Friday, September 10, 2021

The Inevitable: Taxes


As the saying goes, nothing in this world can be as certain as death and taxes. For governments, that means two certain sources of records. And for genealogists, it translates into two sure resources in which to locate our ancestors.

For those of us who can claim Irish ancestry, one such source of records came in the form known as Griffith's Valuation. Sir Richard John Griffith, appointed first by the British government to conduct a boundary survey of all the political borders in Ireland, subsequently conducted Ireland's first "tenement" survey. This survey—the instrument which eventually became known as Griffith's Valuation—was meant to assess the value of all properties, not just those of the landed gentry, for the purpose of determining liability to pay the Poor rate for support of the destitute within each Poor Law Union

While paying taxes is seldom an act we welcome, the fact that our ancestors were implicated in such obligations is something we can celebrate as family historians: in that very act, they left a paper trail behind them for our benefit. Especially in Ireland, we can be grateful for such records, as very little else in the way of census or other governmental records of the nineteenth century is left us.

That said, zeroing in on the location of my father-in-law's great-grandmother, Anna Flanagan Malloy, thanks to the letter sent to her on her husband's departure for America, was something I could hardly wait to do. If nothing else, I was curious to see whether any records could confirm the whereabouts of these brick wall ancestors.

Consulting the free online resource for Griffith's Valuation at the website Ask About Ireland, I checked first for any sign of a Flanagan family in the civil parish of the townland to which the letter was sent. Clicking on "Griffith's Places," rather than entering a surname, I wanted to see all the surnames in the region surrounding the destination of Anna's letter.

There were twenty four entries for the civil parish of Corcomohide listed in the transcription. Only one came up with the surname Flanagan. Keep in mind that Griffith's valuation did not list the name of every resident of the parish, only those, as head of household, who were attached to the assessed properties.

From that transcribed listing of the "occupiers" of the parish, it is possible to pull up a copy of the actual handwritten ledger by clicking on the icon for that choice. Doing so for the only Flanagan listed—his name was William—I noticed his entry was in a different townland than that of the letter sent to Anna. While the entries for the townland of Cappanihane—complete with listings regarding landlord John Mason—did not include any Flanagans, William Flanagan's name was included within the nearby townland of Cappananty.

According to the handwritten record, William Flanagan's entry included a house, office, and garden. His property, judging by those surrounding it, was rather on the modest size. Whether William was one of those in the district bordering on "destitute" or whether this was a layout suitable for a single dweller rather than head of a large household, I couldn't tell. In fact, I couldn't even tell whether this Flanagan was related in any way to our Anna Flanagan Malloy. But the fact that there was even one Flanagan located in the area was encouraging.

That the one Flanagan in the area was named William was also a welcome sign—but in order to explain that, we'll have to take a giant step forward, both in time and distance, to see the connection between Anna and someone named William Flanagan, on the other side of their lifetime, thousands of miles away in a place called Chicago.   

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