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One Man or Two?

Daniel Ryan (1829-1863) is proving to be a difficult ancestor to trace. Most information I have collected about him indicates that he lived in various counties in Illinois. But there was a Daniel Ryan the same age who lived in Clinton County, New York. Many online trees have the IL and NY information compiled into a single profile.

Were they the same man? As I gather more information, I find that I doubt it.

I know this about my ancestor:

  1. He was born in Ireland in 1828 or 1829.
  2. He married Jane Lawless in Peoria, IL in 1851.
  3. He had a son Richard born in 1852.
  4. Jane died in 1853, and Daniel married Bridget Murphy in Springfield, IL in 1854.
  5. He had a son James born in 1855.
  6. He enlisted in the Union Army in Illinois in 1861.
  7. As a soldier, he died from disease at New Orleans in 1863.
  8. His widow Bridget collected a Civil War widow’s pension.

I have collected only a little information so far on the Daniel Ryan who lived in New York:

  1. In 1850 he lived with his parents in Au Sable, Clinton County, NY and worked in the coaling industry.
  2. In 1860 he was still living in New York, working as a miner, with a wife Margaret.

Merging these two men, as so many online trees have done, strains my credibility:

  1. Daniel would have needed to travel from Au Sable (near the Vermont/Canada border in NY) to Springfield and back more than once between 1850 and 1860. During this period, he would have married three times.
  2. My Daniel Ryan’s widow Bridget was married to him from 1854 until his death in 1863. She lived in Illinois. Unless he was a bigamist, the same man could not have been married to Margaret and living in New York in 1860.

So why is everyone pulling all this information into the life story of one man? I think I know. I have not found my Daniel Ryan on either the 1850 or the 1860 U. S. census. It would be easy to assume the New York man is him because that is the only record that emerges in a census search for Daniel Ryan in those years. But the facts do not support this conclusion.

The evidence seems to be pointing to separate identities for the Daniel Ryan who lived in Illinois and the one who lived in New York.





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