Monday, December 7, 2015

The Family That Kept "The Stuff"

If it weren't for family members who decided to keep "The Stuff," none of us would have that starting point which inspired us to check out our family history.

In my husband's family, that privilege fell to my father-in-law's maternal line. In particular, it was the mother-daughter team of Catherine Malloy Tully and Agnes Tully Stevens to whom we all owe the opportunity of still being able—literally—to handle the details. It seemed these two women saved everything. And "everything" meant the letters, photos, newspaper clippings, cards, employee newsletters and even school music programs that contained all the details to help me get started in preparing for our research trip to Ireland.

Even so, being Irish meant having a family line that eventually would come up against that nationwide brick wall that faces everyone researching their Irish ancestry. The census records for some decades are simply not there. We count ourselves fortunate to have been able to push back to documents from the 1820s in one of our lines—the Tully family in County Tipperary—mainly because of hints unearthed from the pile of personal records that Catherine Tully and her daughter couldn't bear to toss.

Oh, how fabulous it would have been to have access to someone able to do a Y-DNA test on our Tully line today. That, however, would be impossible, as the Tully line "daughtered out" with the death of Agnes Tully Stevens' brother William one hundred years ago. While there are gaps in my documentation of the extended Tully family affiliated with my husband's second great grandfather—the farthest back I've been able to research so far—it appears there are no males from that patrilineal line alive now at all.

Related to that earliest Tully I've been able to find was his wife, Margaret. By virtue of the fact that she was a Flannery, there are a number of resources available to me from that family's association. Still, I haven't pushed back farther than 1807, the year Margaret was born. Perhaps there is some wiggle room in that family line and I will be able to tap into some pertinent clues.

My father-in-law's maternal grandmother, Catherine, was a Malloy. Only because her mother saved what turned out to be the last letter sent her in Ireland from her husband, Stephen Malloy, do I have any record of his existence. Well, that plus a ship's passenger list, showing he did arrive safely in Boston, exactly as the letter told his wife he would do. As to what happened after that point—he was said to have been killed in Boston—or even details on where he came from before marrying Anna Flanagan, Catherine's mother, I can find no verification. If it weren't for the letter and its envelope, I could have waved it aside as just another one of those unbelievable family myths.

Still, while those of us with genealogical research duties reaching back to colonial America can revel in our ability to get our hands on paperwork dating back to the 1600s, those of us with Irish heritage are fated to stew over the fact that, having found ancestors whose arrival on this earth came close to the early 1800s, we will likely not be able to span the gap between those dates and the generation of the previous century. Not unless someone important makes a monumental archival discovery.

Or a little ol' somebody in our own family comes up with another stash of stuff.    


  1. You really cannot complain since you inherited a teasure trove and a most interesting one at that! Still, reseaching family in the old country is magnitudes harder! Ireland... Poland.. Crimea.. such challenges!

    1. Don't think I'll be doing any research in the Crimean peninsula any time soon...

  2. You were blessed with "the stuff" and presented it all so well. I am a paper/card/obit/birth announcement saver...I suppose someone will throw it all out someday. :(

    1. Who knows...maybe you will be blessed with a grandchild who loves history--family history. All in good time.


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