Friday, April 18, 2014

About Mary and Margaret

Question: Who’s buried in Mary and Margaret Flannery’s tomb?

Answer: No one. Mary and Margaret weren’t buried in a tomb.

Now, if you want to ask who was buried in Mary and Margaret’s cemetery plots, that’s another matter. And I’m not entirely sure I have the answer.

What made me wonder was that first glance at the list of burials at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Paris, Ontario. There is a Mary Flannery listed there, who died October 11, 1962. And there is a Margaret Flannery listed as well, with a date of death of July 8, 1965.

My problem is that, after reading that Mary and Margaret’s sister Agnes died at age fifteen, and their brother Edward James (or James Edward, depending on which record you are reading) died in his forties, I tend to doubt these two others would be so long lived.

You see, according to the 1881 Canadian census, Mary was born in 1878. Her younger sister? Born in 1880. That would make them, respectively, eighty four and eighty five at the time of their deaths. Approximately.

How did these two manage to survive so much longer than their other siblings?

No, I am not going to start talking about yogurt or aerobic training. That is a rhetorical question. And this is not a health and fitness blog.

The differences in life spans have got me wondering if the surnames were just coincidental occurrences in that same cemetery.

At least Mary and Margaret had left some form of birth record to help with comparisons. While we may not know whether those two buried in the Sacred Heart Cemetery are our two Flannery sisters, we can at least examine any variances in documentation over the years for these two sisters.

One index of transcribed birth records shows Mary’s date of birth as February 13, 1878—and, thankfully, confirms her parents as Patrick “Flanery” and Margaret Gorman, exactly as we’ve already found. A different index from the same website, showing the same two parents, provides Mary’s sister Margaret Flannery’s date of birth as December 30, 1879.

That’s good to know, for if we fast forward to the 1901 census for this family, apparently their mom couldn’t quite remember all those details. Okay, so she was a little busy with all those kids. It’s easy to see right away, though, that the birth date the census record shows for Margaret—December 28, 1882—would come impossibly close to next daughter Ellen’s arrival on March 6 of 1883. Besides, with a birthday that late, she wouldn’t have made the cut for appearing in the 1881 census, now, would she?!

That’s the kind of opportunity we have, looking in retrospect at all these documents in a digitally-searchable mode. We can spot which record conveyed errors forward to us in the future, and speculate on which data are the correct versions.

We are so spoiled.

Not only that, but the temptation to superimpose our current standards upon those former times can sneak up on us. And before we know it, we are wondering why a mother can’t even keep her own kids’ birthdays straight, for crying out loud!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When It Doesn’t All Add Up Right

If you found the comparisons of the various census records available for the Ed Flannery family to be frustrating—no two census records seeming to contain reasonable projections of household ages—you’ll just love diving into these records for son Patrick’s own family.

Fortunately—well, at least that’s how I felt about it when I first began this comparison—we have cemetery records for Patrick’s family. By the time we compare them to all the census records and other documents, we’ll find a phantom other person—an unexplained additional Flannery.

But let’s not bite off more than we can chew in this one sitting. Today, we’ll take a look at what’s available from the file for Sacred Heart Cemetery in Paris, Ontario, for the Patrick Flannery family.

As we’ve already discovered, Patrick himself met with a sudden end in March of 1895. Sure enough, his headstone reflects that fact with a date of death as March 29, 1895. The helpful volunteer who took the time to list the burials at Sacred Heart also entered the detail that he was “h/o Margaret Flannery (Gorman).”

Patrick’s wife—indeed another Margaret for the family, following in the footsteps of Patrick’s mother and, possibly also his aunt—apparently lived out her widowhood on Dumfries Street in Paris, Ontario, until May 11, 1929. Giving a date of birth as May 22, 1854, the death certificate indicated her age at passing as seventy five years, eleven months and twenty days. Maddeningly, that precise certificate also managed to give, for the informant, Margaret’s daughter’s name as “Miss Flannery.”


At least her headstone agreed with the county records. As a consolation prize, the death certificate updated the maiden name of Margaret’s mother to read as Hudson instead of the Huttson given on her marriage license back in 1877.

But what of the children? Our helpful volunteer indicated two of the Flannery burials as children of Patrick and Margaret: Agnes, who died January 26, 1899, and James Edward, who died September 1928. Looking online, we can find confirmation of these dates.

Though only fifteen years of age when she passed, Agnes was already working as a mill hand at the date of her death, and had suffered from diabetes mellitus for the past three years. The year of her death predated the period in which governments collected such details as names of parents, but included—in two places on the record—the name of the physician following her and pronouncing her death. At this point, we can only presume that the volunteer who indicated Agnes’ filial relationship to Patrick and Margaret gleaned that information from her headstone or other documentation.

James Edward, having lived well past the date in which details that gladden the rabid researching genealogist might have appeared, managed to at least confuse, with an index of his death record reversing his two given names: Edward James. Transcription problem? Indexer’s error? At least the date of death agrees in both records: September 6, 1928. With a date of birth as April 14, 1886, that put him at age forty two at passing—significantly better than Agnes, but still relatively young.

What of the other Flannery burials at Sacred Heart? Are they children of Patrick and Margaret? A census record for 1881, just a few years after Patrick and Margaret were married, show children Mary at age three, and Margaret at age one. There is a Mary Flannery buried at Sacred Heart, having died October 11, 1962. There is also an additional Margaret with a date of death as July 8, 1965. Perhaps these two match the daughters showing in that 1881 census—further documentation will be needed to verify that.

There are two other Flannery burials at Sacred Heart: that of Catherine (died March 3, 1979) and Zita (died January 18, 1988).

Conveniently, we can now fast forward to the 1901 census, in which widow Margaret Flannery is listed with six children. If you think the list of these six children will nicely align with those we’ve already discussed, you are sadly mistaken. Witness the six for yourself, if you have access to, or peruse the list here:
Mary, born 1878
Margaret, born 1882
Ellen, born 1883
“Eward” (surely taking after his grandfather, Ed-blot), born 1887
Catherine, born 1890
Florence, born 1893


Where’s Zita?

Shall we collectively lift our voices in a cry of agony? Or tear our hair out (for those of you having enough to spare)?

Perhaps we shall set this aside for a saner moment, and retreat to our online resources in search of further documentation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making a List, Checking it Twice

I am not much of a list-maker. For me, drawing up a “to do” list borders on the anathema. I’ve always had a self-organizing type of mind, I guess.

Until lately. Looking at this unyielding set of Flannery family members, I am struggling to convince them to give up their secrets. They have finally driven me to drawing up lists.

Let’s look at the first list of family members we have available to us: the 1852 Canadian Census for the village of Paris in Brant County, Canada West. We have
Ed-blot, age 45
Mrs., age 35
Patrick, age 19
Cornelious, age 17
Michael, age 15
John, age 4

Where Ed-blot and his family ended up for the subsequent census in 1861, I’m not sure—mainly because I couldn’t really be sure of the actual name of this household’s head. I’m not sure the census enumerator for the small town of Paris, Ontario, was sure, either. For his duties in 1861, the enumerator listed the head of household for the only Flannery family in town as Edward.

Could Edward be our Flannery man? Let’s see who was in this household in 1861:
Edward, age 55
Marg’t, age 52
Mat, age 19
Ellen, age 18

That, incidentally, comprised the household under the spelling, “Flanery.” Oddly enough, since the “Flanery” household was at the bottom of that census page, John, age 12, was added, not at the top of the subsequent page, but the page afterward—not matching up with any contiguous entries whatsoever.

The 1871 census for Edward and Margaret include precisely those two, only: Edward at age 62, his wife at age 60. None of their children remained in the household. By the next year, Edward himself had left—passed away on June 30, 1872. I could not locate Margaret in the next census—I had hoped that would reveal where some of her children had moved—so have to presume that she had died, also.

The only other Flannery household I could find in Paris was that of Ed and Margaret’s son, Patrick. Gone were Cornelius and Michael without a trace. Though I still couldn’t find baby brother John, I did discover one hint of his availability in a transcribed mention as the reporting party for his brother Patrick’s death record in 1895.

Trying to cross-check that with the burials at the local Catholic cemetery was fruitless. My only accessible record is that offered by a volunteer’s entries at—for the most part, as we’ll explore tomorrow, representing the descendants of son Patrick’s family.

Sometimes, the only option when faced with Internet-only researching options is to set the whole project aside. Newly-placed digitized records are coming online at such a rapid pace that chances are excellent that what can’t be found today will be staring us in our faces in the not-too-distant future.

Meanwhile, just because I have it, and just because I can, tomorrow I’ll share what I’ve found on son Patrick’s family, the only ones—apparently—left in Paris in the next generation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Little Lesson in Canadian Geography

Sometimes, we get so busy attempting to connect all the dots that we don’t question the picture that is taking shape right in front of our eyes. In this case, while pursuing the four Edmund Flannery sons who seem to have scattered to the four winds upon reaching adulthood in Paris, Ontario, I missed one key observation: the newspaper report of the one son—Patrick, the only one I could find—was published in a town nearly two hundred miles away from his residence.

Patrick Flannery was found dead—drowned, possibly under suspicious circumstances, in the town of Paris, Ontario—at the beginning of April, 1895. The only way we know that is from a brief notice in the Essex Free Press, published April 5,1895. We wouldn’t even have known that, except thanks to the diligent search skills of reader Intense Guy.

Admittedly, that was a startling report to find. But that it was published so far from his home presents us with a mystery of its own. That bit of news couples nicely with the list of burials found at for the Catholic cemetery in Paris, Sacred Heart Cemetery, so we know he wasn’t buried in Essex.

When we first made that discovery, it led to more records online, producing confirmed names for Patrick’s parents and also his wife.In the flurry of all those breathless discoveries, I missed one detail: Paris, Ontario, is nowhere near Essex, Ontario.

What was a story like Patrick’s doing in a paper that far away?

Admittedly, I didn’t even know where Essex, Ontario, was. I had to look it up. I was surprised to discover it was just south of Detroit, Michigan.

Yes, I know that sounds upside down. Canada is supposed to be north of the United States. But in this little stretch of land on the north shore of Lake Erie, Canada reaches down to the south before the international border takes a turn to the north on its way up to Lake Huron.

While thinking of the possibility of Detroit, something popped into my mind. Remember Cornelius Flannery, my first candidate for seeking further data on the Flannery family? I had chosen him for my previous research step because of his less common first name, though I later abandoned the attempt.

During that process, I had found some possibilities for Flannery sons in Detroit city directories. Knowing that the route from Paris, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, had also been taken by some other extended family members in their emigration from Ireland, I had made a mental note of it—I just didn’t have enough information at the time to be able to confirm I had any matches.

Now, looking at Essex, perched so close to the border and the city limits for Detroit, I’m beginning to wonder, again, whether those Flannery sons had indeed disappeared from Paris via a route that led through Essex, then Detroit, then further westward in the United States.

But could any Flannery men be found in Essex, itself? A quick glance online indicated there were some there—a Patrick Flannery, in fact, was listed in Essex for the 1881 and 1891 census records. We know this was not our Patrick, obviously, for he appeared in the 1901 census too, something our Patrick would have been hard pressed to accomplish. Other records revealed the presence of a Michael Flannery and a William Flannery living in Essex, too.

Cousins, perhaps? Or mere coincidence?

The only connection I can fathom would be that Patrick may have previously lived in Essex—or, as reader Iggy had surmised, possibly worked there for a while. He may also have had relatives there, and visited there. Other than that, it seems odd that a small town newspaper from so far away would have made sure to note the passing of someone as insignificant as a common laborer, living nearly two hundred miles to the east.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Flannery Laundry List

I’ve got to come clean on this: I have no idea where to take this Flannery search next. Do I try to press back in time, searching among any Irish records I can find online for Ballina in County Tipperary? Or do I grab what Flannery descendants I can find in Canadian records for Ontario and explore connections in the hope of flushing out any distant cousins?

Seeking free Irish records online would be a challenge. Over the years, there have been disparate groups of volunteers willing to post record transcriptions, but such resources are pockets of random collections, hidden away hither and yon in the vast universe of online resources we dub, simply, the Internet. Witness the Flannery clan site. Or Tipperary Genealogy, part of the network called IGP—Ireland Genealogy Projects. Whatever random Flannery matches I’d come by in a search like this would likely be a mixed bag of leads.

Looking for such records online might also be a waste of my time. I am, after all, planning to travel to Ireland in the fall. Some genealogical documents are just better sought for in person; it is only a small percentage of such records that are available online—free ones comprise an even tinier fraction.

Furthermore, “free” is always a limiting factor, requiring the proverbial “Some Kind Soul” to dedicate time and know-how to transform written documents to digitized versions or correctly transcribed text files. There are, as we all know, collections of records available for a fee. Reader Dara has already mentioned one in a comment: Of course, has a modest selection of Irish resources that fit within the narrow sliver of time—up to 1849—in which I’d still be able to locate my Flannery family in Ireland. In addition to the downside of the cost for such sites, my ability to include links of my findings in public posts on A Family Tapestry would be limited to sharing with only those readers who are also subscribers.

On the other hand, one of my goals was to find documentation linking Edmund Flannery’s family in Paris, Ontario, with his neighbor Denis Tully’s wife, Margaret Flannery Tully. I would either need to achieve this through church records in Ireland, or government records in Ontario. Do I scrub the “distant cousin” notion, barring any way to obtain Irish records cementing the connection? Or do I press on, full speed ahead, with descendant research on Edmund’s line as a sort of genealogical public service? I have, after all, compiled a list of links for several of those Canadian Flannery family members.

While these possibilities are floating around in my mind—and until I can determine a solid strategy for my next research target—I think I’ll pursue the Genealogical Good Samaritan route and go through my list of Flannery connections to see what loose ends may be cleaned up through resources easily located online. If for nothing else, that will ease my mind on one troubling question that popped up while considering the news report on Patrick Flannery’s unfortunate demise:
If Patrick died in Paris, why was his passing reported in a newspaper published nearly two hundred miles away?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Those Uncooperative Details

Now that we’re back on track—setting aside those pesky computer operating system details—let’s return to the Flannery question at hand. We had just found the first hints of records in the Flannery homeland of Ireland—even more specifically, in the Parish of Ballina in County Tipperary. Granted, they were actually transcriptions of baptismal records, so I will eventually need to secure source documentation—but this is, at least, a start.

However…I don’t know if you noticed what I saw, as I perused the details in the transcription provided in the Flannery Clan website, but it causes me some concern. Edmund Flannery, the father—who, himself, has been presented to us with various permutations of his given name’s spelling—either has a twin in Ballina, or he was married twice.

For his son Cornelius, baptized 12 February, 1835, his wife is listed as Margaret McKeogh. Five years later, for son Matthew, Edmund’s wife is listed as Margaret Keogh.

Granted, that could be just a slip of a pen—or an as-yet-unverified Irish naming custom in which prefixes like “Mc” or “O’” are arbitrarily included or omitted.

That is not my main concern, though.

It is when I view the record, another five years later, of the baptism of son Edmund on 4 April, 1845. This time, the senior Edmund’s wife was listed as Mary Kirby—an entirely different name.

Could this be a second wife? Or is it actually a different Edmund Flannery?

The only other record I’ve found so far for Edmund’s wife’s name was in their son Patrick’s marriage license. There, Edmund’s wife was listed as Mary, not Margaret. But her maiden name wasn’t Kirby; it was given as Keogh.

It doesn’t help that I can’t exactly find Edmund Flannery’s family in the 1861 Canadian census. Remember, the 1852 census for Edmund’s new home in Paris, Ontario, was presided over by an enumerator who frustratingly insisted on listing each head of household’s wife by the first name of “Mrs.” Finding the family in the 1861 census would have provided some guidance in this given name quandary. Unfortunately, in 1861, the only entry I could find for Paris was for the household of one “Edward Flanery.” At least, his wife’s name showed there as Margaret—if that was the right Flannery household.

While I’m delighted to have burst past the brick wall of immigrant status in the New World and worked my way back to the Irish homeland, it is still apparent that I need to beware the effects of frequent name repetitions. When every generation carries forward the naming traditions of the previous generations, those same names seem to generate a sort of feedback loop, continually repeating the same names yielded from previous years. Grandparents, then parents, then siblings, then children all seem to carry the same Mary or Margaret—or Edmund—honoring a past family member. Which one is which? To sort them out carefully will require the utmost attention to details—and a diligent check on the lines of siblings for each generation.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

From One XP to Another

There is something about the brain that, once sensitized to a particular detail, magnifies awareness of that detail so that, seemingly, everywhere you look, you keep seeing more of that item. If you buy a red sports car, for instance, suddenly it seems like you see little red sports cars everywhere—even if you never noticed them before.

And that quirk of the mind doesn’t just fasten itself upon bold details like red sports cars. I don’t care if you just found yourself an aqua 1955 Ford Fairlane sedan—suddenly, those frumpy four-doors will seem to be coming out of the woodwork.

So take it as no surprise, given my recent hysteria over Microsoft’s ultimatum—dump your Windows XP operating system or else!—that those two letters, X and P, have since figured prominently in whatever part of the brain makes such details multiply out of thin air.

In this case, a simple flier—poorly reproduced, at that—caught my eye mainly for those very two letters: XP. That was part of the web address for the organization which had distributed the flier.

The flier itself was about the commemorative “Re-Ride” from California to Missouri of the Pony Express. An annual event, this National Pony Express Association re-enactment involves over six hundred riders and horses covering a nearly two thousand mile route over a ten day period.

The website provides the ride schedule, reports from the trail, a photo album, and clippings of news reports for the 2014 event, beginning in Sacramento, California, on June 11.

What is particularly compelling about this event is that, for a pittance, you may not only support the effort, but send a message to a lucky friend or relative via that very Pony Express. How fun is that? Imagine the opportunity to spark a little interest in tangible history for your children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren or whoever you wish to gift with a little memento of 1860s history. For teachers (and homeschooling families), the website also provides a collection of educational resources in their Pony Express School House.

All this came from my sensitized eye catching the website’s address for this event: Evidently, the “XP” that reminded me of my Windows XP debacle just happens to be this other organization’s way of abbreviating “Express.”

XP? How was I to know?

Above: Pony Express postmark, September 6, 1860, westbound from Saint Joseph, Missouri. Courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
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