Friday, September 11, 2020

Kate's Sullivan Beau


When we research the relatives we've never met—those ancestors whose life story ended long before our own time—we need to take care that we don't superimpose our assumptions about everyday living upon people whose reality didn't include telephones or cars, let alone computers. When we think of alarm clocks, we need to think more along the lines of roosters or hungry cows in the barn. And when we think of weddings, we most likely need to think "arranged" more than star-crossed.

Thus, despite my dismay in discovering that the ancestor of my husband's Falvey DNA match was married to yet another Sullivan, there may be a silver lining in that surname challenge. Perhaps, just perhaps, the reason Catherine Falvey married another Michigan-born child of Irish immigrants wasn't because they fell in love in high school. Perhaps it was because Catherine's family once knew James Sullivan's family back in County Kerry, Ireland.

That, of course, would be the optimal outcome. Then, I could trace yet another Sullivan line and hope it would lead me to the townland these folks once called home. In the meantime, though, we need to paper our trail back home with solid documents to support our case.

Here's why James Sullivan's circumstances have such a tempting draw on me. For one thing, we can find him in the 1860 census records, just as we did for Catherine Falvey's family. There he was, with his seven siblings, all living with their Irish-born parents Timothy and Mary Sullivan in the former township of Greenfield, Michigan, now part of Detroit.

Unlike Catherine Falvey's family, however, not all of James' siblings were born in Michigan. For some reason, Timothy and Mary stayed in Ireland long enough to bring four of their children into the world: eldest son Cornelius, second son John, and daughters Mary and Elizabeth. It was after Elizabeth's arrival around 1848 but before the birth of their fifth child Timothy, about 1851, that we can mark the family's arrival in North America.

While having the names of four Irish-born Sullivans may help me isolate that family constellation back in Ireland, the pattern of their immigration makes me wonder yet something else: could it be that they came to Detroit specifically because they had other family or near neighbors already settled in Detroit area? Or, seeing the Falveys' own family pattern in the 1860 census—their first child after their arrival here was also born in Michigan in 1851—could it be that the Sullivans and Falveys traveled together from Ireland?

I'm eyeing research cues such as these for one unfortunate reason: though it is clear that Catherine Falvey's father was named Daniel Falvey, I've already discovered that it will be a challenge to trace him back from his adopted home in Detroit to his origin in Ireland. Though I can find news on Daniel Falvey's family in America, there is not much to go by, once we jump back to the place where life began for that earlier generation of Falveys. Once again, my hope rests on finding details about yet another Sullivan family—one which, hopefully, guided the marriage of their son to a Falvey daughter for reasons beyond our modern-day approach to weddings.  

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