Friday, August 4, 2023

Staring at Stars,
Wandering in Circles


In my ongoing exploration of the Tipperary couple, Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery, one good sign is that there were plenty of Flannery folk to be found in that corner of Ireland they called home: Ballina. The drawback, though, is that inventive priests had devised multiple ways to spell that mother's surname. Finding any related baptismal or marriage records thus would require several searches, if it weren't for one handy trick: using "stars" to bypass the research repetition.

Whether it was Flannery or Flannary, or employing only one "n" or adding a second "r," adding a "star"—an asterisk—to the search solved that dilemma. Looking for records with the name "Flan*ry" brought up every permutation possible.

With that streamlined approach, however, I soon felt as if I were wandering in circles while going through the parish records for possibilities. The idea was to glean all the baptismal records containing the names of Flannery relatives of our Denis and Margaret who stood in as godparents for the Tully children. Specifically, I am searching for any documents including Margaret's likely siblings William, or Bridget, or Kitty Flannery.

The idea was that, once having found the entire universe of possibilities for those three Flannery relatives, it would enable me to draw up a tentative family tree for those supposed Flannery siblings. If I could develop a list of all those Flannery siblings' children's names, using the traditional naming pattern of that time period, I could hypothesize about the Flannery siblings' parents' names, as well.

It was all a grand idea, but it apparently isn't going to work. There are a few reasons for this. First, and most obvious, is that there are apparently gaps in the baptismal and marriage records for the time period needed, with anything before 1832 essentially not available. Then, too, people did move in and out of a parish, making it difficult to track "our" Flannery siblings. And, of course, the closer the records approached the date of 1848, the more likely it was that a missing person might also signify the loss of a family member to the throes of the famine.

Even that tantalizing hint spotted when I followed the Tully family from Ireland to Canada West—the Flannery family enumerated on the same page as Denis Tully's family in the 1851 census—could not be confirmed by searching "Flan*ry" back home in the Irish Catholic parish records online.

Eventually, any researcher will tire of wandering in circles, and I'm at that point. I'll take the weekend to think of other ways to work around this problem. Meanwhile, since I always add descendants to the family members I have confirmed, there are quite a few Canadian cousins to update on my father-in-law's tree. Perhaps by Monday, I'll be up for trying the approach of checking the DNA matches who descend from that other Dennis and Margaret Tully.

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