A research project—at least for me—begins with a question. My goal is to find an answer to that question. The right answer, of course, would be a nice touch. In the case of tracing the lines related to my father-in-law's Irish ancestors Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery, it apparently also involves pursuing a twisted course.
Last week, we began inspecting the Irish Catholic baptismal records for the children of Denis and Margaret Tully in hopes of discovering, through their choice of godparents, the names of their own siblings. While that doesn't yet provide us with the names of their parents, it is at least a step in the right direction.
From that effort, we learned that among the possibilities, there might be siblings named John Tully and Kitty Flannery. What was interesting to learn was that, following the route of Denis Tully and his family from County Tipperary in Ireland to the County of Brant in present-day Ontario, Canada, another family showed up in the 1851 census with some similarities in name and ages.
Tracing that family of John Tully, his incompletely labeled wife "Mrs." and their Irish-born daughter Mary beyond that Canadian 1851 census could lead us to further information to either confirm or reject the hypothesis that they were one and the same as the John and Kitty Tully in the parish of Ballina, back in Ireland. That, at least, was my thought.
As my father-in-law's Tully ancestors were wont to do, this Tully family did not seem to stay long in one place. By the time of the 1861 census in Brant County, our Denis was still living in the same location in the village of Paris, but gone were John Tully and his family. While there were possible matches in other locations in Canada, one likelihood was that John and Kitty may have been one of the first among the Tully family to migrate yet again, this time to the United States.
As it happened, there was a Tully family somewhat fitting the description, living in Detroit, Michigan, at the time of the 1870 U.S. census. With the head of the family named John, born about the same year as that indicated in the 1851 Canadian census, the household also included a wife by the name of Catherine—of which the diminutive "Kitty" would be a logical nickname. In addition, there was in that Detroit household a daughter named Margaret, who had been born in Canada about 1851—not quite the 1849 suggested by the Canadian census, but reasonably close.
Unfortunately, gone was the older sister Mary, who by then could have been married—or deceased. In her place was a younger child, this time a son by the name of Michael, born about 1853.
With this mixed bag of results, it seemed too inconclusive to tie together the three record sets concerning John and Kitty Tully, though I wasn't yet willing to concede that I was following a false lead.
My thinking at this point is to trace what can be found of this John and Catherine Tully in Detroit, their daughter Margaret and this new entry of a son named Michael, to see if any subsequent records might reveal more of their identities. Parents' names listed on the death record of either child—Margaret or Michael—could provide conclusive evidence, if we are on the right track. Otherwise, well, it's always helpful to know we've tested a hypothesis and the answer is "no."