Friday, November 14, 2014


The moral of the story for the last few days’ detour: the genealogical path to finding Darby Tully is rife with rabbit trails. Stay out!

Lest I lose more time in researching the Tully and Flannery immigrants from County Tipperary to Canada West, I decided to return to my notes from our recent foray into the land of our Irish roots.

The first thing that exercise did was remind me how researchers in archives have absolutely got to remember to be well-supplied with sharpened pencils. The notes I took with worn out nibs are abysmal. Talk about re-focusing: I’ll have to transcribe my time-pressured chicken scratch in ink before I can even try to enter them into any usable format in computer records. My eyes are watering and crossing, just at the thought of reading that penciled hand. I'll never complain about an 1850s priest's handwriting again.

However, if we are making no progress pursuing Darby Tully, what about the other Tully man found in the NLI baptismal microfilm for County Tipperary?

That would be the mention of the marriage of John Tully and “Kitty Flanery.” The date for the event was recorded as 23 February, 1841—and an extra note mentioned John was from “Tauntinna,” the same place showing in property records in the next decade under the names of both Darby and Denis Tully.

It didn’t escape my attention that, in that subsequent decade when our Denis Tully had surfaced in Brant County, Ontario, there was a John Tully just down the road from him. Could that be the John Tully who had married Kitty? Here are some clues to pump up a possible “yes” vote on this one:
  • A wedding in 1841 would likely indicate a groom born before 1821; the John Tully in the Canadian census gave as his age thirty six, being born about 1816.
  • That 1841 wedding might indicate a bride born before 1825; the wife in the 1852 Canadian census would have been born about 1820.
  • The oldest child listed in the Canadian census was nine years of age; an age much older than that would have ruled out the couple in Ireland.
  • The age of the youngest child, born in Canada, seems to coincide with the ages of the other Tully families’ children born after immigration.
  • On the same census page, there is also a household under the name “Edman Flannery,” indicating the possible presence of another family member who had immigrated along with Kitty Flanery Tully.

Of course, the one main handicap in our conjecture is the irritating tendency of the census enumerator charged with canvassing this Canadian village to list women merely as “Mrs.” Who knows if this was the household of our John and Kitty.

So I had to try to look beyond this one census record for 1852. Don’t think that would be a simple task of rolling through the decades on Apparently, John and Catherine Flannery Tully didn’t intend to be found any more than their relatives did. I made that discovery as soon as I tried finding them in the very next census. No record.

I thought I’d outsmart them. Instead of taking the direct approach and looking for the household of John, I looked for his wife, instead. No matter whether I tried “Kitty” or “Catherine,” there was no clue to be found anywhere in Canada.

Reasoning that the rest of the Tully family had found a way to immigrate once again—this time, ultimately, to the United States—I expanded my search for Catherine. On the very faded pages of the 1880 census for Detroit, Michigan, I did find a Catherine “Tulley.” Thankfully, she was born in Ireland, and her age roughly matched the birth year I had assumed. To top things off, she was still married. Her husband? John.

But what are the chances? Do you know how many John Tullys there are out there? And narrowing things down with a wife’s name of Catherine doesn’t help much. I tried to work backwards again, this time in the United States, to see if I could find an earlier census record.

Not much came of it, though. I switched my tack again, this time searching for their younger daughter, Margaret. I had two thoughts for this approach. First, I simply could not bear to bring myself to search for yet another Irish immigrant named Mary. Second, Margaret was born in Canada; I thought entering in the added variable of a Canadian child born to Irish parents might flush out a more specific response.

Of course, I had to endure the maddening show of such results as the Margaret Tully in a Canadian household in the Darby Tully neighborhood of Blenheim Township—this time, daughter of a Michael and Margaret Tully. Eventually, though, I isolated a result for 1870—again, in Detroit—that included both a (sort of) right-aged Margaret, born in Canada, and parents John and Catherine from Ireland.

There was only one wrinkle. There was another child. And this one wasn’t named Mary.

Whatever happened to John and Catherine’s daughter Mary—who now would have been at least twenty seven—I don’t know. In her place, however, was a seventeen year old son named Michael. Younger than Margaret, and also born in Canada rather than in Ireland, he could very easily have fit into the picture since we last saw our John and Catherine Tully in the 1852 census record in Canada.

If, that is, this Detroit Tully family is one and the same as our Canadian Tully family. You know what that means, of course: more research.  


  1. Too bad you can't get into a time machine and go back to the 1850-60s (and in Brant county) and ask these folks "just who they are"!

    1. Don't you wish we could do that? But since we can't, I've realized that things like family letters were the next best thing to being there--andthose letters can travel with us into the future to let others know what happened back then. Almost as good as being there!

  2. :0 Have fun on the trail! You should have been a detective:)

    1. Oh, I don't know about that, Far Side...this kind of detective work has decidedly less blood, guts and gore!


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