Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Wild Thoughts


You can just about sit back and watch this thought unravel.

Here we are in the month of August, tackling yet another brick wall ancestor from the list of my Twelve Most Wanted for 2021. It is the siblings of my father-in-law's great-grandmother Margaret Flannery Tully I'm in pursuit of. Given that the godparents listed on the baptismal records for the children of Margaret Flannery and Denis Tully must either be his or her siblings or in-laws, we've found a double-dip with the naming of sponsors John Tully and Kitty Flannery. Only...tracking them from that point onward becomes difficult.

As it turns out, John and Kitty were married, and had three children baptised in their home church in Ballina, County Tipperary. After that point, Margaret and Denis emigrated to Canada—and possibly, so did John and Kitty. Only I couldn't tell; the 1851 census for the place where they settled—Paris in Brant County, Ontario—labeled the wives as "Mrs."

The idea to trace John and Kitty and their children onward seemed to lead to yet another home—this time in Detroit, Michigan—before I lost track of John and Kitty once again. However, at last sighting, that family had children Margaret and Michael in the 1870 census. My thought was to trace each of the children into their future to see whether their death certificate would provide the names of their parents, giving us a thumbs up or thumbs down on whether we had located the right John Tully family or not.

Son Michael, at least in this Detroit household, was born in Canada about 1853. Someone matching that name and year of birth did die on December 28, 1921, in Detroit—but he was a single man. Not only that, but he was a man without family close by, apparently, for the informant on his death certificate was the doctor who performed the surgery which led to his demise. Seeing that, it is no surprise to discover, for the required lines on parents' identification, Michael's father was listed simply as "Tully" and his mother, "unknown."

Still, I decided to follow through and see whether Michael could have been buried in a family plot. After all, his death record indicated he was buried at Mount Olivet. Looking for his memorial there on Find A Grave, though, was not helpful, for the photo of the simple stone indicated a birth year of 1861, not 1853. Furthermore, the headstone listed only the initials "M. J." rather than a given name. Searching the cemetery for any other Tully listings gave no useful results.

Although following Michael's trail did not lead us to answers, what about his sister Margaret? In searching for a Margaret Tully in death records in the Detroit area, I used Michiganology—formerly known as Seeking Michigan—which performs searches for previous names, such as maiden names, as well as the more straightforward searches for current name. Since I didn't know whether Margaret had married, this was necessary, and did lead to a possibility.

The only death certificate I could find, in the vicinity of Detroit, was for a Margaret Baxter, wife of Henry, who died on Christmas day in 1935. The death certificate handily provided the name of her husband—Henry—for further research. For my main purpose in locating the record, it did tell me the names of her parents—but it was not the information I was hoping for.

This Margaret was listed as daughter of Dennis Tully and a woman by the name of Margaret Hurley, with both parents born in Ireland. This Margaret was said to have been born in Watford, Ontario—handily for immigrants, on a straight path from Paris, Ontario, to the state of Michigan across the international border.

The date of Margaret's birth, however, was not the 1849 estimate we had extrapolated from the 1861 census in the household of our John and "Mrs." Tully. Her date of birth had been given as November 25, 1875—not even close to the date we first observed.

Hold your horses about the discrepancy of her parents' identity, though, for in researching this Margaret Tully Baxter, there were two unusual details that gave me some wild thoughts. The first was that déjà vu feeling telling me I've seen that name before—even paired with that set of parents. The second was a detail which I only stumbled upon, once I looked up this Margaret's memorial on Find A Grave.

The volunteer who posted Margaret's information was helpfully thorough in placing a copy of the woman's obituary on the memorial. Going the extra mile, the volunteer also alerted me to a discrepancy: the Margaret who married Henry Baxter on May 8, 1889, most certainly could not have been a child born in 1875. And she wasn't. In the actual marriage record, "Maggie" provided her age as twenty three, yielding a year of birth closer to 1866—still not the 1849 of our John Tully's census entry, but certainly not 1875.

More important, though, was the discovery that, in this marriage record at least, this Margaret claimed her father's name was indeed John Tully. And the "Mrs." to go along with that John? Mary McGuire. While the witness to the marriage was conveniently someone named Michael Tully—her brother?—there are too many frayed ends to tie this story together and fasten it to our Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery.

And yet...

The reason the names of the couple Dennis Tully and Margaret Hurley sounded so familiar to me is that, in searching for my Denis and Margaret, I often ran into other trees containing those names. More than that, my husband has a Tully DNA match whose founding immigrant ancestors were named Dennis Tully and Margaret Hurley. In the past, I've always dismissed that as a case of errors in a paper trail, but the DNA match gives pause to reconsider. The fourteen year age discrepancy between our Denis Tully and his neighbor John Tully in the Canadian 1851 census could have indicated a cousin relationship between them, or an uncle to nephew. With a forty to fifty centiMorgan connection with this DNA match, we could be considering a third or fourth cousin connection—or as distant as an eighth cousin relationship, according to the Shared cM Project at DNA Painter

No matter how close or distant that connection may have been, stumbling upon this Margaret Tully Baxter—whoever she was—may help guide me back to another clue for the Tully family constellation in County Tipperary, Ireland, where the story started.  


  1. Boy, this is a puzzle! I would have layers of paper in circles around my dining room table. Good luck with the unraveling.

    1. Thanks, Miss Merry. This one is running me in circles!

  2. Jacqi, did you see this baptismal record on Ancestry: Name
    Brigid Tulley
    20 Mar 1856
    27 Apr 1856 Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada
    daughter of John Tulley and Catherine Flanary?

    1. Now, that is interesting, Kat, because I've been following another Bridget Tully today--only she was daughter of Dennis Tully and Margaret Hurley. Interesting that that name has popped up in two Tully families. I wonder whether this father John and the other Dennis might have a family connection.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...