In the case of possible mistaken identities—duplicate names and similar dates for brick wall ancestors—it can be helpful to retrace our steps back to the place where the families all originated, to see whether there are any encouraging signs.
For our twin Tully couples—both named Dennis and Margaret—we certainly have one clue working in our favor: their ages are not quite the same. What are the possibilities that the younger Dennis and Margaret were also baptised in the same parish back in County Tipperary, Ireland, where our Dennis Tully and Margaret Flannery once lived?
From the Canadian census records in the farm community where Dennis Tully and Margaret Hurley settled, that Dennis' year of birth had been provided as any date from 1829 to 1831. Margaret's age, according to census records, varied much more greatly, putting her year of birth in Ireland as anything from 1830 to 1837.
We've already determined, from the 1901 Canadian census, that Dennis and Margaret arrived in their new homeland in different years. This could indicate that they arrived as single travelers and married subsequent to their immigration—but that is not necessarily so; this could be a case of a serial migration. We should keep our eyes open for marriage records back in Ireland, as well.
Seeking baptismal records for a Dennis Tully in the same Catholic parish in County Tipperary as our own Dennis Tully's former church, Ballina, did not bring up quite the dates the Canadian census led us to assume. There was one Denis Tully baptism noted in the Ballina parish records on September 14, 1834, with parents listed as Thomas Tully and Margaret Wilkinson. The sponsors listed for this event seemed to be familiar names: John Tully and Margaret Flannery, a promising sign.
That, however was the only Dennis Tully I could find in the parish records during that time period for any son by that name. Admittedly, I have little confidence in that entry, for two reasons. The first is the year of the baptism, lagging the dates we've already gleaned for Dennis in the Canadian census records—not to mention, the (unfortunately unsourced) date of birth included on his Find A Grave memorial.
The second issue, however, is a softer detail: the traditional naming pattern adhered to by so many Irish Catholics of that time period. If, indeed, the first son of an Irish father was to be named after that father's father, the first son I could find for Dennis he named Patrick. True, that detail was extrapolated years later, when the Tully household had grown to include seven children, according to the 1871 census. Perhaps by then, immigrants Dennis and Margaret had shed their old ways from the old country.
As for Margaret Hurley's origin, it is a sheer guess to assume that she came from the same hometown as her husband—but I was curious to see whether there were any Hurleys in the Ballina parish, nonetheless. As it turned out, there were indeed two options, although they stretched the margin on the ages we had gleaned from the Canadian enumerations. One was from July 29, 1835, in which James Hurley and Catherine Ryan baptised a daughter named Margaret. The second occurred a year later, on August 8, 1836, with parents Michael Hurly and Biddy Loge. Once again, neither father's name was echoed in the choices of names for Margaret's sons, although Biddy might have been a possible mother's name with Margaret's eldest daughter being named Bridget.
To complicate matters, at the end of Margaret's life, no notation was included in her death record regarding her parents' names. As for her husband Dennis, however, there was an entry. Provided by the informant John Tully—presumably his youngest son—while the mother's entry was left blank, the father's name was noted to have been Dennis.