Sister Genevieve Parker

The featured picture is in a photo album of images from my great grandparents travels.

I didn’t know how Sister Genevieve Parker fit into my family tree. None of my branches contained anyone by that name, but nuns sometimes adopt new names when they take their vows. Last fall, after I tracked down my third great uncle James Parker in California and some of his family, I suspected Genevieve belonged in that branch of the tree. But where?

I still don’t know exactly who she is, but I know where she fits. To kill some time while I was in California last week, I was doing some unfocused searching for a daughter of James Parker, Mary. I’d suspected she was the Mary Parker who married a Thomas Lyons. I found an index death record that could be her then a copy of the death certificate, and those indeed indicated she was a daughter of James Parker. And today I found a copy of her obituary:

Obituary for Mary Lyons from the Los Angeles Times

Look in there! Her sister is the Very Reverend Mother Genevieve Parker! And a little bit of Google searching brings up an item on Genevieve Parker from the web site of the Immaculate Heart Community:

Mother Genevieve was elected the first Mother General of the newly established California Institute of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She guided the Community for nine years. Mother Genevieve was instrumental in securing the separation of the California IHMs from the Spanish Community. The negotiations for independence of the California group went on for several decades. With the help of Bishop John J. Cantwell the separation was completed in 1924. …

She guided the Community as an able administrator until her resignation in 1933. She died in July of that year.

Their web page had this image of Mother Genevieve Parker in 2014:

Mother Genevieve Parker from the Immaculate Heart Community web page in 2014

Pretty much the same person! And now I have a date of death and a pretty good starting point on digging up the rest of her life.

Interestingly, I still don’t know exactly who she is. In the 1870 U.S. Census, James Parker has 4 daughters: Catherine, Mary, Ella, and Frances. In 1880, his daughters are Kate, Ella, Fanny and Theresa. Mary is Mary Lyons. Ella is Ellen Parker Murphy. I suspect Theresa married a Frederick Donaldson, though I haven’t proven that. That leaves Catherine or Frances. At this point, I just don’t know which of the daughters she is.

Mary Murphy Parker 1804 — 13 Aug 1887

After 3 years of researching Patrick Parker and his wife Mary Murphy, I have found when they died. The marker for Patrick Parker that I previously found in Saint Mary’s church cemetery, east of Ackley Iowa, is indeed my third great grandfather. His wife Mary died on 13 Aug 1887 and was buried in the church cemetery. Her name no longer appears on a marker in the cemetery. I suspect that it once was on the same headstone as Patrick’s, but the top portion was damaged and removed.

This morning I found her obituary by serendipity. I have been working my way through scans of the baptismal register for Saint Mary’s (a project I will write about soon) and came upon an entry for Stephen Patrick Parker, son of Thomas Parker and Ellen Clinton. It had a date for the baptism, but not for his birth. The baptism was in 1885, and there’s a possible match for this Stephen Parker who was said to have been born in 1888. I decided to do a quick search of the keyword Parker in the Ackley Enterprise on for the years 1885 to 1888, to see if I could find his birth. I have not found it yet, because I found something else.

That was a brief mention that Julia Parker Kenefick had attended the funeral of her mother. It was third in my results list and was published on 19 Aug 1887 on page 5 column 3.

Mrs. M. Kenefick
Mr. and Mrs. M. Kenefick, of Belmond, attended the funeral of Mrs. Kenefick’s mother, Mrs. Parker, last Monday.

It did not come up in the search, but in column 6 on the same page appeared a notice of Mary Parker’s death.

Mrs. Mary Parker died last Saturday
Mrs. Mary Parker died last Saturday morning at the residence of her son Mr. Patrick Parker, in Washington township, Butler county. She was eighty-three years of age and has [for] the last three years been quite feeble. Mrs. Parker was the mother of ten children, nine of whom are living. She was one of the oldest settlers having located at Ackley in 1870. The funeral took place last Monday morning and was lagely attended, Rev. Father Burns officiating. The remains were laid peacefully to rest in the Catholic cemetery.

Mary Parker died 13 August 1887 at the home of her son in Washington township, Butler County, Iowa. She was buried in the church cemetery with Reverend Father Burns officiating. L.H. Burns was the parish priest of Saint Mary’s in Ackley, meaning Mary Parker was buried in their cemetery. And meaning that I have enough evidence that I will consider the Patrick Parker buried there to be my third great grandfather.

The Age of Mary Parker

After a couple of years of little progress mostly due to focusing on other parts of my family tree, I’ve been making huge progress with the Parkers. You’ve probably noticed the multiple posts about them recently.

A few weeks ago, I noticed there was a Find-A-Grave memorial for a Leonard Parker at the church cemetery in Saint Mary, Ontario. Leonard Parker is reputed to be the brother of my ancestor, Patrick Parker. I wrote to the person who put up the memorial, asking if they were related. The answer was yes, and we exchanged some information about our respective family trees. One of the things she clued me in to was that the parish registers for some of the Roman Catholic churches have been scanned and are on FamilySearch. Not indexed, but available.

Which brings me to my great great grandmother, Mary Parker Ryan. She married William Dennis Ryan in 1864, had six children, and died of typhus in 1875, not quite eleven years into her marriage. She had a short and somewhat forgotten life. Every time I mentioned her to one of my relatives, I get blank looks. Apparently my great grandparents and grandparents generations talked so rarely about her that no one in the next generation had heard of her. That sort of reaction is part of why I’ve been drawn to genealogy, to remember the people who haven’t been.

The main source of information I had on Mary was her grave monument in a small cemetery on a hill about a mile east of Patch Grove, Wisconsin. I visited Saint Johns Cemetery in June 2011.

Grave marker for Mary Ryan (1841-1875)
Grave marker for Mary Ryan

It’s quite a nice monument for the time. William Ryan cared enough to spend some dough on it. Here’s a close up of the inscription.

inscription on Mary Ryan's monument
inscription on Mary Ryan’s monument

It reads:

Wife of Wm. D. Ryan.
Born Jan. 7, 1841. In
Ramsey, Township of Perth.
Canada West. Died
Feb. 20, 1875,
Aged 34 yrs. 1 mo. 13 ds.

The inscription has a number of problems with it. The Parkers lived for a time in Blanshard township in Perth County, Canada West. There is no Ramsey township in Perth County, and as far as I can tell, there never has been. The only Ramsey township I’ve been able to find is in Lanark County, Ontario. That sort of fits with another family legend, that Mary’s mother was one Mary Murphy who was part of the Peter Robinson settlement of Canada. One of those settlements was in Ramsey township. I have doubts as to whether Mary Murphy really was part of that endeavor, but there’s a geographical connection at least. Oh, and the nearest city to Ramsey township is Perth. My working hypothesis was that this particular Ramsey was the one indicated on her grave.

Additionally, her death certificate and other accounts put her date of death as 23 Feb 1875. Three days difference isn’t that big of a deal. Still…

A further problem is that there is a second marker for Mary in front of the monument:

Second marker for Mary Ryan
Second marker for Mary Ryan

You’ll notice this one gives a year of birth as 1840, rather than 1841. Rather confusing.

And, as it turns out, both are likely wrong. Going back to the thing above about the Ontario parish registers being online… I looked at the register for Perth’s Saint John the Baptist parish. There was no entry for Mary Parker in 1841. Her brothers Stephen and Patrick were there in 1835 and 1837, but no Mary. On the first perusal, I missed it. But on the second look through, I saw an entry for a Mary Parker in 1839:

Mary Parker baptismal register entry
Mary Parker baptismal register entry

On the 28th day of February 1839 the undersigned Priest of this Parish
has Baptized Mary seven weeks old of the lawful marriage of Patrick
Parker & Mary Murphy of Ramsey.
Sponsors Nicholas Dison and Emilia Dison

That’s an entry in a contemporaneous journal of parish actions. Unless it’s for a different Mary Parker, it’s pretty convincing evidence she was actually born in January 1839. January 7th fits, so I’m guessing that’s her actual birthday.

However, by the time the monument was erected, people were guessing at her actual age. Maybe she’d shaved off a couple of years. Maybe she forgot or didn’t know. Maybe the monument was erected years after her death. I’ve no idea the reason.

As an added bonus for this post, among the effects found in my great aunt’s house last year when she died was this photograph:

Mary Parker Ryan
Mary Parker

On the back is the inscription “Mary Park” and the paper is torn. Is it my ancestor or another Mary Parker or did whoever wrote the inscription just guess? I’ve no idea.

Mary (Murphy) Parker Found!

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.

Grave marker for Patrick Parker in Saint Mary's Cemetery, Franklin County Iowa
Grave marker for Patrick Parker in Saint Mary's Cemetery, Franklin County Iowa

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. 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.

Mary Parker in 1885 Census
Mary Parker in Osceola Township in 1885 Iowa Census

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.