Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Major Roadblocks, Minor Revisions


Let's admit it: at this point, we are stuck with the puzzle of what became of Stephen Malloy, my father-in-law's great-grandfather. Perhaps, as his 1849 letter to his wife Anna indicated, he did indeed sail from the English port of Liverpool, heading to a new life in Boston. As far as the family knew after that point, the man simply disappeared.

Anna, Stephen's wife, did not let that deter her. She, too, took passage to America, though I don't know how—let alone exactly when and where—she arrived. All I know is that she ended up not in Boston, but in Chicago.

Stephen Malloy's disappearance thus becomes a major roadblock to my research goals. Seeking out further details on how Anna and her daughter arrived in Chicago, however, amounts to minor revisions. And these discoveries are indeed possible, considering the fragments of information we can glean from other records.

For instance, perhaps Anna traveled alone; perhaps she didn't. We can't yet tell. We do know, however, that Anna's young daughter Catherine—her only child—lived with her at the point when we found documentation of them in the 1860 census. Then Anna, along with Catherine, lived in Chicago with Anna's brother, a single man by the name of William Flanagan.

It is there in Chicago that we've pieced together as much of the story of Stephen and Anna as we could find—everything from the scant information on death certificates of that era to family lore explaining what they had heard about the disappearing Stephen Malloy. And while Stephen's story still presents what seems like an impenetrable enigma, it is the smattering of details we can gather on the rest of the family which, in yet another review, may lead us to answers—or at least revisions of our understanding of the story.

Take Anna's brother William. The family's story was that William had been arrested for a minor crime and sentenced by the British authorities to "transportation" to Australia to serve time. It turns out there was a record for one such William Flanagan in 1851. The case was decided in County Cork, not in the location of our Flanagan residence in County Limerick—but keep in mind that Anna's and William's home church parish reached across the county line, close to the main road leading south to the city of Cork.

While William was eventually "discharged"—as I learned during our visit to Ireland several years ago—in reviewing this detail now, I see the date of that decision was May 9, 1855. This date may become helpful to us in pinpointing the family's move to America.

Of course, we must not rely on only one document to build our case here. Keep in mind, I'm not entirely sure this entry in the Irish National Archives database is our William Flanagan. Taking a look at other indicators of the family's date of immigration, though, we find approximate corroboration.

For one thing, Anna's own death certificate bore the report that she had been in the state of Illinois for thirty years from her 1885 death. Granted, that detail was gleaned from someone else's report—an unnamed person, at that—but seeing the added comment on the certificate, "Mother of Mrs. John Tully," one could presume that the reporting party was indeed her daughter, the former Catherine Malloy.

That one document pointed to an arrival date—at least in Illinois—in 1855, aligning with William Flanagan's release from his sentence. Let's look for one more indicator: daughter Catherine's own report of her arrival in the United States. Although the one place where I found it was a document which was horribly overwritten, that 1900 census record also asked the question in a second manner: how many years was she in America? Catherine answered forty-five years, once again pointing to an arrival in 1855.

Having reviewed the documents I already had noted in my records, I can now at least estimate a year for their arrival. Furthermore, rather than the assumption which was held previously by the family—that Anna and Catherine arrived first from Ireland and then, somehow, William joined them from Australia—we can assume the trip may have been made by all three on the same passage.

Additionally, there is a strong possibility that those three Flanagan descendants—William, Anna, and her daughter Catherine—were not the only Flanagans to travel to Chicago. Years ago, I explored another woman who, in some references, was mentioned as a Flanagan related to these others. I had followed her family tree as much as possible in the past, but the work was incomplete due to lack of some records. Revisiting this other Flanagan relative one more time, perhaps we can find some additional connections to explain more of the extended family's saga.

Above: One possible entry from the Ireland-Australia Transportation Database at the National Archives of Ireland's website indicates a William Flanagan who had been sentenced in County Cork in 1851, but ordered to be discharged in 1855.

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