Saturday, January 31, 2015

#8 John William Ryan (1867-Unknown)

Great-Grandfather, John Ryan

I would venture to guess that every genealogist and family historian has encountered at least one “brick wall”…that is, a complete gap of information that prevents you from digging further into an ancestor’s background.  One of mine is my husband’s great-grandfather, John William Ryan. 

What we do know is that he was born in June 1867 in Ohio.  However, not knowing which county in Ohio makes tracking down his family a bit difficult.  Perhaps not surprisingly,  there are several infant boys named “John Ryan” born in Ohio in 1867.  I have not given up hope, but until I can corroborate or verify which one is my husband’s ancestor, I don’t want to guess.

Somehow, John made his way west to Northern California as he was married in November 1895 in San Mateo to Margaret Weir Bewick.  We have one picture which came from John and Margaret’s daughter, Helen, that we believe to be John Ryan.  If it is John, it would appear he arrived in Southern California (Los Angeles) before heading to Northern California.

Believed to be John William Ryan, photographed in Los Angeles

We also know that he was a carpenter and we were fortunate enough to obtain a picture from John's daugther, date unknown, of a construction crew that was marked on the back as "John Ryan, middle row, with mustache, holding hammer". 

Construction Crew:  John Ryan, middle row (with mustache) holding hammer

We don’t know much about him, but hoping genealogy DNA tests help identify relatives someday in the future.  The stories that came down through the family was that John left the family, being a bit of a womanizer.  

The 1910 US Federal Census has him in San Mateo, CA, and the 1900-1912 Voter’s Registration has him in San Mateo, age 43, Carpenter, Democrat.  By 1920, he was not in the same household as his wife Margaret and she lists herself as a widow.  We have not been able to verify John’s death records to date.  It would have been helpful if his name was a little more unique … there are a handful of “John Ryans” who died between 1910 and 1920; however, none of them included information which would have made it easy to confirm it was our John Ryan. 

John’s parents, siblings and other relatives remain a mystery for now.   I won’t give up…someday, I will break through this brick wall named John William Ryan.

UPDATE:  See posting #16 in 2017 -- We broke down the brick wall!

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