Soon after I married, I reached out to my husband’s extended family to learn more about his roots. In return, I received a large chart with generations of my new in-laws written out in neatly printed block letters. This side of the family contains some of the newest immigrants to our combined tree. Many of these ancestors arrived on American soil between the years 1850 and 1880. Mostly Catholics of Irish and German ethnicity, they settled in the greater Chicago area. One union of these Irish and German lines occurred when Gilbert Thies and Bridget McGinnis married at St. John’s Church on June 10, 1880.
The chart contains research which was likely conducted in the 1970s and 1980s. For its time period and scope, the chart became an excellent tool for me to begin my research. However, I soon learned that the chart wrongly attributed parents to Bridget McGinnis that could not possibly be correct. A common mistake! Two women of similar names, ages, and birthplaces merged into one identity. Many Ancestry trees reflect the incorrect parentage as the information from the chart has been passed from one generation to the next without due diligence. While the original chart contains no sources, there are small notations regarding Bridget’s family which were the key to solving this puzzle.
This has been one of those puzzles that I have ignored for many years. I knew the information was wrong, but had not devoted the energy to sorting out the evidence. I possess five documents which allowed me to solve this puzzle when I finally took the time to analyze the evidence.
- Bridget’s certificate of death from the Cook County Coroner
- Find A Grave Memorial (which I created) with a photograph of her tombstone
- Gilbert and Bridget’s family on the 1900 U.S. census, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois
- Gilbert and Bridget’s marriage certificate, as well as the record from the church register naming the two witnesses Julia McGinnis and Jermiah [?] Galvin
- The family chart with notations regarding Bridget’s family
The Death Certificate
Bridget died on March 25, 1908 at her home at 3016 Popular Ave, Chicago, Illinois. Her cause of death was organic heart disease. She was 52 years old. Other key details include her birthplace of Massachusetts, and both parents’ nativity was Ireland. Because of the time period and because the document was issued from the County Coroner’s office, Bridget’s parents were not recorded. Another key question on the document asked Bridget’s residency: 30 years in Illinois/Chicago. Bridget was laid to rest at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
Find A Grave Memorial
I created Bridget’s Find A Grave memorial based upon information from her death certificate. Fortunately, a photo volunteer found Bridget’s grave. Her death date and age correspond with the certificate. She died March 25, 1908, 52 years old. (Bridget’s Find A Grave memorial is linked here).
1900 U.S. census
In 1900, Gilbert and Bridget lived at 3018 Popular Ave, Chicago, Illinois. Either the census taker or the informant on Bridget’s death certificate made an error, or Gilbert and Bridget moved into the house next door between 1900 and 1908. Gilbert worked as a butcher. He and Bridget had achieved twenty years of marriage with five children, four daughters and a son. The census records that Bridget was born in December 1853, Massachusetts, she was 46 years old, and both her parents were natives of Ireland.
Overall, the census details mesh with those of the death certificate, except for Bridget’s age. The census would have us believe that Bridget was born in December 1853 while the death certificate and grave stone tell us that Bridget was born in 1855 or 1856.
Because Bridget was of Irish ancestry, it is important to note that Irish families often conformed to naming traditions. First born daughters were usually named after their maternal grandmothers. Bridget and Gilbert’s oldest daughter was Katie.
The certificate of marriage filed with Cook County, Illinois, gives Gilbert’s age as 30 and Bridget’s as 25. With a December birthday, Bridget turned 26 later in 1880. Calculating her birth from the marriage document pinpoints a birth year of 1854. The county document neglects to show the witnesses of the nuptials, but it was signed by the officiating priest, John Waldron. In the St. John’s church register book, Father Waldron recorded his oath that he married Gilbert and Bridget, with witnesses Jerimah [?] Galvin and Julia McGinnis.
The Family Chart
The chart records Bridget’s parents as John McGinnis and Rose Doherty. Following John and Rose through many census years (both state and federal), vital records, city directories, etc., a summary of their family can be constructed. John and Rose married in Boston on November 28, 1856. Over the course of their marriage, Rose gave birth to at least ten children: Annie, Thomas, Minnie, James, Alice, Rose, John, Mary, Walter, and Frederick.
So why would Bridget McGinnis, the wife of Gilbert Thies, be attached to this family? The confusion lies with John and Rose’s oldest daughter Annie. Her full name, at least on her birth record, was Bridget Ann McGinnis. She was born September 15, 1857, in Boston, Massachusetts. As she grew older, she dropped her first name Bridget and used Ann instead. On June 1, 1880, Annie McGinnis lived with her parents in Boston while ten days later another Bridget McGinnis married Gilbert Thies in Chicago. Two years later, the Boston (Bridget) Annie McGinnis married Thomas Collins on April 25, 1882. In 1900, weeks before she died, Rose (Doherty) McGinnis lived with the family of her daughter Annie Collins in Boston.
So who were Bridget’s parents? The chart provides a clue in its notations as it references Bridget’s obituary. Finding the actual obituary is on my to-do list so presently I must rely on the notations. Seven children are attributed to John and Rose on the chart: Rose, Mary, Frank, Bridget, Julia, James, and Thomas. Some of these children are clearly the children of the Boston couple, but some are not. Frank and Julia were not members of the Boston family, but they were Bridget (McGinnis) Thies’ real siblings.
The chart says that Bridget’s siblings Mary, Frank, Julia and James were mentioned in her obituary. Bridget’s sister Julia was most likely the same woman who witnessed Bridget’s marriage to Gilbert in 1880. Julia McGinnis never married and she died on November 5, 1912. The informant on her death certificate was Ida Healey. Coincidently or not, Ida Healey was Julia Ida (Theis) Healey, the second daughter of Bridget McGinnis and Gilbert Thies. This is a great example of the FAN principle at work. Family members and friends are most likely to be witnesses for momentous occasions. So who would most likely inform on the death certificate of a maiden aunt? One of her nieces or nephews! Ida reported on the death certificate that Julia’s parents were James McGinnis and Catherine Morgan.
While the records for James and Catherine (Morgan) McGinnis remain elusive, they lived in Chicago in 1860. At that time, their household contained four children: Francis, Mary, Bridget, and Julia. Mary and Bridget appear to be twins. Massachusetts birth records reveal twins Mary Ann and Bridget McGinnis, born in Waltham, Massachusetts, on November 1, 1853. A James McGinnis and Catherine Morgan married in Waltham on September 5, 1846.
While the evidence thus far is not complete, the existing documents do provide enough clues to suggest that the true parents of Bridget (McGinnis) Thies were James and Catherine (Morgan) McGinnis. Once again, careful analysis of primary documents will provide answers to some of our genealogical questions. As genealogists, we should be mindful to do our own due diligence and conduct our own research. Especially when provided with prior research from previous generations!
[Editor’s Note: In this article, some of my evidence was excluded for the sake of brevity.]
©2016 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2016/04/10/who-were-the-parents-of-bridget-mcginnis-thies/
I just got engaged and started researching my future in laws – I meant to wait until we were married but couldn’t 🙂
Why wait? The researching is so much fun!
Great post! Lots of good details and conclusions shared very concisely. Excellent detective work.
Thank you! I appreciate the feedback. 🙂
Great discoveries! Always interesting to see the many ways the FAN principle can help to solve a mystery.
Agreed! I have always kind of unconsciously practiced the FAN principle but now that it has a name it seems more exciting when putting the principles into action.
:Hello! I found your article very very interesting. For sake of introduction, I’m married to Roger Stewart, Collette Stewart’s son. Collette was the daughter of Agnes (Thies) McCormick and I believe that I know your family’s name from conversations with Helen McCormick who still lived at 3016 Poplar until she sold the house and moved to assisted living before her death last year.
Roger and I have been researching the McGinnis side of the family and YES, we have hit a wall as we are not able to find John McGinnis in Boston’s death or any record of him prior to marriage…. your article and notes about the confusion makes more and more sense…. Have you since confirmed their parents are in fact James (and not John) from Waltham? ANY information that you can provide would be very helpful —
thanks in advance!!!