By J. L. Starkey
I was left to my own devices.
Many days fell away with nothing to show.
And the walls kept tumbling down.– Daniel Campbell Smith
“I’ll be darned…look at that,” I said to my husband. “My great-grandparents’ wedding was two days after ours, and three days before mom and dad’s. Must be a popular week for June brides!”
I’ve always had a strange obsession with dates. Maybe it started when my husband and I were dating, and I discovered that he and my sister share a birthday. Or maybe it was when I found my great-great-grandmother’s obituary, and my son glanced at it and exclaimed, “Hey – she died on my birthday!”
For whatever reason, I’m fascinated by these nifty little coincidences, and the discovery of that wedding date only added to the feeling.
But the index seemed to be the last stop on a road that dead-ended with a line item in the “Marriage Licenses” column of a Chicago paper . Try as I might, I found nothing else about the wedding of John Joseph Reedy and Annie Kennedy.
But…but…what about my nifty little coincidence? Was this really all?
While it was possible that John and Annie simply ran down to the local J.P.’s office and got hitched, it certainly wasn’t probable, given their strict Catholic upbringing. With that fact in mind, I made it my business to learn more about this serendipitous June wedding. I just knew that I would find more records, and that it probably wouldn’t take very long. The resources were there, the plan was in place…no problem, right?
Oh, pre-lockdown me…you were so optimistic, so trusting, and so very, very…wrong.
It wasn’t until last month that I finally found that marriage document, and the search was anything but easy. On the contrary, my nifty little coincidence led to multiple sources – and multiple ancestors – over multiple weeks (no, make that multiple months), before I declared that this mission was accomplished.
And to think, it all started because I had a little time on my hands.
Rediscovering the Reedys
Though I’ve written before about my great-grandfather John Joseph Reedy, his story seemed incomplete, so one of my 2020 goals was to learn more about this proud and funny man whose life ended so tragically.
But when the world turned upside down last March, things got…weird. Suddenly, everything was closed, my husband was telecommuting 100% of the time (versus his former 50%), my doctor’s appointments were rescheduled as telehealth visits, and sadly, writer’s block took up residence in my very soul. As the days turned into weeks and then months, the words came less easily…and then not at all.
Over time, my goals shifted from what I really wanted to do, to what I actually could do, given my family’s needs and limitations. With extra time on my hands, I focused on filling in research gaps that had always bothered me, which made 2020 a year of rediscovery.
And who was first in line to be rediscovered? It was none other than John Reedy, along with his beautiful (albeit mysterious) wife, Annie Kennedy. Their marriage was item one on my “research gap” list, and since I did have some free time (did I mention that?), I first reviewed the index details on FamilySearch. While the license itself was available through the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) System or Cook County Genealogy, due to COVID restrictions, obtaining that document promised to be time-consuming and expensive – if not impossible.
Telling myself that there had to be a better (and cheaper) way to learn more, I reviewed the records I’d already collected. From those documents I had learned that John and Annie were both raised in strict Catholic families, and in fact they belonged to the same parish before they emigrated from Ireland. Additionally, they each had four siblings in Chicago at the time of their 1904 marriage.
Given those facts, it seemed likely that they were members of a parish in Chicago, and that they may have attended services with some or all of their siblings. If that was the case, would I find John and Annie listed in parish records along with those siblings?
I probably would…if only I could find the correct parish. But that was easier said than done, because the list on FamilySearch alone was more than a little intimidating.
Undaunted, I called someone who had a bit more Reedy and Kennedy knowledge than I did (and who also had a bit of time on her hands…imagine that!). And as she had on so many other occasions, mom came through for me again.
“Well, my dad went to Leo,” she said, “and I know that his middle name was Aloysius. Did you find anything about that?”
Those two clues proved to be extremely important. I learned that “Leo” was short for St. Leo High School, and that the school was affiliated with a Chicago parish of the same name . I discovered a large collection of St. Leo parish records on FamilySearch and spent the next few weeks poring over 1,743 (mostly unindexed) pages. I was confident that the marriage record would be found in that parish. Maybe it was in the folder labeled “Marriages 1887-1912,” or even better, in the one labeled “Marriages 1887-1925 with index“?
In the end, I did find my grandfather’s confirmation record (which proved that his middle name was indeed Aloysius), along with the christening records for his twin siblings, Bill and Marion . What I didn’t find – because it was 2020, after all – was anything about John and Annie’s wedding.
Since the Reedy surname didn’t appear in St. Leo records much earlier than 1918, I researched the older siblings and discovered that the family’s eldest daughter, Sarah, was baptized not at St. Leo Parish, but at St. Charles Borromeo . I reviewed the documents from St. Charles Borromeo, certain that this time, I would find that record .
Once again, I found nothing.
A “Second” Second Look
Frustrated, I took a second (ok, third…or maybe fifth?) look at the family’s christening records, focusing in particular on godparent or sponsor names. Marion’s godfather was Dan Maloney, the husband of Annie’s sister, Ellen, while William’s godmother was John’s sister, Margaret (Reedy) Dooley. Would I find similar connections if I researched all of the Reedy and Kennedy relatives in pre-1910 Chicago? I suspected that I would.
But oh…the numbers. John and Annie had eight siblings nearby, most of them were married with children. If I did this as thoroughly as possible, I would be researching a grand total of twenty-nine nieces and nephews!
“This is doable” I said to myself. “It’s totally doable.”
“But most of those parish records aren’t indexed,” my inner skeptic reminded me, “and look at all the names on that list. This will take weeks, if not months!”
I had a two-word response for my inner skeptic: COVID. Lockdown.
I had some time on my hands (did I mention that already?). And now, I had a plan.
All Roads Lead to June Brides
Slowly, I worked my way through the list of 29. When a parish document was available for an individual, I searched for additional Reedy or Kennedy records at that location. It was painstaking research, but from the start of the massive undertaking, I knew that even if I didn’t find that record, this was time well spent. I was truly getting to know the Reedy and Kennedy families, and that was worth all of the hassles.
Still, as summer turned to fall, my frustration grew as I failed to unearth anything even remotely related to John and Annie’s wedding. Indeed, the project may have stopped at a dead end…if it hadn’t been for a certain June bride by the name of Mary Walsh.
“Another June bride, and this one from Leo,” I thought as I inspected the record for the daughter of Annie’s sister, Bridget (Delia) Kennedy Walsh . I silently thanked my high school Latin teacher as I translated the column headings. “Datum et locus baptismi” was an easy one – it meant “date and location of baptism.” Suddenly, all roads were open, and they all led to St. Elizabeth’s Church. But where in the world was that?
A check of FamilySearch revealed a St. Elizabeth’s Parish, which was (and still is) located on 41st Street in Chicago. If the name seems familiar, it may be because St. Elizabeth’s is Chicago’s oldest African-American Catholic Church.
Had I finally found the place? Did my great-grandparents say “I do” in this historic church? Fingers crossed, I reviewed the records.
The folders were not indexed, but the documents were arranged by event and date. I found Mary’s baptism record, verified the details, and even added a new fact to my research log: Mary’s godmother was Annie, Ellen, and Delia’s older sister, Maggie Kennedy .
Next, I inspected the marriage records, paying special attention to image 29, because that page included the weddings from June 1904…and if the index date was correct, and if the parish was correct, then I may have finally hit some serious pay dirt.
It was just before two p.m. on February 6, 2021, when I clicked on image 29. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but…what was this? After all of those parish records, all of that smudged cursive writing, and all of those Latin translations, was it finally time to say the words?
Yes, it was! Mission accomplished!
Finally, I was looking at the record, and that record proved that John Reedy and Annie Kennedy were married at St. Elizabeth’s Parish on 22 June 1904 . If Paul Harvey narrated my life, he would have said, “And now you know…the rest of the story.”
If that day had been like any other one during the past ten months or so, I would have updated my files and then simply started another project. After all, the words weren’t there, and I wasn’t sure if they were ever coming back.
But John and Annie had other plans, because after so many months of silence, that little voice that I had missed so much whispered, “Write it down.”
And the ideas, the stories, the words…they all started to return. That feeling of purpose and peace, so long absent, was finally coming back.
Last week, for the first time in far too long, I checked the prompts for Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” The next topic seemed like another of those quirky coincidences, because it was “Multiples.”
“Oh, that’s perfect!” I said to my husband and son. “I can write about how I used multiple resources to find John and Annie’s marriage record. It was pretty much the story of 2020, wasn’t it?”
Suddenly, there were more words…a lot of them. So many words, and so many emotions as I felt a vital part of myself return at long last.
Thank you, John and Annie. Your timing was perfect.
It’s good to be back.
- “Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1968,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N74N-D9Z : 10 March 2018), John Reidy and Annie Kennedy, 22 Jun 1904.
- “Marriage Licenses,” The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, 19 June 1904, p. 13, col. col. 6. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
- “To Start St. Leo’s Boy’s High School At 79th And Peoria,” Suburbanite Economist, Chicago, Illinois, 5 Jan 1926, p. 1, col. 6. Retrieved from newspapers.com. (See also: “Cardinal Mundelein to Dedicate New Leo High School Oct. 31,” Suburbanite Economist, 12 October 1926, p. 1, col. 3; and p. 7, col. 2. Retrieved from newspapers.com.)
- Confirmation record for Michael Aloysius Reedy. “Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-81HK-2XJ?cc=1452409&wc=M66P-4TT%3A40080001%2C40412801 : 20 May 2014), St Leo the Great Parish (Chicago: Emerald Ave) > Confirmations 1915-1920 > image 36 of 42; Catholic Church parishes, Chicago Diocese, Chicago. (See also: Christening record for William Francis and Maria Anna Reedy. “Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-91HK-KTQ?cc=1452409&wc=M66G-YTL%3A40080001%2C40275401 : 20 May 2014), St Leo the Great Parish (Chicago: Emerald Ave) > Baptisms 1914-1918 with index > image 120 of 128; Catholic Church parishes, Chicago Diocese, Chicago.)
- Baptism record for Sarah Reedy. “Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DC4W-M8W?cc=1452409&wc=M66G-QWP%3A39832101%2C39893301 : 20 May 2014), St Charles Borromeo Parish (Chicago: Hoyne Ave) > Baptisms 1885-1907 > image 198 of 455; Catholic Church parishes, Chicago Diocese, Chicago.
- Marriage record for Mary Walsh and Martin Collins. “Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2YM-3T9V : 17 February 2021), Martin Collins and Mary B Walsh, Marriage 25 Jun 1913; citing Catholic Church parishes, Chicago Diocese, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,577,894.
- Christening record for Mary Walsh. “Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DC1S-CHR?cc=1452409&wc=M66G-QZH%3A39886501%2C39886502 : 20 May 2014), St Elizabeth Parish (Chicago: 41st St) > Baptisms 1882-1909 > image 53 of 258; Catholic Church parishes, Chicago Diocese, Chicago.
- Marriage record for John Reidy and Annie Kennedy. “Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DC1S-HHX?cc=1452409&wc=M66G-8NP : 20 May 2014), St Elizabeth Parish (Chicago: 41st St) > Marriages 1882-1915 > image 29 of 57; Catholic Church parishes, Chicago Diocese, Chicago.