Thursday, May 10, 2012

Making Some Calculations

A while back, we discussed another child of the family of James and Ellen Flannigan in the Upper Peninsula—the spinster sister, Agatha, who had lived with her brother Richard and his wife until their passing, and even then remained in Norway, Michigan, until just before the time of her death. However, for some unexplained reason, she ended up passing away not in Michigan, but in Duluth, Minnesota.

I had always wondered about that seeming discontinuity in her life story. After all, she had no descendants. Perhaps as a doting aunt, she may have had nieces or nephews who moved to Duluth, I had reasoned—but then, finding no leads, gave up that assumption.

Gave it up, that is, until today. Within the last twenty-four hours, I’ve now come up with two reasons why Agatha may have been in Duluth. And today, we’ll begin to uncover the roots of one of them: Agatha’s older sister Catherine.

As I mentioned yesterday, Catherine is a difficult find in the world of vital records. While census reports peg her year of birth as 1853 or 1855, there is, back from that time, no civil record. Of course, should I pursue church records, I may find some leads. On the other hand, as we will see at the end of this series when we return to the one who initiated this detour into the Flannigan family—Father Patrick M. Flannigan, pastor until 1907 of Saint Anne’s Church in Chicago—the diocese itself was in a formative stage, with its Bishop functioning more as a missionary than the lofty role to which such a title might allude. So there may be no better discoveries awaiting us there than in the courthouse records.

In order to learn more about Catherine, we need to delve into the story of a friend of the family—someone who eventually sees himself intertwined with three branches of the Flannigan family children. This friend is a man by the name of August C. Cook.

Unlike the Flannigans, who were Irish immigrants, August Cook came from a different European heritage. As of this Saturday, May 12, it will be one hundred fifty five years since August Cook began life in Mühlhausen, Thüringia, which was at that time under the rule of Prussia. He came to Michigan with his parents and five siblings when he was about ten years of age.

It may be useful in the study of some of the Flannigan descendants to catalog August Cook’s siblings for future reference. I sense a possible need to connect the dots as this story unfolds.

The 1911 Lewis Publishing Company edition of A History of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan and Its People provides a list of the family members. According to author Alvah Littlefield Sawyer, the volume three biographical sketch for August C. Cook includes the following information on the children of Christian and Mary Hill Cook:

            Matilda married Nicholas King of Seattle, Washington.
            Martha married Henry W. Potter of Eureka, California.
            Dorothea married Joseph Jackson of San Jose, California.
            Mary married Carl Regolin of Appleton, Wisconsin.
            Emma married Fred H. Hunter, also of Appleton, Wisconsin.

Note the western locations of the older three daughters. I am wondering if these locations will become pertinent to the Flannigan story in the upcoming generation.

The parents, Christian and Mary, stayed in Marquette, Michigan, for about twenty years, then relocated to Wrightstown, Wisconsin, a mere sixteen miles away from their youngest two daughters.

August, their only son, having completed his education in Marquette, apprentices himself to a local attorney for further education in law. He is admitted to the Michigan bar in 1879—a date which might sound familiar, as it turns out to be the same year in which Richard Flannigan is also admitted. Interestingly enough, both August and Richard soon afterwards move from Marquette to Norway, where each opens his respective practice.

The connection grows stronger between these two families at about this same time, as August Cook proposes to Richard’s sister Catherine. She accepts, and the marriage takes place in Marquette on November 22, 1880. The ceremony is performed by Bishop John Vertin. The best man is none other than fellow attorney, Richard Flannigan.

Shortly after this, August and Catherine are proud parents of a son. Mathew H. Cook arrives in Norway, Michigan, August 27, 1881. He is promptly joined by a sister, Catherine, in 1883.

This child, Catherine J. Cook, is one for whom I’ve not been able to locate a birth record. Though the family is still located in the same town, and though there is a record online for her older brother, the only source I’ve found for a birth date for Catherine is her marriage record as transcribed at There, her birth date is given simply as the year 1883.

This is where things start to get sticky. The unfortunate turn of events is that, soon after, August Cook loses his wife. Yet, the only online record I can find of that event is a transcription of a death record in Norway—the Cooks’ town of residence—for someone labeled as Katherin Cook. The date of passing is given only as a year: 1882.

This obviously complicates matters, for if Catherine is the mother of the Cook daughter born in 1883, it would necessitate the mother being alive until the point of the daughter’s arrival. A different record, though not official, pins the date of the mother’s death as January 7, 1883. If this is correct, it at least narrows the daughter’s date of birth to a much tighter range.

Whether the young mother Catherine Flannigan Cook died in 1882 or 1883, the fact for August still remains that he is left with two small children and a thriving practice demanding his professional attention. In choosing to take the reasonable—for that time period—route in finding someone to care for his household, widower Cook selects a solution that again links him with the Flannigan family line of his deceased wife, as we shall see tomorrow.

Photograph: An old street in the city of August Cook's birth, Mühlhausen, Thüringia; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license by photographer Michael Sander; via Wikipedia.


  1. This is like reading a great mystery while waiting to unfold the plot.
    You have wonderful tracing skills for people and I hope you will blog a how to lesson soon.
    I cant wait until tomorrow.

    1. That is so kind of you. Thank you! I will certainly keep your suggestion in mind...although I'm very thankful for the readers who have helped me with their excellent search skills. In this Flannigan series, I've been helped by one reader, Intense Guy, and a Flannigan descendant, Connie. Between posts, there is a lot of chatter going on behind the scenes as we share with each other what we've found!


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