Wednesday, April 14, 2010

John and Johanna

Every now and then there is a mystery.  John Ryan is a great one.  I had always assumed that John had remained single. After all, in reviewing more than 20 years of City Directories, I could only identify a couple of years when John was not living with his mother.  For most years of John's adult life, he had worked as a house painter. In the 1900 Census, John was listed as "single".

The Death Notice for John published in the Cincinnati Times-Star listed John's age as 53 years and said that the funeral would take place "from the late residence of his nieces, Misses McGinnis".  No mention of a wife or children.  The Cause of Death was listed as "uraemia -- chronic nephritis".  He had suffered from this condition for four years.

Just when I though I had John figured out, I went to visit St. Joseph's Cemetery New (the Irish cemetery) to see if John had a grave marker.  I had been there once before, but this time I went to the office and asked them for a printout of everyone buried in Lot 1, Section 16.  Several family members are buried in Lot 1, but most, including John's mother, Mary Ellen, and his sister, Margaret, are not in marked graves.  Imagine my surprise when the printout included a listing for Johanna Ryan.  Who was Johanna? Both John and Johanna are in marked graves. I was able to track down Johanna's Death Certificate and it listed her as the widow of John Ryan.  WHAT????

Johanna died of influenza that developed into pneumonia in 1919 -- a year when this country suffered a severe flu pandemic. Census documents for Johanna list her as the head of the family and mother of three children.  Two were girls:  Johanna and Anna.  Eventually I found a marriage record for them.  They got married at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral on August 7, 1881.

The Death Certificate for John lists him as "married" -- yet no mention of a wife or children was included in the Death Notice, despite the fact that he died seven years before his "wife".  It made me wonder about the fact that divorce was just not an acceptable option in the early 1900s, especially in the Catholic Church.   I can only assume that there was not a lot of contact between John and his children if they weren't even listed in the Death Notice.  If you just go to the cemetery, a totally idyllic picture is painted as John and Johanna rest in peace next to each other.

If you click on the Census document posted above, you can clearly see that whoever provided the information for the census did not know whether or not to designate John as "single" or "married".  There is clearly an "S" and a "M" in the box -- you just can't tell which letter was entered first. Perhaps I'll eventually be able to find out what happened to the children of this union.

The day I went to the cemetery was a beautiful spring day in Cincinnati.  Despite no additional grave markers for the other five people buried in the plot, there is a stone that marks the section.  Who knew dandelions could look so beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really good blog, inspirational in terms of family research. Thank you for sharing so much with your readers. I am really most grateful.


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