Who was Kate Rabbit?  Darned if we know! Well, she married Joseph Baxter M. Osborn on 14 SEP 1885 in Montclair, Essex County, New Jersey.1A  That a Kate Rabbit came to be mentioned  in Montclair, well, she might have come down from heaven to actually help solve our puzzle! Their marital record says she was born in 1863 to Owen Rabbit and Mary Higgins.  Truth is, a number of children in Roscommon Ireland about that time, were born to namesakes Owen and Mary and are available from online search, but a Kate is not among them. Her groom was a Montclair boy, born 1859 to William Osborn and Mary Mitchell. All good!

We were not to ask much of her – just a little intelligence from her timeframe in New Jersey. We did not find her in the 1880 US Census. Nor could she be plucked from the New Jersey State Census 1885.  That was discouraging because we wanted her to have laid footprints in Essex County in the early 1880s, on which we could spy. 

Now, a Catherine Rabbott and Jos. Osborn had a male babe on 11 June 1886, in Montclair.1C Sure must have been her! Thus, we had high hopes to study her as she stepped forward through life.  Then, as we are painfully aware, Census 1890 was destroyed and Kate apparently demised about the birth time, for Joseph remarried in 1895. It seemed that is all we might know of Kate Rabbit but perhaps that was enough.


In turn, our interest in Jane Carroll is one John Kelly – potentially, our biological great grandfather.

Jane Carroll’s saga with her husband  John Kelly began to be told in the book “Double Genealogy: The Adoption Witness”. It spilled over to the “Deathbed Rant” in a previous post on this blog.  We shall summarize the situation in three recaps to show how our tiny window on Kate Rabbit could  move the tale forward.2 3 


Our John Kelly disappeared from Scotland after his 1882 disclosure of an illegitimate son, whose mother he did not marry. He was from the US and born about 1859.2 3

The Scotland Census of 1891 listed a widow, Jane Kelley, born in Campbeltown, Scotland around 1859.2 Her two girls had been born in the US in 1885 and 1887, whose father turned out to be a John Kelly, born about 1859.  

How odd it would be, should the two John’s prove one. With avenues to pursue our own John dwindling, we took up the challenge to assess. So, Recaps 2 and 3 refer to Jane’s John. That he might be ours too, is subject of a different thread taking place in Scotland.  One at a time.


The rant exposed a major deceit on the part of the widow. Jane Kelly insisted that her maiden name was Carroll, and that she was born about 1860, in Campbeltown, Argyllshire to Bernard Carroll and Catherine McCormick.2 3  

A horde of documents supported that notion. Except that, her birth record could not be located. That is, until the deathbed reveal, wherein the 1887 daughter, who had prior attested to Jane’s claim, now indicated her mother was born in 1856 of Bernard McKernan.  In fact, her birth was registered in Campbeltown in 1856 as Jane McKearnun of Catherine McCormick.3  Her parents were Irish. 

Bernard changed his name over time, being McKerrell on one census, such that an evolution to Carroll could be appreciated.3 However, nothing could mitigate the age differential, other than that Jane lied, or had experienced something in life to change her expressed recall.  

By the way, only one Jane Carroll or similar, was found to be born in Scotland of a Bernard father and Catherine McCormick in the extended time frame. 


Widow-Jane, it seems, left Scotland and returned by 1891, after the mid-1880 births of her daughters and death of her John Kelly. So, John died in that narrow window.  John and Jane’s time in the US remains most elusive; they have not allowed us to know John –  hence the need for work arounds, seeking clearer parallel trails, such as we hoped from Kate Rabbit.

The State of New Jersey and Roman Catholic documents available online and by ordered transcript show:

  • Marriage on 27 SEP 1884 of John Kealy, b. 1861 Ireland, to Jane Carroll b. 1859 Scotland at St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey.   Jane’s parents: Catherine McCormick and Bernard. John’s were Michael and Bridget. Only Catherine’s surname was mentioned and all parents were of Ireland. 2 3
  • Birth of Female Keley in Essex County, NJ on 13 APR 1885 to John Keley b. 1859 Ireland and Jane Carl, born 1859 Scotland.2 3
  • Christening of Mary Jane Keely at Immaculate Conception in Montclair, New Jersey, on 30 APR 1885, whose parents were reportedly James Keely and Jane Carroll. The child’s birthdate was specified as 13 APR 1885.2 3

Note that Widow-Jane’s daughter was Mary J. Kelley born 1885 US, according to Scotland Census 1891. 2

One must keep a vigilant side-eye on huge unsubstantiated claims such as John Kealy,  John Keley and James Keely are the same, and that Jane Carroll is Jane Carl. Especially in view of inconsistent birth dates. Or, the whopper that the Newark marriage is connected to the Montclair christening …


Sometimes it is  not enough to use online data or to receive copy from the Data Owner’s Archive. The first has been abstracted for digital input and the second, for transcription. In this case, it took a trip to Family Search Affiliate Library where microfilm or “snapshot” of the original data can be viewed.  Sure, it is not digitized, and one must cull through numerous images to get to the target.  

The image disclosed two new names on the Newark marriage record: James Welsh and Catherine Rabbit. [The word preceding their names was illegible, so these probable witnesses were not input to the online record.   Still it gave no context as to age or relationship to the principals.]

Now, there was no plethora of Catherine Rabbit floating about the US for competition. Yet one must have had some significance to John or Jane on their special day in Newark. Therefore, the jaw dropped when the name married a Montclair native, in Montclair, just months after Mary Jane was christened  there. 

While proving nothing, it is now a nudge more probable that the Jane Carroll who wed John Kealy in Newark, later chose a name for Mary Jane Keely in Montclair and wrote out Mary J Kelley’s census in Scotland, in 1891. 

Little steps! Someone asked why it took five years to write a genealogy. This is why.

Click DEATHBED RANT should you be so inclined.

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.

Special thanks to the Family Search Affiliate Library at 5200 S Univerisity Ave., Chicago IL for a truly welcoming research day. 

Notes and Sources

1 Documents accessed at  www.FamilySearch.org © 2017 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. including:
A New Jersey Marriages, 1678-1985: Joseph Baxter M. Osborn and Kate Rabbit, 14 Sep 1885; citing 1,378,203
B New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891. Passenger lists 2 May 1881-18 May 1881 (NARA Series M237, Roll 436) for Kate Rabbit
C New Jersey, Births, 1670-1980; Osborn, 11 Jun 1886; citing, Essex, New Jersey, United States, Division of Archives and Record Management, New Jersey Department of State, Trenton; FHL microfilm 494,201.
2 Double Genealogy: The Adoption Witness. Published by Booklocker.com. Copyright © 2018 Marilee Wein
3 Genealogy Imagined From A Deathbed Rant, With An Imposter, On Yonder Sea. Published on this blog.  All posts authored here by Doublegenealogytheadoptionwitness are Copyright © Marilee Wein 2018-2019.  All rights reserved. 

23 thoughts on “WHO WAS KATE RABBIT?

  1. I was literally sitting next to a colleague Mary Higgins as I read this. She’s wondering if maybe you’re distantly related as she has Irish connections. I’m off to click Deathbed Rants ;-P

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Kate Rabbit sounds fascinating but it sounds like a name that was changed on entry, perhaps? I don’t recall any Rabbits while living in the UK. I am having a similar struggle with Ancestry V Family Search. Was my Puritan ancestor arriving at Plymouth colony an Adams, Ames or Eames? Darn this genealogy, it is so addictive…


    1. Actually I did find the name, so spelled, in Roscommon Ireland. On the other hand, like you, I often find a family might select a spelling for a generation and the next could change it. My grandfather, in fact was born Olsen in Norway. It was changed to Hemmingson in the US and to Hemmingsen in Canada. I hardly recognize myself!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank goodness they are now linking the DNA results to Ancestry genealogy. We might be able to make sense of our Rabbit and Pinkman relatives. My father changed his name from Dellinger to de Ortega, his maternal name after he got out of prison… Skeletons can be so much fun. My name was always de Ortega and I believe we are relative to THAT Dillinger (another mispelling).
        Wouldn’t it be fun if you had a Lemming in the family to go with the Rabbit?? BTW, Ortega means Grouse in Spanish.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. We now know who Kate Rabbit was, she was born to Owen Rabbit and Mary Higgins in Castlerea, Roscommon. Owen was a Carpenter .. the family lived in Baslick (townland). Owen died in 1872 while Mary lived until 1912, residing with her son Patrick. So we now know who Kate was ..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steve, given Kate’s unexpected value to my work, I am thrilled to know her better. Thanks so much for your input! In turn, had you not known prior, you now find that she, and at least her sister Bridget graced Mont Clair New Jersey, and who their friendship circle was, (In the next Kate Rabbit post). This is so fun! You show her mother had a long widowhood – probably a hard go, as it was in those days. – And thanks for following the blog; hope you and Marian enjoy – Marilee

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So the next question is why did Kate end up there ? New York seems to be a popular destination for Rabbits from Roscommon with many buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn ..

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I know when my brother was doing genealogy that he ran into names spelt differently or names that were changed, from time to time. This makes it much more time consuming then it already is.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s