The O’Flynn family is certainly not the Von Trapp family singers, so I wouldn’t expect you to start humming that tune or know where our ancestral beginning actually starts.
In 2014 I took a couple of weeks to begin playing with Ancestry.com to see if I could make sense of the “O” no “O” Flynn family. From my scant files on the family and recalling the many stories about the very prolific and productive Denis O’Flynn, whose first wife (Bridget O’Leary) died around the birth of their 10th child and his second wife (Madge Morey) with whom he had another 10 or so children, that was about all that I knew about the start of the O’Flynn family. And not having my grandfather or father around to check my facts, I was on my own at the start of this journey.
So my great-grandfather was ground zero for me. I knew his name was Denis Flynn or Denis O’Flynn and that his first wife was Bridget O’Leary.
Ancestry.com is great but you have to engage in some real detective work or make some calculated assumptions about certain dates — when was he born, when was he married, when did he die. The Irish census records of 1901 and 1911 are fantastic starting points.
In 1901, Denis and Bridget were living in a house at 16.3 Thomas Street (Queenstown Urban, Cork). Here is a screenshot of the census records:
Here is a copy of the original census form:
So here is what we can conclude about Denis Flynn (no “O”) in April 1901. That he was 26 years old — putting his birth year around 1875. This is the first piece of the puzzle. The second was his birthplace; Unlike his wife, he was born not in Cork City but in County Cork. Denis was listed as a mail car driver — sounds like a respectable job. I’m not quite sure what he was driving — a motorized vehicle?, a horse drawn carriage? Not sure. But those are two important clues to the puzzle. They also didn’t live in Cork City in 1901.They lived in Queenstown (now know as Cobh) but had lived in Cork City prior to the birth of Daniel Flynn who was 4 months at the time of the census and who was their first child born in Queenstown.
The second caused me to stop and rethink whether this was indeed our Denis Flynn. Can you see what my concern would be? Doesn’t look like my grandfather is listed and knowing that my grandfather was born in 1895, he would have been nearly 6 at the time of this census and yet he wasn’t listed as part of their household. So where was he and why wasn’t he included. There was only one name familiar to me, Norah Flynn. We met my grandfather’s sister, our great-aunt Norah Leahy, in Cork City in 1973. She lived with her husband in a little house in Cork City.
The other names (Daniel and Christina) were not familiar and from quick searches of the records not much could be found.
So I focused my attention on finding my grandfather, John Joseph Flynn, who was born on 20 July 1895, and his parents were indeed Denis and Bridget. But why is he not listed and where was he living. His parent’s house in Queenstown was obviously a busy place as they had four children under the age of 6. Denis seemed to have a good job as a mail car driver, but why isn’t my grandfather listed as their son and living with them.
I recalled a story that he lived with his grandmother, but I assumed that that was after his own mother died. So the hunt for his grandmother was in order but I didn’t know her name or where she lived. Again back to the 1901 census and simple ‘time on task’ detective work. Given that Denis Flynn was listed as being born in County Cork and not Cork City, that allowed me to make the assumption that perhaps he was from Rathcormac as well. So the search for John Flynn in Rathcormac became the next step.
Bingo — John Flynn, age 5 (he was born in July and the census was taken in April) who was born in Cork City was living with his grandparents, John and Hanorah Flynn, in Bridgeland East, just outside the main village of Rathcormac and down the hill from Kilshannig — I’d say that we found him.
So what was he doing living in Rathcormac at the age of 5 with his grandparents and not living with his parents and four siblings in Queenstown in 1901? I do remember my father saying that he went to the same school as his father and his grandfather in Rathcormac during at our first trip to Ireland in 1973 — that’s why my brother Sean and I attended classes in May of that year in the local school to continue the tradition and become the fourth generation of Flynns to attend that school. It’s interesting, I found a recent online news article that stated that the school we attended was built in 1948 but that the school that my father, grandfather and great-grandfather attended was built in 1835.
So perhaps the reason that my grandfather was living in Rathcormac in 1901 was to attend school, under the guidance of his grandmother Hanorah and his namesake grandfather John Flynn.
What I have learned from academic research is that you need to confirm or triangulate your findings with at least two other sources so that you can be certain that the findings are valid.
In my next posting I will tell you how I refocused my search to the Bridgeland East area of Rathcormac to confirm that my great-grandfather was indeed born in Rathcormac and that his parents (my great, great-grandparents), John and Hanorah Flynn also lived in Rathormac and that my grandfather had moved from Cork City, probably at the time of his brother Daniel’s birth in 1900, to live with his grandparents in on Bride Street so that he could attend the national school in Rathcormac in 1901.