Sunday, August 18, 2013

Meet Catherine Whelan, our great-great grandmother

I was wondering where my inspiration for tonight's blog post would come from, but then my Sulli Cuzzin,
Sali, asked me a couple of questions that bear a public response.

Sali noted that her Mom had spelled our Grandma Sullivan's maiden name as Bednarz (note the "a" in place of the "o").  I have found both spellings as I looked for records.  It's hard to know which is ACTUALLY correct as legal documents can bear both names.  From what I can see, consistent spelling was not a big deal "in the old days".  And so many times clerks or census takers were the ones writing down the information given by the person in question.  I've even seen where families spell their own names different ways at different times.  And to compound the issue, as immigrants sought to "americanize" their lives, they often changed the spelling of their birth names to something more easily recognized by the Americans already here.  So, if you are doing genealogy, do always seek variant spellings.  I have one great great grandparent whose name is Uhlenbrauck (good German name) and I found it in a census spelled as Oldenbrook.  It's distinctly possible that my gg grandparents had an accent different from the census-taker whose experience with names and spelling did not include German.

Sali's other question was about the derivation of the name Whalen.  Her mother was named Ann Elizabeth Whelan Cecilia Sullivan according to my birth record sources.  (Sali, if you have either her birth certificate or death certificate, could I scan a copy sometime? That would provide confirmation or revision of the sources I currently have for her birth.)  Ann was the 5th child and 3rd daughter of Marie Josephine (Bednorz) and William Augustine Sullivan. 

Whelan is the maiden name of William Augustine's mother, Catherine (known as Kate) Whelan.  That means Ann was given her grandmother's maiden name as a middle name. What little I know of Kate is unconfirmed by a birth record.  Family information says that she was born March 1, 1852 in Troy, Rensselaer County, New York.   She died November 23, 1933 in Marshfield, Wood County, Wisconsin and is buried in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Marshfield.  Here's her grave marker: 

Someday I hope to get to Marshfield to take a better photo of this stone.

Catherine married Michael Sullivan, William Augustine's father, our grandfather, in 1873 in Wisconsin.  I haven't been able to confirm the location yet, but it seems likely to have been Erin Township as Catherine's father, John Whelan, died in Erin Township, Washington County, Wisconsin.   John Whelan was born in April 1816 on the Isle of Arran, Galway Bay, Ireland.  He married Margaret Heneyse, born December 21, 1821 in Brandon, KER, Munster, Ireland.  She died April 30, 1901 in Erin Township.  Both are buried in the Monches Cemetery of St. John's Catholic Church.

Michael Sullivan was born and raised in Erin Township.  He was the son of William Sullivan and Susanna Lambert, both born in Ireland, married in New York, and settled in Erin Township about 1844. 

Michael Sullivan and Catherine (Kate) Whelan moved to Marshfield sometime before 1889 since we know their 3rd child David was born in Marshfield.  Oldest daughter Mary Elizabeth (b 1874) and son, William Augustine (b. 1877, our grandfather), were both born in Washington County WI. 

In my poorly organized collection of digital photos and documents, I have a photo that is supposedly Kate Whelan, but it is only by hearsay.  If anyone has any other information or photos of these folks, I would sure like to hear from you!  Here's a copy of the photo I have:
Purported to be Catherine (Kate) Whelan, married to Michael Sullivan

Here's a tidbit of information from Aunt Tiny's memoir (typed copy in my possession):

"Dad was born in Erin, Wisconsin on June 17, 1877 of parents Michael Sullivan and Catherine Whelan. He was named William Augustine but when he met Mama he told her his name was Arthur so she called him Arthur as long as I can remember and Lu’s middle name was Arthur. So… his mother called him Augie, Mama called him Arthur and his friends called him Bill. We called him Daddy, then Dad.
Dad had a sister Mamie, two years older than him and a brother several years younger, Dave. Though Toots and I went to Marshfield several times for visits, I never met Aunt Mamie. She was always working out of town. The only recognition I have of Uncle Dave was a photo of him in his World War I uniform.  He died at the young age of 27 from tuberculosis."

Here's how Aunt Toots described her father in her 1967 Reflection (copy from my files):

"My father, not a musician himself, always appreciated fine music. He was extremely tidy about himself and was always polishing something, be it a window pane, a watch chain, or a pair of shoes....The depression hit our house during my high school years. A large family doesn’t have exactly an easy time when money for food and clothing is scarce. Mom was an accomplished seamstress and earned a few extra dollars at that, besides making clothes for all of us. Dad, who was a lumber buyer, grader, and salesman, was forced at last to be a WPA foreman....It was when I was a senior the blow fell—Mom and Dad having had a particularly frustrating and hard time trying to make short ends meet, became impatient and cross with each other and in April of that year, separated, making our family a “broken family”. This was the greatest hurt of my life. I had just turned seventeen and my youngest brother was only six months old. The two oldest were out trying to make a “go” of it on their own. Besides the pain I felt for a family growing up without a father in the house, I was particularly saddened because I was exceptionally fond of my father. We had always been buddies, and though deep down I planned on entering the convent shortly, I hated to see him so alone, so without the family."

So thanks, Sali, for the great writing prompt.  As you can see there are more questions than answers in the information and so much needs confirmation by additional resources to be sure the information is as correct as we can reasonably hope for.  But, now you know where your Mom's Whelan name came from - it was her grandmother's maiden name.  How special she was to have had that name!

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