Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Places They Left Behind


When we puzzle over the origin of our ancestors, there is nothing quite so eye-opening as finally getting the opportunity to stand on the same spot where they last bid their home goodbye. In the case of Margaret Flannery and her husband Denis Tully, thanks to maps affixed to Griffith's Valuation, my family has been able to stand on the very plot of land where the Tullys once lived in County Tipperary. High above the River Shannon and the town of Ballina to the southwest, the Tullys lived in a townland called Tountinna.

Named after the "mountain" which, among the others in the Arra Mountains, rises sixteen hundred feet above sea level—that's fairly high for Ireland—the spot afforded enough of a view, in between rain showers, to make one shiver at the melancholy thought of having to leave such a place of beauty. Something bordering on desperation must have been behind the making of such a decision.

Every immigrant family has their own story, of course, and the Tully decision to vacate their poor hovel—no building stands in that space now—by necessity will be different than that of the next family we'll consider. And yet, from Ireland, immigrants of that era around the early 1850s carry a unified narrative alongside their personal saga.

While I find it difficult to imagine leaving Tountinna behind, when I consider another set of great-grandparents from my father-in-law's family history, my imagination goes into overdrive. All I know about Stephen Malloy I learned from one single-paged letter. That he—or at least his wife, Anna Flanagan—once lived at the border between County Cork and County Limerick was a detail I gleaned from the envelope carrying the letter Stephen wrote her from Liverpool. After he mailed the letter, he set sail for Boston. And disappeared.

In an oh-no-you-don't-either move, upon receiving her husband's letter, Anna apparently grabbed her one-year-old daughter Catherine and headed for America. At least, that's the way the family story goes. That Anna and her daughter arrived somewhere in the United States, we can vouch for; after all, my husband is a direct descendant of that line. But how they arrived, or when—or whether they even traveled together—is a detail beyond my reach, at this point.

Since I last considered this puzzle, so many additional digitized records have appeared online, introducing the possibility that this time, we may be able to trace the travels of Anna and Catherine. As for Stephen, we've already seen that his announced travel plans could be confirmed by passenger list of the very ship he detailed in his letter—but after that, what became of him?

The family's oral tradition was that upon arrival in Massachusetts, Stephen Malloy was shot and killed. But why? And where was any record of this crime? Hopefully, in this month's revisiting of the research quandary, we can open more doors to explain what actually happened.

In beginning our research quest for September, we'll begin first, tomorrow, by reviewing the letter itself, and the details we've already gathered. Sometimes, a second examination can bring out details missed in the first reading.


  1. Oh gosh, September sounds pretty interesting!!! You are my "must read" every morning with my coffee.

  2. Please contact me, I am researching the Tilson Family, would REALLY like to discuss with you. Margie Barton Augusta Genealogical Society Augusta, Ga emailed


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