After reading the wonderful letter shared with me by Jonnie, and after reviewing her family tree at Ancestry I set out to dig out what I could find out about Robert Emmett Lenahan. The following time line was constructed from Jonnie's information, census enumerations, marriage records, city directories and Robert's Pension Application (for the supposed service in the Spanish American War).
First note, a surname with a vowel every other letter will challenge your creative spelling. Lenahan, Linahan, Linehan, Lanahan, and so forth - - thank goodness for wild cards.
So, lets see if I can build a time line for Robert, more information on the sources available upon request.
1861, Birth, full date of January 1, 1861 and conflicting information of birthplace of Memphis Tennessee from the Pension Application.
1870 U.S. Census of Range 5, Marshall, Mississippi, Post Office: Byhalia, Robert E. Lenahan, age 10, born Mississippi is found in the household of Henry and Maria Lenahan, both of whom were born in Ireland (noting that the enumerator first indicated that Henry and Maria were both born in North Carolina.) This information matches that from Jonnie's uncle Benjamin's letter, that they were born in Ireland and that they lived in Byhalia.
1880 U.S. Census - - still hunting for him.
From the data base at Ancestry: U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (all further references to directories came from the same data base.)
1888, Memphis, Tennessee: Robert E Lenahan, 176 Linden, occupation, fireman stmr. Noting, he was not living with any other Lenahan family members. Also note, occupation shown as fireman, which matches Jonnie's uncle Benjamin's letter.
September 29, 1896, marriage to one Mrs. Elizabeth Finley in Shelby County, Tennessee. She will later be identified in Robert's pension application as Lizzie Snodgrass. (Shelby County has lots of wonderful records online, digitized, ooo, laa laa.)
1897 Memphis, Tennessee, City Directory, Robert E Lenahan, 34 Exchange extd S, occupation: Laborer City Eng Dept.
1898 Memphis, Tennessee, City Directory, Robert E Lenahan, 82 Robeson, occupation: Laborer
1900 United States Federal Census, Memphis Ward 18, Shelby, Tennessee, Robert E Lenahan 39, birthplace, Mississippi and Lizzie 44. Marital Status:Married, Marriage Year: 1896, Father's Birthplace: Ireland; Mother's Birthplace: Ireland
1902 We find a reference to Robert Emmett in the data base at Ancestry called UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960. The data base comes from the National Archives of London, England. This reference is to a passenger list from 1902 where a Robert Emmett Lenahan, electrician, aged 39 is aboard the ship Southwark, headed back to New York City. If you check the dates of the Boer War, which Jonnie's uncle Benjamin mentions in his letter, you will find that the end date is 1902. Here is a short page at Wikipedia.
1910 United States Federal Census, Civil District 6, Shelby, Tennessee, Robert E. Lenahan, age 46, Birth Year: 1864, Birthplace: Mississippi, Single, living in the household of Madison F. Mathews, occupation, hired man, Father's Birthplace: Ireland; Mother's Birthplace: Ireland. Note, Lizzie (Elizabeth) is not living in this household.
1904 to 1910 We also learn from Robert's Pension Application that Robert and Lizzie are reportedly divorced, either in 1904 or in 1910. We find listings for Lizzie, or Elizabeth Lenahan, WIDOW in Memphis Tennessee directories from 1904 through 1933. In the 1934 directory she is listed as Mrs. Elizabeth Lenahan with no reference to Robert. Records for a said divorce have not been searched for.
1918 Robert E. Lenahan marries my ancestress, Lorena Estelle Eley Norsworthy Dews Harlow, their marriage has been found on two indexes, one for Norfolk, Virginia and one for Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County, North Carolina. The Pension application papers claim that the marriage took place in North Carolina. This marriage record will be ordered soon, certified, directly from the county, as soon as I can get a money order procured.
1920 U.S. Census, Washington Magisterial District, Norfolk County, Virginia as follows: Robert Leenahan, age 59, married, born Tennessee, parents both born in Ireland, laborer, public works; Lorena, wife, age 53, married, born Virginia, both parents born Virginia, running boarding house.
1930 to 1931. Lorena's Widow Pension Application in 1931 reveals that Robert E. Lenahan died in New Orleans, Louisiana January 18, 1930. Several searches of indexes covering this area have not revealed any death, various spellings have been checked. Either the death was not recorded, it was recorded with a spelling I have not hit upon yet or he did not actually die in New Orleans. But, her application does match the family tradition revealed in Jonnie's uncle Benjamin's letter.
We have yet to discover a burial place for Robert.
For the record, Robert's pension application was denied on grounds that his service could not be proven. Of course, Lorena's widow's pension application was also denied on the same grounds.
* The disclaimer, I have a subscription to Ancestry.com for which I pay the current fees. They have not asked me to review their services, good or bad. Please refer to my Disclaimer page.
** The research continues, I am sure there will be new findings, and/or findings reported here that may be proven in error. Such is the nature of research. One step forward, 1.5 steps sideways.