The Many Names of Ellen Currens: A Genealogy Story

Several people are starting their family trees and beginning the journey into researching their ancestry! I’m so excited for you! Know that if there’s any way I can help you, just email me or let me know.

Genealogy can be such a joy- proving family legends true (or false, depending on who you are) is a great reward.

But what do you do when you hit a road block? When you’ve spent hours and hours on a lead and it crashes and burns?

Ellen Currens is one of my current roadblocks. She was born about 1839 in Ireland, and she married my grandfather’s great-grandfather. So she’s not that far removed.

Easy-peasy, right? No.

I know she died in 1907, in Pontiac, Michigan, of Pneumonia.

And maybe her name was spelled Elen Curran*. (All the following names I have found on records pertaining to the wife of Jesse Bradburn, my ancestor)

Or maybe Ellen Curren.

Or Ellen Caim.

Or Ellen Cairn.

And was her first name actually Ellen, as some records claim, or was that short for Elinor? Or Eleanor?

Was it that there was an Elinor Curran, born 1837 in Ireland as well as an Ellen Curran, born 1837 in Ireland? Are they the same woman?

And what about the Helen Cairns that supposedly married Jesse Bradburn? Was she a second wife? It doesn’t look like it.

Helen? Ellen? Elinor? Are they all the same woman? Some records say that a Mary Ellen Curran married Jesse Bradburn. Was Ellen not her first name after all?

Find a grave doesn’t show a headstone, but miraculously has her death certificate. Her father is listed as ‘unknown’, but her mother’s name is recorded: Marry Kerlin (or perhaps ‘Many’, but ‘Marry’ seems more likely. So can we trust it? More than likely, her name was correctly spelled ‘Mary’. And is Kerlin her married name or her maiden name? It says it’s her maiden name, but Kerlin and Curran sound really similar to me.


A Google search for ‘Marry Kerlin’ and ‘Mary Kerlin’ and ‘Mary Kerlin Ireland 1800s’ doesn’t turn up anything reliable, so this is a roadblock I’ll just have to keep chipping away for a while.

What about you? Have you found any of your ancestors that had many variations of their names? Did you solve that puzzle or are you still working at it, like I am?

2 thoughts on “The Many Names of Ellen Currens: A Genealogy Story

  1. Oh HAVE I. I think weird names or weird middle names are very helpful in trying to be certain of having the right person out of millions of other Williams, Fredericks, etc. But what if on one census he goes by his first name, another his middle, another his misspelled middle, another with first and last misspelled. Etc. Census and death records are most helpful, but I cannot always find them (and oh, the burnt 1890 one is a great loss).

    My grandparents have done genealogy but for the life of me (and I spent hours at it) I could not connect the one person who they marked as a great great great grandfather the person they marked as his son and my great-great grandfather (and I definitely found records for both but nothing that put them together in the time they ought to have been). As frustrating as that is; all branches of that side of the family has basically been in my state for many generations/since Europe. My dad’s family, I’ve decided, has tried to hit every single state in the South (most parts of his family only stayed in states like two generations). And that’s not going back in all branches all the way.

    So, I’m taking a break because its too addicting, I’m broke (I so want to do those DNA tests, getting y-dna from Dad and maternal grandfather for family line info and myself for ethnicity and country info) and I was spinning in circles. But my it is FUN. Just the fact that old census and death records have been scanned and can be seen online is fascinating. My grandparents even have a document of some sort from Switzerland; I will have to look at it closer with the help of a dictionary. Swiss German in cursive is rather illegible for a non-German speaker.

    Sorry for the long comment. Your earlier blog posts helped me get started again with this. Family genealogy is part of one of my goals for this year.

    1. Hi! I’m SO glad you commented- no need to apologize for a long comment. I love long comments. I have a post coming up that talks about one of those ‘my grandparents did the research but for the LIFE OF ME I can’t figure out how they got their information’ scenarios.

      One of the things I love most about genealogy is its ability to be set aside and picked up whenever convenient. It’s not like olaying a musical instrument, where you lose the touch, or painting, where you /have/ to finish the project or else you probably never will. Genealogy is totally on your time, which is great.

      I actually have never paid a cent for genealogy research. I suspect someday one of the records that dangles in front of non-paying users will be important enough that I’ll give in, though.

      Good luck on your document from Switzerland- I’ve run into some roadblocks because I can’t read Swedish- just one more thing to put on the to-do list. Be sure to let me know what it is and how it turns out!

      SO glad my posts inspired you. Keep up the good work and shoot me an email if you could use some help at any point. I love a good puzzle (sometimes I love them even more if they’re not my own).


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