Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Meet a Fourth Cousin

With as much sniveling and whining as I do over not having any distant cousins flocking to my virtual door, you’d think I never have had such an opportunity. Truth be told, I have—well, of a sort. It’s just that, when pursuing long-lost relatives, I am invariably the one who is seeking the connections.

And yet, sometimes, it does happen. You may recall the trip to Chicago undertaken by my family over a year ago, in which my husband had the privilege of meeting up for lunch with not only his (known) cousins and a (known) second cousin but also with two third-cousins-once-removed. (Well, at least we presume they are; we have yet to find documentation fixing the relationship at that point, though we do have auxiliary confirmation.) We can thank none other than our reader “Iggy” for serving as digital matchmaker for that occasion, as he was the one who found himself providing my email address to the inquiring relative who had stumbled upon my blog post mentioning a known ancestor from her family.

Now, of course, I’m headed to Ireland in an attempt to push back the Tully family history yet one more generation. And the question nearly taunts me: will we be able to meet distant cousins over there?

After all, we’ve advanced in our track record from second to third cousin—once removed, even! Could it be possible to find any fourth cousins over there?

Since Denis Tully, immigrant from Ireland, is the connecting link for this family, I pause to ponder those numbers. Denis Tully was my husband’s second great-grandfather. Any descendants of his would lead to the level of third cousins for our generation. Of course, being that my husband was the baby of the (almost) baby of the family (et cetera), we end up meeting people who are, eventually, one generation removed from his—but still counting from the level of third cousin.

But what if we could push back the shroud of time yet another generation? That would yield, for a third great-grandfather, fourth cousins. Fourth cousins possibly living in Ireland right now.

My mind starts spinning at the numbers. I once met—online, of course; these things seldom happen in person—a ninth cousin in my own Taliaferro line. Fortunately, that is a line from Virginian colonial history that is well documented, so it was just a matter of counting on a descendancy chart. I had to come up with a way to keep the right numbers in the right columns.

Sketching these generations out on a spare napkin at a coffee shop may work for a casual meet-up with a second cousin, but add a few generations, and it can get messy. I thought it better to come up with a concise way to yield the proper (n)th cousin. Ready? The (n)th cousins have a common (n – 1) great-grandparent. So, fourth cousins would share a third great-grandparent. In our case, that would be Denis Tully’s parents, whoever they might be—or his wife Margaret Flannery Tully’s parents. And they would not be here in America. Not even back in Canada, where Denis arrived after his trans-Atlantic voyage. They would be in County Tipperary. In Ireland. Where I’ll be in two weeks.

The first task, of course, would be to locate that third great-grandparent. If I cannot find any documentation at the local level in Ballina, where the family originated in the early 1800s, I will have to hope for some great revelation when I get to Dublin. And from there, I could trace the lines of descent. After all, it wouldn’t do to just go door knocking along the River Shannon, asking, “Are you my fourth cousin?”

Once the names and dates are secured, it has never been more than a matter of spreading the word far and wide—wanted: descendant of So-and-So Tully, father of Denis Tully of Ballina, County Tipperary—to find some takers for the coveted position of fourth cousin. Post it in online genealogy forums, as I have for so many other family lines. Search for connections on the family finder devices on sites like Ancestry.com or head out to deeper, more generic waters and trawl the hits on Google. Take a DNA test, even—after all, we just connected with a distant cousin that way, though on the other side of the family. Stalk possible descendants on Facebook—even if it costs a lousy buck to send a private message. Wear a sandwich board—yes, believe it or not, I saw someone do that, here in my own city, last week—and walk down the main streets of Ballina.

However we do it—meet up over a cup of coffee, or over lunch, or even via phone or email—here’s hoping that, at least, we do it. It would be grand to meet a fourth cousin. Especially on the other side of the equation. “Across the pond,” as it is so often termed. However, wherever: Tully fourth cousin, we know you are out there.

 Above: Ireland-born Samuel McCloy's "A Fisherman's Children," an 1881 pencil and watercolor; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Your Name Over the Door

With all documentation duly researched, all notes tucked firmly in place in the travel folio, all details safely backed up in The Cloud—or, at least, on Ancestry.com—you’d think there wasn’t much left to do before our departure for our Ireland research trip.

Think again.

I can’t just sit back and let these next two weeks rush by me and not try to squeeze in as many other crazy research attempts as cross my mind. Call them wild goose chases, but they are not only my way of poking at the problem from every angle; they are a sign of my desperate hope that I will unearth the landslide of material I have yet to secure.

So I find myself engaging in silly escapades. Like the one inspired by the Mike Collins “Letter From Ireland” which I’ve told you about before. It’s a weekly commentary available free by subscription from Mike’s website.

One Sunday, about a month ago, Mike’s weekly letter arrived in my email with a book recommendation. Being a soul who cannot enter a bookstore without spending my life’s savings—or at least my charge card’s credit limit—on the contents the shopkeeper has on display, the mere mention of a book in his letter meant Mike had my attention.

The book Mike was recommending was once a best seller in the U.K. and Australia as well as in Ireland. It was said to have been uproariously amusing—always a nice bonus—and in the process of reading the thing, one would benefit from a narrative about off-the-beaten-path travels on the west side of Ireland.

The book was written by a British radio and television personality who specialized in comedy and travel programs. Though born in England, the author was raised by an Irish mother, and spent a good many childhood summers back in his mother’s homeland.

The premise stitching together the wandering—and mirthful—narrative was the author’s mantra, “Never pass a bar that has your name on it.” Considering the man’s name was Pete McCarthy, that meant a lot of stops in his travels “up and down the land.”

Since my husband, son of an American man of one hundred percent Irish descent, appreciates a good laugh, we thought it might be fun to look up a copy of the book—named, appropriately, McCarthy’s Bar. The book has certainly not disappointed in its promise.

Taking travel inspirations from that book, though, has its up-side and its down-side. If you have been following A Family Tapestry for the last few years, you may recall from the series on my husband’s father (starting here with his letters home during World War II) that our immediate family has experienced a very different viewpoint on the enjoyment of alcoholic beverages, from which it would not be characteristic of us to blithely drink our way from one end of the island to the other. In fact, my husband’s livelihood is partially drawn from his public presentations urging restraint in that very matter.

On the other hand, one of his cousins was once inspired to create that very same ambience of the Irish pubs that McCarthy describes, in a business he set up—in Kansas, of all places. In honor of his—and my husband’s—ancestor, he named his establishment Tully’s Pub. (That same place, incidentally, though having changed hands a few times since our cousin’s passing, may still be in operation, judging from this review from a few years back.)

Perhaps it would be possible to find a Tully’s Pub in the homeland of our John Tully of County Tipperary. I thought I’d take a look.

Heading for the Irish version of the trusty Google, I tried to find a Tully’s Pub in Ballina.

Or a Tully’s Bar.

Or a Tully’s…well, anything.

Apparently, the Tully name is not a commercially viable entity back in the homeland. At least not according to google.ie. Pity. I thought it might have made for some great photo ops.

Speaking of photos, though, apparently the very cover of Pete McCarthy’s best seller needed some doctoring. The real story was given up in a photo in Mike Collins’ own blog. Take a look here, scroll down to the first photograph, and see for yourself: in Castletownbere, it’s MacCarthy’s that is the establishment.

That, however, wouldn’t have made quite as engaging a story line for an author like McCarthy.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Re-Thinking Plans

Whether it was a cut fiber-optic line nearby, or havoc wreaked by solar flares this weekend, our Internet service was down for a good portion of the day yesterday. While the latter may make for interesting nighttime lighting effects for those living up north, whatever it was that took our Internet service down did not do any good for those of us who needed online access to continue our research. We were not amused.

The down time afforded one blessing in disguise, though: the dawning of the sobering thought that, should an unexpected difficulty like this arise during our upcoming research trip, we will need to be prepared with a “Plan B” approach.

Since A Family Tapestry runs on a daily basis, and since the original concept was that you all would (virtually) go with us to Ireland on our soon-approaching research journey there—you are coming, aren’t you?—the thought was to post a journal in transit of each day’s events, discoveries, and even dashed hopes. (Yes, sadly, I am bracing myself for the possibility.)

There is one key ingredient in such a plan: Internet connectivity.

At first, before being educated on the current state of Irish Internet connectivity, I had assumed this would be a challenge. By the time we had thoroughly researched travel arrangements and housing plans for our daughter, who is now studying at University College Cork, we realized one thing about Ireland: there is wifi everywhere. Most of the hotels I checked out offer it. Even the train from Dublin to Cork provides it. And, if all else fails, we can access a cell phone plan which includes hotspot service.

Once I found that out, I thought: no problem. This is do-able. I was gleefully planning daily posts of mini-photo-documentaries from each of the stops along our way up the western coast of the island.

Until I couldn’t even manage to get online in the comfort of my own home. All afternoon.

I envisioned the worst: not being able to create a post for the upcoming day’s issue. And this is before I’ve even left the country.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer a caveat to our upcoming adventure: if, for some reason, you tune in with the expectation of having everything in place, as it always is in your daily blog-reading routine, and find I’ve come up missing, no worries. It’s only been another extra-celestial glitch intruding upon our earthly endeavors.

 Above: "Job Lot Cheap," 1878 oil on canvas by County Cork native William Harnett; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

On a Lark

There are two kinds of genealogical research: the reasonably exhaustive search and the wild goose chase. Sometimes, you can't know which one is which until it is all over.

I’ve tried to be good and perform up to snuff with as close an approximation to the reasonably exhaustive search as possible. But sometimes, I just can’t help myself. Today was one of those days.

I keep hearing those apocryphal stories about people going to the Old Country, anxious to see if there are any distant cousins still living there. They breeze into town, find a phone book—really, how many phone books do you see lying around anymore?—and open up to the section of the alphabet containing their surname. Plunk a finger down in the midst of those listings and voilĂ ! An unsuspecting native, sure to be just the one who is that long-lost relative’s descendant.

Think that’s an urban legend? Think again. My esteemed tour guide for the Ireland research trip had such an experience. Of course, her name is Moughty, not Murphy. If this were my research trip to Poland and I was seeking my Aktabowski relatives, it might have worked for me, too. But not the dime-a-dozen collection I’m working on for this trip. Yeah, right: just try finding our Kelly relatives that way.

But I was still tempted. So I tried giving it a try. After all, what else can a soul do while chomping at the bit at the start gate to a research adventure?

My first attempt was to head to Ancestry.com and see if their collection contained any viable city directories for anyplace in Ireland. I quickly nixed that idea. Nothing remotely close.

So what does one do when wanting to search? Head for a search engine, of course. I never cease to be appreciative of search engines, for they seem to endlessly deliver just the results I’m seeking, no matter how arcane. There’s never any disparaging thought, complaint or snide remark. Just compliant service. Perhaps that’s why I so enjoyed using the search engine once known as “Ask Jeeves.” The iconic Jeeves encapsulated the quintessential concept in the service of Search.

There is this challenge that was called, a few years back, Googlewhacking: find two words that, entered together in the Google dialog box, will return only one hit. Never heard of it? Believe it or not, someone actually wrote a book about it.

I don’t know what I was thinking when I entered the terms “Tully” and “Ballina,” but I thought perhaps I would be extremely lucky to actually get even one hit. I didn’t, by the way, win the Googlewhack award for this round.

Yes, it was a silly thing to attempt—certainly not anything worthy of the concept of “a reasonably exhaustive search”—but it did lead me to several useful online entries. Like one from the Tithe Applotment Books, scanned by the National Archives of Ireland. I hadn’t yet pushed back that far in time—the time range for these records spans the years 1823 through 1837—because I had assumed my earliest known Tully male in County Tipperary would have been too young to show in this documentation. However, in thinking this over once again, I realized that Denis Tully might well have been represented in this listing of all who were obligated to pay tithes to the Church of Ireland.

While the page I was led to, originally, contained both the names “Tully” and “Denis,” they were not listed contiguously—as they might have, if I had correctly utilized those handy quote marks—but, if you notice, the results still led me to a scan which included a Tully in the very civil parish where our Tully should have appeared. The only Tully, as it turned out, was named Darby Tully. Relative? Too soon to tell.

An interesting side note was that the same page also contained someone with a Flannery surname—Michael, in this case—who could very well have had some relation to our Denis Tully’s wife, Margaret. Her maiden name, if you remember, was also Flannery. If Michael was indeed Margaret’s father’s name, then following Irish naming patterns, that would mean that Denis and Margaret’s son Michael would have actually been their second-born rather than their oldest son. In that case, where was the oldest son? Now I am wanting to go back and revisit those Canadian census records where I first found the immigrant Tully family.

And what about this listing I found, courtesy of that wild Google search, for “1831 Tithes Defaulters in Templeachally Parish”? If you use your “Find” function to navigate this long transcription of names, you will notice, in sequence, a listing for both a Darby Tully and a Dennis Tully. Ours? Maybe.

“Too soon to tell” may well be my motto, both now and on our upcoming research trip. While I certainly know better than to include such search results in my collection of answers from a “reasonably exhaustive search,” I’m afraid I just couldn’t help myself. This trip may still be two weeks away, but I’m already ready to go.

 Above: "The Dandelion Clock" by Irish-American artist, William John Hennessy; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Some Practical Matters

Traveling does entail its own logistical challenges—especially for those of us who travel to research our destination after we arrive there. The nature of our research journey to Ireland this October is two-fold: first, to head to the rural areas where my husband’s Irish immigrant family originated; then, to attend to a concentrated week of research in the libraries and archives of Dublin.

Although I’m set when it comes to the Dublin library work—hotel, days’ activities and most meals are already arranged—in the preceding two weeks, we will be free to follow our noses, search and find, then search some more, as we drive from one tiny town to another, seeking our Irish roots on the west side of the island. There is a lot of planning yet to do, regarding the mundane details of where to stay, where to eat, who to meet. And yet, there is the need for the freedom to pick up and head in a different direction or mode if a lead is uncovered that warrants the flexibility.

Planning—or anti-planning—for those first two weeks will be a world away from the preparation for a week’s worth of wading through books and microfilm. After all, one solid week of this trip will be spent inside. Inside some rather sizeable buildings, admittedly, but inside.

Yes, think about it: I’m heading to a library. Who cares what the weather will be like? The more pertinent question will be: Does Dublin prefer the east coast mode of freezing-cold-winters-equals-cranking-the-indoor-temperature-unbearably-high? Or are they more like our laid back west coast style, environmentally friendly yet freezing their residents…while they are indoors? I know what the Scots would do (courtesy of my sister, whose daughter currently attends college in Scotland). But how about those Irish?

As I write about such weather quandaries, I’m heading into a day predicted to reach ninety eight degrees. In comparison, the residents of Cork—our center of operation for those first two weeks in Ireland—are well on their way towards a balmy sixty eight degree high this afternoon. Just add rain and these numbers are sure to plummet. This may take some adjustment.

I wouldn’t need to trouble myself over such pesky creature comforts if it weren’t for the trivial matter of packing my measly fifty-pound-limited suitcase. And leaving spare room for shopping. Not to mention, lugging around those items someone neglected to bring with her at her departure from the homeland five weeks ago.

Oh, did I mention books? Laptop? Notebooks? Records? There may not be much room for clothing. I believe I will be opting for the layered look—same outfit repeated ad nauseam minus one item for warmer weather, plus one for misery rain.

Then there is that creature comfort known as sleep. Face it: everybody has to do it at some time or another. If I can’t manage to do it during the flight, it will be Despicable Me making the grand entrance at the Dublin airport. I know; I did it once before in Frankfurt. It will not be pretty. Regardless, if I want a place to lay my head that night, I have to decide now: immediately travel the extra three hours it will take to get from the airport to the train station, then to Cork? Or stop off in Dublin and catch up on sleep right away? Who knows what I’ll feel like when I get there. But there is this sticky little detail called reservations standing in the way of my free spirit.

Which brings up another point: where to sleep. If we opt for wimping out in Dublin, I know exactly where to stay: the same place our daughter stopped at on her way to Cork. The staff there was quite accommodating of her jet lag, and it made the perfect stopover for someone who intended to do nothing else while there than sleep.

But the rest of the way? I’m still pondering over the possibilities of quaint local bed and breakfast versus stodgy old American-style corporate cookie-cutter hotel. While the former sounds quite charming, I know how a night on “charming” can feel. We do, after all, have B&Bs here in America.

There are, of course, other options. We could stay in a castle. We just might stay in a castle. As for hostels, well, think again. I think I’ve outgrown my college travel-the-world bravado.

What helps with the hotel planning is my secret other identity as frequent-flier-mileage queen. (Although, admittedly, I can’t top this.) For many of our stops, we will be “limited” to the facilities included on our airlines frequent flier program. But that won’t stop us from using them for stays in the cities, and selecting other options when we begin exploration of our ancestral turf.

Which brings me back to the question: Hotel? B&B? Or castle?

That is the question.

 Above: Sketch of the Vice-Regal Lodge in Dublin, circa 1831, by Irish artist George Petrie; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

An Irish Potpourri

It’s funny how I just can’t stop researching. Yes, we leave for Ireland in a little over two weeks—you’d think I’d get the hint. The compelling force of that tendency to cram in “just a little bit more” is overwhelming for this last-minute zombie.

Perhaps, to freshen the research air and divert my attention from that must-do compulsion, I can give a brief re-cap of the online resources that I've found helpful—or no, hold me back look like they might be worth checking out. These, of course, are sites focusing on genealogical research in Ireland, not the international powerhouses, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

Finding these resources was in itself a journey. I can’t say how I stumbled upon each of them. Google likely played a prominent role in the discovery process, but in other cases, I bumped into these by following my digital nose. See if any of these mentions strike your fancy.

It was quite a while back that I ran into rootsireland.ie, the creation of the Irish Family History Foundation. While I first remember using their resources before the advent of their credit system—and am not sure I like it as it stands now—the data covered all the areas I was seeking in Ireland, with the exception of County Kerry.

That, however, was handily covered by another website which I soon discovered, irishgenealogy.ie. They, too, however, have undergone a redesign, but I still managed to find the few County Kerry Catholic records I was seeking there.

The National Archives of Ireland just happens to have a list with links to other resources for researching family roots in their country, which I’ve found to be helpful.

Through blog-hopping, I’ve found some other resources, too. I found the Irish Genealogical Society International—don’t let that name fool you; their library and classes are offered in Saint Paul, Minnesota—and they produce a blog which sometimes leads to clues on additional research resources.

Last spring, when I attended the genetic genealogy conference held concurrently with the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Jamboree, I met and had an informative conversation with Dr. Maurice Gleeson, who spoke extensively on genealogical research in Ireland. Of course, he is very involved with their genetic genealogy conference there, and so I began following that conference blog as well. They’ve just posted their speaker’s roster for this upcoming conference in Dublin, which, coincidentally, I will be able to attend.

Another blog I started following, and which I’ve found very helpful, is Claire Santry’s Irish Genealogy News. In addition, the blog is linked to her Irish Genealogy Toolkit, a helpful compendium of tips and guides.

In the midst of all these genealogical giants, it may seem unusual to find the next listing, but I want to share it anyhow. Do you ever find it helpful, in mounting your own project, to look sideways at what your peers are doing? As prime advocate for the guinea pig approach to researching genealogy, I do that all the time. That’s why I appreciate the blog written by one of A Family Tapestry’s readers, Dara. She writes regularly—from Ireland, I might add—about her research finds on her own ancestors. If you don’t already, you can follow her at Black Raven Genealogy.

Thanks to Dara, I've found yet another website to explore during this last-minute push to find everything that possibly may be found. At SWilson.info, you can find maps, articles and other Irish material, mostly on Dublin. With my penchant for maps, I've been playing with their parish-finder, but I see there is a wealth of other information to mine there, as well.

Just for fun—it doesn’t really help me discover anything more about our family’s immediate Irish roots, but it does widen my horizons to an awareness of a much deeper heritage preserved in Ireland’s treasures—I follow archaeologist Colm Moriarty’s blog, Irish Archaeology. With a daughter over there studying that very subject, how could I not?

Besides blogs, I have found one other site to be helpful. It is the forum at Ireland Reaching Out, a mostly volunteer-driven initiative to conduct a national “reverse genealogy programme.” As their website explains it:
Instead of waiting for people of Irish descent to trace their roots, we go the other way. Working through voluntary effort at a townland, village and parish level in Ireland, we identify who left those areas, and trace them and their descendants worldwide.

The idea behind their effort is to organize volunteers from each parish to be available for assistance. I’ve utilized the forum a number of times, always receiving helpful guidance over the years—often, answers I wouldn’t have been able to find elsewhere.

Of course, the “Irish Ancestors” section of The Irish Times has been indispensable to me over the several months I’ve concentrated on this research goal.

One last resource that seems to defy categorization—or origin—is the weekly letter sent out by Mike Collins of County Cork. The subscription, offered at no charge, brings a Sunday morning chatty “Letter From Ireland” from Mike, covering the local perspective on traveling to Ireland for genealogical research purposes. Of course, the letter is connected to a website which provides helpful resources, as well. Take a look and see what you think.

Well, I know I’ve frequented many more sites than these, in trying to absorb every aspect of what I need to know before we go. But for a recap, I thought this might be a helpful start to collect as many resources as possible into one post. Hopefully, for those of you following this same path, it will bring you just the revelation you were seeking.

Above: "Feeding the Chickens," by Irish impressionist Walter Frederick Osborne, 1885 oil on canvas; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Not On the Boat

While I still have a little over two weeks before we take off on our research trip to Ireland, in one way I feel as if I’ve buttoned down all the details that possibly could be attended to before we go. In a strange way, that leaves me with that “milling about” sense of lack of direction for upcoming blog posts. I do still have research details that need attention—just not the type that would make for an interesting post. So my mind is already wandering, grasping for that next step—that next writing goal.

At the same time, I’ve been thinking on the same wavelength as some of you, and your comments are particularly resonating with me right now. That’s how yesterday’s post on books came about—triggered by a comment from reader Colleen Brown Pasquale, and a conversation that’s likely still ongoing.

Like a winding chain, there was another comment—this time, on yesterday’s post, by reader Wendy—that just called out for me to turn into a post what would have otherwise ended up as a long comment.

Here’s the start of Wendy’s comment:
I envy that you have traced your ancestors to Ireland and that you have them IN Ireland. I can't get mine out of New York and back on the boat.

I have to say, you got me there, Wendy! I really feel for you. But here’s the secret reason why: I can’t find any trace of passenger records revealing the arrival of any of my husband’s four separate Irish families in the New World, with the one notable exception of the renegade Stephen Molloy—but only thanks to his letter home, just before he left Ireland in 1849. The closest thing I came to transportation records for the rest of the bunch was the mention of a date of arrival and supposed port—New Orleans—for our original Stevens arrival. And that was per the applicant’s own report, not verified by any record or witness.

If it weren’t for the pack rat tendencies of some of our ancestors—who apparently never threw anything away—I wouldn’t have had the details I did to lead me to these families’ homelands in Ireland.

But it wasn’t all thanks to those hoarders of ephemera. There were some other resources, which I’d like to review now.

The primary discovery I made was thanks to an old obituary. Those old hometown papers in small, rural areas where gossip was news could become grand revealers of family origins. I’ve been amazed to see what private details were divulged in public eulogies. That’s how I came across the first clue that our Fort Wayne Kelly family was from County Kerry. The “Lakes of Killarney” mention in the newspaper may have been a little more picturesque and poetic than pinpoint accurate, but it did lead me to a maiden name (Falvey) and some birth records that I consider a real possibility.

Of course, there are other newspaper sources as well. I have a friend at our local genealogical society who could not find her ancestor’s immigration records, though she personally checked at the appropriate courthouse office and knew the correct time frame. However, cranking her way through the local newspaper on microfilm for that specific year, she found a tiny announcement in the newspaper listing his name among the legal proceedings for the week, verifying that he filed his immigration papers. (Apparently, the courthouse lost them. Or mis-filed them. I’ll opt for the benefit of the doubt.)

While my own odyssey through the multi-volume set of The Search for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in the Boston Pilot was a tedious but unsuccessful journey, it may not be for others. You can start with the online search engine, but I’d also recommend checking the actual books, themselves, if you can get your hands on them. Of course, there are other such books as well.

Another source that may divulge family secrets—at least, for those whose ancestors were among the faithful at church attendance—is sacramental records. I was fortunate in that Catholic baptisms and marriages for Fort Wayne are available on microfilm through the Family History Library. I obtained the specific film for my family via interlibrary loan through my local Family History Center. While most records were duly completed in the most routine manner, occasionally there would be a stray comment in a margin that revealed a bit more information.

An example in which this might be helpful would be a marriage between a known member of the local parish to someone from a distant congregation. After leaving Ireland, did any of those Sheehan sisters marry in America? In such cases, often the priest or pastor would request confirmation from the other party’s clergy to verify that everything was properly in order. That’s where details may be gleaned on where the other party originated—such goodies as the name and location of the parish. Those details likely would be inscribed in the margin of the church records, as they were in the case of our Will Stevens moving from Fort Wayne to Chicago, then proposing to a Chicago gal. I suspect the letters confirming baptismal dates that we found for our Tully ancestors were likely obtained for a similar purpose.

When Wendy mentioned searching for her Irish immigrant ancestors, the Sheehan sisters, I thought of this church verification scenario. If it doesn’t work for one sister, perhaps it would for another. Sometimes, we need to search collateral lines for a couple generations before we see any clues to help us untangle our own lines, but it is worth the effort.

Wendy also referred to a situation with her Sheehan sisters that I’ve called serial immigration—one sibling heading for America, then sending notice back to family that, yes, c’mon over! A place to stay, maybe the security of a job, and one sibling helps the next make the journey. Our Fort Wayne Kelly family seemed to have done that, with a younger Timothy Kelly—whose relationship to our John Kelly I still can’t fathom—being the anchor family for the more recent John Kelly arrivals.

Of course, that makes finding the family in passenger lists more challenging, because we don’t have the luxury of matching a cluster of names. And we all know how frustrating Irish names can be. One Mary Kelly traveling alone could be—well, anyone. It would be almost impossible to say which one among so many with the same name was the one.

On the other hand, depending on time frame of immigration, it may be possible to test that hypothesis of the Sheehan family being “from Cork” by checking for any cluster of siblings’ names being in one family. There are some baptismal or birth records available on websites like FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com, as well as the Irish online resources to help with a quick test.

I totally agree with Wendy that family oral traditions can be suspect—especially a report that the sisters were “from Cork.” As Wendy mentioned, it could just mean that was the point from which they sailed, not their hometown. Besides, even if they lived in “Cork,” was it the city Cork, or County Cork? But if there is a good list of several Sheehan siblings, and a general guess as to their years of birth, there may be a way to locate possible families from that wider geographic area. Of course, it would only be a guess—but a better one than what’s available so far.

I have to admit, I jumped the gun when I tried out my hypotheses on my Tully and Flannery families, seeking any records in online resources. I certainly had no firm passenger records to point the way homeward. But it was still possible to isolate a few viable possibilities from the rest of the pack which helped move us closer to some answers. It wasn’t a single, step-by-step process, of course, as corollary material surfaced to help confirm what I was tentatively fingering.

I guess the only way I can compare this process is to blindly moving ahead in the dark, wildly waving our arms out in front of us to keep us from stumbling. Somehow, as we make that oh-so-slow progress, we snag a few clues that amplify certain possibilities and turn us, microscopically, in a course-correcting direction. And so we ever proceed.

 Above: "Kou-Kou," 1895 oil on canvas, Georgios Jakobides; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
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