Thursday, October 15, 2015

Not There the Last Time I Looked

How often have we given up the chase, after a thorough search through all available genealogical resources, and set the work aside on a mystery relative? My experiences this week will serve to reinforce the notion that it may very well pay to take a second look.

It was thanks to a sweet but tiny—and overlooked—file that I discovered a Tully relative who called herself Mamie E. E. Tully. Yesterday, I shared her birthday note to her Uncle John—my husband's great grandfather, John Tully of Chicago, Illinois—which I had unexpectedly turned up while perusing some old files on an external drive.

From the sound of it, it seemed Mamie was a young woman when she wrote that letter on February 22, 1900. At the same time, she was addressing an uncle who, in seven short years, would have been deceased at the age of sixty five. If I were to guess an age to fix upon the young Mamie, it would have been in the late teens or early—and, of course, not-yet-married—twenties. That would put her year of birth somewhere near 1880.

Since Mamie used the surname Tully, that would lead me to eliminate her uncle John Tully's two sisters from my search—which is good, because I only know what became of one of those sisters.

However, that still left me with three of John's brothers as possible fathers for Mamie: Ireland-born Patrick, Canadian arrival and baby of the family William, and newly-discovered older brother Michael. Since Michael was born in 1834 and Patrick in 1838, it seems unlikely that either of them would have had a daughter as young as Mamie—but anything's possible.

As it turns out, neither of these brothers had a daughter with that name—nor did they have any daughters born as late as 1880. Michael, the older of the two, had as his youngest daughter a child born in 1870, named Johanna. Patrick had two daughters: Margaret, born in 1866, and Mary, born in 1871.

This Uncle John Tully had, however, a younger brother—the only child born to Denis and Margaret Flannery Tully after their arrival in Canada. This baby of the family was named William, and he had made his arrival around 1850, putting him more in reach of an age span that might include daughters of his own in the 1880s.

Indeed, William had several daughters: Mary, Katie, Margaret, Edna and Esther. But no Mamie E. E. Tully.

But wait—and you knew this was coming—what about nicknames? We've heard it before—that Mamie is likely a nickname for another given name. Just to make sure, though, I checked in with a reliable source for the nicknames of centuries past. And sure enough, there it was: a listing for the various spellings of the nickname Mamie, all pointing to two possible choices—either Margaret or Mary.

Was one of William's daughters the Mamie of the sweet birthday note to her Uncle John? This is where I promise you I hadn't seen this record, the last time I looked.

As I reviewed my tree on, checking to see if I had missed any documentation or hints on their system, up popped a suggestion for a Cook County, Illinois, death index. It was labeled for Mary Tully. What was weird was that, when it first popped up, it showed her name as "Mary E. E. Tully"—Ding! We have a winner here!—but when I clicked through on the "hint" at Ancestry, the actual entry omitted the "E. E."

I went back and forth, wondering if my eyes deceived me. No, I had seen that right. Finally, I decided to add it to my tree, and once I clicked through again to put it in its place, the final record showed up as "Mary E. E. Tully."

Of course, it was only an index—frustrating in that I couldn't view the actual document. I couldn't find any corresponding corroboration from Find A Grave or any other resource. But I did check, just to see if the same record came up. And it did.

What is sad to realize—which you undoubtedly noticed, if you clicked through to her record just now—is that Mamie was no longer there in Chicago to mourn the loss of her uncle upon his passing only a few years later. Rather, it was he who experienced the loss of his sweet niece—a young school teacher who passed away at the age of twenty five, during the fall semester of the 1902-1903 academic year, only two and a half years after her note to her uncle upon the occasion of his fifty-eighth birthday.

No longer with her family: a 1905 family photograph identifies Tully relatives, from left to right, as "Cousin Maggie, Esther, Margaret, Edna, Rita." The three young women in the middle were the remaining sisters of the by then recently deceased Mamie Tully.


  1. Well, that was short and sweet. It's such a lovely photo. Too bad they didn't grab the opportunuty a few years earlier so we could see Mamie too.

    1. YIKES -- TYPO. I hate that!!

    2. I wish they had, too, Wendy. Then again, perhaps they did...I only have this photo because someone was thoughtful enough to save it all these years!

  2. I wonder what caused her death...Tuberculosis or Pneumonia maybe, sad to have died so young:(

    1. I was wondering that, too, Far Side. My personal guess would be tuberculosis--mainly because there seemed to be so much of that in Chicago during those years. A setting like a school would be just the thing to accelerate the spread of a disease like that.

      Can't help but remember all the Catholic priests the Tully family corresponded with, during their confinement in TB hospitals of the southwest. Tuberculosis was a very real public health threat in Chicago during that same time in which Mamie died.

  3. What's killing me is what the E E stood for!!!!!

    Can we rule out Esther and Edna?


    1. I'm thinking that would be an astute guess, Iggy ;)

      Ernestine Evangeline?
      Ellen Elizabeth?
      Emily Eileen? know this list can go on, ad infinitum...

  4. You might find this page of interest

    1. Oh, how sad. Well, that gives us a partial picture of how long she may have been ill before passing. Makes me wonder if she contracted tuberculosis.

      Thanks for finding that link, Iggy.


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