The McGrath Family

It’s been a long time since I wrote on this blog, but genealogist and blogger Amy Johnson Crow created a challenge to fellow genealogists called 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks and I’m up for the challenge.

I have a fondness for the McGrath Family.  I never met any of them but through researching my wife’s side of the family I learned of their tragic story.  Anna Kelly was the second oldest of six children born to Rose Keenan on February 9, 1871, in Allegheny Pennsylvania.  She was baptised on February 26, 1871, at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Pittsburgh.  She grew up with sisters Catherine, Rose and Mary and brothers Cornelius and John in Western Pennsylvania until about 1895 when the family moved back to Chicago (Rose Keenan married Edward Kelly in Chicago in 1869, daughter Catherine was born in Chicago January 2, 1870).  Anna’s father Edward died in Pennsylvania around 1875 when he was about 41.

Anna married Edward McGrath on June 29, 1900, at St. Ailbe Catholic Church on Chicago’s Southeast Side.


Anna’s sister Rose left Chicago to live in Sidney, Nebraska prior to Anna’s marriage.  According to the Sidney Telegraph newspaper, Anna regularly visited sister Rose in Sidney.

Anna and Edward had two girls, Loretta born August 21, 1905, and Bernice born Jan 3, 1914.  Anna and Edward adored their girls.

On October 17, 1918, Anna became a victim of the Spanish flu which ravaged the nation. While comparing notes with Thomas McClory a few years ago, he noted, “The day of Anne’s death from this disease, October 17, 1918, became known as Black Thursday in Chicago when 381 people died and nearly 1,200 more contracted the illness in a single 24-hour period.”

Loretta and her sister Bernice, along with their grandmother Rose Keenan Kelly,  moved to Cheyenne County Nebraska to live with Anna’s sister Rose and her husband James McNulty.  Not long after the move to Nebraska Rose and James McNulty, Loretta, Bernice and Rose Keenan moved to Denver.

On April 30, 1922, tragedy strikes again as Loretta and Bernice’s father Edward Kelly was killed in a train accident.

Anna always wanted her daughter Loretta to be a Nun.  Loretta followed that path and became a Sister Mary Bernice in the late 1920s.  She watched over her sister Bernice as told in her story below.


1906 – Anna Kelly McGrath, Loretta McGrath (left) and William McClory (right) courtesy Thomas McClory collection.

Sister Mary Bernice

About 1927 – Sister Mary Bernice McGrath (Loretta McGrath) courtesy Thomas McClory collection.

The following story of Sister Mary Bernice was sent to me by the Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati.  It describes the strength and faith of Anna’s daughter, Sister Mary Bernice.




Anna Kelly McGrath is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, 2755 W 111th Street (Section 50 Block – Lot 692 Grave 3)

Edward McGrath is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, 2755 W 111th Street (Section 43 Block – Lot 35 Grave 1) 

Sister Mary Bernice McGrath is buried at Sisters of Charity Cemetery

Bernice McGrath is buried at Arlington National Cemetery (Section 60 Site 7409)

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