Thursday, August 2, 2012

Make That One Flanagan

There are some people who make such an impression upon us that we wish to remember them forever. Perhaps, for Agnes Tully Stevens, Sister Mary Mercy was such a mentor. Agnes kept that small packet of remembrances, clipped carefully from local newspapers, with her until she died in 1985. What was the significance of Sister Mary Mercy to Agnes’ life?

At this point, having discovered that Sister Mary Mercy was born into a household surnamed Flannigan, I have more reasons than one to pursue the answer to that question. And yet, finding any Sister for whom I know no given birth name seems next to impossible.

Given the hint of the surname Flannigan—by virtue of the copy of her eulogy—and coupling it with the known location and date of her death, I thought I’d give FamilySearch a try.

Impossibly, incredibly, I got a result right away.

And more beautifully tantalizing than that was the discovery that—at least for this official completing the form for her death certificate—the surname was actually spelled Flanagan.

Sister Mary Mercy made the cut in yet another way: though the Chicago city death certificates I’ve seen for the early 1900s—the 1907 certificate for Agnes’ father, John Tully, for instance—do not include all the data that a genealogist might long for, by virtue of delaying her departure from this earth until just a few years later, Sister Mary Mercy gave us the gift of learning her parents’ names.

Born on March 4, 1860, to parents James and Honora Flanagan in Freeport, Illinois, most likely Sister Mary Mercy was given the name Ellen—or possibly Sarah Ellen. A likely family listing in this 1870 census for the town of Freeport in Stephenson County, includes a ten-year-old Ellen. As for the cryptic note in her memoriam regarding being survived by Reverend Mother Mary Xavier and Sister Mary Evangelist, these may indeed have been her blood relatives. Listed at in their own right, those sisters lived until February 22, 1943, and July 2, 1946, respectively.

An added bonus, should I need more temptation to check out this Flanagan line: the family may have originated in County Limerick.

I should know better than to be swayed by such temptations.


  1. I wonder if, as a bride of Jesus Christ, she would have objected to being listed as single.

  2. More seriously, can you refresh my memory on why the Flanagan family "calls you". Is this John Tully's parent?

    1. Iggy, the Flanagan connection comes from John Tully's wife. Catherine Malloy Tully's mom was a Flanagan--the woman who chased her mysterious husband from their homeland to Boston, and then on to Chicago, where she met up with her convict brother William, who had just served his sentence after having been transported to Australia. William's cemetery monument indicated he was from County Limerick, the very place where this Flanagan family also originated. Of course, that means nothing until I can demonstrate any connection through documentation, but is an interesting possibility at this point. I wonder if this Sister's parents relented from their adamant stance of not seeing their child head for the city when they realized she would be close to (even distant) relatives...


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