Thomas Young Conley

The Search for Thomas Young Conley

 The more comprehensive and far-ranging the search for Thomas Y.Conley, the more enigmatic a person he becomes.  It seems that the vicissitudes of life have conspired to keep him a mysterious figure.  The search began in the libraries of Washington, DC and failed to show our forbearer in the City Directories.  His future father-in-law, Azariah Fuller, is listed in the 1834 Directory as residing at the American Hotel on the northwest corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street West.  Next, a check at the Office of the Recorder of Deeds revealed that Thomas Connelly recorded the purchase of a gray cart and horse and attachments in 1829; there is no way of determining without doubt that this is the correct Thomas Connelly.   Index Book No. 4 covering the years 1822-1828 was checked and there was no mention of Thomas Connelly.  Azariah Fuller begins to appear in 1832 with about six entries in the period 1832-1833 ;I have not ascertained whether those records are for land purchases or bills of sale for personal property.

 A search of the Deed books of Montgomery County, Maryland reveals that in February of 1835 still signing his name as Connelly, Thomas bought the farm now known as "Greenridge" from Samuel Perry (Deed Book BS 7- 70).  Next we find two transactions by T.Y. Connelly in 1846 and 1847.  Then in December of 1857 there is a record of a transaction in which three men joined in a purchase from Margaret Higgins in Book JGH6-349; the men are Thomas Connelly, Thomas Y. Conley, and Benjamin Fawcett.   This other Thomas was apparently the farmer living near Colesville who had been in the county when our Thomas arrived; he appeared in the 1835 Census when there was no mention of Thomas Y.   From this point on Thomas Y. Conley engages in various transactions in Montgomery County in December 1857; March 1858; November 1862; March 1867; and October 1871.

 At this point we must back track to February 15, 1837 when, according to the National Intelligencer newspaper, Thomas Y. Conley and Helen Maria Fuller were married.   At this point the identity of T.Y. Connelly in October of 1846 (Montgomery County Liber STS2-238) and July of 1847(Liber STS3-78) is somewhat confusing; if Thomas married as "Conley" in 1837, why is he still using "Connelly" in Montgomery County in the 1840's?

 Turning to the Montgomery County Sentinel one finds the obituary for Thomas Y. Conley in the issue of October 21, 1887, Vol XXXIII, No.15, page 3 as follows:

  "Mr. Thomas Y. Conley died at his residence in Berry's district, on Friday of last week.  The descendent was one of the oldest and most highly respected citizens of the county.  He was a long time suffer from paralysis, which confined him to his bed and curtailed a useful and active life.  So long as his health permitted he manifested an untiring interest in the politics and public matters generally of the county.  He represented this county in the Maryland House of Delegates one session,and served us well."

 The mention of a term in the Maryland House of Delegates prompted a visit to the Maryland Archives in Annapolis.  There is no mention of Thomas Y. Conley in any index; however, it should be noted that the compiler did not review the minutes of legislative sessions for mention of his name.  The only listing of the name is in a directory listing all members of the legislature; he served in the term 1868- 1870.  There are no existent papers on the Montgomery County election of 1868 and no papers from the legislature pertaining to certification of elections or of elected officials.  There are also no existing records of anyone's filing for office during that period.

 Information on the term of his office as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates is further complicated by the fact that the Maryland Newspaper Project, which has cataloged the known copies of early Maryland newspapers, shows that no copies of the Montgomery County Sentinel exist for the period July 6, 1866 to January 1871.

 Although Montgomery County voter records are non-existent before 1874 and incomplete from that date on, the records for Election District No. 5, Berrys District, do exist for 1874 and provide an important bit of information.  The voter registration required each citizen to list either the place of birth (if born in the United States) or the place ofNaturalization.  Thomas Y. Conley stated that he was naturalized as a Citizen of the United States on Sept. 5, 1846 in Washington, D.C.

 A search of District of Columbia court records at the National Archives and Records Administration in Suitland, Maryland reveals that Thomas Y. Conly (with the "e" omitted), age 26 years, a native of County Armagh, Ireland was Naturalized on 2 April, 1835.  The record further states that Thomas emigrated from Belfast and arrived at the City of Baltimoreon the 24th (or 26th or 20th) day of July, 1825.  Calculating from the information given about age one arrives at a birth date of 1809, the same date on the gravestone in St. Mark's Cemetery.  The oath by two citizens affirming the residence and good character of the applicant spells Thomas's name as Conley; the spelling of "Conly" in the application may be a transcription error as Thomas never signed the document.  Note that this date does not coincide with the information given on the voter registration book.

 With the mention of a date of arrival in Baltimore, it would seem that the verification of the arrival of Thomas would be, in the words of an archivist at the National Archives, "a piece of cake".  However,both this compiler and the archivist were astounded to discover that the roll of microfilm which contains the Passenger Lists for Baltimore, 1820-1891(Microcopy M255, location: 104-01) contains information on one month in 1820, one month in 1821, and then nothing until August 1832.  That roll of film is supposed to contain the ship's manifest of passengers for every ship entering Baltimore harbor during that stated period.

 A further search of the Baltimore Quarterly Abstracts, an abstract made by the Collector of Customs and sent quarterly to the Secretary of State (Microcopy M596), includes many names missing from the full list, but unfortunately, the quarter from 1 June to 30 September, 1825 is missing.  The Soundex lists and Indexes for the period in question (M334 location:138-05 and M327, location 137-01) apparently do not cover the period of the 1820's and have no Thomas Y. Connelly and no Thomas Connelly with appropriate dates.  It would seem that the paper trail has disappeared completely at this point of entry to America.

 Apparently, the only way to search out the origins of Thomas Y.Conley is to go to Belfast and try to locate a sailing manifest or to go to County Armagh and find the trail based on the assumption that his gravestoneis correct in that Armagh is his place of origin and 1809 is his year of birth.  One other hint that might be of help is that in the 1850 Census Thomas Y. Conley, age 40, is shown as having a Catherine Conley, age 23, born in Ireland, in his household.  We can not tell if this is a younger sister or a cousin or even if Catherine is related, but this bit of information may help.  There is no further information on what became of Catherine; she does not appear in the Census of 1870.  Also one might find some connection between Thomas Y. Conley of Fairland and Thomas Connelly of Colesville.  Another option is to find out if original records of the Port of Baltimore may exist somewhere in Maryland for that period of time.  One could also search the marriage records for Montgomery County to see if Catherine married, and if any further information is available on her.

 Another interesting point in connection with the name is that the only place this compiler has found the name "Young" is on the gravestone in St. Mark's Cemetery.  Everywhere Thomas apparently used only the initial "Y.".

 Descendants of: Thomas Young Conley

1 Thomas Young Conley b. __-___-1809 d. __-___-1887
   m. 15-Feb-1837 Helen Maria Fuller b. 21-Apr-1815 d. 20-Jan-1899

   2 Charles William Conley b. 9-Nov-1838 d. 19-Sep-1927
    m. 7-Jun-1867 Martha Ellen Larrick b. 23-Sep-1840 d. 03-Nov-1917

   2 Edgar Thomas Conley b. __-___-1840 d. __-___-1862 killed at the Battle of Strasburg, VA

update: Oct 7, 1992 Mormon Family History Library

On an earlier occasion I had searched Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, vol I, ed by P. William Filby, 1981, and found Thomas Y. Connelly (Conley), but the reference was the same set of papers dealing with his naturalization for citizenship from Washington, DC. However, a search of the more current 1982-1985 Supplement to the above collection has other references for the entry on Thomas Y. Connelly (Conley). One reference is Ship Passenger Lists: the South (1538-1825), edited by Carl Boyer, 3rd, Newhall, California, 1978. The other reference is New World Immigrants: A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists and Associated Data from Periodical Literature, vol 2, Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1979. Both these sources should be checked to see of they contain information on the other passengers arriving with Thomas Y. Conley. The problems of finding ships lists for the port of Baltimore is explained in American Passenger Arrival Records edited by Michael Tepper, Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988.

Filby's volumes contain little information which may be of help concerning Catherine Connelly whom we find in the 1850 census at Greenridge. There is an entry for a Catherine, age 12, arriving at the port of St. John, New Brunswick in 1834 (see: Passengers to New Brunswick: The Custom House Records, 1833, 34, 37, 38; New Brunswick Genealogical Society, 1987).

On the subject of the other Thomas Connelly of Colesville, Filby lists a Thomas Connelly, age 30, arriving in Baltimore in 1829 (see: Baltimore Port Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Baltimore 1820-1834, edited by Michael Tepper, Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1982, p. 109)

The library assistant at the Family History Center in Kensington stated that if Thomas had money when he arrived, he would more probably be Protestant. She also noted that using a family name such as "Young" as a middle name was more likely a Protestant custom.

Other sources to check would be the volumes published by the Ulster Historical Foundation.

The search for the family in Ireland began with Index to Surnames of Griffith's Valuation microfilm #919001. This index shows what county and parish families were in; the dates cover usually the latter half of the nineteenth century. The index for 1864 shows a Connelly in both Kilclooney Parish, Lower Fews Barony, Co. Armagh and in Creggan Parish, Upper Fews, Co. Armagh. The dearth of Connellys in Armagh may or may not indicate that Thomas Y. Conley really came from another county. He was only seventeen when he arrived in Baltimore, and he may not have later stated correctly his place of birth.


Uncle Henry Conley, Thomas's brother??

Notes concerning the origin of Thomas Y. Conley (original spelling probably "Connelly")

A family tradition states that Thomas Y. Conley arrived in America with ?? several siblings: John, Henry, Catherine, and others. They split up and moved to different states; one went to Kentucky while another moved to Texas. This story is very reminiscent of a standard myth in genealogy found in families with immigrant ancestors who left no information on their origins.

Fortunately, the family has saved several letters left by Thomas's son, Edgar, who died during the Civil War. In two of his letters there is mention of Uncle Henry in Louisville. The exerpts follow:

Harpers Ferry May 20th "Tell Pa I saw one of the Louisville men as soon as I could find one that knew Uncle Henry; he said that he was very ill & that they did not expect him to live long."

Harpers Ferry May 22, 1861 "I went down to the quarters of the Kentucky Regiment this morning & found the bar keeper that was at Uncle Henry's when I was out there; he said Uncle Henry was very sick."

Another old letter addressed to Miss Clara Bell Conley from Miss Blanche Cline, Bell Center, Ohio, Jan 25, 1897, contains further information on Uncle Henry:

"I will tell you all I know about Uncle Henry Conley. Uncle & Aunt are still living in Louisville, KY. (or they were a few months ago.) One girl is dead, Mother says, she thinks it was the eldest, she has been dead several years, and the other girl married a Policeman of Louisville, his name is Kendall. Father was in Louisville, during the summer of '95 and called to see them at that time Uncle was quite feeble and had a very poor memory. He could not remember anything a half hour after he was told. If we hear from them again, I will write to you."

At some point it is hoped that the search for Uncle Henry and Thomas's other siblings will be continued. However, at the present time there are other more pressing matters.


Go to Thomas's son, Charles W. Conley, who married Martha Ellen Larrick

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updated 5/30/19