Three Immigrant Brothers – Fact or Fiction?

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I believe I’ve found the source of the Three Immigrant Brothers story for our immigrant Flanagans.

Often on online trees I see the father of James who died in 1752 identified as Ambrose.

In the Flannagan and Winston Bibles family record pages (copied at the Library of Virginia) is a small, lined memo paper with notes about the immigrant brothers. Mind, this is a microfilm image of what was probably a bad photostatic copy. Much of it is illegible. The Bible pages were loaned to the library for copying by a family member back in the 1950’s or 1960’s. The link to the Bible details at the Library is here and the link to the images is here.

Important – read this first before diving in

  • This Bible is not contemporary to James-1752’s or even his children and grandchildren’s times. It appears to be either late 1800’s or early 1900’s. The last entry is dated 1947. The entries with old dates seem to have been copied from another Bible, and they appear to have been written all at once — not as the events occurred. The entries with the oldest dates were written by the same person.
  • The Bible pages were copied in strict black and white. There is no grayscale, which may have helped discern words and letters. They were then microfilmed in the negative. I have included here images of the Three Brothers pages in both negative and inverted formats.
  • In the interest of complete disclosure, the complete set of images from the two Bibles are transcribed on The Flannagan and Winston Bibles.
  • Because of the handwriting differences between the two Bibles, it’s apparent the Three Immigrant Brothers page is from the Flannagan Bible.


[Illegible, smudged writing]

[Illegible smudged writing and empty white space]

Ambrose Flannagan B between 1700
and 1710 Emigrated about 1732
married [in/at] Dublin and had one

infant son ^ and some e__ing
F[riends?] and two brothers who
[traveled/immigrated] with him – Whittle and ^James
[large illegible smudged writing] probably Protestants
landing at Atlantic City Ambrose
to Va James to N.C. Whittle to N.J.

Wouldn’t you just love to see the original and try to decipher the illegible words?

Here are my thoughts about this.

The Pros

  • The note says Ambrose was born between 1700 and 1710 and emigrated with his brothers “about 1732.” Switch out the name “Ambrose” for “James” and we know the birth year range is correct.
  • Along with that, we now know – based upon deed records in Louisa County – that James had a son born about 1730 or so. So if James immigrated around 1732, he would have been traveling with an infant son. James’s son was named James. It would be revealing to be able to decipher the name inserted above the carat ^ between the words son and and. If it says “James,” this entire note would be very compelling.

The Cons

  • This was written by the same individual who wrote later entries in the Flannagan Bible, so it’s not contemporary to James, his children, or even his grandchildren. It was probably written in the late 19th or early 20th century.
  • It names Ambrose as the immigrant who traveled to Virginia, while we know now it was James.
  • The name Whittle. This is very problematic in that the name Whittle stems from James’s father-in-law, Francis Whittle. The odds of one of the brothers being named Whittle are pretty small.

Questions, Food for Thought, and Points to Make

  • Where did the writer get this information? Is it based on family lore? Or research? It seems researchers must now scour 18th century records in North Carolina and New Jersey to flesh out these other two Flanagans.
  • If this is true at least in part, it puts to rest the mis-directed 1743 deportation record for James and Bridget Flanagan that is often attached to James in online family trees.
  • Who wrote it? All we can say for sure is it was probably one of the children of Richard Knight Flanagan. Richard was the son of James Winwright Flanagan, grandson of James Winwright Flanagan, and great-grandson of James who died 1752.

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