I’ve just had the most exciting genealogy breakthrough!
Here’s the first piece of background: My great great grandmother (one of them) was Mary Parker. She was born in Canada to Irish immigrants (both born about 1803) named Patrick Parker and Mary Murphy Parker in about 1841. The family came to Grant County Wisconsin and lived there at least from 1860 to 1870. She married William Dennis Ryan and died in 1874. That part part is all pretty established. But Patrick Parker and his wife Mary disappeared after that. I know of at least four other descendants of the Parkers who have been trying to find out what happened to them. Most of the children moved to Iowa between 1865 and 1875. We thought they might have dispersed after their parents died. One speculated that perhaps they moved back to Canada and that’s where they died. She even hired a genealogist to dig into cemetery records in the townships in Ontario where they were known to have lived. But no luck. (Some of the Parker grandchildren did emigrate to Canada.)
I’ve for sure found Mary (Murphy) Parker. I think I may have found Patrick Parker.
More background. This is somewhat involved. I describe it all because it shows the serendipitous trails these breakthrough take.
Since I will be doing the cross country road trip next month, I decided to flesh out my family tree some more so I could prioritize things to research when I go through Iowa. I’ve already have nearly complete trees for two of the children, Mary Parker Ryan and Stephen Parker. This spring I started on Patrick Parker’s son Patrick Parker. He married Carrie Ulrich of Eau Claire and they moved to Iowa where they had a number of children. I finished the basic portion of the tree Tuesday morning morning. It’s a big branch of the tree. I got about half of that done in 4 days, which was a lot of work.
I moved on to the next child, Alice Parker. Someone else already figured out she married a John Scallon. They moved to Iowa, then Chicago. Of course, I like to check everyone else’s work. One of the things I usually do is go look on Find a Grave which is attempting to catalog all graves using volunteers. Bingo! Alice Scallon’s grave is there, added and photographed just this August.
I looked at the photographer’s contributor page, and it has a link to a web site in which he has guides to several cemeteries in Franklin County Iowa area. One of them lists a Patrick Parker, died 28 Apr 1874, aged 72 years. Hmmm, I think. That’s an almost exact fit to what I know about my 3rd great grandfather.
But that’s a common name and there are probably four or five dozen Patrick Parkers that would match. Still, the presence of Alice Scallon in the same cemetery gives it some connection.
Next step is to see if any other site has information on the Patrick Parker buried there. FamilySearch.org does not. Neither does the W.P.A. grave catalog made in the 1930s. (To boost the economy during the depression, the feds paid people to transcribe all the cemeteries in Iowa.) And I checked the weekly Ackley World newspaper for the issues following 28 April 1874. Then I got the bright idea to see if I could find Mary Parker nearby in any of the census records.
Bingo! There’s a Mary Parker living in Osceola Township (Franklin County), Iowa in 1885, aged 83 and a widow. Again, it might not be her though. I added that record to my tree and tagged it speculative. Mary Parker is a common name.
So the next thing I did was go back to the guide that fellow made and look at Patrick Parker again, in case I missed something. Only this time I accidentally hit
next (when searching for Parker) twice, and lo and behold, there was another Parker in the cemetery: Elizabeth Parker Blake. And her birth date matched up with Elizabeth Parker, daughter of Patrick and Mary Murphy. So now there are two daughters of Patrick Parker buried in the cemetery, along with someone who could be my Patrick Parker.
But then I noticed something. Elizabeth Blake’s husband is Richard Smith Blake. And the family that Mary Parker is living with in the 1885 census is that of R.S. and Lizzie Blake.
That has to be my third great grandmother, Mary Parker) in the 1885 census. Got to be. Alive ten years after all the researchers thought her dead, and in a completely different location from where they’ve been looking (as far as I know).
I still don’t have confirmation that buried in the Saint Mary’s Cemetery is my third great grandfather. But it’s looking like a good possibility and worth researching. Hopefully I’ll be able to find something in the state archives when I visit Iowa.