Thursday, October 1, 2020

By Some Strange Coincidences


On the eve of their fifty-first wedding anniversary, Mark and Bridget Falvey's hometown newspaper ran a detailed article on the milestones in the couple's long life together and the strange coincidences which tied their family together. While that certainly must have been a nice commemorative for the Falveys' special day, it also serves to guide us in piecing together the timeline of two Irish immigrants who arrived in Chicopee, Massachusetts when it was merely "a hamlet of scattered houses."

The way The Springfield Daily News reported it in their January 14, 1911, back page column, the Falveys' January 15, 1860, wedding occurred only three years after the two immigrants had arrived in Chicopee, "each unconscious of the existence of the other." Each had taken a "sailing vessel" from Ireland only weeks apart from the other's journey. Though Mark Falvey and Bridget Gibbons traveled on different ships, each vessel experienced the same type of journey: thirteen weeks of enduring "severe storms with heavy seas." Noted the Daily News:

There was nothing in their lives which they ever welcomed quite so joyously as their first sight of land after passing thirteen soul stirring weeks upon the water.

The similarity in their journeys into New York harbor were topped with the next stop in their separate journeys. Each traveled to Chicopee, where they secured lodging at the boarding home of a "Mr. and Mrs. Carrigan of Dwight street." It was at that place where they met and undoubtedly compared stories of their harrowing crossings from Ireland.

Mark and Bridget were eventually the proud parents of six children, three of whom—Jeremiah, Mary Ann, and Catherine—survived to celebrate their parents' 1911 milestone anniversary. Apparently, after Mark and Bridget had welcomed their firstborn Jeremiah into their family, their hosts from those early immigrant days, the Carrigans, also welcomed a child into their own household. For the Carrigans, it was a daughter they named Bridget—whom the Carrigans eventually saw become wife to the Falveys' son Jeremiah in a wedding ceremony on February 14, 1899, tying the knot on a story in the next generation which began at the Carrigan home with the meeting of the two immigrants so many years before.

The Daily News article provided a few more clues about the Falveys. Though no one divulged the exact location where Mark originated in County Kerry, Ireland, I did notice some helpful leads. For one, the article revealed, "Mr. Falvey is the oldest of a family of seven, and Mrs. Falvey the oldest of a family of eight."

From this, if we can depend on the old Irish naming tradition holding true in the Falveys' case, as the oldest, Mark would have been named after his paternal grandfather. Thus, if Mark's father's name was Jeremiah—as the Falvey siblings' records have already revealed to us—that means Jeremiah's father must have been Mark, if that is what he named his oldest child. While that may be the slightest of hints—after all, I've yet to find any documentation in County Kerry piecing together any of this family line—it does align with the family traditions of yet another DNA match connected to this extended Falvey family.

Admittedly, newspapers are not the most reliable of documentation sources for piecing together family history, but they can provide us with unexpected leads. Sometimes, that means reading between the lines, or extrapolating from inferences rather than outright statements. I had, for instance, been concerned about Mark Falvey's statement, in his naturalization records, that he had entered the country via New York City, and yet, the newspaper article provided corroboration through the vignette of the couple's similar sailing experiences.

Despite newspapers' reputation for editorial errors, it always pays to look not only for milestone articles, but to search through collections using the dates of an ancestor's entire lifespan, as we saw yesterday. I certainly was reminded again of that practicality.  After all, I wasn't the one who discovered this wonderful article at first; it was thanks to a comment by reader Kat that alerted me to check those newspaper archival subscriptions to see what she had found.

While examining every document we could find for the three Falvey siblings who arrived in Chicopee, Massachusetts, from County Kerry, Ireland, did not blaze a shining path to lead us back to their homeland, their descendants are not the only Falvey relations among my husband's DNA matches. His second great-grandmother, Johanna Falvey, had other relatives whose descendants also are matches. We have yet another family to examine after taking leave from these three Falveys in Massachusetts, whom we will introduce tomorrow. 


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