A tree grows in Brooklyn: discovering the Gorry family tree is not as sparse as I once thought

My Gorry family line is notoriously narrow and sparse. My grandfather and his brother had nine kids between them and more than 20 grandkids, but when you consider that their father was of four kids but the only one to grow to adulthood, and that their grandfather, James Gorry, was one of four kids but the only one who had children…well, 20 descendants 5 generations in is kind of sad and pathetic, if I do say so myself.

So, in the beginning of my genealogy research, I knew of my 3x great-grandfather, James Gorry, who immigrated to New York from County Meath, Ireland, as a son of Cornelius Gorry, who died in Kells, County Meath, Ireland in 1897. I knew nothing of any siblings, so my Gorry tree was very narrow indeed - think Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree scrawny for a visual. Over the years, though, my research connected me to a cousin descended from James’ brother Charles Gorry, who ended up in the Manchester area of Lancashire, England, a cousin descended from James’ sister Catherine Gorry McNamee, who remained in Ireland, and a cousin descended from Mary Gorry Tuite, a sister who also ended up in New York. My tree was starting to look not quite as sad, but those discoveries were more than a few years ago, and since I couldn’t get any back further from Cornelius, I thought well, that was the extent of my Gorry tree.

I’ve been in this business too long to have possibly thought that was true. There is always—ALWAYS—something new to discover.

The past couple of years, FindMyPast has been adding marriage and baptismal record indexes to their website from the New York Archdiocese, and this past week, images for those marriage records went online en masse. I had already gotten the dates I needed for my Gorrys, most of who lived in Manhattan though they eventually ended up in Brooklyn, so why bother looking at the images, too, right? Wrong. Lesson #1: Always look at the images. Never trust that a name has been transcribed correctly. Never trust that all the information in the record has been transcribed to the index. Key information was waiting for me in those images that literally unlocked a flood of new relatives and it all came down to the names of the WITNESSES on the marriage records.

So, let me start all over again recapping my tree. I looked up the marriage record for my 3rd great-grandparents, James Gorry and Mary Corr, who were married in St. Mary’s on Grand Street on June 28, 1855 and whose witnesses were Philip Wright and Rosana McNulty, who I do not know. But I thought to myself, hey, let me look up James’ sister Mary and Mary Corr’s brothers, Philip and Thomas, who were also married in Catholic churches in Manhattan at that time. Lesson #2: Don’t just search forward and backward. Search SIDEWAYS. Your director ancestor may not have the pertinent information to break open a brick wall, but their siblings might. Lo and behold, when I looked up Philip Corr, who married Bridget Carney on February 20, 1849, one of his witnesses was Thomas Gorry.

Thomas Gorry? Who was he??

Now, Gorry is not a common last name. So for my 3rd great-grandmother’s brother to have a marriage witness with the same last name as my 3rd great-grandfather, I’m thinking, there’s got to be a connection! So I looked up the name Thomas Gorry in the marriage index and found one married to a Mary Connolly on February 18, 1849 whose witness was, you guessed it, Phillip Corr. Now that I knew this Thomas was married to a Mary, I looked him up on Ancestry.com in census records, through which I discovered that Thomas and Mary had two children - a son Michael, who died young, and a son Thomas, who never married. I still had no way of connecting these Thomas Gorrys to my Gorrys, though…till I looked up Thomas Jr.’s death record on FamilySearch. He died April 11, 1918 at 53 Franklin Street in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn.

Hold up now. My great-grandfather, Elmer Gorry, grew up at 53 Franklin Street in Brooklyn. He’s living there in 1915 with his Uncle Michael Gorry, Aunt Mamie Gorry, and Aunt Hannah Gorry, and he’s living there with them in 1920. Which means Thomas Gorry Jr. died in the house they all lived in, while they were living there. They were all there together. So they were at least physically connected to each other, if not biologically.

But the search wasn’t over (it never is!)—I found a will for Thomas Gorry Jr., in which Hannah Gorry, my 3rd great aunt, is named the executor and sole heir. And in it, Thomas calls her “cousin.” Cousin! And not only that, but Hannah names other living relatives of his in the documentation—we have “cousin” Ellen McQuade, a daughter of Mary Gorry Tuite; and “cousin” Bernard Tuite, a son of Mary Gorry Tuite; and “cousin” Anna Walker, a daughter of Mary Gorry Tuite; and “cousin” Rose Gorey, a—wait, what? Who is this??; and “cousin” Mary Gorry, who is my 3x great-aunt Mamie; and "cousin” Hannah Gorry, my 3x great-aunt. So they were cousins. The Thomas Gorrys ARE related to me!!

I only made this discovery, literally, yesterday, so the facts are still being unearthed. I don’t know exactly how they’re related. Certain people are referred to as “cousin” in the administration of his will, but does that actually mean 1st cousin, or something more distant? Thomas Sr. is in the census as being born around 1815—which would make him almost 40 years older than Charles Gorry and Catherine Gorry McNamee, if they were siblings. Is it possible Thomas Sr. was a brother of Cornelius instead, and the uncle to James, Mary, Charles and Catherine? Or is his age misrepresented in the census records and he was actually born closer to the late 1820s-1830s? I don’t have any of those answers yet, but my search has only just begun.

So even though Thomas Sr’s children had no children (typical Gorrys!), even though their branch is short, it’s a new one of my tree…somewhere, at some generation. Discovering Thomas’ connection to Philip Corr, and then his son Thomas’ connection to 53 Franklin and Hannah Gorry was shocking and thrilling… this is why I do this. In fact, perhaps Thomas and Philip’s connection is how my James Gorry, related to Thomas, and my Mary Corr, related to Philip, actually met. And as it goes, this is not the end…because Thomas Jr. has a “cousin” Rose Gorey listed in the administration of his will and WHO THE HECK IS SHE???

To be continued…

Websites I used in this research: