Wednesday, March 6, 2013

One Child or Two?

I have a little mystery on my hands. Did Lawrence Flynn have two daughters or only one? I had always believed he had only one child, Mabel Hoskins Flynn. According to an image of the returns of birth for St. Joseph county, Michigan (available at she was born on 24 June 1873. [1]

Here's what I have that suggests that Lawrence and Mary had only one child.
--Mabel is the only child who appeared in the census with her parents (1880, 1894, 1910, 1920). [2,3,4,5] The family was missed in the 1900 census. I've gone page-by-page a couple of times through their enumeration district. Their house number didn't appear.
--In the 1894 and 1910 censuses Lawrence's wife indicated that she only gave birth to one child. [3,4]
--In Lawrence's Civil War pension file one document asks for the names and birth dates of any children he had whether living or dead. The only child listed was Mabel, with the same birth date I have from the birth return. [6]

So, why am I uncertain about the number of children Lawrence and his wife, Mary Olive Hoskins, had? I have but a single piece of data to suggest otherwise. While looking through records at, specifically the scanned images from the Kalamazoo Public Library vital records card file, I found a transcribed record that made me pause. It was a baptism card for a Mary Hoskins Flynn, daughter of Laurence [sic] and Mary Flynn. [7] The date of baptism at St. Luke's Episcopal church in Kalamazoo was given as June 28, 1871. [7] 

Postcard from the author's collection.

I've looked for a birth or death record for an infant born to Lawrence Flynn between 1871 and 1880 in Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties (at FamilySearch and, but so far without success. This in itself doesn't necessarily mean they didn't have another child who died young. Though civil registration began in Michigan in 1867, this information was collected once per year by assessors resulting in many births and deaths not being recorded. See Why Early MichiganBirth Records Are Unreliable for more details.

Another puzzling thing about the baptism card is why the baptism took place at St. Luke's. All evidence I have indicates Lawrence lived in Constantine until after Mabel's birth in 1873. Why would the family trek all the way up to Kalamazoo, which certainly took longer then than now, to baptize their child?

Is it possible that this record doesn't pertain to “my” family? I don't think so. The child's name, Mary Hoskins Flynn, is the largest clue. Hoskins was the maiden name of Lawrence's wife. Also, during the 1870-1920 period the only Lawrence Flynn in the Kalamazoo area was my relative. This is based on census records, city directories and newspaper references.

So, is this record actually evidence of another child or was there a mistake during the transcription of the record? The names are similar (Mary vs. Mabel) as are the month and day (June 28th for Mary's baptism and June 24th for Mabel's birth). The years are also close. Mabel was (by all accounts) born in 1873, but the transcribed baptism record provides a year of 1871. There is one obvious way to settle this. I could go to St. Luke's and ask to see the original record. Unfortunately, I don't know when I'll next be in Kalamazoo. Even when I do go, my limited time there is precious and I need to go where I can answer multiple questions in a single trip. So, for now I'll have to continue wondering.

  1. "Michigan Births, 1867-1902." database and digital images, FamilySearch ( accessed 05 March 2013. entry for Mabel Flynn, born 24 June 1873; citing Birth Records, FHL microfilm 4,206,432; Michigan Department of Vital Records, Lansing, Michigan.
  2. 1880 U.S. census, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, population schedule, p. 221 (stamped), dwelling 344, family 344, digital image, (, accessed 27 Nov 2006); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 586.
  3. 1894 Michigan state census, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, population schedule, Kalamazoo city, Ward 3, p. 563, dwelling 231, family 243, digital image, (, accessed 13 Sep 2012); citing Archives of Michigan Microfilm reel 4797.
  4. 1910 U.S. census, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, population schedule, Kalamazoo City, Ward 5, E.D. 153, sheet 3B, dwelling 67, family 72, digital image, (, accessed 27 Nov 2006); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 654.
  5. 1920 U.S. census, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, population schedule, Kalamazoo Precinct 30, Ward 5, E.D. 177, sheet 13A, dwelling 416, family 416, digital image, (, accessed 27 Nov 2006); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 775.
  6. Lawrence H. Flynn (Cpl., Co. M, 1st MI. Eng. and Mech., Civil War), application no. 279,062, certificate no. 382,696, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications. . ., 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  7. Kalamazoo Public Library (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 3x5” Vital Records File, Mary Hoskins Flynn Baptism, digital image, (, accessed 25 Aug 2009) Image 9330. ; citing St. Luke's Episcopal Church (Kalamazoo, Michigan), Parish Record Book 1 (1862-1901).

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