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Riley Family Mysteries

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Hey Riley Cousins!

My name is Aaron McGowan, and I live with my wife and children in New York state. My mother is Ruth Harriet Riley (1959 California - living), her father was George Earl Riley (1925 Ohio - 2015 California), his father was Justain H Riley Sr (1865 Kendallville - 1940 Ohio), and his father was Andrew Riley (1824 Switzerland? - 1868 Kendallville).

FindaGrave.com shows Andrew being buried in the Old Cemetery in Kendallville, Indiana but there is no information about a GPS location or photo. This is more of a burial ground than a cemetery and there are no plot numbers. A kind local genealogist verified that she does not have any record of that name in the Old Cemetery, but says there are a few stones in the vicinity of his in-laws (Bixler) that are not legible. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/177839673/andrew-riley I have contacted the contributor for this memorial through the website, but have not received any reply. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/177839673/andrew-riley: accessed 29 September 2022), memorial page for Andrew Riley (1824–15 Feb 1868), Find a Grave Memorial ID 177839673, citing Old Kendallville Cemetery, Kendallville, Noble County, Indiana, USA; Maintained by DBS (contributor 47874747) .

We see from the Noble County records that Andrew Riley married Anna Bixler (1841 Noble County - 1923 Ohio) on 27 December 1860 (recorded on 01 January 1861). After Andrew died only 7 years later, Anna married James Buckmaster and relocated to Ohio. We see her first name elsewhere as Annis, with a potential middle name Mary. We believe that her father was David F Bixler (1803 - 1872, lived entirely in Noble County) and that her mother was Elizabeth Frieze (spelling uncertain, 1809 Virgina - 1870 Indiana). I have seen photos of David and Elizabeth's stones in the Old Cemetery.

We do not know a definitive occupation for Andrew Riley, nor do we have any immigration records. The only possible census record we have is 1860 where a physician of the same age named "Andrew Rily" is boarding in Kendallville in the household of James and Elizabeth Nellis.

We believe that Andrew emigrated from the region of Switzerland because of Anna's later statements in census records that the father of her children was born in Switzerland. It is possible that he modified his last name to sound more Americanized. I have seen variations of Riley that look like Reilly, Reily, Reilley, Righly, Rigly, Rigley, Reichly, etc. but we have not located any definitive record of Andrew's immigration to the US. Riley is a fairly common Irish surname which has complicated our search. Switzerland was not unified as the country we know of today until 1848, so he may have left prior to that organization. This Andrew Riley has the correct age, arriving in New York in 1846, but nationality was not recorded: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVRQ-8KVG

Any old newspaper records could be illuminating. I did find an 1867 Chicago newspaper article that recounted an Andrew Riley receiving "a severe blow on the head" during an altercation at the Fort Wayne depot, which is only 27 miles from Kendallville. This article ran 7 months prior to Andrew's death date. If there are any Noble County death records from this era that I could research, I would appreciate it.

Thank you so much in advance for any information you may be able to provide, or any resources you can point me to for more information about my great-great-grandfather. He died 57 years before the birth of my grandfather George Earl Riley, who tried for years in vain to learn more about Andrew Riley's possible heritage in Switzerland (including a trip to Europe dedicated to this purpose).

I've copied below every relevant instance of Riley or Bixler from the Whan site, to record work that I've completed and give you possible clues.

I would love to chat with anyone that has studied this mysterious pairing of Andrew Riley and Anna Bixler. The Bixlers were a prolific family among the first to settle in Kendallville, Indiana (hence the named Bixler Lake). Most of my Riley kin live in the Sacramento Valley area of California.

I ran across a fascinating snippet of their life together via the 1919 passport application of Ella Elizabeth (Riley) Tryon, the eldest child of Anna and Andrew. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1174/images/USM1490_1000-0263?pId=356425 . She was born in Chicago, Illinois, which indicates some venture away from Kendallville for at least a year, prior to Emma's birth in Kendallville. Ellen married Alonzo Tryon (of Kendallville) and was widowed and living in Akron, Ohio at the time of the passport application at age 58. She was accompanying her son, Jesse A. Tryon, to a Shriner's Convention in Havana, Cuba. I cannot find any records of this convention, which would have taken place in late 1919 or early 1920.

Emma J. Riley (age 17) was living as of the 1880 census in the household of Annis Bixler-Riley-Buckmaster and James Buckmaster in Kendallville, Indiana. I do not have any record of her death or life beyond that census.

Anyone here descended from Ellen Elizabeth (Riley) Tryon, Emma J. Riley, Franklin Andrew Riley (married Emma Fordemwalt), or Justain Henry Riley Sr (married and had children with Elizabeth E. Penn, Nora May Ferguson, and Ruth Ellen Ashley) ?? This peculiar spelling of Justain has persisted through my family line to some of my uncles and cousins.

Best regards, Aaron


1850 Census: Bixler David 45, Elizabeth 30, male 15, David 12, Albert ? 9 [ANNIS? The name is illegible, and the sex is listed as M], Elizabeth 7. 288b-122 John 5, Benjamin 3. 289-122

1860 Census: Rily Andrew 35. 247-1147 [ correct age for my Andrew. occupation is listed as 'physician' ] Bixler David 58, Elizabeth 50, David 21, Ayes ? 19 [ANNIS with strangely erased F sex overwritten as M], John 15, Franklin 13, Sophia 7. 197-746

Marriage: - Riley Andrew, --, Bixler Anna, --, --, 1 Jan 1861 [this is the filed date. marriage date was 27 Dec 1860.] - Anna Bixler, in the Indiana, U.S., Marriages, 1810-2001 Name: Anna Bixler Gender: Female Event Type: Marriage Registration (Marriage) Marriage Date: 27 Dec 1860 Marriage Place: Indiana, United States Spouse: Andrew Riley Page: 139 FHL Film Number: 001704899

1866 Enumeration of white males [Indiana] - Riley Andrew, age 27, 10 (Wayne Township) [ this is not the correct age! I haven't seen this document (just the index info) but unless it was a major typo it could indicate Andrew was not in Indiana two years prior to his death? ]

1870 Census: - Riley Anna 28, Ellen 8, Emma 6, Justin 4, Franklin 1. 161b-11

Probate record from the Whan site: http://gen.nobleco.lib.in.us/Noblepage.htm [I have a digital copy of this probate record, with fascinating detail of the items in their home.] - Riley Andrew, d. 2-15-1868. Fd: 6-9-1871. Sp: Anna.

1880 Census: [ Andrew's children living in the household of Anna and her second husband James Buckmaster ] - Riley Justin 14, Franklin 11, Emma 17. 316b-55


posted by Aaron McGowan Ph.D.

Categories: Family Mysteries