Friday, October 2, 2020

If You Don't Look, You Won't Know


True to form, after promising yesterday that we would move on to examine another DNA match with my husband's Falvey ancestors, I couldn't resist taking one last look at items sure to lure me down yet another rabbit trail. I dunno...blame it on The Bright Shiny, but I'd like to excuse my penchant with more noble terms like "FAN Club" or even "exhaustive search." After all, I really, really want to know about these winding family trails.

The idea was to follow a few hunches which always haunt me when the trail goes cold on a research lead. Yes, I'm stuck with that puzzle about the Falvey family's origin in County Kerry. But even though I can't follow a straight path back to the answer I'm seeking, sometimes a researcher can find clues embedded in the lives of those surrounding our target ancestor.

For one thing, while Irish immigrants often traveled to the new world—wherever that might have been—as a solo expedition, when they arrived in the new land, they sometimes reconnected with people they knew from their homeland. That, at least, was my hope when I decided to get nosy about those names which kept popping up at the mention of Mark Falvey of Chicopee, Massachusetts. Who knows? Maybe Mark was following a relative or friend to a job in that new land.

Remember Mark's funeral notice? The brief paragraph included a list of six men who carried his casket after the September 15, 1912, funeral mass. The newspaper specifically noted each of those six men were Mark's nephews: "Myles, Michael, David and Thomas Gibbons, Frank Reilly and Patrick Geran."

Of course, we already have learned from several documents that Frank Reilly was the son of Mark's sister Johanna Falvey—she of the morphing surname O'Reilly-O'Reilley-Reilly-Riley. 

Since we had discovered Mark's wife's maiden name was Gibbons, and that she had a brother and sister who also had moved to the Chicopee area, we can presume that some of those Gibbons nephews also grew up in the same Massachusetts vicinity. But to which specific Gibbons relations did they actually belong? And can that lead us to any helpful information?

Just as far afield as such lines of questioning led me when I struggled to uncover more about our Johanna Falvey's husband's Kelly-Sullivan connection, I might likely find myself ensnared with this puzzle. But I promised myself just one little look, and in an evening's work, I found myself satisfied with the answers.

Here's the Reader's Digest version of what I found. From The Springfield Daily News entry on the eve of Mark and Bridget Falvey's fifty-first wedding anniversary, we had already learned that Bridget came to America as a single young woman, and that her maiden name was Gibbons. The article also told us that she had a brother named Thomas, who eventually moved to nearby Springfield.

While Thomas may seem to be the logical source for the Gibbons surname for those nephews who ended up as Mark Falvey's pallbearers, don't forget that Bridget was the oldest of eight siblings, surely including more than just one brother. Thomas and his wife Mary did claim sons David and Thomas, but Myles and Michael came from another Gibbons brother who also immigrated to Massachusetts.

From Thomas and Mary Gibbons' own anniversary announcement in the local newspaper, we also learn more details of their Irish origins. In the type of homeland pride reporting that every family history researcher wishes they could claim for their own ancestors, the March 26, 1914, entry in The Springfield Daily News included this precise tidbit:

Mr. and Mrs. Gibbons were married in Claremorris, County Mayo, Ireland, by Rev. Michael Currran of Kilcolman parish March 25, 1879. Mrs. Gibbons was Mary Jane Rogers, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Rogers of Claremorris. Mr. and Mrs. Gibbons came to this country shortly after their marriage and since have made their home in this city.

That discovery helped disabuse me of any notion that Mark Falvey had just found a gal to marry from his old homeland back in County Kerry; they truly were strangers who coincidentally bonded over the same type of immigrant experience shared thousands of miles from the place each had once called home.

It is from a funeral announcement for Bridget Gibbons Falvey that I gleaned the next clue to piece together the nephew connections. I'm not sure why other newspaper articles on the Falveys didn't include a listing of all Bridget's siblings, but in the case of the Springfield Republican's insertion on January 3, 1919, it included two brothers and two sisters. Of those four siblings, two were listed as living in Ireland: David Gibbons and Mrs. Patrick Colleran.

It took a little exploring to find the next connection, but I'll give you the short of it: Bridget Falvey's sister Mary Gibbons married Patrick Colleran in Ireland. By about 1875, they had a daughter whom they named Mary. She eventually moved to Holyoke, near her aunt and uncle, and married a man by the name of Patrick Geran—for the astute observer, the name of the last of the "nephews" listed in Mark Falvey's funeral notice.

With that, we dispel any notion that immigrants from the same country who meet thousands of miles away from home and yet discover a strong attraction are not merely drawn to each other for the sake of their shared ancestral village; they could have lived many miles from each other in their originating townlands. We can't know that, however, unless we look.

In Mark Falvey's case, following the trail of the friend who eventually became his wife—or even the trail of friends, associates or neighbors—may not provide specific answers, but the exercise can at least rule out hypotheses.

While I'm still at a loss as to how to connect Mark Falvey and his sisters Bridget and Johanna with my husband's second great-grandmother—also a Johanna Falvey—I do know one thing: they all came from County Kerry.

With the next Falvey DNA match we'll examine, I already know the same for this match's ancestral line. Not only does that line lead us back to County Kerry, but it brings us tantalizingly close to our Johanna's own family—and to actual documentation demonstrating some plausible family connections. With this next step, we may find ourselves getting closer to answers than any match we've traced so far.


  1. An excellent lesson here - thanks! I can't tell if you're almost there, or not. I hope so, for your sake!

    1. Thanks for the hopeful thoughts, Randy! I guess it doesn't matter how long a way is left to go, as long as the route leads to some useful answers. It's still hard to say, though...


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