Wednesday, March 21, 2012

To the Maps It Is!

Now having found sufficient hints to recreate the path AgnesTully Stevens’ grandparents—each one on a separate quest—took in coming to the New World, I can take my cue from both that mysterious letter and from the parish location on Agnes’ granduncle’s grave marker.

Except for one thing: there is no such place as Parish Ballygran.

Don’t go panicking quite yet. It’s just that there must have been a “typo” on William Flanagan’s headstone.

Set in stone may not mean correct.
That, in itself, is evidently not unusual. Take, for example, a similar grave marker from that era, found among our ancestors’ memorials on the Stevens side: engraved in stone for all to see and remember for centuries, the monument bore the proud legend, “Steavens.”


Just how, exactly, does one fix something like that? White-Out was not yet invented, of course, though something of a far greater magnitude in strength would be called for, one would think.

So we just learn to go with the flow, make a polite comment on how lovely that monument looks, and go back to researching the name—and a dozen other possible variants. Nothing like impeding progress in research, eh? If only those 1890s engravers knew….

My first step in trying to sort out just where—or what—Parish Ballygran might be was to turn to the online genealogy forums I have used so much over the years. Several people were so kind to help me decode the envelope’s address and where it might actually be directed. And, of course, several were quick to correct me on William Flanagan’s point of origin: it was Parish Ballyagran.

Not bad for a typo. Just a slip of a letter. I could live with that.

It turns out that Ballyagran is just over six miles northwest of Charleville, the town in County Cork where Stephen Malloy’s hasty letter was addressed to his beloved wife whom he would never see again. Ballyagran is also just across the border—only one and a half miles beyond—from County Cork in County Limerick. Simple. That explains things further—at least for the birth place of Agnes Tully Stevens’ granduncle, William Flanagan.

But it is the letter that I’m primarily concerned with. How does the address on the letter to William Flanagan’s sister Anna—now married with a one-year-old daughter—line up with William Flanagan’s home town of Ballyagran?

Ballyagran—the prefix “Bally” itself means townland—is a townland in County Limerick located in the Upper Connello Barony. The Civil Parish designated for Ballyagran is called Corcomohide. It is contained within the Poor Law Union of Croom, as I discovered from my helpful forum associates and through more recent internet research. And that all is wrapped up in the Province of Munster.

Oh, the terms that begin to swirl in this American’s head. States and counties, I know. But barony? Civil parish? Townland? Poor Law Union? Province?

Barony is a term I can somewhat relate to, though I’m hampered by a modern American way of life; I have learned in history classes of manors and feudal arrangements of bygone centuries. I imagine that “Barony” is, for Ireland, a term with roots in those medieval centuries. Parish, too, is no stranger as a term here, for many of us in America have church roots where such a word is still used. Even the label “province” is not too unusual, if we look north to our Canadian neighbors, who also use that governmental designation. But Townland? Poor Law Union? It is apparent that I have a lot to learn about Ireland. I especially wonder how that knowledge will help me locate the Irish recipient of a letter addressed in 1849—or even how those concepts would arrange themselves on a common road map.

In a land where it is rare for roads to be named or houses to be numbered, and where mail to rural destinations is specified—at least nowadays—by county, nearest post town, and the townland, the letter’s address actually served as a sort of verbal road map. The letter from Stephen Malloy, seeming to direct the bearer to a spot in County Cork (to someone like me who is only accustomed to the American postal delivery system), the address actually directs the bearer from a more recognized locale—Charleville in County Cork—to a lesser known area further inland. The destination for that letter to “Anne Moley” turns out to be a townland in County Limerick contained in the Upper Connello Barony, the Civil Parish of Corcomohide, the Poor Law Union of Croom, and the Province of Munster.

Where have I seen that listing before?! Once I take all those terms I’m so unaccustomed to, and set them in order for each location—William Flanagan’s and Anna Flanagan Malloy’s—and compare, the list is one and the same for both William Flanagan’s “Parish Ballygran” and Anna Flanagan Malloy’s humble cottage in Cappanihane.

If only I could see it all on a map, perhaps it would be clearer to me.


  1. Oy, me head does ache Lassy. Auld these townlands and the names!

    I think what you said explains why Google has the same names repeated on the maps two-three times... one for each level of "political entity".

  2. Fascinating! I adore working on these types of issues.

    When I was mapping my grandparents villages in Europe one of my clues was that a great-grandfather had "come over the mountain". A topographical map finally pointed me in the right direction.


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