Friday, June 1, 2012

It’s 1860; Where’s Patrick?

We found out yesterday that young Patrick Flannigan met up with his Bishop while on his way to studies at the seminary in Cincinnati. The date was June 27, 1860. Presumably, the young priest-in-training would have started his journey from his family’s home, but that is not the case—at least if we are to base our history on census records.

We’ve already looked at the census record for Patrick’s siblings—whose names we extrapolated from the newspaper report of his will forty-seven years later—and Patrick’s name is not among those listed in the household.

By this point, if we use his death certificate as a basis for estimating the year of his birth, Patrick would have been old enough to be on his own. After all, he would have been about twenty years of age.

Thanks to one particular reader and experienced researcher, Intense Guy, who located the record, here is a possible census entry in 1860 for our Patrick. Keep in mind the potential for error amongst governmental transcribers coupled with the lack of attention sometimes paid to specifics such as dates of birth. Considering this, it is quite possible that this is the entry for our Patrick Flannigan. Granted, our Patrick’s middle name is “M” for Michael, not “O” as given in the census record. And the age given as nineteen and not twenty, as would be expected, may be merely a function of not yet attaining, by the date of the census, that particular birthday. However, pay attention to these other names associated with the census record, as well as the details—though scant—which the 1860 census provides. We will see them in future notes.

The first confirmation in this census record is that Patrick is listed as a “student of theology.” This, as we’ve already seen in Bishop Baraga’s journal notes, is certainly the case in 1860. The timing, however, is close enough to require a second look: the census record was completed on June 14; the trip to Cincinnati was corroborated by the Bishop’s journal entry on June 27. That makes Patrick’s stay at the Ontonagon County location a mere snapshot in time—and makes me grateful that he didn’t depart for Cincinnati a few days earlier, which would have left us with no trace of a census record whatsoever.

So where was Patrick staying in Ontonagon County, Michigan? In the same county as his parents, though in a different township, he was, appropriately, under the tutelage of the local priest. The head of the household, as listed in the 1860 census, was “Revd. Martin Fox,” a name we’ll run across as we glean more material from the Bishop’s journal entries. Father Fox was listed in the census as “R. C. Clergyman.”

Perhaps via connections already made by Bishop Baraga, the seminary of choice—most likely the Saint Francis Xavier Seminary—was founded by the very man who had first called Bishop Baraga to serve in the Upper Peninsula region: Bishop Edward Fenwick. Once again, the time frames had been quite narrow, as Bishop Baraga had responded to Bishop Fenwick’s call in 1830, and the Cincinnati Bishop died a mere two years later. Yet the school, the third oldest Roman Catholic seminary in the United States and the first such institution west of the Appalachians, was the most reasonable choice for the young man’s continued studies.

Those studies, as we’ll soon see, were not to be completed as planned, owing to the overarching framework of one particular episode in American history.


  1. Ahh... the (un)civil war is looming! Now that brings up some interesting possibilities for where Father Flannigan's male siblings "went"... and possibly war records exist for all of them.

    1. Good point on the war possibility for those unaccounted for brothers. My only other guess had been--at least for the locomotive engineers--a job-related move to another location.

  2. P.s., My mom made an interesting comment. She says that large irish families back in the day, often "gave their oldest son to the Church." I don't know how factual that statement is... and I know there is an "older" brother Thomas running around... but maybe... hmm.....

    1. Great point, Iggy. You know...I'm not entirely sure Thomas is the older brother. Given the fact that the family had another set of twins (Catherine and William), and that the 1860 census shows both Thomas and Patrick to be 19, it may be the case that Patrick was the older of the twins. I'm just guessing here, but your mom brings up a good point.


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