Writing Off Jane Carroll’s John Kelly


Genealogical bereavement: the profound sense of loss on realizing that the long–departed soul under lengthy intensive scrutiny is not an ancestor. The state of grief and disbelief that must pass before another target can be tackled.

Alas, we deem that Jane’s John is not ours. Those familiar with the story know that Jane was not ours either, but we knew it from the get go. We just had to go through her, to get to him. We grew fond of his hard luck Scot’s lady, although she conspired to make our task nearly impossible.

As we finally reveal her John, we will provide particulars for his dismissal.  Catch up with recaps if the story is new, otherwise scan below to “Patrick Maher Speaks Again”. 

RECAP 1: “Double Genealogy: The Adoption Witness” sought this personage: a servant from a Holytown Lanarkshire farm who, in 1882, vanished from Scotland, leaving his partner and non-wedlock son behind. He was our potential great grandfather; John Kelly, born about 1859. He was from the United States.1

RECAP 2: Chapter 16 of the book, and Updates 1-3 (Addenda 3-7) here, evaluated the deceased husband of Jane Carroll for the match. Jane presented him as John Kelly, from the US, born about 1859. That is, she presented him so, to Scotland in 1891, after she repatriated there as a widow. She was accompanied by the couple’s two girls, born in the US, in 1885 and 1887.1 2 

RECAP 3: Jane was a clairvoyant who foresaw digitization of her private affairs. She did not want to participate in this evaluation and tried to duck detection by living the life of alias. She was born as Jane McKearnun in 1856 but never used that name, nor did she enjoy a census-take with parents, after age four.  Jane likely left Scotland after 1881, or somewhat coincident with the Lanarkshire disappearance. She married and became widowed in the US, then returned to Scotland, shortly thereafter.

RECAP 4: Jane and our John lived in different counties during his short Scotland stay.  However, a credible path to acquaintanceship was imagined. It involved her extended family and that of her boarder, who lived in John’s perimeter, in 1881. 

RECAP 5: Jane stepped up her evasive techniques, once in New Jersey. Several namesakes or close, married John Kealy in Newark, had Mr. Keley’s child in Bloomfield, and christened James Keely’s girl, Mary, in Montclair.  Not standing for such nonsense, wedding witness, Kate Rabbit, spilled some beans to assert that all three namesakes owed to one Jane Carroll.  That revelation was not quite enough, so Ms. Rabbit prompted her own wedding witness, Patrick Maher, to divulge more.1 2 3


John Kealy came to life when Kate Rabbit introduced Patrick Maher during our last post, “Kate Rabbit Spills On Jane’s John”. That is because Patrick had him as a boarder in his 1880 household in Montclair.  We were giddy as that finally nailed him down as Jane’s John and more so, to have the timeline fixed; that is, he was in the US in June of 1880.

Patrick Maher had more to share. It would have been he, as household head, who specified “Kealy” in 1880. Ah, but he would have known the spelling well, as his children turned out to be issue of a Mary Kealy, sometimes Keely. Plus, our confidence was to be doubled later when Patrick and Mary proclaimed they could read and write.3

Age wise, Mary Kealy could have been John’s sister.  Patrick and Mary must have married in Ireland undetected, such that their parent’s information remained unavailable. The Mahers immigrated in 1874 according to their 1900 Census.3 John‘s transit was not found.

Potential sister Mary strengthened the position of potential brother Patrick, with whom John boarded at the time of his 1884 wedding.2 Recall, that was at 44 Nassau, Newark. 

We thought John, Jane and little Mary Jane Kealy were lost in the 1885 New Jersey State Census. However, this new information allowed us to see that John Caley, with wife Jane and daughter, Mary Jane who lived two doors from the Maher family was, in fact, the Kealy family.2 That they remained close speaks again to brother-sister probability. 

Still not convincing us, Mr. Maher suggested that more siblings might be lurking for our looksee. Indeed, a Jennie Kealy married William Bergen in January of 1882, Newark, Essex County New Jersey.3 Fancy that her groom’s address was that of Patrick Kealy at 44 Nassau. Her parents were Michael and Bridget and her witness, Bridget Kealy. John’s potential sibling list was quickly growing. The Kealy name was practically a fixture in Essex County!


In fact, its a wonder that only Patrick Kealy was found at 44 Nassau in 1880. Plots “St. Anastasia” at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, East Orange NJ, where several Kealy are interred, was owned by Patrick Kealy of 44 Nassau.4 While we are at it, Mary Kealy Maher lies with her Patrick in Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Upper Montclair. Death particulars for Jane’s John were not found; perhaps he rests in one of these.4  

We are happy to tell that while the Kealy parents could not be described other than by forenames of Michael and Bridget, Jennie’s wedding document shows that they came from Queens County Ireland. 


While reports of close Kealy relatives were mounting, Kate Kelly was still absent her birth information. She deserved our best effort. Apparently, this christening record was never indexed, so was unavailable as output of online search.   It was found on microfilm for 1887 and available at Family Search Affiliate Libraries.  The surname is unclear but maybe Keley.  Our bias tells us it is Kate’s and that she and her sister Mary Jane were actually born to the Kealy family.



Our potential great grandfather, John was documented twice in Scotland: April 1881 and May 1882.1 Jane’s John was recorded in New Jersey, June 1880 and September 1884.2 The latter could well have made a trip to Scotland to secure his bride, then return to the US. Tight for sure, thus, suspect. Not the deal breaker, though.

The problem: this new data shows that Jane’s John came from a family who overwhelmingly identified as Kealy, sometimes Keely.  

Keley did pop up twice in relevant New Jersey birth records – but not until 1885 and both were for Jane’s children. This rather suggests a Scot’s tongue interpreted an Irish name to an American ear. This particular Scot probably lacked spelling skills. Jane “Carroll” was four when last recorded with parents; parents who died in the poorhouse. She was seen next at fourteen, already a servant on her own. Not much time for schooling. 

It became apparent that the surname Kelly or Kelley, as pertains to her John, was Jane’s invention. They were only applied after she was widowed and returned to Scotland, around 1891.  


The chisel carves an expensive “signature” and is seldom mistaken. We have it for Montclair Kealy. 

We have only two documents for our John and his surname was specified as Kelly in both. Luckily, we have his “wet-ink” to rely on! “John Kelly” was clearly scribed when he visited the Cambusnethan Registrar in Lanarkshire, to acknowledge the birth of his son.5


Jane’s John never suspected he would become John Kelly after his death.  Her John would have penned John Kealy, had he been in Cambusnethan in 1882. Jane was not in the picture in Cambusnethan and the John that was, was twice a Kelly.


Now we give over an account of Jane McKearnun, McKinvin, Kergan, Carroll, Carl, Kealy, Keley, Keely, Caley, Kelley, McIlvanney, Kelly, McKernan.1 2 3 5 We give her brother too; Michael McKiargan, McKinvin, McKerrell, Kerrigan, Kiargan, McKiargan. As well, her half-siblings from her mother: Mary Skiffington, Ellen (Helen) Hamilton (Skiffington), John Skiffington and James Skiffington. And those of her father, whose surnames must remain “Who?”: Margaret, Helen, Elizabeth and Catherine.  We do not forget her lovely children Mary Jane (Mary) Stevenson (Kelly) and Catherine (Kate) Quinn (Kelly). Oh, her parents: Bernard “Who?” McKeregan, McKinvin, McKerrell, Kerrigan, Kiargan, McKernan – but never Carroll, and her mother, Catherine McCormick Skiffington who married Bernard “Who?”.  Yes, and wives, husbands and children too

We would have been distraught to give over Jane’s John without the fine assist of Kate Rabbit and Patrick Maher. Here then, is John Kealy, Keley, Keely, Caley, posthumously Kelley, and finally Kelly. Yes, some siblings, his wife and children too. 


The simple moniker, “Jane Kelly (Carroll)” feels right. Her only known deficit was in spelling. Apart from that she was a remarkably strong individual. Given little, she made it on her own and deserves much respect. How she managed to get to America is untold, but she made that hard choice as a single woman.  The risk in returning to Scotland, when widowed and with small children, was her decision too. Proven a good one, at that.

Twice widowed by her forties, Jane was essentially a single mother of two. It could well be, that single-Jane of Renton, Dunbartonshire in 1881, was the same as widow-Jane in 1891, and that she had returned to her career in handprint work for the Turkey Red Dye trade. She may have had some seniority, but work would still take long hours of her mothering day. Nor did she have the luxury of her own mother nearby, and her closest siblings were miles away.  She persevered. 

John Kealy could but smile down on her with love and pride, for Mary and Kate, his wee American-Irish-Scottish lasses, thrived in Scotland. All was well; they grew up, married and had their families, in Scotland. 

We apologize for this deep intrusion into their lives. They were not our kin, but their tale was worthy of the tell. They shall be missed. We hope to have provided their descendants with some useful tidbits.

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 Double Genealogy: The Adoption Witness. Published by Booklocker.com. Copyright © 2018 Marilee Wein. All rights reserved.                                                                                                                                                

2 Posts published on this blog by Doublegenealogytheadotpionwitness, are copyright © Marilee Wein 2018-2019. All rights reserved – here including: Genealogy Imagined From A Deathbed Rant. Who Was Kate Rabbit? and Kate Rabbit Spills on Jane’s John.

3 New documents (older are referenced in prior work, superscripted here as 1 or 2) that were accessed at  www.FamilySearch.org © 2017 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. or at Family History Affiliate Library, include:A New Jersey Marriages, 1678-1985. Jennie Kaely and William Bergen 09Jan1882; citing film 1398552 Image 861 of 890. B US Censuses 1840-1900 from United States Archive and Record Administration (NARA) www.archives.gov  Specifically 1900 for Montclair, Essex, NJ for Patrick and Mary Maher.

4 Findagrave.com copyright © 2019. Memorials at USA>New Jersey>Essex County> East Orange and Upper Montclair.

5 Statutory Registers of Birth Marriage and Death Records, and Scotland Censuses 1841-1911, as well as Old Parish Records of Birth, Marriage and Death,  found at www.scotlandspeople.UK.gov are Crown copyright © National Records of Scotland. Specific citations include but are not limited to: Census 1881, Holytown LKS for John Kelly at Westfield Farm and 1882 Statutory Birth: James Kelly 27Apr1882 at 628/00 0314.

13 thoughts on “Writing Off Jane Carroll’s John Kelly

  1. Oh dear, our ancestors have so much to answer for. Changing their names, marrying more than once, migrating all over the dang place! It was quite common for Irish immigrants to Scotland to change their name slightly to fit in with their Protestant neighbors. I have known a McMullen who became McMillen. Loved the post.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. When I was helping someone with an immigration form, who was Central America, I was surprised that she could not read or write. Even more surprised that the authorities accept a cross instead of a signature or ‘firma’.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing this life story, I am Jane’s great great granddaughter my great grandmother was Mary I never met her she died when my grandmother was young ,my mother never met her ,I met Kate once when she was in hospital, thank you so much for sharing .


    1. Mary died so young, and was robbed of her girl’s growing up. I was distressed in the writing of it for the cause was “organic brain disease”. She worked in fabric hand print, closely with Turkish red dye, and I wondered, if maybe, her employers had her work on something new, and toxic. At any rate, records may be available through online search at the University of Stirling Archives, to close kin, such as yourself.
      I placed Kate’s christening record in this post – on purpose – hoping some descendant would find it for their own records. It cannot be found by searching online, since it has not been indexed. I located it on microfilm at a Family Search Affiliate Library. I suspect that your great great grandfather’s (John Kealy) death information may be documented later, on that same microfilm. Kate kept unlocking doors to show me next steps. I owe her!!!
      Thanks for reading, and following my blog. Please feel free to question and comment.


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