After reading an exclusive interview with the oldest Irishwoman on IrishCentral.com last week, Megan Smolenyak, genealogist and family history expert, with the Huffington Post, could not stop herself from going online and researching further into the life and family history of Margaret Kelly, a 108-year-old from County Clare living in Glens Falls New York.
Smolenyak was surprised by the huge amount of family history that she was able to glean from the Ellis Island records, Ancestry.com, marriage licenses and the Irish census online.
Margaret Kelly was born in the town of Scarriff, County Clare in 1902. The interview with IrishCentral.com provided Smolenyak with the facts that she arrived through Ellis Island and met and married an Englishman, Fredrick Kelly in 1925. Also the interview mentioned her sister Nellie who died aged 103, just a few years ago.
The only Margaret McNamara (her maiden name) that she could find on the Ellis Island records, from Scarriff, Clare, arrived in 1922. That is four years off the date that Margaret provided.
Smolenyak said "I decided to check for Margaret in the 1930 census (on Ancestry.com), and sure enough, I found her with her husband Frederick Kelly, whom the record indicated she had married in 1925. That same document also noted that she had arrived in America in 1922."
At the age of 16, in 1918, Margaret left Ireland and arrived at Ellis Island, New York. She was one of seven children raised by poor farmers in Ireland. Most of her siblings left Ireland out of necessity and never returned.
Through the Ellis Island records Smolenyak was also able to find out that Margaret's mother's name was Ellen and that Margaret was going to stay with a Mrs. John Desmond. On the record it is remarked that John Desmond worked in the Medical Division on Ellis Island.
She then searched in the 1920 census and found that John Desmond was married to Nellie (an Irish nickname for Ellen), who was born in Ireland in 1897, in Scarriff, Clare, and had arrived to New York in 1915.
On a site SteveMorse.org Smolenyak found that John Desmond had indeed married Ellen McNamara. On the same site she found out that Margaret McNamara married Fredrick Kelly on September 7, 1925 in Manhattan.
Nellie's Ellis Island records also told the Huffington Post genealogist the rest of the family's history. Margaret's father's name was given as Thomas. Nellie arrived to New York in 1915 and was received by her sister Bridget. Both Bridget and Nellie's records showed that their parents lived in, what looked like Clonisker.
She discovered, by googling the name, that it was Clonusker, Scarriff, County Clare. Then using the online 1911 Irish Census she found the entire family history including Margaret Kelly back at home in County Clare.
The researcher was amazing by the depth and detail of what she was able to find out online. She said "I was able to find Margaret residing in New York in the 1930 census, getting married in 1925, arriving at Ellis Island in 1922, and living with her family in Ireland in 1911 -- and along the way, I picked up some tidbits about her siblings that revealed the family's personal history with Ellis Island. All of this in about half an hour. Bless the Internet and all those who choose to upload records and indexes."
Ireland Travel Tips
Is this Ireland's most haunted house? (VIDEO)