Sunday, May 21, 2017

Brick Wall Ancestor | #5 Stephen Colfer

We all have them! Those stubborn ancestors that refuse to come out of hiding. No matter how much coaxing we do! Well, I think it's time to bring them out of the shadows - put their redacted story out there - another piece of the puzzle could be lurking just around the (cyber) corner, in someone's basement, or closet, or sitting in a box on a bookshelf ...... You never, ever know where that loose chink will manifest, the one that allows you to push out one brick, then the next. Food for thought. So without further ado....

Brick Wall Ancestor | #5 Stephen Colfer

Maybe not so much a Brick Wall as a Missing Person, this one will be short and sweet. Stephen seemed to appear briefly as a grown man and then disappear. His name doesn't help - at least it's not John Smith - but an Irishman named Stephen Colfer? A dime a dozen!

What I know:

Stephen Colfer was born about 1840 in Wexford County, Ireland. His parents were John Colfer* and Margaret Walsh. 

Stephen married Catherine (aka Mary, aka Jane) O'Brien on August 10th 1859 in Ontario County, Ontario, Canada. 

See below for expanded view

Groom - Residence - Birth Place - Father - Mother - Bride - Bride Residence

Birth Place - Father - Mother - Residence - Marriage Date
The couple had four children born in Canada, then about 1868 the family immigrated to Evanston, IL where their last two children were born.

Stephen shows up on only ONE census - 1870. Evanston City Directories did not begin until 1880 - so no help there!

In 1876 Stephen's wife left him and the children and moved to Chicago. They never divorced. Catherine (aka Mary, aka Jane) married again, a man named William Walking. When Catherine returned to Evanston in 1878 to try to get her children, Stephen discovered what had happened and filed charges against his estranged wife.

Story About Stephen Colfer and Wife

I have not discovered the outcome of the Criminal Court case yet. That might hold some clues.

Stephen was in Evanston as late as 1878 when he filed the warrants, but he is not on the 1880 census.

Most of the children were on the 1880 census, the girls working as domestic servants, the boys were boarders working labor jobs. So, not living with either their father or their mother. They were mostly all under the age of 15.  

Catherine (aka Mary, aka Jane) went on to have three more children with her 'husband' William Walking. I have not found a divorce record for her and Stephen.

Stephen Colfer, it seems, disappeared into the night, never to be seen again.

So many questions! Did he go back to Canada? Ireland? Get remarried and have a second family? Die? When did he even immigrate to Canada? As a child? Adult? With family? Alone?

There is a Stephen Colfer who is registered to vote in Chicago in 1890. The record states that this Stephen had only been in Illinois 10 years, 'our' Stephen would have been in Illinois 20 years by this time. Still, something to look into further, perhaps.  


Stephen Colfer b. abt 1840 Wexford County, Ireland d. UNK
                 m. 10 Aug 1859 Catherine (aka Mary, aka Jane) O'Brien Ontario, Canada

  • Genevieve "Jennie" Colfer b. 9 Nov 1862 Canada d. 21 Jul 1948 Chicago IL m. James Bixler
  • John Colfer b. abt 1863 Canada d. aft 1910
  • Ellen "Nellie" Colfer b. Jan 1865 Canada d. 15 Sep 1940 Chicago IL m. John McCabe
  • Thomas Colfer b. Jan 1868 Canada d. 24 Oct 1943 Chicago IL m. Mary Ann Nally
  • James Colfer b. 1869 Evanston IL d. 24 Mar 1934 Chicago IL
  • Mary Colfer b. abt 1872 Evanston IL d. aft 1930 m. William Raftree 

*John Colfer, Stephen's father, is found on several Irish records available on Ancestry and Findmypast. I believe I found him on Griffith's Valuation and in some Parish records for Wexford County. Irish research is new to me, I may learn more as I dig deeper. 

©2017 Anne Faulkner -, All Rights Reserved

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