Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Back to Where the Trail Goes Cold

As we await processing of our travel documents, there is much to be done before we get to commence research in the Old Country. Ireland may be, relatively, a small country, but it is full of Kellys and Tullys and even Falveys. Which John or Mary would be ours? Lest we squander our precious three weeks research time in the Emerald Isle, the goal is to ascertain the right John Kellys before we leave home, here in the States.

Right now, I’m taking time to sort through each major surname group, to see where I left off in research. Call this a needs assessment for my research’s current status. While I felt pretty good about the condition in which I left each surname project, last time I reviewed it, I had worked each project back in time as far as I could push it, and then froze it in its corner and left it standing there.

Some good things have happened in the meantime. For one, both and have been in what appears to be an arms race to see who can amass the greatest heap of digital records in the shortest time. Don’t expect to see any non-proliferation treaties in this race. Instead of mutual destruction, this race insures a mutual benefit for all researchers.

Then, these two genealogy giants are being joined by many upstarts—both for-profit and non-profit organizations—adding their contributions to the universe of historic documents available online. There is such a patchwork of genealogical websites out there that the phrase “Google™ is your friend” has indeed become the genealogist’s mantra.

The bottom line for me—having put my Irish brick walls to bed long before the winter holiday season was upon us—is that there may well be multiple additional resources now available to help me pick up the trail and blaze a path further back in time. The key is: to push that path back far enough to land me on the western shores of Ireland.

To make sure no hint is left unnoticed, I’ve got to have a research plan. Here are the trails, as I left off work on each surname, and what I still need to do with them to land me in the right parish in that family’s homeland.

Tully and Flannery

From their home in Chicago, where we met Frank Stevens through his World War II letters home to his mother, Agnes Tully Stevens, the Tully family followed a path northward to Canada West, as it was called in the 1860s. There, I’ve last seen their records in a small town called Paris in Brant County. The challenge here is to find documentation at that early date, and also to trace what became of the women of the Tully family—many of whom I can’t locate after the 1852 census. Additionally, my hope is to uncover any relationships between the Tully families listed in that census, and to see how the Tully matriarch, whose maiden name was Flannery, connects with the Flannery neighbors in the vicinity of the Tully home.

We’ve already obtained written notice of the Tully family’s origin in Ireland, which makes this the ancestral line most likely to allow me to make connections with a specific parish, once we get to Ireland. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll even find distant cousins still in the town of Ballina in County Tipperary.

Flanagan and Malloy

While I’m unlikely to find any further trace of the unfortunate Stephen Malloy after his unexpected flight to Boston from Liverpool in 1848, hopefully I’ll be able to figure out what drew his wife—after her pursuit of her missing husband—to the recently established transportation hub of the Midwest city of Chicago. While I’ve located—thanks to a copy of a letter passed down through the family—the name of the ship Stephen traveled on (and, incidentally, his home address in Ireland, thanks to the foresight someone had to save the letter in its envelope), I’ve yet to find any passenger records showing me how his wife and, later, his young daughter, got to the New World from the Old.

Before the Mrs. Malloy’s determined pursuit of her fleeing husband, there are undoubtedly records of the Malloys’ marriage, and their daughter’s birth. Thankfully, I do know that Mrs. Malloy’s maiden name was Flanagan, and that she had a brother. What I have yet to find is confirmation that her brother was indeed the William Flanagan that was sentenced to transportation for seven years—and, if so, how he decided to return not to his homeland, and not to Boston, where his sister had traveled, but to Chicago. And who got there first? William? Or his sister?

Most of all, I’d like to find out: why Chicago? And were they the only ones? Or did other Flanagan siblings also find their way westward?

Kelly and Falvey

This is the line that has its marching orders laid out in the best-defined manner of all our Irish ancestral lines. My first duty will be to send for immigration records from the courts for the Kelly family which settled in Fort Wayne. Here’s hoping the records will be for the right John Kelly! And, finding that, that they will contain the kind of information I’m seeking. I’ve already been informed by family tradition that this Kelly family was from the Lakes of Killarney. That, however, is the type of remembrance rife with possibilities for romanticism.

As I’ve already mentioned, I had once been excited to discover that John Kelly’s wife had the unusual name of Johanna Falvey. Unusual, that is, to me. To the folks back home in County Kerry, apparently Falvey was not all that uncommon. Though an obituary helped me discover the origin in County Kerry, there is still much work to determine which Johanna Falvey it might have been who married which John Kelly.

The Other Kelly

There is yet another Kelly puzzle I’ve got to decipher: that of the Catherine Kelly who married the original immigrant John Stevens. This young Catherine Kelly apparently came to the United States with her own parents, and married here—somewhere. Because this detail transpired sometime close to 1850, and may have occurred in either the Midwest or possibly even in New Orleans, sources for solid documentation may not be available. There are only the slightest hints of possible names for this Catherine Kelly’s parents. Even these may be false leads. All that’s been passed down orally from family tradition is that this Kelly family came from the Dublin area—not a reassuring lead. I may be researching more Kellys than I counted on, just to find the right one. And that’s even before I leave the shores of this country.

Stevens: the family’s namesake

The primary prize in all this searching would be to locate the origin of the Stevens immigrant from whom our whole family descended. In one serendipitous moment in Lafayette, Indiana, I was able to find a Declaration of Intent, isolating County Mayo as John Stevens’ origin in Ireland. In addition, the form included details on John Stevens’ route of travel to Indiana: up the Mississippi from New Orleans.

To find any passenger record of this man’s travels, though, has been near impossible to this point. Trying to jump to the source by scouring the records already available online for a John Stevens in County Mayo is fruitless—or, rather, too plentiful in its yield. Which John Stevens would be ours? The goal is to find any other indicators which would allow me to isolate this John Stevens with certainty, either by parents’ names, siblings’ names, or other records of his origin.

A Tall Order

Between the marching orders for these eight Irish surnames, I’ve got a lot of work to cover within the next six months. From this vantage point, it seems like a race to the finish. While some lines may gain ground quickly, others may seem to stall out, but overall, here’s hoping to make steady progress on average, as the months fly by on the way to an autumn finish line.    


  1. Wow Jacqi, this sounds like a lot. I don't know if you followed Colleen Pasquale's trip to Ireland (blog: Leaves and Branches), but she is the poster child for "PREPARED." She knew where certain records were housed, which churches to visit; she had even emailed people "in charge" of whatever. Even then she got bogged down here and there with driving directions. I have no doubt you'll whip this to-do list into something manageable in no time.

    1. Wendy, I am not naturally an organized person. Colleen's accomplishments seem super-human to someone like me. On the other hand, I certainly am motivated to get my money's worth out of a trip like this--besides not wanting to squander a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity--so it would certainly be worth my while to revisit Colleen's blog and take some serious notes.

  2. Falvey, Flanagan, and Flannery... I wonder if these names all merge together back in the "dark recesses of time"?

    Nice thing about Ireland... you can drive from one end to the other in a short while... It's not like Texas or Montana...

  3. Since you will be travelling, I would make folders for copies you collect along your travels. If you take photos make sure they are in the cloud or in dropbox or someplace besides on a SD Card ( My sister in law lost all photos of her Ireland Vacation because she lost the SD card)
    I am excited for you to go...I am certain it is going to be a wonderful trip for you! :)

    1. Good points, Far Side! That must have been awful to discover all those photos were gone. What a loss!

  4. You're going to Ireland? How exciting!! It sounds like you've made a good plan to get the most out of your research time there. =)

    1. Oh, Jana, for a trip of this magnitude, I kinda have to! I really don't want to travel all that way, only to find out I brought the wrong records...or forgot something...or made assumptions that would take too long to correct. Actually, I'm hoping to be prepared with a Plan B...and Plan C...just in case something goes sideways and I get stuck on one line. It's not like a trip to Salt Lake City or Fort Wayne, where I know I'll be back again soon. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


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