Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Those Mysterious Kirks.....A Pain in My Genealogical Butt

In the 1900 Census my 3 x Great Grandparents, Robert Spencer Bowman and Sarah Redfern Bowman are quite elderly, 74 and 71 respectively, and still living in Orange County, New York.
In their household also resided 1 daughter, Ellen "Ella" Bowman, who is listed as single, and a 13 year old boy, listed as a grandson, named John Kirk.  Ellen is also listed as John's mother in this census either due to the enumerators assumption or they were told John was Ellen's son on the visit to the Bowman household.

And thus, until recently, this is how the family trees with this line listed in them showed the familial relation of John Kirk to the robert Spencer Bowmans of Orange County, NY.

But earlier this year NY State released online many Wills and Probate papers, and I found Robert Spencer Bowman's will contents.

Wills can be a treasure trove of information, especially on ancestors who are difficult to trace by other paper trail means.
And Robert's will contents did NOT disappoint in this regard!

Not only did it yield up a list of family; sons, daughters and grandchildren of Robert and Sarah Redfern Bowman who were alive in 1901, the year Robert died and his estate was probated.....

But it also gave us a precious page that told the real story of who was John Kirk's mother.

"John Kirk is a son of Sarah J Kirk, deceased, who was a daughter of Robert Bowman, deceased."

One little sentence written over 100 years ago in a will corrects my Bowman family tree information.

So John Kirk is living with his grandparents and his aunt because his mother, Sarah Jane Bowman Kirk, is dead by 1900.

Now the question still unanswered is Who is John Bowman Kirk's father?

I have yet to locate a marriage document for Sarah Jane Bowman and this Unknown Kirk husband.
The only Kirk of the correct age and gender I've uncovered in Orange County NY is this one.......

a John Kirk.

In 1880 John Kirk is living with the James Dayley family in New Windsor NY, the same town Sarah J Bowman was living in with her parents in that census.  John Kirk was born about 1862 and is working as a servant in the Dayley household.
In 1880 John Kirk was 18 and Sara Jane Bowman was 16.

In 1887 Sarah Jane Bowman Kirk gave birth to a son, John Bowman Kirk.
There is no direct mention of Sarah Jane in records after 1880 but we do know from indirect records for her son that she had to have lived to 1887 as that is when her son was born.

I suspect she died in childbirth or shortly thereafter but short of a headstone in a cemetery in Orange County, NY or finding a death certificate we have no way of knowing when she passed.

The only other record I can find that I can link to John Kirk is an admittance record on 22 March 1916 for the Orange County NY Almhouse.  He gives his parents names as James Kirk and Margaret Grimble Kirk, both born in Ireland.  He is 58, a carpenter and can not work due to sickness thus needing to be supported by the county in the poorhouse.

The next record we have for their son, John Bowman Kirk is that 1900 Census where he is living with his grandparents and aunt.

By 1908 John is found married to Margaret "Peg" Doyle and in 1909 their first child is born, Richard Henry Kirk.

In the 1910 census the John Kirk Family is living with his wife's family.
Another child is born in 1911, Dorothy "Minnie" and a second daughter, Lydia S. in 1913.
Lydia dies the following year in 1914.

There is a NY state census in 1915 and Margaret and the 2 surviving children, Richard and Dorothy, are living with Margaret's parents.  No sign of husband John Bowman Kirk living in NY let alone with his wife and kids in 1915.

By 1917 when the WW1 Draft registrations happen, John Bowman Kirk is living in Gary Indiana working as a foreman in a sintering plant.  He says he is married.
If you suspect something is amiss in the John Kirk family at this point, you would be correct. ;-)

In 1920 census John is lodging in a house in East Chicago Indiana.  He says he is divorced now and working as a salesman in cigar store.  Either the sintering plant wasn't to his liking or he lost that job.

Later that year, on 4 March 1920 John married Elizabeth Talmadge in Chicago, Illinois. There were no children from this union.

Meanwhile in the 1930 census Margaret Kirk and the 2 kids are living on their own in Orange County NY.  Margaret is working as a practical nurse and records her status as married.  This is probably to save face as John remarried 10 years before.  I can't find a divorce decree as of yet due to NY's not granting online access to that sort of information.

John and Elizabeth resurface in the 1940 census, now living in Hammond, Indiana and John is working as a flagman for the highway department.  A good steady government job for a man in his 50's.

In the 1942 WW11 draft registrations John is living in Hamilton, Indiana.

The last record for John Bowman Kirk is his death certificate from 5 June 1944.  He died of chronic myocarditis at St. Catherine's Hospital in East Chicago, Indiana.  At the time of his death was 57 years old and working as a machinist for Fruit Growers Express Co.
John was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Hammond Indiana.

On 26 April 1946 wife Elizabeth joined John in Elmwood Cemetery.

Anybody out there want to go to Hammond Indiana and take some photographs of headstones for me?   It's right next to Purdue University.  8-)

While I've unraveled some of the mysteries of John Bowman Kirk and his parents, there are more to sort out.



  1. You probably already know about this but have you checked FindAGrave.com?

    1. Hi Natalie,
      Yep I belong to F.A.G. Neither John Kirk or Sarah J. Bowman are listed on there yet. But thanks anyway.

  2. The secrets and cover-ups make genealogical research difficult. I know that one of my cousins was impregnated by our uncle. However, the tale is she married a railroad man who was just in town for a few days. He was going to return but was killed on the RR. Then, she had another child. This time, she did marry another RR man who deserted her and then died. How would you like to be researching that? This uncle is in prison for rape of a grown woman. This was in conjunction to his preaching. He was just ministering to the woman. My half-sister said he tried to rape her when she was three. I was the first person she told, and she was in her sixties when she told me. There is no telling how many children he fathered! Thankfully, he was a black sheep and not indicative of the character of my father's family.


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