Monday, April 23, 2012

On a Personal Note

Even though he was most certainly busy with his demanding career as an attorney, Richard Flannigan evidently had time to notice, before moving away from Marquette, the young daughter of a widow who had, some time back, moved to town from Wisconsin. The young lady’s name was Anna—or sometimes she was called Annie Mary—and she found herself, at some point in 1884, saying “yes” to the proposal of the tall, slender attorney.

Richard and Anna’s marriage day on November 11, 1884, found them embarking on a move to the newly-established mining company town of Norway, Michigan. From that point on, in true fashion for those times, the new Mrs. Flannigan assumed the anonymity of married life. Notwithstanding the wilds of her new environs, barely a mention can be found of her, as befitted a woman of proper late-Victorian era society. Acknowledged as “Mrs. R. C. Flannigan” even in the 1894 Michigan state census, she did finally emerge in public records as “Annie,” the young mother, by the time of the 1900 federal census. She assumed the more dignified persona of “Anna” once reaching the 1910 census, and remained so listed until her transition as widow to a new residence in Colorado, where we find her, once again, going by the name “Annie” in the 1930 census.

Tracking Mrs. Flannigan’s first name gives barely the researcher’s grief bestowed on one determined to connect her with her birth family. While family researchers online maintain that her maiden name was spelled “Haessly”—an understandably challenging surname for census takers to master—the scanned copy of the Marquette county marriage index shows that her maiden name was written as “Hurley” with a wide-open top for that “u” rather than a sloppily-closed “a.” Her record in the 1880 census in Marquette showed the same clearly-written name: Hurley. This is definitely not the case of a feeble attempt at transcribing such a challenging name as “Haessly.” With a puzzle such as this, I certainly entertain opening up that continuing conversation and asking any family researchers to add their comments to clarify this mystery with any records they’ve found.

Richard Flannigan and his wife had one child, a son whom they called Clement—at least according to the census records. The Norway, Michigan, birth index shows his name as “William C.” for the October 28, 1888, event. Unfortunately, here also, governmental records let us down as to the full identity of the invisible Mrs. R. C. Flannigan.

Surely, though, those records would not fail us at the other end of life, as modern sensibilities intrude upon those Victorian scruples. But where are Anna’s death records? Or even of Clement’s name on any death certificate? I can find nary a trace—at least at this point, online—of the man, under either the given name of William or Clement, nor of his mother’s own death certificate. In the funeral notice back in her Michigan home town, she has reverted back to the colorless "Mrs. Flannigan" once again. Like mother, the son, too, has become invisible, dashing any hopes of retrieving Anna’s own maiden name.

Meanwhile, as government records are failing the family on a personal level in any possibility of leaving a trail for future heritage-hunters, the young family’s patriarch continues his march toward greater application of his considerable professional acumen.


  1. From my skimming research, the name seems to be Haessly. I don't know how common this name is or what country it might of come from.

    I find the initials R C to be equally "masking". It's as if they didn't want folks to know who they were. Perhaps it was because they were in the public eye so much?

    1. I wasn't so put off by the use of initials, Iggy. I guess this is owing to my maternal grandmother, the quintessential Southern Lady, whose address book was also maddeningly filled with those two-initial entries. I'm presuming that mode was just part of the social mores of the time--although I could hardly call the Upper Peninsula of the 1880s to be the epitome of high society!


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