Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Recapping Flannigans

Having started this series with the slim clipping of a newspaper article announcing the reading of the will of a deceased Chicago pastor, we are about to conclude it with the very same man whose story had begun it. That we will do beginning tomorrow. For now, however, let’s conduct a brief inventory of where we’ve been and whom we’ve researched.

Starting with Father Patrick Michael Flannigan, we moved first to his surviving siblings, Agatha, Richard and John. Locating those names in census records predating his 1907 death, we were eventually able to determine his parents’ names: James and Ellen Sullivan Flannigan. Some wonderful historical documents opened to us the scene of these immigrants’ home in the New World: the Upper Peninsula mining towns of Michigan.

A biographical sketch in a century-old history book told us that this Flannigan family, at one time, consisted of ten sons and three daughters. While there are other possible records out there, digitized and online for our perusal, it is best to call a halt to our search based on the listings that can be found in each decade’s census records, coupled with the 1873 City Directory for Marquette, the town in which the family settled after leaving their homestead in Ontonagon County.

Another reason for setting aside the search: besides the tedium of employing all possible spelling permutations for this surname, without being able to access the actual church records of key life events, it is hard to link missing children with our James and Ellen Flannigan. For one thing, many civil records of the time in that area used only the married name of the mother for birth indices. What are the chances of a couple by the name of James and Ellen with the same-sounding surname to be entirely different people?

While the reasoning may seem faulty, I am presuming that those siblings named in Father Flannigan’s will were the only remaining family members he had. While it is possible that the missing sister—Margaret—if married, might be omitted from his will, that would hardly be the issue with the remaining unaccounted-for siblings, all of whom would be male. Of the brothers whose names we know, only Thomas and James have vanished from the records scene without a trace. For the others—William, Edward, and Matthew—we have confirmation of their dates of death, all of which occurred in the 1870s. The missing two we will have to leave as mysteries—names we never knew and for whom we can find not a trace.

Though we could not find him in the 1860 census with the family nor in the Flannigan household any time beyond that, the young Patrick Michael Flannigan resurfaces for us by virtue of traces of his story embedded within the records and journal entries of the Bishop of his Archdiocese, which thankfully have been transformed into an early church history of the Upper Peninsula region. We will begin mining those records for details on the early years of the priest who later became our connection with a parish hundreds of miles away in Chicago.

Photograph: Captain James Flannigan, from History of the Diocese of Saulte Ste. Marie and Marquette, page 183; published 1906; in the public domain.


  1. You have gone the extra mile here with your research! Good job! :)

  2. Who'd of thunk a scrap of paper would go so far?

    :) I'm eager to see the life and times of Father Patrick Flannigan.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...