Monday, August 2, 2021

A New Month, a New Ancestor


This year marks the second year I have organized my family history research goals around the monthly pursuit of what I call my Twelve Most Wanted ancestors. Well into 2021 now, I've completed three months focused on my mother's family, followed by three months devoted to my mother-in-law's family. July brought the exploration to Ireland with the first of my goals related to my father-in-law's forebears, and this month continues that series.

While I have researched each of these ancestors in the past, there is one other detail they all hold in common: each of them has previously stumped me. Whether for lack of online records, or enigmatic details—try differentiating several Kelly ancestors from Ireland, for instance—each one has seen me set aside their challenge for a more opportune time. The hope has been that new record sets will be digitized and brought online, or that I'll be able to travel to the ancestor's home location to inspect documents which couldn't be found online.

This month, our focus will be on Margaret Flannery, one of my father-in-law's great-grandparents on his maternal side. While each of my father-in-law's eight great-grandparents were born in Ireland, when I first started researching that particular line on his mother's side, I didn't even know that Margaret and her husband, Dennis Tully, were the great-grandparents I needed to focus on in that line. Moreover, I had no clue that before their children appeared in Chicago around the time of the great fire there, they had lived in Canada. All I had was the presumption that of course they had originated in Ireland.

It took thorough research of all the collateral lines I could find to discover that Margaret Flannery's immigrant Tully children stopped first in a tiny village called Paris in the county of Brant in Ontario, Canada—using a research process similar to the job I'll need to complete this month before I can achieve my goal of discovering more about Margaret's origin. More than that, I didn't even know her maiden name until a fortuitous turn of events provided a handwritten copy of a baptismal record for her son John and corroborated those details with an almost identical such note provided to the family of her daughter Johanna.

The beauty of all those serendipitous discoveries was that they filled in the blanks concerning Margaret's maiden name and the location where her children were born in Ireland, a valuable discovery, indeed. That, however, doesn't mean the search is over.

My hope, of course, is to push back the line yet another generation on the Flannery side. With lack of documentation during that era for Catholics in Ireland—we're pushing back to the 1830s and beyond by then—the process will again require careful analysis of collateral lines and other village and parish information in the hopes of finding clues.

With that challenge facing us, let's take the relatively easy first step of an introduction to our Most Wanted Ancestor challenge for August. Tomorrow, we'll meet Margaret Flannery and review what little we do know about her life's story. 


Above: A handwritten verification of John Tully's 1842 baptism, providing his mother's maiden name of Flannery, drawn up by a priest at the Catholic parish at Ballina, County Tipperary (by then consolidated with the parish across the river in Killaloe, County Clare), dated March 7, 1887; original letter in the author's possession.



  1. Jacqi, it's been a long time since I've been able to catch up on my favorite blogs, yours being at the top of that list. I love your idea of "Twelve Most Wanted" ancestors and would love to co-op that in some way. I've been "stuck" on a certain ancestor for awhile and realize I need to give him a rest while I regroup and give attention to others. Looking forward to learning about Margaret Flannery!
    Linda (

    1. Linda! It's so good to hear from you. Welcome back.

      You are certainly welcome to adapt my "Twelve Most Wanted" for your own research. It is indeed frustrating to be "stuck." I've found the schedule allows me to be flexible with my research within a solid framework. It's encouraging to be able to move on to another challenge, yet know I'll be back with fresh eyes to tackle those past challenges.

  2. I've had the same "most wanted" ancestor that I've been stuck on for a couple of years. I've taken a break on trying to find anything new on him, but you are inspiring me to want to get back to the hunt. Finding details on a Norwegian immigrant to Wisconsin named Andrew Johnson has proved to be a huge challenge. I keep wishing he had a more unusual name.

    1. Now, that's persistence, Sara! I can see why you wished for a less common name. Hopefully, you will find a way to do an "end run" around the roadblock of that name. I have become a fan of researching collateral lines. Hopefully, your Andrew will provide you some sort of clue.


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