Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting That Precise Date

You may be wondering, at the conclusion of the story of Agnes Tully Stevens’ letter regarding her grandfather, how she could not have known the general fate or whereabouts of  someone for whom she was able to so precisely pinpoint a date of departure. After all you have learned about this woman, you surely know the answer to that puzzle: she saved the letter that provided the information.

Of course.

I came upon a copy of that very letter from Stephen Malloy over ten years ago during a visit to family in Chicago. Regrettably, having not yet instituted an organized filing system myself, at that time, I now cannot locate my copy of the copy. Not to worry, I had told myself, for the original letter was in storage with the many documents from Agnes Tully Stevens’ papers that had since been passed to her only daughter, Pat.

When Aunt Pat passed away, though, I discovered that that was not so. No one has been able to find that original letter. No one has located the duplicate that served as source for my photocopy.

In desperation yesterday, I resorted to firing up an “antique” computer in which resides the copies of years-old emails, including my inquiries to forums and researchers about the details of that letter. In a search stretching late into the evening, I succeeded in only partially reconstructing the information on the letter—leaving me quite keen to do some spring housecleaning on every file in my cabinet and storage boxes!

What I did manage to reconstruct, from those old computer files, of that letter from Stephen Malloy to his wife Anne was, first of all, the date: 20 February, 1849. Then, the origin: Liverpool, England. And the strangely-assembled address. The letter was sent to “Anne Moley” but it included a side inscription on the envelope, in an illegible—or at least shaky—hand stating that the note was to be delivered in care of John Melan (or possibly Malon).

The address ran more like a set of traveling directions than what we’ve come to recognize as an address. There were no street numbers. The first line after the addressee’s name read something like “Coppanahane.” That was followed by a line that identified Charleville. Squeezed in between these two lines was an added note: “County Cork.” And, of course, at the bottom of the envelope was the expected, “Ireland.”

In a set of emails to various online genealogy forum members from nearly ten years ago, I gleaned some more information. Someone suggested that Cappanahane, since it was not showing in any townland index, might be its own place name. There was such a place in Granagh, County Limerick—but the original letter had stated County Cork. Granagh seemed to be the post office nearest Cappanahane, and is in Ballingary parish, which is just north of Corcomohide parish in County Limerick.

All these names seemed so foreign to me, and the swirl of names dancing between the county lines of Limerick and Cork had me dizzy. This would most certainly call for a little more education on my part—or at least a good map to set me straight again.

Photograph: true-color satellite image of Ireland courtesy NASA Earth Observatory via Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. Given the date, you know that Stephen Malloy was part of the "an Gorta Mór" (the great hunger - the potato famine). So many, very poor, not land-owning (for whom tax records were kept) people either starved, died of illness, or "sold themselves" for passage to another country, the records have got to be pretty slim pickings.

    I admire your family's perseverence in the matter. I hope that Agnes Tully Stevens lived long enough to learn what became of the man.

    Irish names make me dizzy. :)

  2. P.s., Google Maps shows Cappanahane, Granagh, Co. Limerick, Ireland. Isn't the Internet mapping nifty? Looks like Charleville is just inside county Cork at the Limerick county line on Route N20.


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