Sunday, April 20, 2014

Family Tradition: Pass It On

Whether you are celebrating Easter today—Resurrection Day, as many prefer to call it—or have been celebrating Passover this past week, you have been participating in a vital force that preserves culture in such a way that permits it to be passed on to future generations. “Culture is religion externalized and made explicit,” claimed Henry van Til, author and nephew of the famed Dutch theologian Cornelius van Til, and the traditions we re-enact today make visible to our children the beliefs we hold as essential to sustaining our philosophy of life.

How do we pass down our beliefs and traditions? It is not solely through the words we say, I’d like to maintain, but through the actions we take and the stories they tell.

My daughter, now a junior in college, has been serving as tutor in the home of a conservative Jewish family. It has been a cultural education for her as she observes the manner in which the adherents to a religion very different from her own apply the quote I mentioned above, from a theologian and adherent of a Calvinist Christian perspective. While these two belief systems are quite divergent from each other, we can still see the concept in operation in the traditions this Jewish family upholds in daily life.

Think about it: the culture of the Hebrew (Jewish) people has been passed down for thousands of years now. How did it preserve itself through such a long span of time? Those beliefs were not mere litanies weariedly recited by generation after generation. They were kept alive by story and by re-enactment. Their traditions included retelling the story of Passover in a family setting, with even the food they were eating serving as symbols of a pivotal moment in their people’s saga. The actions, the drama of the episodes, the sharing via family, all helped to bond these people to their history—to their story.

The Christian observances of this past Holy Week also serve to pass our heritage to the next generation. The meaningful ways we transpose concepts into actions we can absorb through our five senses find their way into the hearts of our children—a place where they may be safely harbored, cherished, and preserved.

In some ways, our culture’s viability is fragile—only as certain as the tenuous link between one generation and the next. It is not that we pass down our beliefs from one generation to the next, but how we do it that will count. The childlike eyes that brighten at candlelight stories told by a beloved grandfather, or the participatory factor of the re-enactment of a historic event: these are the highlights that, for a new generation, bind meaning to the memories of bygone years.

In a much humbler way, we who are careful to preserve our own families’ stories can take our cue from this lesson on how the Hebrew line preserved their culture for millennia. We, too, are pivotal: only one generation away from seeing our families’ stories forever forgotten. It is when we create that spark, not only of excitement but of personal identification with the experiences of our ancestors, that we equip that next generation to carry our stories forward.

Above: Painting, "Easter," by Russian artist Mikhail Andreyevich Mokhov (1819-1903, also identified as Mihail Mohov); in the public domain; courtesy Wikipedia.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Think I Found Something

Sometimes, genealogical research just goes on its plodding way, tiresomely slowly, one step at a time. Sometimes, those steps don’t seem to lead anywhere. Sometimes, they seem like they are actually going backwards.

And then, sometimes, it’s like something breaks through and streams of light flow in. Everything falls into place. Angel choirs sing.


Well, it isn’t quite as good as that. But I think I did find something.

Remember Cornelius? The elusive Cornelius, the guy with the unusual name that was a sure fire clue to help me push back another generation in this Flannery family from County Tipperary in Ireland?

I might have found him.

I’m not going to rush into this too quickly. No sense getting my hopes up—although if he managed to die a good twenty years after his brother Patrick, it would certainly help my cause.

So, I’ll take my time laying out the little bits of evidence I’ve garnered so far. This could take a few days. I’m still piecing things together. And, of course, I could be wrong. But at least I’ve got to try—to test this hypothesis out.

It all happened while I was fully intending to grind my way through the census records for Patrick Flannery’s family in Paris, Ontario. After all, I already know where most, if not all, of his family were buried. Conveniently, we can supplement those findings with digitized records online for the births of his children—and, in some cases, their death records, too.

Patrick, though born in Ireland, seemed to have established himself in the village his parents claimed for their adopted home once they arrived in Canada West. Except for that anomaly of the newspaper report of his death being published so far from his home, I had only found him in records for Paris.

Now, having begun the process of tracing his descendants, I had used the 1881 census for Paris to identify his first two children—Mary and Margaret. I zoomed ahead to the1901 census to get a sneak peak at the end of the story, while the children were all young enough to still be at home, and his death precluded the arrival of any more babies.

Following my post on Patrick’s first two daughters, I had thought to write about the next surviving daughter, Ellen, and began pulling up whatever records I could find for her. One of my first stops in the online search was to locate a copy of the 1891 census, to double check such fuzzy reports as date of birth.

That’s when I hit a little glitch: there was no Patrick Flannery in Paris in 1891. At least, none that I could find.

I started wondering about Iggy’s suggestion that Patrick actually was living in Essex, after all—the location of the newspaper that ran the report of Patrick’s death. The problem with that idea, though, was the Essex County man had declared himself to be single. And, with as many children as our Patrick and Margaret had by that time, he certainly didn’t qualify to call himself single.

So here I am, looking for any records on daughter Ellen in the 1891 census, and I see a listing for a Patrick and Margaret Flannery family—not in Paris, but in a place called Brantford.

Now, I happen to know that the city of Brantford is actually the county seat of Brant, the county in which the Flannerys had settled when they chose Paris as their new home. As often happens, perhaps Patrick had moved his family to a larger town—Brantford's population at the time was twelve thousand, much larger than the village of Paris—to find better opportunities for employment.

On the other hand, there are so many Patricks out there—even Patricks married to Margarets—so I wanted to go carefully in this leap of research faith.

It sure steadied my nerves to find another entry in that same subdistrict in Brantford for a Flannery family. Maybe this was the reason for Patrick’s move: to be closer to family. This record was for a man by the name of Francis C. Flannery, aged forty eight, who was born in Ireland. Granted, that would put him as having been born around 1843, a bit young to have been Patrick’s brother. Seeing how loose people played with those birth dates back then, though, it made me wonder about the possibility. After all, what did the “C” in Francis C. Flannery stand for?

Though he wasn’t born in 1835, could he have been our Cornelius?

Besides that question, there was another hint I found in that same census record that made me wonder if I had found some of the missing Flannery siblings—but this discovery will require a long explanation, so I’ll save it for tomorrow.

Friday, April 18, 2014

About Mary and Margaret

Question: Who’s buried in Mary and Margaret Flannery’s tomb?

Answer: No one. Mary and Margaret weren’t buried in a tomb.

Now, if you want to ask who was buried in Mary and Margaret’s cemetery plots, that’s another matter. And I’m not entirely sure I have the answer.

What made me wonder was that first glance at the list of burials at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Paris, Ontario. There is a Mary Flannery listed there, who died October 11, 1962. And there is a Margaret Flannery listed as well, with a date of death of July 8, 1965.

My problem is that, after reading that Mary and Margaret’s sister Agnes died at age fifteen, and their brother Edward James (or James Edward, depending on which record you are reading) died in his forties, I tend to doubt these two others would be so long lived.

You see, according to the 1881 Canadian census, Mary was born in 1878. Her younger sister? Born in 1880. That would make them, respectively, eighty four and eighty five at the time of their deaths. Approximately.

How did these two manage to survive so much longer than their other siblings?

No, I am not going to start talking about yogurt or aerobic training. That is a rhetorical question. And this is not a health and fitness blog.

The differences in life spans have got me wondering if the surnames were just coincidental occurrences in that same cemetery.

At least Mary and Margaret had left some form of birth record to help with comparisons. While we may not know whether those two buried in the Sacred Heart Cemetery are our two Flannery sisters, we can at least examine any variances in documentation over the years for these two sisters.

One index of transcribed birth records shows Mary’s date of birth as February 13, 1878—and, thankfully, confirms her parents as Patrick “Flanery” and Margaret Gorman, exactly as we’ve already found. A different index from the same website, showing the same two parents, provides Mary’s sister Margaret Flannery’s date of birth as December 30, 1879.

That’s good to know, for if we fast forward to the 1901 census for this family, apparently their mom couldn’t quite remember all those details. Okay, so she was a little busy with all those kids. It’s easy to see right away, though, that the birth date the census record shows for Margaret—December 28, 1882—would come impossibly close to next daughter Ellen’s arrival on March 6 of 1883. Besides, with a birthday that late, she wouldn’t have made the cut for appearing in the 1881 census, now, would she?!

That’s the kind of opportunity we have, looking in retrospect at all these documents in a digitally-searchable mode. We can spot which record conveyed errors forward to us in the future, and speculate on which data are the correct versions.

We are so spoiled.

Not only that, but the temptation to superimpose our current standards upon those former times can sneak up on us. And before we know it, we are wondering why a mother can’t even keep her own kids’ birthdays straight, for crying out loud!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When It Doesn’t All Add Up Right

If you found the comparisons of the various census records available for the Ed Flannery family to be frustrating—no two census records seeming to contain reasonable projections of household ages—you’ll just love diving into these records for son Patrick’s own family.

Fortunately—well, at least that’s how I felt about it when I first began this comparison—we have cemetery records for Patrick’s family. By the time we compare them to all the census records and other documents, we’ll find a phantom other person—an unexplained additional Flannery.

But let’s not bite off more than we can chew in this one sitting. Today, we’ll take a look at what’s available from the file for Sacred Heart Cemetery in Paris, Ontario, for the Patrick Flannery family.

As we’ve already discovered, Patrick himself met with a sudden end in March of 1895. Sure enough, his headstone reflects that fact with a date of death as March 29, 1895. The helpful volunteer who took the time to list the burials at Sacred Heart also entered the detail that he was “h/o Margaret Flannery (Gorman).”

Patrick’s wife—indeed another Margaret for the family, following in the footsteps of Patrick’s mother and, possibly also his aunt—apparently lived out her widowhood on Dumfries Street in Paris, Ontario, until May 11, 1929. Giving a date of birth as May 22, 1854, the death certificate indicated her age at passing as seventy five years, eleven months and twenty days. Maddeningly, that precise certificate also managed to give, for the informant, Margaret’s daughter’s name as “Miss Flannery.”


At least her headstone agreed with the county records. As a consolation prize, the death certificate updated the maiden name of Margaret’s mother to read as Hudson instead of the Huttson given on her marriage license back in 1877.

But what of the children? Our helpful volunteer indicated two of the Flannery burials as children of Patrick and Margaret: Agnes, who died January 26, 1899, and James Edward, who died September 1928. Looking online, we can find confirmation of these dates.

Though only fifteen years of age when she passed, Agnes was already working as a mill hand at the date of her death, and had suffered from diabetes mellitus for the past three years. The year of her death predated the period in which governments collected such details as names of parents, but included—in two places on the record—the name of the physician following her and pronouncing her death. At this point, we can only presume that the volunteer who indicated Agnes’ filial relationship to Patrick and Margaret gleaned that information from her headstone or other documentation.

James Edward, having lived well past the date in which details that gladden the rabid researching genealogist might have appeared, managed to at least confuse, with an index of his death record reversing his two given names: Edward James. Transcription problem? Indexer’s error? At least the date of death agrees in both records: September 6, 1928. With a date of birth as April 14, 1886, that put him at age forty two at passing—significantly better than Agnes, but still relatively young.

What of the other Flannery burials at Sacred Heart? Are they children of Patrick and Margaret? A census record for 1881, just a few years after Patrick and Margaret were married, show children Mary at age three, and Margaret at age one. There is a Mary Flannery buried at Sacred Heart, having died October 11, 1962. There is also an additional Margaret with a date of death as July 8, 1965. Perhaps these two match the daughters showing in that 1881 census—further documentation will be needed to verify that.

There are two other Flannery burials at Sacred Heart: that of Catherine (died March 3, 1979) and Zita (died January 18, 1988).

Conveniently, we can now fast forward to the 1901 census, in which widow Margaret Flannery is listed with six children. If you think the list of these six children will nicely align with those we’ve already discussed, you are sadly mistaken. Witness the six for yourself, if you have access to, or peruse the list here:
Mary, born 1878
Margaret, born 1882
Ellen, born 1883
“Eward” (surely taking after his grandfather, Ed-blot), born 1887
Catherine, born 1890
Florence, born 1893


Where’s Zita?

Shall we collectively lift our voices in a cry of agony? Or tear our hair out (for those of you having enough to spare)?

Perhaps we shall set this aside for a saner moment, and retreat to our online resources in search of further documentation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making a List, Checking it Twice

I am not much of a list-maker. For me, drawing up a “to do” list borders on the anathema. I’ve always had a self-organizing type of mind, I guess.

Until lately. Looking at this unyielding set of Flannery family members, I am struggling to convince them to give up their secrets. They have finally driven me to drawing up lists.

Let’s look at the first list of family members we have available to us: the 1852 Canadian Census for the village of Paris in Brant County, Canada West. We have
Ed-blot, age 45
Mrs., age 35
Patrick, age 19
Cornelious, age 17
Michael, age 15
John, age 4

Where Ed-blot and his family ended up for the subsequent census in 1861, I’m not sure—mainly because I couldn’t really be sure of the actual name of this household’s head. I’m not sure the census enumerator for the small town of Paris, Ontario, was sure, either. For his duties in 1861, the enumerator listed the head of household for the only Flannery family in town as Edward.

Could Edward be our Flannery man? Let’s see who was in this household in 1861:
Edward, age 55
Marg’t, age 52
Mat, age 19
Ellen, age 18

That, incidentally, comprised the household under the spelling, “Flanery.” Oddly enough, since the “Flanery” household was at the bottom of that census page, John, age 12, was added, not at the top of the subsequent page, but the page afterward—not matching up with any contiguous entries whatsoever.

The 1871 census for Edward and Margaret include precisely those two, only: Edward at age 62, his wife at age 60. None of their children remained in the household. By the next year, Edward himself had left—passed away on June 30, 1872. I could not locate Margaret in the next census—I had hoped that would reveal where some of her children had moved—so have to presume that she had died, also.

The only other Flannery household I could find in Paris was that of Ed and Margaret’s son, Patrick. Gone were Cornelius and Michael without a trace. Though I still couldn’t find baby brother John, I did discover one hint of his availability in a transcribed mention as the reporting party for his brother Patrick’s death record in 1895.

Trying to cross-check that with the burials at the local Catholic cemetery was fruitless. My only accessible record is that offered by a volunteer’s entries at—for the most part, as we’ll explore tomorrow, representing the descendants of son Patrick’s family.

Sometimes, the only option when faced with Internet-only researching options is to set the whole project aside. Newly-placed digitized records are coming online at such a rapid pace that chances are excellent that what can’t be found today will be staring us in our faces in the not-too-distant future.

Meanwhile, just because I have it, and just because I can, tomorrow I’ll share what I’ve found on son Patrick’s family, the only ones—apparently—left in Paris in the next generation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Little Lesson in Canadian Geography

Sometimes, we get so busy attempting to connect all the dots that we don’t question the picture that is taking shape right in front of our eyes. In this case, while pursuing the four Edmund Flannery sons who seem to have scattered to the four winds upon reaching adulthood in Paris, Ontario, I missed one key observation: the newspaper report of the one son—Patrick, the only one I could find—was published in a town nearly two hundred miles away from his residence.

Patrick Flannery was found dead—drowned, possibly under suspicious circumstances, in the town of Paris, Ontario—at the beginning of April, 1895. The only way we know that is from a brief notice in the Essex Free Press, published April 5,1895. We wouldn’t even have known that, except thanks to the diligent search skills of reader Intense Guy.

Admittedly, that was a startling report to find. But that it was published so far from his home presents us with a mystery of its own. That bit of news couples nicely with the list of burials found at for the Catholic cemetery in Paris, Sacred Heart Cemetery, so we know he wasn’t buried in Essex.

When we first made that discovery, it led to more records online, producing confirmed names for Patrick’s parents and also his wife.In the flurry of all those breathless discoveries, I missed one detail: Paris, Ontario, is nowhere near Essex, Ontario.

What was a story like Patrick’s doing in a paper that far away?

Admittedly, I didn’t even know where Essex, Ontario, was. I had to look it up. I was surprised to discover it was just south of Detroit, Michigan.

Yes, I know that sounds upside down. Canada is supposed to be north of the United States. But in this little stretch of land on the north shore of Lake Erie, Canada reaches down to the south before the international border takes a turn to the north on its way up to Lake Huron.

While thinking of the possibility of Detroit, something popped into my mind. Remember Cornelius Flannery, my first candidate for seeking further data on the Flannery family? I had chosen him for my previous research step because of his less common first name, though I later abandoned the attempt.

During that process, I had found some possibilities for Flannery sons in Detroit city directories. Knowing that the route from Paris, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, had also been taken by some other extended family members in their emigration from Ireland, I had made a mental note of it—I just didn’t have enough information at the time to be able to confirm I had any matches.

Now, looking at Essex, perched so close to the border and the city limits for Detroit, I’m beginning to wonder, again, whether those Flannery sons had indeed disappeared from Paris via a route that led through Essex, then Detroit, then further westward in the United States.

But could any Flannery men be found in Essex, itself? A quick glance online indicated there were some there—a Patrick Flannery, in fact, was listed in Essex for the 1881 and 1891 census records. We know this was not our Patrick, obviously, for he appeared in the 1901 census too, something our Patrick would have been hard pressed to accomplish. Other records revealed the presence of a Michael Flannery and a William Flannery living in Essex, too.

Cousins, perhaps? Or mere coincidence?

The only connection I can fathom would be that Patrick may have previously lived in Essex—or, as reader Iggy had surmised, possibly worked there for a while. He may also have had relatives there, and visited there. Other than that, it seems odd that a small town newspaper from so far away would have made sure to note the passing of someone as insignificant as a common laborer, living nearly two hundred miles to the east.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Flannery Laundry List

I’ve got to come clean on this: I have no idea where to take this Flannery search next. Do I try to press back in time, searching among any Irish records I can find online for Ballina in County Tipperary? Or do I grab what Flannery descendants I can find in Canadian records for Ontario and explore connections in the hope of flushing out any distant cousins?

Seeking free Irish records online would be a challenge. Over the years, there have been disparate groups of volunteers willing to post record transcriptions, but such resources are pockets of random collections, hidden away hither and yon in the vast universe of online resources we dub, simply, the Internet. Witness the Flannery clan site. Or Tipperary Genealogy, part of the network called IGP—Ireland Genealogy Projects. Whatever random Flannery matches I’d come by in a search like this would likely be a mixed bag of leads.

Looking for such records online might also be a waste of my time. I am, after all, planning to travel to Ireland in the fall. Some genealogical documents are just better sought for in person; it is only a small percentage of such records that are available online—free ones comprise an even tinier fraction.

Furthermore, “free” is always a limiting factor, requiring the proverbial “Some Kind Soul” to dedicate time and know-how to transform written documents to digitized versions or correctly transcribed text files. There are, as we all know, collections of records available for a fee. Reader Dara has already mentioned one in a comment: Of course, has a modest selection of Irish resources that fit within the narrow sliver of time—up to 1849—in which I’d still be able to locate my Flannery family in Ireland. In addition to the downside of the cost for such sites, my ability to include links of my findings in public posts on A Family Tapestry would be limited to sharing with only those readers who are also subscribers.

On the other hand, one of my goals was to find documentation linking Edmund Flannery’s family in Paris, Ontario, with his neighbor Denis Tully’s wife, Margaret Flannery Tully. I would either need to achieve this through church records in Ireland, or government records in Ontario. Do I scrub the “distant cousin” notion, barring any way to obtain Irish records cementing the connection? Or do I press on, full speed ahead, with descendant research on Edmund’s line as a sort of genealogical public service? I have, after all, compiled a list of links for several of those Canadian Flannery family members.

While these possibilities are floating around in my mind—and until I can determine a solid strategy for my next research target—I think I’ll pursue the Genealogical Good Samaritan route and go through my list of Flannery connections to see what loose ends may be cleaned up through resources easily located online. If for nothing else, that will ease my mind on one troubling question that popped up while considering the news report on Patrick Flannery’s unfortunate demise:
If Patrick died in Paris, why was his passing reported in a newspaper published nearly two hundred miles away?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...