So I hissed and moaned about something. Again. I was having trouble navigating the genealogical research waters in new territory: Detroit, Michigan. Not that I haven’t been thumbing through the files there before. It’s just that all our family lines have been there and soon passed along to greener pastures.
Maybe Detroit is turning out to be a stop along the Irish immigrant highway—that detour to the New World that requires the weary traveler to pass through Canada before arriving at the final destination in the land of the free. It turned out to be true for another branch of our Tully line—Michael and Margaret and children, who moved from Paris, Ontario, through Detroit to their final stop in Chicago. We traced them along that route before.
This time, though, I was looking for a different Michael Tully—son of John and Catherine. And, since I stumbled across them, I’m also searching for another Michael who might turn out to be family—part of the Edmund Flannery family, also from Paris, Ontario.
I couldn’t find what became of them after their arrival in Detroit. They were there for the 1870 census. And the 1880 census. And then—what? I couldn’t find any trace of them.
Normally, my first recourse in this dilemma would be to look them up on Find A Grave. Even though Detroit is a sizeable place, I could be fairly certain that they would only show up in a Catholic cemetery. But which one? Turns out there were more than one Catholic cemetery. And none produced the results I hoped for on Find A Grave.
My next stop would be to look up the cemetery listing on Find A Grave to get more information on each specific cemetery. After that, I’d usually Google each cemetery name to find its website address—then pull up the site and hope it included search capabilities so I could look up specific burials. The self-serve approach is always appreciated. But seldom available.
After my recent attempt at that same pattern when researching descendants on our Kelly line in Denver, though, I made one discovery: sometimes urban areas spread out to include so much of the county that burial locations have to be moved to a neighboring county. Thus, in Denver, the Catholic cemetery which contained the remains of our Kelly relatives was actually in a different county—which, unbeknownst to me at the time, gave me no search results, a frustrating experience.
Perhaps, I thought, the same thing was happening to me in Detroit. I certainly wasn’t getting any promising hits for all my searching.
The moral of this story—and I’ll say this up front so it won’t get lost in any more verbiage—is to never make assumptions that a search won’t work. Just do the search. Do it! All of it. All the possibilities. And then some.
Thankfully, that is not where the story ends. This is where you can see why I am so enthusiastic about the current crowdsourcing aspect of genealogical research. I love that we can share our dilemmas, tell others what stumps us. That’s why I’m a fan of social media—and even those wood-burning clunkers like the genealogy forums of the nineties. We each get the opportunity to share what we know—and at some point, get to reap what we sow with the exchange of information with someone who knows what we need to learn.
Blog readership fits right in the middle of that realm. Do you ever notice how blogs create community? Of the different blogs you read, you’ve surely noticed the continuing conversation that goes on, right below each post. That’s why I like to encourage researchers to share what they’ve found by starting their own blog: eventually (admittedly this takes longer for some people) a distant cousin will find his or her way to your post. If not a cousin, then some kind soul who has something helpful to contribute to the conversation.
That’s why I had that kid-in-candy-shop kind of happy-dance day yesterday: reader Kat passed around the Internet candy from Detroit, and I was bouncing off the walls, merrily looking up every Flannery and Tully connection I could find on this newfound website.
Yeah, if only I had looked farther, myself. If only I had stuck to my usual best intentions. But I didn’t. And I had good reason to—past experience and all. But since I didn’t, I would have missed a great search opportunity if Kat hadn’t mentioned that link to Mount Olivet and the Mount Elliott cemetery association.
I played around with what I could find. I took that site out for a spin. A joy ride. There were plenty of Flannerys listed. Even a few Tullys. And those married daughters I couldn’t find the other day? I zeroed in on the right Mary Lynch (out of several possibilities), and found both Anna Barkley and her husband George.
Don’t think I’ll be doing everything online, though. On my to-do list for today is placing a call to the Mount Olivet cemetery (where the records for Mount Elliott are held). I want to see if any of those Flannerys are buried in what is called a family plot. Hopefully, if the person on the other end of the line is helpful and not too busy, I’ll not only make sure I’ve isolated the correct family grouping, but find out who else is buried in that same plot. Sometimes, there are surprises. At the very least, I will be able to determine that I’ve gotten the Michael Flannery who belongs to Ann, and not someone else. That alone will get me tap dancing in the right direction.