Saturday, January 16, 2016

James Edward Gearen - Documents, Names, Dates and a Mystery

James Edward Gearen Portrait

Our maternal great-grandfather, James Edward Gearen was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1859.   This was discussed family history and it is confirmed by thiese birth certificate documents from the Rhode Island Secretary of State which also states his parents names - Patrick Gearen and Catherine Crowley.

112 India Street, Providence, Rhode Island is now India State Park.  It appears to sit at the high end of the Providence River off  Rhode Island Sound.

It is helpful but as you will see, the names are so common that it is not helpful in pinpointing his father Patrick's birthplace and his ancestry.  A typical place to begin clarifying this would be a marriage certificate.  James and Dora (Eldorah Virginia Curtis, 1864-1943) were married in Chicago on December 20, 1882, and then moved to Sioux City sometime after that.  s.

Marriage License
Marriage License James Gearen and Dora Curtis married 20 Dec 1882

It is not yet clear where his parents Patrick and Catherine were married but James had an older brother, John F. Gearen, who was born about 1858 according to an index entry for his Iowa death certificate which also confirms the same names of his parents. John F. Gearen's birth date and place cannot yet be specifically confirmed. There is no helpful information there.

A typical piece of useful information would be U.S. Census reports.  The 1910 United States Federal Census indicates that Patrick arrived in 1855 and his wife Catherine arrived in 1846.

Still another would be an immigrant passenger arrival manifest.  This New York Passenger Arrival List lists a Patt Geran arriving in New York in 1956.

Is this Pat(t) Geran the father of James?  Does it provide any other information? It depends on connection to other facts.

James died from a year-long period of pernicious anemia in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa on January 27, 1923. Patrick's death certificate was obtained from the Iowa Historical Society.  The date is close to the dates associated with Jim Gearen's family story which is connected to the Pat Geran arrival in New York because of the dates and the Buckleys also arriving then.  

Patrick Gearen, his 87 year old father, died the very next day January 28, 1923 of a cerebral hemorrhage, according to this certificate. The heartbreaking coincidence of their deaths was also a story that was passed along in family history and it was reported in the Nebraska Business Journal from Lincoln Nebraska (re-accessed through on November 29, 2015) :

Nebraska State Journal, January 29, 1923

James' second youngest son Joseph (1895-1964), who was born in Sioux City but lived in Chicago at the time of their deaths, provided the information for this death certificate.  He stated that Patrick was born March 17, 1836.  However, according to Joseph, Patrick's parents were Patrick Gearen and Mary Earl.

That's important information.  That birth date March 17, 1836 and the maiden name Mary Earl of his mother conflict with the date associated with the Patrick Gearen of Boherbue, County Cork, Ireland in Jim Gearen's family history story (posted in the Facebook closed group for Ryder family history).   I have ordered the Family History Library microfilm of this death certificate and hope to view it soon to explore this further, however since this is an image and not an index it is not promising.

Using the genealogy site on January 4, 2016, I found a Patrick Garan born in Donnecmore, in the parish of Imogeela in County Cork.  The church baptism record lists his father as Patrick Garan and his mother as Mary Farrell and the baptism date as July 20, 1835, 18 months earlier than the date on the death certificate.  Is it possible that Mary Earl's last name could be a derivation of Mary Farrell?  So far, there is no confirmation of that.  There also was no exact or close variation of any Patrick Gearen with the birth date of March 17, 1836 on, or, or

A Patrick Geran was born in the Boherbue Catholic parish in the townland Urrihill but his parents were Patricius Geran and Maria Buckley (Catholic parish records were still written in Latin). Those names correspond with the passenger arrival manifest from 1856.  The date of birth for this Patrick is September 1, 1839. There are no corresponding dates for a Patrick Gearen (or any other spelling) in any of the above listed genealogy record sources.

In 2015 the National Library of Ireland published Catholic Church records online and I accessed them on November 3, 2015, so they were not available online at the time Jim Gearen completed his research, planned his trip and visited Tim Guerin and the Boherbue town historian Francis McCarthy [Interestingly, McCarthy is the surname of Ruth's husband Frank T. Ryder's mother Mary Catherine McCarthy but I missed that until recently!].

Francis McCarthy's story told to Jim Gearen about the three brothers is very likely confirmed by another document retrieved through - a page from Griffith's Valuation.  Perhaps Frank McCarthy the historian had access to this during Jim Gearen's visit.  The Irish censuses beginning with 1821 were destroyed in the Dublin fire in 1922 so Griffith's Valuation is a a tax report used as a "census-substitute" from 1853.  There were three Gearen men of the same name living on the same plot in the parish in 1853 and there were many Buckleys nearby, as there were on the 1856 passenger manifest.

Griffith's Valuation 1853

So how much uncertainty does this new information about Patrick's surname spelling, date of birth and his mother's name create?  My spirits sank when I found the date and mother's name conflict after my delight at finding parents Patricius and Maria Gerin in the church records of Urrihill.

There are at least six spellings of the Gearen name here and on other records I have seen. There are many possibilities and all lead to more uncertainty.  Perhaps there was a clerk's error or phonetic transcription in the information from Joseph for the death certificate. Perhaps it was her middle name not her surname.  Perhaps the surname spelling changed several times over the years. So, there is not sufficient to prove his parents and place of birth, and research will continue.

Here is still another example of the uncertainty, The Griffith's Valuation report used the surname spelling Gearen.   Both James and Patrick's death certificates use the spelling Gearen.  But then there is a document for Theresa Gearen, James' youngest sister. Theresa's surname spelling is Guerin on her February 27, 1932 death certificate which was obtained from the Iowa Historical Society. Theresa's parents and her sister-in-law Dora Virginia Curtis Gearen's names are also spelled  Guerin on the certificate.  The family Jim Gearen visited in Boherbue, Cork, Ireland spelled their name Guerin.  

Dora Virginia Curtis Gearen
Dora (about whom very little known except that she was likely born Eldorah Virginia Curtis in Virginia) is our great-grandmother, James E. Gearen's wife. She provided the information for the death certificate. This is also the only place I have seen Dora's married name spelled Guerin.   There are many photos of Dora and a separate gallery will be done in another post.  [Another longer story can also be done about Dora whose father according to discussed family history was a Confederate soldier from Virginia. National Archives documents confirm that there was a Confederate soldier John Wesley Curtis.  John Wesley Curtis was briefly a Confederate soldier discharged for health reasons but other information is not yet available]

It is possible that James and Dora could not read or write and that all the persons who completed any forms about them used phonetic spellings or pronunciation of the name.  It is also possible that there is a naturalization document for Patrick that spells the name Guerin. I have not yet found that document, if so.  Naturalizations were filed in state courts and clerks' offices in the late 1850's and early 1860's so many local searches will be necessary.  Since it is not known where they may have moved between Rhode Island and Illinois before moving to Sioux City, it will require a careful search.

There were more than 350 different Patricks with one or the other spelling of Gearen on the genealogy site during the middle 1800's in southwestern Ireland.  Looking for other records that might narrow that down will continue to be challenging.  So far, I am unsuccessful in finding a marriage record in Ireland or the U. S. or the naturalization papers for Patrick which might provide any other information about his parents.  [My experience with other relatives has been that only a signature was required as late as the 1880's in Iowa.]

Wherever John was born in Ireland or in the U.S., in 1860, Patrick and Catherine (1835-1914), James  (age 1) and John Gearen (age 3) lived in Bloomington, Illinois according to the federal census.


After working as laborers, furnace, stove and boiler tenders and other occupations according to census reports, James and his younger brother Thomas worked with their older brother John F. Gearen in his plumbing company.  The 1888 City Directory for Sioux City shows J. F. Gearen at 412 Pierce Street.  

There is an interesting story of these years during which the Gearens arrived in Sioux City in a genealogy for the Dankenbring family at: Sioux City Development in 1880's and 1890's [accessed on January 16, 2016, there is one broken link for one photo but the description of the development of Sioux City seems to be a good summary].  There are other historical items at Sioux City

This photo was among photos found in my mother's collection which, of course, was part of Ruth Harriet Gearen's.  The reverse side of this photo has a pencil inscription "T.H.Gearen, 215 Myrtle Avenue, Sioux City, Iowa".  It has no date stamp or photographer name and does not identify the others in the photo.

T.H. Gearen, 215 Myrtle Avenue, Sioux City, Iowa

James E. Gearen and many of his family are buried in Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City in a mausoleum called the "Old Crypt".  Photos provided by the cemetery administration are not great but they went beyond their responsibility to provide them.

The search will continue for documents related to Patrick and Catherine Crowley about whom, regrettably, very little is known so far except a 1910 federal census report which states that she was born about 1838 and arrived in the U.S. in 1846.  Genealogists sometimes refer to problems finding proofs for individuals as "brick walls" and others just as challenges.  I am hopeful about finding information about these grandmothers. What lives they must have lived.


James Edward Gearen portrait:  From the collection of Ruth Harriet Gearen Ryder, his daughter; date and photographer uncertain but certainly before 1923.  I have this portrait and the portrait for Dora Virginia Curtis Gearen.

Birth certificate and registration:  State of Rhode Island and Providence Planations, Copy of Certificate of Birth, Birth Registered in the City of Providence, Rhode Island for the Year Ending 1859, certified January, 2013.

Marriage Index Record:  Cook County, Illinois,  Marriages Index, 1871-1920,, Operations, Inc., Provo, Utah, USA,web address:  FHL Film Number 1030128

Marriage Certificate:  Originally added to by Chris Charvat without citation.  I also received a copy from James Gearen in 2013.  It is likely this came from the IRAD (Illinois statewide records system).

1910 Federal Census for Patrick and Catherine Gearen:  1910 United States Federal Census, Sioux, City, Woodbury, Iowa, Roll T624_429, Page 5A; Enumeration District: Image 1207.  Online Publication - Provo, Utah, USA. , Opeations, Inc., 2006, Original data - Thirteenth Census of the United States 1910 (NARA microfilm publication T264, 1,178 rolls).  Records of the Bureau of Census, Record Group 29, National Archives, Washington, D.C.   

Passenger Arrival Manifest:  New York Passenger Manifests, 1820-1957,  Year: 1856; Arrival: New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, Microfilm Roll:  M237_164; Line: 1, List Number: 595.

Patrick Gearen Death Certificate:  State Historical Society of Iowa, Research Center, 600 East Locust Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50319, Record O97-13441, Box D2590.  Requested September 15, 2016.

James Edward Gearen Death Certificate:  State Historical Society of Iowa, Research Center, 600 East Locust Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50319, Record O97-1340, Box D2590. Requested September 15, 2016.

Theresa Guerin Death Certificate:  State Historical Society of Iowa, Research Center, 600 East Locust Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50319, Record J97-0183, Box 2685.  Requested September 15, 2016.

Nebraska Business Journal Obituary:  Column 6, page 2, January 30, 1923, Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska.  Originally accessed March 20, 2012 on

Griffith's Valuation:  Accessed on, January 16, 2016,

Census Year: 1860; Census Place: Bloomington Ward 4, McLean, Illinois; Roll: M653_204; Page: 513; Image: 515; Family History Library Film: 803204

Burial: Crypt 268, Old Mausoleum, Calvary. Photo by a caretaker and Barb Queen, Office Manager of the Sioux City Diocesan Office of the Propagation of the Faith on September 4, 2014.  


No comments:

Post a Comment