe get something from them about the baby. I met Kate’s two daughters and two of her grandchildren many years ago. I will get back to you with any information that I get. Thank you again.

        Liked by 1 person

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