Adding Details to Nellie’s Story

In my last post, “How I Became an Evidentia User,” I shared the sad story of how I had a missed an important clue in a source, and¬†wound up adding 8 years to my research.


Today I’m going to work backwards a bit, and share some some baseline information about Nellie. This will help us to know¬†if we’ve found the correct person in a future analysis.

The Interview

I first learned of my ancestor Nellie Coyne from my grandmother, Mary “Maura” (McGraw) Evans. Maura didn’t talk much about her grandparents, probably because she really didn’t know much about them. Nellie died well before Maura was born, and according to family lore, Dennis became estranged from the family shortly after she died.

After¬†a significant amount of bothering and pestering, my grandmother¬†eventually opened up about her family and let me interview her on videotape.[1. Mary “Maura” Evans, granddaughter of Dennis and Nellie (Coyne) Delaney (Hemet, California), interview by Elizabeth O’Neal, November 2003; Video privately held by interviewer, {ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,} Santa Barbara, California, 2016. For you citation wonks, I am using {} instead of brackets because of the formatting required for this footnote plugin.] This is a precious memory for me, since the interview was conducted not long before she died.

TIP: Since Maura had no first-hand knowledge of her grandmother, we cannot classify the information from the interview as “personal knowledge.” Instead, I opted to add her story as a video interview (EE 3rd ed., p. 110). When documenting the source in Evidentia, I used the template “Archives & Artifacts > Private Holdings: Interview Tape & Transcript” for this purpose.

Document Source Video Interview

The Census

Thanks to my grandmother, I knew the names of my great-grandparents, “Dennis Daniel Delaney” and “Nellie Coyne,” and had the location of Nebraska as their residence. I easily found Dennis and Nellie in the 1900 U.S. census.[2. 1900 U.S. census, Lancaster County, Nebraska, population schedule, Lincoln City, enumeration district (ED) 42, sheet 3B (penned), dwelling 48, family 77, Dennis & Nellie Delaney family; digital images, ( : accessed 18 May 2012); citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 932.] Note that Nellie is listed as having been born in Illinois in “Mch” – which I interpreted to mean March – 1873. Her father is noted as having been born in Ireland, and her mother in New York (click the image to embiggen).

1900 US Census Dennis and Nellie

Now, there are many claims that I can take away from this source, but I have only included here the claims I feel are most valuable in helping me to find Nellie’s parents.

Claims from 1900 US Census

11 June 1900 was the date on which the census was enumerated in Lincoln City, Nebraska. The official date of enumeration for this census was 1 June 1900,[3. U.S. Bureau of the Census. “1900 Census: Instructions to Enumerators.” Transcription. Minnesota Population Center. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: IPUMS-USA. : 2015] so as of that date, Nellie should have been 26 years and 2-ish months old.

TIP: I have classified all of the census claims as “indeterminable.” The reason is because prior to the 1940 U.S. census, there was no way to know who supplied the information to the enumerator. The informant in this case could have been either Dennis or Nellie, one of the kids, or even a neighbor. As such, we have no way of knowing for certain if the information was provided by someone with primary or secondary knowledge of the parties involved.

The birth places of Nellie’s parents will be important for a future analysis, so I did not want to leave that information out. Since I do not yet know their names, I created “father” and “mother” subjects to which I could attach those claims. I can change those later, when/if I get more information.

The Marriage License

The last record I will add today is Dennis and Nellie’s marriage license application.[4.¬†Marriage record of Daniel Delaney and Nellie Coin, (14 November 1894), Lancaster County, Nebraska, Marriages, Vol. 15: p. 86; Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, Nebraska.]

Marriage Record Dennis Delaney & Nellie Coin

(On this source, Dennis uses the name “Daniel.” According to my grandmother, his name was “Dennis Daniel,” or maybe “Daniel Dennis.” She wasn’t sure. But it has been my experience in researching this man that he seems to use both names interchangeably. I have no idea why.)

I have tagged quite a few claims for this record, but there are two specific items to note:

First, Nellie’s parents are not named on this source, despite there being space to do so. Not only are there no names, but the spaces are lined out, indicating that the lack of answer was deliberate. Since the marriage license was presumably filled out by Daniel/Dennis, you would think he would at least know the names of his bride-to-be’s parents, right?

TIP: Negative evidence – or the lack of evidence where you would expect to find it – can be every bit as important as the evidence you do find. Be sure to note negative evidence in your claims so you can analyze it along with other evidence later.

As a side note, being a notary public myself, I know that the words “subscribed and sworn to before me” mean that the applicant appeared in person, raised his right hand, and swore an oath that he was telling the truth. So Daniel/Dennis swore that, “to the best of his knowledge,” he did not know the names of Nellie’s parents. Why? Was Nellie an orphan and did not know the names of her parents? Was there a rift in the family, and she no longer communicated with them? Was Nellie not of legal age to marry, and did not think her parents would give consent?

Claims from Marriage License

The second item worth noting in this source is that Daniel/Dennis attested that both he and Nellie were currently unmarried, and had not been divorced “within 6 months last past.”

Why is this important? Well, in my last post, I¬†hypothesized that if Coin/Coyne was, in fact, Nellie’s maiden name, she and Henry could have been half-siblings, assuming her mother¬†was widowed or divorced, and remarried a man with the surname King.

TIP:¬†When tagging the subjects of a claim, you can create your own custom tags if you don’t see one that fits your needs in the drop-down menu. I created the custom tag “marital status” to record the information above about Dennis and Nellie being unmarried and not divorced because it made sense to me. How would you have tagged this claim?

According to the marriage license, Nellie was 20 years old at the time of application. Assuming that she had been born in March – as was stated on the census – she would actually have been about 20¬Ĺ at the time of application,¬†meaning that as of age 20 or so, Nellie had not been divorced. The age of consent at that time in Nebraska was 18 years for females without parental permission,[4. United States Bureau of the Census, Special Reports : Marriage and Divorce, 1867-1906, Part I. (Washington, District of Columbia: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1909), 233; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 2015).] so if Nellie was, in fact, orphaned or estranged from her family, she would not have been able to marry until age 18. This means that, while not impossible, it is¬†unlikely that Nellie had been married prior to her marriage to Daniel/Dennis, and it is reasonable to assume that Coyne/Coin was her maiden name. That’s my theory, at least.

Clear as mud? ūüėČ

I promise that I am going somewhere with all of this in a future analysis. At least, I think I am. Let me know what you think!



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