Sunday, April 6, 2014

Finding “Yesterday Afternoon”

In our search to discover what became of the Flannery family of Paris—the small village in Ontario, Canada, not the famous city—we’ve found a clue in a news article about the unfortunate Patrick Flannery, as I mentioned yesterday. If you remember, the small report, running in the Essex Free Press on April 5, 1895, was dated April 1.

The actual date of death, however, occurred some time earlier—but that is hard to glean from the news:

Drowned in a Mill Race. – Paris, Ont., April 1. – Patrick Flannery, an old and respected resident of Paris, who has been missing since Friday night, was found yesterday afternoon

Okay, let me get this again: the news was printed April 5, but the report was dated April 1, and the body was found March 31. But when did he actually die? What date should be used to search for documentation for that?

As it turns out, not only am I confused about what date to use, but between the province’s office of vital statistics and the church parish’s cemetery records, there appears to be some confusion, too. Either way, once I had the approximate date in hand, it was not hard to locate these records. Combining the name of the small town with the approximate day of death provided enough qualifying data to overcome the handicap of such a common Irish given name coupled with a not-too-unusual Irish surname like Flannery.

Being a Catholic by birth—surely—Patrick was likely to have been buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery. That was the cemetery connected to the first Catholic Church in Paris, Ontario. Finding a partial list of burials via, I did indeed locate such a name. Noting the date of death for this Patrick, according to Sacred Heart, it checked out as 29 March, 1895.

With a confirmed date, I took a look online to see if there were any actual death records for Patrick. An index of Ontario deaths found at—admittedly not the certificate itself, so open to transcription problems—gave the official date of death as 30 March, 1895.

Perhaps the circumstances surrounding Patrick Flannery’s passing made it difficult to pronounce the actual date of death. Who knows what was behind the one-day discrepancy.

One thing I know, though: between both those online resources, I was able to glean two additional bits of helpful information to further identify this specific Patrick: the name of his wife, and the place of his birth.

Bit by bit, this Patrick Flannery is taking shape again before our researching eyes.


  1. Ah! So exciting! I suspect we are so spoiled (if you want to call it that!) about our news being "instantaneous" as opposed to delayed by several days in time - like it was up until around 1900.

    1. It's another little detail to keep in mind when absorbing the sense of the context of the times in which these ancestors lived.

      Of course, now with Internet search capabilities, these discoveries are becoming quite instantaneous, too. :)

  2. I wonder if the date discrepancy might be a case of date he was reported missing and date he was found dead. How sophisticated were they in determining actual time of death?

    1. That question, Wendy, calls for some professional input from my resident deputy coroner ;)

      While the sophistication of local law enforcement agencies could vary, depending on the level of training for personnel, some signs from the body itself would yield information to someone trained in determining this. For instance, many factors contributing to the condition of the body would vary the appearance, and thus the ability to determine point of death. The fact that the water was cold--icy, in fact--would tend to preserve the body's appearance. The mention of his face as being "badly bloated" in such conditions might indicate the possibility of violence preceding the "fall" into the water. On the other hand, if the body fell head-first, and was submerged at that attitude, it would also tend to alter the appearance of the face.

      After discussing all these possibilities with my husband (who served in law enforcement for nearly twenty five years), I began wondering what the result of the "inquest" might have been, and thought about sending for a copy of the report.

      However, in searching further online, I found a transcription that mentioned "accidental drowning" as cause of death. I found it interesting that the "accidental" was inserted in the record, and wonder if that was a term provided as a result of the inquest.

      At any rate, I suppose if I drag out one of those handy-dandy multi-year calendar calculators, I can determine the date of "Friday night" in March, 1895, and know how long since Patrick was last seen until his body was found. That, however, I think I will leave for other inquisitive this point, I want to be on to Ireland!

  3. Replies
    1. Yes! Although, unfortunately, rather gruesome...

      I meant to ask you, Far Side, since you live much farther north than I do: are you familiar with the term used in the newspaper, "race" for the body of water where Patrick was found? I had never heard that term before, and checked a copy of the digitized newspaper, thinking it was a transcription error. But it apparently is, indeed, the term "race." Is that term used in your part of the country?

    2. A mill race is a channel of water that brings water to a water wheel that powered the mill and then takes the water away. If you google mill race, you will see pictures of them. They generally took water from a pond created by a low dam in a canal like channel.

    3. Ah, here is a photo of what may be "the" mill race:


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