By J. L. Starkey
“Names are powerful things. You don’t just go around using them for no reason.”– Rick Riordan
Every week, I schedule a “cheat day” so I can get lost in any and all genealogical rabbit holes without losing sight of my regularly-scheduled research goals. Since I started this practice, I’ve learned about my sixth-great-aunt’s grandfather-in-law, my step-third-great-grandmother’s mother-in-law, and the husband of my ninth cousin once removed (better known as Garth Brooks…but that’s a story for another time).
A waste of research time? Hardly. On the contrary, cheat day has led to some amazing discoveries. Take, for example, the final cheat day of 2019, when I focused on my fourth-great-uncle’s second wife, Annie-with-the-unknown-maiden-name. She was such a mystery…until last week, anyway.
Sometimes, a cheat day – and a fresh start – are the only tools needed to knock down one very stubborn brick wall.
The Mysterious Mrs. Muehleisen
The news story about the Muehleisen divorce should have solved a mystery, but instead, it led to more questions about my fourth-great-uncle, Johann Gottleib Muehleisen (also known as John G., Levy, or Lee). For a moment, I wondered if there were two men by that name in Santa Fe in 1898 .
That would have made things easier, but nothing works that way in genealogy. Though Lee didn’t share his full name with anyone, he did share his surname with his second wife, Annie (or Anna), according to the news article.
Who was Annie Muehleisen? For the longest time, I didn’t know. She was a conundrum, and her marriage to Lee was a loose end that refused to fall into place. I knew that she and Lee married after 1877 and divorced in 1898, but I couldn’t find any documents with her name – not even a marriage license.
You know what would have been really helpful? The 1890 census. At that time, Anna and Lee were living in Santa Fe, and…oh wait…
Obviously, I wouldn’t find Annie that way, so I took another look at those Santa Fe newspapers. If her name appeared in one article, maybe it appeared in others. Did I miss something?
Indeed, I did.
An item in the 18 July 1889 Santa Fe paper contained a clue to Annie’s identity. According to reports, “Mrs. Lee Muehleisen” left Santa Fe on 16 July to attend her father’s funeral in St. Joseph, Missouri .
Since the article did not include the name of Annie’s father, I reviewed the St. Joseph death register for the week of 14 July 1889. There, I found an entry for Peter Kerrigan, an immigrant from Kildaire, Ireland, who died of typhoid fever on 16 July .
Peter Kerrigan was the only adult male who died in St. Joseph that week, and though his obituary did not include his children’s names, I theorized that he was possibly Annie’s father .
Next, I searched Buchanan County marriage records for Annie Kerrigan. After an extensive investigation, I found (drum roll, please!)…
Not one single thing.
It was time for a cheat day…and a fresh start.
The Final Rabbit Hole of 2019
Frustrated, I put the Annie “Unknown-but-might-be-Kerrigan” file aside until the final cheat day of 2019. Then, I started from the beginning.
First, I reviewed what I knew about Annie, which amounted to an overuse of the word probably. For example, she was probably from Buchanan County, since her father died and was buried there. Additionally, she probably married Lee in the Buchanan County area, and she probably lived in Santa Fe from 1886 until 1898 . Finally, she probably left Santa Fe after her divorce was finalized .
What I lacked was the documentation to turn those probably statements into actualities. With that in mind, I ventured off the beaten path in search of Annie’s identity.
Lee Muehleisen had quite a past, and by the time he married Annie he had been through a shotgun wedding, a messy divorce, and a custody battle. Given that history, did he choose a more traditional route for his second marriage? Maybe, but maybe not.
Actually, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if Annie and Lee got married in Springfield.
Hold on just a minute. Springfield? Where is that?
Granted, the town isn’t always called Springfield, but every city in America has a place like it just one county over. You know the place, don’t you? It’s where couples go to elope. Your hometown probably has a Springfield. (I know mine does, and it’s actually called Springfield!)
When I was growing up, if a couple “went to Springfield,” that meant they eloped in that small town just across the state line. It was easier to get married there, and it was far removed from the gossip mill that seemed to churn nonstop in my hometown.
In 1880s St. Joseph, that town was Savannah, located in nearby Andrew County. Lee Muehleisen was a 22-year-old divorcee with a bit of a past when he married Annie, who was probably the underage daughter of Irish-Catholic immigrants. A bit of discretion and secrecy was certainly in order for the couple.
Was my theory correct? Did Lee marry Annie in the St. Joseph equivalent of Springfield?
The Discovery of Annie Kerrigan
He most certainly did.
On 10 May 1880, Mr. J. G. Muchleisen married Miss Annie Carrigan in a civil ceremony in Savannah, Missouri . Their names were misspelled, but the individuals listed were definitely Johann Gottleib (or Lee) Muehleisen and Annie Kerrigan.
The marriage certificate was a clue to Annie’s identity, but I still wasn’t certain that she was the daughter of Peter Kerrigan. Since that information was not included on the certificate, I shifted my focus to census records.
According to the 1880 census, the only person in the Buchanan County area named Anna or Annie Kerrigan was the Illinois-born daughter of Peter Kerrigan, an Irish immigrant . The same person can be found in Peter Kerrigan’s household in the 1870 St. Joseph census .
Prior to 1870, the Peter Kerrigan family lived in Galena, Illinois. It was there that Annie was born around March 1860, according to that year’s census .
As 2019 came to an end, the mystery of Annie’s identity was solved. Based on newspaper, marriage, and census records, I concluded that she was indeed the daughter of Peter Kerrigan. At long last, Annie Unknown had a maiden name! End of story, right?
Not so fast. Did I forget to mention that cheat day can lead to questions, questions, and more questions?
Sure, I found the correct Annie, but I wanted – or needed – to know more about her. Did she see her divorce as a chance for a fresh start? Did she go on to live the life of her dreams?
But that’s a story for another time.
Stay tuned for part II of Annie’s story: The “Widow” Muehleisen Goes Home
- “Decree of Divorce Granted,” Santa Fe New Mexican, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 27 Jan 1898, p. 4, col. 4. Retrieved from newspaperarchive.com.
- “Personal.” The Santa Fe New Mexican, 18 Jul 1889, p. 4, col. 4. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
- “Missouri Deaths, 1883-1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99XF-294R-H?cc=2448947&wc=QZZC-K1Q%3A1583934010%2C1583933003 : 7 May 2015), Buchanan>1883-1893>image 38 of 90 for Kerrigan, Peter. Citing Recorder of Deeds. Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City. (See also: “City Condensed,” The St. Joseph Daily News, St. Joseph, Missouri, 18 Jul 1889, p. 1, col. 5. Retrieved from newspapers.com.)
- “Kerrigan,” St. Joseph Gazette-Herald, St. Joseph, Missouri, 17 Jul 1889, p. 3, col. 2. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
- Lee’s divorce from his first wife, Maria Burvenich, was finalized in March 1877. See: Buchanan County, Missouri, Circuit Court Records, Vol. 20, 1877-1878, pp. 87-88 (digital images 78-79 of 378), John G. Muehleisen v. Mary Muehleisen. Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C39T-J33S?i=77&cat=11804. (See also: “Arrivals at the Hotel Capital,” The Santa Fe New Mexican, 21 Sept 1886, p. 4, col. 4; “Personal,” The Santa Fe New Mexican, 5 Dec 1894, p. 4, col. 3; and “Personal,” The Santa Fe New Mexican, 4 Apr 1895, p. 4, col. 3. Retrieved from newspapers.com.)
- Records of the United States Territorial and New Mexico District Courts for Santa Fe County, Collection 1972-011, Series V; Civil Case Files, box 225; Civil Cases, Numbers 3889-3910: Civil Case no. 3907 J. Muehleisen vs. A. Muehleisen. Folder 18, Box no. 37725, Serial no. 37725. Date(s) of creation: 1897. (See also: Las Vegas Daily Optic, Las Vegas, New Mexico, 29 Jan 1898, Vol. 19, p. 4, col. 2. Retrieved from genealogybank.com.)
- “Missouri, County Marriage, Naturalization, and Court Records, 1800-1991,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99CR-MLZ1?cc=2060668&wc=ZS3C-6TL%3A1583561002%2C1583561001 : 1 October 2019), Andrew>Marriage records 1850-1890 vol B-C>image 358 of 432: Muchleisen, J. G, and Carrigan, Annie. Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.
- 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Census Place: Saint Joseph, Buchanan, Missouri; Roll: 675; Page: 337C; Enumeration District: 065. Digital image 15 of 41: Carrigan, Annie. Original data: Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
- “United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-67W7-LGK?cc=1438024&wc=9229-6Y4%3A518659401%2C519025901%2C518756301 : 13 June 2019), Missouri>Buchanan>St. Joseph>image 133 of 166; citing NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington, D.C.: NARA, n.d.).
- “United States Census, 1860,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYB6-FXP?cc=1473181&wc=7QVJ-5J8%3A1589423252%2C1589423933%2C1592324505 : 24 March 2017), Illinois>Jo Daviess>5th Ward Galena>image 4 of 51; from “1860 U.S. Federal Census – Population,” database, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : n.d.); citing NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: NARA, n.d.).