Friday, August 29, 2014

Bogged Down

“Here,” my friend Sylvia announced, tossing a copy of a slim tour guide on the table where we were meeting for coffee. “You’re going to Ireland; you can use this.” She had found the book at a second-hand store and thought immediately of me. After all, it’s no secret I’ve been preparing for this research trip to Ireland for months.

The book was the 1995 version of the Alfred A. Knopf  travel guide, Ireland. Crammed full of more detail than you’d ever want to know about the country, as a used book, it was understandably outdated. But hey, Ireland’s been around a long time. Things couldn’t have changed that much. At least, not the old things.

The book was so full of details, in fact, that the print was hard for me to read without a stronger pair of glasses. I resolved to read it later, tucking it away amidst profuse expressions of gratitude.

And promptly forgot about it.

While my current course of preparation calls for my review of surname histories and meanings, along with delving into the history and details of each county in Ireland we’ll be visiting, my method inevitably had to hit a snag.

That snag came the other evening, when I was ambushed by this overwhelming sense of exhaustion. That inexplicable feeling didn’t go away with a fresh morning’s arrival. I was doomed to lose a day: sick. When my characteristic nervous energy collided with a rather dysfunctional malaise and I found myself doing uncharacteristic, mindless tasks like dusting individual slats of the venetian blinds, I knew it was time to surrender. I grabbed a few books and hit the sack.

In a fevered stupor, I flipped through the pages of the Ireland volume Sylvia had given me. Now, you have to understand, this is not your usual type of travel book. It is a small volume, yes, but it is crammed with everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-Ireland, and then some.

So, before I got to the cities—or even the requisite castles—I found myself flipping through pages on the flora and fauna of the countryside, the bountiful fish in the rivers and lakes, the prehistoric stage-setting of the ice age. This book really knew how to take you through it all, starting on the ground floor. Yep, the dirt.

I was reading about the dirt of Ireland.

It was the bogs the book was talking about: how the peat came to be, how it was ever changing, based on the wet-and-wetter climate shifts. The book delved into the details of the bogs, their preservative powers, their characteristics, their uses. Cutting the peat. Stacking the peat. Burning the peat. Even using the peat as a break for flood waters coming down those lush, picturesque hills.

Out of my stupor, I suddenly realized: wait! This sounds familiar!

You see, five thousand miles away from Ireland, we have peat, too. Lots of it. Just to the west of us, in northern California, we have a whole river system carved out of peat: the San Joaquin Delta region. It’s been cut and stacked for levees to protect from flooding. It’s been farmed. It’s even burned—a phenomenon described to me upon my arrival in California as a student, years ago. I've seen it, myself. Yes, this dirt can burn.

While it’s unlikely I’ll be touring any peat bogs in Ireland next month, I suddenly feel an affinity for this place so far from home. I can relate.

And when my Irish-archaeology-pursuing daughter, the college student away in Ireland, starts chattering about the latest discovery of ancient remains unearthed from the peat, it won’t feel quite so foreign any more.

While I’ll soon be up to getting back to my research—and my latest sequence of examining the local history of those Irish counties—after this feverish interlude, I won’t be looking at it with the same eyes. Somehow, that far away Ireland won’t be examined so much for what is different about it, but for what they and I hold in common.

There might be a lot more of that than I had supposed.

 Above: Line drawing of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta from "Chart of the Sacramento River from Suisun City to the American River by Cadwalader Ringgold, 1850," originally captioned, "Mark for entering the second section of the Middle Fork of the Sacramento River;" courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Of Kings, Crooks and Commoners

Why is it that the history of the origin of any given surname seems to begin with an illustrious warrior or powerful king? Apparently, Flanagan—one of the surnames in my husband’s genealogy—had such a glorious genesis. Said to originally be “Ó Flannagáin,” the name meant male “descendant of the ruddy one.” The name—originally a popular given name—was taken from the old Irish root, “Flann,” signifying red or ruddy. Of course, experts cannot decide whether that “Flann” referred to red hair or a ruddy complexion. Let me assure you, no one in my husband’s family has either the hair or the skin tone to match those descriptions.

There are some glorious legends claiming that the head of the Flanagan clan—or sept, as it is sometimes labeled—was “of the same stock as the royal Connors” line. On the other hand, some sources state that there may have been three separate, unrelated, clans by that same name in Ireland. Considering that the Flanagan septs were said to be located in counties Roscommon, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Offaly, it is easy to see the name would be widespread across Ireland.

No, wait: did that range include counties Waterford and Westmeath? Wait! Forget Monaghan?

Will somebody please make up his mind?!

Even better, according to some, those Flanagan forebears in Fermanagh claimed descent from the famed—and prolificNiall of the Nine Hostages. Perhaps that is why that Flanagan name is so widely distributed.

By the time the Flanagan surname arrived to contribute to the gene pool from which my husband sprang, there seemed to be nothing illustrious about it: our Flanagans were commoners—with possibly a criminal thrown in for good measure (note the William Flanagan tried in County Cork on the fourth listing in this database; no guarantee that he was ours; just a family tradition). And they shared that plain destiny with many others; Flanagan had become the sixty-ninth most frequent surname in Ireland, and quite widespread in the other nations to which the famine-stricken Irish had fled.

For those of us wishing to retrace the steps of our Flanagan forebears, that widespread territory claimed by those original septs makes the search just a tad bit more challenging.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Having Fought and Conquered

Not far from our Kelly and Falvey ancestral connections in County Kerry lived two additional great-great grandparents in my husband’s family: Ann Flanagan Malloy and Stephen Malloy—he of the mysterious letter and unannounced flight from his homeland in 1849.

Having saved a copy of a copy of that old family treasure, I was feeling pretty smug about my abilities to pinpoint Stephen Malloy in the Griffith’s Valuation. After all, the address on the letter’s envelope brings me virtually to their hundred sixty five year old doorstep. How hard could this be?

Having worked hard, visit after visit with Uncle Ed, the family’s keeper of the ancestral details, I felt pretty good about all the material I had compiled, and I was certain this preparation would pay off handsomely, once we land in Ireland in a month.

Once I actually sat down to find any proof of that location in Griffith’s Valuation, however, I felt as if the motto of the ancient Flanagan sept had turned to mock me. Certavi et vici—“I have fought and conquered”—might have been how I felt going into this round of research, but it certainly wasn’t the way I saw myself afterwards.

Researching Flanagan as a surname in the United States had been a challenge. As I worked my way backwards in time from the family’s location in twentieth century Chicago, I had to be careful to include all possible spelling variations of the name. Not only did I research Flanagan, but I included Flanigan and Flanegan—as well as the same permutations tacked onto a version of the name including two n’s: Flannigan and Flannagan. Put that together with such typical—and, unfortunately, common—Irish given names as William and Edward, and it did, indeed, take on the sense of a struggle.

I had managed to work my way backward to two tenuous connections with the Old Country: the family’s oral tradition that, before his arrival in Chicago around 1860, William Flanagan had been sent, on account of a petty crime, to Australia; and the family story of his sister Ann’s desperate journey to Boston, seeking her missing husband, Stephen Malloy. As doubtful as I’ve learned to be about family traditions, I felt I had conquered that doubt, with letter in hand, once I gleaned the address where it had been sent in County Limerick.

An additional hint on William’s own headstone had clinched it: stating he was from Parish “Ballygran” in County Limerick, the details dovetailed nicely with the letter’s address.

But when I tried locating any proof of that residency in the Griffith’s Valuation, I was defeated. First, there was no “Parish Ballygran”—nor any such parish with the correct spelling, Ballyagran. That is the name of a Catholic parish, not a civil parish.

Scrambling to a forum populated by people understanding the specifics of how the Irish historically addressed their letters, I learned that the Catholic parish likely spanned the county border, and also took in more than one civil parish. Thankfully, on the website I had been using to search the property survey, there was a way to search by place name. Using that option, I found confirmation that the civil parish was called Corcomohide, and that Ballyagran was considered a village within the borders of that civil parish.

The best part of utilizing that search option was that the next step offered to show the complete listing for the village of Ballyagran.

The bad news was that there was neither Flanagan nor Malloy in the listings—no matter how the surnames were spelled.

Where were they? A person couldn’t have gotten more close to pinpointed detail on their residence than that letter from Stephen to Anna. While I noticed a few entries listed as “vacant,” I hardly could take comfort in finding those. There were no other details to go by in those “vacant” listings. But that did bring up a point.

The property survey known as Griffith’s Valuation generally comes with a set of dates: 1847-1864. Seeing those dates may put a researcher in mind of serial processes, such as the United States census, repeated every ten years. Thus, just like there is an 1870 census and then an 1880 census, one might reason that the Irish property survey was repeated periodically as well.

That is not exactly the case. Apparently, Sir Richard Griffith was appointed Commissioner of Valuation by the British in 1827, but did not begin his duties in Ireland until the requisite maps specified by legislation for his task were made available in 1830. Then, in the process of completing two separate valuation surveys, he began with the townlands survey, which was completed in the 1840s. Only at the completion of that first survey did he begin a second, more extensive "tenement" survey.

The question, then, becomes: when was the valuation completed for the specific county and parish in which our Stephen and Ann Flanagan Malloy resided? According to a chart provided by Wikipedia, County Limerick’s valuation was completed 29 June of 1853. However, checking the site from which I obtained the actual data for the Corcomohide parish, opening up the detail window shows the publication date listed as 1852.

While it would have been helpful to know the exact date for completion of the survey in the specific areas of interest, why squabble over details? I need to keep in mind that Stephen Malloy left Ireland for Boston in 1849. While I can’t be certain when his wife left home in her unsuccessful quest to find Stephen, there is a good possibility that she was no longer in Ireland by the time of the valuation. Or, perhaps, she was one of the Anne Malloys listed in other parishes in County Limerick, having had to give up the property where she was living at the time of Stephen’s abrupt departure. There is no way of telling from the scant genealogical data that can be gleaned from Griffith’s Valuation.

It is aggravating, indeed, to find yourself caught in that sliver of time in which all available search tools will not suffice your own particular research need. In the Flanagan and Malloy case, though, I still can hope to find a marriage record in any remaining parish documents, or possibly a baptismal record for their infant daughter Catherine. If nothing else, I can at least hope for a good Irish map to steer me to the back roads of Ballyagran. In barely a month, I may just be walking down that very path.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Trouble With Family Traditions

In tracing one’s genealogy, inevitably there comes along some kind relative who, well-meaning, wishes to interject in the data stream the fondly-held traditions of the family’s origin. What to do with these offerings? Sometimes, they are preposterous—or at best, entirely unsupported by documentation. Occasionally, though—and just enough to make this a touchy judgment call on the part of the dutiful researcher—these stories turn out to be entirely true.

In the case of my husband’s roots, it turns out there are two distinct Kelly lines firmly ensconced in the record about four and five generations back. One line—that of John Kelly who married Johanna Falvey and raised several children in County Kerry, Ireland, before their immigration to the American state of Indiana in the late 1860s—we have obviously traced back to that County Kerry origin.

But the other Kelly family? Anybody’s guess. There is no real way to know for sure, and the history of the surname doesn’t offer any solid leads.

The trick comes when negotiating the family’s oral tradition. And in our case, for this specific Kelly surname, of course we happen to have one.

It was Uncle Ed, keeper of the Stevens family records for the previous generation, who shared with me what he knew. Granted, in many cases, he provided solid documentation and a wealth of correlating material to support his data. When it came to the Kelly family—or, actually, families—his assertions weren’t as substantially upheld.

If you have been reading along at A Family Tapestry for, oh, about three years, you may recall the sense of confusion that overcame Uncle Ed when he realized there were actually two Catherine Kellys in our family history. One of them came from the family of the John and Johanna Kelly we’ve recently been discussing. The other came from…well, from…okay, no one’s ever been able to tell. But the family does have a story.

That was the Catherine Kelly who came from the Lafayette, Indiana, family for whom I recently uncovered an entire new branch of Kellys. That’s why I was so feverishly pursuing Julia Creahan Sullivan in Colorado, and businessman Charles A. Creahan who got his start in the Chicago area. They, along with the other descendants of James and Mary Kelly who lived and died, mostly, in Lafayette, belong to this same mystery branch of the Kelly clan.

Or clans.

Searching the history of the Kelly surname apparently doesn’t provide any leads, either. At, the claim is that Kelly is Ireland’s most common surname, and the more than eight million documents they have scanned which include that surname might make one think so. However, according to The Irish Times—which, incidentally, ought to know—Kelly, along with O’Kelly, is a surname which is “almost as numerous in Ireland as Murphy.” Although that may signify that we try harder, that means we Kellys are actually number two.

The trick is that the Kelly surname can be found all over Ireland. Not only that, the surname makes a fair showing, also, in Scotland and England. An anglicized form of the Gaelic Ó Ceallaigh—meaning descendant of Ceallaigh—the surname was originally a widespread given name. What the name means is also subject to contention. It may mean “white-headed.”

Or “bright headed.”

Or “troublesome.”

Or “contentious.”

Or “strife.”

Or—for those on an entirely opposite tack—“frequenting churches.”

I suppose, if one were troublesome and contentious, there might be a call for frequent repentant trips back to the church house.

The prevalence of the surname is likely the impetus for the many books and publications tracing the line. But which one would be the right Kellys for me? Even the geographic distribution of the name in Ireland is of little help: “O’Kelly’s Country” takes in part of Counties Galway and Roscommon, but those are not the only counties in which Kellys may be found. The widespread prevalence of the surname is attested to in this Irish Times listing of Kelly households by county, based on the Griffith’s Valuation. Kellys were everywhere.

But where were ours? Despite searching through every document I could find for those Lafayette Kelly immigrants, I had turned up no clues.

Except one detail: a story from Uncle Ed. As confused as he was about which Catherine Kelly was which, he did remember that “she” came from Dublin. But that was only a story, passed down through the generations.

What do you make of such stories? In Uncle Ed’s case, he had everything else pretty much spot on, but of course, I was able to go on and obtain evidence to confirm all those details. In this case, I have found no way to do so.

And what about those generalizations people make—you know, the kind where people pick a well-known location to substitute for the humble farm town of their origin, since nobody this far away would know about that insignificant place anyhow. Did Catherine Kelly and her family come from Dublin? Or was that the big city nearest their home? Or worse, maybe just the port out of which they sailed for the new land?

While learning about the origin of surnames and the history of originating homelands may be helpful in gaining a broader understanding of our ancestors’ roots, in a case as generic—and unsupported—as this, I may never uncover evidence to confirm such a family tale.

But until then, neither can I say I hold substantiation to disprove the story, either.

Until I find the good fortune of locating further documentation, let’s just stick with Uncle Ed and say we have some Kellys from Dublin in our roots. After all, there certainly were enough of them present in Dublin to warrant that conjecture.

Above right: Map of Gaelic Ireland, circa 900 A.D., showing "overkingdoms" and principle Viking towns; courtesy Wikipedia; released into the public domain by the map's creator, Wikimedia Commons volunteer Erakis

Monday, August 25, 2014

Castle Means Crises

There is an odd phenomenon surrounding the perception of castles. Likely, we owe it to the fairy tale existence of our opulent times, in which we prefer to believe everyone lives happily ever after, all life long. Castles, however—at least the real ones, not the ones played on TV—were designed as military strongholds, complete with gates, towers, and structures meant to fortify inner chambers. And these devices were not built for mere romantic notions; they were called to use many times during defensive crises.

Right in the midst of County Kerry, Ireland—the very place we’re examining as we consider our ancestral heritage of the Kelly and Falvey families from that location—there were a number of castles. And, apparently, the crises to accompany their use.

Taking time to gain perspective on the history and geography of County Kerry, in preparation for our trip there, gives context to the family history I’m trying to absorb through years of genealogical research. While there is no way I can reach back to the ancient people and times of County Kerry’s earliest days, it’s informative to gain that general perspective.

Apparently, the pre-Gaelic people living in this southwest tip of Ireland themselves invaded the area in early historical times. These invaders were known as the “People of Ciar.” Ciar was the legendary founder of the original tribe—himself son of a legendary king of Ulster—and the anglicized version of his name provides the source for the name of this county: Kerry. Ciar, incidentally, meant black or dark brown in old Irish, and is still used as a word in modern Irish to signify someone with a dark complexion.

For whatever reason, County Kerry has come to be called “The Kingdom,” though it certainly has seen many changes in its geopolitical standing from century to century. Through the years, the history of County Kerry was tumultuous enough to warrant the use of such fortifications as Ross Castle—one which, though embattled since its fifteenth century establishment, is still standing today.

More pertinent to our own family’s history there—at least as far back as I’ve been able to push my research—waves of rebellions and wars devastated the area, once home to both fertile valley farmland as well as the highest mountains on the island. Native lands confiscated from original clans were transferred to ownership by “planters”—English settlers moved into the county.

Over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the gradual impoverishment of the area saw conversion to poor tenant farmers who increasingly became reliant on their potato crop—that recipe for national disaster we now see so clearly in retrospect. County Kerry was so hard hit by the Great Famine, and the great flow of emigration began—a stream of exiting people which continued through “recent times.”

What is interesting about the details of this emigration is that the Kelly family—that of John Kelly, his wife Johanna Falvey Kelly, and their several children—didn’t leave their home during this initial phase of the Great Famine. Nor did they wait until the impetus of the Land War of the 1870s and 1880s. They somehow decided to make their move just before that latter trouble. Why did they choose to leave at the time they did? They had made it through the worst of the famine. What had provoked them to make such a choice to leave? Perhaps it was the dynamics underlying the instigation of that troubled time, in which tenant farmers became strident about receiving more reasonable terms from their landlords.

The land John Kelly farmed was in the civil parish of Molahiffe, which, according to one map, seems to have been situated roughly in the middle of the county. The particular townland in which John Kelly was tenant farmer was named Lisheennacannina—a word sounding as magical as our modern concept of castles. This townland, one of nearly three thousand in the county and comprised of 366 acres, was situated at the southern tip of the parish of Molahiffe (number 32 on this map).

There were, of course, many woes more that the county residents experienced in the years after our Kelly family left home. The twentieth century brought with it a war of independence, and then a civil war. The bitterness of these conflicts seemed centered within the boundaries of this particular county at times—even times after the calling of a truce to hostilities.

The peaceful ambience of such famed natural beauty as that of the Lakes of Killarney—Johanna Falvey Kelly’s reputed place of origin—belies the turmoil of County Kerry’s history. While I have no way of knowing why John and Johanna Kelly chose to remove their family from their homeland in the midst of such a history, there surely had to be some compelling reason for their choice.

Photograph: Ross Castle in Killarney, County Kerry, in Ireland, circa 1890; from Library of Congress via Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Reading Up on It All

In doing genealogical research, we often focus on the pertinent details of a person’s life—what was his name, when was he born, who did he marry, when did he die—and then move on to a chain of further inquiries, namely, who were his parents, what were their names, when were they born, when did they marry. This endless chain of inquiries would be repeated without end, except for the infamous brick walls that keep us moving backwards in time, ad infinitum.

Somehow, within that endless cycle, we need to be able to lift our researching noses off that grindstone and take a look around at our historic surroundings. It helps to know something about the context of the times in which each set of ancestors lived. Or take in the view from their perspective—find out something about their home town, their neighborhood, where they attended school, where they worked.

While it’s unlikely I’ll find any newly-discovered ancestors before our trip to the homelands of our Irish ancestors, this remaining month before taking off can serve handily as an opportunity to seek that enrichment of understanding. And I’m game to do it.

It occurred to me that this would be a great time to get to know more about the local history of each of the counties of Ireland in which our ancestors lived, and to uncover any history of each particular surname I’ve been researching. I’ll review them, one by one, and share what I’ve discovered so far. And since we’ve just been discussing the Falvey surname, I’ll pick up with that specific name today, following up each day with another.

Falvey was the maiden name of my husband’s second great grandmother, who emigrated from County Kerry to Fort Wayne in the American state of Indiana. While Johanna Falvey had already married John Kelly in Ireland, she had left a number of references to her family name, and to her origin—as one obituary put it—near “the Lakes of Killarney.” Then, too, she and her husband were the last of all my husband’s ancestors to immigrate to the United States, arriving in their New World sometime between the 1867 birth of one daughter in Ireland and the 1869 arrival of one of their sons in Indiana.

There isn’t much that can be found on the surname Falvey. I had thought, when I first ran across a record showing Johanna’s maiden name, that it must have been a rare name, indeed—a good omen, I guessed, hoping that that would mean relatively easy searching progress for me.

Once I started looking in Ireland, though, I discovered that surname was better known there. That certainly dashed my hopes that combining that “rare” surname with one so common as her husband’s—Kelly—might moderate the outcome and allow me to find some significant leads.

Depending on where you look for history of Irish surnames, you will find the origin and meaning of the name Falvey to be represented differently. The surname page on claims Falvey is the “reduced Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Fáilbhe ‘descendant of Fáilbhe,’ a byname meaning ‘lively.’”

The Wikipedia entry has much more to say than that, stating that Fáilbhe means “lively, pleasant, sprightly, merry, cheerful.” Or, the explanation continues, another unnamed historian held it to mean “joker.” If any of that can be claimed to be genetic, I can see where both Frank Stevens—as you’ve seen in his many letters home during the World War II era—and his son (my husband) received their wit and good humor.

The Falvey surname is supposedly the same as that called O’Falvey. The Gaelic Ó simply means “descendant of.” If this is so, somewhere in our Falvey roots may have been the early king of Ireland—Conaire—or the rulers of Corcu Duibne, a prehistoric kingdom in what is now County Kerry. I’m not saying those are our roots—I certainly don’t have any such documentation—but that is the legendary connection of the family name. Much like the many people today who claim to trace their heritage to Charlemagne, or to other famous names of bygone centuries, there are likely hundreds of people today who may be the descendants of that originating King of Ireland.

If you are tracing your Falvey line in the United States and abroad, you might be encouraged to know that claims to have well over sixty thousand historical documents containing the surname Falvey. Their name origin page for Falvey includes a map showing the U.S. distribution of the surname for three census enumerations. For the 1880 census, for instance, it appears most immigrant Falveys settled in the Midwest (particularly in Illinois) or the Northeast (the greatest number in either New York or Massachusetts).

While the Ancestry surname distribution map shows various results over the years of United States history, their map of the Falvey name in either England and Wales, or Scotland (the other two choices that may be selected on that page) are obviously of little help.

Moving to a different online resource for maps of worldwide surname distribution, the emigration of the surname Falvey may be traced to several countries. Besides the United States and Canada, the Falvey surname may be located in western Europe as well as Australia and New Zealand. (Unfortunately, the link will only bring you, by default, back to the home page and the term must be re-entered to gain the results again.)

Since I discovered that a Falvey sibling of Johanna had moved to New Zealand, I was interested to see that two regions of the south island have a “high” distribution of the Falvey surname.

As for the distribution of the Falvey surname in Ireland, itself, there is a preponderance of Falveys in the southwest portion of the island. This has held steady since the time of Griffith’s Valuation, with the most Falveys living in County Kerry. Likewise—though two decades beyond our Falveys’ departure from Ireland—births in the 1890s were recorded in the greatest number in the southwest region of Ireland, particularly County Kerry.

All this to say, whether I am ultimately able to claim the Molahiffe civil parish origin of those birth records mentioning a Johanna Falvey Kelly as our own family, taking a walk through County Kerry will bring us back as close as we can get to the likely roots of this branch of our family.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Just One More Look

I couldn’t help myself. Now that I understood what, exactly, the townlands were in Ireland, I wanted to go back and see if I could find anything further on our Kelly family from County Kerry. (Say that fast, three times!)

Yes, I know: a woman’s genealogical research work is never done. I’m going to have to draw the line somewhere, and get packed and ready to go on that trip to Ireland. But I couldn’t help myself. After all, it’s not like I travel to Ireland every year. Unless a particular offspring (who will remain unnamed) chooses to return to Ireland for graduate work, I will likely never be back. If I’m to see the lands these Irish ancestors once walked, I'd better know where I’m going, soon.

Armed with my newfound understanding of the various historic geo-political subdivisions of the Irish countryside, I thought I’d give that Kelly family just one more chance. I had remembered seeing something on about a “Molahiffe” in County Kerry. What would that be? Townland?

I had to go back and look it up. Of course, I’m not entirely sure this would be related to the family of our John Kelly—really, how many John Kellys are out there? We are talking slim chance. But I knew I had found some birth records for children of a John Kelly and Johanna Falvey in County Kerry. Those entries—unfortunately, showing in a mere index, not the original documentation—mentioned this place called Molahiffe.

First, I went back and retrieved the entries on FamilySearch. They both named a daughter, Mary, but one was for 1864 and the other for 1867. As our Kelly family did have a daughter named Mary, likely born in 1867, plus a gap in the family’s birth sequence from the 1862 arrival of older daughter Catherine until that point in 1867, it is possible that the earlier Mary might have been a child who died in infancy.

Each of those FamilySearch records mentioned the birthplace as Molahiffe in County Kerry. I headed for Google to see what I could find about Molahiffe.

According to the “Irish Ancestors” section of The Irish Times, apparently the designation Molahiffe is for a civil parish. Scrolling down on the page there, you can see a map showing the relative location of this parish to all others in County Kerry, as well as lists of townlands and even the most common surnames in Molahiffe in 1852 (hint: neither Kelly nor Falvey are among them).

It turns out Molahiffe has quite a history. The Gaelic Lordship of Molahiffe was created in the fourteenth century. It even comes with a castle. (Yes, our official tour guide is taking note.)

Heading back to old faithful Griffith’s Valuation to see if I could confirm the presence of a John Kelly in Molahiffe, we get a win there, too. Of course, the chances of finding so common a name as that is not surprising, and I keep telling myself there is a strong possibility this is just a coincidentally-named stranger. I resolve to take this question to the Molahiffe forum at Ireland Reaching Out to see if, once again, someone there can guide me in any way of confirming any names of others in that family. Or church records for marriages or baptisms. Or, well, something.

Despite my doubts, I think the parish Molahiffe—and Lisheenacannina, the townland fingered in the Griffith’s Valuation for the John Kelly residence—will still find a place in our itinerary for our trip in October. Family roots present or not, it does, after all, include a castle.

Above: Map of the fourteenth century location of the Gaelic-Irish Lordship of Molahiffe in current-day County Kerry, Ireland; created by Brendan Oisin and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license; courtesy Wikipedia.
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