Kate Rabbit Spills On Jane’s John


Kate Rabbit has been working to annul Jane Kelly’s hold on us! All we wanted from Jane was a working description of her husband, who had demised so early. After all, he could be our biological great grandfather. Recall, Jane had caught our eye in 1891 at Renton Dunbartonshire.  She nodded her Scot’s tam and clasped her two wee ones, while juggling luggage that had been tagged in America. 

“His name was Mr. Kelly” and his sweet Mary and Kate here, were born in the States”

Widow Jane Kelly, Renton, Dunbartonshire 1891

Jane had been evasive, giving us riddles within riddles. We had to wait for her to remarry and for her girls to grow up, to be told that Jane Carroll had married John Kelly, a coachman and laborer –  and that both were born about 1860; he in Ireland; she, in Scotland. 

We also had to wait for Jane to pass before Kate Kelly unloaded on her mother; that she, who had presented her single-self as Jane Carroll, born 1860, was a pretender for Jane McKernan, born 1856.

All that noise brought us to Essex County, New Jersey, mid-1880. It was just lately – last post, even – that Kate Rabbit stepped up to the plate with some much appreciated at-the-scene testimony. She practically said that it was one Jane “Carroll” who married John Kealy in Newark in September of 1884, gave birth to John Keley’s daughter in Bloomfield on 13 May 1885, then christened James Keely’s “Mary Jane” in Mont Clair, a few weeks later.

We thanked Ms Rabbit for that joyous news. But, she had not really disclosed anything new of substance on John, such as how to look him up in a directory.  So, Kate Rabbit called in a tidbit.

What did Kate Rabbit say this time, that made a difference? 

Patrick Maher had witnessed my nuptials. Along with my sister, Bridget.

Kate Rabbit 1885, Mont Clair, NJ

That’s it? Patrick Maher? Who cares?  Practically no one, except that in 1880 a John Kealy had been boarding with Mr. Maher and they lived in Mont Clair. They were coachmen.


The boarder John Kealy claimed a 1861 birth in Ireland.  Kealy’s marital document agreed, but the Keley birth said 1859. No matter; both are age peer to Jane Carroll’s feigned date.


Suddenly, this John, who seemed to be Jane’s, had community in Mont Clair. The town of about 5000 had Kealy, Kelly, Carroll, McCormick, Maher, Walsh and Higgins, aplenty. Higgins were neighbors of Maher and John.  Higgins was also Kate Rabbit’s maternal line and may point to her selection as John’s witness.


We had surmised that Jane left Scotland for one of three reasons: to accompany John away from Scotland if they had met there, to catch up with a maternal relative surnamed McCormick or Skiffington, or for a job mission related to hand print in the Turkey Red Dye industry.

No dye occupation was apparent in Jane’s area of Newark, or in Mont Clair. It is more probable now, that instead, she met kin of her father in a Catherine Carroll b 1822 Ireland, Catherine’s son Thomas, died McCarroll, while Jane’s father sometime used McKerrell. No conclusions can be drawn, though, on such scanty information. 


We are reasonably certain that John Kealy, of the 1880 Maher household in Mont Clair, married Jane Carroll, of Scotland. However, it is notable that Jane and her girls referred to him as John Kelly, in almost all forward records in Scotland. 

We still have too little evidence to locate his Irish birth record.  His father was Michael; his mother, Bridget. We do not know if they left Ireland.  At wedding time, John was with Patrick Kealy in Newark.  Patrick was probably his relative, maybe a brother. 

No available Essex County death document seems to support him. Because he died without another census, the only outstanding record of his life that might update his particulars would be the birth of daughter Kate, in 1887. Of course, more intelligence may lie in the records of his Mont Clair community. 

Still, we have enough information to close out our interest in Jane McIlvaney/Kelly/ Carroll or McKernan – or aka. That is, in the sense that she delivered us, her John. 

We now know that John was  resident of Mont Clair in June 1880.  By good evidence, Jane was still in Scotland in early April 1881. By September 1884, John and Jane were married in Newark, with Mary on the way. 

Such does not entirely preclude that the couple met in Scotland. Their 1884 residences in Newark were not close enough to qualify as meeting  “the boy next door”. They were two Electoral Districts apart, probably a few miles.  Then too, John had moved from Mont Clair and his coachman position. He could well have taken a journey in the meanwhile.


We now have a state, a city and a community for this John Kelly. It is a solid starting point to evaluate if  he found himself on a farm in Holytown Lanarkshire, in 1881 and became our history by April of 1882.  

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.

Notes and Sources

1 Documents accessed at  www.FamilySearch.org © 2017 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. or through Family Search Affiliate Library, 5200 S University Ave., Chicago IL 60615 including:
A New Jersey Marriages, 1678-1985 Joseph Baxter M. Osborn and Kate Rabbit, 14 Sep 1885; citing film 1,378,203 and New Jersey, Dept. of State, Div. of Archives and Record Management, State Archives at Trenton. www.nj.gov.state/archives Citing NJ Marriages 1678-1985 for Jane Carroll to John Kealy. NJ Births 1670-1980 film 494199 and NJ Births and Christenings 1660-1980 for female Keley and Mary Jane Keely.

B US Census 1840-1900 from United States Archive and Record Administration (NARA) www.archives.gov Specifically 1880 for Essex County, NJ Newark, for Patrick Kealy and Catherine Carroll and Mont Clair for John Kealy.
C Statutory Registers Birth Marriage and Death, Scotland Censuses 1841-1911, and Old Parish Records of BMD found at www.scotlandspeople.uk.gov are Crown copyright © National Records of Scotland. Specific citation but not limited to Census 1891 Renton DNBT for Jane Kelley.
2 Double Genealogy: The Adoption Witness. Published by Booklocker.com. Copyright © 2018 Marilee Wein. All rights reserved.
3. All posts published on this blog by Doublegenealogytheadoptionwitness are copyright © 2018 – 2019 Marilee Wein. All rights reserved. Specifically, Genealogy Imagined From A Deathbed Rant, With An Imposter, On Yonder Sea and Who Was Kate Rabbit.

5 thoughts on “Kate Rabbit Spills On Jane’s John

  1. Reading and re-reading your posts is often like reading a murder mystery, Marilee. Clues must be pursued, threads untangled, and red herrings discarded. The drama is increased by the fact the story is real, not fiction.


    1. Love that on red herrings. Jane Carroll, no relation to me, put out the most I’ve encountered. That she was a real person, makes her dear to me. Though gone, I don’t like to tread through another’s life, without giving something back. I’ve been recently contacted by her close kin who are happy to have an account of her life. They were amazed! They knew Jane as a person with a hard life, who cared so well, for others.
      People, back in the day, had mystery in their lives, privacy. We shall be ever so boring, I think, and none the better, for it.


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