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Great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Fitzgerald's birth record

For years, the birth record of my great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Fitzgerald Ryan had eluded me.

According to her death record, she had been born about 23 May 1879 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Thomas Fitzgerald and Rose Kiley. But no matter where I looked online-- NEGHS, FamilySearch, Ancestry-- I could not find any Mary or Mary Elizabeth Fitzgerald who was born in Massachusetts on or around that date to a Thomas and Rose.

Of course, since Mary was born in 1879, the next thing was to check the 1880 census record. In it, I located a Thomas, aged 26, and Rose Fitzgerald, aged 30, with a 1-year-old daughter named Mary living in Needham, Massachusetts.

I had also found a marriage record of a Thomas Fitzgerald and Rose Connelly on 18 August 1878 in Newton, Massachusetts. Thomas's age was given as 25, and Rose's was given as 30. Here, too, Rose had the unusual distinction of being about 4-5 years older than her husband, so I knew that this was the same couple.

So this past week, I asked for help locating my great-grandmother Mary's birth record in a Facebook genealogy group-- and someone found it and posted it within hours. The record showed that she was born in Needham on 22 May 1879 to Thomas Fitzgerald and Rose  “Colnoly." This lady had found it on American Ancestors, the NEHGS website.

But why hadn't I been able to find it?

When I looked at the record, the reason became apparent: her last name on this document was misspelled as “Fitchgerald." It had not occurred to me that a name as basic and as common as Fitzgerald could be spelled incorrectly, but it was. And “Fitchgerald" was apparently divergent enough that FamilySearch (which normally picks up alternative spellings) didn't register it in a search. Upon looking it up on FamilySearch with “Fitchgerald", Mary's birth record came right up.

The fact that her mother Rose's maiden name was given as “Colnoly" (Connelly) confirmed for sure that the census record and the marriage record I found were for my 2nd great-grandparents.

This was a good reminder to get creative when searching for records-- I had not figured that my ancestor's very common surname would be so badly misspelled, but it was, and if I had just thought to broaden my search using Soundex, or thought of alternative ways that Fitzgerald might be spelled, this could have been found long ago.

I'll write more about Thomas and Rose, and the issue of Rose's maiden name, next.