Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Examining a Possibility

Staying true to my intention to serve as genealogical guinea pig in this research attempt has seen this blog morph into a written form of reality show. I’m not sure the contortions I twisted myself into, while researching this Cornelius Flannery, are either productive or conceptually healthy. I’m beginning to feel more like a fly desperately trying to liberate itself from the spider web its been caught in. No matter which way I struggle, I can’t find a way to break out of this trap.

Here’s where we left off yesterday: not finding any reasonably comparable hits for Cornelius Flannery in Brant County, Ontario—well, at least out of what’s available online, currently—but discovering a tempting possibility in Chicago, adopted home of Flannery cousins John and Patrick Tully.

Try as I might, I could not find any clues among those online records of the Chicago Cornelius to link him with my Paris-based (Ontario, that is!) Flannery family.

Just for the sake of recording my path—in hopes I won’t retrace those errant steps in the future—here’s a run-down of what I found on the Chicago Cornelius Flannery family.

The first sign of Flannery life in Chicago was the 1880 census. There, under the grotesque misspelling of his name as Cornelious Flenory, was a married man and father of six children: Edward, Thomas, Catherine, William, Mary and six year old youngest, “Cornelious.” The two oldest children, aged twenty five and sixteen, were born in Michigan; all the rest were born in Illinois. Cornelius and his wife, Catherine were born in Ireland.

No clue, of course, to indicate whether Cornelius and Catherine had passed through Ontario on their way to Michigan.

Since Edward, the oldest, was born around 1855, given that his father was born around 1834 would put dad as a married man by the time he was twenty—a somewhat unlikely scenario, but not out of the realm of possibility. With second son Thomas born around 1864, also in Michigan, I checked out what might be found in online records for Michigan.

The only item I could find with a Cornelius Flannery in Michigan was an 1860 census entry for a laborer named “Flannerry” in a boarding-house setting in Marquette County, Michigan. This is up north in the Upper Peninsula—quite a logical location for someone living in Canada seeking work in the United States. Though that seems to fit nicely with the narrative, it distresses me because of the conspicuous absence of both a wife and a five year old son. This is not fitting nicely into the story line.

The 1864 Michigan state census looked like a throw-back to pre-1850 census records. Listing the head of household only, it included headings divided by age categories as well as gender and marital status. There was a Cornelius Flannery in Houghton County, MichiganFranklin Township there, also in the Upper Peninsula—with a household containing two boys under the age of five and nine men between the ages of twenty one and forty five—two of whom were married. Two women over the age of eighteen but under forty—one married, one not—completed the household. While this could conceivably be the household of our Cornelius—well, let’s not get too possessive here, it’s only ours for purposes of today’s contortions—there is one slight problem. Edward would be, by this point, almost ten years of age, requiring an entry in the next age bracket, over five but under ten years old.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find any trace of Cornelius and family in the 1870 United States census, either—Michigan or Illinois. Yet, checking back home in Canada for 1871 wasn’t successful, either.

We all know what happened with United States census records beyond the one solid 1880 record I found: the 1890 census is all but destroyed. That leaves us with the 1900 census, which was doubtful, considering Cornelius would, by this point, be nearing sixty five years of age. There he was, though, still in Chicago, along with his wife Catherine and his two youngest sons, William and Cornelius.

From the 1900 census, we learn that Catherine was the mother of seven children, five of whom still survived. We also can see they claimed thirty nine years of marriage, putting their wedding date sometime in 1861. With oldest son Edward having been listed in the 1880 census as being born in 1855, that indicates a discrepancy. In addition, Cornelius himself, who in 1880 stated his age as forty five, now gave a birth date in May, 1840—five years later. In addition, he reported arriving in the United States in 1858, though in the 1880 census, he indicated that his eldest was born in the United States three years prior to that date.

The family grouping, other than those differences, still seemed plausible. There was wife Catherine, and the two sons still in the household displayed ages in accordance with what we discovered through the 1880 census.

But did this Cornelius connect with the Cornelius living in Paris, Ontario, back at the time of the 1852 Canada West census? That is the main question.

Unfortunately, soon after that 1900 census, Cornelius passed away. His date of death was April 14, 1902—falling just short of the year in which Illinois augmented data-gathering requirements including that of the deceased’s parents' names. As for the death certificate, it provided an “estimated” year of birth as 1838.

An obituary published on page nine of the Chicago Tribune on the following day provided only the weakest of connections:
FLANNERY—Cornelius Flannery, husband of Catherine Flannery. Funeral April 16 at 9:30 a.m. from 390 Fourteenth-pl., to Holy Family Church, thence by carriage to Calvary.

A posthumous hint provided the maiden name for Cornelius’ wife. At the 1917 passing of their next-to-youngest son, William, the now more expeditious Cook County office of Vital Statistics included the full name of both parents. Along with his father Cornelius’ entry was that of his mother: Catherine Maddigan.

Yet, even gifted with that after-the-fact tidbit, I still was unable to turn up any results showing a marriage between Cornelius and Catherine. Not in Ontario, and not in Michigan.

More important, I’m still lacking any connection between this Cornelius and the one back home in 1852 in the little town of Paris in Brant County, Ontario. Maybe choosing to use the most “unusual” of the Flannery sons’ names wasn’t the smartest tactic, after all.


  1. I don't know, Jacqi, if I put too much stock in dates and ages, I wouldn't find anybody. My ancestors seemed never to know their own age or birth date; they went by their first name one census and their middle name the next. The ADHD of record-keeping.

    1. Wendy, I've had my doubts about some of these ancestors' ability to remember their own children's birthdays. But it still makes me nervous to buy such wild discrepancies in dates. After all, this could be the totally wrong suspect, here.

  2. I have to agree completely with Wendy. Ages and dates were slippery back things backbthen, why? I dont know, but I have seen the same thing too.

    1. That said, even if you were 100% sure this was "him" - it hasn't helped you with your elusive goal of finding where the family came from in Ireland - so frustrating!

    2. Ah, Iggy, sometimes I guess I hold my cards too close to the chest. I do actually know where the family came from in Ireland--well, if those Tully baptismal certificates for Margaret Flannery Tully's children can be believed! But the question I have now is: is this other Flannery family--the ones who apparently were neighbors of Margaret in Paris, Ontario--related to her?

  3. I always admire your diligent research and putting what you find to the test. Here's to a breakthrough coming soon!

    1. Thank you, Kathy--on both accounts! I'm looking forward to that breakthrough!

  4. They must be related..too coincidental to have them in Paris Ont and not have them related. Houghton County Michigan...that is where my Paternal Great Grandparents settled to work in the Copper Mines before coming to Minnesota for some affordable land. They came from Finland:)

    1. Far Side, I noticed that when I did my research on the Flannigan family in the Upper Peninsula. Seemed there was a substantial settlement of immigrants from Finland there, so your great grandparents were in good company :)


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