Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Game is Afoot

Yesterday while browsing through the Antique Mall in Elgin, I flipped through a collection of antique photos and found several that were identified, a few that were priced too high for me to consider.  I ended up rescuing four of them. 

These were the first rescues in awhile.  I had toyed with the idea of dropping the whole endeavor, feeling sometimes like it is a futile effort, but this blog and the mini research exercises that it is providing me has rekindled the flame.

I had picked up a half dozen possibilities yesterday and was about to stop and decide who was going to make the cut to be rescued, when I picked up the following photo and it immediately went into the purchase pile.

Those who know me well know that I am a long term aficionado of Sherlock Holmes, having discovered the stories when I was in my teens and devouring them with gusto.  The love of the world of Sherlock Holmes has stayed with me throughout my life and at the moment I have a collection of Holmesian material that almost fills an entire bookcase.

So naturally when I turned this photo over and discovered it to be Mr. and Mrs. John Moriarty, I knew it had to come home with me.  (If you are not a Sherlock Holmes fan, Moriarty was his arch-nemesis.) I was confident there would be no problem chasing this couple down with a "rare" name like Moriarty and a photographer's stamp to work with.

Alas, Moriarty is not an uncommon name to be found in Massachusetts in the early 1900s and there were so many John Moriartys as to make me reel back in horror on my first census search.  There were John Moriartys everywhere and quite a number of them in the area of Holyoke where the photograph was taken.  Quite a few of the Johns had similar birth dates.  With no name for the wife, I was at a loss where to start.

I decided this could very well be a wedding portrait, probably in the 1890-1910 time frame, so I began looking in 1910 for a John Moriarty who had been married during that period.  Only one of the potential Johns fit the criteria and was living in Holyoke in 1910.  He is listed with wife Katherine and children Mary, age 7, John, age 5, Julia, age 4, and Edward, age 2.  The couple had been married 8 years, both born in Ireland, and John is working as a delivery clerk in a freight house.  

Looking for Johns and Katherines kept me busy for a little while, but it turned out that at least three of the John Moriartys in the area married a Catherine or Katherine.  So, I turned to the children.  Familysearch provided some birth indexes for Massachusetts and I found Julia Moriarty, born in Holyoke on March 14, 1906, to parents John Moriarty and Kate Maloney.  Moving on to Edward, I found him with parents John and Katie, born in Boston on January 18, 1908.  Switching to a search of the birth records based on parents John Moriarty and Katherine Maloney, I was able to find Mary V. Moriarty, born April 24, 1903, and John Moriarty, born July 23, 1904.  

I was feeling pretty good about things at this point.  It's not definitive enough to say that I had the right John Moriarty out of all the possibles in Massachusetts, but I felt like there was a pretty good chance I was on the right track.

With all this additional information, I went back to Ancestry and made a try for some public family trees that might fill out the picture (pun intended) for this couple.  I found ONE family tree, and got myself another puzzle when I did.

Keeping in mind that submitted family trees are only as good as the researchers behind them and with only one to use as a source so there's no way to find any corroboration between researchers, the following should be taken with a grain of salt.  However, the information does fit in with the scant records available.

John Moriarty is shown as born August 19, 1871, in Kilorglin, County Kerry, Ireland, to parents Patrick and Julia (Conner) Moriarty.  He died February 23, 1934, in Holyoke, Massachusetts.  (I was unable to confirm the death date in any of the online databases for Massachusetts.) 

This researcher shows that John was married twice, both times to a Catherine.  His first marriage took place in Holyoke on September 21, 1896, to Catherine Sweeney.  His second marriage took place on July 22, 1902, in Springfield, to Catherine Maloney.

Both marriages fit the time frame of the date I estimated for the photo, so this could conceivably be John with either of his wives.  (If it is this same John Moriarty at all.)

I went back to the 1900 census to see if I could find John with his first wife.  I was curious what had happened to her.  All the children in 1910 fit in with his second marriage, so if there were children of the first marriage, where were they?

In 1900, John and first wife Catherine are living in Holyoke, married 4 years, and John is a freight handler, which matches up to the information in 1910.  Catherine is shown as the mother of 2, but no child living.  That immediately made me wonder if her early death might have been in childbirth, but of course if could have been anything.  In any case, it appeared there were issues with her carrying a child to term, which would explain why there were no children of a previous marriage in 1910.  Also in the same household were two sisters-in-law, Annie and Julia Sweeney, and a brother-in-law, James Sweeney.

I guess it is only fitting that I bought the photo because of my affinity for Sherlock Holmes and at the end of this research exercise I still have a mystery on my hands.  


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