Sunday, April 13, 2014

Those Uncooperative Details

Now that we’re back on track—setting aside those pesky computer operating system details—let’s return to the Flannery question at hand. We had just found the first hints of records in the Flannery homeland of Ireland—even more specifically, in the Parish of Ballina in County Tipperary. Granted, they were actually transcriptions of baptismal records, so I will eventually need to secure source documentation—but this is, at least, a start.

However…I don’t know if you noticed what I saw, as I perused the details in the transcription provided in the Flannery Clan website, but it causes me some concern. Edmund Flannery, the father—who, himself, has been presented to us with various permutations of his given name’s spelling—either has a twin in Ballina, or he was married twice.

For his son Cornelius, baptized 12 February, 1835, his wife is listed as Margaret McKeogh. Five years later, for son Matthew, Edmund’s wife is listed as Margaret Keogh.

Granted, that could be just a slip of a pen—or an as-yet-unverified Irish naming custom in which prefixes like “Mc” or “O’” are arbitrarily included or omitted.

That is not my main concern, though.

It is when I view the record, another five years later, of the baptism of son Edmund on 4 April, 1845. This time, the senior Edmund’s wife was listed as Mary Kirby—an entirely different name.

Could this be a second wife? Or is it actually a different Edmund Flannery?

The only other record I’ve found so far for Edmund’s wife’s name was in their son Patrick’s marriage license. There, Edmund’s wife was listed as Mary, not Margaret. But her maiden name wasn’t Kirby; it was given as Keogh.

It doesn’t help that I can’t exactly find Edmund Flannery’s family in the 1861 Canadian census. Remember, the 1852 census for Edmund’s new home in Paris, Ontario, was presided over by an enumerator who frustratingly insisted on listing each head of household’s wife by the first name of “Mrs.” Finding the family in the 1861 census would have provided some guidance in this given name quandary. Unfortunately, in 1861, the only entry I could find for Paris was for the household of one “Edward Flanery.” At least, his wife’s name showed there as Margaret—if that was the right Flannery household.

While I’m delighted to have burst past the brick wall of immigrant status in the New World and worked my way back to the Irish homeland, it is still apparent that I need to beware the effects of frequent name repetitions. When every generation carries forward the naming traditions of the previous generations, those same names seem to generate a sort of feedback loop, continually repeating the same names yielded from previous years. Grandparents, then parents, then siblings, then children all seem to carry the same Mary or Margaret—or Edmund—honoring a past family member. Which one is which? To sort them out carefully will require the utmost attention to details—and a diligent check on the lines of siblings for each generation.


  1. At first I was going to suggest that "Mary" might be "Marg" (abbreviation for Margaret), but the Keogh/Kirby issue rather negates that suggestion.

    1. Wendy, that suggestion actually provides a comforting sense of relief! That is very possible. Also possible is the "sometimes" tradition of giving first names of saints, then a second given name that becomes a working name. While I've seen that more in descendants of German heritage, I believe that was the idea behind our Irish "John Kelly" Stevens--Kelly was his working name, but his actual given name was John. I believe many daughters had the same instance with "Mary" as first name. Perhaps she was actually "Mary Margaret."

      As for Kirby, was, after all a transcription. Someday, I'll hopefully be able to take a look at a film of the original document and determine if that surname was copied incorrectly.

      Here's hoping!

  2. I probably could scrawl a "Keogh" and make it look like a Kirby....

    :)(Ugh) and penmanship is a dying (if not dead) art today...


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