Monday, September 5, 2016

A Tale of Three Sisters

A Tale of Three Sisters

When I was growing up in West Lynn the 1950's, I would often accompany my mother on errands.  This always included a running commentary on various people and places we passed by or visited.  "My father's cousin Jim Gould's farm was down that road", "the Mahoneys lived there, my parents played cards with them", "my cousins own that flower shop, Gould's Florists" or "my cousin Walter Curran won a prize in that art show" were some of the things I heard.  But when I asked who these people were and hew we were related, I was only told "they're cousins!".

I knew many of these people worked at the GE (General Electric) or went to our church (Sacred Heart).  I went to grammar school with cousin Walter's son Leo, but he didn't seem to know anymore than I did.  Another classmate was Jimmy Clancy, who lived next door to my grandmother.  We were understudies for Mary and Joseph in the first grade Christmas play.  But he denied we were related at all.

I was determined to untangle theses relations.  I know that when my grandmother, Mary Scanlon, came to this country, she lived with her uncle, Pat Griffin, in Westfield, Massachusetts.  I found Uncle Pat and his family in the 1920 census, and working back, found he was married in 1890 to Catherine Murphy.   His marriage record showed his parents as Thomas Griffin and Mary Wholean.

My birth grandmother, Mary (Scanlon) McDermott, died when my mother was 16 days old, in Westfield, and my mother was raised by her maternal uncle and his wife, John and Nellie (Bryan) Scanlon.  My mother told me when she came home with them to Lynn, her great aunt, Margaret Devaney, knitted her a sweater.  Margaret was Uncle Pat Griffin's sister.  I found Great Aunt Margaret and her husband Patrick in the census, and through Vital Records found that they were married on April 18, 1890, in Lynn.  Margaret's parents names were listed as Thomas Griffin and Mary Holland.

I knew from our travels that cousin Jim Gould's farm was in Saugus.  I found Jim and his wife Nellie in the 1920 and 1930 census.  They were married in Lynn on June 24, 1908, Jim's parents were identified on the marriage record as James Gould and Nora (Houlihan) Gould.  In my reading about Irish surnames I found that Holland could be a derivation of Houlihan.  Now, the name of Uncle Pat's mother, Wholean, made more sense.  It could be a phonetic spelling of Houlihan.

Leo Curran was my grade school classmate. His father Walter was related somehow to my mother and he painted as a hobby.  I found Walter in the 1920 and 1930 census.  His parents were James and Mary E. (Collins) Curran.  They were married in Worcester on November 29, 1899.  James parents were listed as John and Catherine (Houlihan) Curran.  Eventually I located marriage records for 10 children of Catherine, Mary and Nora Houlihan, Wholean or Holland.  My working theory was that Catherine, Mary and Nora were sisters, But I had no way to prove this.

I had put this part of my genealogy aside for a time, hoping that when I went back to Ireland I would be able to find out more.  Then a fortuitous encounter on Facebook changed everything.

Marian Pierre-Louis is a house historian and a realtor.  Marian lectures on African American and New England genealogy.  Because we have a common friend, Connie Reik, she friended me on Facebook.

While Connie is a librarian and an active genealogist, I know her originally from my knitting guild.  But, not one to look a gift horse in the moth, I accepted Marian's request.

On April 21, 2010 Marian posted a link to Michael Brophy's blog.  I know Michael as a member of TIARA (The Irish Ancestral Research Association), and I think I knew he had a blog, but I had never read it.  I learned from Michael's blog that the Irish Board of Tourism had put up pre-1900 Church Records online.  These included many records for the Dingle area, where my ancestors had emigrated from.

That evening I found the marriage record of Mary Houlihan of Milltown, daughter of Denis Houlihan and Catherine Doody.  She married Thomas Griffin of Scrag Commons on 11 February 1861 at the parish of Dingle R. C., Diocese of Kerry.

And the marriage record of Catherine Houlihan of Milltown of Denis Houlihan and Catherine Dowd.  She married John Currane of Milltown on 13 February 1866.

And the marriage record of Hanora Houlihan of Milltown, daughter of Denis Houlihan and Catherine Doody.  She married James Goold of High Street on 2 February 1871.

Since Dowd is a common variation of the surname, I am satisfied that these three women were sisters, and the link connecting all my cousins is the marriage of our common ancestors Denis and Catherine (Doody) Houlihan of Milltown, Dingle, Ireland.

Patrick Griffin, John Griffin, Margaret (Griffin) Devaney, James Curran, Margaret Curran, Catherine (Curran) Leahy, Elizabeth (Curran) Mahoney, James Gould, Dennis Gould, Ellen (Gould) Shea and Nora (Gould) Sullivan, all first cousins, came to Massachusetts between 1886 and 1909.  They were 11 of the 28 children of the Houlihan sisters.  All but two of these immigrants had children.  Of the nine that did, I have identified 53 grandchildren of the Houlihan sisters.*

Kate (Griffin) Scanlon, my great grandmother, never joined her cousins in American , but 5 of her 10 children.  John Scanlon, Maurice Scanlon, Nellie (Scanlon) Sullivan, Mary (Scanlon) McDermott and Catherine (Scanlon) Cavanaugh joined their relatives in Westfield and Lynn, Massachusetts.

And, as always, Jimmy Clancy was right.  We are not related, by blood anyway.  His paternal grandmother, Alice (Bryan) Clancy, was the sister of Nellie (Bryan) Scanlon, the aunt we raised my mother as her own child.

* this article was originally published in Volume 27, number 2, Spring 2010 newsletter of TIARA (The Irish Ancestral Research Association).  These are the numbers as of that point in my research.
View from the Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast

Copyright 2016, Kathleen Sullivan. All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Year of Memories



This year I gave my brother and sisters a calendar of memories for Christmas.  Priscilla Fairbanks (Sullivan) Reed is my Aunt Cill and her birthday is April 21, so this is her month.  Pictured, counter-clockwise from lower right:

  • Grade school picture inscribed to her grandmother, Laura O'Sullivan.
  • Her high school graduation picture, inscribed to her grandmother, Laura O'Sullivan
  • Her Air Force picture
  • A picture of her with my Uncle Frank.  I think this may have been take on Charlonne Street in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.
Thanks  to June Russell Casaletto for the grade school and high school pictures.

Copyright 2016, Kathleen Sullivan. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year

From Francis Tolliver, 1914

To Martin Richard, 2013

Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

My cousin James Edward Clancy enlisted in the U S Army on February 24, 1941, at the age of 31.  He was the eighth child and sixth son of John Francis and Alice (Bryan) Clancy of Lynn, Massachusetts.

In the 1940 census he was living at home with his parents, sister Alice, and 3 brothers at 112 Cottage Street and working as a restaurant manager.

My grandmother, Jimmy's aunt, saved this clipping about him, probably from February or March, 1941.  It most likely appeared in the Lynn Daily Item..

The caption reads In this group are selectees at Fort Bragg, South Carolina, two of whom are from Lynn.  Who is that big man in the front row, white shirt and cigar in mouth?  He is Jim Clancy, Lynn umpire.  He left Lynn one morning with a group of guys from West Lynn and Uncle Sam has not found an army jacket for him.  Directly behind him is John Blackjohn, son of George Blackjohn, proprietor of the 20th Century Barber Shop.

This is the last Christmas card my mother and grandparents received from Jimmy.  The back reads Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Uncle John, Aunt Nellie, Cousin Mary, Love, Jimmy.

Jimmy was a Staff Sergeant, 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, died January 23, 1945.  He is buried in Plot G, Row 6, Grave 16 at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial located in Hamm, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.

Copyright 2015 Kathleen Sullivan. All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Year of the McDermotts (Part 3)

The Graves

The next day Mary and I spent the day with Tom in Cork City.  We had a great time shopping for books, visiting the English Market and touring the city.  In the early evening, Tom drove us over Michael's in Castlewrixon so we could all visit.  Michael met us at the car and told Tom he could come back to pick us up in a few hours.

Since it was still daylight, Michael drove Mary and I to visit the family graves.    There are three gravestones.  The gravestone in the center is very hard to read.  It is the grave of "the English lady",  Nora Barry, the wife of  David McDermott.  David emigrated to England at some point and married there.  He and the English lady eventually bought the big house at Castlewrixon and David's parents and siblings moved into the little house on the same property.

The stone on the left is the grave of my great grandparents, Peter and Ellen McDermott.  It reads Peter McDermott Castlewrixon He Died 4 April 1913 His wife Ellen Died 26 September 1918 And of their children, Christina, Peter and David.

The stone on the right is the grave of Michael's parents, Michael McDermott and Bridget Houlihan, Michael's parents and Tom's grandparents.

Michael and I at the family graves.

We had a lovely visit with Michael, Bridie and John Roche, grandson of Christina (McDermott) Roche, my great aunt.  We made copies of the family tree done by Sr. Mary Rosario (Bridget Josephine McDermott) and Michael showed us different family things in the house, including a clock that his aunt Catherine (McDermott) O'Sullivan brought back from America.

Tom came back to pick us up.  He joined us as we were sitting in the parlor.  He said he had not been in that room before, but we were not sure this was the whole truth.  The next adventure was to visit the little house, the home of my grandfather

Copyright 2015 Kathleen Sullivan. All Rights Reserved

es .  

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Year of the McDermotts (Part 2)

The Visit 

I had emailed Tom, looking for a B & B in his area, and he insisted that Mary and I stay with him.  Checking FaceBook just before we left, I saw a post from Tom that he had moved!  He assured me he was still in Churchtown, but at a larger place.

We arrived bright and early in the morning on Sunday, and picked up our rental car.  We received a free "upgrade" vehicle which we really appreciated until we found out it was a delivery van with no back seat.  We set off to meet Tom for the 9 am Mass at St Nicholas in Churchtown.  We found Churchtown earlier than expected so we parked and walked around a bit to get some fresh air and stretch after the long night flight.  We were just wondering how we would find Tom, when we rounded a corner and saw a man standing in the middle of the road, talking on a cell phone.  He was saying "They just drove by, I don't know where they went."  I would have recognized Tom anywhere, since we look just alike.  Well, other than the fact that he is 18 years younger, a foot taller, and has much less hair!

We joined Tom for Mass and then went back to his house to freshen up and take a nap before joining the rest of the family for Sunday lunch at .Springfort Hall.  We had a lovely meal and I had the good fortune to sit next to Uncle Michael for dinner.  He told me about how the family look for my grandfather after losing touch with him.  They had hired a detective at one point to search for him in New York City, but were never able to locate him.  I explained to him how after my grandmother's death the children were separated and eventually abandoned by their father.

Above: U. S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, side 1; Image courtesy of
Above: U. S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, side 2; Image courtesy of

The last know residence I had found for him was 200 E 30th Street, New York City.  This was from his U. S. World War II Draft Registration card for what is called the old man's draft.  He was 55 years old and working for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.  None of us could find any further evidence of what became of him.

After Sunday lunch, Mary and I returned to Tom's house to chat and adjust to the time difference.  We really enjoyed Tom's new coffee machine!  In the early evening, the phone rang, and Tom answered in.  There was a quiet conversation, Tom hung up and turned to us.

"You've passed the test.  You have been invited to the house tomorrow evening!"

Back row: Michael McDermott, Claire McDermott, Tom McDermott
Front row: Bridie McDermott, Mary McDermott, Kathy Sullivan at Spring fort Hall

Copyright 2015 Kathleen Sullivan. All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Year of the McDermotts (Part 1)

My major genealogy goal for 2015 is to organize and document my McDermott family, starting with the children of Peter and Ellen (Roche) McDermott who had emigrated to the United States.  This will include, as far as I can tell now,  John, Thomas, Richard, Mary, Margaret, and to some extent, David and Catherine.

My grandfather Richard McDermott disappeared from the lives of his children sometime between 1925 and 1930.  Following the death of his wife on May 26, 1925, living arrangements became confused and the four children lived with various relatives or with foster parents and no one ever knew what became of Richard.  Because we had a copy of his citizenship papers, we knew his full name and birthplace.  Since McDermott is not a common name in County Cork, I was hopeful to make a connection.

My work on the McDermotts of Castlewrixon began in 2009 when I Googled my grandfather's name, Richard, and his birthplace, Charleville, County Cork.  I turned up an email address for a Fr. Tom McDermott, stationed in Churchtown, but originally from Charleville.  I emailed Fr Tom, explaining what I knew of my grandfather and asking about the possibility of being related.  Time went on and I waited, but no response.  After 3 weeks, I had pretty much forgotten about it, when I opened the reply from Tom, which started Dear Cousin Kathy, your grandfather and my grandfather were brothers!.  

Tom went on to detail how he had checked with his uncle Michael and found out that my grandfather had been missing from their family also and they thought he had stayed in America and lost touch.  I had been hoping he had returned to Ireland, so we were both disappointed.

As we corresponded it became clear that I needed to make a visit in person.  My cousin Mary McDermott and I planned to come the following September and spend a week in Cork and Kerry before driving to Dublin for a research week with TIARA (The Irish American Research Association).

On September 25, the 92nd anniversary of  Ellen (Roche) McDermott's death, Mary and I left Boston for Shannon.  Thus began the great adventure.

Copyright 2015 Kathleen Sullivan. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Away to America!

The Marriage of John Clancy and Alice Bryan

Inistioge, County Kilkenny

My great aunt, Alice (O'Brien/Bryan) Clancy, was born in Inistioge, Kilkenny, on May 1, 1872, the daughter of Michael and Ellen (Tobin) Bryan.  I knew from the ships manifest that she emigrated to Boston from Queenstown in September of 1899 with her future husband, John Francis Clancy, on the S. S. Cephalonia.

S. S. Cephalonia
Alice and John are both listed on the manifest, and although O'Brien is lightly crossed out, there is nothing else written in.  Both listed their last residence as Kilkenny, and while John had $5 with him, Alice had $100!  That was a lot of money in 1899.  Calculating for inflation, that would be over $2,700 in today's money.  Alice had been in the United States before, in Boston, in 1898.  They were going to her brother, Patrick O'Brien, at 140 Bennington Street, in East Boston.

Although John and Alice had a large family, and their first son Michael John was born on July 22, 1900, a mere 10 months after landing in Boston, I was never able to locate a marriage record for them in Massachusetts.  I had looked in Boston, where they first lived, then in Lynn, where they eventually settled.  When I was in Dublin last year I looked in Kilkenny, but there was no record marriage there either.

I expanded my search and found their marriage on September 12, 1899 in Queenstown, County Cork.  Their names, age, condition and father's names matched.  Since the ship left Liverpool on September 12, it appears they were married just before boarding by Fr. Thomas Madigan.  Alice's name may have been listed as O'Brien on the manifest because the ticket was purchased in that name before she married.  Residence at time of marriage for both is listed as Harbour Row, which is in the area of the docks.

Cobh is almost 90 miles from their home in Inistioge.   On the map at left, Inistioge is in the upper right hand corner and Queenstown in the lower left.   Even if they had planned to emigrate, if the marriage was approved by the families, you would expect it to be in the local parish.

Alice's mother had died earlier that year, and most of her siblings were grown.  Her sister Mary had already married.  Her brother Patrick and sister Johanna had both emigrated to Boston and married there.  That left Edward, Kate, Nellie, William and Michael at home.  Nellie and William eventually left to joined Alice in Lynn, Massachusetts.    Her father may not have wanted to her to leave, with five children still at home.  Why they were married in Cobh may never be clear, but it appears they eloped.

From now on, I'll take the possibility of elopement into account when looking for a marriage!

Pictured on the right, circa 1940, from left to right is Alice (Clancy) Hyde, Alice's daughter, Mary Scanlon, Nellie's daughter, Nellie (Bryan) Scanlon and Alice (Bryan) Clancy.

Copyright 2013 Kathleen Sullivan. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Breaking Down a Brick Wall

Last month I attended NERGC in Manchester, NH. There is always more to learn and great people to meet. On Friday evening I attended Michael Brophy's special interest group on Irish-American research. People had great questions, and participants ranged from beginners to experts.

One questioner caught my attention. Lea Zina was looking for her great great grandmother, Katie Kavanagh of Wenham. She was married in 1866 to Sherburne Morey in Gloucester, Massachusetts. I have a soft spot for Cavanugh/Kavanaughs, and my grandmother's sister was a Catherine Cavanaugh. The group had many suggestions for Lea, and I suggested she try the 1865 Massachusetts State Census on Family Search.

That evening, I tried searching the 1865 census, but I couldn't find a Katie Kavanagh of the right age. There was a Katie who was six years old, but she wouldn't have married in 1866. The next day, I ran into Lea after a talk. I told her I had been in the same special interest group and asked her if she had any luck with the suggestions. I told her about the Katie I had found, who was obviously not the right one.

Lea shared her research with me. What she knew of Katie, based on census and vital records was the following:
  • Katie was from Wenham, or Salem
  • she was born in Massachusetts between 1848 and 1851,
  • her last name was Cavenough, Cavender, Cavanagh, Cavenaugh, or Karagan
  • her mother's name was Kate Durgin,
  • her father's name was John Cavender

Lea and I exchanged email addresses and when I got home from the conference, I started looking for Katie in earnest. I went back to the 1865 Massachusetts state census for Wenham. Listed directly following the family of six year old Katie was another Cavanaugh family. This family consisted of father Martin, age 60, mother Catherine, age 55, and three daughters, Catherine, age 14, Hannah, age 16 and Margaret, age 20. The parents were born in Ireland and the three girls in Massachusetts. This Catherine was much closer in age to the Katie we were looking for.

I followed the family in the 1870 US Census, still in the same location, directly following the younger Cavanaughs in Wenham. Now the family showed only Martin and Catherine, both age 62, born in Ireland. Catherine, Hannah and Margaret may have married or gone into service, as they were no longer in the home.

Next, I looked at vital records for Cavanaughs in Wenham, and found the death of Catherine “Dargan” Kavanagh later the same year on July 23, followed by the death of Martin, widower, on September 18, 1878. Lea and I reviewed the results and it seemed pretty clear that Catherine Dargan Kavanagh was “Kate Durgin” and Martin Kavanagh was “John Cavender”.

Since that time, Lea has gone on to locate 7 potential siblings (4 brothers and 3 sisters), their marriages, offspring, naturalization records, and deaths and is well on her way to documenting the entire family through census records. She found through census records the family emigrated in 1854, so it is likely that all the children, including Katie, were born in Ireland.

Copyright 2013 Kathleen Sullivan. All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Who Do You Think They Are?

Orvil & William Raney 1911 

Orvil and William Raney
This is a portrait of Orvil and William Raney taken in 1911.  I found it in a lot of postcards I bought at auction.

I located Orvil and William, the sons of Orvil W. and Anna D. Raney in the 1910 Census in Sharon, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  Orvil was age 4 and William age 0, which would make them around 5 and 1 in this picture.

Both parents and all four grandparents were born in Pennsylvania.  Mr. Raney was a public school teacher.  By the 1920 census, Jennie Douglass, Mr. Raney's mother-in-law and Anna's mother had joined the family.  Anna D. Raney was Anna Douglass before her marriage.  Mr. Raney is now a high school teacher.

By the 1930 census, Mrs. Douglass is no longer with the family.  Mr. Raney is still teaching school, Orvil is age 24 and William is 20.

In the 1940 census, Orvil is living with his wife, May and daughter Carol May, age 3, on South Oakland Avenue in Sharon.  He is employed as a timekeeper for a transportation company.  The name in this census is transcribed incorrectly as David.

According to her obituary, Mrs. May Gladys Raney, age 92, wife of the late Orvil Douglass Raney died Tuesday, July 16, 2010 at her residence in Aiken, South Carolina.  She was born in Sharon, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William and Christine Cartwright.  She and her husband had lived in Sharon, Pennsylvania, Warren, Ohio and Aiken, South Carolina.  She was survived by her son William D. Raney of Orlando, Florida, her daughter, Carol Scott of Aiken, South Carolina, six grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. 

I would love to return this picture to any of Mr. Raney's children, grandchildren or great grandchildren, should they happen to see this blog.

Copyright 2013 Kathleen Sullivan. All Rights Reserved