Cousin Bait, a Brick Wall, and a Quick Tip

Earlier this month I received an email from Tina CORNELY. She’d stumbled upon my blog AND loves the name! That was enough to get my attention. She also wrote:

My family tree has been pretty successful on both my maternal and paternal sides, and I have gotten as far back as the early medieval times. The odd thing is I can’t find any information about my great-great-grandfather John Feis CORNELY. John was born in 1857 Germany. That’s all I can dig up. I was just about to give up when I came across your blog. 

That said, I still was unable to find his parents. However, I do know that he lived in Wyandot, Ohio which is where some of your relatives lived.

Any tips you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

John Feis CORNELY born in 1857 in Germany

Tina’s query didn’t include much information for me to go on. I suspected the birthplace and year of birth likely came from a census record. My search for a John CORNELY born in 1857 in Germany turned up this census record:

Ancestry search results for John F. Cornely born 1857 in Germany

John F. COONLEY (surname on index corrected by a user to CORNELY) was enumerated in the 1900 census. The index shows he was born in Germany in May 1857. But wait, John’s age on the census index is 49 which would mean he was born about 1851.1

Let’s take a look at the census image.

1900 U.S. Federal Census image courtesy of Ancestry

The month and year of birth on the census image are May 1851 which fits with the age of 49. John and his wife Mary had been married for 17 years. Mary was the mother of six with only one living child in 1900. A son Edward F. age 15, born in Ohio, is listed in the household. The columns for citizenship (year of emigration to the US, the number of years in the US, and naturalization) are filled out with “Un” or unknown.

Very few online trees for Edward F. CORNELY were found. Only one had the names of his parents. The attached source for the parents was this 1900 census with the incorrect date and place of birth for John CORNELY. There are no parents listed for John in any of the trees found. No further information on John F. CORNELY. This was where Tina was stuck. But had I found the right person?

Three of the four suggested records (see on the right of the 1900 census result image above) were for Edward and mentioned his father John F. CORNELY.

I followed the son and found, in later census records, he gave his father’s birthplace as Luxembourg.2

Edward’s death certificate listed Feis CORNELY and Mary KEANY as his parents.3

The Social Security Applications and Claims Index listed John F. CORNELY and Mary KEANEY as the parents of Edward.4

Searching for records before 1900, I found Felix Edward CORNELY was born in Salem Township, Wyandot County, Ohio to J. F. CORNELY and Mary KEANEY on 11 February 1885.5 This matches the date listed on his death certificate and social security application.

John F. CORNELY and Mary KEANY were married in Wyandot County, Ohio on 10 November 1883.6 [Note: The bride’s maiden name was seen as KEANY and KEANEY and listed here as seen in each record.]

More information was found for John’s son and his descendants which led to Tina’s generation. With the line down from John to Tina confirmed, I turned to my relatives in Wyandot County who shared the CORNELY surname with this family.

The CORNELY family of Wyandot County, Ohio, and their connection to my line

The CORNELY surname has been featured in several posts on this blog. First when I wrote about my 4th great-grandparents, Jean Baptiste MAJERUS and Catharina CORNELY of Strassen, Luxembourg. This was followed up by a post on Catharina’s parents, my 5th greats, Hubert CORNELY and Margaretha EVEN of Wickrange, Luxembourg.

My favorite was the post about a CORNELY family who emigrated from Luxembourg in 1854.

Click the image to view the post.

Jacques CORNELY (1800-1855) and his wife Magdalena KUNNERT (1807-1887) with their seven children arrived in America on 18 May 1854.7 Jacques died a little over a year later in October 1855.8 The widow was in Seneca County, Ohio in 18609 and in Wyandot County, Ohio in 187010 and 1880.11

Jacques and my 4th great-grandmother Catharina were first cousins. I learned about Jacques’ branch in my family tree when I found a DNA match for a descendant of Jacques and Magdalena’s only daughter Catherine.12

Could Tina’s John Feis CORNELY be related to my CORNELY family?

If the information in the indexation of the 1900 census had been correct, then John F. CORNELY couldn’t have been the son of Jacques and Magdalena as the father of the family died in 1855.

However, by taking a closer look at the census record, I found John F. “Feis” CORNELY was born in May 1851 and, per later census records of his son, his birthplace was likely Luxembourg.

The youngest son of Jacques CORNELY was named Johann when he was born on 4 May 1851 in Obercorn, Luxembourg.13 This son was seen in 1860 as Jacob age 8, in 1870 as John age 18, and in 1880 as J.F. age 29 in the household of his mother Magdalena. Not uncommon in Luxembourg families, there were two sons named Johann. In 1860 the elder was listed as John and the younger as Jacob, most likely to keep them apart.

In 1870 and 1880 they were living in Salem Township, Wyandot County, Ohio. The same county that the 1883 marriage for John F. CORNELY and Mary KEANEY was found, the same township that their son Edward was born in.

A newspaper article written in 1899 further supports the theory that J.F. CORNELY of Wyandot County is the same person as John F. CORNELY seen in the 1900 census listing in Putnam County, Florida.14

We received a pleasant call Tuesday afternoon from an old Wyandot County friend, Mr. J. F. Cornely, now a resident of West Mansfield where he operates a saw mill. He has arranged to go to Florida next fall as a member of the Northern Colony that has secured 24000 acres of land near Palatka and therefore is going to dispose of his mill at West Mansfield at Public Sale, Saturday, June 17. This colony was organized by the Chicago Farm, Field and Fireside and consists of some 200 families among its patrons in the different states who expect to locate on their new possessions in the Peninsular state this coming fall. Each head of a family buys as much of the land at $10 per acre as he can pay for and makes his own selection. The colony proposes to devote its energies to farming. We wish our esteemed friend success both in the sale of his saw mill at West Mansfield and in his proposed home in Florida.

Lastly, a broad search for CORNELY in Florida on Newspaper.com turned up a notice for the funeral services of John F. CORNELY. His son Edward arrived on 4 November 1908 in Tampa, attended the funeral on the 6th, and then returned to Jacksonville the following day. No widow was listed.15 A record of his death, other than the clipping, was not found.

Quick Tip: View the Image Before Attaching it to Your Family Tree

When the 1900 census hint was accepted and attached to the trees on Ancestry, the incorrectly indexed birth date and birthplace for John F. CORNELY was added to his biographical information throwing up a brick wall that hid his parentage. The wrong birth date was also found on FamilySearch‘s Family Tree citing the 1900 census as the source!

Before accepting the information generated (indexed) by Ancestry and adding the record to your family tree, take the time to view the image and read the lines referenced in the index. Then, when saving the record to the person of interest in your tree, be sure to pay close attention to the extracted information and correct the incorrectly indexed information. It may take a few moments but will save you time later correcting errors in your family tree.

Proof that blogging is cousin bait

My posts on my CORNELY family were found by Tina who wrote to me and shared her brick wall. Solving it, I gained a new cousin. We are 6th cousins once removed, sharing Pierre CORNELY (1720-1793) and Marie SCHINTGEN (1725-bef. 1793), my 6th great-grandparents.

Tina thanked me by kindly sharing this picture of her great-great-grandparents, John Feis CORNELY and Mary KEANY.

Johann Feis Cornely and Mary Keaney courtesy of Tina Cornely. Used with permission.

From evidence found, Tina’s John F. CORNELY was the youngest of Jacques and Magdalena’s children. A young boy who survived the wreck of the ship Black Hawk, marked his 3rd birthday on the Currituck, and stepped onto American soil in New York – all within a month. A young man who supported his mother in her years of widowhood in Ohio. A husband and father who sold his sawmill in Ohio to acquire land in Florida.

Many thanks to Tina for sharing and allowing me to write about her brick wall.

One door opened only to find another closed door

Another mystery in the CORNELY family was discovered while I was searching for records to connect Tina’s family to mine. Two CORNELY men were already living in Seneca County, Ohio when Jacques CORNELY’s family came to America and first settled in Seneca County in 1854. They were not children of Jacques and Magdalena who might have paved the way for the family’s move to America. They may have been close or distant cousins and their place in the family tree will have to be found.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. 1900 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T623, 1854 rolls, FHL microfilm: 1240176, Florida, Putnam County, Precinct 19, Enumeration District 150, Page 7A, line 17-19, John F. Cornely. The official enumeration day of the 1900 census was 1 June 1900. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 March 2021). 
  2. 1920 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls, Roll: T625_219, Florida, Duval, Mandarin, Enumeration District: 83, Page: 9A, lines 3-6, Edward F. Cornely. The official enumeration day of the 1920 census was 1 January 1920. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 March 2021). 
  3. “South Carolina, U.S., Death Records, 1821-1968,” (index and images), Ancestry, citing South Carolina Death Records, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina. Edward Felix Cornely, born 11 Feb 1885, died 2 Aug 1958 in Abbeville SC, parents Feis Cornely and Mary Cornely. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 March 2021). 
  4. “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” (index only), Ancestry, citing original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007, Edward Felix Cornely, SSN 719072511. Male, white, born 11 Feb 1885 in Salem Twp, WY (sic, Wyandot), Ohio, father John F Cornely, mother Mary Keaney, Apr 1937: Name listed as Edward Felix Cornely. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 March 2021). 
  5. “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” (database with images), FamilySearch citing county courthouses, Ohio, Wyandot > Birth registers 1880-1891 > image 26 of 148 > line 64. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RYW-SFX7?cc=1932106&wc=Q6QM-957%3A227738401%2C227780701 : accessed 14 March 2021) 
  6. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2016,” (database with images), FamilySearch citing county courthouses, Ohio, Wyandot > Marriage records 1877-1886 vol 5 > image 290 of 390, page 446-447, John F Cornely and Mary Keany married 10 November 1883. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939K-BJ3W-WG?cc=1614804&wc=ZY7Q-W38%3A122456701%2C122607001 : accessed 14 March 2021) 
  7. “New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” index and images, Ancestry, citing Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897, Roll 139, Arrival: 1854 New York, New York, List number 496, Line 304-312, Cornely family. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 26 February 2020) 
  8. Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 26 February 2020), memorial page for Jacob Cornely (19 May 1810–15 Oct 1855), Find A Grave Memorial no. 47794946, citing Saint Mary Catholic Cemetery, Kirby, Wyandot County, Ohio, USA; Maintained by Gathering Roots (contributor 47213048). 
  9. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Eighth Census of the United States, 1860 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls, Roll: M653_1034, Family History Library Film: 805034, Ohio, Seneca County, Big Spring, sheet 42 (stamped) back (42B), page 84, lines 11-18, HH #594-574, Magdalena Cornelia. The official enumeration day of the 1860 census was 1 June 1860. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 26 February 2020). 
  10. 1870 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Ninth Census of the United States, 1870 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T132, 13 rolls, Roll: M593_1284, Family History Library Film: 552783, Ohio, Wyandot County, Salem, page 810B, lines 9-11, HH #27-27, Magdaline Cornelius. The official enumeration day of the 1870 census was 1 June 1870.  (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 26 February 2020). 
  11. 1880 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Tenth Census of the United States, 1880 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls, Roll: 1079, Ohio, Wyandot County, Salem, Enumeration District 163, page 467B, lines 10-12, HH #193, Magdalena Cornely. The official enumeration day of the 1880 census was 1 June 1880. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 26 February 2020). 
  12. Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Differdange > Naissances 1807-1880 > image 548 of 1492. 1838 Birth Record No. 52. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DRN3-CNH?cc=1709358&wc=9RYM-168%3A129627401%2C130124201 : accessed 26 February 2020). 
  13. Ibid.,  Differdange > Naissances 1807-1880 > image 817 of 1492. 1851 Birth Record No. 37. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DRN3-WV2?cc=1709358&wc=9RYM-168%3A129627401%2C130124201 : accessed 26 February 2020). 
  14. “Local Department” item concerning J.F. Cornely, The Union County Journal (Marysville, Ohio), Thursday, 8 June 1899, p. 5, col. 2; image copy, Newspapers.com, (https://www.newspapers.com : accessed 23 March 2021). 
  15. “Funeral Services” of John F. Cornely, Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida), Saturday, 7 Nov 1908, p. 1, col. 6; image copy, Newspapers.com, (https://www.newspapers.com : accessed 26 March 2021). 

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

13 thoughts on “Cousin Bait, a Brick Wall, and a Quick Tip”

  1. Totally enjoyed this posting. What a lovely photo Tina shared with you. Your advice is always appreciated and so true…so many brick walls by incorrect information and not taking the time to check the records.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I especially enjoyed following each step you took to first build out Tina’s tree & verify, then work to connect Tina’s family and yours. It’s easy to get distracted and go off in different directions while researching. Since discovering Tina’s family is also survivors/rescuers of the Black Hawk/Currituck like yours and mine, maybe we will need to start a club! Hahaha! Great detective work again, Cathy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great work, Cathy! It’s amazing how an error or two in indexing can lead people astray. And then there are the errors in the census records to add to confusion in many cases. I bet Tina was thrilled that you could break down her brick wall and answer these questions. And aren’t there always new questions once we’ve found the answers to others?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Amy. I added a correction to the census record so future users will be more careful. I used to do this a lot before the 1940 census came out. That indexation was a mess on Ancestry. I gave up making corrections as I was spending more time writing them than adding the record to the family of interest in my genealogy software. And, yes, there are always new questions. That’s the fun part!

      Liked by 1 person

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