Not far from our Kelly and Falvey ancestral connections in County Kerry lived two additional great-great grandparents in my husband’s family: Ann Flanagan Malloy and Stephen Malloy—he of the mysterious letter and unannounced flight from his homeland in 1849.
Having saved a copy of a copy of that old family treasure, I was feeling pretty smug about my abilities to pinpoint Stephen Malloy in the Griffith’s Valuation. After all, the address on the letter’s envelope brings me virtually to their hundred sixty five year old doorstep. How hard could this be?
Having worked hard, visit after visit with Uncle Ed, the family’s keeper of the ancestral details, I felt pretty good about all the material I had compiled, and I was certain this preparation would pay off handsomely, once we land in Ireland in a month.
Once I actually sat down to find any proof of that location in Griffith’s Valuation, however, I felt as if the motto of the ancient Flanagan sept had turned to mock me. Certavi et vici—“I have fought and conquered”—might have been how I felt going into this round of research, but it certainly wasn’t the way I saw myself afterwards.
Researching Flanagan as a surname in the United States had been a challenge. As I worked my way backwards in time from the family’s location in twentieth century Chicago, I had to be careful to include all possible spelling variations of the name. Not only did I research Flanagan, but I included Flanigan and Flanegan—as well as the same permutations tacked onto a version of the name including two n’s: Flannigan and Flannagan. Put that together with such typical—and, unfortunately, common—Irish given names as William and Edward, and it did, indeed, take on the sense of a struggle.
I had managed to work my way backward to two tenuous connections with the Old Country: the family’s oral tradition that, before his arrival in Chicago around 1860, William Flanagan had been sent, on account of a petty crime, to Australia; and the family story of his sister Ann’s desperate journey to Boston, seeking her missing husband, Stephen Malloy. As doubtful as I’ve learned to be about family traditions, I felt I had conquered that doubt, with letter in hand, once I gleaned the address where it had been sent in County Limerick.
An additional hint on William’s own headstone had clinched it: stating he was from Parish “Ballygran” in County Limerick, the details dovetailed nicely with the letter’s address.
But when I tried locating any proof of that residency in the Griffith’s Valuation, I was defeated. First, there was no “Parish Ballygran”—nor any such parish with the correct spelling, Ballyagran. That is the name of a Catholic parish, not a civil parish.
Scrambling to a forum populated by people understanding the specifics of how the Irish historically addressed their letters, I learned that the Catholic parish likely spanned the county border, and also took in more than one civil parish. Thankfully, on the website I had been using to search the property survey, there was a way to search by place name. Using that option, I found confirmation that the civil parish was called Corcomohide, and that Ballyagran was considered a village within the borders of that civil parish.
The best part of utilizing that search option was that the next step offered to show the complete listing for the village of Ballyagran.
The bad news was that there was neither Flanagan nor Malloy in the listings—no matter how the surnames were spelled.
Where were they? A person couldn’t have gotten more close to pinpointed detail on their residence than that letter from Stephen to Anna. While I noticed a few entries listed as “vacant,” I hardly could take comfort in finding those. There were no other details to go by in those “vacant” listings. But that did bring up a point.
The property survey known as Griffith’s Valuation generally comes with a set of dates: 1847-1864. Seeing those dates may put a researcher in mind of serial processes, such as the United States census, repeated every ten years. Thus, just like there is an 1870 census and then an 1880 census, one might reason that the Irish property survey was repeated periodically as well.
That is not exactly the case. Apparently, Sir Richard Griffith was appointed Commissioner of Valuation by the British in 1827, but did not begin his duties in Ireland until the requisite maps specified by legislation for his task were made available in 1830. Then, in the process of completing two separate valuation surveys, he began with the townlands survey, which was completed in the 1840s. Only at the completion of that first survey did he begin a second, more extensive "tenement" survey.
The question, then, becomes: when was the valuation completed for the specific county and parish in which our Stephen and Ann Flanagan Malloy resided? According to a chart provided by Wikipedia, County Limerick’s valuation was completed 29 June of 1853. However, checking the site from which I obtained the actual data for the Corcomohide parish, opening up the detail window shows the publication date listed as 1852.
While it would have been helpful to know the exact date for completion of the survey in the specific areas of interest, why squabble over details? I need to keep in mind that Stephen Malloy left Ireland for Boston in 1849. While I can’t be certain when his wife left home in her unsuccessful quest to find Stephen, there is a good possibility that she was no longer in Ireland by the time of the valuation. Or, perhaps, she was one of the Anne Malloys listed in other parishes in County Limerick, having had to give up the property where she was living at the time of Stephen’s abrupt departure. There is no way of telling from the scant genealogical data that can be gleaned from Griffith’s Valuation.
It is aggravating, indeed, to find yourself caught in that sliver of time in which all available search tools will not suffice your own particular research need. In the Flanagan and Malloy case, though, I still can hope to find a marriage record in any remaining parish documents, or possibly a baptismal record for their infant daughter Catherine. If nothing else, I can at least hope for a good Irish map to steer me to the back roads of Ballyagran. In barely a month, I may just be walking down that very path.