Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Little Lesson in Canadian Geography


Sometimes, we get so busy attempting to connect all the dots that we don’t question the picture that is taking shape right in front of our eyes. In this case, while pursuing the four Edmund Flannery sons who seem to have scattered to the four winds upon reaching adulthood in Paris, Ontario, I missed one key observation: the newspaper report of the one son—Patrick, the only one I could find—was published in a town nearly two hundred miles away from his residence.

Patrick Flannery was found dead—drowned, possibly under suspicious circumstances, in the town of Paris, Ontario—at the beginning of April, 1895. The only way we know that is from a brief notice in the Essex Free Press, published April 5,1895. We wouldn’t even have known that, except thanks to the diligent search skills of reader Intense Guy.

Admittedly, that was a startling report to find. But that it was published so far from his home presents us with a mystery of its own. That bit of news couples nicely with the list of burials found at Interment.net for the Catholic cemetery in Paris, Sacred Heart Cemetery, so we know he wasn’t buried in Essex.

When we first made that discovery, it led to more records online, producing confirmed names for Patrick’s parents and also his wife.In the flurry of all those breathless discoveries, I missed one detail: Paris, Ontario, is nowhere near Essex, Ontario.

What was a story like Patrick’s doing in a paper that far away?

Admittedly, I didn’t even know where Essex, Ontario, was. I had to look it up. I was surprised to discover it was just south of Detroit, Michigan.




Yes, I know that sounds upside down. Canada is supposed to be north of the United States. But in this little stretch of land on the north shore of Lake Erie, Canada reaches down to the south before the international border takes a turn to the north on its way up to Lake Huron.

While thinking of the possibility of Detroit, something popped into my mind. Remember Cornelius Flannery, my first candidate for seeking further data on the Flannery family? I had chosen him for my previous research step because of his less common first name, though I later abandoned the attempt.

During that process, I had found some possibilities for Flannery sons in Detroit city directories. Knowing that the route from Paris, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, had also been taken by some other extended family members in their emigration from Ireland, I had made a mental note of it—I just didn’t have enough information at the time to be able to confirm I had any matches.

Now, looking at Essex, perched so close to the border and the city limits for Detroit, I’m beginning to wonder, again, whether those Flannery sons had indeed disappeared from Paris via a route that led through Essex, then Detroit, then further westward in the United States.

But could any Flannery men be found in Essex, itself? A quick glance online indicated there were some there—a Patrick Flannery, in fact, was listed in Essex for the 1881 and 1891 census records. We know this was not our Patrick, obviously, for he appeared in the 1901 census too, something our Patrick would have been hard pressed to accomplish. Other records revealed the presence of a Michael Flannery and a William Flannery living in Essex, too.

Cousins, perhaps? Or mere coincidence?

The only connection I can fathom would be that Patrick may have previously lived in Essex—or, as reader Iggy had surmised, possibly worked there for a while. He may also have had relatives there, and visited there. Other than that, it seems odd that a small town newspaper from so far away would have made sure to note the passing of someone as insignificant as a common laborer, living nearly two hundred miles to the east.

6 comments:

  1. Whenever I find a likely candidate for a missing family member, I always go driving on Google Maps to see if it makes sense for them to have moved from here to there. In reality, anything is possible, but it gives me hope when the two locations are near neighbors.

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    1. Wendy, that's a good tip to keep in mind. Also, I've found it invaluable to learn about the context behind any such moves. While I've included a current road map above to illustrate my point, Iggy's point about the railroad route would be more pertinent in the Flannery family's time period.

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  2. I hope your trip is successful - I find doing research "out of the country" (i.e., the USA) hard to do on-line.

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    1. Thanks, Iggy. On top of the trip to Ireland, though, I'm now beginning to wish we could make a stop in Paris--Ontario, that is!

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  3. There must have been a relative in Essex...that would be my guess:)

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  4. Just as they do today, newspapers picked up story from afar. I have a James Brock died in Cheraw, SC. There were no newspapers in upstate SC so all news was published in the Charleston newspapers. James Brock showed up in one in Mississippi-"The Mississippi Free Trader", (Natchez, MS), Wednesday, January 12, 1848, Page 2.

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