Saturday, September 26, 2020

Getting Possessive About "My" Johanna


When researching ancestors with puzzling matches of almost identical particulars, do you ever get possessive about the one you feel is surely "yours"? 

Next week, when we delve into examining an Irish immigrant named Johanna Falvey, keep in mind that the only reason I am doing so is that I'm trying to trace the origin of my Johanna Falvey. See? I'm already getting possessive about this.

The Johanna who got me started on this wild chase was my husband's second great-grandmother. I already know quite a bit about her: that she was born in County Kerry, Ireland; that she married John Kelly at the same location; that she and John had at least two children, possibly three, before emigrating from their homeland about 1868; that she left behind siblings in her homeland; and that, while she headed to the United States, she had at least one sibling who went in the other direction, ending up in New Zealand.

While the lack of Irish documentation leaves me without any verification of her birth, based on reports given in her adopted home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we can estimate that she was born about 1826. Thanks to the paper trail in America, we know for a certainty that she died in Fort Wayne in 1903.

Now that we've stumbled upon this other woman with the same name—Johanna Falvey, whose sister and brother are ancestors of two of my husband's DNA matches—we will begin examining the particulars next week. Right away, I can see that this Johanna was born later than "my" Johanna. She certainly ended up in a far different location in the United States than our Johanna's Indiana. And we'll even be able to see from her marriage record that she married a man who was not named John Kelly.

Still, tracing the narrative—and especially considering the reason I'm pursuing this other Falvey—it might be easy to assume otherwise. So I revert to that very possessive-sounding phrase, "my Johanna," when I talk about my husband's second great-grandmother. While I certainly don't mean to sound exclusionary, it is important to delineate just who is who—and who is connected to which line. With these Falveys—and their ever-present relatives, the Sullivans--it is apparently important to make that distinction.

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