Monday, September 14, 2020

Sullivans: Let's Try This Again


Why, considering the prevalence of a surname like Sullivan—especially coming from County Kerry—would I attempt finding the ancestors of someone with a name like that, if it wouldn't even be the line of the family I'm seeking? Because the name I am seeking—Falvey or O'Falvey—is nearly as popular, back in the Irish county of the family's origin. Remember that five-fingered fit into the genealogical glove? I'm going for a perfect ten: one hand for Sullivan, the other for Falvey. Perhaps combining two common names—and adding all facets of their specific families—I will sort the right Sullivans and Falveys from the misleading ones.

It's a descendant in this particular Sullivan-Falvey line who happens to be a DNA match through my husband's second great-grandmother, Johanna Falvey. All twenty nine puny centiMorgans this DNA match has in common with my husband fit into just one tiny segment, but it's enough to pique my interest in tracing this match's ancestry to see whether those roots lead me back to the relatives of our own Johanna Falvey from County Kerry.

While this match's Falvey ancestor was born in the United States—shortly after her family arrived in Michigan in the early 1850s—at least I have been able to glean her siblings' names as well as the same detail for her husband. It is, in fact, on account of her husband that I'm even trifling with those frustrating Sullivan kin again at all. It was their family story, you see, which mirrored Catherine Falvey's tale almost exactly—except with one helpful key: her husband James Sullivan was part of a family with several older siblings who were born not in America, but back in Ireland. Tracing that line, hopefully, will help me zero in on just the right Falvey connection, as well. So let's take a look at what we can discover about this Sullivan line, once they settled in the farm area outside Detroit, Michigan.

Catherine Falvey, born in Detroit about 1853, according to the subsequent census record in 1860, was the second-born child of immigrants Daniel and Mary Falvey. In due time, she married James Sullivan, second child born into the Sullivan family after their arrival in Detroit, but all told, sixth child of Timothy and Mary Sullivan.

Because of extensive records left behind by each of the Sullivan children, it was not hard to gather that James Sullivan's mother's maiden name was something like Monaghan—the spelling varied according to which report was given for her children's own death records. But finding any records of what became of James' father, Timothy, was more of a challenge. As you can imagine, Timothy was a popular given name to attach to that ubiquitous Sullivan surname, and the possible options for his own death record didn't leave enough information to clinch the right one.

Along with Mary Monaghan, though, Timothy Sullivan gave the world at least four children who were born in Ireland—two sons and two daughters. Their oldest they named Cornelius, born approximately 1842, thus providing us a possible clue to determine his parents' own wedding date. Following Cornelius, the couple baptised son John around 1844. After that, they welcomed in two daughters: Mary in 1846 and Elizabeth in 1848, after which point the family made arrangements to leave Ireland for a new continent.

An additional benefit of having the first four Sullivan children born in Ireland is that we can be slightly more sure that the family might have adhered to the traditional Irish naming pattern. From this, we can garner the notion that Timothy's own father might have been named Cornelius, and that his mother might have been Elizabeth. This, however, will be only modestly helpful in locating any further information on Timothy's own birth, as his age given in later census records leads us to believe he was born any time from 1802 to 1813, an era from which not many Irish baptismal records survived.

However, if we are fortunate—and that is a big if—at least one of these children of Timothy and Mary Monaghan Sullivan will appear in Irish Catholic baptismal records, leading us back to their point of origin in County Kerry. 


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