Saturday, January 7, 2017

What Happened to the Parents of Cecelia J. Flynn? Using Parts of FAN Principle to Analyze Margaret Loughrey and Thomas Flynn

The FAN principle was introduced by Elizabeth Shown Mills as a method to identify individuals through context of family, associates and neighbors. This can be especially helpful when records are scarce.  However the method can also be helpful when families or individuals "disappear" from records due to various reasons including re-marrying. The case below follows parts of the FAN principle to determine what happened to the parents of Cecelia Jane Flynn and identifies  extended family and potential extended family.

Cecelia Jane Flynn was married to Edward Gossart about 1880 in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Cecelia was born November 25, 1857 to Thomas and Margaret Flynn according to family stories. She died on April 9, 1921 at the age of 63 and was buried in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne, Pennsylvania. Cecelia Jane's death certificate identified her parents as Thomas Flynn and Margaret Loughrey.

A death notice for Cecelia from the Wilkes-Barre Record identified two sisters, Mrs. Mathers and Mrs. Bierly. 1

The only likely Census entry for a Thomas and Margaret Flynn with three daughters was found in the 1860 U.S. Census where a Flynn family lived in Jenkins, Luzerne, Pennsylvania.  The entry identifies the family as Thomas and Margaret and three daughters, Anna M., Sarah J. and Adelia.2

It is thought that an entry for the Gosart family in the 1880 U.S. Census3 includes Cecelia though the relationships are not clear, as Cecelia married Edward and would not be listed as a Louis, and the use of second surname is odd since Louisa is too young to be married at 13, and it was known that Maria Louisa Gosart had a daughter Emma as well and the entry may be misinterpreted.

1880 U.S. Census Record

There was no other Census entry found for Thomas Flynn and family nor for just Margaret and the girls assuming she was a widow. Thus further research into the families of Mrs. Mathers, Mrs. Bierly and Cecelia Jane was conducted to potentially determine what happened to Thomas and Margaret.

A death certificate for a Hannah Mather dated August 29, 1924 was located in which her parents were identified as Thomas Flynn and Margaret Loughrey.4 This indicates that Anna/Hannah had parents with the same name as Cecelia. Furthermore, Anna/Hannah was born June 25, 1855 in Pennsylvania, the date corresponds to Anna from the 1860 Census.  She married in 1874 to John Mather,5 they had 10 children in 27 years.  The birth year agrees with the 1860 Census. A death notice for Hannah indicates she was a Flynn prior to her marriage,6 further linking her and Cecelia.

Newspapers continued to provide details assisting the research for researching the Flynn family.  The link of Cecelia Jane Flynn Gossart, Anna/Hannah Flynn Mather, Margaret Loughrey Flynn and Thomas Flynn led to an article for the 80th birthday of a Delia Bierly.7  Bierly was the surname for Cecelia's sister previously mentioned in her death notice.

The article states Delia was born September 29, 1858 in Port Griffith, Luzerne, Pennsylvania to Thomas Flynn and Margaret Loughrey. She married a Peter Schmitt first and then a William Bierly. Delia died July 6, 1948 in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne, Pennsylvania.8  The parents for Hannah Mather, Cecelia Gossart and Delia Bierly are all the same, Thomas Flynn and Margaret Loughrey.

Thus, through a death notice of Cecelia Jane identifying her sister's married names, we can confirm the parents as Thomas Flynn and Margaret Loughrey, for Cecelia, Hannah and Delia. The question then becomes is this the right family of the 1860 census. Is Cecelia Jane the Sarah J identified in the census with the correct approximate age?  Delia is close to Adelia, the third sister from the 1860 Census with her age closely matching the article date from 1938. Anna is close to Hannah and the age is close to the birth information in the death certificate. What happened to the family from this potential entry in 1860 until the 1920s?

An article from the Wilkes-Barre Record in 19089 indicated:
"Mrs. Margaret Townley, an aged resident of Wilke-Barre, while at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Ed Gossert, in Greenwood a few days ago, fell and seriously injured her right hip."  

As difficult as it is to read the trials and tribulations of an ancestor, a clue is found in that Mrs. Ed Gossert, other wise known as Cecelia Jane Flynn, had her mother visiting and instead of Margaret Loughrey or Flynn, she is now listed as "Townley" suggesting she has remarried after having three Flynn daughters.

Further research led to a death notice of a Mrs. Robert Townsley in the home of her daughter Hannah (Flynn) Mather.  The notice in the Wilkes-Barre Record from Oct. 9, 1916 indicates she is survived by three daughters, Mrs. Hannah Mather, Mrs. William Bierley, and Mrs. Edward Gossert.10  The information indicates the same three sisters previously linked and now provides a name of Robert Townsley.  The name spellings seems to vary for Townley/Townsley; Loughrey/Loughney/Loughery; Gossert/Gossart/Gosart.

The death certificate for Margaret Townsley dated October 8, 1916 provides the names of her parents as Wm. Loughery and Mary Glenn.11  The informant is Hannah Mather.

An newspaper article from the Wilke-Barre Record dated Jan. 19, 189712 stated,  "Mrs. J. Townsley and granddaughter Miss Mary Gussart of Pittston, spent Sunday at the Dempsey residence."  The article is thought relevant as Miss Mary Gussart is likely the daughter of Cecelia, Mary Louise Gossart.  However, this creates an issue since Margaret Loughrey appeared to have married Thomas Flynn then a man named Townsley, where at least one article states Robert while another article states Mrs. J Townsley.

A search of the census records for Margaret Townsley/Townley in 1870 or 1880 finds a single entry in 1880 for Margaret Townley listed as wife of Samuel Townley in Plymouth, Luzerne, Pennsylvania.  A Michael Erwin/Irvin is listed as step-son to Samuel.13  There are two city directory entries for Margaret Townley, widow of Samuel, for 189214 and 189415. The funeral notice for Margaret Loughrey Flynn Townsley listed her pall bearers as grandsons: Patrick Maher, Leonard Irving, Thomas Mather, Patrick Schmitt, Charles Betterly, and Raymond Schmitt.16  Since the grandsons would be children of her daughters or associated with additional marriages - the obvious names from her daughters could include Mather, Gossart, Schmitt and Townsley.

Likely Name
Patrick Maher
Peter Mather
Son of Hannah Flynn Mather
Thomas Mather
Son of Hannah Flyunn Mather
Patrick Schmitt
Peter Schmitt
Son of Delia Flynn Schmitt Bierly
Raymond Schmitt
Son of Delia Flynn Schmitt Bierly
Charles Betterly
Son-in-law of Hannah Flynn Mather
Leonard Irving


Charles Betterly was determined to the husband of Mary Mather, daughter to Hannah Flynn Mather, who married Charles Bowman Betterly.  As for Leonard Irving, there is no obvious connection for why he would be a grandson to Margaret.  Questions arise relative to an error in the newspapers or is there a connection between the step-son of Samuel Townley from the 1880 census and is Michael Irvin/Erwin a son to Margaret, suggesting a possible marriage between Thomas Flynn and the Townsley person?

The use of wild card searching led to an 1870 U.S. census record in Plains, Luzerne, Pennsylvania for a Margaret Irwin and others17 as follows:

1870 U.S. Census for Margaret Irwin

Irwin, Thomas
-----, Margaret
Flinn, Anna M.
-----, Bedlia
-----, Dominick
Irwin, Bedelia
-----, Michael

The interesting entry presents several potential links, the first being Anna M. Flinn.  She is the appropriate age of Anna/Hannah Flynn based on the 1860 census and has the same middle initial. Bedelia Flynn may represent Delia Flynn being close in age to the 1860 census.  However, there is no Sarah/Cecelia, so is Bedelia actually Cecelia and Bedelia Irwin actually Delia Flynn, if so the birthdates are slightly off and of course the names being similar, could be an errant census recording.  If so, there is a new Flynn, Dominick, who is he and what happened to Dominick? Is the Irwin name, Michael Irwin related to Leonard Irving?

A Samuel Townley is found in Plymouth, Luzerne, Pennsylvania in the 1870 U.S. Census with two daughters, Mary Ann, 7, and Ellen, 3 in the home of John Dodson.18  There is no Margaret.  So how do the two entries relate to Margaret Loughrey if at all?

The current hypothesis is that Margaret Loughrey married Thomas Flynn, had three daughters, Hannah, Cecelia and Delia.  The theory is she was widowed and possibly married married a man with the last name of Irving/Irwin, was widowed again and married a man named Townsley.  Further research into the Irwin/Irving/Erwin name might help confirm this, but no research to date has added evidence to the theory.

Turning to the question of what happened to Thomas Flynn after 1860 and more specific, is the 1860 census entry the correct family, newspapers provided some clues.  A search of articles in newspapers from 1860-1870 and focused in the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania region resulted in an article for a sheriff sale in the Luzerne Union dated Jan. 25, 1860.19  The article discusses a parcel of land as follows:
"A certain place or parcel of land situate in Jenkins township, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, bounded and described as follows: on the south by the WilkesBarre and Providence plank road, on the west by lands of Wm. Loughey, on the north by lands of William Loughey and Patrick Maylen , and on the east by land of Patrick Maylen . . .Late the estate of the defendant in said writ named, with the appurtenances."
"Seized and taken in execution at the suit of Patrick Lenahan, to the use of Bernard Duffy vs. Thomas Flynn."

Several names in the description of the parcel were of interest starting with Thomas Flynn.  Two other names were William Loughey and Patrick Maylen.  Loughey is close  Loughery and Margaret Loughrey's father was William, could these neighbors connect the family?

The 1860 census for Thomas Flynn and family was expanded to show the neighbors, Henry Gibbons, Patrick Moylan, William Loughrey and Mary McGee.  As the spelling of Loughrey was varied in newspapers, it is likely that William Loughey is William Loughrey and Patrick Moylan is Patrick Maylen.  However, this William Loughrey is the same age as Margaret (Loughrey) Flynn and unlikely to be her father, more likely to be a brother or cousin, but a further connection to Loughery name.

A newspaper entry for Sheriff sale in the Luzerne Union dated Oct. 14, 1863 describes the same parcel of land near William Lochey and Patrick Moylon.20  The final sentence, "Seized and taken in execution of the suit of Francis Flynn vs. Michael Flynn, administrator of Thomas Flynn, deceased", provides evidence that this Thomas Flynn died between 1860 and 1863.

The current conclusion based on neighbors is that the Thomas Flynn identified in the 1860 census with neighbors of William Loughery and Patrick Moylon died between 1860-1863. His wife was Margaret and they had three daughters, Anna, Sarah and Adelia. Anna is likely Hannah, Sarah is likely Cecelia and Adelia is likely Delia. Hannah/Anna Flynn Mather, Cecelia Jane Flynn Gossart and Delia Flynn Schmitt Bierly were sisters. Thus, the current thought is that this is the Flynn family of interest.

The current proposal is that Margaret Loughrey married Thomas Flynn and upon being widowed possibly married Thomas Irwin (mutiple spellings), was widowed again and likely married Samuel Townsley. Margaret's father was a William Loughrey and mother was Mary Glenn.

William Loughrey in the 1860 census is possibly related to Margaret Loughrey and offers potential for more research.

Additional research into the Townsley and Irwin/Erwin/Irving name is an area for further research as is looking for Dominick Flynn/Flinn.

What do you think of the handwriting analysis?

1 The Wilkes-Barre Record, 11 Apr 1921, Mon, Page 3
2 Year: 1860; Census Place: Jenkins, Luzerne, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1134; Page: 316; Image: 323; Family History Library Film: 805134
3 Year: 1880; Census Place: Wilkes Barre, Luzerne, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1149; Family History Film: 1255149; Page: 558C; Enumeration District: 114; Image: 0440
4 Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
5 1900; Census Place: Wilkes Barre Ward 16, Luzerne, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1436; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0186; FHL microfilm: 1241436
6 Pittston Gazette (Pittston, Pennsylvania)30 Aug 1924, Sat • Page
7 The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, PA), 28 Sep 1938, Wed, Page 18
8 Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
9 The Wilkes-Barre Record, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Tue, Jan 28, 1908 – Page 5
10 The Wilkes-Barre Record, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Mon, Oct 9, 1916 – Page
11 Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
12 The Wilkes-Barre Record, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Tue, Jan 19, 1897 – Page 5
13 Year: 1880; Census Place: Plymouth, Luzerne, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1150; Family History Film: 1255150; Page: 365A; Enumeration District: 144; Image: 073
14 Pittston, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1892. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011
15 Pittston, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1894. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011
16 The Wilkes-Barre Record, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Thursday, October 12, 1916
17 1870; Census Place: Plains, Luzerne, Pennsylvania
18 1870; Census Place: Plymouth, Luzerne, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1367; Page: 490A; Image: 184777; Family History Library Film: 552866
19 The Luzerne Union, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Wed, Jan 25, 1860 – Page 3
20 The Luzerne Union, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Wed, Oct 14, 1863 – Page 2

© 2017 William C. Barrett


  1. Wow! Very impressive research - thanks for sharing. I would like to try this technique. I'm also currently researching ancestors living in Wilkes-barre during this time!

    1. Thanks for the message. It took me awhile to write this up, but I got lucky with the newspaper name references to go back and cross reference census and vital records.