Thursday, October 15, 2020

If . . .


Sometimes, when we are stuck on a research puzzle, we need to take a step back and re-assess the situation. I feel as if I am going round and round in circles with these DNA matches to the Falvey family from County Kerry, Ireland. From three different DNA testing sites, my husband has found matches who claim the Falvey surname in their own ancestry's direct line—but they are widespread geographically, and connected only by the most distant of relationships.

We've already reviewed several such matches whose descendants now live in the United States, without finding anyone whose documentation can point us back beyond my husband's second great-grandmother, Johanna Falvey Kelly. Admittedly, we've come close with the presumed sister of our Johanna—a woman with a version of the Irish given name Gobinette—but all the other American DNA matches are much more distant relationships.

Even so, in the aggregate, perhaps we can discern something. Take the Irish naming tradition, for instance. If it holds true in this family history, perhaps we can use that as a guide to lead us back to a possible previous generation. Admittedly, it was not a pattern that was religiously adhered to, especially after Ireland's sons and daughters, by necessity, left their homeland for better lives elsewhere. But if we can review all those DNA matches we've already studied, here is what we can infer from the naming of their own children.

From my husband's second great-grandmother Johanna, we see that she and her husband named their second son Patrick, which infers the name of Johanna's own father. They named their eldest daughter Catherine.

From the Massachusetts siblings Mark, Bridget, and Johanna—a different Johanna than ours—we learned from a newspaper feature article on the occasion of Mark's fifty-first wedding anniversary, that he was the oldest child in his family. Since we already know, from those helpful Massachusetts town records, that Mark's father's name was Jeremiah, we can presume that Jeremiah's father was also named Mark.

From the other Massachusetts DNA match I found, we saw that the connection was through a female ancestor, that woman of many given names due to her Irish given name, a version of Gobinette. Of the children I can find listed for her, it would be the second son whose name replicates that of her father. In this case, though, that child's name was listed as James. However, I can't find any record for him beyond his birth. While that is not surprising, considering how difficult it is to locate Irish records from that time period, if the child did not survive for long, the parents could have named the next son after his paternal grandfather. That son, in this case, was named Patrick, same as Gobinette's supposed sister Johanna had done with her own second son.

Just from these few lines, we can see that the last Masssachusetts match is the closest to our line, with Gobinette and Johanna likely sisters of a possible father named Patrick. The three others—the siblings who ended up in Chicopee—would, of course, be removed by at least another generation, possibly more. It is hard to tell when the centiMorgan count gets that low.

However, one thing that catches my eye is the possibility that those three siblings may have come from a paternal grandfather named Mark Falvey who might have had other children or siblings who also chose to emigrate—but in this case, headed not to North America, but in the other direction, to New Zealand. For three of our DNA matches who currently claim their home as New Zealand, they each descend from a man named Mark Falvey.

In the case of the closest Ancestry DNA match to my husband from the Falvey line, there are not many key events in the immigrant ancestor's record accompanied by actual documentation. In this case, we are talking about an ancestor named Mary Falvey. According to this DNA match's tree, Mary was born in County Kerry about 1853, barely a decade before our own Johanna's children were born.

Once this Mary Falvey arrived in New Zealand, she married a man by the name of Humphrey O'Leary. The information for this 1875 event is sparse, having been drawn from a microfiche of an index held at Provo, Utah, called New Zealand Marriage Index, 1840 - 1937. Of course, I much prefer viewing actual documents than transcribed records, but for now, this is all we have.

Of the few New Zealand records available to me, here on the other side of the world, I could only find her 16 January, 1937, date of death memorialized in a typewritten transcription of headstones, and a Find A Grave memorial (sans headstone photo) listing the names of her children.

One of those children became grandparent to this New Zealand DNA match. Now to place that match within a tree and see how the line connects back with County Kerry in Ireland.  


  1. These are a lot of puzzle pieces!

    1. What seems to be most overwhelming, Miss Merry, is that every time I turn around, another puzzle piece pops up! I keep hoping after I amass all these separate family clues, they will somehow sort themselves into separate family groups.


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