Friday, August 18, 2023

Getting Cozy With Caution —
Or, How Yellow is Becoming My Fav Color


You knew I'd have to do it sometime. I've got a prolific—but only potential—branch of my father-in-law's Irish Catholic Tully family waving their DNA test results in my face, demanding a resolution to this stalemate. I've got Denis Tully and his wife Margaret Flannery on the one hand, parents of my father-in-law's maternal grandfather John, and this other guy named Dennis Tully and his wife Margaret Hurley on the other. Oh, and the descendants of this other Dennis—eight of them and counting—make a promising showing as third cousins or at least third cousins once removed, when compared to my husband's own autosomal test results.

Not so fast, you might be singing as you wave your yellow flags to join the chorus of genealogical caution: where is the smoking, um, document to connect the two lines? Yes, I still have no Irish birth confirmation for that other Dennis. Not even a Canadian marriage record for the immigrants—let alone one which would conveniently add in the names of parents for each side. Perhaps those documents will come after slogging, page by digital page, through some microfilms at Or not.

After mulling this over—not to mention, wondering if the search weariness I'm feeling qualifies yet as "reasonably exhaustive" search—I decided to take a weasel approach: proceed with caution. After all, I need some way to attach all those DNA matches into a tree diagram somewhere.

So, revisiting a play from my Falvey and Kelly play book from three years ago, I'm borrowing a tip from Connie Knox of Genealogy TV: add a yellow caution icon next to the younger Dennis' name and plug him into my tree. In addition, I've added notes on my Ancestry family tree to further flag those who blast past screaming-yellow warning signs to indicate that this connection is merely a guess. And I'm proceeding with building Dennis' tree.

This is not the first time I've stumbled upon a surprise addition to the Tully family line. Years ago, I realized that the other Tully down the street in the 1861 Canadian census wasn't simply a coincidental occurrence; those two Tully men were related. Michael, whom I previously knew nothing about, was actually son of Denis and Margaret (Flannery) Tully. Granted, I had a few more corroborating morsels for that one: labeled photographs of Michael's descendant kept by my husband's aunt, confirming the descendant was a cousin, and then, to top it off, two DNA test results which provided more confirmation.

With the younger Dennis, though I do have eight iterations of the DNA connection, I have yet to find such confirming tidbits in relatives' possession. I'm still looking, of course, and corroborating with family members on both sides. But what I hope to obtain by proceeding with the family tree connection is a widening circle of DNA matches. Daughters and granddaughters of this line, in particular, will obscure the connection due to necessary surname changes, which might not currently be picked up by digital tools like Ancestry's ThruLines program. I want to lay out the diagram onto which I can pin other matches whose married names might have disguised their familial connection to the Tully line.

I haven't been waving those yellow flags indiscriminately. Using them with caution—and sparingly—I see them as a tool to use hypotheses in solving some persistent family history quandaries. Moving forward with caution, I'll keep my eye open for more DNA connections with matches who might not have been much more than mysteries before this point. Using the yellow tags as I go leaves a marker which will help me retrace my steps, should I need to cut mistaken branches from the tree. At the same time, they will hopefully serve as a warning to any other Ancestry subscribers who have the tendency to indiscriminately cut and paste from other people's trees.

It will take a while to add all the branches of the younger Dennis Tully's line. After all, we already have DNA matches descended from four of Dennis' children—three of them daughters. After a weekend of working behind the scenes on this project, we'll revisit the DNA side of the equation next week to see if any additional matches have come out of obscurity. Hopefully, this move to take that cautious step will yield some additional details on those Tully cousins we never knew we had.

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