Today's blog deals with my final resolution for the new year. Find the county, and hopefully townland of Great-Great-Grandpa James White. Of my sixteen great-great-grands, he is the only one who has eluded all attempts to find his origins. I know he came from Ireland around 1854 and settled near Palmyra, New York. I know from his children's answers in the 1930 census that he was from what was known as the Irish Free State, meaning he did not come from one of the six northern counties of Ireland; but that still left twenty-six counties and innumerable parishes and townlands.
I dug out my records from St. Anne's Parish in Palmyra, NY and extracted all the Whites and Keyes (Jame's mother was Margaret Keyes) I could find. One of them must have been related to him, and if I couldn't find Grandpa's birthplace maybe I could find a relative's. Long ago I searched through the records of St. Anne's and found several persons with the White surname who were possible relatives. One, Catherine White Ryan, did indeed turn out to be Grandpa's sister, but none of her records have revealed a townland or county either.
Another possibility was Mary White. St. Anne's baptismal records name her as the mother of Owen and Margaret Flynn--their father was Michael Flynn. I can follow them in the census records over the years, and found Mary's grave marker in St. Anne's cemetery BUT the marker reads--Mary Fitzpatrick Flynn? I have no explanation for this. She is buried with her husband and children, the same ones in the census, the same ones in the baptismal records where her surname is "White".
It occurred to me, that when I first looked at St. Anne's records many years ago I could easily have missed a few entries or made mistakes, there were older Flynn children I hadn't made note of, so Monday I went to the church office. My search produced the marriage record of Michael Flynn to Mary Fitzpatrick, daughter of Andrew Fitzpatrick and Julia White. Come on! Why was she using her mother's surname in her children's baptismal records?
It gets even more maddening, her older children's records say their mother was Mary Fitzpatrick, but in 1881 Owen Flynn's baptism says his mother was Mary White and in 1883 Margaret Flynn's record also originally said Mary White was her mother, just as I had recorded it long ago. However, the first time I looked at these records it was on a rented film from the Mormon Church. Now, as I looked at Margaret's baptism in the parish office I saw this--Margaret Flynn of Michael Flynn and Mary
As I was puzzling over that, I recalled that in the 1865 New York census, Grandpa's sister, my 3rd great-Aunt Catherine White Ryan, had a young woman named Mary Fitzpatrick from Ireland living with her in Palmyra. I think from the ages of the two Marys, they were one and the same person. Mary Fitzpatrick was godmother to Aunt Catherine White Ryan's son John in 1863, and in turn Aunt Catherine was godmother to Mary Flynn's first child. So how is this a great lead? Because Mary Fitzpatrick Flynn's grave stone reads, "Born In Queens County Ireland"!
But there's more, looking at my great-grandmother Ellen White's marriage record I saw that her witness was Mary Flynn, probably Mary Fitzpatrick Flynn's daughter. They must be related, right? But the icing on the cake? DNA. Along with the church records, I've been scouring my Ancestry DNA matches for Keyes relatives and I found one, then another. All my matches are with people whose Keyes ancestors were from Queens County, or County Laois as it's been known since they booted the Brits out.
I think I've got some great leads here, nothing in black and white, but a good start. I'm sure Michael Flynn didn't have a second wife, Mary outlived him, and the children born before and after Owen and Margaret were recorded as the children of Mary Fitzpatrick. The likely parish in Laois, Rathdowney, is missing a large chunk of records about the time Grandpa James' parents would have married, and he would have been born. But even though that is quite disappointing, it would explain why all my attempts to find him have met with failure.