Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Finding a Mother From Ireland


As if finding a refugee from the Irish potato famine era isn't challenging enough, locating the specifics on the mother of a Catholic man from 1840s Ireland may be next to impossible. 

The one I'm seeking was, before her marriage to Denis Tully in County Tipperary, known as Margaret Flannery. Thankfully, that was evident from the baptismal records of several of her children. She it was who was mother to John Tully, husband of Catherine, the cousin of Johanna Flanagan Lee whom we researched earlier this month.

What isn't clear, though, is what became of Margaret after her family's self-preservation attempt at sailing to the New World for a fresh start, post-famine.

The first record I can find for Denis Tully and his family was an 1851 census entry for "Canada West." All the family's names lined up conveniently, with one exception: the enumerator could not bring himself to name the wife of any of the residents living in Brant County. For those women, they remained only as "Mrs."

After struggling with questions about Margaret Flannery Tully for years, I've come to wonder: was the "Mrs. Tully" listed in that Canadian census record one and the same as the Mrs. Tully who was married to Denis back in Ireland? Whoever Mrs. Tully was in the 1851 census in Canada, she was no longer named as a member of the household when the 1861 census was recorded. Yet, there are no burial records showing her name at the Catholic cemetery used at the time for residents of tiny Paris, Ontario, where the family lived.

Complicating matters, people asserting to be descendants of this same Denis Tully—and matching my husband's DNA test—attribute another woman's name to the label of Mrs. Tully. There are at least three DNA matches whose trees show this other name. Could Denis have been married twice? Or did Denis have a namesake son for whom I have found absolutely no records so far?

Since collateral lines have helped me with research tangles in the past, I've a mind to rely on that end run yet again, and for good reason. On the same page as the records for the Tully family in the 1851 census, there is a nearby family with the same surname: Flannery. "F.A.N. Club" reasoning dictates that their proximity to Margaret Flannery Tully's home may not be merely an accident. While I've tested this reasoning in the past to no avail, perhaps a second review might turn up some fresh resources. I'm willing to give this one another try for this coming month's research project.

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