Thursday, October 16, 2014

Walking the Rainy Streets of Dublin

If archaeology students in Europe can suffer from castle fatigue, can genealogy researchers succumb to foreign government repository fatigue?

So far, our group of researchers has stuck our collective noses in books at the National Library of Ireland, the National Archives, and the Valuation Office—not to mention the many microfilms and other forms preserving decades-old documentation.

I've currently been working on some hunches about sidestepping my Flanagan and Malloy brick wall in County Limerick. You may remember that my husband's great-great-grandmother, Anna Flanagan Malloy, had received that fateful letter from her husband in 1849, announcing his hasty departure from Liverpool—however he had ended up there from their home near Ballyagran in County Limerick—to Boston. Meanwhile, Anna's brother, William Flanagan, had gotten himself arrested in Cork and sentenced to transportation to Australia. At that time, Anna herself was mother of a young daughter, Catherine.

After I attended the orientation session at the National Archives, I had learned about the Petitions files—requests for clemency, which often had sob stories included in the official files, complete with details of family names and conditions. I thought perhaps that might be a way to figure out what had become of Anna's brother William. After all, both siblings—plus Anna's daughter—had found their way to Chicago before the time of the 1860 census, so something might have been changed on William's sentence.

The verdict on that hunch turned out to yield nothing. If the William showing in the Archives' database were indeed our William, it appears his sentence was cut short, but more likely that decision was on account of administrative convenience, not governmental mercy. According to one knowledgeable archivist on staff there, the British reliance on transportation sentences to rid the island of troublemakers was getting the chill from protesting Australian colonists, who didn't appreciate their land serving as dumping ground for undesirables. Understandably.

So what might William have done, if his sentence was shortened? Perhaps that was his cue to get out of town and head for America.

One way to check—albeit an indirect way—was to trace the property records for the one William Flanagan that showed up in the Griffith's Valuation in his native County Limerick. While there are a number of ways to see that, using online resources, what I can do, now that I'm here in Dublin, is walk to the Valuation Office and follow the property tax records forward, through the years, all the way up to the 1970s. That way, I can see if the plot of land where William once lived remained in his name, or if there were any notations revealing when he may have moved away. Further, once he left the property, if another Flanagan assumed responsibility for the land, I can draw up a paper trail of family members, which can then provide clues for other research efforts.

The process was successful, at least in the case of this Flanagan plot. While William showed as the taxpayer for the date in which the original Griffith's Valuation was conducted for County Limerick, the very next record book, dated 1855, showed that property under the name Catherine Flanagan. Catherine's name remained on the tax rolls in the townland of Cappananty until 1866. By then, a James Flanagan, who had been showing on property in the nearby townland of Cappanihane, had his name lined out in 1868, and instead inserted in Catherine's plot.

Whoever Catherine was, at this point, I can only hope she was somehow related to our William and Anna. I have no way of confirming that yet. Of course, knowing that Anna named her firstborn daughter Catherine—presumably following Irish naming patterns of the time, after the name of the child's maternal grandmother—gives a slight glimmer of hope.

With the older Catherine's name being removed from the tax rolls in 1868, the conjecture is that the woman had passed away that year—or at least no longer was able to bear the burden of responsibility for payment of property taxes. With the arrival of James at that address, we might presume that he was somehow related to her—but we still can't be sure.

James Flanagan remained at that same property—once the home of William Flanagan, then Catherine Flanagan—until 1939. Somewhere along the way, thanks to legislation changes, he was able to purchase his property. Notations in the margins dated 1939 indicate that the property was then in a form of probate, providing an approximate date for James' passing.

Was James son of Catherine? Brother of William and Ann? Hard to tell at this point. Catherine's passing occurred after the institution of civil registrations, so there would have been a death certificate, but at that point, it would have provided little information other than to certify that, yes, she was dead. James' more recent date of passing would mean his record would include more detail—but whether that detail would reach back far enough to help me glean his parents' names and origins, I'm not yet sure. To determine that, incidentally, would entail a visit to a different governmental office.

Having had such a clear line traced for this Flanagan property—hopefully our Flanagans—I was encouraged to try the Tully and Flannery records in County Tipperary. After all, I knew exactly where they had originated. But unfortunately, every last Tully I had found in the original Griffith's Valuation had left without a trace before the books resumed in 1855.

By this time in the afternoon, all but one of our group had left the Valuation Office. We were all mostly on our own to find our way back to our hotel, or to return to the other repositories we had already visited.

One glimpse outside the office window told me the weather was turning nasty. I decided to head for the library while I could, but the wind whipped up and nearly collapsed my umbrella on my walk back across the Liffey, so I pulled into a Costa's coffee shop—there were precious few Starbucks or Peets Coffee shops to be found over here, and even the Irish rage, the Insomnia Coffee establishment, was nowhere in sight. I settled in to wait out the storm with a small mocha and a wifi connection—thankfully not yet having caved to the obligatory post-storm downing of service—and pulled up a map to re-orient myself to this maze leading to the government offices scattered about the city. Just as we had experienced with those castles and ruins, I was beginning to feel that dazed sense settle upon me, thinking, if I've seen one, I've seen them all.

Photograph: Line 7f shows the entry for Catherine Flanagan, renting property in 1855 from one John O'Brien in the townlands of Cappananty in County Limerick.


  1. I remember walking on rainy Dublin streets and bumping my umbrella on the wrought iron fence of Christ Church Cathedral.

    Fortunately the weather improved after a short sojourn in a pub. I had had more than enough of Guinness by then!!

    1. Well, I've certainly been party to my own fair share of umbrella collisions this week. Rain seems to be a daily occurrence here, but at least that means the weather clears up momentarily.


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