Adoption Witness: John Kelly of Portland, Multnomah, OR: To Whom Do You Belong?

John Kelly was born in the US in 1860 and had a Scottish mother, or so he said in Portland OR, 1900.1 Antennas up; maybe he was our direct biological ancestor. Then he dimmed his chances in 1920 by alleging himself two years younger, of an Irish mother. We wanted him ours and would get to the bottom of those discrepancies – to find he might otherwise, be mistakenly claimed.

Before 1900 in Portland: Mary Ann, as Moriarity or Moriarty, was listed as a domestic in the city’s Street Directories beginning 1894.2 Edition 1899 listed John Kelly, clerk at N & P Ry, resident at 683 Kearney Street. [See Note A for Ella Moriarity.]

John Kelly, 38, of Pettis County, Missouri had married Mary Ann Moriarity, 28, of Multnomah County, in Portland, in 1898.3  

US Census 1900: These newlyweds were home at 683 Kearney Street in 1900.

US Censuses 1870 and 1880, as the marriage certificate hinted, listed the family of Philip and Rose Kelly in Sedalia, Pettis County, Missouri. They were both born in Ireland around 1835. Their three children were Ohio born, including John about 1860. John was their eldest, and, if born in September, would have missed the 1860 census. Their John was a store clerk, in line with clerk John Kelly of Portland.

Note: Philip and Rosa Keller (could be Kellee) of Ireland were residents of Miami, Montgomery County, Ohio in 1860. We were not to know if they were actually relevant. If they were, they were farmers at that time, which would give John a background favorable to our heritage. [Updated on 7 Jun 2021: Interesting scope on Philip and Rose Kelly, courtesy of is provided in Note C below.]

US Census 1920 claimed John’s mother Irish and revealed a daughter, Ellen. Ella Kelly was born May 27, 1902, Portland OR.4 Her birth record noted that father was John Kelly, a railroad freight clerk, born in Ohio. Her mother was Mary Ann Moriarity, of Minnesota. Such comports with the census above, and somewhat with 1920, below. Seeming data discrepancies deepened in the 1920 survey, now with regard to Mary.


US Census 1910: Census 1910 and/or 1930 loomed large to break the conflicts. After serious research it became evident that 1910 was off the books – literally – for the curious circumstance around the census itself, for St Johns City, Multnomah County and N. Brunswick Street, in particular, as analyzed in Note B, below.

Continuing due diligence with Street Directories, we encountered an important interlude from 1905 to 1910 at the N. Brunswick address referenced above, that was complicated by one 1910 Census finding. That is, although we could not locate her parents in the 1910 census, Ella Kelly and her presumed sister, Rose, were off at boarding school.

Rose and Ella Kelly: The boarding school listing showed that the girls were born in Oregon; 1902 suggested for Rose and 1903 for Ella. Rose Kelly, not Ella, was captured in the 1918 Street Directory, with John Kelly, a clerk at SP&S (Steam Railway) and his wife, Mary, at 107 E 34. Ella, but not Rose, was captured at that address in the 1920 Census. However, Mary Ann Moriarity and this wife, Mary E, had different attributes. Such was consistent with the death of a mother.

DEATH: A Mary Ann Kelly 1870-1908 is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery, Portland.5 We presume it her.

MARRIAGE: A John Kelly wed Mary E White in Multnomah County on 28 Oct 1917, in line with Census 1920.6

DEATH: Street Directories revealed that John Kelly of 107 E 34 died late in 1925 or early 1926. That is, Edition 1926 revealed “WID Mary E Kelly of Jno Kelly”, at that address, for the first time. His burial site was not ascertained. [Mary E Kelly remained on E 34th for 1930, and was in an old age home by 1935. We do not have information on her past 1940.]


It seems reasonable to conclude that the John Kelly and Mary Ann Moriarity of the 1900 Census lived their married life in the Portland area, and had two children: Rose and Ella. He clerked in the railway system.

Our best estimate is that this John Kelly was 1860 -1925 and the child of Philip and Rose Kelly of Ireland, who were residing in Ohio at the time of his birth. He was young, approaching the outer limit of the John Kelly we were seeking.  We could not trace his parents farther back than disclosed above, but found no evidence of their descriptors in the Scotland area of interest.

We suspect the John of our ancestry had a Scottish link, either by birth or habitat (an Irish parent who had lived in Scotland would work).7 Such would be very weak link in this case, even had we sufficient data to explore more fully. Our John did a short stint farming in Scotland in the early 1880s; this John was invested in a career as a clerk by 1880, although his father may have farmed in his past. We closed the case.


We do our own research first and begin to write the story before we compare with published family trees. Otherwise, we might become data prejudiced or lazy, then dig shallow, rather than deep. We do consult them though, and sometimes they add a layer we had not intended to pursue. Sometimes we have something to give back.

Mary Ann Moriarity 1900-1908: Our interest was in John Kelly, not Mary Ann Moriarity – or his second wife, Mary E White. We dismissed him and then consulted family trees. Some seemed the reverse, with interest in Mary Ann, not John. It was only by seeing her death date of 1908 there, that we understood the importance of the Boarding School data. They also confirmed Rose as a second child for John and Mary Ann.


We believe those trees for Mary Ann Moriarity may have her connected to the wrong John Kelly. Of course, there can be multiple namesakes with similar data, and these trees come with professional citation, but with no media attached. Below is a composite/extract of the information posted, followed by a possible other explanation:


A John J Kelly was born in West, Columbiana, OH in 1868.1 Like John Kelly born 1860 OH, his father was Philip. If there were data conflation, this would be an easy place for it to arise; Ohio does not offer BMD data for the period in question and John born 1860 OH was only documented in Missouri and Oregon.  The Columbiana John of our reference lived in the Ohio area at least through 1940.

The death date given for John J Kelly, pictured above, may well correspond to John Kelly b 1860 OH. We looked for John Kelly deaths in Oregon for 1925 and 1926 and list all that were found in the next graphic.5 8

John Edward Kelly may have been another source of data conflation, for he also lived on Kearney Street; number 736. His wife was Mary E, as was the second wife of John at 683 Kearney. The two Mary E were widowed months apart in 1925. [John Edward Kelly was born in NY and his wife, in Washington. His Mary E was found with their son, Frank in 1940.]

To complete the story, we would have had to invest in turning the Oregon Death Index data into death certificates, particularly for John C Kelly who died on 24 Oct 1925.  Although we never saw a middle “C” in the documents we found for him, we feel it likely corresponds to John Kelly of 683 Kearney Street – husband to Mary Ann Moriarity 1870-1908. However, we lost interest in him and declined to do so. Perhaps someone already has it, who will counter our assumption.

We hope these extra data are viewed in the spirit offered: we sure do welcome correction and leads, in that we have not discovered our target.

John Kelly, US-born ca 1859, made Scotland Census 1881: Legbrannock area of Holytown District, Bothwell Parish. Who Was He?  No other Scotland count listed him, nor anyone similar, for decades around. This British Subject and ploughman did not wed his partner, but recognized their son’s birth in 1882, then disappeared from ledgers. Their son may have been adopted and become our history. We sought John Kelly in Double Genealogy: The Adoption Witness. CLICK for stories in our continuing search.


Note A: Ella Moriarity or Moriarty was also found in Street Directories in the late 1890s. In that Mary Ann named her daughter Ella, they may have been kin. Census 1900 showed Ella to have also been born in Minnesota (about 1880) of Irish parents.

Note B: St Johns City became part of Portland in 1915. According to Bureau of Census, Statistics for Oregon, 1910 Abstract – Supplement for Oregon, there were under 5000 residents in its Precincts 90 and 91. / We could not access that data for 1910 conventionally. / At we found some results for “Living in” = Multnomah County, Oregon and either “Keyword” = Street name or “Keyword” = Johns City Ward [without St and without the “Exact” flag being checked]. / In any case, we could not access N Brunswick at all – where John Kelly lived according to Street Directories, as did many other persons / Curious, we went into both Wards 1 and 2 and could find no reference to N Brunswick / It was a strange census capture, not like the usual, where one could imagine the enumerator walking down a street / We wonder if the enumerator actually missed N Brunswick, St Johns City, Multnomah in 1910.

Note C:  Update 7 Jun 2021; Memorial ID 145332191 for Philip Kelly show him born in 1831 County Monaghan, Ireland and ID 145332206 for his wife Rose, in 1832. They rest in Calvary Cemetery, Sedalia, Pettis Co., MO.  These birthdates are in line with the namesake couple we found in Miami, Montgomery County, OH in the 1860 Census. This makes more likely that the three children in Census 1880 of Sedalia MO – John, Maggie and Mike – were born in Miami OH. FAG Member Andrea has provided wonderful biographies, that show another child Philip, 1868-1870. She speaks for two other children in Rose’s biography that may be Maggie and Mike. As we suspected, Philip began as a farmer. He became known as “the father of Sedalia’s police force” according to his bio. We hope their son John, celebrated here, born about 1860 OH, can be reunited with his family, record wise. Although he did not belong to us, we now know to whom he did belong.


  1. 1850-1940 United States Federal Censuses as provided by National Archives and Records Administration to and
  2. US City Directories 1822-1995 at Portland Oregon (1895 – 1930) and St Johns City OR for Kelly, John, Mary (and variants), Ella (variants) and Rose.
  3. We are grateful to Genealogical Forum of Oregon for efficient attention to our request for the pictured Marriage Certificate.
  4. Oregon U.S., State Births, 1842-1917 Birth Index at
  5. Grave Memorial Records at
  6. Oregon U.S., State Marriage Indexes 1906-1009 a
  7. ScotlandsPeople. org The negative finding was a result of consulting Scotland Censuses 1840 and 1850 for a suitable Philip Kelly and/or and Irish “Rose or Rosa” in the area of interest (Bothwell Parish and environs). We were obviously hampered with no surname for Rose. The marital registry was also checked.
  8. Oregon U. S., Death Index 1898-2008 at

6 thoughts on “Adoption Witness: John Kelly of Portland, Multnomah, OR: To Whom Do You Belong?

  1. It’s so frustrating to see egregious errors in research done by others–and then carried forward by other people. But it’s hard sorting with really common names!


    1. Imagining the logistics of a nationwide census, I guess we should expect some hot messes with the input, like the St Johns City 1910 seems to be. Not only did it soon get annexed to Portland, but some of the street names no longer exist. It would be great if a genealogy site would hire someone very familiar with the area and armed with old maps, to re-evaluate what the output should look like. Dream on!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love that idea and have thought of similar things for Kalamazoo. There are so many unnecessarily complicating things in genealogy that could be simplified if each one of us took on one project like that ;). Unfortunately, there is only so much time in the day.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I often find “suggestions” offered by readers are allowed to stand online, that could not possibly be true. Other times, I have emailed detailed analysis of stuff, that cannot fit into the suggestion box. They are not answered. I come away thinking that I need to get with the program; the idea is not to clarify, but to continue the fun of reader input. Maybe I just send to the wrong office, but damn, one would think there would be some internal forwarding. Or there is some legal reason they do not want to hear from us, in this fashion.
        Happy Fourth, Luanne!

        Liked by 1 person

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