Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tracing Michael

Researching our Tully and Flannery lines from County Tipperary has provided an abundance of descendants to trace. Only sometimes, I’m not sure I’m tracking the right person.

Take Michael Flannery, whom we stumbled upon while chasing after a different Michael—Michael Tully, (possible) son of John and Catherine Flannery Tully. Along with his parents, Michael Tully had left the town where his immigrant parents had settled—Paris, Ontario—and headed for the brighter lights of Detroit, Michigan, just across the Canadian border. Apparently, Michael Flannery—the other Michael’s possible cousin and neighbor in Ontario—had done much the same thing.

The question, at this point, would be whether this Michael Flannery in Detroit was one and the same as the Michael born to Edmund and Margaret Flannery in the parish of Ballina, back in northern County Tipperary. One way to answer that question would be to check for marriage records identifying the groom’s parents’ names, but none could be found online. And I’m not going to make you (to say nothing about me!) wait long enough to send a query by mail system.

Another way to puzzle this one out would be to trace Michael Flannery forward through census records to get a sense of when he might have died, and where. Any death certificate this would lead to would likely also contain information on his parents’ names.

Michael and his wife, Ann, were in the 1870 census for Detroit, Michigan. At the point at which the census enumerator knocked on their door on the second of July, there were just two in the family to report. However, only a short while before that, Michael and Ann had been proud parents of a one year old daughter, Catherine. That was before they lost her on the second of May, that very year, to scarlet fever.

By the time of the 1880 census, the Flannery household had grown to include seven. Besides Michael and Ann, there were five children: daughters Annie, Mary, Margaret and Honora, plus son Francis right in the midst of all those sisters.

The next time I could find Michael and Ann Flannery in the U.S. Census wasn’t until 1910. Still in Detroit, Michigan, the seventy-eight year old Michael included in his family his wife Ann and daughters Anna, Helen and “Loretha.” Also in the household were two boarders, including one who sported the same surname—Flanagan—as Ann had claimed as her maiden name. Mr. Flanagan also happened to be born in Canada, where Michael and Ann had once lived. Add in for good measure that his given name was Frank—same as Ann’s child Francis, the lone son among four sisters—and one suspects this Frank Flanagan was more than just a boarder.

The sad part about this 1910 census report was Ann’s statement that she had been the mother of eleven—only five of whom had survived to that date. Besides their daughter Catherine in 1870, they had also lost a nine year old son, Michael, in 1893. Other than that, no documentation could be found online to substantiate that census report.

The question remains: what became of Michael and Ann in the 1900 census? Did they, like others, perfect that census-season disappearing act?

It may require a stretch of credibility to claim that the Flannerys decided to return to Canada for just that one year, but it turns out there was a Frank Flannery in Ontario—along with parents Michael and Ann—for the 1901 Canadian census. With the ages lining up just right for Frank between his original appearance in the U.S. Census for 1880 and this Canadian one in 1901, it is beginning to look good for this conjecture. Besides, on the very next page, who should show up but a possible member of the extended Tully family—this one named Thomas—to complete the picture. On the down side, though, Michael and Ann had ages reported that were more than ten years younger than what should have been showing for that year. But when you take the international borders out of the equation, you see that Frank's Essex County farm is only one county away from Wayne County, home of the city of Detroit, making this move much more within reason.

Whether the farm of Frank Flannery of Essex County, Ontario, was the place that claimed our Michael and Ann Flannery for the 1901 Canadian Census, they didn’t stay there for long. By the time of the 1910 U.S. census, as we saw, they were back in America.

As for what became of them after that, I’m not sure. I can find no death record online for Michael or Ann in Michigan. Nor can I see any possible matches on Find A Grave. They did have a couple married daughters that I could find—Mary, marrying someone by the name of Lynch, and Johanna, marrying someone named George A. Barkley—who may have taken in either of their aging parents in their last years. Both of these married daughters lived in Michigan, and their households would have shown resident parents for the 1920 census—if either Michael or Ann were still living. I suspect they weren’t. But the search for verification is still on.


  1. Interesting they "hopped" the border for a couple years. I wonder what prompted that - knowing that might explain "somethings".

    Perhaps they needed time and space away to grieve Micheal's passing in 1893. I wonder if Frank was already in Canada in 1893?

    1. Oh, losing their son Michael may have been the last of a long string of losses. I just realized the family lost three children within the space of one week, previous to Michael. The devastation some of our ancestors lived with...

  2. perhaps they went back to help out relatives:)

    1. That's a good point, Far Side. Especially if that was a newly-acquired farm property.

  3. The panic of 1893 hit detroit very hard. They may have moved out of the city simply to find something to eat.

    1. Now that's a "big picture" approach to figuring this out. Helpful point, Iggy!


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