Friday, August 21, 2020

Something About Those Sullivans


If you feel cursed to have been consigned to searching for the most common surnames of Ireland as part of your family's history, consider yourself invited to join the club. Why does it turn out that, having found that immigrant ancestor from the Emerald Isle, he or she always turns up to be sporting the most popular name in Ireland?

Here I was, hoping that I could change up the game by switching from pursuing my husband's second great-grandfather John Kelly, to a less common name like John's wife, Johanna Falvey. Wrong. Oh, so wrong. Take a look at John Grenham's helpful map and listing of all Catholic baptisms of children surnamed Falvey in County Kerry. That's a graphic representation of what I'm up against, just looking for the innocuous name, Falvey. The Falveys were all over in County Kerry, during the time in which I was seeking Johanna's family.

And then, following the lead of advice from Ireland Reaching Out, I'm assured that the names of baptismal sponsors are an important clue in my quest to push back yet another generation on this Falvey-Kelly brick wall. I find the two children from this couple were baptised with sponsors' surnames listed as Fleming. Wondering who that might be, I then went searching for Fleming baptisms, hoping to find reciprocal sponsors listed as either Falvey or Kelly, to break the code and show me which side of the family to seek for that Fleming connection.

What do I find? Sullivans! Not just Sullivans like the ones we saw yesterday, surrounding John Kelly in the Griffith's Valuation records, but Sullivans who also appear to be related to the other side of that family, the Falveys. How does one go about sorting that out?

Flemings, Sullivans, Falveys, and Kellys all seem to be connected in multiple ways. Perhaps that is the story of families who lived together in the same rural areas for generations. When I saw that same situation unfolding in Perry County, Ohio, on my mother-in-law's lines, I dubbed that case endogamy-lite: not so much as to qualify for the official label as endogamy, but on account of an example with enough inter-connection to create pedigree collapse of one sort or another.

Perhaps that is why some of these DNA matches sharing Falvey connections with my husband's family lead to different founding Falvey ancestors: I am looking at root people who are not siblings claiming a most recent common ancestor, but cousins for whom I'll have to muddle through yet another generation.

This tangle seems to get more messy with every attempt to straighten the records out. 


  1. Welcome to life with the Sullivans!I was lucky my 3 generations of Jeremiah's mixed with the Mcpikes in Boston. Very few of them. Kat Sullivan


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