John Joseph Carmody is Mike’s paternal grandfather. Due to some odd circumstances (Where There’s a Will), he did not raise Mike’s father. John died in 1940—he’s been gone a long time.
When I started researching Mike’s tree, I had little information, so tackled the records with easiest access—censuses. I located John with these occupations in:
- 1900—horse trainer¹
- 1910—soliciting agency²—what did that mean?
- 1920—master transportation, Michigan Short Ship Circuit³
Say what? That last string of words meant nothing to me. It could have been Greek. I wrote it down, but had no clue. If you remember in Close Up, I mentioned the fateful trip to Port Huron that blew apart the faulty tree I had constructed for Mike. Knowing John’s death date, I had requested the microfilm of the local paper at the county library, hoping to find his obituary. That was the lovely record4 unraveling the family.
But that wasn’t the only information in the obituary, which was surprisingly lengthy and was located on the front page—also unexpected. I learned he:
- had a nickname—”Racetrack Jack”
- “was founder of the Michigan Short Ship Trotting circuit
- “was one of the outstanding authorities on trotting horses in Michigan”
- became “a master of transportation for the racehorse circuit and his ‘Carmody Special’ became known throughout the United States”
I know you’re thinking, “Census records and newspaper articles aren’t unusual sources!” No, they aren’t. You know how every once in a while you get bored and Google your own name (to see how many “yous” are out there), or old boy/girlfriends? Well, genealogists do that with our dead people. Sometimes with our live people, too. New sources show up online, or someone creates a new web site for their genealogy. You never quite know what, if anything, you’ll find.
So on a boring Thursday afternoon, 10 November 2016, I decided to see if there was anything new for John Joseph Carmody—particularly as it related to horse or harness racing. I don’t remember what my search terms were, but I ended up with many results I could clearly see were “not him.” Most of them I didn’t even click into.
Then I saw one for The Horse Review, in Google Books, of all places! Oh, what the heck! I clicked on it and discovered it was an ebook, accessible for free. Naturally, I clicked through again and found myself in the Horse Review 23 April 1901 vol 26 page 421 (yes, you can click on the link and go there yourself). It was a little article in the lower right corner talking about the upcoming racing season in Michigan, mentioning John by name, and talking about his special train.
The Horse Review (I’ve since learned) was a weekly newspaper published from 1885-1932 about the standardbred harness horse. It was the place to go if you were looking for that kind of news. A more recent search also turned up this page: Horse Review 17 June 1902 vol 26 page 648. It had an ad for the upcoming (1902) season at the bottom of the page, again mentioning that John Carmody was in charge of transporting the horses by rail (lower left corner). The idea was to not only entice spectators to the track, but also to encourage potential contestants to sign up their horses and drivers.
Why do I care about this relatively obscure periodical? It’s not telling me anything momentous. I already learned about this activity of John’s from the census records and his obituary. Remember, though, that obituaries are frequently written by (or the information provided by) family members. There’s always the potential for embellishment, or just flat-out mistakes. So while I love the details in the obituary, having an unbiased source to corroborate that information is extremely useful.
Prepping for this blog post, I did further newspaper searching for John. He was all over the Port Huron papers from 1901-1921. Sometimes it was an article about
- the upcoming season
- which horses were coming in for a set of races
- his travels in and out of town, dealing with race business
- the horses he’d arranged to come in for the race (now the “soliciting agency” occupation in 1910 makes more sense!)
- occasionally it was about a birth, death, or marriage in the family, but those were the minority
It would have been easy to blow off the Horse Review search result when I first saw it, but I’m so glad I took the time to check it out. I love discovering the little everyday bits and pieces that round people out. While they sometimes raise other questions, we get a much clearer picture of the person and his or her life. We—and they—are so much more than just a birth and death date.
¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Port Huron Ward 7, e.d. 103; Page 16B; dwelling number 371; family number 378; line 99; John CARMODY [PARMODY] household; accessed 21 September 2018. John CARMODY [PARMODY], age 37; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 742; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
²1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Port Huron Ward 7, e.d. 115; Page 14B; dwelling number 360; family number 365; line 64; John J. CARMODY household; accessed 21 September 2018. John J. CARMODY, age 47; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 673; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
³1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Port Huron Ward 7, e.d. 123; page 5A; dwelling number 95; family number 98; line 15; John J. CARMODY household; accessed 21 Septermber 2018. John J. CARMODY, age 56; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 795; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).
4“John Carmody Dies Thursday,” 5 January 1940, Newspapers.com: accessed 22 September 2018, record number: n.g.; citing original p. 1 col. 5 below photo, entry for John CARMODY, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).