Thursday, August 19, 2021

Knowing Their Place


A bit of advice I hear the most often, when researching our family's Irish ancestors, is to determine the townland. Designating one of the smallest of geographic divisions, the history of townlands stretches back before the Norman invasion of Ireland. But don't think that advice is easily accomplished; there are literally tens of thousands of townlands in Ireland.

Knowing that my father-in-law's maternal line originated in County Tipperary doesn't even help. Fortunately, I learned that, though the county isn't the largest of Irish counties by land mass, its governmental jurisdiction was further divided into a northern and southern domain—hence the lesson learned to search for "North Riding" when checking for Tully and Flannery ancestors in Griffith's Valuation, for instance (a division no longer kept, since 2012).

As for learning the original townland of residence, though, that was a challenge. After all, County Tipperary alone boasted over three thousand of them. The further requisite is to juxtapose the right townlands within the Catholic parish we are researching—Ballina—as opposed to the civil parish, yet another geopolitical designation.

That brings us to this week's current research quandary: determining which William Flannery might have been the right William for our family tree. Remember, William's name popped up as godparent for two Tully baptisms: one for Patrick, son of John Tully and Kitty Flannery, and the other for Michael, son of Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery. Since we already know that godparents—or "sponsors"—were by necessity either sibling or in-law of the child's parents, we realize that William Flannery, whichever one he was, had to be either brother to one (or both) of the Flannery women, or in-law to either of the parents (i.e. through marriage to a parent's sibling).

There were, however, two Williams in the church records. One was married to Hanora McNamara. The other called Kitty Keough his wife. Which one was the right one? Even looking at the children for each of the Williams didn't provide a solid clue.

There was another way that might help solve the problem: look at the places where each of these families were noted to reside. If we go back to the baptismal records for children of Denis and Margaret—or John and Kitty, for that matter—the place noted for those Tully families was the townland called Tountinna. Yet for the children of William and Kitty, the residence was recorded as "Ballycoragin." For William and Hanora, it was entered variously—oh, the woes with handwriting!—as something like "Curramore."

Of all the couples, only John Tully and Kitty Flannery show up in the marriage records for the Catholic parish of Ballina, and it is informative to note that John was characterized as having been "of Tountinna"—a valuable confirmation of his identity. For Kitty, the note was made that she was "of Curroghmore."

There we have it again...almost. In one record, the detail was "Curroghmore" while in the other, "Curramore." Could a combination of miserable handwriting and attempts at phonetic spelling have been the case here? Let's look up the list of townlands and see whether there were any possibilities coinciding in the region of the Catholic parish of Ballina.

Fortunately, there is a townland, currently spelled Curraghmore, somewhat to the south of Tountinna, all within the vicinity of the Ballina Catholic church parish. Cross checking that with the Griffith's Valuation, you can find a William Flannery in the North Riding jurisdiction of County Tipperary, under the civil parish of Kilmastulla—but only one. Encouragingly, surnames like the Ryan and Gleeson family connections we've already mentioned abound on the same pages for his townland of Curraghmore—even, disturbingly, the surname Keough of the wife of the other William Flannery. But only one William is included in the listing, not two. And no other Flannerys. Nor William's wife's family, the McNamaras.

While the pursuit of the exact townland is a recommended course for those researching their Irish ancestors, in puzzling over these Flannery relations, it didn't provide the strong confirmation hoped for. I did, however, stumble across another interesting detail. Admittedly a bright shiny object, it is still worth a pause to consider. We'll visit the records of yet another Flannery tomorrow.

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