The first few generations of my female line were easy, as is usually the case. There's usually somebody around who knows their names. For me, my great-great aunt Betts could tell me her mother's name, but then she didn't know her grandmother's name on her mother's side. Her name was unknown for years, until I finally was able to make a trip to her hometown. My aunt Betts' mother, Katherine Garrity, my great-great grandmother, had left her hometown, Connersville, Indiana, when quite young, right after her mother died in 1905. Her older siblings dispersed, and the younger siblings went to live with their aunt Mary in Indianapolis, as evidenced in her obituary and census records. It's not quite clear where Katherine went at this time, as she is not in the 1910 census. But she did get married in Indianapolis in 1917, however, and lived there for the rest of her life.
My aunt Betts said of her mother and her siblings, "It's like they all left Connersville and wanted to forget it all." I've spoken to descendants of the other siblings and they know nothing of their past either. It's unclear what happened. Their father died in 1895 and their mother, Anna Walsh Garrity, cared for them on her own in Connersville. She is listed as a "washwoman" in the 1900 census, living with all eight children and a Thomas O'Donnell (probably related to her late husband, John, whose mother was an O'Donnell.) Anna's obituary praises her, "Despite her many trials and sorrows, she bravely cared for her little brood until the last."
I didn't find Anna's full name until I went to Connersville and found her obituary on microfilm. And I had found her first name in a census after finding the names of the children (Aunt Betts could tell me their names). The obituary said she was born in England in 1859. On another roll of microfilm I found Anna and John's marriage record, and found out her parents' names were Edward and Winifred. I made another trip to Connersville and visited St. Gabriel's Catholic Church, where the family was members. There I found Winifred's death date. On a stroke of luck I found their immigration record on Ancestry.com - Winifred immigrated with only Anna and Mary and a brother who soon died, presumably. Edward was already gone. The girls are listed in the 1870 census, with their mother listed as "Minnie," which, I am guessing, is a corruption of "Winnie." Winnie is listed as born in Ireland in 1837, but not even Anna's marriage record gives her maiden name, unless it was also Walsh. Beyond Winifred, I have no clue.
John Garrity & Anna Walsh's marriage record
If you've made it this far, you see how solid this particular brick wall is. If you have any tips or recommendations on finding more about Winifred's family, I would be ever so appreciative. I just want to know the story behind these mystery people, but that remains ever elusive.