View Full Version : IL IL - Mary Agnes Moroney, 2, Chicago, 15 May 1930

02-09-2010, 03:30 PM
I found an interesting cold case online while browsing through old newspapers. On May 15th, 1930 Mary Agnes Moroney was kidnapped by a woman named Julia Otis who claimed to be a social worker. In 1952 an article was published claiming Mary Agnes Moroney had been found alive in California going by the name Mary McClelland. Mrs. Moroney had doubts as to weather the woman really was Mary Agnes though. Well I did a little more research and found that DNA tests were done and it was proven that Mary McClelland and Mary Agnes Moroney are not the same woman.






02-09-2010, 04:40 PM
A quick check of the Social Security Death Index turns up a Mary A. Otis, born 1928, who received her Social Security card in Ohio (not too far from IL), and died in the Phoenix area in 2001. When Mary was taken, it is certain her name was changed. These kinds of name changes often preserve something of the person's original name. Assuming the kidnapper's last name was really Otis, if she kept Mary it would be reasonable to assume that she would have let the child keep first and middle names with which she was familiar.

Due to a legal matter, I recently had to prove my ancestry. I can tell you, it was very easy to change an identity in the 30s. Since adults were applying for Social Security cards and documentation was often scarce, one could adopt a new name through SSI. My father did it...he only changed his middle name, but still, that would not be so easy today.

06-07-2010, 04:19 PM
My husband is Mary Agnes Moroney's nephew. I was suprised to see anyone outside of our family has heard about this case. I have been helping my husband do reasearch on Mary's kidnapping and have found some crazy things. On the SSI Death Index I found a woman named Julia Otis who died in California in 1999. This same woman owned property in both Chicago and California and has since the 1930's when Mary was taken. The kidnapper said in the note she was taking Mary to California. Sable you are correct when you say that DNA has proven that Mary McClelland is not Mary Agnes. My husband's Uncles took the test using DNA from Mary McClelland's children and a granddaughter. There was no match. This is one of the oldest unsolved kidnapping's that the FBI ever investigated. They got involved the day after Mary was taken when they got the note from the kidnapper saying she was taking her to California. Only 3 of Mary's 7 siblings are still alive my husband and I trying to find out what happened to Mary for them. The FBI and the cold case detectives in Chicago have both been very helpful giving all they have left on the case but lots of stuff is missing. The note from the kidnapper and another one they got a few weeks later from the kidnapper's cousin are both gone. Does anyone know how I got about finding the relatives of the woman who died in California whose name was Julia Otis ( she was the right age for the kidnapper)? I would appreciate any help or advice anyone can give us! Thanks

Laurie Moroney

06-09-2010, 12:45 AM
Hi Shamrock, welcome to WS! Thank you for posting here!
I have a question:
How sure is your family that the lady's name was Julia Otis? I'm just thinking she wasn't using her real name maybe?
And in case it she was actually somewhat honest and that was her name - you can start looking at sites like the one at the link below and kind of glean information on possible family members:


I hope this helps you in some way!

02-07-2011, 02:59 AM
I have listed Mary Agnes Moroney on the Doenetwork...I am waiting on other famly members to give me the pictures of Mary Agnes(there are only 2) so I can list her on other websites. We still crave any infornation anyone has about the disappearance of Mary Agnes Moroney she disappeared on May 15, 1930. Please E-mail me at kissmeimirish5374@yahoo.om or contact Detective McCarthy at the Cold Case Files of the Chicago Police Department at 1-312-746-9690. If Detective McCarthy is not available please talk to any other detective available..Thank You

The Moroney Family

05-05-2011, 04:14 AM
Does anyone know how I got about finding the relatives of the woman who died in California whose name was Julia Otis ( she was the right age for the kidnapper)? I would appreciate any help or advice anyone can give us! Thanks

Laurie Moroney

Hi Shamrock/Laurie;

Have you tried Ancestry.com? There is an amazing amount of info on the site. You have to join to effectively access the info, but I was able to for 3 months at what in my opinion was a very reasonable price for unlimited access to all US records. (it was just a little over 50$). I found out an incredible amount about my family & My husband's, with very little starting info to go on.

It does look like the Julia M Otis (1906-1999) you are referring to on the Social Security Death Index, is on the ancestry site. Because my membership has expired, I would have to join again to get into the records, but it looks as though she may be there, born in 1906, (one record says "about 1907" for her birth year, but this is not unusual for some of the old records they have on the site).

She was living in Cook County Illinois at the time of the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses. If you join you can look at clear photocopies of all the records on the site. You will see names of parents and siblings, sometimes other family members, and neighbors at the time of each census.

The site also has other records such as birth, marriage, obits, etc. sometimes even photos and family trees if other members have posted them. Depending on the individual, sometimes there is more info on some folks than on others, but often there is at least something worthwhile to find.

The searches you do on the site can be modified and refined to include or leave out some of the info so the search isn't too narrow and results don't get "shut out". For example, leaving out the middle initial or exact birth date might be best at first because all the old records might not include that info. (I had to find this out through trial and error when I first used the site.)

Hope this helps a bit in your search. I hope you're able to find out more about Mary Agnes.

05-28-2011, 01:15 AM
Mary is now on Doe Network (http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/3031dfil.html) and Charley Project (http://www.charleyproject.org/cases/m/moroney_mary.html).

09-09-2011, 02:46 PM
It is with great sadness that I inform you all that yesterday Mary Agnes Moroney's youngest brother was killed on his motorcycle when a van pulled out in front of him. This wonderful and brave husband, father of 6 and grandfather of 12 will be truly missed by all of us who were lucky enough to be able to call him family and friend. At least he now knows what happened to his sister...

Robin Hood
09-11-2011, 02:11 AM
Shamrock, If I were you I would obtain a copy of Julia Otis's death cert from 1999 (I found it listed on LDS) and see who appears on there. It might show a relative or retirement home where somebody might remember her visitors.
I also think that a Will might also show heirs.

Sorry to hear of the motorcyle accident.

09-23-2011, 12:51 AM
Thank you for the condolences....I was wondering if anyone could give me info on how to find out some info on the woman who killed Mary's brother...we have learned that the woman who killed him didn't have a drivers license, insurance and had an extensive criminal record...I know it's kinda off subject but I'm trying to help his wife and kids...this has left them all totally devastated...there are now only 2 siblings left and neither is in good health...if anyone knows or can find out anything on the kidnapping of Mary Agnes Moroney it would be greatly appreciated!!!

07-14-2012, 01:25 PM
I found this on Julia Otis in Illinois. Perhaps the name "Melchers" might hold a clue? http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=76147395

03-28-2013, 02:00 AM
bumping for Mary Agnes

Joyce Josette
10-01-2013, 01:10 PM
Poor little Mary Agnes. I hope that "Julia Otis" was well enough to take care of a child, and that Mary Agnes grew up healthy and happy and completely unaware of her true origins.

05-15-2014, 07:10 PM
If you really want more info., you can order the death certificate for Julia M. Otis who died in L.A. in 1999, from Ancestry.com for $27. When it asks you for father's full name and Mother's, enter a ? mark and then it will let you proceed. The death certificate might give more info. might not. Sometimes the person who provided the info. for the death certificate is her next of kin, if she did take Mary, then it could be Mary who provided info. and it will usually state the name and relationship of the info. giver.

The link on ancestry.com, if you have a membership, is (click on "order original document" in little vitalcheck ad box):
http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=ssdi&rank=1&new=1&MSAV=1&msT=1&gss=angs-d&gsfn=julia&gsln=otis&msddy=1999&msddy_x=1&msdpn__ftp=California%2c+USA&msdpn=7&msdpn_PInfo=5-%7c0%7c1652393%7c0%7c2%7c3249%7c7%7c0%7c0%7c0%7c0% 7c&cpxt=1&catBucket=r&uidh=fk5&cp=12&pcat=34&fh=0&h=46743753&recoff=12+13&ml_rpos=1

Mary is featured on this blog today:

05-15-2014, 07:15 PM
From ancestry.com (you must have a membership to view):
Birth record of Julia Otis corresponds with the CA death record.

Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922 about Infant Otis
Name: Infant Otis
Birth Date: 12 Apr 1906
Birth Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Ethnicity: American
Gender: Female
Race: White
Father Name: Spencer Otis
Father's Birth Place: Orange, N J
Father's Age: 48
Mother Name: Julia Emma Melchos
Mother's Birth Place: Ditiah, Michigan
Mother's Age: 35
FHL Film Number: 1288113

05-15-2014, 07:24 PM
In April of 1930 on the 1930 Census, This Julia Otis in question resides in Barrington, Cook County, Illinois with her parents Spencer (age 72) & Julia Otis (age 58)and her brother Spencer Otis age 42, 16 yo sister Elizabeth and 2 servants (Nellie Shotts & George Spencer). The census says that Julia is 23, single, and give NO age for first marriage. Does NOT list her as widowed just a month before kidnapping.

1930 United States Federal Census about Julia M Otis
Name: Julia M Otis
Gender: Female
Birth Year: abt 1907
Birthplace: Illinois
Race: White
Home in 1930: Barrington, Cook, Illinois
Map of Home: View Map
Marital Status: Single
Relation to Head of House: Daughter
Father's Name: Spencer Otis
Father's Birthplace: New York
Mother's name: Julia M Otis
Mother's Birthplace: Michigan

Household Members:
Name Age
Spencer Otis 72
Julia M Otis 58
Spencer Otis 42
Julia M Otis 23
Elizabeth Otis 16
Nellie M Shotts 45
George Spencer 41

I will try and find her on 1940 California census.

09-29-2014, 09:12 PM
Maybe you have seen this. There is a section called "alleged findings".
Interesting about the circus. Just a thought if the fbi investigated which they did. Would they not have information. My thought is the kidnapper used a fake name. Otherwise I think they would have found her.

Joyce Josette
09-30-2014, 09:20 PM
That's what I've thought since I first read about the case. It might be possible that the police/private investigators even found this real Julia Otis and questioned her, and the records reflecting this were destroyed or lost. I'm curious if the name the kidnapper chose was a coincidence, or if she picked the name of a neighbor, childhood friend, or just a woman she knew of from her home town.

10-01-2014, 09:52 AM
I'm sorry I thought I put the page i got my previous post from its a Wikipedia page. I am not sure who wrote it.

12-03-2014, 10:50 AM
This Julia Otis seems pretty interesting as a possibility - right age, from a "cultured" background (very well traveled especially for the 1920s/30s, wealthy family).... Also, she died in California so there's that connection.

On the other hand, by the 1940s she's was still living in Chicago (listed as such for attending her sister's wedding). Weird stuff.

On the other hand, would anyone reaaaaally use their real name to do something like that?

02-09-2015, 02:29 AM
One of those "click-bait" articles, but at least it's about something worthwhile.

9 real-life horror stories of people who disappeared and were never found

4) Mary Moroney (Illinois, 1930) Mary Moroney (http://charleyproject.org/cases/m/moroney_mary.html), just 2, is an example of a recurring motif in the Charley Project's archives: families desperate for cheap childcare during the Great Depression who simply trusted the wrong person. Moroney disappeared after her parents allowed her to spend a day with a woman who called herself Julia Otis. A woman purporting to be Otis's cousin later wrote to the family to say Otis was "love hungry" after the loss of a husband and child and that she would care for Mary. Mary has never been found and would be in her 80s today. She may still be alive and have no idea who she is.