It all started with an ink blot. The page in the 1851 Canadian census for my father-in-law's great-grandparents, Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery included some other family surnames. I noticed them and wondered whether there were any connections. After all, these families had all left their native County Tipperary in Ireland to escape the Great Famine by moving far away to what was then called Canada West.
One of the census entries, however, was partially obscured by a pesky ink blot, likely thanks to the enumerator's own pen. What I could see was the surname, Flannery, but the given name started with E-d and then the stray mark made it difficult to determine whether the next letter might have been a "w" or an "m."
Adding to the problem was the enumerator's quaint way of refraining from entering such personal information as the given name of the married women. Despite that, a routine glance could reconstruct the rest of the Flannery household—all presumed sons: Patrick, Cornelius, Michael, and John.
That was on the Canadian side, a discovery I made years ago. Now that I've been working on the Irish side of the research equation—trying to determine who might be siblings to my father-in-law's great-grandmother, Margaret Flannery—I've run into a possible match for the ink-blotted Ed Flannery from Brant County, Ontario, in the form of a baptismal record in the Catholic parish of Ballina in County Tipperary.
Granted, it was a challenge to read the handwriting in the digitized microfilm of an almost two hundred year old record, but what I found piqued my interest. Here, dated in April of 1845, was the baptismal record for a baby named "Edmd" who was son of a Flannery man, also named "Edmd." His wife was partially identified as what looked like Mary—although it could possibly have been an abbreviation for Margaret—but her maiden name suffered ill fate similar to our Canadian Ed-blot: the edge of the register folded over in just the right spot to cover all but the first few letters of her surname. It began K-e-o...possibly...and might have been Keough, as the indexer suggested, but there was no way to know for sure. The names of the two baptismal sponsors—both Mullins—shed no clue as to what that surname might have been.
If that infant baptised in 1845 belonged to the family which ended up in Canada for the 1851 census, his name certainly wasn't one that appeared in the later document. Before we assume that the baby was yet another casualty of the brutal Great Hunger in Ireland—or toss the possibility out of hand entirely—let's see what other records can be found on either side of the Atlantic to add to the examination.
Quite a while back, when I last was examining the identity of this Canadian Flannery family, I had traced as many of the children as possible, given records available at the time. The son with the most unusual story was that of Patrick, whose accidental drowning death had prompted several questions.
Looking at a possible marriage record for Patrick Flannery in the village of Paris in Brant County—the same location where we had found the census entry for 1851—leads us first to some disappointments. For one thing, when asked for the location of his birth, this Patrick reported County Roscommon, not the County Tipperary we had expected. Then, he stated his age, for this 1877 wedding, as thirty seven, hardly the number we'd expect for a man whose 1851 census entry had indicated a birth in about 1832.
Let's not be in a hurry, though, until we review the rest of the document. Patrick's intended, in this 1877 ceremony, was a woman by the name of Margaret, daughter of James Gorman and Maria Huttson. But most importantly, the document indicated that Patrick's parents were Edmond Flannery and Mary Keogh—names we've seen before.
A little more exploration provides some assurance that we might be on the right track. Although Patrick's death record doesn't confirm the name of his wife, it does correct the previous information on the location of his birth—now listed as County Tipperary in Ireland. Burial information at Interment.net indicates that this Patrick was indeed husband of Margaret Gorman.
Additional records on the extended family provide other glimmers of hope that we might have located the same family as had been found in the County Tipperary record back in Ireland—and yet contained frustrating discrepancies. Remember John Flannery, the youngest son of Ed-blot and his wife, Mrs. Flannery? Just like the other immigrant families I've found from Ballina, the youngest Flannery child was actually born in Canada, not Ireland. A transcription of John's baptismal record from July 4, 1847, sported sponsors' names connected to our family—John Gorman and Margaret Tully—but provided the parents' names as Edmund Flannery and Margaret Quogh. While we can excuse spelling variations for a name like Edmond—and even Quogh for Keough—his wife, as far as we've seen from other records, was Mary, not Margaret.
Where does that leave us, for now? It may be safe to link the Edmund Flannery from the baptismal record in Ballina, County Tipperary, with the Edmund Flannery in Paris of Brant County, Ontario. The proximity of this Flannery family to that of Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery, both in Ballina and in Paris, is tempting, but we don't yet have enough evidence to clinch the connection.
This discovery, however, opens up another question: what are the chances that other members of the Catholic parish of Ballina in County Tipperary followed the same immigration route as Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery? Can others from those Irish Catholic baptismal records be matched with Canadian records in subsequent decades? We'll take a look at some other possibilities, tomorrow.