Saturday, October 17, 2015
Reaching Through Those Cracks
Is it possible to retrieve genealogical information that had slipped through the proverbial cracks in the record-keeping systems of the past? In particular, is it possible to find what became of a missing female ancestor whose coming of age coincided with her disappearance from all public notice?
I'm thinking, in particular, of the sister of my husband's great grandfather, John Tully. Admittedly, Margaret Tully is not a direct ancestor, so it seems hardly worth the effort to fuss over this—but only to those driven to zero in solely on their direct lines. I, on the other hand, am pursuing a policy of reverse genealogy, seeking all the descendants of our ancestors to better equip me in the process of identifying our genetic genealogy matches through DNA testing. So it's important to me to know what became of Margaret Tully, especially if she had any descendants.
All I know about Margaret Tully, at this point, is that she was born in 1844 in "Tauntina," the hill above the tiny village of Ballina in northern County Tipperary in Ireland. I can see that now from the digitized capture of the original Catholic Parish Registers, thankfully offered online by the National Library of Ireland—although, wouldn't you know it, the very line of her baptismal record is partially obscured by a frustrating fold in the page of the register. Thankfully, someone had also transcribed the record online in the Flannery Clan website, providing the date as 10 September 1844. The original record also provided a hint of relatives when it listed the sponsors as Mick Tully and Mary Gleeson.
The next point after that, Margaret showed up in the 1851 Canadian census in the Brant County household of her parents in the village of Paris. Though age eighteen at the time, she was still present in the family home for the 1861 census.
After that, who knows what happened. Her mother was already missing from the second census, and after that point, I lost track of her father. Her older brother Michael had already married and had one son—reliably named after Michael's father, as a good Irish son would have done—and was soon leaving town with his young family for Detroit, Michigan. Margaret's brothers Patrick, John and William followed that prompting to emigrate, and headed for Chicago. Older sister Johanna had already married and, though later than their brothers, had also headed west—in their case, first to Winnipeg, then to Dakota Territory.
But where was Margaret?
Of course, I'm not the only one facing this quandary. There are many researchers puzzling over their maiden aunts—or were they?—who seemed to disappear just as they turned that marriageable age.
Then, too, there are others—those resourceful researchers—who never let a minor inconvenience like a burned courthouse hinder their progress. I like to think of collections like the Sam Fink collection, assembled to replace missing marriage records after the disastrous fire in Chicago, and remind myself that there are work-arounds out there because there have always been hackers in the genealogical community. It seems our minds are wired for that. You know that overcoming spirit has become our heritage when you read stories like blogger Dara's tale of using dog license registers to confirm her ancestor's address in the record vacuum of early 1900s Ireland.
In my Margaret Tully's case, I have an additional pull by virtue of the several photographs sent from Canada to the Tully family, once they immigrated to Chicago. Could it be that Margaret was left behind, because she married someone back in Brant County, Ontario? There was someone in that vicinity—and later in the Hamilton area—who kept in touch with the now-American branch of the family. Who were they?
Frustratingly, it turns out that if Margaret did indeed marry, hers would be one of those ceremonies not likely to appear in civil records. Information on some of the holdings at FamilySearch.org indicate that the Catholic marriage records don't include the likely diocese for our Tully family. Then, though the dates of civil registrations may look promising, that was a great plan—but not necessarily the way things worked out in real life.
Likewise, looking over the holdings at Ancestry.com for the Brant County area of Ontario doesn't give me much hope for success. It seems only some parts of the province were routinely covered during the likely years of marriage for someone Margaret's age.
Thankfully, FamilySearch's wiki provides some tips for those failing to unearth the desired marriage record within the province of Ontario. There may well be a way to find an answer to my wild goose chase—after all, Margaret could have just died young—but it will likely require reverting back to snail mail and waiting six weeks for my self-addressed, stamped envelope to find its way back to me.
Above: An unidentified man stands, hat in hand, for this full length portrait at Farmer Brothers, Photographers, in Hamilton, Ontario; from the private collection passed down to family from Edna Tully McCaughey.