Wednesday, July 12, 2023

News From
the Lost and Found Department


Persistence sometimes wins the day. It did, at least today, for that missing Chicago burial record for one Edward Flanigan.

I finally got enough time to dumpster dive into a plastic storage bin filled with old genealogy documents. Included in this mash-up were copies of old death records for my mother-in-law's Ohio lines and several lines for my father-in-law. Thankfully, that included the readout sent to me by a kindly worker at the office now overseeing the records for Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.

I was pretty sure I had remembered the details correctly. What I hadn't remembered was just how long ago it was that I received the record. This paper came about owing to an early morning phone call in June of 2005. Yes, from almost twenty years ago, giving you an idea as to why it was stashed in a storage bin full of papers instead of digitally stored with my family tree records.

That exchange was partly calculated and partly thanks to the kindness of the office worker who took my call. I deliberately placed my long distance call on a quiet weekday morning—Chicago's time zone, not mine—in the hopes that the harried worker who answered the phone might not feel pressure of demands from multiple duties, such as weekend visitors inquiring about burial locations.

I did indeed connect with a helpful employee. For my inquiry, I was rewarded with a printout of all the people buried in the family plot for two families connected with Johanna Flanagan Lee. Apparently, the woman who helped me actually mailed the records, for each page shows the trifold mark of having been tucked into a business envelop.

As I recalled, Johanna Lee was indeed buried in the same plot as her uncle, William Flanagan, whose impressive 1893 monument first alerted me to the Flanagan family's origin in County Limerick, Ireland.

Along with Johanna, the Flanagan plot included three other people. One was likely a nine-day-old infant whose name was entered at the cemetery as William J. Tully, but whose death record contained the name John W. Tully. Another burial was for William P. Tully, son of Johanna's cousin Catherine, the woman who, as an infant, saw her mother take off in pursuit of that suddenly-emigrating husband who had headed to Boston

Apparently, none of these three had markers indicating the location of their burial. I have their date of burial, from the plot readout mailed to me by the cemetery office. I have the death certificate number and date of death for each of them, as at that time, such information was accessible online. And I know that all of them were buried in Lot S 313 Block of Section 15 at the Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Chicago.

There was one more person buried in that same family plot, and this was the one I was hoping I had remembered correctly. This was Edward Flanigan, spelled exactly that way on the cemetery's records, with a burial date listed as June 24 of 1904.

That Edward Flanigan was buried in Chicago, I can vouch--at least, according to the record from the cemetery. But where he had died is an entirely different matter. Back at that time—2005—when many records weren't yet accessible online, I had been using a local researcher to personally retrieve documents for me. I had done business with this woman for quite some time and found her to be reliable. She focused on researching records at the Illinois Archives.

Here's the problem we encountered: there was no certificate listed, according to the state archives. No official record for Edward Flanigan's death. Did that mean he had died elsewhere?

The Mount Olivet record indicated his burial occurred on June 24, 1904. If this Edward were living in the Chicago area, like the two I had found in yesterday's cursory search, I doubt he would have been the latter discovery in the 1900 census, as I'd expect he would have been buried with his wife. If the earlier discovery—the young twenty-something single man boarding with the Sullivans—perhaps he had moved elsewhere for better employment by the time of the 1900 census and upon his death, his family returned him to Chicago for burial.

These, of course, are only guesses. There is no memorial marker at the grave site. I have no corresponding obituaries to help clear up this muddled picture.

One possible next step might be to contact the cemetery again and see if there might be any corresponding documentation indicating where the man had died. If it weren't for the many questions I already have about Johanna Flanagan Lee, buried alongside this mystery Edward, I would probably have let this puzzle go. But any detail regarding a brick wall ancestor could be the very clue needed to unravel the mystery. Collateral lines can collapse brick walls.

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