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The story of my 3x great-grandfather and grandmother Owen O’Neill and Ellen is slowly piecing itself together. For a couple years, I sat with many references to the collections of San Mateo County Genealogical Society unable to view the original sources. Eager to access information about my O’Neill family, but without means to travel to California, I employed the help of my good friend Deborah Sweeney (www.genealogylady.net) who mentioned she would be able to squeeze in a trip to the California State Library, which has microfilm copies of the San Mateo County Gazette. Owen and Ellen were among the very first settlers in Belmont township. The obituaries proved to be on the short side, but as always, there is tons of evidence to glean from these newspaper columns.

San Mateo County Gazette (28 Apr 1871), page 3, column 2. Accessed at California State Library.

San Mateo County Gazette (28 Apr 1871), page 3, column 2. Accessed at California State Library.

Based on the index, I presumed his date of death was 28 Apr 1871, but with the original source I corrected that date to the 23rd. He was called by his title of Capt. Owen O’Neil because he piloted some kind of vessel around San Francisco Bay. According the the column, he had been a sufferer of inflammatory rheumatism for almost a decade leading to having no mobility the last three of years. A great deal of pain and a tough condition for many today, “rheumatism” is an obsolete diagnosis of severe joint pain. Owen left Belmont, California as a respected member of the community.

San Mateo County Gazette (4 Aug 1883), page 3, column 1. Accessed at CSL.

San Mateo County Gazette (4 Aug 1883), page 3, column 1. Accessed at CSL.

Ellen died suddenly 1 Aug 1883 and was determined as blood poisoning. Based on the sophistication of medicine and diagnoses at the time, this should be taken with a grain of salt. The obituary mentions only one child, my second great-grandfather, Matthew James “Mat” O’Neill. I don’t know a whole lot about his firm Emmett & O’Neill. As always, I am left with more questions than answers, but I have more clues to help understand my Irish-American history. Thanks again to Deborah for her research services and be sure to visit her website (www.genealogylady.net) to learn more about her amazing contributions to genealogy. I did strike gold recently looking through the deeds of San Mateo County on familysearch.org and will be posting more about the O’Neill family in the near future.

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Jake Fletcher, “Obituary of Owen O’Neill and wife Ellen Russell,” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 8 Oct 2015. https://fletcherfamilytree.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/obituary-of-owen-oneill-and-wife-ellen-russell/

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