Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Searching for Possibilities


When facing a genealogical research problem, one may try to be as objective as possible, but some options seem to call our name louder than others. DNA test results leave me in a quandary: several matches who descend from a man named Dennis Tully appear to be related to my husband, but the Denis Tully of my husband's ancestry is not the same man as this other Dennis Tully. While they were both born in County Tipperary in Ireland, and both immigrated to Canada, ours was born about 1802, while the younger one was supposedly born in 1830. Somehow, my task is now to try and find likely possibilities for the family of this second Dennis.

Headstones notwithstanding, I have observed that some Irish ancestors were quite fluid with their age, and thus their year of birth. I'm not saying that that might have been the case with this Dennis Tully, the ancestor of those several DNA matches, but let's just say we need to keep an open mind on this process.

I've already reviewed the godparents listed for each of our Denis Tully's children. Since Irish tradition was to name siblings or siblings-in-law as godparents for one's children, we are fairly safe in assuming that those Tully men named as godparents for Denis' children would be Denis' brothers. (The only other possibility would be that a Tully cousin married a Tully or Flannery sibling, which we will need to keep in mind as well.)

The four possible Tully godparents who could have been father of a son named Dennis Tully would be Luke, Thomas, John, and Mick. I'll be going through the tedious process of checking each one of them for sons by that name this week, but for today, let's look at what I found for Denis' brother Thomas Tully.

On the first day of March, 1829, in the nearby town of Newport, someone named Thomas Tully from Ballina had come to marry a woman named Margaret. Transcriptions gave her maiden name to be Wilkinson, but every time I looked at a document including her surname, it looked like Wilkison to me, so I'll keep both variations in mind.

Though the wedding was recorded as occurring in Newport, Margaret was noted to have come from "Birdhile"—a location later recorded in another document as Birdhill. For this 1829 wedding, witnesses were listed as David Wilkison and Bridget "Flanery." 

While witnesses to weddings did not have the same traditional restrictions as sponsors for baptisms, I found it encouraging to see that Flannery name in the marriage record. Flannery, after all, was the maiden name for our Denis Tully's own wife Margaret. Perhaps there was some connection.

Eleven months later, Thomas Tully and Margaret Wilkison had their daughter Bridget baptized at that same location in Newport. Though the sponsors, John "Wikisson" and Judy Cleary, gave me no encouraging sign, I kept following the couple for any more records. Sure enough, on September 14 of 1834, back at Ballina, Thomas and Margaret brought a son to be baptized. Sponsors for this child were listed as John Tully and Margaret Flannery, familiar names to us. John Tully could have referred to the brother of our Denis and the child's father, Thomas. Margaret Flannery, of course, would be our Denis' wife.

The baby's name? Denis.

There are some problems with this discovery. Nothing is ever easy. The Dennis we have been looking for, the one from whom those DNA matches descend, was said to have been born in 1830, not 1834. This is where I've recalled the many times I've followed Irish ancestors and watched their date of birth shift from document to document. At least with a baptismal record, we have a name attached to a date, as well as linked to specific parents and godparents at a specific location.

The second problem with this discovery is that it doesn't reveal to us anything about who Thomas' own father might have been. Remember, the firstborn son—according to Irish tradition of that time period—would be named after his paternal grandfather. Though we might be tempted to assume that this baby Denis was grandson of someone else named Denis, his date of birth occurred four and a half years after the couple's first child, Bridget. That left plenty of time for another child—or perhaps even two—to have been born. Yet, I cannot find any baptismal record for other children of this couple in the area surrounding Ballina.

For now, I'll add Thomas' son Denis, born in 1834, to my list of possibilities for the identity of those DNA matches' ancestor Dennis Tully—but with reservations. There are three other brothers of our Denis to examine before we can draw any conclusions.

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