Tag Archives: black sheep

The Keeley Motor and the Keeley Cure

Keeley “cousins” — frauds or visionaries???

It’s nearly impossible to research the Keely/Keeley surname for any length of time without coming across articles and information on John W. Keely and his infamous motor and Dr. Leslie Keeley and his nearly equally infamous gold cure for alcohol addiction. Both of these gentlemen and their dubious “inventions” garnered a lot of press in the late 1800s. I am certainly finding this to be the case with Historical Newspaper collection on Genealogybank. Luckily the search options provide an excluded words field, so by excluding motor and cure, a lot of these articles can be omitted from the results!

Just for the record, at this point, neither of these gentlemen appear to connect to my line of German Keely/Keeleys. I have found one tree on WorldConnect that says the father of Leslie Keeley was a Thomas Keeley who was born in Ireland and apparently immigrated to Canada sometime in the mid-1830s. My German Keely/Keelys came to Pennsylvania about 100 years before that. I do have some evidence to suggest that they may have been one of Palatinate families who first relocated to Ireland before coming to America, so I suppose there is a possible connection way back. That, however, is beyond the scope of what I am currently working on.

The ancestry of John W. Keeley, of motor fame, has been much harder to pin down. He was from the Philadelphia area. Supposedly his parents died when he was young and he was raised by his grandparents. Census data from 1880 shows that both his parents were born in PA. There is probably a pretty good chance he is related to my line, but I haven’t yet been able to make a connection. Possibly due to the dubious (some may say fraudulent) nature of his motor, articles and obituaries written about other Keeleys and Keelys who were his contemporaries do not claim him as a relative. And so the search continues!!


Several months back, I wrote on this blog about how I had decided not to renew my membership to Ancestry.com. Well, with the money I’m saving from that, I decided to subscribe to genealogybank. Genealogybank is a collection of scanned historical newspapers, recent obituaries, and some other content. I was particularly interested in the historical newspapers and the obituaries. I was familiar with genealogybank and actually had access to some of the historical newspaper content through my Godfrey Scholar subscription a few years ago. I also had access to genealogybank when they made their content free for a few days as a promotion a while back. And so I was very anxious to plug in a few of the surnames I research and see what I could find.

First off, I was able to find a very good account of the execution of William Henry Howe. Continue reading

Murder and Mayhem in the Family Tree

This may seem like a strange topic to post so close to the holidays, but it deals with some information that I have just recently found. It was on my mind, so I decided to post it now rather than later.

For the most part my ancestors and their relatives led very normal, ordinary lives. Most of them were law-abiding, upstanding citizens. Not to say they were perfect. Naturally, there were some scandalous behaviors and skeletons in the closets. There were children who were born (or at least conceived) out-of-wedlock. There was also the 2x great uncle who died of exposure when he fell down drunk coming home late one cold winter night and was not found until morning! Tragic, but not criminal.

Every once and a while, however, I actually do come across someone in my extended family tree who finds themselves on the wrong side of the law. My latest discovery happened just a few days ago. I was looking through an online newspaper collection for obituaries from the late 1940’s when a headline about a murder arrest caught my eye. I was pretty sure the person being arrested was in my database, and sure enough he was. He was my Dad’s second cousin! Continue reading