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Irish Jane

Now that the new year has begun, a new research project beckons.

For the first time, I will attempt to document the lives of some of my Irish ancestors. First up, Jane Lawless (d. 1853).

I learned Jane’s name from my great-grandfather’s marriage license. She was his mother. Further investigation reveals her marriage to Daniel Ryan at Peoria, IL in 1851. Daniel’s Civil War pension file confirms this and gives me the year of her death.

Jane’s name, if she is indeed the same person, appears on only one U. S. census record, 1850. At that time, she lived in the Peoria household of the man I presume was her father, Thomas Lawless, along with several other children. As we know, the 1850 census does not spell out family relationships, so I need some other evidence that Thomas was the father of Jane.

I located an 1849 ship passenger list from Ireland showing a Lawless family that looks much like the one on the 1850 census. Jane and several other children sailed on the Home with Thomas Lawless, but again no family relationships are specified.

Find A Grave records for Thomas and some of the other members of his household tell me the family originated in County Louth, Ireland. That County has a baptism record for Jane Lawless, born to Thomas Lawless and Bridget Hamill in 1826.

Is Jane, daughter of Thomas and Bridget, the same Jane who sailed to America in 1849, and the same Jane who married Daniel Ryan in 1851? A birth year conflict remains to be resolved. The baptized baby Jane was born in 1826. The ship passenger Jane was 20 years old in 1849 with an implied birth year of 1829. The young woman on the census was 21, again with an implied birth year of 1829.

I need some more information about Jane before I can make the claim that all these records refer to the same person. I have found no death information for Jane other than a mention in her husband’s pension application file. She died long before the state of Illinois began keeping death records. I plan to check whether there are any county-level records. Jane has no FindAGrave memorial, so I need to look for a church death record and a burial record for her. One of these could provide more information about her.

The Thomas Lawless I believe to be my Jane’s father outlived her. Perhaps he left a will that mentioned her son. That would link the generations together.

Thomas passed away in LaSalle County, Illinois in 1870. Family Search has the LaSalle county probate records digitized, but they are locked. Earlier this week I submitted a lookup request to find out whether Thomas Lawless had an estate that was probated.

Once I have exhausted these research ideas for Jane, my next step will be to document the lives of all the people I believe to be Thomas’ children and Jane’s siblings. One of them may have left behind more clues that can knit this family together better.

Before I take off and try to do research on a family in County Louth, I want to make sure I have the right one.


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