Sunday, April 8, 2018


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Maiden Aunt(s) Part 1 of 3



My mother had 3 older sisters who remained single for their entire lives. They were dearly loved by her and she was spoiled by them. My mother was “Betty” to most but “Bettina” to her sisters.

Mary Elizabeth was the first born. Two years later Kathleen Francis was born, followed Alice Josephine, so that is the order in which I will talk about them.
Mary Elizabeth Connery was baptized on 29 March 1893 at St Columkille Catholic Church in Chicago, IL.[i]

According to Mary’s biography she went to school at St Mel in her home parish for grade school, moving on to St Mary of the Woods in Terre Haute, Indiana for her first year of high school. She had an Aunt, Sister Mary Regina, who was teaching there at the time. How ever the 1900 U S Census shows six-year-old Mary at St Joseph Academy in Adrian, MI.[ii] Her Uncle, Fr Michael Fleming, chaplain, is on the very next line. 

Mary graduated from St Joseph Academy in June of 1911 and returned home to take business classes and work for her father’s company. After taking time to dwell on her decision, Mary returned to Adrian, where she was received in the Order of St Dominic, taking the name of Sister Michael Joseph, after both her father and favorite uncle, she professed her vows on 22 August 1919, the same day her sister Alice was received into the order.[iii]

As a teaching Sister, SMJ (as she routinely signed herself), taught mostly in the Chicago and it’s suburbs with an occasional assignment in Michigan. Mostly she taught the upper elementary grades although she opened several new schools in Detroit, MI. When she returned to the Chicago area she taught fifth grade at St Edmund’s school in Oak Park for twelve years.  Later she would teach at Bishop Quarter school, a junior military school for boys at the grade school level while assisting in the library.

SMJ loved nature in all its glory and frequently took long walks to enjoy the beauty and identify the trees she saw. She was an English language purest and an advocate of precise enunciation. She ate slowly and walked daily, aware of the importance of taking care of her health. She was a lover of people, music and books.

In her 75th year, SMJ resided at St Edmund’s Convent for five years in a semi-retirement before moving to Maria Hall Health Care Center in Adrian for her last ten years.

As Sister Mary Alice Collins remarked at the Scripture Vigil for Sister Michael Joseph Connery, O.P., “She died as she lived, unobtrusively.”[iv]

She died 21 Dec 1984 and is buried in the cemetery at Adrian, MI.


[i] Illinois, Chicago Catholic Church Records 1833-1925, "FamilySearch.org," database with images birth and Baptism of Mary Elizabeth Connery.
[ii] Year: 1900; Census Place: Chicago Ward 28, Cook, Illinois; Page: 12; Enumeration District: 0851; Ancestry.com; online image.

[iii] From a copy of the biography of Sister Michael Joseph Connery, received from her sister 21 Dec 1984 as recorded in the Adrian Dominican Archives pages 1578-1580
[iv] ibid