Thursday, August 21, 2014

Putting Together Those Road Trip Details


It’s almost the end of August. I have somewhere to be by the end of September—namely, Ireland. Now that all the research is done—well, all the genealogical searching that's going to be accomplished by then—it’s time to start making those travel arrangements.

While I know—and you do, too, if you have done much genealogical research—that a family tree is never really completed, I do have to draw the line somewhere. After all, tickets need to be purchased. Hotels need reservations. Meetings with people need to be planned.

It looks like it will not only be my husband and I who will make the trip back to the ancestral lands. His sisters will be able to rendezvous with us. Of course, there will be visits to those features of Ireland that no tourist can resist—the Blarney Castle, after all, is a short drive from where our daughter is attending college in Cork. How could we pass up features like that?

Less easy to plan, but no less important, will be those drives to the locales where we have located ancestors. At this point, that means our Tully and Flannery lines in County Tipperary and Malloy and Flanagan in County Limerick—plus, if I get lucky in the next few days, I may be able to confirm a parish in County Kerry for our Kelly and Falvey lines, too.

It occurred to me yesterday that, since discovering the baptismal confirmation letters for both Johanna and John Tully, I hadn’t revisited Griffith’s Valuation for the years before the family’s emigration to Canada. Just to be sure I had the right area, I worried myself into double-checking Griffith’s Valuation listings for Tully against the information I now had from those baptismal notes.

Though one report indicates that the survey wasn’t completed in County Tipperary until 1853—a couple years past our Tully family’s departure—I have been told by others that the report was published closer to 1848, a date more compatible with our family’s timeline. Here’s hoping that the Denis Tully found in the survey is one and the same as our Denis Tully and family.

Just to double check with those more familiar with their records, I touched base with volunteers at the Ireland Reaching Out forum, to see if I could find any more confirmation on locations. For some reason, those terms—civil parish versus church parish, townlands, baronies, poor law unions—do not register in my brain. I couldn’t get my head around these divisions, until reading what I found to be the most sane explanation in the John Grenham book, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors—something I’ll discuss a bit further tomorrow.

It was helpful to connect with the Ireland Reaching Out volunteer, who explained to me that the townland listed in Griffith’s Valuation as Fountinna was likely a typo in the original transcription. The townland is actually Tountinna. The civil parish is Templeachally—yet another worry for me, since I can’t readily find this name when I search in other records. How do these long, unusual names vanish when I’m looking for them?

Thankfully, the volunteer sent me links to historic maps of the area—including the townland of Tountinna. Since I had asked if there were any possibility of seeing, in our times, the church our Tully family once attended, I was excited to see the map sent back in reply. Note there is an old “R. C. Chapel” listed in the town of Ballina, which hopefully I’ll soon be seeing in person. Add that one to our itinerary, for sure.

I was overjoyed to be provided with a map which included the area where Denis Tully likely lived. I am usually a sucker for maps, and can stare at them, transfixed, for hours. (I can get lost in maps. It’s a good thing I never yielded to the temptation to buy that world-map wallpaper I once found in a paint store; otherwise, I'd never get any work done.) It was a delight to lay eyes on the very land where our Tully family once walked.

If I can figure out how to overlay these old maps with current road maps, we will hopefully be able to drive by the land where the Tully family last lived, before making that life-changing decision to leave homeland and look for a better life across the ocean.



 Photograph: Sixty years later and a few towns removed from the home of our Tully ancestors, this is Castle Street in the town of Nenagh in County Tipperary, circa 1910; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Another Postscript on Thomas


As exhaustive searches go, the one for Thomas F. Sullivan in the city directories of nineteenth century Denver certainly put us through our paces. But it wasn’t exhaustive enough for me to wave the white flag and give up. Not just yet. I still wanted to know the exact date of Thomas’ passing and the cause of his death.

I thought—oh, silly me—that perhaps, now armed with both addresses and occupational details, I would be able to isolate our Thomas from the many Thomas Sullivans mentioned in Denver city newspapers. How wrong I was. Despite searching five different specific name entries—Thomas Sullivan, Thomas F. Sullivan, Tom Sullivan, T. F. Sullivan, and even Thos. Sullivan—I failed to locate any obituary or even fleeting mention of the man’s passing.

I did, however, discover that there was a sought-after tenor soloist by name T. F. Sullivan who was often mentioned in Denver newspapers. And legal proceedings by some sue-happy Thomases. And a few rogue Thomases as well, having for their claim to fame a night or so in the local jail. All for the joy of chasing after one of those enigmatic ancestors-by-marriage.

I am now officially exhausted.

I will agree with the Mount Olivet cemetery in which he has been listed and finally lay this particular Thomas F. Sullivan to rest. Perhaps, some day in the future, when online resources are even zippier and more thorough than they are today, I may be tempted to take up the pursuit again. For now, though, I’ll let the few things I’ve discovered about this Thomas—and his wife Julia, our Kelly family descendant—suffice me and my almost-insatiable curiosity.

Meanwhile, as the date for our upcoming travels to Ireland draw even nearer, it’s back to the books for those final—desperate—touches on my research. If I find nothing else in the Dublin research leg of the journey, I hope to at least gain some direction on exactly where to go to wander the turf of our forefathers. There are, thankfully, still many online resources to tap for these last minute searches on the rest of our Irish surnames.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Doubting Which Thomas


The one aspect of researching this Sullivan branch of our Kelly family tree causing me the most frustration was the proliferation of identical Sullivan names simultaneously sprouting in their Denver hometown. When I tried to determine which Julia Sullivan was the right one, I ran into multiple possibilities—even when I added the “C” for her middle initial. Though I didn’t write about it, searching for daughter Regina Sullivan also produced doubles. So it won’t come as any surprise to you to hear that the head of the family—the mysteriously-disappearing Thomas F. Sullivan—also had company in the named-alike category.

Imagine my glee when, in the wonderful statements written in Denver newspapers upon son Harry A. Sullivan’s passing in 1950, those journalists would see fit to reach far back to the prior century to mention the father Harry likely hadn’t seen for fifty years. Thanks to the Denver Post, we now know:
His father, Thomas Sullivan, came to Denver in the late 1880s and was an executive with the Flanders Dry Goods store, which stood in the present location of Neusteters. Later he was a department head at Denver Dry Goods company.

Calling his father “an early-day Denver merchant,” the Post certainly opened their September 10, 1950, story about the passing of Harry Sullivan with a nice touch, but “merchant” and “executive” may be terms more generous than they are accurate as descriptions of Thomas F. Sullivan. At any rate, the names of the stores—Flanders Dry Goods and Denver Dry Goods companies—can help us negotiate the many listings for Thomas Sullivans in the Denver city directories over the years.

Thanks to reader Intense Guy, who on my behalf had requested photos of a Find A Grave volunteer for the Sullivan headstones, we now know the parameters for our Thomas Sullivan’s life. Born in 1852—either in New Hampshire or Vermont, depending on which census record you believe—Thomas lived until sometime in 1900.

We also know he married Julia Creahan in Denver in 1888, thanks to a blip of a mention in a Denver newspaper.

Other than that, the man represented a blank, as far as the story of his life went. City directories were of no help, as in any given year there would be multiple listings for men by the name of Thomas Sullivan. With this clue as to his employment, however, we now have some help.

Turning to an 1889 directory, published in the year following Thomas and Julia’s wedding, we can find a Thomas Sullivan—note he didn’t use his middle initial—listed as a clerk at the Flanders Dry Goods Company. Despite that label, “clerk,” not “executive,” we likely have the right man. That Flanders hint paid off right away, since the other two Thomas Sullivans—including one specifically listing the name as Thomas F. Sullivan, exactly as our Thomas often listed himself—were employed either as a tailor or at a railroad company. Our Thomas listed his residence on Arapahoe.

Pulling the record from a directory a few years later—the Denver city directory for 1892—we are fortunate that Thomas kept his position at Flanders Dry Goods, for he had changed his address to California Street. This time, he was listed alongside four other Thomas Sullivans, including one Thomas F. Sullivan, and another one who went so far as to spell out his full middle name—Thomas Francis Sullivan, the exact name Thomas had given his own, now three year old, son. The occupational detail helps us keep our eye on the right Thomas.

Another two years later, in 1894, wedged between three other Thomas Sullivans, this time our Thomas chose to list his name, complete with middle initial. It is a good thing we still have the Flanders Dry Goods employer to trace, for in this directory, Thomas was living at a new address on Commercial Place.

By the time the 1896 directory was issued, Denver boasted not four but six Thomas Sullivans, including one Thomas Francis, and two Thomas F. Sullivans. The unfortunate news was that both Thomas F. Sullivans listed for their occupation, “clerk.” Neither lived at Thomas’ old address on Commercial Place. Worse than that, neither clerk was employed at Flanders Dry Goods.

Ah ha! You triumphantly remember: the Denver Post article already told us Thomas went from working at Flanders Dry Goods to employment at a place called Denver Dry Goods Company.

That would be a nice touch here. Unfortunately, though, that is not what the directory revealed. So, we are left trying to decide whether to go with the Thomas F. Sullivan, clerk at "Bradley & McClure," or the Thomas F. Sullivan, clerk at "Schloss Bros." The only option might be to keep pulling city directories until we eliminate the wrong Thomas. After all, we already know our Thomas wouldn’t be working in any Dry Goods store after 1900.

Not as easily done as said, though, for the next city directory I could locate online—you didn’t think I just flew to Denver to complete this ditty, did you?—was again two years later. In the 1898 directory, Denver was apparently back down to five Thomas Sullivans—with two Thomas F. Sullivans remaining—but with only one listed as clerk.

Apparently, Bradley and McClure had undergone a reorganization, for our sole clerk in the 1898 directory was employed by a concern listed as "H. N. Bradley & Co." This Thomas Sullivan was living on Irvington.

Of course, by now, I had to keep going, even though I knew our Thomas F. Sullivan would soon drop out of the race. If the H. N. Bradley & Co. Thomas remained after 1900, I would totally be at a loss to know which one was our Thomas. I couldn’t resist peeking, anyway.

The 1899 city directory showed, among the remaining three Thomas Sullivans, two listed as Thomas F. Sullivan. One was a dyer for the Denver Steam Dye Works. The other was listed as a wagon guard. Could our Thomas have actually died in 1899?

But wait! For some unexplained reason dropping his middle initial—maybe the Thomas F. Sullivan population in Denver had finally shrunk to a more manageable level—there was a listing for a plain old Thomas Sullivan. He was working—you guessed it—as a clerk. But—oh, no!—there was no listing for the company at which he was employed.

Not to worry: unlike the many changing addresses we had witnessed over these past twelve years, this Thomas was still living at Irvington Place, thus giving us at least one shred of information with which to tag him as the right Thomas Sullivan.

By 1900, we were down to just one Thomas F. Sullivan (a tailor not living at the right address), a new Thomas Sullivan (printer) and a listing for a Mrs. Thomas Sullivan, residing on Grant Avenue. There was no sign of either Thomas F. Sullivan working as clerk at the two different dry goods stores, nor any listing for a Sullivan at any of the Sullivans’ last given residence addresses. When we compare the 1900 city directory listing for that Mrs. Thomas Sullivan with that of the 1900 census record, though, we find our familiar Sullivan household was listed at that same Grant Avenue address.

Of course, the missing link was the move from the 1899 Irvington address to the 1900 home on Grant Avenue. It still is possible that the Irvington Thomas moved elsewhere, and I just couldn’t locate him. But as far as exhaustive searches go, well…let’s just say, “I’m exhausted.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

More Good Reports About Harry


In addition to the statement issued by the governor upon Harry A. Sullivan’s passing in 1950, a number of other good reports accompanied this Kelly family descendant’s last remembrance in his hometown Denver newspapers. Some give us a more well-rounded picture of the kind of guy Harry Sullivan really was. Some—and those I’ll share tomorrow—fill in the kind of blanks I had not been able to locate anywhere else.

Of course, as any eulogy usually does, the reports in both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News began with the beginning: Harry’s birth in Denver. Only problem was, the date given by both papers is suspect. Granted, both papers were in agreement—they listed his birth date as August 8, 1895, as did his headstone—but taking a look back at evidence produced shortly after that birth date tells a different story. The reporting party for the Sullivan household in the 1900 census—likely his recently-widowed mother, Julia Creahan Sullivan—declared that Harry’s birth occurred in August of 1890. According to his mom, at the time of that census, Harry was nine years of age. Still, if that was his story—and everyone was sticking to it—it’s best I file that fact away for future researching reference.

As far as Harry’s military service went, there were a few tidbits I gleaned from the newspaper articles. One was that his unit was noted in both newspapers as “the famed 157th Infantry.” While I don’t know enough about World War I history to immediately agree with that journalistic assessment, it seems a point worth pursuing further.

The News noted that Harry enlisted in the U.S. Army “when very young.” I imagine lopping off five years from the date of one’s birth might bring on such appearances.

The News went on to observe that Harry “saw action on the Mexican border,” perhaps confirming the very mission for which we had previously read that he had been "at the border" during his time with the National Guard.

The Denver Post article included a list of all the schools Harry Sullivan had attended in his earlier years—a possible wealth of information, should I be able to locate old school yearbooks:
Mr. Sullivan attended Sherman and Logan public schools, St. Joseph’s parochial school, West Denver high school and Regis college.

An interesting addition to the Post article was this explanation of the start of Harry’s work on behalf of veterans as they returned from World War I:
The state veterans post was an unpaid position. Mr. Sullivan was officer manager for the legal firm of Lee, Bryans, Kelly and Stansfield.

The News corrected the name of his firm to include the fourth partner as “Stanfield,” and also added that Harry had previously served as office manager for another—undoubtedly known about town—firm, “Lee Shaw & McCreery.” Perhaps Mr. Lee valued the contributions Harry Sullivan made to his practice and took the manager with him when he made the move—or reorganization?—to the other firm.

The observation that Harry’s position at the state veterans’ post was an unpaid one is telling. We’ve already seen that, at the beginning, Harry had sometimes helped fellow veterans out of their hardships by digging into his own pocket. Apparently, the way he funded such charity was to work two jobs—one paid, one donated.

However he achieved it, Harry was ultimately recognized for his concern by the remembrance of a good friend, whose statement was carried by the Post:
“There never was a more charitable man than Harry Sullivan,” said Joseph H. Leyden, Sullivan’s longtime associate and friend. “His whole life was devoted to taking care of the underdog and under-privileged. Upon his return from World war I, he set up with his own limited funds an employment agency for veterans. An outstanding athlete in his younger days, he remained interested in athletics from the standpoint of young men.”

At Harry’s passing, noted both newspapers, he was living in town with his unmarried sister, Florence. In addition, his other sister—Regina, now listed as “Mrs. Rex McClinton”—survived him. No mention of Harry’s older brother, Thomas, provides us a benchmark for this other sibling’s passing, in hopes of locating yet another obituary.

The most helpful part of the two newspaper articles on Harry’s passing, however, was their mention of Harry’s father. With the few sentences included in the Denver Post article, we can glean enough to help isolate the right Thomas F. Sullivan—for just as we encountered when searching for documents on Harry’s mother Julia, you know, in a city the size of late 1800s Denver, there would be multiple Thomas Sullivans as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Governor Makes a Statement


It isn’t often, in researching family members’ life stories, that we run across quotes from their governor in honor of our ancestors. Well, perhaps you do; I haven’t—up until this point. Upon our Kelly descendant Harry A. Sullivan’s passing in 1950, though, two newspaper articles came complete with such a statement.

Harry Sullivan, born and raised in Denver, Colorado, had returned from World War I, determined to be of assistance to his fellow soldiers. As we’ve already seen, he was quite successful in seeing these men placed in suitable jobs upon their return home. From that springboard, he went on to be an organizer for the Colorado state arm of the American Legion—the very work in which he was engaged at the time of his passing on September 9, 1950.

How deeply he had committed himself to this organization begins to reveal itself with the quotes included in the news articles the day after his death, both in the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News on Sunday, September 10, 1950.

The lead statement in the Post covered the basics of his passing:
Harry A. Sullivan, 55, chairman of the state board of veterans affairs and an organizer of the American Legion in Colorado, died early Saturday after becoming ill a few hours before at a Legion meeting.

Their rival, the Rocky Mountain News, explained in further detail:
Mr. Sullivan was stricken while he attended a board of directors meeting of the Leyden-Chiles-Wickersham Post of the American Legion, which he helped found and of which he was past commander. He died an hour after his seizure in Mercy Hospital.

In explaining Harry’s relationship with both the state and national organization of the American Legion, the Rocky Mountain News noted,
In his associations with the American Legion, Mr. Sullivan held many high national posts including the office of national executive committeeman.

The Post clarified that Harry was “Colorado’s first national executive committeeman for the American Legion” and that his role was actually “leading in its organization in this state.”

It was interesting that the Rocky Mountain News chose to insert some details about Harry’s past political involvement. Of course, having to influence law makers as he did in his early years of working with veterans—as we saw when he helped draft legislation for some of the programs that were so sorely needed—he couldn’t help but take on a political role. For one brief instance, if you’ll remember, he did try to secure an elected position in local government—that of city auditor. The News recalled that in their 1950 article:
In 1921 he was a candidate for city auditor but was unsuccessful. This venture into politics was his only move for selective office. However, he remained active in city and state Republican politics.

Interestingly, given Harry’s partisan choice, the man who held the position of governor at the time of Harry’s death—and who issued an appropriately gracious statement regarding his passing—would be from the opposing party. Actually, Walter Walford Johnson, governor of Colorado at the time of Harry’s death, had only served in that capacity since the preceding April. He had originally been elected as Lieutenant Governor, but at the point in his term at which then-governor William Lee Knous happened to be appointed federal district judge in Denver, Lieutenant Governor Walter Johnson assumed the position of governor in his place. While Mr. Johnson did, later in 1950, run for a full term as governor, he was defeated by a Republican, and thus only served a nine month term.

Whether it was for political maneuvering that Walter Johnson sought to have his statement on Harry Sullivan’s death featured in the two Denver newspapers that September, I can’t say—but, politics being politics, it’s telling that I’d entertain such doubts. Regardless of the hidden agenda that might be lurking behind the gracious words—carried in full by the Denver Post—they did signify respect for the dedication of one man intent on seeking the well-being of his fellows.
            “I know the people of Colorado will be as deeply shocked as I am to learn of the passing last night of Harry A. Sullivan, chairman of the state board of veterans affairs of Colorado,” Governor Johnson said in a statement.
            “He devoted his life to every charitable cause and for the interests of veterans, their widows and orphans. Colorado has lost a great citizen and I have therefore ordered the flags of our country and state flown at half-mast.”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Sullivan Coda


A kind soul from the Denver Public Library’s Western History and Genealogy Department has obliged me in my request to locate any news articles—or, at the very least, an obituary—for our Kelly descendant, Harry A. Sullivan of Denver, Colorado.

While I was out of town this past week, delivered to my home was a treat: not the standard one obituary that the library offers to find for patrons, but two different articles. That means two different photos, as well as two segments of information for which there wasn’t a duplicate in the other newspaper. As you can imagine, when I arrived home late at night, I was elated. Thank you, thank you, to Denver’s public library staff at that specialized department! I owe you much in my quest to honor this man who, without wife or children, likely has no family now left to carry on his memory.

The articles on Harry Sullivan came in the two newspapers serving the Denver area at the time of his death: the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post. Both articles were published on Sunday, September 10, 1950, just one day after his passing in the early hours of that morning. Each article included a photograph of Harry—I was so pleased to notice that each was a different photo, allowing me to get a more complete idea of what he looked like. Knowing about the library’s Western History and Genealogy Department and their extensive digital collection, I wouldn’t be surprised if I could locate a copy of the original photographs among the library’s holdings.

Receiving scans of those two newspaper articles means, of course, that I must revisit the posts on Harry Sullivan to add a few more details to the record here. Because the news articles were longer than the usual obituary, I’ll take a few days to wrap up the material. Tomorrow, I’ll cover quotes of the kind compliments given Harry by those governmental officials who knew him. Following that, on Monday, I’ll share—and, oh, am I excited to find these details!—the remarks on Harry’s own family and personal history.

In the meantime, I’ll confess to being the travel-weary homebody who, in opting for sleep over additional late-night writing, has chosen (with apologies) to leave my dear readers dangling.

Tomorrow, as another character once put it, is another day.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Good News, Bad News


Wending my way through John Grenham's Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, I slowly, slowly, had something dawn on me. It was that kind of "oh-oh" feeling that I try, at all costs, to avoid.

After completing the introduction to Grenham's second edition—yes, I know, I'm two editions behind—I smashed into the first omen upon reaching the very first section of his book, "Part I: Major Sources."

This was not a good start. And it didn't improve—not even microscopically—upon advancing beyond chapter one, "Civil Records," to reach the next chapter.

Put it this way: the good news is the Irish have an admirable tradition of valuing genealogical records, with data stretching back—barring wars and other international upheavals—for centuries.

The bad news is those records were created on behalf of families whose heritage was far removed from that of my husband. His Tullys, Kellys, Falveys, Molloys, and even Stevenses were not the kind known to make history, own land, fight wars, or otherwise make a name for themselves (other than the occasional free ticket to Australia). In other words, the common Irish laborer was one for whom very few records would be kept.

Then, too, my husband's Irish forebears, for the most part, left their homeland early for the greener grass on the other side of that bright blue fence of ocean. Most—with the exception of the Kelly family from County Kerry—were off the old sod before 1850.

Thoughts like these bombarded me as I plowed through the Grenham book.
Chapter One: Civil Records. "State registration of non-Catholic marriages began in Ireland in 1845. All births, deaths and marriages have been registered in Ireland since 1864." Wonderful. Our people were Catholic, personae non grata until they left the country—far before 1864. No records in the General Register Office for them.
Chapter Two: Census Records. "Full government censuses were taken of the whole island in 1821, 1831, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911. The first four, for 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851, were largely destroyed in 1922 in the fire at the Public Record Office.... Those for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 were completely destroyed earlier by order of the government. This means that the earliest surviving comprehensive returns are for 1901 and 1911." Yes, there were fragments for the first four censuses listed—but guess which counties those fragments didn't include? You are likely a good guesser. Bottom line: by the time of the available 1901 census, let's just say I've already located each of these Irish family lines in census records...for the United States in 1900. No sense struggling with any microfilm at the National Archives of Ireland.
And so the chapters went. For information on land holdings, I realized our Irish forebears were unlikely to be land owners. For wills and other indications of inheritance, again, such records would not likely apply. Even coming to the chapter on the hopeful-sounding "Genealogical Office," it was clear that, since we weren't recipient of any titles or inherited right to bear arms, our family surnames would not be found among the many manuscripts and records there.

As I completed reading each chapter in the Grenham book, my despair sank me just a little bit lower. After all—as I've noted in a post in another blog and another time—ours were not family lines which had made history, disrupted history, or otherwise merited any note in the annals of said history. Ours were merely people who lived out their insignificant lives in rural solitude. The very fact that they fled their homeland at the time of the Great Hunger gives credence to the notion that these were people who had nothing. They certainly left nothing behind at their departure. Especially when it came to preserved treasures housed in national archives or records offices.


Above: Published in the Illustrated London News 22 December, 1849, the entry was labeled, "The Sketch of a Woman and Children," and included the story of a Bridget O'Donnel in the caption to the original publication; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.




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