Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Backtracking to the First Generation

While there will hopefully be much more to discover on the descendants of John and Mary Flannigan—as there has been on the line of John’s brother Richard—the time eventually comes to set that work aside and move on to another branch of the Flannigan family. There will be time later to return and gather up those loose threads in this tapestry.

For us to step across the family tree to another branch, we need to first retrace our steps backwards in these generations. John and his brother Richard, whom we’ve already discussed, were sons of Irish immigrants James and Ellen Flannigan. We’ll take our leave of the Rocky Mountain scenery of that next generation of Flannigans who made Colorado their home, and return to the original family settlement in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to continue researching the other Flannigan branches.

There—only because I have a few shreds of documentation already assembled—we’ll move on to learn what we can about another sister of John and Richard: Catherine.

Precious little can be discerned from the few traces of material left about Catherine and the other Flannigan siblings. Perhaps it was the rugged terrain and rural life lived in these remote parts that prevented that locale and generation from passing down documentation of life there in the mid 1800s. Thankfully, in Catherine’s case as in her brother Richard’s story, she became affiliated with someone who played a key role in the small town where they resided. This allows us to extrapolate a small glimpse of what life might have been like for her.

While I haven’t been able to find any birth record for Catherine, the earliest indication of her birth date can be found in the family record for the 1860 United States Census. There, she is recorded as living in the small settlement of Greenland in Ontonagon County, Michigan, possibly the very town in which she was born.

The census shows that Catherine was actually a twin, having a brother named William sharing her birthday. There, when the census was completed on the twenty-third day of June, they were listed as being seven years of age. A sad follow-up to that date was the confirmation—of year only, not month and day—in the death record for Catherine’s twin. William died as a young, single working man, on December 19, 1875; there the date of birth is given only as the year, 1853.

From the point of the 1860 census onward, the paper trail for Catherine is not quite straightforward. She is missing from the family, for instance, in the 1870 census—and though, at the age of seventeen, would be quite possibly of marrying age, she apparently is not so, as she surfaces back at home in time for the 1880 census.

Shortly after that 1880 census, she does indeed become a married woman, and soon after, also a mother of two. Yet it is not the usual resources that reveal that information to us, but such secondary sources as biographical sketches from the Upper Peninsula region—thanks to her well-known husband—that provide the means to sketch in the details of Catherine’s life.

It will be a 1911 tome published by the Lewis Publishing Company of Chicago that provides the missing links in Catherine’s story, thanks to author Alvah Littlefield Sawyer, which we will turn to tomorrow.

Photograph, above: the Flannigan homestead in Greenland, Michigan, in which Catherine Flannigan was most likely born.


  1. I was thinking that it would be nice if Catherine (which is a beautiful name) would always be used and spelled out - and not hacked up into Kate or Catey or Katie. It's bad enough the last name is spelled "du jour".

    P.s., a lead on "T. A. Flannigan" (Thomas)
    "Misses Agnes and Catherine Flannigan of Ishpeming, Mich., have arrived for a visit with their brother, T. A. Flannigan, general superintendent of the Republic Iron & Steel company [Duluth]"

    1. A helpful lead, indeed...although I believe for the next generation, as the date is 1916. This will help later on. As usual, Iggy, you find some amazing tidbits. This find actually helps piece the picture together regarding my question about Agatha being in Duluth, rather than her own home, at the time of her passing. It seems there also was another Flannigan relative there at about the same time, too...

  2. It says their brother. Maybe i can find more.

    1. I am wondering if this might be Thomas, son of Thomas? And his sisters??? Just a guess. I'll have to look into it, too. I just vaguely remember there being a granddaughter of James and Ellen named Agnes. Besides, with the date of this report being 1916, the elder Catherine was by then long gone. Even so, this is a wonderful find. Great resource for future searching, too.


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