Monday, April 21, 2014

Neighbors, Friends—or Family?

A funny thing happened on the way to determine whether our Patrick Flannery had moved to Brantford, the county seat of Brant County, to be close to his brother: I found another name in that 1891 census, one which I had seen back in Patrick’s old home in Paris, Ontario.

If you remember my first mention of Patrick and Margaret, as newlyweds in the 1881 census, you may have noticed the curious configuration given to his household listing by That website had included a second surname in the enumeration of everyone in Patrick’s family. Beside his wife, Margaret, and their two young daughters Mary and Margaret, there was another family by the name of O’Neial.

I wasn’t sure about this name—not because of the unusual spelling, of course, because spelling contortions like that were bound to happen back then, but because of its placement in the same household as Patrick’s. To check it out, I located the same entry at to look at the actual document for myself.

Though the digitized copy of the 1881 census was quite faded, sure enough, there appeared to be two families in the same household on the document itself. The O’Neial family was comprised of thirty five year old Ellen plus twelve year old John and ten year old Edward—if you are an subscriber, you can see for yourself by clicking here.

Why did Patrick’s young family include these other people?

Sometimes, poring over all these census records is enough to turn one’s brain to mush, as names tumble around and become jumbled with other names. But I thought I had seen that name before.

I took a look at the previous census to see if I could locate what I thought I had remembered. I did find an Ellen combined with an Edward and a John—ages conveniently reduced by ten years on the earlier record—but this time, they were in the separate household of one Thomas O’Neil.

More importantly, they were right next door to a Flannery household. But it wasn't Patrick’s. Instead, Thomas and Ellen O'Neil were living next to the household of the now elderly Edward and Margaret Flannery. Hmm.

Taking it yet another step backwards to the 1861 census, there in Edward and Margaret Flannery’s household, was a single woman by the name of Ellen Flannery.

Could this Ellen Flannery born in Ireland in 1843 be the twenty five year old wife of Thomas O’Neil in the 1871 census? We’ve already seen how fluid those birth dates seem to have been in that era. Can I trust it to be so for this instance? Why else would this same O’Neil family later move in tandem with Edward Flannery's son Patrick when his family relocated from Paris to Brantford?

Not sure to rely solely on a possibility like shifting ages, I’ll first have to do some searches for records for any of this O’Neil—or O’Neail—foursome.



  1. This turns you head into mush... it just makes mine ache!


    1. Well, in this case, no pain, no gain. It was worth it!


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