Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wishful Wednesday: Where, oh where, did my Irish ancestors come from?

One of my greatest frustrations in pursuing my Irish ancestors is not knowing the town or parish they came from. At this point I'd even settle for a county! It seems that you need to have a town or parish name or at least a county before you can go search records with some purpose, especially when dealing with common names like Kelly and O'Kelly... one on every corner! The only place to look for those locations is, obviously, American records. We have a poverty of such records for our Irish ancestors and really I don't know where to look next. Is there some magical document that usually has the birthplace or county of origin for immigrants, and not the ubiquitous "Ireland"? If so I've just plum missed it!

But I can't complain because Mom's been fortunate in finding what she did. Let me tell you about that, but first look at these photos and then a little story.

Way back when Mom got going on genealogy she became a devoted graveyard rabbit. Off she'd go in the car, with or without Dad, to some cemetery or other looking for familiar surnames. She has a dandy collection of tombstone photos too. Remember, this was back starting in the 1970s and before the very helpful web sites that all of us use, such as Find A Grave or Billion Graves.

While my paternal grandfather Kelly was still living she found his grandfather's burial place in St. Michael's Cemetery in Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland. Grandpop refused to believe that was his grandfather because he swore that he and his own father would have known where his grave was, they would have cut the grass and tended the grave.

Long story short, yes that's his grandfather and my great grandfather whose tombstone you see above. (My guess would be that some other sibling was tasked with taking care of that particular grave.) The stone told Mom exactly where in Ireland he was born, that being Shannonbridge in the parish of Clonmacnoise.

That was a very lucky find indeed! We have not been so lucky as regards our other Irish immigrant families. So as an exercise, let me relate here what we know and then you'll see what we don't know. Maybe some kind soul will have a good idea and pity us and give a clue. And then again maybe the Wee Folk are around and will point us in the right direction towards our home places in Ireland when they hear our pleases. Hey, it could happen!

Here's the line up. On Mom's side we have the O'Farrell / Farrell bunch and also the Caton group. On Dad's side we also have the Corcoran family who married into those Kelly folks. Bridget Corcoran and John Kelly met and wed here on this side of The Pond. Here's what's known.

O'Farrell / Farrell
The journey for this line starts with Thomas Farrell. Presumably the surname was streamlined from O'Farrell to Farrell because some of his sons kept the unfashionable and then fashionable again "'O". Here's what my Surname Saturday post looked like, below.
62. Thomas Farrell, formerly O'Farrell (1795 - 1851)
63. Judah LNU (last name unknown) (1815 - 1859)
Mom has searched for them for years because it was the Farrell line that originally got her started and interested in family history back in the 1970s. All she really knew was what she had been told as a child: that her great grandmother came from Ireland, from "where St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland." Hmmm. Not a lot to go on.
Her foundational work and networking with other genealogists lead Mom to the County Clare clue, but it's still not proven absolutely. Quite a while back Mom corresponded with a researcher in Ireland and they ruled out County Longford.
Thomas and Judah, sometimes listed as Judy, immigrated between 1839 and 1840 as a married couple with two daughters. Their son James was born in Maryland in 1841, so it seems that the couple came to Maryland before moving on to Magnolia, Morgan, West Virginia (then Virginia).
Why they immigrated is a curious thing because it was before the Irish Famine years. Perhaps it was a brother or uncle who might have lured them there to work on the canal or railroad. But it appears that Thomas was a farmer because of an indenture for the rental of land (a copy is in Mom's possession) and his occupation listed as farmer in the 1850 US census.
Interestingly, some of his sons fought in the Civil War on the Union side and remained O'Farrells throughout their lives. Remember, this is the part of Virginia that became West Virginia where neighbor's sons fought on opposite sides! Brothers, too. But the O'Farrell boys stuck together in war and by name.
Thomas and Judah had the following children, some of whom went to live with friends or relatives after the couple died, Thomas in 1851 and Judah in 1859.
31. Mary Elizabeth Farrell (1835 - 1919). Born in Ireland and married Samuel Albert House.
* Catherine Farrell (about 1835 - before 1910), born in Ireland and immigrated with her parents and sister, Mary Elizabeth and my 2nd GGM, she died in Magnolia, Morgan County, Virginia, (now West Virginia). She married James Edward Boxwell.
* James O'Farrell (1842 - 1914). James was born in Maryland, and is age 9 in the 1850 census. He married Henrietta Michael in Morgan County, VA/WV, but they both died at Mora, Pettis, MO. His son's kept the O'. James served in the Civil War on the Union side.
* Thomas O'Fallell ( 1842 - ????) Thomas also kept the O'Farrell, and as did his brother James, enlisted in the Union Army to fight in the Civil War.
* Ann Farrell (1845 - ????)
* Ellen Farrell (1846 - ????)
* Bridget Farrell (1849 - ????)
* Sarah Farrell (1851 - ????)
What's next:
* All of the boys were born in America, and some moved out west. I could do as Mom did and try to make contact with another Farrell researcher to see if we can do better as a combined force.
* I might try tracing their immigration path over again to see if a detail has been missed or become available.
That's all I've got. Can you think of anything at all??

60. Patrick Caton 1814 - 1881
61. Rebecca House 1808 - after 1851
Patrick Caton was born in Ireland in 1814. Because of where he ended up in America, which is now West Virginia on the Potomac River near the long gone town of Magnolia, he most probably was lured by work on the railroads or the canal, as were countless other Irishmen, including possibly the Farrells mentioned above.
In the 1850 US Census he's listed as a farmer, but Samuel (calling himself Samuel Biggerstaff) and Patrick's brother, Francis Caton a man of 30 years living in the household, are listed as laborers. Presumably based on history of the area they were most likely employed by the railroad or the canal digs.
Patrick and Rebecca had the following children:
* Mary Caton 1846 - ????
* Margaret Caton  1847 - ????. She married George W. Meade.
They cared for:
30. Samuel Albert House 1832 - 1917
What's next:
There's a whole lot to do here. Everything, really. Immigration trail and naturalization, and whatever records are still existing for the back woods of West Virginia in the mid 1800s. I really need to talk to Mom about what she found when researching this line. Perhaps we haven't given it too much attention because Patrick Caton was not Samuel Albert's father.

16. John Kelly 1829 - 1891
17. Bridget Corcoran 1830 - after 1910
John and Bridget were both born in Ireland. We know that John was born in Shannonbridge, in Clonmacnoise Parrish, County Offaly (was Kings), but haven't a clue as to where Bridget was born... and without a town and a county we're outta luck with our Irish research.
John came to the United States, met Bridget and married here. They married 21 June 1848 in Cumberland, Allegany County, Maryland. They are there in Cumberland in the 1850 US census with Mary, age one year.
John died first in 1892. The Bridget died in 1912. That lovely Irish cross tombstone serves for them both even though there's only an inscription for John. Perhaps, as with other families, they ran out of money to have it inscribed.
For years we thought that her surname was spelled Corkrane, but further records searches showed that it was absolutely Corcoran! Imagine our surprise, but not too much when you pronounce both versions:)
They had eight children:
Mary Ann Kelly 1849 - ????
8. Francis Patrick Kelly 1854 - 1923
Catherine Elizabeth Kelly 1857 - ????
Michael Kelly 1859 - 1909
Margaret Kelly 1862 - ????
Theresa Kelly 1860 - ????
Thomas Kelly 1868 - ????
John Kelly 1872 - ????

Bridget's parents were James Corcoran born in Ireland about 1806, who married Anna Dolan also born there but about 1810. This information has come to us quite recently from a geanea-pal who combs old records of Western Maryland, and long story short, she found what we could not! Were we thrilled!! So here is what we know of this family unit. Here are the parents:
James Corcoran (about 1806 - ?)
Anna Dolan (about 1810 - ?)
They had these children.
17. Bridget Corcoran 1830 - 1912. born in Ireland.
* Thomas Corcoran 1835 - 1893. Born in Ireland, he married Mary Ryan and they both died in Shawnee, Perry, Ohio. (Find A Grave Memorial# 41251606)
* Isabella Corcoran 1840 - 1916. She was born in Allegany, Maryland, and married John F. Kenny and died in Crooksville, Perry, Ohio. (Her Find A Grave number is 43044520). John is buried in St. Michael's Cemetery in Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland.
* Catherine Corcoran
* Francis Corcoran
Look at that: Thomas and Isabella both died in Perry County, Ohio. Googling it's history I find that it was known as a coal rich area and is found on an almost direct line west from Cumberland, Maryland. It looks like Thomas and wife Mary went out to Ohio so that he could work the coal mines, and then after Isabella's husband John died, she went to live with her brother, died there and was buried in the same cemetery.
I took another look at the 1860 census for Allegany County, Maryland on the page where James and Anna (recorded as Ann) are listed. Of course he's a miner. Then as we all like to do, I nose around on the next page and find James and Anna's daughter, Bridget married to John Kelly, and living that close by.
And from a birth index for Perry County, it looks like some others in the area might have used that Corkrane spelling too. I'm just saying.
Thomas interests me so I searched about Perry County, Ohio and found this interesting passage.
SHAWNEE is eight miles south of New Lexington, on the Straitsville branch of the B. & O. R. R. It is one of the greatest coal-mining points in Ohio.
And also this from the same source as above, and continues to paint a picture:
A recent visitor writes; "New Straitsville is in the heart of the richest coal-producing district west of Pennsylvania; it is only three miles over the high, steep hills to bustling Shawnee, with its mines and blast furnaces; southward are Gore, Carbon Hill, and finally Nelsonville, all strong mining towns of the Hocking Valley.
What's next:
So much to do! The entire family of James and Anna is ripe for research. Can't wait to get started, with a list and everything! This has been long overdue.
* They were here by 1840 because their last child, Isabella was born here and the rest were born in Ireland. Where did they come from in Ireland?
* Where-oh-where are the parents James and Anna buried? My best guess would be a cemetery in Allegany County, Maryland, but nothing turns up. Bummer. Want to look for this because I need death dates and some closure.

Looking for your Irish ancestor's home place?
I was googling around for an overview of typical documents generated here in the States that might have your Irish ancestor's place of origin. Irish Genealogy Toolkit has a seemingly comprehensive listing here. So now the first thing I'll do is take that list and check off what's been reviewed and what's yet to be checked. The only one glaring omission from our scrutiny of that list is military records. I don't hold out too much hope for that as all of these men immigrants would have been in their 60s during the Civil War.

This is not going to be easy. It might just be impossible. If you have any tips to point us in the right direction, Mom and I would be forever grateful.

Wishful Wednesday is a blogging prompt from Geneabloggers. If you're thinking about starting a blog this is the source for all things

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