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.


  1. And the good news is the name Thomas which paved the way for this perfect title.

  2. Graham, Greime, Greame, Grime?

    And yes, I can see McHugh being a phonetic variation on McKeogh.

    1. Those are all viable options, Iggy...if Greime is the name. But it would take a lot of magic spelling potion to convert any Graham, Greame, or Grime to Spencer. I've obviously just got to view the actual document to see what happened!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Far Side. I know I'll get there--eventually. But some of these baby steps are outright killers for the tenacity they require.


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