Friday, April 25, 2014

The Thomas and Judah Farrell DNA Project: Oh, Thomas Farrell, where are you?

Cherry Orchard Cemetery in Old Magnolia, West Virginia.

Thomas Farrell, where are you hiding?

Is there no record of your life to be found except the 1850 census? There you are, all of seven years old, with your family in District 42, Morgan County, Virginia (now West Virginia). If we didn't have that census we wouldn't know about you at all. But then you disappear from all the records that many Farrell / O'Farrell searchers have hungrily looked through. Where are you??

It's sort of a sad story, and has that Irish melancholy about it, I think. The missing Thomas' parents, left Ireland before 1841 and immigrated most likely under similar circumstances to those of the many other families leaving Ireland and seeking a safe life. There was Thomas Sr. and his wife Judah with their two daughters, Mary Elizabeth born in 1835 and her sister Catherine born in 1838, coming to America about 1841 and looking for land to farm. On 22 Feb 1845 at age 45, Thomas Sr. signed an indenture, a land lease, for the term of six years with Aaron Harlan and started farming on his own piece of heaven called the Widmeyer Tract. It sounds lovely, hard work but lovely, for this Irish family was finally able to work it's very own farm in peace, and two sons at the ready to work it.

But it wasn't all milk and honey for long. Thomas Sr. died in 1851 - just about the time the land lease expired - and his wife Judah died in 1857. Judah's estate settlement includes one black mare and a colt, a cow and calf, along with six hogs and household and farming items. A modest holding as compared to others I've seen. The return for the auction to settle the estate reports that Aaron Harlan, the land lessor, was there picking up quite a few items. So was Samuel Albert House who had married Mary Eliz the oldest daughter in 1855, just two years prior to Judah's death. There he was purchasing a few items from his wife's mother property: a skillet and a churn for Mary Eliz, and then useful items like potatoes, beets, and beans to plant, and 25 bushels of corn and a box of apples. He also got three of the best hogs, first choice.

Our big unanswered question is, where did the children go? Eliza and Catherine were married by then and we guessed that they took on some of the girls at least for a while. Here's a recap of what we find in the 1860 census, from a recent post.

* Sarah is 9 years old and serving in her sister Catherine Farrell Boxwell's house in the Magnolia area. We guess she married someone close by and find a Sally (common for Sarah) Farrell marrying in 1860 in Berkeley County, West Virginia to a man named John W. Wageley, working as a railroader, whose parents were William and Susan Wageley.

And now here are the three girls who remain a mystery:
* Ellen is 12 and serving in the household of John Coulhan (?), a merchant, and living in Cumberland, Allegany, Maryland. He too was born in Ireland. Then we lose her.
* Bridget is 13 and serving in the household of Patrick Connor in Clarysville, Allegany, Maryland. He was born in Ireland and is working in the coal mines near there. And then we lose her.
* Ann is 16 and serving in the household of a Mr. Cosgrove in Morgan County, West Virginia, who is a railroad watchman and was born in Ireland. Then we lose her.

But where did the boys go? James the older of the two brothers served in the Civil War and married at the end of the war when he came home to Magnolia and then went west to Missouri. You can read about him in the previous post. And now we're left with the younger son, Thomas Jr.

Mom has looked for Thomas, Cousin Rich has looked for him, and now I've looked and not found him. When I look at Mom's Big Tree on Ancestry and check out his page, the only hint (green shaky leaf) I see is two other public trees with about as much information as we all have, and that's not much, so no one is doing well finding him.

I also see one tree with a Thomas Patrick Farrell who died 15 December 1915 in Glenelg, South Australia, Australia. That's not him. I understand that some other trees on Ancestry have that death date and location plugged in for our Thomas, but really, that's not him.

Where all have I looked? All over the place in the 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 census. And - enough to make me nuts - there are a pair of brothers with the same names and also about the same ages living in West Virginia in Sheridan, Calhoun County. But the family structure is all wrong for our guys. I got nuthin'.

So Mom and I were talking about the possibilities for the boys after mother Judah died, assuming that Thomas was still living then and hadn't succumbed to some illness or accident which is a real possibility. For the short term immediately after Judah died, they too might have stayed with the married sisters just as the young sisters did. But they aren't living with the married sisters for the 1860 census. James would have been 18 years old and Thomas 17 then. They were old enough to be out on their own and it sure looks like they were at that point.

James was off to the Civil War by 1861 so we have him on our radar. But what of Thomas? If he was still living and had been close to his older brother he might have followed on and joined the war effort. But we find no record in the usual places such that it is obviously him. He's not in the 1890 Veteran's Schedule. He's not to be found, at least by me, using Fold3 or Ancestry's Civil War files, either as a search or a browse. And I don't find a Thomas Farrell or O'Farrell (as his brother adapted his own surname) in the 1870 census that makes any sense. No where, no how. He's just gone.

So there you have it. Maybe he died. But we find no record of his death in West Virginia records.

Sometimes it's just like that. You try and try and come up empty. Despite your best thinking and the help of others also looking for your missing relative, you just can't find him. And the further back you go in places that are rough like West Virginia was back then, the fewer records are available for you to look through. I have to be honest, these searches that return nothing useful wear me out.

The road to Magnolia as it is now.

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