Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Overlooking the Obvious


How many times, in researching our Irish ancestors, have we heard the litany of naming patterns followed in the Old Country? Depending on how long our ancestral Irish immigrants have been away from their homeland, that pattern may or may not hold true in their adopted home.

For some reason, in grappling with the origins of my husband's second great-grandparents John Kelly and Johanna Falvey, I had always focused on their daughters. Seeing the pattern not line up with what I could otherwise find concerning those daughters, I had given up hope that that immigrant couple had followed the tradition of their forebears. After all, their arrival in America predated birth of their second son, so I could never be sure they had adhered to the old Irish custom with their subsequent children in America.

After a long and winding research trail leading me to theorize that our immigrant from County Kerry, John Kelly, was actually older brother to Timothy Kelly of Fort Wayne, a further connection revealed Timothy's likely parents: Timothy Kelly and his wife, Catherine Flynn. Even so, somehow I missed that glaring detail from the younger Timothy's brother John's own family tree: John had named his oldest son Timothy, as well.

It took reviewing a recent blog post at the website Ireland Reaching Out for that detail to sink in. After reviewing the litany of that Irish naming pattern, the post went on to suggest: "check if the third son is named after his father." In the case of immigrant John Kelly's family, that was indeed what had happened. Eight years after arriving in Fort Wayne, Indiana, John did indeed name his third son after himself. With the first son apparently named after John's likely father, that left second son Patrick.

Seeing that John Kelly did seem to follow tradition, despite his removal to an entirely new world, perhaps that would inspire me to welcome the next assumption as correct: that the second son—supposedly named after the maternal grandfather—would lead us to a father for Johanna named Patrick Falvey.

Still, that doesn't instill enough confidence in me to accept that information wholesale. Something keeps prodding me to double check the information by cross-checking it with the other clues I've found about this Kelly family. Of the very few clues there are, most of them have to do with a connection with multiple nephews and nieces who descend from a Kelly woman who married a Sullivan man, back in County Kerry. Like a serial immigration pattern, those Sullivan family members kept coming to Toledo, Ohio, to live in the same house—the home of Margaret Kelly, sister of Timothy and thus, also sister of John Kelly, if what we've found so far really adds up.

While it may be hard to target just the right Sullivan from County Kerry, if we build the Sullivan family constellation out, perhaps we can then use the multiple clues from that extended family to better pinpoint the Kelly family back home in Ireland. While I am building hidden trees for all my husband's Falvey DNA matches in the background, let's take the next step of examining what can be found about all those Sullivans who called Margaret Kelly's house their home in an adopted homeland.


  1. Congratulations! Your blog has been included in INTERESTING Blogs in Friday Fossicking at
    Thank you, Chris

    1. Chris, thank you so much for including me in your listing for this week! I appreciate the shout out!


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