Friday, March 6, 2015

James Goodbody Kearney

Many questions have been asked about James Goodbody Kearney, my paternal great grandfather, through the years. The family story was that he suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized when his children were quite young. Since no one talked about him and apparently my grandfather knew little of him, he became the brick wall. This is my surname and I knew so little of this line beyond my grandfather, Matthew J. Kearney. Something had to be done!

Starting with the known, a death notice was located for James Kearney. He died on 26 January 1910 in Trenton, New Jersey.[1]

Since his death occurred before the 1910 United States census was recorded, the 1900 census was searched. James Kearney was enumerated in 1900 in the New Jersey State Hospital at Trenton. Listed as a salesman, he was 43 years old, born about 1857, in Ireland.[2] My grandfather was born in 1896 and only four years old when his father was in New Jersey State Hospital.

James Goodbody Kearney
Working backwards, the 1890 U.S. census was destroyed leaving a gap between the 1880 and 1900 census records. In that gap, on 20 August 1884, James G. Kearney became a naturalized citizen.  Living at 232 East 46 Street, New York City, he was a clerk born in 1858. His date of arrival in the United States was 1868.[3] With this clue for his immigration, the passenger list for James and his family was located.[4] 

Traveling in Steerage, the family arrived in New York (through Castle Garden, the point of entry prior to Ellis Island) on 20 March 1868. 

 Matthew Kearney, 50, Labourer; Katherine Hannah, 20, Spinster; Hannah, 48, Wife; 
Edward, 18, Labourer; Children - Eliza, 7; Sarah, 8; James, 6.

James Goodbody Kearney can now be placed in context within a family structure. However, records can be confusing. James is only 6 when other records indicate he would have been about 10 or 11 in 1868. Was the cost of passage a factor? Did the family give younger ages for the children to pay a lower fare? Why is there a gap of ten years between Sarah and Edward? Are these all members of the same family?

James was a father, husband, son and brother. I knew he was my great grandfather but he was also such a singular, detached member of the family. It is good to place him with his parents and siblings. But, what kind of life did he lead? What prompted his admission to the hospital? I have some clues!

To be continued….

[1] Death Notice, Trenton Evening Times, New Jersey, Trenton, death of James Kearney, date of death 26 January 1910, p. 7; digital image online, ( : 18 February 2015).
[2] 1900 U.S. census, Mercer County, New Jersey, population schedule, Trenton, ED 44, NJ State Hospital at Trenton, James Kearney, p. 11A; digital image online, ( : 5 March 2015) citing NARA publication T623, roll 981.
[3] James G. Kearney, Petition for Naturalization (1884), petition file no. 175, Court of Commons Pleas at New York County, vol. 551; National Archives – Northeast Region, New York.
[4] “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” entry for Matthew Kearney, date of arrival 20 March 1868, New York aboard the City of London; digital images online, ( : 18 February 2015).

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