Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Circling the F.A.N. Club Drain


With so many Irish surnames swirling around in my head, the chase to ascertain the close relatives of my father-in-law's Irish ancestors has become dizzying—and that's mildly put. In theory, tracing the baptismal records of direct line ancestors' godparents should have led to connections with the immediate family...until you factor in the chance that there were multiple people given the same name, even in a town as tiny as Ballina in County Tipperary.

Realizing that names eerily familiar from the Irish baptismal records were showing up in census records in the town our immigrants Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery chose as their second home, I wondered whether connecting those Canadian records with those back home in County Tipperary might produce some workable material. That, of course, required invoking the genealogically-pervasive "F.A.N. Club" moniker—Friends, Associates, and Neighbors of our target ancestral couple.

It seemed like a good research idea at the time. Actually, it might eventually bear some productive results. Right now, the verdict is still out. However, let's examine one rabbit trail I stumbled upon while trying to uncover any further information on the baptismal record we discussed yesterday, for Canadian-born John, son of Edmund and Margaret Flannery.

Thankfully, in the comments to yesterday's post, a reader—Canadian blogger Jackie Corrigan—provided a link to John Flannery's actual baptismal record at FamilySearch.org. Sure enough, John's mother's surname was rendered with a "Q" rather than the Keough I had spotted in the Ballina church records for another Flannery son baptised a few years earlier. The mother's name in the Ontario record was indeed Margaret, not Mary. Wondering whether this was an entirely different family—rather than simply a second wife for our Edmund Flannery—I tried the deep dive approach for further information on John Flannery in Ontario.

Almost right away, I spotted a death record for a John Flannery born in the same year. That's where the trouble began. This John Flannery, unlike our Canadian-born child of Irish immigrants, was born in Ireland, itself.

So, who was this? Once again, a paper chase to uncover further details. Sure enough, according to this John Flannery's death certificate, he was born in Ireland, not Canada. A widowed farmer living in Seaforth in Huron County, Ontario, he had been in the region for about sixty five of his approximate eighty four years of life. That, at least, was according to the informant, listed on the certificate as Mrs. Jas. Nash—or, perhaps, Head, if the name could be deciphered at all.

Sure enough, looking at the headstone revealed a small slice of the bigger picture: listed under the heading "Nash" was the name of John Flannery plus his years of birth and death, engraved above a similar entry for another man of the same generation, named Tobias Nash. One could presume Tobias' son was the James who married John Flannery's daughter.

It was another detail in the Flannery death report that caught my eye, though: John Flannery's father—at least, if we can believe the reporting party's answer—was named William Flannery.

Now, that was a name to follow up on. Here we had been stymied over the two William Flannerys, back in County Tipperary, one of whom had been named as godparent for children of our family's ancestors. Could we trace back this John Flannery from Seaforth to the William Flannery family back in Ballina?

More research on the Canadian side of the equation revealed a much younger John Flannery, along with his wife Hannah and three young children, in the 1881 census. Ten years before that point, John—if we still have the right one—was a single man in the household of William Flannery in the former McKillop Township, a part of Huron County near Seaforth.

That, as it turned out, was the document that stopped me in my tracks. For one thing, the process of linking the same individual to a series of documents through time, as we are attempting with this series of census records, is one we must enter into with eyes wide open, lest we mistake the wrong individual for a name twin. In addition to that, though, I always take a good look around, once I land on a specific document; I want to get a feel for who else is in the neighborhood.

If that begins to sound familiar, yes, you are right: I'm looking for the F.A.N. Club of this John Flannery and his father William. In many cases, I see almost nothing. In John's case, though, I saw plenty.

First was the observation that, just like the one William Flannery's family back in Ballina, there was a daughter named Margaret in this household. Looking beyond the confines of that one household, though, I was amazed at what I saw: nearly an entire page filled with households sporting the surname Ryan—yet another name I've been trying to trace, back in Ballina.

It was one specific Ryan household, though, which had me transfixed. Right next door to widower William Flannery and his two adult children John and Margaret was the household of Edward Ryan. It was this Ryan family which I've researched years ago, primarily because Edward's wife, Johanna, was the oldest sister of my father-in-law's maternal grandfather, John Tully. Both John and Johanna claimed Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery as their parents—and now, here was Johanna's family living next door to the godfather of her brother Michael Tully. I had to check this connection further.

Was this the F.A.N. Club in action? Or just another chance to stray down a tantalizing rabbit trail?    


  1. Do you know about this book: ncluding a new preface by the author, Irish Migrants in the Canadas probes beyond the aggregate statistics of most studies of the migration process. Bruce Elliott traces the genealogies, movements, landholding strategies, and economic lives of 775 families of Irish immigrants who came to Canada between 1815 and 1855 from County Tipperary, Ireland. He follows his subjects not only from Ireland to Canada but in their subsequent movements within North America. His work has important implications for current discussions of nineteenth-century society in Ireland, Canada, and the United States.

    1. Thanks for mentioning that resource! It looks like a valuable addition in helping tackle this exact research problem I'm dealing with right now.


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