Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Taking an Inventory of
Some Cold, Hard Facts

In reconstructing the file of my supposed Flanagan descendant—Johanna, wife of John Lee of Chicago—I need to start with what I know. That means show and tell time for Exhibit A of the genealogist’s tool box: federal census records.

While I know that Johanna was born a Flanagan in Ireland—most likely somewhere in or near Parish Ballyagran in County Limerick, the declared home of her uncle William Flanagan—I cannot find her anywhere before the 1880 census.

By that time, thirty one year old Johanna was married to John Lee, and was the mother of three sons: William, George and John. The youngest, John, happened to be just a baby then, and the 1880 census allowed for such infants’ birth months to be documented in the column following their age. However, what looks like an entry that reads “June” does not compute with the fractional age given by the enumerator: 7/12. Counting backwards from the date the census record was taken, June 3, would yield a birth month preceding November 3, 1879—much closer, as we’ll find, to young John’s actual date of birth on October 24, 1879.

By the time of the next census—and we pause here to again mourn the loss of the 1890 record—there were changes in the Lee household. While in 1880, the family lived in a house on Fourteenth Street in Chicago, by the time of the 1900 census, they now lived in South Town district on Lowe Avenue.

Greater than that change is the situation Johanna found herself in: now fifty one years of age, she was a widow, head of a household comprised of four sons and three daughters. The oldest, William, was now twenty four. Joining the family after then-baby John was now-eighteen year old Lillie, seventeen year old Edward, fourteen year old Deborah, and twelve year old Mary.

I learned from this census that Johanna had been the mother of ten children in all, of which only these seven now remained. The census gave the year of immigration for Johanna as 1868. Though she was listed as unemployed in the census, all but her two youngest daughters—still in school—and her son John were engaged in occupational endeavors for most of the previous year. Perhaps that was how the family was able to keep up on the mortgage for their home.

What had become of Johanna’s husband, I have yet to discover. Searching for someone with a name like John Lee in Chicago can be a tricky feat. All I can figure at this point is that his date of death—if, indeed, that is what actually befell the man before this census was taken—could be no sooner than mid-summer of 1887. And no, it isn’t as easy as inquiring at the cemetery in which Johanna was buried—that family plot actually belonged to her uncle William Flanagan, and included no record of anyone else by the surname Lee.

This was the last census record in which Johanna appeared. As we saw yesterday, Johanna herself passed away on June 11, 1909—too soon to gain any record-keeping perks from the otherwise thoroughly modern Cook County bureaucrats. Thanks to City of Chicago birth records for John and Johanna Lee's children, though, we are able to glean confirmation of Johanna’s maiden name, which we will review tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Danger of Resurrecting Old Files

So, here I am, intending to pursue an old family line I haven’t researched in a while. It’s a useful line, because it may very well serve as a vehicle to make an end run around my brick wall Flanagan line. I’ve already accumulated several digital documents of birth and death certificates in which the unwitting Cook County clerk included the actual county of origin—County Limerick—instead of just recording the requisite name of the foreign country.

The only drawback: many of the first details I found were discovered pre-Internet. Where, oh where did I put all those papers?

I groan to think I will have to unearth boxes packed away for storage—long since out of sight and out of mind. This will pre-date two filing systems—notebooks and file cabinets—and bring me back to the realm of “file this” post-it notes and other extraneous scribblings.


What I have been able to retrieve so far

My target person and starting point for this new foray into Irish research is Johanna Flanagan Lee. She was born approximately March of 1849 in County Limerick, Ireland, and somehow followed her fellow family members who immigrated to Chicago, Cook County, in the United States.

Johanna was married to John T. Lee—a horrible misfortune of a choice, from a retrospective genealogical point of view—sometime before the birth of their first child, William, who arrived in 1875 after the couple took up residence in Chicago. A second research disaster was the date of Johanna's death—in 1909, just before the reach of state documentation of such research essentials as names of parents.

However, quite a few of the children of Johanna and John were well documented in Chicago birth records, showing me everything from John’s occupational status—cooper—to Johanna’s maiden name. That’s why I’m certain of that Flanagan link.


What I think I remember correctly

The sticky part, in reconstructing this line, is in linking Johanna to our Flanagan folks. If you have been following along here at A Family Tapestry for a good length of time, you may remember my series on Agnes Tully Stevens, daughter of Chicago policeman, John Tully and his wife, Catherine Malloy Tully.

Agnes’ mother, over the years, played dutiful niece to an ailing uncle, William Flanagan, brother to Agnes’ maternal grandmother, Anna Flanagan Malloy. Of course, in records of that era, spelling was a wild card that couldn’t be counted upon, so research involves several permutations of spelling for both Malloy and Flanagan—inserting just the right touch of uncertainty as to make things frustrating. However, when I found the funeral notice in the Chicago Tribune following the date of our William’s death, I felt pretty certain I had located the right one:
FLANIGAN--Aug. 14, 1893, at the residence of his niece, Mrs. John Tully, 607 Garfield-blvd., William Flanigan, aged 80 years. Funeral Wednesday, Aug. 16, at 10 a.m., to St. Ann's Church, thence by carriages to Mount Olivet.

Handily, that brief entry provided the relationship between William Flanagan and “Mrs. John Tully,” otherwise known as Agnes’ mother, Catherine Malloy Tully.

William, a single man with no descendants, provided a handsome monument to designate his burial place at Mount Olivet Cemetery, just outside the city limits of Chicago. I’ve mentioned this monument before. After one trip to Chicago, I contacted the cemetery office to see about the possibility that, though he was a single man, his burial was in what is called a family plot.

If I remember correctly, his was a family plot. I gleaned the names of a few others buried with him. Though I still struggle to make some of the connections, I remember one of the people named was Johanna Lee—thankfully, as her death pre-dated the advent of the kind of state sanctioned information gathering that gladdens the heart of genealogical researchers.

Somewhere—and “somewhere” is the key—I have a document identifying both Johanna Lee and Catherine Tully as nieces of William Flanagan. Of course, now that I’m seeking it, I can’t find it. My work on this line was done so long ago, I’m afraid it is locked within old computer files run on formats or programs no longer operative. There are some files I can no longer open—files sent to me by wonderfully accommodating workers at cemeteries far, far away from my home. Unless I find a way to open these files, or get my hands on filed-away printed copies of those records, it will mean having to start from square one in replicating my discoveries.

Without that “smoking gun,” I now lack the evidence to verify my conclusion that Johanna Lee is part of our Flanagan line. I’ll surely drag it out of storage somehow, as it may be the only source providing that connection. In the course of doing so, perhaps some serendipitous other discoveries from beyond the great digitizing divide will help fill in more blanks and move my research progress along.

Until then, with tomorrow’s post, we’ll move ahead and examine what has been found about Johanna and her family, eventually—hopefully—identifying her parentage somewhere back in County Limerick, Ireland.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Looking For Something Else, Found This

At the pivot point between all-I-can-find for the Flannery family of Paris, Ontario, and seven more surnames to complete before our Irish research trip next fall, I decided to pull up a strand that’s not been pursued here at A Family Tapestry: Lee.

Now, I know—judging by the groans I can digitally sense through this Internet connection—Lee is not much more of an agreeable genealogical research topic than, say, Smith or Jones. There are a lot of them out there! To compound the problem, Lee is one of those surnames of trans-national prevalence, so it takes a lot of honing in to isolate the specific line I’m seeking. Why would I ever want to do something like that to myself? Especially within the time parameters I’m facing?

Calm down. This Lee has a connection that might yield some geographic tips for the Irish trip. Johanna Lee, my focus, is somehow a cousin to my thoroughly-researched Agnes Tully Stevens, my husband’s Chicago-based paternal grandmother. Lee, as it turns out, is not her maiden name, but her married name. She was born Johanna Flanagan, and like many of her Irish immigrant relatives, arrived in Chicago via Canada.

To prepare to launch into this research project, I checked my files for what I had already gleaned on this woman. I had already, when encountering resources on Johanna’s history which would have sucked me into those inevitable rabbit trails, digitized the records and filed them away for a later opportunity.

This was that opportunity, I figured, and headed back into my files to locate what I had saved.

Of course, you know it had to turn out more convoluted than that simple explanation, though, don’t you? Reading through saved emails, one by one, I began losing hope that I’d locate what I was seeking. After about the forty-somethingth file I opened, I ran across an email from an unfamiliar address and began scanning the contents:
I am going to try to e-mail you a picture of grandma Stevens (Agnes Tully). She is second from the left, middle standing, they played all over the country and on passenger ships.

I couldn’t believe it! Rabbit trail or no rabbit trail, I had to stop there and change paths. This was the very file I had looked for when blogging about Agnes and her earlier years touring as a violinist—a digitized copy of the promotional brochure, including Agnes’ photograph. It was sent in an email from my husband’s cousin Mike nearly ten years ago.

Seeing the brochure itself provided just a slim bit of searchable information to move me onward. What were the chances that I could find more via an online search now? Nearly cringing with thoughts of how this could go awry, I entered the terms “Lady Entertainers” along with “Agnes Tully”—adding the name in hopes it would divert the search results from a direction I didn’t intend to go.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the Google™ results. Not only was I able to find a copy of the brochure’s cover—albeit a poor facsimile of the original—but a complete rendering of all four pages, which I lacked.

Apparently, the University of Iowa Libraries has a collection, dubbed “Traveling Culture,” which focuses on what they subtitled “Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century.” From that separate entry, I gleaned the names of the other three young women in Agnes’ group:
            Mayfa M. Haines
            Kathryn A. Reed
            Kathryn Roberts

Agnes Tully Stevens of Chicago as former Circuit Chautauqua violinist circa 1910
Another digital file at the University of Iowa collection confirmed the date of the brochure as 1910—just two years before Agnes’ marriage to William Stevens, giving me an idea of the brief duration of her tenure with Redpath, the booking agency managing the group’s engagements.

Not only did that brochure earn Agnes a place in the archives of the University of Iowa collection, but an entry in the listings at the Library of Congress, which also provided a page on the Circuit Chautauqua movement. I was even able to find a listing for Agnes Tully at Trove, the archive of the National Library of Australia!

Apparently, the brochure included a separate portrait of Agnes, standing, with her violin. The 1910-1911 season brochure also contained copy—in the flowery style of the era—promoting the group’s presentation, specifically noting Agnes’ part in the program:
Concerning the violin playing of Miss Tully too much praise can scarcely be accorded to it. The hearty encores which she invariably receives may be regarded as ample proof of the high regard in which she is held. Miss Tully is a most satisfactory concert player and soloist. She at once established herself in the good graces of her audience, and deserves the applause so generously awarded her. Her playing is characterized by great warmth of tone, color and abandon which, combined with a clean technique, beautiful bowing and virile interpretation places her among the leading lady violinists of the day. Her uniform success in these engagements of the Lady Entertainers has established for her an enviable reputation as an artist who gives promise of a brilliant future.
While I'll pick up my place, back at the head of the rabbit trail, with tomorrow's post on Johanna Lee, this was one diversion I could not resist mentioning the minute I discovered it.

Brochure information:
Front page of brochure as scanned from copy in private collection of Agnes Tully Stevens'  family member.
Inset, lower right, portrait of Agnes Tully from Redpath brochure, dated 1910, courtesy University of Iowa Libraries; both articles in public domain.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Time For Some New Blogging Toys

Genealogical seminar at the Wells Fargo Center for the Performing Arts in Santa Rosa CA
Donna Moughty training seminar on family history and medical genealogy While preparing for a research trip to Ireland, I've not only been doing my homework, pre-trip, to be ready to spring into action once landed in Dublin, I've also been examining how to tell the story of the process of that research trip. If I can't take you with me, I want to at least make you feel like you got to join me on the road. I've been looking for a way to keep posting every day, on location from the site of each day's journey.

However, you know me: technologically hesitant. You think it's pathetic that I'm still operating in a desktop Windows XP paradigm? Wait 'til you see me try to figure my way through the tech challenges of posting on the road.

My dream is to be able to upload photos every day in a brief report of the day's activities across the Emerald Isle. But I've heard horror stories, so I know better. I know I'll be able to keep up a daily posting routine IF:

  • I can find daily Internet connectivity
  • I can find a way to take photos that look fairly recognizable
  • I can find the time to produce coherent text

A while back, I thought I had found the ideal solution: an app that allowed photos to be posted a la Instagram, direct to one's blog. The only drawback: it was an app that ran on an iPhone.

I don't have an iPhone. (Are you kidding? This is me, the tech-phobic klutz, still holding out with a non-smart phone. A flip phone, in fact.)

Second drawback: it published only to WordPress. (While I lust over self-hosted blogs published via WordPress, again I repeat: are you kidding? This is me, the tech-illiterate blogger. There is a reason there are services like BlogSpot. I am that reason.)

Recently, however, that particular app, having met with success, decided to expand those horizons and add some changes. One, it included a vast array of other publishing platforms, including the Blogger/BlogSpot duo. Two, the app can run on my iPad.

Normally, at this point, I'd say we are in business. Except, that is, for one minor detail: I'm still tech challenged. Nobody has yet invented an app for that.

So, seeing a long learning curve in my future, I decided on a trajectory that would include plenty of practice. I wouldn't want to get to Ireland and discover I couldn't make the thing work for me. So, I planned to test drive this particular app during my trip down south to Jamboree in June.

Being a little apprehensive about my ability to pull that one off, I decided a pre-pre-trial run wouldn't be a bad idea. So, this weekend, on a trip to another genealogical society's spring seminar, I decided I'd upload the app and give it a test drive.

Well, I'm still trying to figure out how to put the key in the ignition.

The app is John Saddington's Pressgram. It's a nifty little device for instantly publishing photos and commentary, the very thing I'd use during the crazy time frames of travel and research. Don't let my inept handling of a fantastic vehicle dismay you: this thing can work, barring operator error. I may be able to correct some of those operator errors in, oh, say, five to ten...


Take Exhibit A above: two shots of yesterday's speaker, genealogist Donna Moughty, whose Ireland research trip next fall I am seriously eyeing. That's the very reason I made the trip to the Sonoma County Genealogical Society's seminar yesterday. I wanted to meet Donna, hear her presentations, and ask her thousands of questions about her Irish research offerings.

Barring the fact that an iPad camera is not a professional SLR camera (not to mention, again, operator error), the Pressgram app enabled me to take the pictures, edit them, and immediately post them, if I wished. I didn't wish, actually, but for some reason, the thing went live anyhow.


I took more photos from the event, and will play around with editing them and adding them to the posts for the next few days, if you don't mind joining me and playing guinea pig for this experiment. After all, if I can polish this technique before next fall, you can join me then as armchair traveler on my journey through the archives, libraries, heritage centers and villages of Ireland.

IF, that is, I can get the hang of it all in such record time.    

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cat Genealogy and Why I’m Not Surprised About Missing Flannerys

Not being a morning person, I have to take great caution in examining any thought that hits my foggy brain any time between dawn and, oh, say, noonish o’clock.

A thought occurred to me after the great misfortune of awaking too early yesterday morning, but I do have to say it may still be worthy of consideration.

I was pondering the trouble I’ve had, seeking what became of the descendants of Ed-whatever-his-name-was and Margaret Flannery. Granted, the1852 Canadian census pinpointed them squarely in the village of Paris in what was soon to become the county of Brant in then-Canada West. Though the father’s name was obliterated by an ink blot and the mother’s name camouflaged by the annoyingly proper “Mrs.,” the four sons’ names were clearly documented for all to see: Patrick, Cornelius, Michael and John. The 1861 census added “Mat” and Ellen.

Other than finding Patrick and Ellen—she who married Thomas O’Neil and as a widow, moved with her brother Patrick to Brantford—I’ve been unable to locate any of the other children as adults.

Could they have all died in early adulthood? That is a possibility, though one I struggle with, since the only online resource for Paris area Catholic burials does not include any of their names besides Patrick’s family.

I found another helpful resource in researching Paris, thanks to the Brant County branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. In their surname search engine, I entered Flannery, to see what finding aids they could provide. Even there, though, there wasn’t much of a lead for my Flannery case other than a different burial ground listed for a Michael Flannery.

Sometimes, my mind runs from theory to theory, trying to think of all the research options I can pursue. Right now, that mind feels trapped in a maze, cornered in one dead end after another.

It was in that endless run around yesterday morning that I recalled Pottenger’s cats. While there is more to the story of this scientist’s experiments with cats, the brief version is that he noticed that, depending on what the cats were fed, some nutritional ailments did not fully manifest themselves in the first generation, but in the second or even third generation.

That, of course, reminded me of the various health ailments of my senior editor and constant writing companion, Luke. You may recall having met him in a previous post a few years ago. If not, here’s the brief rundown: Luke is the great grand-kitten of a rescued jail cat.

There was a visual trail of effects obvious in this cat genealogy. Luke’s great-grandmother, Tux, was born to a feral cat out in the country. Though we got her as a rescue kitten and cared for her well, she never grew to more than a runt—a cute one, admittedly, but tiny. The next generation of kittens looked basically the same: puny. Only with the third generation did the kittens appear to be of what we consider as normal size and appearance for a domesticated cat. While Luke’s generation seems fat and sassy, they come with some genetic problems even so.

Now, I’m no scientist, and I can’t trace the genetic causes for Luke’s various handicaps—hey, I can’t even figure out my own genetic genealogy yet!—but it gets me wondering whether such a process would also work in reverse. After all, it did for Pottenger’s poor cats. Could something like that have been the cause of so many of our Flannery descendants?

Think about this: though Ed and Margaret Flannery escaped the Irish Famine in the earlier years of that tragedy, their now-teenaged sons would likely have not had the best of nutrition and care during those poverty-stricken years of childhood. While the Flannery parents may have seen better times as children themselves, their own children did not. That, essentially, is what drove them from Ireland to seek better times in Canada.

Their children, however, did not escape the effects of that deprivation. Perhaps the building blocks of those Flannery descendants’ welfare showed itself, much like what was experienced by the Pottenger cats, in that next generation—and, thinking of granddaughter Agnes, for instance, in the second generation removed from that famine.

Whether that was what caused their demise or not, I don’t know. Perhaps the call to “go west, young man” echoed in the ears of our northern neighbors as well as on the American frontier. Perhaps the anonymity of such common Irish surnames loses these Flannery sons in the crowd. I don’t know.

Perhaps, on the other hand, some of them, like the next generation in the genealogy of Pottenger’s forlorn cats, simply met an early end—a death too early for anything other than local church records to recall. And for that—with the exception of one notable mention of a Flannery granddaughter—we’ll have to bid the Flannery family adieu until the time of any future trips to Ontario.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Running in Flannery Circles

Have you ever felt like the white rabbit in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, pulling out a pocket watch and tapping it impatiently as if to say, “I’m late for an important date”?

I realize it is only April—and autumn is still a long way off—but I’m beginning to feel as if I’m running in circles in this Flannery pursuit. It’s been such a struggle to find pertinent records on this family. Meanwhile, there is so much more to do before we can head off for Ireland and test our research skills there next fall. With only a few more items to note on what’s been found on the Flannery family, the best strategy for now will be to take the next few days to wrap it all up—all that can be found to this point, that is.

Since we had just been exploring the discovery of one of the missing Flannery siblings—Ellen, daughter of Edward and Margaret, sister to Patrick—let’s see what else has been found on the Flannery patriarch, Edward.

The last we had seen of Edward was in the 1871 census for the county of Brant in Ontario, Canada. There, he and his wife, Margaret, were now the only ones left in their household, as all their sons had grown and moved to their own homes, wherever those might have been. Ellen, as we’ve just seen, was now married to Thomas O’Neil, and with her husband and two young sons, was living next door to her parents.

The 1871 census was the last appearance Edward Flannery was to make in the decennial event, for another record revealed his passing the very next year. There, in the tiny village of Paris, Edward lived out the last of his estimated sixty five years, and as a Catholic was—presumably, as I can’t find any record of it yet—buried in the Sacred Heart Cemetery there.

The death records for that time period were frustratingly silent on those types of details a family history researcher clamors for, yet repetitive on, say, name of physician (and signature of “informant,” who typically was that same physician). Best I could tell from the challenges of handwriting issues coupled with faded ink, Edward died on June 30, 1872, though the event wasn’t registered until the following October fourth.

Left with very few usable details, my eyes wandered to the other responses on the form, such as cause of death: “Quinsey eight days.”

So what might “Quinsey” be? And why the need to track its eight-day progress?

Unbelievably, my go-to site for archaic medical terms failed me on this one. Undeterred, I turned to Google™. Surely somebody knew what a diagnosis like that meant.

Thanks to the never-ending resources at Wikipedia, those of you with strong stomachs coupled with your curiosity may view the complete answer here. For those, like me, who wished they hadn’t looked, the answer is that Edward Flannery lingered for eight days over an abscess in the back of his mouth close to his tonsils.

Although I haven’t yet found any record for this, I presume Edward’s wife Margaret was not long in joining him. I had hoped, at one point, that the widow would have led me to one of those four sons I have yet to discover, but that is a loose end leading nowhere right now.

Reading such melancholy transcripts of bare-bones facts—name, age, birthplace, profession, date of death—reduces a life down to near non-descript terms. Oh, that enough of life’s residue could be left to pass the tale on to another generation.

Above right: artwork by Sir John Tenniel accompanying the original edition of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Was He? Or Wasn’t He?

Having worked our way through two of the Irish immigrant Flannery descendants living in Paris, Ontario in Canada—successfully, I might add—I’m surely fired up to see if Patrick Flannery and Ellen Flannery O’Neil’s new neighbor Francis C. Flannery might hold any answers for us.

I am particularly interested in one small detail: the middle initial “C” in Francis Flannery’s name. Could that “C” stand for Cornelius? Was this our elusive Cornelius Flannery, the one son of Ed and Margaret Flannery whom I once had destined to yield my easiest find?

Stumbling upon Francis while locating the new home for Patrick Flannery’s family after they had moved from Paris, I had wondered if this were the reason Patrick—and, at the same time, his widowed sister Ellen O’Neil—had moved to Brantford, the seat of the Ontario county of Brant. Right or wrong, there he was in the 1891 census, along with his wife Annie and children Elizabeth, Minney, Agnes, Nora and James P.

Since the census provided me enough data to flesh out further searches, I went to work seeking any corroborating documentation. Handily, the children were all born in Ontario, as was Francis’ wife, leaving open the possibility that I could find something to help me test out my hypothesis.

Sure enough, there was a transcription of a birth record for an unnamed Flannery girl, born October 23, 1869. Comparing this year of birth to the information provided in the 1891 census, I’m guessing this is the birth report for daughter Elizabeth, who at the time of the census was listed as twenty three years of age. With ages and dates so fluid in records back then, that’s close enough for me.

One other clue on this transcript was that the birth was recorded in Elora, not Brantford. Elora was a town further up north from Paris and Brantford on the Grand River, in the county of Wellington—which shows us the Flannerys had not always lived in the same place.

A later record, this one revealing what the initial “P” stood for in son James’ name—as we can guess for one of Irish descendant, it stood for Patrick—was dated July 5, 1883. This report, too, showed the Flannery family had moved once again, for James was born in York County, in the city of Toronto.

That record, sadly, also revealed to us that James’ father was not to be our suspected Francis Cornelius, but Francis Charles Flannery.

Nevertheless, this provides valuable information, helping us to steer clear of mismatched descendants. While I’m still totally at a loss to explain what happened to our Cornelius Flannery, I now know the concurrent residence of the three Flannerys in Brantford was coincidental in Francis’ case.

The birth record for James provided handy additional clues for anyone else researching this other Flannery line: Francis C. Flannery’s wife’s maiden name was apparently Hefferman. And though the family moved from Toronto to Brantford in time for the 1891 census, they apparently removed once again to Toronto, as evidenced by their daughter Elizabeth’s marriage in 1897 to Horace Ebbage. That Toronto hint provides a little security when locating the death record for Francis—again, in York County, in 1928—though it offers a year of birth conflicting with earlier records.

And if that final record was indeed this Francis C. Flannery’s report of passing, it gives us one final confirmation that his “C” was not to be ours: his parents were listed as Nora Connerton and Francis Flannery.

Not at all our Ed-blot and Margaret.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Doubting These Thomases

Now that I’ve found—albeit accidentally—transcriptions of the marriage record for Thomas O’Neil and, presumably, Ellen Flannery, I’m not sure which one of the two to believe. The only constant details between the two records are the date and place of the wedding. And Thomas’ own name, of course.

Let’s look a little closer at the details in the records, beginning with the one I found first: the transcription at This record gives Thomas’ age as thirty four, and his parents’ names as Thomas O’Neil and Mary Greime. Admittedly, the surname Greime seems a little unusual—probably a spelling variation, but not something so overtly egregious as to cause us to toss it out of hand immediately.

As for Thomas’ bride-to-be, the listing gives the name Ellen Flannery. While I’m ever so grateful to have found this little tidbit, I do need to cool my fervor over the fortunate find and remember that this is not an actual document I’ve found, but only a transcript of a document. Yes, I’m so pleased that it shows Ellen’s parents to be Edward Flannery and Margaret McKeogh, but it is not yet time to participate in a victorious “I told you so” dance. This bit of evidence is no more than at least two sets of eyeballs’ rendering of one page in the Family History Library’s microfilm number 1030055.

I’m getting the feeling I might become rather familiar with that microfilm number in the next few months.

In the other record, found at, we’ve already discussed the one obvious problem: the bride’s name has been rendered as Flaming, not Flannery. I don’t see that as too insurmountable a barrier. After all, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize that what was written as two n’s could easily be taken as an m, an i for an e, an n for an r, and a rather closely formed top to a y as a g. As reader Wendy mentioned yesterday, if you’ve ever volunteered to serve as an indexer for a FamilySearch transcription project, you will realize what it is like getting these microfilmed documents converted to a searchable format for online research. These things can happen.

That, however, is not the only problem with this transcription for the Thomas O’Neil marriage. While the Ancestry entry shows the same wedding date—February 23, 1868—and even adds the location of the ceremony as the village of Paris, there are some additional name variations to be concerned about. While Ellen’s father is still listed as Edward, and her mother as Margaret, her mother’s maiden name has been revised to show as McHugh. Granted, that could be a phonetic variation on McKeogh, so I’m not too concerned. But still, that’s added to the other concern about Flaming instead of Flannery.

Looking to Thomas’ parents’ information, there is another discrepancy. And I can’t explain this one away. Thomas’ mother, Mary, is shown here with an entirely different maiden name: Spencer. How did they get Spencer from Greime?!

One handy device Ancestry provides is a research tips box in the right column of pages with search results. On this particular page for Thomas O’Neil’s marriage information, a “Suggested Records” box popped up, providing a clickable link to a similar result. I immediately clicked through, hoping some Research Good Fairy had just sprinkled fairy dust on the upper right corner of my computer screen.

That, unfortunately, was not what happened, no matter how much you all gathered together and chanted, “I do believe in fairies, I do!”

The suggested second resource turned out to be drawn from the same original document, if you read the fine print at the bottom of each page—so nothing new gleaned there.

Returning to the 1871 census record for Brant County, Ontario, where I had first encountered the young couple, I saw Thomas declared he was born in Canada. Fine, I thought, I’ll just look for his birth record. Nothing found.

Alright, then, I’ll work it from the opposite angle. Remembering that Thomas was no longer present in the O’Neil family household for the 1881 census, I went looking for a death record. Still nothing.

Some things just need to be set aside until later. If Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither can we put Rome’s full complement of governmental documents online in one day (metaphorically speaking, of course; wouldn’t we all love to see that happen for real).

What I need to realize—and satisfy myself with, for now—is that I’ve achieved my goal of confirming that Ellen was daughter of Edward and Margaret Flannery, and thus also sister of Patrick Flannery. Of Edward and Margaret’s descendants in Paris, Ontario, I’ve now confirmed the outcome of two, with a third possibility waiting in the wings.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Good Thing I Found This One First

Toying with the notion that Ellen O’Neil—or O’Neail, as some records displayed the spelling of it—was one and the same with Ellen Flannery, daughter of Edward and Margaret of Paris, Ontario, I went back to retrace my steps on the Flannery searches. With Ellen showing as a widow, beginning with her appearance with her two sons—but no husband—in the 1881 Canadian census, I thought the logical first step would be to take a peek at the listing for burials at the Catholic cemetery in Paris.

Since we have the good fortune of an online listing of many of the burials at Sacred Heart Cemetery, thanks to an volunteer, I returned to that site to see what was listed for that unusual surname spelling: O’Neail.

I promised myself to be flexible with my spelling expectations, knowing how documentation went back in the mid to late 1800s, but as it turned out, there was no need to brace myself to wade through dozens of inapplicable O’Neils. There in the entries for Sacred Heart Cemetery was a decent list of O’Neail family members.

Except there was one glitch: the Thomas O’Neail in the listing didn’t appear to be the right one.

There was one, of course, but he lived well past 1881, the same year our Ellen’s husband failed to appear in the Paris census. As it turned out, this Thomas may have served as mayor of Paris—in 1883, according to the J. H. Beers and Company publication, The History of the County of Brant, Ontario. The detail on page 488 also indicated that this Thomas O’Neail was a grain merchant and miller. In contrast, the last entry to be found for our Thomas O’Neail, in 1871, labeled him simply as a laborer.

Not satisfied with the results I had found on the cemetery listing, I struck out for more likely arenas. Thankfully, I headed first for the free site, There, though garnering absolutely zip for my search terms, while pursuing something else—what became of Ellen’s two sons after the 1891 census—what should pop up but the hitherto-elusive marriage entry for one Thomas O’Neil of Paris, Brant County, Ontario.

There, while scanning through the multiple hits gotten from my search terms regarding Ellen's two sons, I had to do a double take to not lose that result! Why didn’t it come up when I was searching for their marriage record?!

But why complain? There it was, showing Thomas to be son of another Thomas O’Neil and his wife, Mary Greime.

Better yet, it confirmed that the younger Thomas’ wife Ellen once sported the maiden name of Flannery.

What more could I ask?

Well…actually, I could ask one small additional favor: a peek at the document, itself.

So, off to I went. After all, FamilySearch provided the name of the source of their revelation: an index called “Ontario, Marriages, 1800-1910.”

The added value of is that, though limiting access as a subscriber-based site, it does provide digitized versions of many of the actual documents referred to on, rather than just the transcription of the record. All I need do, in many such cases, is note the source document’s name at, then seek the same source at Ancestry.

Unfortunately, in this case, my technique failed me. Ancestry did not have any such collection listed.

Worse, in trying to find any other record of the marriage of Thomas and Ellen—made a bit easier, now that I had not only confirmed that it occurred in the county of Brant, but that it was solemnized on the exact date of February 23, 1868—I was unable to find anything.

Except for one strange entry for a Thomas O’Neil and an Ellen Flaming.

Flaming? What were my chances? I clicked through to the record, in hopes that it included a copy of the original document. I wanted to see that one for myself!

Unfortunately, it didn’t provide anything more than the listing of Archives of Ontario microfilms from which the index was composed.

I’m guessing, given the wild versions of ink-on-paper passing as handwriting by government officials, that “Flaming” could very well have started out with the good intentions of appearing like “Flannery.”

Having found that record, I can now understand why, in my many attempts to flush out any hints on Ancestry, I could never locate any marriage record for an Ellen Flannery in Brant County, Ontario. If it weren’t for glancing at a misapplied result while searching for something else about this O’Neil family, I wouldn’t have found this record on FamilySearch, either.

I am becoming more and more a fan of database hopping, in my quest to find these intractable camouflaged ancestors. And I am developing the ability to come quickly to a skidding stop and make quick turns when stray search errors flash past my eyes. Sometimes, those “errors” turn out to be just the thing I’ve been looking for.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Neighbors, Friends—or Family?

A funny thing happened on the way to determine whether our Patrick Flannery had moved to Brantford, the county seat of Brant County, to be close to his brother: I found another name in that 1891 census, one which I had seen back in Patrick’s old home in Paris, Ontario.

If you remember my first mention of Patrick and Margaret, as newlyweds in the 1881 census, you may have noticed the curious configuration given to his household listing by That website had included a second surname in the enumeration of everyone in Patrick’s family. Beside his wife, Margaret, and their two young daughters Mary and Margaret, there was another family by the name of O’Neial.

I wasn’t sure about this name—not because of the unusual spelling, of course, because spelling contortions like that were bound to happen back then, but because of its placement in the same household as Patrick’s. To check it out, I located the same entry at to look at the actual document for myself.

Though the digitized copy of the 1881 census was quite faded, sure enough, there appeared to be two families in the same household on the document itself. The O’Neial family was comprised of thirty five year old Ellen plus twelve year old John and ten year old Edward—if you are an subscriber, you can see for yourself by clicking here.

Why did Patrick’s young family include these other people?

Sometimes, poring over all these census records is enough to turn one’s brain to mush, as names tumble around and become jumbled with other names. But I thought I had seen that name before.

I took a look at the previous census to see if I could locate what I thought I had remembered. I did find an Ellen combined with an Edward and a John—ages conveniently reduced by ten years on the earlier record—but this time, they were in the separate household of one Thomas O’Neil.

More importantly, they were right next door to a Flannery household. But it wasn't Patrick’s. Instead, Thomas and Ellen O'Neil were living next to the household of the now elderly Edward and Margaret Flannery. Hmm.

Taking it yet another step backwards to the 1861 census, there in Edward and Margaret Flannery’s household, was a single woman by the name of Ellen Flannery.

Could this Ellen Flannery born in Ireland in 1843 be the twenty five year old wife of Thomas O’Neil in the 1871 census? We’ve already seen how fluid those birth dates seem to have been in that era. Can I trust it to be so for this instance? Why else would this same O’Neil family later move in tandem with Edward Flannery's son Patrick when his family relocated from Paris to Brantford?

Not sure to rely solely on a possibility like shifting ages, I’ll first have to do some searches for records for any of this O’Neil—or O’Neail—foursome.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Family Tradition: Pass It On

Whether you are celebrating Easter today—Resurrection Day, as many prefer to call it—or have been celebrating Passover this past week, you have been participating in a vital force that preserves culture in such a way that permits it to be passed on to future generations. “Culture is religion externalized and made explicit,” claimed Henry van Til, author and nephew of the famed Dutch theologian Cornelius van Til, and the traditions we re-enact today make visible to our children the beliefs we hold as essential to sustaining our philosophy of life.

How do we pass down our beliefs and traditions? It is not solely through the words we say, I’d like to maintain, but through the actions we take and the stories they tell.

My daughter, now a junior in college, has been serving as tutor in the home of a conservative Jewish family. It has been a cultural education for her as she observes the manner in which the adherents to a religion very different from her own apply the quote I mentioned above, from a theologian and adherent of a Calvinist Christian perspective. While these two belief systems are quite divergent from each other, we can still see the concept in operation in the traditions this Jewish family upholds in daily life.

Think about it: the culture of the Hebrew (Jewish) people has been passed down for thousands of years now. How did it preserve itself through such a long span of time? Those beliefs were not mere litanies weariedly recited by generation after generation. They were kept alive by story and by re-enactment. Their traditions included retelling the story of Passover in a family setting, with even the food they were eating serving as symbols of a pivotal moment in their people’s saga. The actions, the drama of the episodes, the sharing via family, all helped to bond these people to their history—to their story.

The Christian observances of this past Holy Week also serve to pass our heritage to the next generation. The meaningful ways we transpose concepts into actions we can absorb through our five senses find their way into the hearts of our children—a place where they may be safely harbored, cherished, and preserved.

In some ways, our culture’s viability is fragile—only as certain as the tenuous link between one generation and the next. It is not that we pass down our beliefs from one generation to the next, but how we do it that will count. The childlike eyes that brighten at candlelight stories told by a beloved grandfather, or the participatory factor of the re-enactment of a historic event: these are the highlights that, for a new generation, bind meaning to the memories of bygone years.

In a much humbler way, we who are careful to preserve our own families’ stories can take our cue from this lesson on how the Hebrew line preserved their culture for millennia. We, too, are pivotal: only one generation away from seeing our families’ stories forever forgotten. It is when we create that spark, not only of excitement but of personal identification with the experiences of our ancestors, that we equip that next generation to carry our stories forward.

Above: Painting, "Easter," by Russian artist Mikhail Andreyevich Mokhov (1819-1903, also identified as Mihail Mohov); in the public domain; courtesy Wikipedia.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Think I Found Something

Sometimes, genealogical research just goes on its plodding way, tiresomely slowly, one step at a time. Sometimes, those steps don’t seem to lead anywhere. Sometimes, they seem like they are actually going backwards.

And then, sometimes, it’s like something breaks through and streams of light flow in. Everything falls into place. Angel choirs sing.


Well, it isn’t quite as good as that. But I think I did find something.

Remember Cornelius? The elusive Cornelius, the guy with the unusual name that was a sure fire clue to help me push back another generation in this Flannery family from County Tipperary in Ireland?

I might have found him.

I’m not going to rush into this too quickly. No sense getting my hopes up—although if he managed to die a good twenty years after his brother Patrick, it would certainly help my cause.

So, I’ll take my time laying out the little bits of evidence I’ve garnered so far. This could take a few days. I’m still piecing things together. And, of course, I could be wrong. But at least I’ve got to try—to test this hypothesis out.

It all happened while I was fully intending to grind my way through the census records for Patrick Flannery’s family in Paris, Ontario. After all, I already know where most, if not all, of his family were buried. Conveniently, we can supplement those findings with digitized records online for the births of his children—and, in some cases, their death records, too.

Patrick, though born in Ireland, seemed to have established himself in the village his parents claimed for their adopted home once they arrived in Canada West. Except for that anomaly of the newspaper report of his death being published so far from his home, I had only found him in records for Paris.

Now, having begun the process of tracing his descendants, I had used the 1881 census for Paris to identify his first two children—Mary and Margaret. I zoomed ahead to the1901 census to get a sneak peak at the end of the story, while the children were all young enough to still be at home, and his death precluded the arrival of any more babies.

Following my post on Patrick’s first two daughters, I had thought to write about the next surviving daughter, Ellen, and began pulling up whatever records I could find for her. One of my first stops in the online search was to locate a copy of the 1891 census, to double check such fuzzy reports as date of birth.

That’s when I hit a little glitch: there was no Patrick Flannery in Paris in 1891. At least, none that I could find.

I started wondering about Iggy’s suggestion that Patrick actually was living in Essex, after all—the location of the newspaper that ran the report of Patrick’s death. The problem with that idea, though, was the Essex County man had declared himself to be single. And, with as many children as our Patrick and Margaret had by that time, he certainly didn’t qualify to call himself single.

So here I am, looking for any records on daughter Ellen in the 1891 census, and I see a listing for a Patrick and Margaret Flannery family—not in Paris, but in a place called Brantford.

Now, I happen to know that the city of Brantford is actually the county seat of Brant, the county in which the Flannerys had settled when they chose Paris as their new home. As often happens, perhaps Patrick had moved his family to a larger town—Brantford's population at the time was twelve thousand, much larger than the village of Paris—to find better opportunities for employment.

On the other hand, there are so many Patricks out there—even Patricks married to Margarets—so I wanted to go carefully in this leap of research faith.

It sure steadied my nerves to find another entry in that same subdistrict in Brantford for a Flannery family. Maybe this was the reason for Patrick’s move: to be closer to family. This record was for a man by the name of Francis C. Flannery, aged forty eight, who was born in Ireland. Granted, that would put him as having been born around 1843, a bit young to have been Patrick’s brother. Seeing how loose people played with those birth dates back then, though, it made me wonder about the possibility. After all, what did the “C” in Francis C. Flannery stand for?

Though he wasn’t born in 1835, could he have been our Cornelius?

Besides that question, there was another hint I found in that same census record that made me wonder if I had found some of the missing Flannery siblings—but this discovery will require a long explanation, so I’ll save it for tomorrow.

Friday, April 18, 2014

About Mary and Margaret

Question: Who’s buried in Mary and Margaret Flannery’s tomb?

Answer: No one. Mary and Margaret weren’t buried in a tomb.

Now, if you want to ask who was buried in Mary and Margaret’s cemetery plots, that’s another matter. And I’m not entirely sure I have the answer.

What made me wonder was that first glance at the list of burials at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Paris, Ontario. There is a Mary Flannery listed there, who died October 11, 1962. And there is a Margaret Flannery listed as well, with a date of death of July 8, 1965.

My problem is that, after reading that Mary and Margaret’s sister Agnes died at age fifteen, and their brother Edward James (or James Edward, depending on which record you are reading) died in his forties, I tend to doubt these two others would be so long lived.

You see, according to the 1881 Canadian census, Mary was born in 1878. Her younger sister? Born in 1880. That would make them, respectively, eighty four and eighty five at the time of their deaths. Approximately.

How did these two manage to survive so much longer than their other siblings?

No, I am not going to start talking about yogurt or aerobic training. That is a rhetorical question. And this is not a health and fitness blog.

The differences in life spans have got me wondering if the surnames were just coincidental occurrences in that same cemetery.

At least Mary and Margaret had left some form of birth record to help with comparisons. While we may not know whether those two buried in the Sacred Heart Cemetery are our two Flannery sisters, we can at least examine any variances in documentation over the years for these two sisters.

One index of transcribed birth records shows Mary’s date of birth as February 13, 1878—and, thankfully, confirms her parents as Patrick “Flanery” and Margaret Gorman, exactly as we’ve already found. A different index from the same website, showing the same two parents, provides Mary’s sister Margaret Flannery’s date of birth as December 30, 1879.

That’s good to know, for if we fast forward to the 1901 census for this family, apparently their mom couldn’t quite remember all those details. Okay, so she was a little busy with all those kids. It’s easy to see right away, though, that the birth date the census record shows for Margaret—December 28, 1882—would come impossibly close to next daughter Ellen’s arrival on March 6 of 1883. Besides, with a birthday that late, she wouldn’t have made the cut for appearing in the 1881 census, now, would she?!

That’s the kind of opportunity we have, looking in retrospect at all these documents in a digitally-searchable mode. We can spot which record conveyed errors forward to us in the future, and speculate on which data are the correct versions.

We are so spoiled.

Not only that, but the temptation to superimpose our current standards upon those former times can sneak up on us. And before we know it, we are wondering why a mother can’t even keep her own kids’ birthdays straight, for crying out loud!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When It Doesn’t All Add Up Right

If you found the comparisons of the various census records available for the Ed Flannery family to be frustrating—no two census records seeming to contain reasonable projections of household ages—you’ll just love diving into these records for son Patrick’s own family.

Fortunately—well, at least that’s how I felt about it when I first began this comparison—we have cemetery records for Patrick’s family. By the time we compare them to all the census records and other documents, we’ll find a phantom other person—an unexplained additional Flannery.

But let’s not bite off more than we can chew in this one sitting. Today, we’ll take a look at what’s available from the file for Sacred Heart Cemetery in Paris, Ontario, for the Patrick Flannery family.

As we’ve already discovered, Patrick himself met with a sudden end in March of 1895. Sure enough, his headstone reflects that fact with a date of death as March 29, 1895. The helpful volunteer who took the time to list the burials at Sacred Heart also entered the detail that he was “h/o Margaret Flannery (Gorman).”

Patrick’s wife—indeed another Margaret for the family, following in the footsteps of Patrick’s mother and, possibly also his aunt—apparently lived out her widowhood on Dumfries Street in Paris, Ontario, until May 11, 1929. Giving a date of birth as May 22, 1854, the death certificate indicated her age at passing as seventy five years, eleven months and twenty days. Maddeningly, that precise certificate also managed to give, for the informant, Margaret’s daughter’s name as “Miss Flannery.”


At least her headstone agreed with the county records. As a consolation prize, the death certificate updated the maiden name of Margaret’s mother to read as Hudson instead of the Huttson given on her marriage license back in 1877.

But what of the children? Our helpful volunteer indicated two of the Flannery burials as children of Patrick and Margaret: Agnes, who died January 26, 1899, and James Edward, who died September 1928. Looking online, we can find confirmation of these dates.

Though only fifteen years of age when she passed, Agnes was already working as a mill hand at the date of her death, and had suffered from diabetes mellitus for the past three years. The year of her death predated the period in which governments collected such details as names of parents, but included—in two places on the record—the name of the physician following her and pronouncing her death. At this point, we can only presume that the volunteer who indicated Agnes’ filial relationship to Patrick and Margaret gleaned that information from her headstone or other documentation.

James Edward, having lived well past the date in which details that gladden the rabid researching genealogist might have appeared, managed to at least confuse, with an index of his death record reversing his two given names: Edward James. Transcription problem? Indexer’s error? At least the date of death agrees in both records: September 6, 1928. With a date of birth as April 14, 1886, that put him at age forty two at passing—significantly better than Agnes, but still relatively young.

What of the other Flannery burials at Sacred Heart? Are they children of Patrick and Margaret? A census record for 1881, just a few years after Patrick and Margaret were married, show children Mary at age three, and Margaret at age one. There is a Mary Flannery buried at Sacred Heart, having died October 11, 1962. There is also an additional Margaret with a date of death as July 8, 1965. Perhaps these two match the daughters showing in that 1881 census—further documentation will be needed to verify that.

There are two other Flannery burials at Sacred Heart: that of Catherine (died March 3, 1979) and Zita (died January 18, 1988).

Conveniently, we can now fast forward to the 1901 census, in which widow Margaret Flannery is listed with six children. If you think the list of these six children will nicely align with those we’ve already discussed, you are sadly mistaken. Witness the six for yourself, if you have access to, or peruse the list here:
Mary, born 1878
Margaret, born 1882
Ellen, born 1883
“Eward” (surely taking after his grandfather, Ed-blot), born 1887
Catherine, born 1890
Florence, born 1893


Where’s Zita?

Shall we collectively lift our voices in a cry of agony? Or tear our hair out (for those of you having enough to spare)?

Perhaps we shall set this aside for a saner moment, and retreat to our online resources in search of further documentation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making a List, Checking it Twice

I am not much of a list-maker. For me, drawing up a “to do” list borders on the anathema. I’ve always had a self-organizing type of mind, I guess.

Until lately. Looking at this unyielding set of Flannery family members, I am struggling to convince them to give up their secrets. They have finally driven me to drawing up lists.

Let’s look at the first list of family members we have available to us: the 1852 Canadian Census for the village of Paris in Brant County, Canada West. We have
Ed-blot, age 45
Mrs., age 35
Patrick, age 19
Cornelious, age 17
Michael, age 15
John, age 4

Where Ed-blot and his family ended up for the subsequent census in 1861, I’m not sure—mainly because I couldn’t really be sure of the actual name of this household’s head. I’m not sure the census enumerator for the small town of Paris, Ontario, was sure, either. For his duties in 1861, the enumerator listed the head of household for the only Flannery family in town as Edward.

Could Edward be our Flannery man? Let’s see who was in this household in 1861:
Edward, age 55
Marg’t, age 52
Mat, age 19
Ellen, age 18

That, incidentally, comprised the household under the spelling, “Flanery.” Oddly enough, since the “Flanery” household was at the bottom of that census page, John, age 12, was added, not at the top of the subsequent page, but the page afterward—not matching up with any contiguous entries whatsoever.

The 1871 census for Edward and Margaret include precisely those two, only: Edward at age 62, his wife at age 60. None of their children remained in the household. By the next year, Edward himself had left—passed away on June 30, 1872. I could not locate Margaret in the next census—I had hoped that would reveal where some of her children had moved—so have to presume that she had died, also.

The only other Flannery household I could find in Paris was that of Ed and Margaret’s son, Patrick. Gone were Cornelius and Michael without a trace. Though I still couldn’t find baby brother John, I did discover one hint of his availability in a transcribed mention as the reporting party for his brother Patrick’s death record in 1895.

Trying to cross-check that with the burials at the local Catholic cemetery was fruitless. My only accessible record is that offered by a volunteer’s entries at—for the most part, as we’ll explore tomorrow, representing the descendants of son Patrick’s family.

Sometimes, the only option when faced with Internet-only researching options is to set the whole project aside. Newly-placed digitized records are coming online at such a rapid pace that chances are excellent that what can’t be found today will be staring us in our faces in the not-too-distant future.

Meanwhile, just because I have it, and just because I can, tomorrow I’ll share what I’ve found on son Patrick’s family, the only ones—apparently—left in Paris in the next generation.
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