Friday, August 31, 2012

Another Pensive Remembrance

As obscure as the poem from yesterday’s post may have been, today’s verse is not. Found in many versions—the first stanza often standing alone in quotationWilliam Cullen Bryant’s poem, “May Evening” contained just the right pensive element to be included in Catherine Malloy Tully’s personal shrine for her lost child, Daisy.

The copy of the poem pasted into Catherine’s little folder has seen some damage over the years. I am not sure whether she included the full version of the poem, or merely cut an excerpt. There is evidence that something was folded up and overlaid upon the bottom of the original poem—perhaps those same missing stanzas. Her copy was obliterated at the stanza that began, “Pass on to homes where cheerful voices sound.”

I’ve included the full version of the poem below. One version available on Google Books indicates it was written at the poet’s estate in Roslyn, New York, in 1869, and published in “Appleton’s Journal” in May of that same year.

May Evening.
By William Cullen Bryant.

The breath of springtime at this twilight hour,
   Comes through the gathering glooms,
And bears the stolen sweets of many a flower
   Into my silent rooms.

Where hast thou wandered, gentle gale, to find
   The perfumes thou dost bring?
By brooks, that through the wakening meadows wind
   Or brink of rushy spring?

Or woodside, where, in little companies,
   The early wild flowers rise,
Or sheltered lawn, where ‘mid encircling trees,
   May’s warmest sunshine lies!

Now sleeps the humming-bird, that, in the sun,
   Wandered from bloom to bloom;
Now, too, the weary bee, his day’s work done,
   Rests in his waxen room.

Now every hovering insect in his place
   Beneath the leaves hath flown;
And, through the long night hours, the flowery race
   Are left to thee alone.

O’er the pale blossoms of the sassafras
   And o’er the spice-bush spray,
Among the opening buds, thy breathings pass
   And come embalmed away.

Yet there is sadness in thy soft caress,
   Wind of the blooming year!
The gentle presence, that was wont to bless
   Thy coming, is not here.

Go, then: and yet I bid thee not repair,
   Thy gathered sweets so shed,
Where pine and willow, in the evening air,
   Sigh o’er the buried dead.

Pass on to homes where cheerful voices sound,
   And cheerful looks are cast,
And where thou wakest, in thine airy round,
   No sorrow of the past.

Refresh the languid student pausing o’er
   The learned page apart,
And he shall turn to con his task once more
   With an encouraged heart.

Bear thou a promise, from the fragrant sward,
   To him who tills the land,
Of springing harvests that shall yet reward
   The labors of his hand.

And whisper everywhere that Earth renews
   Her beautiful array,
Amid the darkness and the gathering dews,
   For the return of day.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tribute to Another Daisy

Within the makeshift shrine Catherine Malloy Tully had kept in remembrance of her first child, she had pasted a small collection of poetry. The first piece we’ve already seen was actually an excerpt of a published work by George Dennison Prentice, a journalist who died in 1870. While Catherine’s handwritten note captured one stanza, the poem—entitled “To Marian Prentice Piatt: An Infant”—is composed of four full stanzas, and can be seen in its original setting here. The collection of Prentice’s work was published in 1876; whether Catherine first discovered the poem after the volume was released, or in a prior format—perhaps included as a verse within the pages of a newspaper or magazine—I can only speculate. To think that the young mother came upon the verse following the death of her child in 1877 would only increase the pathos.

While I’ve wondered if Catherine had first heard the poem quoted as part of a sermon—she did, after all, scribble it on a piece of paper torn from a church publication—given Prentice’s personal history, I find it hard to envision someone of his background meshing well within the context of any homily (except, perhaps, for one urging us to “love your enemies” and “do good to them which hate you,”) for George Prentice’s writings were said to have contributed to “rabid anti-Catholic” and anti-foreigner sentiments. A more genteel representation of the author’s accomplishments may persuade us that it was for his artistic sentiments, rather than for his political ones, that Catherine felt drawn to his verse.

Atop the inside page of this little paper shrine, Catherine had cut and pasted another poem. This one, though typeset, I cannot find in any anthology, so the identifier of “Chicago—G. P.” has yet to receive any fuller disclosure. I’ve transcribed it as best I can, given the fragile condition of the newsprint, the properties of the adhesive over the years, and the original note paper to which it was all affixed. While some of the words make little sense, I wanted to write it exactly as I see it, rather than presume. Of course, it would help to find another published version of the poem to rectify any transcription errors.

Even with this perky symbolism of the daisy, combined with the innocence of a sweet baby girl, the poem has a somber turn to it, again making me wonder if this is a poem that Catherine found during her period of mourning over having lost her own “love’s first pledge.”

To My Little Daughter Daisy

My Daisy sweet, my baby girl,
   With silken tross and eyes of blue,
My love’s first pledge—affection’s pearl,
   I dedicate this lay to you.
My darling Daisy, pretty flower
   Unfolding in thy life’s first spring,
While hope can cheer or love hath power
   My heartstrings still shall round thee cling.

Thy little namesake of the field
   In unassuming beauty blows,
Its simple sweetness scarce revealed
   So meek and modestly it grows;
And thou, my child, my baby treasure,
   Will that sweet flower resemble thee
When through the years thy steps shall measure
   The paths of life’s dark mystery?

Wilt thou, my pretty bud, expand
   In growing sweetness day by day,
While peace and love with fairy wand
   Shed Heaven’s incense round thy way?
Wilt thou, exempt from care or sorrow,
   Enjoy a length of cloudless years,
And all thy future coming morrow
   Bring thee no freight of woes or fears?

With tireless feet and joyous breast,
   Wilt thou through flow’ry pastures stray—
In all thy hopes and wishes blest
   Safe pass thy girlhood’s years away?
And will thy prime’s unwritten story,
   A fair and faultless record show—
Thy evening sun’s declining glory
   As brilliant as thy morning’s glow?

When age shall trace thy mother’s brow
   And bid her halting footsteps stay,
With gentle patient care wilt thou
   Her fond solicitude repay?
When death shall still these pulses’ motion,
   Wilt thou, my darling one, be near
With love’s compassionate devotion
   My ling’ring parting soul to cheer?

Such is thy mother’s wish and prayer,
   But ah! perchance it may not be;
Those sanguine hopes, my Daisy fair,
   Be never realized to me;
But still may Heaven bless thee,
   On thee its choicest gifts bestow.
May dark misfortune ne’er distress thee
   Wherever, darling, thou may’st go.

Chicago.                                  G.P.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Hiding Place

It was a simple page, torn from an old composition notebook. At one time, it must have been used to record dictation from a French class, and contained passages like
Voulez vous donner le petit Thomas trois sous pour acheter du lait? Est-ce assez? Il est assez. On va-t-il l’acheter? Il peut l’acheter au marche. Tres bien.
The date at the top of one assignment read, “Mardi, Le dix neuf Decembre 1866.”

The page was folded in half, lengthwise. If it were not for the matter of what was contained inside, it would have been simply a page from the life of one Catherine Malloy, by now eighteen years of age and possibly still a school girl in the city of Chicago.

Whatever schooling this immigrant Irish child had received, as the daughter of a single parent, she had come far from any humble roots in County Limerick. Perhaps such refinements as these—facile handling of the language of culture, coupled with an appreciation of poetry and the arts—were the very aspects that one day, much later, would combine to encourage a daughter of her own to pursue the skills that mark a classical violinist.

But for now, the only daughter that was on Catherine’s mind—the only daughter she knew at the time—was a little cherub named Daisy. And within the folds of this borrowed sheet of composition paper, she had enshrined every trembling expression of her feelings about her loss.

Enclosed in the folded page were pasted bits of poetry—mostly published from local newspapers—that revealed a mosaic representing her own past. One poem mentions Daisy outright—a different Daisy, to be sure, but with a sentiment that resonated with this bereaved mother. Another hints of beauty sensed even through the isolation of loss. A third commemorates her own loss of homeland. And tucked within the packet, as we saw yesterday, her own hastily-jotted attempt to capture yet another poem that rang true to the feelings she was surely experiencing over her own daughter’s demise.

It is hard to piece together any timeline to represent when these bits of poetry became absorbed into Catherine’s being as sentiments of her own. Perhaps they were collected along the span of her daughter’s own brief life—simple remembrances of aspects of the child as she grew. More likely, given the somberness of hints within the poems, vibrations of ultimate loss rang true after the passing—or at least the onset of the final illness—became apparent.

Each of the three poems contains aspects that I’d like to review in turn, so for the next three days, I’ll take some time to reprint these poems, juxtaposed with discoveries and observations about Catherine Malloy Tully’s life. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Poem for Daisy

I knew it was in there—this little scrap of paper with note scrawled in pencil—but I couldn’t bring myself to read it the first time I saw it. I tucked it back away in its hiding place, with all the other papers I’d yet to catalog from the possessions of Agnes Tully Stevens. Something so personal about its makeshift shrine made me hesitate—as if I were an interloper upon the remembrance of a sacred bond.

There is something so unique about the bond between a mother and her firstborn child. To such a mother, there is no child so beautiful, so adorable, so perfect, as the one she is now holding in her own arms.

Such must have been the case with Agnes’ mother Catherine Malloy Tully and her firstborn, Margaret Anna. Born in late 1871, Margaret Anna was promptly dubbed Daisy, and became the center of the new Tully household.

The sense of wonder a new mother has about her baby was something that Catherine needed to capture on paper one day. Without widespread use of cameras in those days, perhaps pencil and paper was the only medium she could use. Torn from the margin of a church bulletin, scrap paper served as the preserving vehicle for her inspiration.

On Seeing Daisy Tully Asleep

As yet dear child
Thou has not trod
The paths of Life
Where grief is met
But Beauty like a
Smile of God
Upon thy little brow
Is set.
And Oh! May heaven
Forever bless thy life
With love and happiness.

Before I first saw that verse, I had thought that the mindset of the nineteenth century parent had surely been one of pragmatic callousness—when it came to one’s children, there would surely be at least one loss, if not more. Disease was rampant in the cities, and life in Chicago provided no haven from that grim reality.

But in finding this tender remembrance of a mother for her firstborn, I see no guarded sense of reality. This was a mom with heart wide open—hoping the best for her beautiful child. Unafraid. Yielding not to the temptation to cloister her innermost feelings for fear they would be dashed down by reality, but absorbing the every joy of new motherhood despite rampant risks.

Unfortunately, though, that is exactly what happened to this precious first life in the Tully family. Yesterday, I mentioned finding two wisps of paper—news clippings of obituaries from undisclosed sources. We saw, yesterday, that one was for a mystery Tully relative, Julia Annie Tully. Today’s is for Daisy.

Succumbing to scarlet fever just before her sixth birthday, Margaret Anna Tully left her parents and her young brother William Patrick Tully to mourn her loss. The only remaining tokens of her life are a blip of a mention in a local newspaper and a headstone at the family plot with one single word in her remembrance: “Daisy.”

And a poem that provided a glimpse into the core of a mother’s heart.

No matter how often it happens, it is always hard to lose a child.

TULLY—At Hyde Park, of scarlet fever, at 2 a.m. Sept. 26, Margaret Ann, daughter of John and Catherine Tully, aged 5 years 10 months and 26 days.
            Funeral Thursday, Sept. 27, by cars to Calvary.
            Detroit (Mich.) and Seaforth (Ont.) papers please copy.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Small Hint For a Large Event

As I come to the last of the papers kept in the collection of Agnes Tully Stevens, I run into wisps of hints that seem so simple, yet cause so many problems.

In this collection, I found two tiny newspaper clippings which, unfortunately, omitted the publication name and date. Both of them are for obituaries, which I will take on as my project to figure out this week.

The first one seems straightforward enough: it supplies the name (tantalizingly, another Tully), the month and day of death (but not the year), and the address where the subject lived. Finally, it gave that clue of last resort: the name of the cemetery.

From the name—Julia Tully—I was able to find her death certificate on, although the date of her death placed her within that range of years in which precious little was divulged on the document. I did find that she was born in Michigan. However, for those remembering that new Tully line I’ve just discovered from Michigan, don’t think it will be that easy: the death certificate gives her age as just under twenty years, putting her birth at approximately September of 1870. Of that Tully line’s six children, there was no listing for a Julia in the 1880 census.

The address fairly seemed to scream, “Check me!” And so, to it was, to try my luck for a Tully family on 217 Stephenson. For whatever reason, I couldn’t manipulate the pages for the 1890 Chicago directory, and the 1889 directory yielded no viable results.

Thankfully, though, I have one more recourse: call the cemetery (Mount Olivet) and see if there is a Tully family plot there that includes Julia—and lists her parents’ names also.

Then, all I will have to do is muddle through how to connect this Tully line with our own.

We are pained to record the death of Miss Julia Tully, of 217 Stephenson avenue, on Sept. 1. She died of consumption, and was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery on Wednesday. The funeral services were held in Holy Rosary Church, and the attendance was very large.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Don’t Dare Add it Yet

Let’s see: I know the names of two people labeled in my Tully line as cousins: the priest John Bernard Davidson, and one of the many in this family called Patrick. Both of these men descend from the Michael and Margaret Tully showing on the same 1861 Canadian census page as the patriarch (so far) of my husband’s Tully line, Denis Tully. Can I connect these lines, and add all the material I’ve uncovered on Michael’s descendants to my database?

Not yet.

How frustrating. I’ve already got a list of Michael and Margaret’s entire roster of children’s names and birth years—there were six, of whom only two survived by the time of the 1900 census.

I’ve found their daughter Margaret and her husband, Robert T. Davidson—whom she married November 24, 1897, in Chicago—showing in the 1900 census with her mother, and, widowed, in the 1920 census with her brother Patrick just before her death that July. I’ve located the three Davidson children, including the priest, Father John (who evidently died in 1983, still in Chicago), and John’s sister Margaret, who married the “Rory” Hill showing in the household for that 1920 census. I’ve followed that Margaret’s line down for another two generations.

I’ve done due diligence on Margaret Tully Davidson’s brother’s line, too. While Patrick’s line is considerably shorter—he and his wife Carrie had only one surviving child—I was able to locate their daughter in census records from her parents’ household in 1900, to her marriage in 1912 and ensuing census records in 1920, 1930 and 1940. All that, despite a scramble of documentation under the name Margaret, Margaret Maud, and Maude M—with a husband alternately referred to as Achille Mailhot and its spelling variant Achilles, and his nickname, Archie.

As maddening as it is to have sketched out an entire branch potentially ready-made to plug into my Tully line, I just need more documentation to verify that these people are, indeed, descended from the right individual. After all, isn’t this the family with a kazillion Margarets? Can I even be sure about a line with multiple Patricks? How can I be sure this isn’t just a neighborly coincidence?

And so I end up, as I have before, with lines of descendants streaming from a mystery person—someone I have a hunch belongs to me, courtesy of hearsay and labels such as “my cousin” but for whom I can find no official documentation.

I’ve had that same thing happen to my Flanagan line. Remember William Flanagan, the old man with the impressive monument at the Chicago cemetery that became his final resting place? The one who started out in “Parish Ballygran” in Ireland's County Limerick, but was unceremoniously awarded one-way transportation to Australia, yet ended up in Chicago? Somewhere along that line, I stumbled upon a mention of “his niece” Johanna Lee—and successfully pursued research on her line. In the end, though, I had to stop, not knowing where or how to plug what I found into the overarching family scheme.

So these disembodied branches of family exist. Detached from any connection to the larger design, the records lie in a box somewhere, pages of scribbled notes hastily sketching the connection for future reference. But somehow, still remaining detached.

It feels maddening to have these detached generations. Unable to attach them in their rightful place, I feel as if they run the risk of being forever forgotten. Yet, with the right documentation, they could be safely tucked in their spot so everyone would have the relief of knowing the connection.

The documentation is not always there, though. As rapidly as online sites are adding digitization of archives through scans and transcriptions, there is still so much not accessible online. I’m an old hand at trawling through microfilms and dusty archives, but I’ve found that sometimes, those resources aren’t even available. There is so much of private records that still remains, well, private.

And so, I wait. I spread the word, myself, hoping somehow the search engines will make my small piece of the puzzle more visible. I put out the feelers that tentatively ask for consideration—to collaborate, to share documentation—but then, all I can do is hope that somehow, this brick wall will, one day, tumble down like all the others.

And this Margaret and this Patrick—and yes, even the long-separated Johanna—will be entitled to claim their place.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Knowing Now Who He Was

A very young-looking priest stands in front of parishioners, his hands placed upon their heads as they kneel, praying.

The photograph capturing this moment is labeled

Fr. John Davidson
my cousin

Below the caption is the signature of Agnes Tully Stevens’ daughter, Pat, who kept these mementos from John Bernard Davidson’s ordination for the rest of her life.

Knowing now who this gentleman was, I can piece together a reasonable guess that he was also the mystery person in another Stevens family photograph. In fact, that picture was from a later set of snapshots which included various groupings of almost all the men in Will and Agnes Tully Stevens' family.

In the setting below, Father John Davidson is flanked by the Stevens sons. From left to right, they would be Bill and John, then youngest Gerald directly in front of the priest, with my father-in-law Frank to his right. The next man is, unfortunately, unidentified (though, believe me, we—in the extended family—have tried to figure this one out). The man to the far right is Agnes’ husband and the boys’ father, Will Stevens.

As was probably customary for ordinations, John Davidson provided three cards, each with different artwork, all presented as “a remembrance” including a simple plea: “Pray for me.”

“You have not chosen Me, but I
have chosen you” (St. John: 15-16.)

A remembrance
Of my ordination
To the holy priesthood
April 6, 1929
And of
My first solemn mass
April 7, 1929
John Bernard Davidson

Pray for me
“Lest perhaps, when I have preached
to others, I myself should become a
castaway” (1 Cor. 9, 27.)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Oh Yes He Was!

It was an invitation to attend the ordination of a young man to the priesthood in Chicago, Illinois. The date was set for early April in 1929. The handwritten notation on the bottom right edge of the invitation asserted, “My cousin.” But the name of the invitation’s subject—John Bernard Davidson—showed nowhere in my family data.

Who was he?

The invitation had been neatly folded and tucked amidst my husband’s grandmother’s papers. Agnes Tully Stevens had saved so many mementos of family significance, and this one piece merited such a recognition.

If the invitation hadn’t been tagged by Agnes’ daughter Pat, I wouldn’t have known of the relationship. And yet, I wasn’t sure whether that was a benefit or a bother—I couldn’t get to any online clues that would produce a paper trail of relationship.

I set the project aside. For a year.

In a tribute to the explosive increase in digitizing archived data, what I couldn’t find online last year has magically left its trail in the ether this year. Thanks to helpful readers’ comments, yesterday’s post on this dilemma produced more online clues. Like a chain reaction, the more we look into this paper chase, the more that can be found.

After mentioning finding the young Reverend John B. Davidson in the 1940 census in yesterday’s post, in the reader comments, Wendy picked up the trail, locating his record for 1930 and uncovering the key: the 1920 record in the household of Margaret Davidson and her brother Patrick Tully. Iggy provided the link to the smoking gun: the scan of the 1920 census record at

Of course, Tully is the surname that this search would be all about! Yet, the question remains: which Patrick Tully—for there were several of them. That puzzle, it turns out, will be resolved shortly, for an earlier census—for 1900—shows the household of Robert and Margaret Davidson with their firstborn daughter named (what else?) Margaret. Included in that record is another Margaret: the mother-in-law of head-of-household Robert. The elder Margaret’s surname is Tully.

So Margaret Davidson is the former Margaret Tully, daughter of another Margaret Tully, and sister to another Patrick Tully. This could get tricky.

For now, a possible scenario corroborates what we’ve already suspected: Irish immigrants Michael and Margaret Tully have several children—three of them born in Ontario, the rest after they move to Michigan—who eventually settle in Chicago. Their daughter, Margaret, marries a fellow Canadian immigrant, Robert T. Davidson, in Chicago in 1897. The newlyweds have several children of their own, including son John Bernard Davidson, while through the years also providing a home base for other Tully relatives.

So he was a cousin! Well, a cousin of sorts. If this is the right branch of the Tully line, then Agnes’ father John would be brothers with Michael, and Agnes’ daughter Pat and Michael’s grandson John Bernard would be second cousins.

When it comes to as grand an occasion as an ordination, though, who’d be counting? When it’s time for celebrating, “cousin” will suffice.

The Reverend John Bernard Davidson
announces his
Ordination to the Holy Priesthood
His Eminence, George, Cardinal Mundelein
Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary Chapel
Saturday, April the sixth
nineteen hundred and twenty-nine
cordially invites you to attend his
First Solemn Mass
Sunday, April the seventh
at eleven-fifteen o’clock
at the Church of the Holy Rosary
South Park Avenue and One hundred thirteenth Street
Chicago, Illinois

Reception in Church Hall
Sunday, three to six

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Remembrance For an Unknown Relative

It is difficult, in riffling through the belongings of a now-long-gone relative, to discover notes referring to other family members for whom I cannot draw any connections. Someone’s century-old presumptions have left me hanging. And, if I am to continue my quest to post this collection of family memorabilia in its entirety, I will simply have to pass along the favor.

In this year-long examination of the important (and not-so-important) records kept by my husband’s grandmother, Agnes Tully Stevens, I’ve mostly been able to identify the significance of pages in her collection. At this last set of papers, I’ve finding myself at a lack to conjure up any information.

For the sake of the process, at the very least—and, at the most, in hopes that someone, somewhere, will someday stumble upon these posts—I’ll continue with this process until its natural conclusion. At which we will draw a collective sigh of relief and proceed to the next task.

It’s what some used to call, “muddling through.”

Today, my hand found its way to a still-well-kept booklet from 1917—at least that is the date given for the copyright. When it was used is another matter, though unfortunately the matter which is to be considered in this post.

The booklet is entitled, The Ceremonies of Ordination to the Priesthood. The inscription below the title continues,
Translated from the Pontificale Romanum edited for the convenience of the faithful, with the Ordinary of the Mass as recited by the newly ordained priests, and explanations of the rubrics, by Austin G. Schmidt, S. J.
The booklet was produced by Loyola University Press at 3441 North Ashland Avenue in Chicago. At least that was the location of the publisher in 1917.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t provide me any help in determining the date in which the book was actually used. And that’s the reason I’m paying any attention to this item right now. Inside the front cover, there is an inscription, added in a careful hand:
A Remembrance of My Ordination To the Sacred Priesthood, John B. Davidson.
My problem—the problem I had last year when I first encountered this set of papers, but since I couldn’t find any answers, had set the whole issue aside—is that I cannot locate any information on John B. Davidson.

Well, that is not entirely correct. I do have an invitation to said ceremony of ordination, with a handwritten note by Agnes’ daughter Pat, asserting that John Bernard Davidson was her cousin.

Cousin? No one in the family can confirm that bit of information now. Of course, not only is Agnes long gone, but Pat has since joined her. I’m left without any help on this one.

The only cheery note since being stumped last year: the 1940 census has since been released. Tra la. It may have included this Father Davidson in one particular household on Garfield Boulevard in Chicago. If so, said John Bernard Davidson was born in Illinois about 1906. At this point in 1940, whatever Chicago parish included these priests, its pastor was then Reverend John T. Bennett.

No matter how much hair I’ve torn out of my head in frustration over this lack of familial traces, the matter must rest until another day. In the meantime, it will have to suffice to post those remaining pictures and papers unexplained.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Getting a Bit More Sociable About Social Media

After writing my thoughts on the impact of collaborators on my personal family history research progress—and thanks in part to inspiration arising from reader comments—I want to revisit that topic. This time, though, I want to take it from a different angle: the “social” angle of online research venues.

In particular, let’s look at, since I just got to spend a weekend frolicking through my family data there.

I think most people have a handle on what has to offer. Most people presume it is an online opportunity to post one’s personal genealogy research, and concurrently a way to grow those results by tapping into the wide variety of searchable data resident in the Ancestry system.

The more people who post their family trees to, of course, the more resources—in the form of matches—available to other users.

Once an member encounters that magical “match” moment, there are a number of ways to connect with other researchers. has the mechanisms in place to make those collaborative connections.

For instance, I can immediately send a message to the other member, explaining why I think we have a link.

Or, I can utilize a function calls “Member Connect,” by clicking on the “Connect with members” button on the right column under the heading “Recent Member Connect Activity.” Or, a “Member Connect” tab at the top of the page, under the ancestor’s profile section, brings me to a page that more fully explains the functions available:
Member Connect will help you stay in touch with other members who also happen to be researching your ancestors. You'll be able to contact them, share research and be notified when they add new content about your ancestors to their family trees.
A third way to collaborate is through the “Comments” tab, once again at the top of the timeline, just under the ancestor’s name and above the timeline section. Anyone may leave comments on any individual in your tree—if your tree may be seen publicly by those other members.

And yet, how many people utilize these three functions of

Here we have the near-equivalent of a social media outlet custom designed for genealogy buffs, and yet, outside of the message-a-member feature, I’ve yet to have had anyone come alongside any of my five family trees posted on to connect, make comments, or collaborate.

Admittedly, I haven’t returned the favor, either.

It’s as if each of us—among all those posting over thirty eight million family trees on the site—could be talking. But won’t.

Knowing the program has these social resources embedded within it, imagine the boost we could give to our own research—and the benefit we could share with others pursuing our same lines.

Instead of sitting in isolation like monks in a secluded ivory tower, diligently copying down data from ancient repositories, we can reach out and digitally connect with other researchers—talk to them, compare notes with them, even plan research strategies to divide and conquer those remaining puzzles and family mysteries. And in the talking, we’d be doing it with people who are already pre-selected for sharing the same specific focus we have. Talk about the ability to zero in on the target.

And yet, I suspect there is something holding members back. What could it be? Is there a reticence in going up to a “stranger” who is researching, say, our great-grandparents’ line, and mentioning, “Say, I have that missing photo I know you’d love to have.” Or, “Are you sure you haven’t mistaken this John Jones for his cousin with the same name?”

Would that be just too forward a thing to do? On Ancestry? If so, why? Wouldn’t we say something like that on Twitter? Or Facebook? Or on those long-standing genealogy forums of the nineties?

I’m thinking has a feature that would serve so well as social lubricant for us genealogy aficionados—and that simultaneously terrifies those very members.

Can that reticence be reversed? What do you think? Have you ever used this feature at Ancestry? Has it made a difference for you in your research?

The only downside to this scenario comes from the possibly unintended consequences of widely promoting those free two-week trial periods. To put it bluntly: when I find a match of a family member shared by my line and someone else’s tree on Ancestry and I go to send that researcher a message, only then do I see the note that the person’s online activity has not occurred on for maybe the last month. Or perhaps even months.

In other words, that researcher’s stint was over the minute those two free weeks lapsed.

Lost contact.

Other than that, all of us who are members may be sitting on a versatile collaborative feature that would be infinitely more helpful if we actually pulled it out of the proverbial tool kit and put it to good use.

Above left: Fifteenth century Scriptorium, as represented in this drawing from the Project Gutenberg e-book of William Benham's Old Saint Paul's Cathedral, London: Seeley and Company; New York: Macmillan, 1902; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

N. B.: While I've discussed the commercial entity,, in this post, there is no connection between the author of this post and the company referenced, other than as satisfied customer. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Short Note About The Long Trail of Family History

Summer is the chance for many people to make some headway on the never-ending trail of ancestors’ history. Vacations have a way of detouring to cover research-worthy territory, whether stops at cemeteries or days at prime library destinations. While I’ve had my chance at the library rendezvous with relatives earlier this season, I wasn’t beyond adding another detour on last weekend’s trip.

I had the chance to head south last Friday, and through a series of what seemed to be misadventures, still salvaged some time on the return trip to visit family.

Though we had everything else to talk about, somehow the conversation this weekend meandered onto the subject of family history. How could it not? This research thing has a way of throwing curves at us—dislodging convenient family traditions and replacing them with unexpected truths.

The pressure of time weighs heavily on us all. For some, this awareness presents itself as a retrospective observation: those who regret not having thought sooner to ask the important questions about family. For others—and I think these are the rare few—there is the urgency of obligation: sensing that time is short, wanting to share what can be shared before memory seals up the last glimpses of a bygone generation.

The weekend’s visit concluded with this second sense: a call to get together and preserve the memories—those family stories of the previous generation—so that they can be passed along to another generation. Even if that new generation doesn’t yet know that’s what they’ll want.

Because someday, they’ll realize that they want to know, too.

Discussing this dynamic brought up an interesting point. History can only fully become history if there is someone to receive the stories. There needs to be a receiver of the past who is also willing to serve as the one to pass the stories forward. Just like following the links in a chain, though, unless someone else subsequently steps up and joins that line as the next receiver, the stories will stop mid-process. History is only one link away from being forgotten.

A story needs a willing audience. And that audience must, in turn, become the next generation’s storytellers.

History can’t keep being history unless it keeps being passed along. 

Above left: "Summer," by nineteenth-century German painter and etcher, Adrian Ludwig Richter, courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Monday, August 20, 2012

With a Little Help From My Friends

After explaining my Tully puzzle over family members all seeming to bear the same given names, I got a little research help from a reader.

The issue was how to pursue the descendants of one Mary Tully—if there were any.

It turns out there are.

Mary Hogan Tully’s passing was commemorated by the saving of one memento from her funeral by my husband’s grandmother Agnes Tully Stevens. From that, I launched into the sad rehearsal of her family members’ difficulties in life. While perusing our family histories is an apt reminder of how difficult times past could have been for our ancestors—even in “modern” America—it seems like Mary Hogan Tully’s family fared a little worse than some.

And yet, though some of her descendants disappeared into documentation’s deep voids, and others saw their descendants fulfilled by career rather than family, in the midst of sickness and turmoil, it appears that one Tully child emerged to lead a long and fruitful life.

It was Iggy—blogger Intense Guy—who found the link for me. True to his name, he tenaciously wrestles data until it cries “uncle”—and this time, he found an obituary for Mary Hogan Tully’s grandchild, Ruth M. Tully Franzen Werner. Though she was born in Chicago in 1913, and though she lived in a household and neighborhood ridden with tuberculosis, she herself made it to ninety three years of age.

Since her obituary is fairly recent and most likely contains names of descendants still living, in respect of their privacy, I’ll not be sharing a copy of that obituary. However, the gift of that resource has provided me with a link to some living distant cousins, once again courtesy of Iggy.

Family history research, done as a team effort, makes a lot of sense—if you can assemble a team of researchers with like genealogical goals. I’ve already met a few distant relatives with whom I share similar research goals, and from time to time, we are sure to sharpen each other’s iron. I’ve also benefited from online forum members who have shared from their resources.

I’ve particularly been eyeing the connection capabilities of and other online communities that are seeking to facilitate this type of research connection. Through Ancestry, I recently ran across another researcher who turns out to be a cousin of a cousin. Though this person is what my family likes to term an “outlaw,” I’m still glad to pass along the word to the other side of my family—serving somewhat as a midwife in birthing new family connections. Every little connection helps bring each of us closer to our own research goals. It also sharpens us as we share tips, resources and ideas on how to better tackle our brick walls and black sheep relatives. And those of us fortunate enough to be recipients of family keepsakes—especially photographs—can use digital capabilities to share copies with the multiplied number of descendants that come with each passing generation.

Many people have commented on how friendly genealogists are—and how keen they are to talk shop with anyone willing to listen. When we tap into that friendly tendency to help each other along with our resource—whether through official means like genealogical societies or through the more recent digital frontiers of online forums, wikis, or Facebook groups—we have the potential to accelerate our research results.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

An Indirect Approach

While I was puzzling over the Tully cousin issue I’ve been explaining over the last two days, I got reminded of a little research trick that has been handy in uncovering some invisible missing relatives. Instead of searching for the name I’m pursuing, I take a less direct approach.

I remembered that technique the other day when I started searching for Patrick Tully of Paris, Ontario. It occurred to me that perhaps I could uncover more Tully family members if I searched not by name but by some other attribute. And, indeed, in, I can quite capably do that.

Most of us, when faced with a search screen with boxes nearly demanding that we fill in the blanks, tend to oblige. Our first step: fill in the person’s name.

Sometimes, that first step is not the best idea. This can be for several reasons. We all know how “creative” governmental functionaries of the last few centuries can be when it comes to spelling. Or how capricious those same officials can be when it comes to completing all the required fields. (Sometimes I feel like “not my job” was a sentiment originating in the eighteenth century!)

For whatever reason this is so, I find it sometimes helpful to leave those first fields in the search box blank. In other words, if you are searching for, say, Patrick Tully, don’t enter that in the fields requesting first and last name. Leave those fields blank. Instead, provide some other data.

As an example, while I was searching for information on my Patrick Tully, I realized that FamilySearch showed results that specifically indicated his point of origin in Paris, Ontario. Wondering who else I could find from that village, I tried a different tack on searching for him: rather than entering his name at the top of the search box, I entered his place of birth coupled with “Father’s Last Name” as Tully to see how many others would come up with those records. I then repeated that scenario with only “Mother’s Last Name” listed as Tully. That technique brought up other family records from the extended family.

I’ve tried that same technique, entering a place of birth (or other event) and only each parent’s surname—or stripping the variables until I’m only using a very few. That way, I let the search capabilities flesh out the data which—though I was sure I had it correct—sometimes turns out to be recorded somewhat differently than I had anticipated.

Of course, that technique would yield tedious slogging if you were searching for results like, say, Smith in New York City. But I’ve played around with potentially sizeable yields by searching for Tully hits in Chicago, for instance. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by playing dumb with my variables in this way in much smaller locales especially, like my search for Tully in Paris, Ontario, or my Gordon line in Perry County, Ohio.

It’s not much of a trick. But it does sometimes help flush out those intractable hide-outs who you know are in there but can’t coax out into the open any other way.

Just because someone asks a question doesn’t always mean that you are obligated to answer it. Sometimes, using an indirect approach can get you more beneficial results.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

And Here’s The Explanation

I admit it: I went about this process totally the wrong way. But I still like what happened.

Knowing that there was a mystery Michael Tully on the same census page as my family’s Denis Tully in Paris, Ontario, I played around with the search option at to see what I could find. What was the possibility that I would find a Michael Tully with a wife Margaret and newborn son Denis (or, assuming the census taker preferred the English spelling over the French, Dennis)?

The possibility was good enough for me: at least two members had posted research on such family groupings. They happened to post, in fact, enough of a descendancy to include a son named Patrick.

Who just happened to have a wife named Carrie.

And a daughter, it turns out, whom they called Margaret Maud.


Okay, now to reverse engines and do this the right way. What is the possibility that there are records online for a Patrick who has a wife named Carrie and a daughter called Margaret Maud?

Oh…and to add a bonus point, could they come from Paris, Ontario—and currently live in Chicago, Illinois?

Pretty please with whipped cream and a cherry on top?

The answer is:


How sweet is that?!

Now, for all you doubters, let me put this together in a reasonable, documentable fashion.

Because not everyone has an subscription (and thus may not be able to access the links that refer back to material on that site), I’ve put together some links to

Searching for those three names, I found a 1900 census record for the Hyde Park area of Chicago, showing the threesome listed. Patrick, born July 1862 in Canada, claimed an arrival in the United States in 1865. His wife, Carrie, was born in Indiana in 1866. Daughter Margaret made her appearance in Illinois in 1889, providing a time frame for the photograph with her mother which I posted yesterday.

There were more results. A transcription of Patrick’s death record confirms his birthplace as Paris, Ontario—and gives his parents’ names as Michael Tully and Margaret Dowling. Unfortunately, this record of his mother’s name doesn’t agree with the member’s research (giving Dowd as her maiden name), but this could be the result of anything from transcription problem to informant error at that stressful point of losing a loved one.

The death record confirms that Patrick’s wife was named Carrie. And it shows me that he was buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Cook County, Illinois—a place where I will be putting in a call shortly!

Apparently, Patrick’s wife predeceased him, succumbing on November 11, 1933, in Chicago, while Patrick died there on February 7, 1939. Carrie’s documentation shows her father’s name to have been William Kern, and her mother Magdalene Weber.

The more joyful Illinois Births and Christenings 1824-1940 brought news of their daughter’s christening on April 28, 1889, following her birth that month on the eleventh. Her full given name was Margaret Maud, providing that miniscule piece of the puzzle explaining the origin of the photograph’s tag with only that middle name. (Mercifully, this branch of the Tully family had awakened to the awkwardness of having its female contingent populated with women all bearing the same given name.) This record also confirmed her father to be Patrick Tully, and gave her mother’s maiden name as Kerr (which, once again, could be a transcription error)

But what about that note on the photograph yesterday that seemed to say that Maud was the daughter of Maggie, not Carrie?

The only way I can explain it is from a sense I get, looking over the entire collection of photographs passed down from Edna Tully McCaughey. Where there were inscriptions on the back of the pictures, often they seemed given in a hasty manner. Perhaps this was a task that Edna engaged in during the latter years of her life—her attempt to pass down to future generations some explanation of the relatives that had gone on before her. The “voice” she used in listing the relationships might have alternated between her own level of relationship, and putting things in terms of her children’s relationship to the person being named. Some of her other notes seemed to provide alternatives for the subjects’ identities—until I looked closer into the story behind the picture. Then, I could figure out what Edna might have been attempting to convey: more of a family connection than just a list of identities.

In the case of this mother-daughter portrait, there are two things to consider. First, while I haven’t adequately confirmed this, if this Patrick I’ve found is indeed the right one, he would be Edna’s cousin. Thus, his wife would be at that same level of relationship to her: cousin, not aunt. Second, Patrick’s mother was indeed a Margaret, which would explain Edna's identification of her as “Auntie Maggie.” Perhaps in her urgency to complete this labeling task, Edna wanted to signify to her children  which Patrick—and we’ve seen how many of them there can be in this family—she was referring to. In this case, she may have invoked the name of his mother, almost as if inserting a parenthetical statement, in showing her children the relationship in this family grouping.

Whether these rationalizations would stand in the face of stringent genealogical proof standards or not, the documents this puzzle has led me to uncover serve as enough inducement to follow this research trail further.

I think I may have uncovered another cousin!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why I Know There Are Others Out There

I’ve resumed muddling over what I feel are the missing Tullys out of the Ireland-to-Chicago bunch that I’ve been researching, thanks to the instigation provided by my husband’s grandmother’s papers. Agnes Tully Stevens had certainly saved an expansive collection of everything from significant documents to near-worthless ephemera (well, from anyone else’s viewpoint).

Add to that, I’ve been inspired to revisit the collection of unidentified photographs sent to me last year by the descendants of Agnes’ cousin, Edna Tully McCaughey. There are a lot of loose ends to tie up there, too.

So this week, while puzzling over the funeral-supplied thank you card for the enigmatic “Mrs. Mary Tully,” I’ve taken some time to wander through all my notes and databases. And I’ve stumbled across reminders of why I have this hunch I’m missing whole branches of this Tully family tree.

For starters, I’ve seen signatures and mentions of a “P. J. Tully” affixed to other Tully cousin marriage documents and photos. I have no idea who that P. J. Tully is—though I can feel fairly confident in any wager that the “P” stands for Patrick! While I’m still puzzled over this man’s identity within the family constellation, at least his existence in family papers shows me there is a P. J. Tully yet to be found.

So I must keep looking.

Another reminder surfaced this week, from the notes accompanying Edna Tully McCaughey’s photographs. It was a note from the back of a sweet mother-daughter portrait: 

Aunt Carrie wife of
Coz Patrick Tully
Auntie Maggie Tully
+daughter Maud Tully

When I first posted the picture, I noted my confusion over the reference—plus my frustration over not being able to locate any viable hits in all the usual online genealogy databases. I had thought surely a name like Maud would help me isolate the specific family connection I was seeking.

Give any search a year to percolate in this amazing milieu of document digitization and something is bound to show up.

And it has.

It partly uncovered itself thanks to a serendipitous discovery, while reviewing the 1861 census in the Canadian town the Tullys briefly called home while on their trek from Ireland to the United States. Sandwiched in between Agnes’ uncle Patrick and his bride-to-be, Mary Hogan, there was another Tully family. While I can’t say for sure that this Michael Tully family is related to my Tully line, with a firstborn son named the same as the patriarch of my Tully family, I thought maybe I could explore the possibilities.

Working backwards from a hunch is never a recommended, kosher way to approach this type of research, but I took the liberty to play in this playground. I’ll save the details of what I found for another day. For right now, suffice it to say I may have uncovered the mystery of “Coz Patrick” and his wife Carrie. And Maud and Maggie, too.

And yet, I can’t be all that sure that this cousin Patrick is the P. J. Tully I first set out to find. There may be even more to this story—and this family. But that’s the way that unwinding chain of relationships tempts us to research further and pursue even more family stories.

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