Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Meet Margaret


Margaret Flannery is an ancestor whose very name—let alone the details of her life story—I am fortunate to know. She took her position on the not-very-long maternal line of my father-in-law only after I discovered two of her children conveniently needed to request verification of their baptism. (Or maybe they were just one of us who find it hard to dispose of any records of our past.)

Margaret was wife of Denis Tully, an Irish emigrant from County Tipperary who brought his family to "Canada West" before the 1851 census. Only you wouldn't know it: that year's enumerator for the village of Paris insisted on cataloguing each of the married women as "Mrs."

Gone were my chances to discover Margaret's given name in the subsequent Canadian census, for she had apparently died by that point; her husband Denis Tully reported himself to be a widower, though I have yet to find any trace of her buried remains. It was only by diligently tracking each of her descendants that I eventually encountered a death certificate reporting parents' place of birth to be Paris, Ontario. That was how I learned the Tully family's stopping place, before the next generation arrived in the south Chicago neighborhood I always knew they called home, was in Canada.

Now, thanks to this clue delivered with her son John Tully's baptismal record, I've not only learned her given name—hint: it wasn't "Mrs."—but I was gifted with her maiden name, as well. Take that information that Margaret was a Flannery and combine it with discoveries in County Tipperary, and we have just been handed the keys to permit our first steps in her homeland.

Better than that, we learned that the specific parish in which her children were baptised was called Ballina—a village small enough to make stab-in-the-dark searches a little less impossible. From the Canadian census in 1851, we learned that "Mrs." would have been forty three years of age at her next birthday. Knowing the Irish propensity to report their age in their own favor, we'll give that number a wide berth, but hang on to any date close to 1808 on the chance that her estimate was close to reality.

I originally guessed Margaret's year of marriage based on her daughter Johanna's 1832 birth, though nothing yet has appeared to substantiate that estimate. I subsequently discovered Denis and Margaret had a son, Michael—partially confirmed, thanks to DNA testing of a descendant—whom I found in the 1861 census not far from his father's home in Paris. But even such calculated guess work is no longer necessary, since so many Irish records have since come online. Now, not only can I trace her children Patrick, John, Margaret, and William based on their records later in life in Chicago, but I can also locate their Irish baptismal records online for all but the family's youngest—William, who was born in Canada.

That online asset affords me the opportunity to once again put collateral lines to work in my favor. Given the Irish tradition of naming specific relatives as the baptised child's godparents, it will be my next task to inspect each of those baptismal entries to see if we can glean enough names to build an extended family network for both the Tully family and Margaret's own Flannery folks.   


  1. Oh my goodness. I get frustrated with news articles and obituaries for "Mrs". I would pitch a fit if I saw it in a census! Jeeeesh. Good research on the baptismal certificates!

    1. Ah, then you feel my pain, Miss Merry! Funny what extents such difficulties drive us to...


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