Laurence Joseph Kelly or was it Lawrence Joseph Kelly or was it Landers Kelly

Article Covers
South Australia
New Thebarton
Year range
1860 - 1908

Looking for Laurence Kelly and his ancestors

In tracing my ancestors the first roadblock I faced and the one closest to me in time was the one posed my great grandfather Laurence Joseph KELLY. The initial documentation I had in hand included some notes from my father Richard William KELLY and a copy of the Advertiser newspaper article about his accidental death on p.6 of the edition of the 8th September 1908 describing his death on the 7th, the day before. He was a driver of a horse drawn tram and just minutes from the end of shift he fell out of the driver’s seat and under the wheels. A copy of the story can be found on the West Torrens Historical Society web site but his name is spelt Lawrence with a 'W' in the article. This is a variation in spelling I have also found with his son Lawrence Patrick KELLY.

The problems of tracing Laurence Joseph KELLY were variations in spelling and variations between official records in dates. For example his grave site at West Terrace Cemetery (Catholic Section, Western Road Path C lot 162 [look for a green wheelie bin]) lists his age as 39, the same age as the Advertiser article, his death certificate lists his age as 37 and his marriage certificate suggests he would’ve been 36 at his death nearly 13 years latter. The death certificate specified his place of birth as Bowden SA but there is no record of his birth. This was not unusual for mid 19th century Irish Catholics who were actually discouraged from registering births by church authorities and it was only in 1874 that birth registration became compulsory. In addition there was the possibility that Laurence and his father Patrick (mentioned as the groom’s father on marriage certificate) may have arrived from interstate or abroad. Death certificates are renowned as listing the most inaccurate of officially registered information.

First stop was the South Australian Genealogical and Heraldry Society. They have some microfiche supplied from the Catholic diocese relating to some Catholic parish baptisms. The collection is not complete, it not indexed and is in a somewhat disarrayed order and the quality of the imaging varies from fair to very bad. I could not find a Laurence for parish baptism or parish confirmation but I did find a confirmation record for his wife Agnes GALE and her sister Helena on the 23 December 1898. The GALEs were Protestants. The next stop was the Catholic diocesan archives. Since the allegations of child abuse the Adelaide diocese discourages family history searches unless other avenues have failed to yield information and they charge a high hourly rate for a commissioned search. They rarely allow onsite searches from family historians. This yielded no more information on a baptism of Laurence but the marriage record from St Patrick’s Church in Adelaide showed that Laurence had been resident in Port Pirie at the time of the marriage in September 1895. I am curious to know about his life in Port Pirie.

Fortunately the rootsweb forum has a few very keen volunteers who proved to be very useful, especially one Rhonda. I posted a thread about Laurence Joseph KELLY ( asking for advice. Using the CD with SA births 1842-1906 Rhonda first found a seventh son of Laurence Joseph KELLY, unknown to my father or me called Frederick William KELLY. He was born 8 June 1904 and died December 1904. His death was not registered. A funeral notice appearing in the Advertiser 28 December 1904 is the evidence of his death. Rhonda also found a Sarah KEOUGH nee SLATTERY who was widowed by a John KEOUGH and then had married a Patrick KELLY on 25 October 1869. Sarah KEOUGH (nee SLATTERY) had 2 children at Bowden with a Patrick KELLY including one Landers KELLY on 5 January 1872.

I was not really convinced but entertained the possibility. Above all was the problem of verifying or falsifying the hypothesis. I started looking through past copies of the Advertiser and was lucky enough to find some references to the death of Laurence Joseph KELLY at the National Library site digitised newspaper archives at ( There was the story of the tram fatality of course and some death and funeral notices. One was placed by the Adelaide Court Foresters Lodge advising members to assemble at the corner of Hindley Street and West Terrace for the Funeral procession. Laurence had been a member for only 10 months and the waiting time for the mutual funeral benefit was 12 months but in view of the horrible circumstances of his death and the fact that wife Agnes had also died soon afterwards on 20 October 1908 leaving behind 6 orphan boys the Foresters Lodge waved the waiting period and approved the full benefit of £5 each, £10 in all. In another news item; at a meeting of the Thebarton Town Council the commissioner of the tramways committee “deplored the recent accident on the Thebarton Line which terminated fatally for driver Laurence Kelly”. The most interesting find however was a memorial notice which was placed one year after the event by his sister Mary and her husband George Day.


See (The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889-1931), Wednesday 20 October 1909, page 8), (The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889-1931), Friday 20 October 1911, page 8) and also (The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889-1931), Thursday 7 September 1911, page 8).

At the turn of the 20th century Patricks and Kellys were common names. Here was a little something that could sort the wheat from the chaff. Laurence (Larry) had a sister Mary married to a George DAY. Now I was looking for a Mary KELLY married to a George DAY with a father of the bride called Patrick at about the 1860-70s. I posted to my thread on the Rootsweb forum with this find and Rhonda came back with some results pretty quickly.


A sister Mary confirms the parents were Patrick KELLY and Sarah formerly KEOUGH nee SLATTERY, so "Landers" was definitely your Laurence. The KELLY/KEOUGH marriage and deaths sent earlier were his parents.

These are the records related to this family.


South Australian Births 1842-1906 (c) SAGHS


Date: 1873-12-03

Father: Patrick KELLY

Mother: Sarah SLATTERY

Birth Place/Residence: Bowden

District Code: Hin

Book: 129 / Page: 348

South Australian Marriages, Registrations 1842-1916

Groom: George DAY

Bride: Mary Alice Sarah KELLY

Date: 1896-02-15

Groom Age: 21

Status: S

Groom's Father: John DAY

Bride Age: 22

Status: S

Bride's Father: Patrick KELLY

Place: Res of Archbishop Adelaide

District: Ade

Book/Page: 186/576

KEOUGH marriage

South Australian Marriages, Registrations 1842-1916

Groom: John KEOGH

Bride: Sarah SLATTERY

Date: 1861-04-21

Groom Age: 26

Status: N

Groom's Father: John KEOGH

Bride Age: 23

Status: S

Bride's Father: Thomas SLATTERY

Place: St Patrick Adelaide

District: Ade

Book/Page: 46/303

South Australian Deaths Registrations 1842 to 1915


Date: 1867-03-02

Age: 30y

Status: N

Relative: (not recorded)

Residence: Bowden

Death Place: Bowden

District Code: Ade

Book: 26 / Page: 327

Earlier Rhonda had posted in the thread the following.

PARENTS marriage?

South Australian Marriages, Registrations 1842-1916

Groom: Patrick KELLY

Bride: Sarah KEOUGH

Date: 1869-10-25

Groom Age: 26

Status: S

Groom's Father: Laurence KELLY

Bride Age: 34

Status: W

Bride's Father: Thomas SLATTERY

Place: St Laurence Church North Adelaide

District: Ade

Book/Page: 81/161

Rhonda’s hunch about Sarah SLATTERY/KEOUGH had been on the money. Rhonda also has a likely death record for Sarah KELLY. I am somewhat sceptical of this one because her age is too young. I think Sarah may have died under still another name. From the information above we can deduct that Patrick KELLY was born in c. 1843 and Sarah SLATTERY was born in c. 1835. Sarah was definitely not born in South Australia but the story with Patrick is still good hunting ground. We know this Patrick KELLY had a father called Laurence KELLY. This is the extent of my knowledge of the KELLY line at the present time but I will be searching further if possible.

With both of the KELLY grandparents were already dead the 6 boys would have been brought up by the protestant William and Elizabeth GALE and I believe this may explain why of the boys only Harry married in a Catholic Church while the others including my grandfather Cyril married Protestants. My research has shown a pattern of ancestors jumping over the Catholic/Protestant fence and back again and in several different lines. Agnes GALE had converted to Catholicism when she married Laurence and most of their boys jumped back again.