Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Finding Aggie’s Family

The newspaper report of Miss Agatha Flannigan’s funeral gave a brief glimpse into her life and that of her family—especially her one brother Richard and her father—but it didn’t get down to the specifics that would further our search.

Who were “Captain and Mrs. Flannigan,” Aggie’s parents?

In order to get the details, since I hadn’t, at the time, access to any scanned copy of her death certificate (which I later discovered was listed under the given names Mary Agatha), I looked for her well-known brother’s records. Googling Richard Flannigan’s name produced a few documents. Taking a close look at and yielded his death record as well as posts of a couple family-trees-in-progress.

Good thing there were these online resources, for once again this family throws us a curve: Agatha’s brother Richard had passed away not in his native Michigan, but in Chicago, Illinois. Thankfully for research, the year of his passing was much later than that of his Chicago-based brother Patrick, and the information gleaned at this later date included the names of the parents.

From Richard’s death certificate, then, we find the parents’ names to be James F. and Ellen Sullivan Flannigan. (Of course, I have since located Agatha’s own death certificate, which confirms this.) The record shows both the parents to have been born in Waterford, Ireland—most likely meaning County Waterford—concurring with those reports we have already found.

Armed with this bit of information, the next step is the census records. What can be found there? While we already know that Agatha and her brother, the Honorable R. C. Flannigan, were listed as adults in the same household all the way back to the Michigan state census of 1894, I wanted to see what the earlier records would reveal for the names of all their siblings in their childhood home.

True, I already had the news article about Father Flannigan’s will naming both Agatha and Richard and another brother, John, but I’ve been curious to see if I could track the lines of any of the other Flannigan children. With this fascinating continuing conversation unfolding before our eyes about the research on this line, as people piece together missing links to family members heretofore unknown, I’m wondering if anyone else from this Flannigan line will come join in the give-and-take.

Frankly, I was stumped from the start with the 1880 census (though a Flannigan descendant yesterday was kind enough to direct me to it). I simply couldn’t find anything on Ancestry listing parents James and Ellen with children Patrick, Richard and Agatha. Being the impatient sort, I simply stepped over that roadblock and continued my search with the 1870 census. After all, Agatha’s funeral notice mentioned three daughters and ten sons claiming James and Ellen as the proud parents. I wanted to know who each and every one of them were.

In retrospect, I’m not even sure how I found the family in 1870. The head of the Flannigan family was listed in 1870 by that antiquated abbreviation of his given name as “Jas.” There, alongside the fifty-six year old miner stood his wife, Ellen. Listed with them were Matthew, Richard, Margaret, Mary, William and Edward. Where was Patrick? And where was Agatha, who would have been ten years of age by then?

Taking another step backward in time, I found the 1860 census didn’t help in uncovering the names of those three daughters and ten sons. Once again in the town of Greenland in Ontonagon County, Michigan, the Flannigan family was listed: parents James and Ellen, their son Thomas listed as the eldest at age nineteen, followed by eight siblings.

Certainly not thirteen children here, either. And though Richard is showing as a two-year-old, there is no sign of Agatha. The youngest listed is one-year-old Margaret. And still no Patrick.

There is, however, a possibility that Patrick was still there—though not listed in this specific household. Thanks once again to the persistent “Iggy,” we find a likely 1860 census entry in the Minnesota Mine section of nearby Rockland township: a nineteen-year-old “theology student” by the name of “Pat. O. Flannegan” in the household of the “R. C. Clergyman” Reverend Martin Fox. As we shall discover, that notation from June 14, 1860, and that location will soon be corroborated by other reports.

Even tentatively accepting the student “Pat” in the nearby township, though, and adding in the elusive Agatha yields us only eleven children.

I’m holding out for thirteen!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. There are at least three possibilties for the "missing" brothers.

    1) They died young (and perhaps in Ireland)
    2) They didn't come over from Ireland with the rest of the bunch but this seems unlikey as the "oldest and possibly adult" children wouldn't have been very old at the time (under 20-ish)
    3) They didn't join the family in "the mines" Michigan. Bear in mind, John heads for Leadville, Colorado (and another mine, no doubt) and Patrick is in Cinncinati at a young age too).

    I found "hints" of a Jeremiah, Robert, and some others. this one... 19 years old, living and working in Michigan, born in 1851 in that big gap between James and Catherine...

    I'm still thinking perhaps Thomas and Patrick were twins. :)

  3. William and Catherine are twins? Born in Michigan in 1853 (according to 1860 census which I can't see via your link to

    James, born in 1847, was born in Ireland. In the 1870 census all the boys over the age of 14 are lsited as "laborers".

    Mother Ellen dies 25 Nov 1879 at thw age of 61 in Marquette, Marquette, Michigan, before the 1880 census.

    Many of the "men" in the family die relatively young, and before 1900, which would be the first census I can see "immigration date" on. What I would like to see is the date of immigration for the sons that came over from Ireland. It had to have been after 1847 (but before 1850-ish).

    I tried looking here for them: seeing if I could the "young brothers" together on the same ship, but did not see them.

  4. One of my favorite recreational activities - but Iggy seems to have it in hand. Good thing, 'cause I'm stuck searching the 1910 census.


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