Friday, May 11, 2012

Finding the Cook Children’s New Mother

Presuming that August C. Cook’s wife, the former Catherine Flannigan, died in 1883—and thus, that she is the mother of the baby born into the Cook family in that same year—we need to take a step backwards, once again, to see who the new wife and mother might be.

What seems initially surprising to me is that we need look no farther than the 1880 census record in Catherine’s own Flannigan household to discover who will become the next bride of widower August Cook. Keep in mind that the city of Marquette—as well as the whole of the mining towns in the Upper Peninsula at that time—was not a large place and that the Catholic community within that circle must have been an even closer-knit group.

There, in James Flannigan’s household, besides his older son Thomas, a younger daughter, and Catherine herself before her marriage, is a school teacher boarding with the family. The young teacher’s name is Anna Bolan. The 1880 census records her place of birth as New York, and that she is descended from Irish immigrants. Her age is given as twenty five, putting her year of birth around 1855.

Moving backwards in time, the 1870 census shows Anna—still teaching school—and her family living in a nearby town in the Upper Peninsula known as Houghton. However, it appears that Anna’s father is missing, for the household includes only her mother, Mary, her older sister Ellen, and her baby brother John. The baby brother provides us a clue as to where to find Anna in the previous decade’s census: John is born in 1858 in Canada.

And there they are, in “Canada West” in the county of Oxford, in the 1861 census. With their surname written more like “Bolun” than Bolan, the family now includes father Michael, mother Mary, daughters Catherine (Ellen), Mary and Anna, and sons Michael and John.

Despite the confusion over whether the older sister is Catherine or Ellen—or perhaps Catherine Ellen—there is something else to be noticed in that Canadian census record. One sister, Mary Bolan, also plays prominently in the Flannigan family relations. The reason she is missing from the Bolan household record in 1870 may have something to do with the fact that she was about to become the bride of Catherine Flannigan’s older brother, John—which occurred in late 1871 in Marquette.

Somewhere between 1870 and 1880, Anna finds that teaching position in Marquette, perhaps choosing to reside with the Flannigan family owing to her sister’s marriage to John Flannigan. Toward the end of 1880, Catherine Flannigan, herself, was leaving the Flannigan family as the bride of attorney August Cook.

But that was not to be a marriage that lasted long. For whatever undocumented reason—possibly complications in childbirth—Catherine Flannigan Cook dies early in 1883. The widower, August Cook, now has a sixteen month old son and a newborn daughter in his care. Despite the professional duties that must certainly have claimed his full attention, Mr. Cook did not see fit to remarry until 1886.

By this point, school teacher Anna Bolan must have returned from her position in Marquette to her mother’s home in Houghton, for that is where the marriage was registered on October 27.

In addition to taking her place as step-mother in the Cook household, Anna had two children in her own right: John Jay Cook, born in 1889, and Austin Clarence Cook, born May 28, 1891. In between the two sons, Anna apparently suffered two miscarriages, for there is a death record for a Charles Cook, died August 27 of 1890, and then an Austin Cook, died October 31 of that same year. Both death index records mark the phrase “not given” in the column for entry of age.

Since it hardly seems possible that, after losing two pregnancies back to back in a two month span, Anna could give birth to a healthy child on May 28 of the following year—that’s a matter of a mere seven months—I took a close look at the birth record. I thought perhaps there was a transcription error and the younger Austin—whom the family called by his middle name, Clarence—might have been born a year later. However, that is not the case. The index includes the added notation that an affidavit was filed on this birth on June 8, 1943—a certain token that the young Mr. Cook was still alive and well, and evidently not disputing the year entered for his date of birth.

Whatever may have befallen the second bride of attorney August Cook, the family unit showed all six members present for the 1900 census, the last year in which all were accounted for under one roof.

As we shall see when we move to the next generation in this family, for reasons both happy and tragic, the children of the now-long-gone Catherine Flannigan Cook soon leave the home themselves.

Photograph: Panoramic view of the town where the Bolan family settled, Houghton, Michigan, circa 1900; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. So....August Cook remarried his first wife's sister in law's sister. It seems as it Anna and Catherine were good friends because they were the same age and lived together for a long time.
    This is especially interesting to me because I am related to both the Flannigan and the Bolan Families! Keep weaving that tapestry Jacqi...this is getting exciting!

  2. So many women died in childbirth..he did wait a respectable time before remarrying..three years. I am always interested in the Houghton Michigan Grandmother lived there a short time:)


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