Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Why it's Good to
Revisit old Research Tasks


Researching Margaret Flannery, the Irish woman who became wife of Denis Tully and mother of his children in both County Tipperary and Canada West before 1860, is a challenge I have tackled before. Last time, the results weren't too stellar—until you consider that my few discoveries did bring me far ahead of what I knew before that round of research.

With that track record, I'm eager to try my hand at finding her roots once again. Why? Because with every year, more documents become digitized and placed online. What I once would only have been able to accomplish on her family history by traveling across a continent and an ocean to do in person—or pay for someone at a heritage center in Ireland to access on my behalf—I can now do for the price of some well-designed search tactics through online resources.

That is specifically the case when, years ago now, Irish Catholic baptismal records became available at the National Library of Ireland, then spread to various other subscription services. Suddenly, rather than squinting my way through rolls and rolls of microfilm, I could enter a search term and immediately receive possible results.

Finding helpful articles on the details of the baptismal records also shined a light on possible ways to use this information for my research benefit. Much like working an algebra equation, we can determine the value of an unknown by rearranging the known quantities to our benefit.

Thus, if the Irish tradition was to appoint sponsors for the baptised infant—their godparents—based on specific close family relationships, it would seem all we need do is compile a listing of the godparents for each of Margaret Flannery Tully's several children. Then, we can scour the resultant list for any patterns or repeated names. With that, the unknown "x" could turn into the answer to the question, "Who were Margaret's siblings?"

Likewise, we could repeat the process for all the Flannery family members—not to mention, expand to all the Tully relatives—who might have baptised their children in the same parish in County Tipperary. As the numbers multiplied, it could become a research mess, true, but who said a "reasonably exhaustive search" was ever simple or streamlined?

Because we now know, thanks to a letter regarding two of Margaret's children, the specific parish where they were baptised, we can limit our search for all records containing those surnames—Flannery and Tully—to that specific geographic area. If need be, we can expand to the neighboring townlands. From that, we can compile our list of godparents—and watch to see whether any patterns emerge within that expanded family constellation.

Since an effort like that borders on genealogical sausage-making, I'll spare you the tedious details. Tomorrow, we'll check progress and see whether any useful clues emerge.

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