Thursday, February 5, 2009

Did Timothy Whelan have siblings in Chicago?

That has been one of my biggest questions ever since I started doing genealogy research, over 30 years ago. I asked my dad, my aunt, and others, but no one knew the answer. My aunt told me that Timothy Whelan was from County Kilkenny, but that was all she knew. Well, this week I got the answer--a great big YES!

The answer was in copies I received this week from Civil War pension files. I had requested copies of pension files and service records for two possible siblings of my ancestor that I had identified through city directories. As I mentioned here there were actually two Patrick Whelans from Kilkenny who lived in Chicago and fought in the Civil War. Well, the genealogy gods were smiling on me this week: only one of the Patricks had a pension file, and he was a sibling of my ancestor Timothy Whelan. (Time for the happy dance!)

The files I received included an invalid pension for Patrick Whelan, and a widow's pension for his wife Mary. The files are awesome! I am still busy transcribing them and looking at the additional research possibilities they open up. But a few of the highlights I have found so far include:

1. Patrick Whelan lived with Timothy at 166 Chestnut at times. This confirms that it is my Timothy, since that address is well documented in my files.

2. Timothy stood up to Patrick's wedding in 1867.

3. Timothy's widow, Catherine (Markey) Whelan gave an affidavit which was included in the widow's pension file. Catherine testified that, "I was not present at the church when they were married, but I was at the house that evening where the wedding festivities were held." It must have been a memorable party, since it was mentioned in several affidavits.

4. Not only do the files confirm that Timothy and Patrick were brothers, but they also had two sisters and THEIR MOTHER living in Chicago at one time. (Of course, no first names are given for the women. Humbug!)

So, if you haven't done it yet, I recommend that you look into the possibility of pension files for any Civil War ancestors that you may have. And don't limit yourself to direct ancestors. Go for the siblings, possible ancestors and siblings, in-laws, and the guys who served with your soldier. You never know what you may find.