Thursday, September 23, 2021

Johanna's Side of the Saga


When taking the direct route from research question to answer is not possible, there may well be an indirect way to collect clues. That way comes in the form of what genealogists call a collateral line.

I may not have found confirmation of what became of Stephen Malloy, after his abrupt departure from Liverpool for Boston—at least according to the letter he sent his wife Anna, back in County Limerick—but I can trace some of his Flanagan in-laws for possible clues. We've already traced Anna and her daughter Catherine from their 1849 home in Ireland to their residence across the ocean in America, and discovered that another Flanagan family member—Anna's brother William—had joined them in Chicago. In addition to William, there was possibly one other Flanagan sibling who made the journey to America, as well.

So far, I have not been able to determine the name of that Flanagan brother, despite finding reports that he may have been buried in a Flanagan family plot in Chicago's Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery. That detail will reveal itself in good time, I'm sure. But the collateral relative we need to focus on today is a Flanagan brother's daughter by the name of Johanna.

I've discussed Johanna quite a bit in the past, but this month's research goal has taught me the value of reviewing all the information I've already collected. Sometimes, details which previously slipped by unnoticed can later take on significance. Heeding that observation, let's go back to Johanna's story to see whether anything pops up with this review.

I first stumbled upon Johanna's records as we often do in genealogical pursuits: at the end of her life. There in Chicago in 1909—just a bit shy of the revised format for death certificates—was the report of her passing. The scant details revealed that Johanna had been born in Ireland and that her parents were, as well—a no-brainer for those of us researching our Irish immigrant ancestors—but the document didn't happen to mention just who her parents might have been.

It was from a small insertion in the Chicago Tribune the day after her June 11 death that we learn her maiden name, listed in that obituary as Flanigan.

While the obituaries of that time period—at least in Chicago—did not include mention of the deceased's parents' names, we at least can infer that it was Johanna's father, not mother, who was the Flanagan connection, a detail which helps our research process.

Keeping in mind that Johanna's death certificate suggested a date of birth some time in 1850, we realize that she and her cousin Catherine Malloy—eventually Mrs. John Tully—were almost the same age. What is the possibility that Johanna, too, made the journey to America in 1855? While I have yet to find her name featured in passenger records, we do have a couple documents to rely on in estimating her arrival on American shores.

One document, of course, is the death certificate, itself. There, the family's unnamed representative estimated that Johanna had been in Chicago for thirty five years. This yields an arrival date of about 1874—considerably later than the arrival of William Flanagan, his sister Anna, and Anna's daughter Catherine. Yet that is only one report—with a good possibility to be in error. Checking with a second report—this time supposedly provided by Johanna herself in the 1900 census—reveals Johanna had arrived somewhere in the United States in 1868.

Another question which might produce a helpful clue would be: where did Johanna get married? According to that 1900 census report, Johanna had been the mother of ten children, seven of whom were still alive at the time of the enumeration. Yet she reported that, by 1900, she was a widow. It was only when we located the family in the 1880 census that we discover her husband possessed the unfortunately all-too-common name of John Lee.

Finding a marriage record for Johanna and John would be challenging, if they had wed in Ireland, though it might have provided useful information. On the other hand, locating such a record in Chicago might be just as helpful—and more likely to actually be found than such records in Ireland. Yet, all I can find right now is: nothing. The only circumstantial clue is that the Lees' oldest child, William, was born about 1875. If Johanna had arrived in 1868, that surely would point toward a marriage in Chicago.

Could it be possible, then, that the Irish immigrant "Joana Flanagan" working in Chicago as a domestic servant in the Josiah Butler household—according to the 1870 census—was our unmarried Flanagan link? If so, that may indicate that Johanna traveled to America as a single woman, not with any Flanagan relatives—a helpful detail, once we peruse passenger lists.

With these basic parameters in place, let's see what we can find on this one collateral link to our Flanagan line, both in Chicago and across the ocean, back in the family's home in County Limerick. The key, hopefully, is to find names of the rest of that Flanagan family, including—perhaps—some Flanagans who remained in their homeland.  


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