Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Other Brother


It is always helpful, in sorting out potential documentation to confirm we're on the right track in tracing our ancestors, to follow the trail of siblings as well as our direct line. So it goes with those DNA matches I'm tracing, in the hopes their ancestral lines will lead us back to the Irish homeland of our own umpteenth-great-grandparents.

I'm now finding myself following the trail of two brothers by the name of Cullinane, all in the hopes that their mother—of a Falvey line from County Kerry—was somehow related to my husband's second great-grandmother, Johanna Falvey Kelly. With one segment of only twenty six centiMorgans shared between them, my husband and this particular Falvey DNA match are distant cousins, indeed. The question is: are they still close enough in relationship for their respective family trees to lead us to our Johanna's own parish in County Kerry?

Looking at the first of the two Cullinane brothers yesterday, we saw the paper trail left by Timothy was not long enough to leave us many clues, but we did at least garner the fact that his mother was a Falvey. But whether her first name was Deborah or Abby, we couldn't tell; the records seemed to contradict themselves. While his brief lifespan cut short any hope of discovering more about Timothy, we will revisit his story later this week when we search for other possibilities from his family's story.

Today, though, we'll look at the other brother, Patrick, and see what can be gleaned from his personal history.

As Irish immigration trends went, Patrick was a late arrival on American shores. Born in County Kerry about 1860, we don't find him in American records until his marriage in 1890. And there, in the city of Boston on May 15, we find another occasion to interject yet one more Sullivan into the giant family hairball. On that date, Patrick took as his bride Joanna Sullivan, Irish immigrant daughter of Daniel and Ellen Sullivan.

The key to our search, though, lies in what was reported for Patrick's own parents. There, just as we saw for his brother Timothy's reports, Patrick gave the name of his father as Daniel Cullinane. For his mother, agreeing with at least one of Timothy's records, Patrick provided her name as Debby.

At this point, we need to interject a word of caution. Just as you might suspect in researching Irish arrivals in Boston, there was apparently another couple married at about the same time with similar names. That time, though, the woman's name was recorded as Annie, not Joanna. It was helpful to discover that entry, though, for in later records on our couple, Joanna often was recorded as Annie, as well.

There was one key detail that helped differentiate between the two couples: our Patrick's occupation. Fortunately, his was a line of work much more specific than, say, a laborer—or even than his brother Timothy's work as a teamster. Patrick was a marble worker.

That occupation was reported consistently in all the records I could find on Patrick and his family, protecting me from veering off in the direction of the wrong Patrick. In the next record I could find on the Cullinanes after their marriage, the 1900 census showed Patrick and, yes, "Annie" with their four daughters and—finally!—one son in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Patrick was again affiliated with that telltale profession, this time as a "marble polisher."

The 1900 census also indicated that Patrick arrived from Ireland in 1885 and was now a naturalized citizen of the United States. Checking on any naturalization records, we can find two separate documents which detail that citizenship process. From those records, we can see that Patrick reported his date of birth as June 15, 1860, and that he was born in County Kerry, Ireland. We also discover the approximate date of his arrival—May 23, 1881, thus explaining his absence from any earlier census records. We also learn that his immigration route brought him to Boston.

Helpfully, once again, to confirm we are following the right Patrick Cullinane, we can spot that telltale occupation, this time stated as "a marble worker." Patrick and his family could be followed through the decennial census through 1940, all the time remaining in Cambridge. Only a brief entry in the death notices in The Boston Daily Globe provide us the date of his passing on July 7, 1942.

The real key, in this quest to trace all these Falvey DNA matches back to their homeland, is to see whether brothers Timothy and Patrick can lead us back to any Cullinane records in County Kerry, and then, whether any of them include a mother by the name of Deborah, Debby, or even Abbie Falvey.


Image above: From marriages registered in the City of Boston for the year 1890, the May 15 entry of Patrick Cullinane and Joanna Sullivan; image via  


  1. Lots of straws in your grasp still...whiel reading this I wondered if you had looked for these Irish folks in the "Boston Pilot: Irish Immigrant Advertisements (Search for Missing Friends), 1831-1920" collection on american Ancestors? There were 66 Falvey entries. And 135 Patrick Sullivan entries. Lots of both from county Kerry. Exhaustive search and all that!

    1. Randy, that is indeed an excellent resource, and I need to double check for entries on the Cullinane branch of this growing multi-family puzzle.

      Years ago, before the Friends collection was digitized and offered in various online resources, I took a drive up to the beautiful but now fire-ravaged city of Santa Rosa to search this collection at their genealogical library, and you are right: there were several Falvey entries, though none which aligned with our immediate relatives. Sullivan may be a lost cause, but Cullinane is certainly a possibility to check.


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