There is a reason why, when I discovered William Flannery's family nestled next door to the household of Edward and Johanna Ryan, it pulled me up short. Perhaps it is because when we research our family's surnames, it is as if we obsess on one goal with tunnel vision. As if dumpster diving into separate surname silos, we lose sight of the connectedness of our families' neighborhoods—of their lifelong associations.
Now, I'm researching my father-in-law's Flannery line. Then—years ago—I was in search of Ryan relations. I really hadn't expected them to become next door neighbors. Apparently they did.
As a little background, here are some details on the Ryan family—at least, what I've been able to find, so far. Keep in mind, I have yet to plug that line into the home turf, back in County Tipperary—though I have oral tradition (and DNA matches) urging me to leave that possibility open.
The Ryan family who showed up next to the 1871 census entry for the widowed William Flannery included a Tully sibling whose descendants, for decades afterwards, kept in touch with my father-in-law's family. Because that connection was still alive in the memory of my in-laws, I've been keen to trace it for the longest time. In fact, I wrote about it shortly after launching this blog in 2011. And kept working at extending the line of these Ryan descendants, from their 1871 home in the former McKillop Township in Huron County, Ontario, all the way to their homesteading attempt in Dakota Territory, and beyond that, returning to Canada and settling in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Since I set aside that research project years ago, there is, of course, much work still to be done on that Ryan line. Yet here they were, popping up right in the path I was tracing to locate the William Flannery who, presumably as brother to Margaret Flannery, had years ago stood in as godfather to her son, Michael Tully.
It was unmistakably the right Ryan family. Despite the rather common surname, there was not much problem tracing their family. Johanna Tully had married Edward Ryan somewhere in Ontario—though I have yet to locate the verification for that detail—before the birth of their eldest son, James, in 1852. From that point followed three more children in stairstep fashion: Dennis, Margaret, and Mary.
If one were to say this family ascribed to the naming pattern of their parents' homeland, this set of four children would have provided me the Rosetta Stone leading to the names of their grandparents. On Johanna's behalf—as we've become more than aware in this past month—those two parents would have been Denis and Margaret. The Irish naming tradition would have designated the second Ryan son to be named after the mother's father—Johanna's father, Denis Tully—and the first daughter to be named after the mother's mother. This, indeed, was what appeared in the census listings.
Could that mean, then, that Edward Ryan's father's name was James? And his mother, Mary? There was, after all, a widowed Mary Ryan in the 1851 census—including an unmarried son by the name of Edward—in Huron County. But proximity to similarly named people, while a possible start, is not the specific goal of our pursuit this month.
Piecing together all the possible family connections for Margaret Flannery is, however. Although the discovery of a possible Flannery sibling right next to our Tully-Ryan relatives was startling, we need to retain that detail in a safe place, and get back to the chase at hand.