Missing Persons SILVER ALERT

by | May 17, 2022 | Stories

Attention Readers:  If you like mysteries, you might like this real-life story. 

In preparation for a trip Scott and I were planning to Ireland in May 2001, I began tracing my Irish family roots, especially on my dad’s (Daniel Kenny) side.  We were going to look up living relatives in Ireland and I wanted to know as much as possible.

My dad’s dad, my grandfather Stephen Kenney (sometimes spelled Steven and sometimes spelled Kenny which is how my maiden name is spelled ) died from appendicitis in 1908 when my dad was 10 months old.  He was on his way from Havre, Mt to Great Falls, MT for medical care. I have a Havre, Montana newspaper article describing his death; but I’ve never seen a picture of him (not even to this day).  I started reaching out to other relatives and researching all sorts of things in preparation for our Ireland trip; but became fixated on finding out more about Grandpa Kenney.  Did a picture of him at any age exist anywhere?

My dad’s three older siblings were deceased; but I still wanted to see who might have inherited any information or pictures.  My dad’s sister Florence never married or had any children.  No help there.  My dad’s sister, my Aunt Estella, died but her son, my cousin Sidney, provided me the lovely picture of Grandma Mary (aka Marie) Collins Kenny taken with her 4 young children several years after her husband (my grandpa) passed away.

That left my dad’s brother Cyril Kenny (aka Uncle Buddy) who lived in Havre, Montana where my Grandmother Mary Collins Kenny also resided when living.  Would anyone connected to him have any Kenny family history or pictures especially of Grandpa Stephen Kenney? 

I knew that my Uncle Buddy’s wife, Aunt Virginia had an adopted daughter Arra; but I didn’t know anything about her.  I never knew her in any sort of a cousin relationship, and she was more the age of my older sisters.  We lived in Glasgow, Montana, and she lived several hours away in Havre, Montana.  What was the remote chance she might have any information? 

Who was Arra?  And where was she?  Was she still living?  What was her story?  My curiosity got the best of me distracting me enough that I started looking for Arra.  I had to find Arra.  Not entirely sure why I HAD to find her; but I just did. 

There was an extremely helpful lady (Virginia) who worked in the Hill County Court House in Havre, Montana with a keen interest and knowledge of genealogy.  She helped get me copies of obituary information related to Virginia and Cyril Kenny.  Arra, was listed as their survivor, along with her husband Kenneth Landau.  Ah ha! What could I find out about them?  Were they still living?  Who were they and what did they know about my family?

Cyril’s Obit (Uncle Buddy) stated  Arra and Kenneth Landau were from Los Angeles California.  I called and left messages for every Landau in California I could find.  Somewhere along the line, I found there were some Laundau’s in New York, too; so I did the same there, too.  I called and called.  Interestingly enough many called me back; but without any successful information. 

For some reason, I thought to inquire if Arra had graduated from Havre High School and if they had any contact information for her.  Wa La!  She was on a class reunion list with a Las Vegas address.  There was a phone listing in Las Vegas for Kenneth Landau; but alas it was unlisted!  I could not coax a phone number out of the “411” phone operator.” Remember “411 Information” phone operators?  There were no Google searches like we have now when I first started this search.

What now?  I wrote a letter Arra Landau at the Las Vegas address listed on the Havre High School Reunion list and waited for a reply.  And waited until I couldn’t wait any more.  I’m quite persistent and talked to my husband, Scott, about going to Vegas.  I just knew that Arra and Kenneth Landau had to be there, and I wanted to speak with them.  I knew I had found the right people.  I just knew.  I insisted we book a trip to Vegas immediately.  And off we flew.

Upon arriving in Vegas, we rented a car, and looked up and printed directions to the address I had for them.  This was before GPS as we know it today.  We found the address and when we pulled up in front of the house there was an elderly man carrying groceries out of the trunk of his car towards the house.  An elderly lady came out to help.  Oh my gosh.  Now what?  Is it Arra and Kenneth?  Will they talk to me?

They spotted me slowly walking up their driveway.  Kenneth asked me who I was etc…..  With Arra by his side, I asked if they were Kenneth and Arra Landau?  I explained who I was and that I’d written a letter to them; but didn’t get a reply.  Arra acknowledged receiving the letter, apologized profusely for not replying, and generously invited us in.  They were gracious , friendly, and very interesting. 

We were intrigued by their interest in animals.  Lots of birds, turtles, cats and dogs.  We sat and talked for a few hours.  We were fascinated to hear about Kenneth’s cartooning career consisting of Smurf and many other famous cartoons.  Arra told us about her nursing career.  They told us about their son who had been tragically murdered in California.  It was clear that they were grief stricken and not especially healthy.  They told us about their daughter Maranee, living in California; but it sounded like they didn’t get to see her often. 

Arra didn’t know if she had any pictures of my grandfather Stephen Kenney or any others that would be helpful to me.  It was also clear she would not be finding anything quickly or easily.  I was out of luck.    We stayed in touch for a few more years by writing a few letters and exchanging Christmas cards until they both passed away.  I hoped, of course that someday they might dig through their treasures and find something for me.  I found out about their deaths when Maranee dropped me note after she discovered my Christmas card to her parents.  

Some years later (approximately 2016), I decided to try finding Maranee, the daughter Arra of on social media.  I’m not sure what possessed me to see if I could find her since I wasn’t even working on any genealogy research.  By then the internet and Facebook were powerful tools.  I found Maranee and it was fascinating to exchange information about each other’s quest for family information.  Her mother’s (Arra) adoption before living with my Uncle Buddy was compelling.  Maranee was the sole survivor after her parents died.  She also grieved the loss of her murdered brother.  I wondered if she had stumbled across any pictures of my family.  I believe she has some pictures of my Uncle Cyril (her mom’s stepdad); but never found anything about his dad/my grandfather.  She is writing a book about her dad, the cartoonist Kenneth Landau, and while not my blood relative, his marriage to my “step” cousin Arra, his immense cartoon talents, and colorful life are fascinating.  See how easy it is to get side-tracked…

The picture below is my Grandmother Mary Collins Kenney with her four children a few years after her husband/my Grandfather Stephen Kenney died.  Genealogy research often takes a person on surprising journeys, especially if you’re curious like I am.  Most genealogy enthusiasts share the curiosity gene.  I continue to search for a picture of my grandfather Stephen Kenney.  Finding a childhood picture of Stephen Kenney with or without his family, a wedding picture or any other family picture of Stephen Kenney with my Grandmother Mary Collins would be golden.

I have the Ellis Island records (ship manifest) about Grandma Mary Collins coming from Abbeyfeale, Ireland without any other family members when she was high school age.  Her age is stated as 20; but we believe that is falsified and she may have been 14 or 17.  Deception about age for various reasons was common.  Stephen Kenney was the youngest of 11 children whose Irish family settled in Wisconsin.  Where and how did they meet?  How did they end up together and marry in Butte, Montana.  What took them to Havre, Montana to start their family?  Who knows anything more about Grandpa Stephen Kenney?  My search continues.

Can you help me find any childhood or adult pictures of my Grandfather Stephen/Steven Kenney aka Kenny who died in 1908 at the Havre, Montana train station? 

4 Comments

  1. What an interesting genealogy story! Sylvia, you are a determined and clever researcher. I have always been interested in genealogy but my sister and I never pursued it as we did not have much family history to start with. I’m sure you will pursue your family history and hopefully you will get the info you are looking for,

    Reply
    • Thank you Mary. It’s pretty easy to get started and addicted to genealogy research, especially if you’re curious by nature. We can talk more about it and even get you started if you really wanted. I have another Big story brewing since last summer. This one is a personal doozy and nearly knocked me off my feet when first discovered a year ago.

      Reply
  2. Is the Mary Collins Kenney in your story married a second time to Thomas McShane in Havre? If so they were across the street neighbors of ours. She was called Dugan??

    Reply
  3. That is correct. Please tell me how you came across my story and do you know anything about her first husband, my grandfather Stephen Kenney?

    Reply

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