Monday, May 7, 2012

Still Here to be Counted

It seems the John Flannigan family has scattered to the four winds—mysterious ones at that—after the 1900 census. The only descendants we can be certain of by the time of the next census are John and Mary’s daughter, Nellie, and baby son, Tom.

Nellie, married to Walter McKay in Leadville, Colorado, about a year before the 1900 census, finds herself by 1910 following her mother’s path down to Denver. Her husband and now-ten-year-old daughter Sina are with her, of course, as is a new addition to the family. Sina has a baby brother. It looks like Jack arrived sometime in the middle of 1908—although maddeningly, though carefully noting that Jack was aged exactly one year and ten months at the time, the census taker failed to actually record the date in which she completed her duties.

The 1910 census included some details that reveal intra-decade changes in the family. Nellie is listed as mother of three, with two still living, telling the tale that there was another child during that unusual gap between the McKays’ oldest daughter Sina and next child, Jack. A tacit indication of another change—by the absence of one specific name—is the fact that Grace, having made her home with her older sister Nellie during the 1900 census year, is now nowhere to be found.

By 1920, Nellie’s family has undergone some more changes. Still in Denver, the record includes Nellie, Sina, Jack, and another addition: a second son, Ralph. Born around 1911, he takes his place as the youngest in a family that is now missing their father. Though Nellie claims that she is married, there is no entry for Walter. Besides, Nellie, at this point, is herself listed as working as a saleswoman for a department store. Searching the Colorado Archives reveals a 1917 record for a divorce in Lake County, the location of the McKay’s former home in Leadville. Perhaps Walter, by this point, has returned to Leadville to live.

As for the other Flannigan household from the 1900 census—that of Mary Flannigan and her by-then other married daughters—the only one left by 1910 that I can find is the elder Flannigans’ youngest child, Thomas. While it seems that Tom can be found in a boarding home in Denver for the 1910 census, by 1920, he has a household of his own. Tom is now married—on May 18, 1918—to the daughter of Swedish immigrants who had settled in Illinois.

By the time of the 1930 census, the young Mr. Flannigan is now not only married to the former Anna Olson, but is proud father of a daughter, Doris, who is, by now, eight years of age. At the same time that Tom and Anna’s daughter was born, though, her much-older cousin Sina was about to undergo a tragedy of her own, which is reflected by her absence in the McKay household record for the 1930 census. Sina’s brother Jack now becomes the oldest child showing in Nellie’s household, and joins his mother in covering the household expenses by his employment as a clerk for a local bank.

And by 1940—showing in a freshly-indexed census record here—the Thomas Flannigan family resides at the same place in Denver where they’ve lived for the past five years: on West 33rd Avenue. While the household still includes only the three of them, the details reveal that Doris’ name was actually Mary Doris. She is now eighteen years old and finishing up her fourth year of high school. As for Nellie’s household, by that 1940 census, her sons are now young men on their own with their own families.

And another generation begins weaving their own threads into the Flannigan family tapestry.

Photograph, right: The Walter G. McKay family, with Sina sitting between her parents, Jack in front of his father, and Ralph sitting on Nellie's lap. Below, left: the two McKay boys, Jack (left) and Ralph (right). Both pictures from the private collection of John Flannigan descendant, Connie Martel. Used by permission.


  1. That cute little baby boy is my GRANDPA!
    It was the only family picture that we ever found of them so it is very precious to our family. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Smiles. I always enjoy photos of little children dressed in "imaginative" ways. The fashions back then - I'm so glad are "back then" and not now!

  3. Love your stories. Great documenting. Wish my Flanagan's tied into yours. Mine went Ireland Chicago Ohio then Oregon and California. Not a settled bunch. : )


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