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 Interment.net 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: Rootsireland.ie. Of course, Ancestry.com 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: http://www.xphomestation.com/. 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.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Safely on the Other Side

After indulging in a soul-purging bout of histrionics, I’m happy to report that the real me is back. With a new computer.

Now begins the long process of migration from one computer to the other. It’s beginning to sound as complicated as moving one’s household from one building to another. Ultimately, the new toy will become the work horse, and the old desktop will be reserved for off-line-only use of my old Family Tree Maker dinosaur database. That way, I’ll still have access to my old records, in case I discover a glitch that doesn’t make itself immediately apparent in the new, transferred, version.

Going through this experience brought two things to mind. One is that we see things—especially “modern” conveniences—as if they will be “forever.” Another is the realization of how fleeting our records preservation efforts really are. While each may seem to be one and the same, the impact from these two thoughts ricochets off in different directions.

The issue with blithely pressing forward, confident in the always-ness of our current technological advances, is that today’s “new” is not always going to be status quo. Thus, we tend not to make allowances for what will someday, inevitably, go away. And when that someday arrives, we find that we have heavily invested our time and effort into building a reality upon a foundation that—we could see it coming if only we had looked—has already crumbled. In the face of this, incremental patches to “just get by” for another brief season become the very mindset that initiated the downfall. The incremental changes should have been pro-active, addressing the future, rather than rearward-facing—like driving forward via rear-view mirror—and making do for the time being.

Yet, the transient nature of our preservation efforts—no matter how stalwart we may think our systems are—is future-shock scary to me. All the archival systems we’ve developed over the years, the preservative efforts, even the tedious, diligent copying of manuscripts over the centuries by monks and other advocates of preserving mankind’s wisdom: they are no more solid than the one step they are from the age at which their medium crumbles from natural age. While we as genealogists urge each other on to “tell their story” and pass these details from generation to generation, we are humbly beholden to a chain of events which is still only as strong as its weakest link.

I can’t help but think of all the effort that contributed to the world of knowledge stored in one of yesteryear’s digital worlds, GeoCities. Remember GeoCities? It’s non-existent now, except—thanks to the foresight of those seeing it in an anthropological, historic sense—in an academic, test-tube display. If that was the only trigger saving that massive digital collection from being vaporized “into the ether,” what is to become, in some unnamed future, of Blogger, or Linked-In or YouTube—or Ancestry.com forums, for that matter?

We think we can’t find adequate records of our ancestors from the 1700s or beyond because, we say, not that many records of the common people were kept. What will people be saying about us, three hundred years from now? Will they assume—because they can’t access them—that we, too, left no records?

And yet, on the opposite end of that spectrum, I’ve always taken comfort in a little book I once heard about. It was a book of instruction, written by a father for his daughters. Somehow, it managed to be passed down not only from that first to second generation, but to subsequent generations for, now, centuries—all because someone cared enough to preserve it. It was a personal document that someone saw as important enough to keep—actually, to publish as a book to share with a wider audience.

While technologies change, fashions shift gears, and people’s fickle interests waft in and out of focus, all it takes is overlapping sequences of two-person teams to preserve any specific record—one person, determined to pass a message from one point in time to another, and second person to receive that message and value it enough to turn around and then do the same.

It’s just that now, with the constant change in processing mechanisms, that relay race seems to have become more of an obstacle course.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

On a Collision Course With Progress

Today’s post is going to be one of those me-talking-to-you, linkless versions of “my story.” Since I began composing this article on April 9—one day too many past that fateful deadline of April 8—I don’t dare include any online research results. It might be too risky.

I saw this train wreck coming for miles. In fact, if a day were a mile, I’d say I saw it heading my way from well over the state line.

When the thought hit me that I’d better get moving and do something about this imposition on my placid Luddite existence, my IT consultant (a.k.a. husband) was unavailable, out of state, speaking at a conference. Spring is, after all, our business’ busiest season. And while our business comes handily equipped with up-to-date computer equipment, my personal life does not.

Oh, I tried exploring the handy-dandy analytic link sent by the helpful Microsoft people—but who has time to sit and wait for a downloadable diagnostic to go through all its paces, when you’re constantly running out the door to the next appointment?

If you haven’t guessed by now, I am the first place winner of the Only-One-Left award for Windows XP stalwarts.

Yes, I am still using a desktop computer run on Windows XP.

Worse, my genealogy database is an antiquarian edition of Family Tree Maker—the kind of extinct version displayed only in museums, because none can still be found in their native habitat. My pre-dawn-of-history FTM program will likely not take kindly to upgrading to a new operating system. The fallout of computer evolution: survival of the fittest—in business competition, if not in quality database programs.

I will now pause for a brief, five minute intermission so you may laugh at me.

What do you do when you have a database of twelve thousand individual records, each person’s entry chock full of fields of sourced notes which don’t take nicely to gedcom-ing over to some glitzy new genea-toy? Believe me, I’ve tried. It would take so long to clean up the mis-applied data that it would be more worth my while to scrap the whole thing and start anew.

I’ve scoured the Internet for information on the best new options for such programs. For that matter, I need only pay keen attention to Randy Seaver’s frequent and informative customer reviews on his blog, Genea-Musings, to keep up to date on all the various genealogy products now on the market—hyperlink not provided here for obvious connectivity reasons; you who manage to keep up with the times may take the self-serve route via Google™.

Or I could take the opportunity next June, while attending the upcoming Genealogy Jamboree sponsored by the Southern California Genealogical Society, to seek out the booths for Legacy, Roots Magic, and even Family Tree Maker, to give each shiny, brand new model a test drive.

I’m afraid the trade-in value for my old clunker wouldn’t fetch much, though. It is worth far more to me than it is to anyone else. I know how to harness and drive my horse and buggy—in an age when everyone else is talking gas mileage and EPA emission standards.

Does it come as no surprise that, after all such product research, I’m still undecided?!

For those of you seriously concerned about my sanity—let alone my cyber-safety—let me assure you that my IT consultant and I had a date last night to go out and schmooze the local computer salespeople, haggle over prices for the best models, and gain that air-of-superiority sense of control after walking out of the showroom empty-handed. The search has begun.

In the meantime, I’ve foresworn myself off Internet connectivity—at least on my desktop. Slow and steady is my mantra as I resume this hunt for the ideal replacement computer. There is so much to consider, especially for a near-extinct, word-driven species such as I, caught in an image-consuming world. I have no need for graphics-driven gaming capabilities. Just give me a system which powers my word processing program—and plays nice with my wave keyboard—and I’ll be content. Especially if it also allows me to still run my genealogy database.

I’m a historian, for crying out loud—not a futurist! Yes, history does repeat itself, and we do need to learn from the mistakes so graciously demonstrated to us by our unwitting ancestors. But I’m afraid I share a common snip of DNA with the ostrich: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Taking a Look at Tipperary

Though it may have been a long, long way to Tipperary for those who left their Irish homeland for a better life in the New World, before you know it, it will be a short while until we arrive in that county of those Tully and Flannery ancestors.

Signs along the way point definitely to an origin in County Tipperary for my husband’s great-grandfather, John Tully. If you remember, a handwritten note from the parish at “Ballina and Boher” certified that John Tully was baptized there on February 24, 1842. That same note identified his parents as Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery—the same couple we’ve since identified in the 1852 Canada West census.

Of course, times—and borders—have changed greatly. What might have been, in the 1840s, a place within the realm of one parish, or one town—or even one county—may be entirely different now. Witness the very “county” of Tipperary: lately listed as not one, but two separate counties, the two will join again into one, effective this very year, with passage of the Local Government Reform Act.

Considering that, I feel better about the bewilderment I’ve experienced in searching through church lists, trying to replicate the name of the parish from which this baptismal verification was once issued. Though I couldn’t find that parish in a County Tipperary list provided by volunteers at Rootsweb, I did finally locate a mention of Ballina and Boher in a list of “Deaneries” within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly. (The “Killaloe” mentioned in the baptismal note refers to Ballina’s “Twin Town” just across the Shannon River in neighboring County Clare.)

Once I was able to add the surname Flannery to my search terms, it garnered an additional resource that provided further confirmation that I’m on the right track. While this resource does not provide original documents but transcriptions, it serves to point me in the right direction, once I can get to Ireland and go through the records, myself.

This particular resource is the same one Intense Guy mentioned yesterday. It’s a website created and run by volunteers, best I can tell, and it doesn’t have the snazzy bells and whistles we’ve been spoiled by in commercial sites like Ancestry.com. But if you care to take a look at these links, just use your “find” button under the “edit” function, and it should help you navigate the long listing of marriages and baptisms culled from archival records for this site’s collection.

The website is that of the Flannery Clan. Entering on their homepage, you can read a brief explanation of the group, its website and the surname’s history. The files contain lists of documents that include mentions of the surname Flannery. The entire site is searchable. If you have any Irish genealogy connection to the surname Flannery, this is your site.

I was grateful to discover that the site included a page of Flannery entries found within the records of the Parish of Ballina. I first found this page when trying to locate any corroboration of John Tully’s baptismal record, since the note I found looked so…well…unofficial. If you use your “find” key and enter the term “Tully,” you will find, as I did, that this set of transcriptions yields exactly the same information as that of the handwritten letter: John Tully was baptized on 24 February, 1842.

Don’t stop with that one Tully entry, though. Take a look around and see the other Tully entries. Of course, there are undoubtedly more than are showing on this site. Keep in mind the goal of this website was to list entries related to the Flannery family, not the Tully line. It is only on account of Denis Tully’s wife’s maiden name that John and his siblings showed up here at all.

As for the Flannery line intertwining with our Tully family, that can be found, too. Search the list using the term “Edmund,” and you will find some original Irish records on this immigrant Flannery family we’ve been examining from the Ontario census records. Remember Cornelius, the one in that Flannery family with what I thought would be the most unusual name? You can find him in this list of baptismal records, dated 12 February, 1835.

While I can’t exactly call this resource a treasure trove of verification—it is, after all, only a transcript—it is nonetheless a jubilant discovery, for it leads me to a vital tool: the microfilm reference number of the parish registers, located at the National Library of Ireland. There, hopefully, it will still be available for me to peruse, once I arrive in Dublin in the fall.

Above left: cover to the sheet music, circa 1914, for the Jack Judge and Harry Williams song, made popular during the World War I era. Courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain. 
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