Monday, 11 February 2019

The Story of Patrick Muckian (McCane)

It's time to tell the story of my maternal Great Great Grandfather, Patrick Muckian  (1817 - 1887).

Patrick's surname was written in a variety of ways on documents recorded during his lifetime, including McKean, Muckean, MacKian, which made research efforts just a tad more difficult.  Within a generation, the surname was mostly recorded as McCane. To this point in time, I have only a few concrete details about the life of Patrick.

I'm not entirely sure when he was born, but I have made a best guess.  Given that it appears (from distant relatives' information) he was slightly older than his bride when he married, then his birth date might have been around 1817.


Patrick was married in the townland of Ballintemple, in the Killeavy Parish and Barony of Orior Upper in County Armagh.  This may have also been his birthplace.

I have no idea who his parents were, or the names of his siblings.  I do know from Griffith's Valuation records however that between 1858 and 1864, there were at least 2 Muckian families living in Ballintemple, and it's highly likely they were closely related.

Whilst it's commonly known that the Irish appeared to follow a given pattern when naming their children, this was not always set in stone.  I could surmise however that, as Patrick's first born son was named Edward, then perhaps Patrick's father was an Edward; as first born sons were usually named after their paternal grandfathers.



Getting back to what I know for sure, my 2x great grandfather Patrick married Sarah McCann in December of 1853.  Patrick was supposedly slightly older than Sarah, so is likely to have been around the age of 36.  Given the social norms at that point in Irish history, it seems that Patrick married quite late in life.  I wonder why?

Perhaps the experiences both Patrick and Sarah had during the period known as The Great Hunger, the mid to late 1840s, meant they were simply trying to survive those times with their parents and siblings, and just were not in a position to entertain the thought of establishing a family and life of their own.  There may have been no choice in the matter at that time, as Patrick may have been waiting for a time when it would have been possible for him to rent a plot capable of supporting a family. It's all conjecture, of course!

Anyway, witnesses to the marriage in 1853 included an Edward Muckian.  Perhaps that was Patrick's father!  In the following ten years or so, Patrick and Sarah went on to have five children.

Edward was born almost a year later, in late 1854.
Mary was born in 1856.
Owen (my great grandfather) came along in 1859.
John was born in 1862,
Ann (known as Nancy) was born in 1864.  Patrick was 47 years old by this time.


My 2x great grandfather Patrick and his wife Sarah began their wedded life on a small farm in Ballintemple.

Patrick was a tenant farmer, renting from the Reverend Robert Henry.  He would have been obliged to pay rent to his landlord at least twice a year in order to keep living on his plot of land.


Griffith's Valuation records list Patrick's plot, just over 3 acres, in the 1864 record.  Interestingly there's an Owen Muckian on the plot right beside him.  Perhaps a brother or an uncle?  I'm not exactly sure.  Owen's farm is quite large compared to Patrick's farm however.


The 1864 ordnance map shows the exact locations of the Muckian farms, side by side, on the outskirts of the tiny village of Ballintemple.  Patrick's is shown with the number 9 and Owen's with number 10.


Patrick's is the smaller of the two Muckian farms.  Both were located in a small area of holdings just outside the township.
1864 Ordnance Map - plot no. 9 is my 2x grandparents, Sarah and Patrick's, plot
Green circle includes the plots of other McCann families (plots 7 & 8)
and another Muckian family (plot 10)

Interestingly, according to the Griffith's Valuation of 1864, on the other side of Patrick's plot - numbers 7 & 8 - lived two McCann families.  Were these relatives of Patrick's wife Sarah, whose maiden name was McCann?  Was there perhaps a little community of Muckians and McCanns living in this spot, eking out a life together?  Perhaps they had banded together, after the experience of The Great Hunger in an effort to move on with their lives by helping each other out?  More conjecture!

I imagine it would have been a hard life on the farm for Patrick.  It was no doubt subsistence living, growing crops and keeping animals in order to keep his family fed and pay the rent.  That would not have been easy on such a small plot.

The footprint of the family home can still be seen there today.


You can get an idea of the size of what was likely a simple, single-storey home that the family of seven lived in.

Example of a 3rd class house



Details garnered from the 1901 Census Record creates a clearer picture of the ancestral family home that stood on this plot.  It was listed as a 3rd class house.



The walls were made of mud, wood or other perishable material, the roof was wooden or thatched.  There were two rooms and two windows in the front.  It's likely there would have been a cow shed or piggery attached.



It may have looked something like the one in this picture.


It is my hope that I get to visit this particular corner of Ireland soon.  Having been to the country a number of times now, I've absolutely fallen in love with it.  I vividly remember my first, very short, visit. It was literally like falling in love at first sight!  It was before I had begun research into my family tree and I had next-to-no idea about the birthplaces of my ancestors, but for some inexplicable reason I felt an instant connection.  I felt 'at home'.


After a number of years of family tree research, I know now that I have rather special and quite deep-rooted connections, given that nearly all my ancestors on both my maternal and paternal sides were from Ireland.



To stand on the ground where your ancestor's home once stood, or indeed may still be standing; to walk the pathways and fields that your ancestors once walked is quite an emotive experience!  It will steal your heart.  It's an outstandingly beautiful country, a country to truly love, and the next thing on my Ireland bucket-list is to visit the spot where my 2x great grandfather Patrick lived, worked and raised a family with my 2x great grandmother Sarah.


Patrick passed away in 1887, when he was 70 years old.  He had worked his small farm for 34 years.

By the time he died, Edward the eldest son was 33 years old, and was still living on the family farm.  Mary, the eldest daughter had married, moved away and was raising a family of her own.  Owen (my great grandfather) was 28 years old and appears to have moved to England in search of work.  John was 25 and had emigrated to the United States sometime in the early 1880s.  Ann (known as Nancy) was 23 years old and appears to have been still living at home on the farm.

Patrick was survived by his wife Sarah (then aged 66) and all of his five children.  By that time he also had 3 grandchildren by his daughter Mary.





I'm joining Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project / challenge.


The prompt for Week 7 of 2019 is 'Love'.

You can join by blogging or posting on social media with the tag #52ancestors.


Monday, 4 February 2019

The Story of Sarah McCann

This is the story of my maternal Great Great Grandmother, Sarah McCann (1821 - ?1901-1911)
Sarah, aged 71,1892
I have not been fortunate in finding lots of detail about Sarah and her life, so the story I can create about her is going to be fairly brief.  I am extremely fortunate however to have come into possession of a photo of Sarah, albeit in her latter years.

It was an absolute surprise when a distant relative contacted me and was able to share this treasured item.  Whilst I have precious photos of my parents and grandparents on both my maternal and paternal sides, I have very, very few photos of any of my great grandparents, and very fewer of my great great grandparents!  So this photo came as a rather poignant surprise.

Map showing the Parish of Lower Killeavy, County Armagh
My 2x great grandmother Sarah was born in 1821 (working on the age listed on a census record from 1901).


From information shared by distant relatives, it seems she was born in County Armagh, and baptised in the Lower Killeavy Parish (sometimes spelt Killevy).


It's likely she would have been baptised at one of the old Churches that can still be found (although in ruins) in the townland of Ballintemple, outside Newry.  The west church is the only surviving pre-Norman church in County Armagh, and the east church is medieval, probably dating from the 15th century.



Sarah married Patrick Muckian in December of 1853.  She was aged 32.  That does seem unusual for that time, as so many woman married around the age of 20.  I wonder why Sarah didn't marry until she was in her early 30s.  She would possibly have been considered an old maid in the townland of Ballintemple, and I would dearly love to know the circumstances around this!

Sarah's husband Patrick was also in his 30s, but slightly older.  He was aged 36 when he married.  They went on to have five children over the following ten years.

Edward was born in 1854.
Mary came along in 1856.
Owen (my great grandfather) was born in 1859.  Sarah was 38 years old.
John came along in 1862.
Ann (known as Nancy) was born in 1864.  By this time, Sarah was aged 43.

It seems that Sarah lived out the remainder of her life on the family farm.  The ancestral family home is no longer standing, but I know its location in Ballintemple, very close to the old churches, thanks to information passed on from my distant cousins.

Map of Ballintemple showing the ancestral family farm (red)
near the Killeavy Old Churches (yellow)
Photo courtesy of distant cousin Brian Rafferty
This photo shows the ancestral family farm, as it stands today, sadly no longer in the family.  Not much to see apart from the footprint of the family home.  It looks like it might have been quite an isolated spot for Sarah and her family back in the mid-to-late 1800s when they lived there.

Photo courtesy of distant cousin Brian Rafferty
This is the view from the ancestral family farm today.  I can only imagine how tough life would have been here during the long cold winter months, especially back then!  The life of a farmer's wife would have been tough and challenging.

It does appear though that Sarah might have had family, perhaps even close family members living close by.  According to the Griffith's Valuation of 1864 there were McCanns living on the land next to Sarah and Patrick's plot.

1864 Ordnance Map - plot no. 9 is my 2x grandparents, Sarah and Patrick's, plot
Green circle includes the plots of other McCann families (plots 7 & 8)
and another Muckian family (plot 10)
The Ordnance Map shows that m 2x great grandmother Sarah and my 2x great grandfather Patrick were living on the plot that's marked with a 9, whilst two McCann families were living on plots 7 & 8.  On plot 10 there was another Muckian family, possibly a close relative of Patrick's!  It seems feasible that the families were all eking out an existence side-by-side.

I have found out only a few other details about events in Sarah's life between her marriage and her death.

It seems her daughter Mary married sometime around 1882/1883 and left home to begin her married life.

Sarah's son John appears to have emigrated to the U.S., according to family stories and may even have changed his name upon arrival there.  It's likely John emigrated in the early 1880s.

Sarah's husband passed away in mid 1887 at the age of 70.  They had been married for 33 years.

In the following year, 1888, her son Owen (my great grandfather) emigrated to Australia.

Sarah's daughter Ann (known as Nancy) married in 1891 and began her married life living fairly close by.

Sarah's eldest son Edward married in 1892 and the wedding photo passed down through the generations has been a godsend as it shows Edward and his mother Sarah, who would have been aged about 71 at the time.  This photo is a rare gem.

Sarah Muckian (nee McCann) and her son Edward on his wedding day 1892
Apparently, according to my distant relatives, it was customary for the groom to be photographed with his mother on his wedding day, and perhaps his wife!

By 1901, Sarah was still living on the family farm, but with her son Edward, his wife Mary and family of five children.  Sarah was listed as the 'head' of the family on the 1901 census.


At that time Sarah was 80 years old.  The record states that she was not able to read, and obviously not able to write her name either as evidenced by the note at the bottom of the page "her mark".

I have not yet been able to uncover a date of death for Sarah, but I surmise she didn't make it to her 90s as she was not listed on the 1911 census alongside her son Edward on the family farm.  Hence, her date of death would be somewhere between 1901 and 1911.



I'm joining Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project / challenge.


The prompt for Week 6 of 2019 is 'Surprise'.

You can join by blogging or posting on social media with the tag #52ancestors.

Friday, 1 February 2019

The Story of Michael Farrell

This post tells the story of my maternal Great Great Grandfather, Michael Farrell (1834 - 1917).  It's taken me quite a number of years to learn these scant, basic details about the life of Michael, and there is certainly some guesswork involved in the finer details of his childhood and early adult life; but here is the story I've uncovered so far about my 2x great grandfather.

Despite differences in details on Michael's marriage record and death record, eventually I was able to track down a baptism record that showed my great great grandfather was born in November of 1834.  His father was Thomas Farrell and his mother was Anne Conoly.

Baptism Register Nov 4 1834 - Michael Farrell - Diocese of Ardagh - Kiltoghart Parish, County Leitrim


Michael's church baptism record shows he was baptised on the 4th of November in the Carrick-on-Shannon district of the Kiltoghert Parish in County Leitrim.


I did a bit of research about the Kiltoghert Parish and found this little gem of a passage written in 1837, just a few years after the birth of Michael.

It gives a bit of a picture of the area itself and the size of the townlands at that time.


"KILTOGHART, a parish, in the barony and county of LEITRIM, and province of CONNAUGHT; containing, with part of the post-town of Carrick-on-Shannon, and the villages of Drumshambo, Leitrim, and Jamestown, 16,434 inhabitants.


It comprises 20,669 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £11,942 per annum: the land is chiefly under tillage, and there is much bog and mountain, also quarries of freestone and limestone.Part of the mountain Slieve-an-irin and several small lakes are in this parish, in which rise the hills of Sheemore, said to contain caves of considerable depth. There is a church at Carrick-on-Shannon, and one in Drumshambo. In the R. C. divisions the parish forms two unions or districts, one called Kiltoghart and Gowel, which has chapels at Carrick-on-Shannon, Jamestown, and Gowel; the other called Kiltoghart-Murhane, which has a chapel at Murhane.There are twelve public schools. About 1000 children are educated in these schools, and about 100 in three private schools. At Port are the remains of a monastery, which was converted into a castle to command the ford across the Shannon."
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.
Not long after this description was published however, life for the majority of people living in this area was about to get very, very difficult ... and significantly so!


Looking into the history of County Leitrim, and Carrick-upon-Shannon in particular, between the years of The Great Hunger (1845 to 1852) created a vivid picture of the circumstances for most of the population living there at that time.  

Leitrim was one of the most underdeveloped and deprived parts of Ireland before the Great Hunger, and it suffered a dreadful fate over that period of time through death by starvation and disease, and emigration.  In 1845 County Leitrim experienced its first potato blight.  Then in 1846 the potato crop failed completely in the area around Carrick-upon-Shannon.  This resulted in widespread illness, rampant starvation and death.  





The Carrick-upon-Shannon workhouse, planned as part of 1838's Poor Law and built in 1841, had become overcrowded very quickly by 1845.  Whilst it had the capacity for up to 800 inmates, scores would keep turning up every week and the situation became desperate, with up to 12 deaths or more every week.

In an excerpt taken from the Ireland Reaching Out website ...


"During the famine years, Carrick-on-Shannon suffered greatly. By the end of 1846, the workhouse was bursting at the seams, with the inmates lacking food, clothing, proper sanitation, and having only straw for bedding. Diseases such as dysentery and typhus were rife and a dozen deaths a week were occurring. At the end of 1846, the Quaker James Tuke visited a number of workhouses and reported:

I have already stated that owing to the want of funds, great difficulty exists in many Unions in providing for the inmates. The worst which I visited was that of Carrick-on-Shannon (which opened in 1842); it is in a miserable state and the doors were closed against further admissions; and although built for 700 had but 280 inmates; gates were besieged by seventy or eighty wretched beings who in vain implored for admission. Numbers of them were in various stages of fever, which was terribly prevalent in the neighbourhood, and the fever-shed overcrowded. Two months before my visit, the doors of the workhouse were opened and the inmates expelled, entailing upon them the most dire misery."
Although I have no concrete evidence or information about Micheal's and his family's life during these times, I can only assume that they, along with so many others, probably ended up is quite dire circumstances.  The family might have attempted to gain entry into the workhouse, perhaps successfully, or they might have ended up like many others living rough, outdoors under bridges or trees, wherever they could find shelter.  


Victims of the Irish Potato Famine arriving in Liverpool, Eng.;
illustration in the Illustrated London News, July 6, 1850.
Whilst soup kitchens were set up in Carrick-upon-Shannon around 1847, they went a very little way in alleviating some of the hunger.  Disease was extremely difficult to eradicate in these circumstances, and so it was that leaving Ireland became a necessary option for so many.


I have not been able to track down any records confirming the names of siblings born either before or after Michael, nor have I any information about the life of his parents (my 3x great grandparents).  The only thing I am sure about is that Michael left Ireland at some point before he turned 30, and he never returned.



In January of 1865 Michael Farrell married Susan Downey (spelt Downie on the record of marriage).  They were married in the Parish of Hawick in the County of Roxburgh in Scotland.  


Hawick, Roxburghshire, Scotland

When I eventually tracked down this record, my immediate thoughts were  ... 

What was Michael doing in Scotland? When did Michael move to Scotland?  



Having no other information, I surmised that either Michael left Ireland with his parents and any siblings when he was young; or Michael left home as an adult and went to Scotland for work.  Either way, it seems he became one of the many millions of Irish who went in search of a better life away from their homeland.  


Hawick was at that time the centre of a thriving textile industry.  As described in John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, dated 1887, "Hawick is a manufacturing town ... an ancient place ... now the chief seat of the hosiery manufacturing and one of the chief seats of woollen manufacturing in Scotland."

Looking more closely at the information provided on the record it appears that the parents of both Michael and his wife (my 2x great grandmother) Susan were deceased by 1865 and no family members signed as witnesses.  Were Michael and Susan by themselves in Scotland by this stage?  Surely there must have been other family members living with them or at least close by?  


Whatever the circumstances, Michael was living and working in Scotland in 1865.  Interestingly, the age recorded on his marriage record appears to be wrong.  It states he was 24 years of age, but having been baptised in 1834 it's doubtful he would have been in his early 20s!  He would have actually been 30 years of age when he married Susan.  


In November of that same year, Michael became a father for the first time.  My great grandmother Margaret was born in 1865.  Her birthplace was recorded as Newcastle-Upon-Tyne though, so that means Michael and Susan had left the border town of Hawick in Scotland and moved to north-eastern England.  Perhaps they had gone in search of a better-paying job or more permanent employment.  


Michael and his wife Susan stayed in north-eastern England for the next 22 years and went on to have eight more children.


After Margaret's birth in 1865, Thomas was born in 1868.

Michael was born in 1870.
Helen Ann came along in 1872.
Elizabeth was born in 1873.


Sadly, that same year, Michael and Susan lost their second-born son Michael. He died at the age of 3.


Another son was born in 1876, and he was also named Michael.

Patrick Joseph was born in 1878.
James was born in 1880.
Then Matthew Felix came along in early 1887.


1871 England Census, Civil Parish of Holmside, County Durham, England
Census records of 1871 show that Michael, his wife Susan, and their first three children were living in Holmside, Durham.  That means they had moved again, and given that the birthplace of the boys Thomas and Michael was recorded as Cafield Cottages, Durham in 1868 and 1870, then it seems that Michael and his family left Newcastle-Upon-Tyne sometime between 1865 and 1868.

Was this move a necessity? Was Michael moving in an effort to gain employment or to find somewhere affordable to live?  Or both?  There was another family living with them - a Bridget Heamey, recorded as a lodger, and her three small children.  That means there were 3 adults and 6 children under the age of 6 probably living in one or two rooms.  Obviously things were tough for Michael and his family, given that they had taken in a lodger with children in such a small house.  Was the lodger a relative?  Or was she just someone providing much needed extra income?

Michael's occupation at that time was listed as Coke Worker.  An interesting insight into the lives of the working Irish who moved to Durham comes from Robert Moore's book Pitmen, Preachers and Politics, published in 1974.  He stated that 
"With the sinking of the shafts in mid-Durham, new jobs were found for Irishmen, again the heavy labouring involved in shaft sinking.  Once the shafts were sunk, the Irish were employed in labouring and on the coke-ovens ... Only slowly were the Irish able to gain skilled, piece-rate jobs at the face."  
Michael was one of those labouring Irish, the poorest paid, and it doesn't appear as if Michael ever worked his way up the ranks to the lofty heights of coal-face coal miner.  

1881 England Census - Civil Parish of Tanfield, Durham County, England
According to the census records of 1881, Michael was by then employed as a 'coke drawer - burner'.  Essentially his job would have been to draw out the finished coke from the retort in which coal was heated to produce coke.  

Coke drawer working at a coke oven
He would have scraped the scorching hot coke out of the coke oven using an iron rod (known as a scraper), fork it into a wheelbarrow, and then push the wheelbarrow to a railroad car and emptied the hot coke into the car.  It would have been strenuous and dangerous work.  The only saving grace would have been that he was working above ground and not in the dark depths of a coal shaft.

By 1881 Michael, his wife Susan, and family of  6 children were living at 140 Havanna Street, and there was a lodger also living with them, paying rent for the privilege of a roof over his head.  It appears that Michael's eldest daughter Margaret (my great grandmother) had left home at this stage and was working as a live-in domestic servant in the same township of Tanfield.

Example of miner's row housing
There were 160 houses in Havanna Street, and almost all the residents worked for the coal mine nearby, so that paints a picture of what were referred to as pitrow or miner's row housing - long rows of one or two room houses on either side of a street.  Living conditions would have been cramped and unsanitary.  It's a picture of poverty.

No surprise then that Michael and his family made the decision to emigrate to Australia.  No doubt they were convinced it would be their only chance to build a better life and the long journey offered the promise of a rosier future.


Looking at the immigration passenger list record, I once again have to question the age recorded for my 2x great grandfather.  If he was supposedly aged 38 when emigrating in 1887, then he would have been 16 when he got married in 1865, and 17 when his first child was born.  Whilst I know this is possible, it just doesn't seem plausible.

Given that I tracked down a baptism record with the exact names of the parents who were listed on Michael's marriage record, then I think it's more correct to say that at the age of 52 Michael, his wife Susan and their children Thomas (aged 18), Elizabeth (aged 12), Michael (aged 10), Patrick (aged 8), James (aged 5) and baby Matthew (incorrectly listed as another Michael) only aged 4 months, left London on August the 10th 1887 headed for Australia. My great great grandfather's two eldest daughters, Margaret (my great grandmother) and Helen, had already emigrated in 1886.


Unfortunately I haven't been able to find out any details about the trip of the 'Cheybassa' from London to Townsville in late 1887, other than the fact that the ship arrived safely in the port of Townsville on the 28th of September after a six-week voyage, and then sailed on to Brisbane.

Michael and his family disembarked in Townsville and would have taken a train out to Charters Towers where they met up with their two daughters who had been working there for over a year.  Charters Towers was to be Michael's home for the remainder of his life.

I don't have much more information about Michael's life after he settled in Charters Towers, apart from a few details gleamed from electoral roll records for the years 1903, 1908 and 1913.  Michael was living at Bridge Street in Charters Towers for each of those years - so it's safe to say that was probably the family home that Michael and Susan established not long after they arrived in the town.  




On each of those records, Michael's occupation was listed as 'labourer', so again I'm surmising that he no doubt turned his hand to any physically demanding unskilled manual work he could find. It appears he worked right up until the year of his death, so he remained fairly active well into his early 80s.

Three of his sons remained in Charters Towers during Michael's lifetime, as evidenced by the electoral roll records - two worked as miners (Thomas and Patrick) and one (Michael Jnr.) was an auctioneer.  My great grandmother Margaret (Michael's eldest daughter) married, raised her family and lived in Charters Towers until just after Michael died.  Helen, the second eldest daughter, had married in 1890, and also remained in Charters Towers, raising her family.  Elizabeth married in 1897 but moved away with her husband to the Innisfail area to raise her family.

I have been unable to find out much about the lives of the younger sons, James, Matthew and Patrick over this period of time, but all three enlisted to fight in First World War and their war records indicate their professions before the war.  Both James and Matthew had 'hairdresser' listed as their occupation, but I do know that Matthew had been working on a station named Bluff Downs, just outside Charters Towers for a while before he enlisted.  Patrick's occupation was listed as 'iron moulder' and he was living in Bundaberg at the time of his enlistment.

My great great grandfather Michael lived long enough to see these three sons enlist and sail off to fight in World War 1, but not for much longer after that.  His second youngest son James enlisted first, in January 1916.  His youngest son Matthew enlisted next, in July of 1916.  Then Patrick enlisted in November of that same year.  

Son, Patrick Farrell





Sadly, Michael's son Patrick was killed in action less than a year later in Belgium, in September of 1917.









Michael died just two months later in November of 1917.  His death was apparently the result of injuries caused by a fall.  I'm not sure what type of fall it was or of the circumstances around this event, despite endless searches of newspapers of the time.  


Michael Farrell died at the age of 83, just a few days after his birthday, and was buried in the Charters Towers cemetery.  The cause of death is recorded as: accidental fractured neck of femur, pulmonary congestion and heart failure.  Falling at his age had a catastrophic effect.






I'm joining Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project / challenge.


The prompt for Week 5 of 2019 is 'At The Library'.

Without the incredible wealth of material available online from the National Library of Ireland, family history research would be extremely difficult for people like me who don't have a wealth of oral family history passed down through the generations and don't have the opportunity to actually visit the local churches in the townlands where my Irish ancestors began their lives.  It has been an absolute godsend!

You can join by blogging or posting on social media with the tag #52Ancestors.



Wednesday, 12 December 2018

The Story of James Burke

This post tells the story of my maternal Great Great Grandfather, James Burke (1811 - 1878).  

James was born in 1811 in southern County Tipperary to father David Burke and mother Mary Whelan.

Catholic Parish Register 1811



The area shaded in red depicts the Parish of Powerstown


He was baptised on March 10th 1811 in the Parish of Powerstown (also known as Powerstown & Lisronagh) of the Waterford and Lismore Diocese.

This parish is very close to Clonmel and Kilsheelin, both of these places have been mentioned in oral family history as homes for members of the extended Burke family.

My great great grandfather's name was recorded as 'Jacobum' and his sponsers were Michael Power and Ann Rieley.



I have found scant details about his childhood unfortunately, other than the fact I have found evidence that a brother William was born two years previously.  I can find no other records of children born to David Burke and Mary Whelan.



In early 1833, at the age of 22, James married Catherine Crotty in the Newcastle Parish in County Waterford.

Catholic Parish Register 1833

Usually weddings occurred in the parish of the bride and her family, so I'm assuming the Crottys were living in the Newcastle Parish at that time.  Witnesses were Thomas Condon and John Nugent.

James and Catherine went on to have seven children over a period of nineteen years.  I have found records for:

David born in 1835.  James was aged 24 at this time.
William born in 1841.
Tobias born in 1843.
Maurice born in 1846.
John born in 1848.
Bridget, my Great Grandmother, born in 1851.  James was now aged 40.
James born in 1854.

All children, except their last born, were registered as having been born in the area known as Three Bridges, close to Carrick-on-Suir in County Waterford; so it appears that James and Catherine moved there not long after they were married.


Then sometime between the birth of my great grandmother Bridget in 1851 and the birth of their last born son in 1854, it appears that my 2x great grandfather James, then aged 43, his wife Catherine and their six children had moved to farmland in Killonerry, County Kilkenny.  The birth record for their last born son had Killonerry recorded as his place of birth.

The prompt for Week 34 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge is:  Non-Population.  Essentially non-population records are those records that provide information other than the counting of people for a census.  I would regard the Griffith's Valuation as a non-population record.  It was carried out between 1848 and 1864 basically to provide a basis for determining taxes.  According to Ancestry.com "this involved establishing the value of all privately held lands and buildings in both rural and urban areas in order to figure a rental rate for each unit of property.It did not list all the members of the household living on the land, but did provide at least one family member's name.

The reason for matching my 2x great grandfather's story with this prompt is that my research led me to the 1850 Griffith's Valuation records for Killonerry, County Kilkenny, where I found there was a Thomas Whelan listed as a person holding land in Killonerry, along with two other gentlemen, in the exact position where the Burke family farm was (and still is) located.


This is where my great great grandfather James Burke and his family moved to just before the birth of their last son.  It appears likely that Thomas Whelan was a relative of James's mother Mary whose maiden name was Whelan.  This may explain the move from Three Bridges to Killonerry, if indeed Thomas Whelan took over the entire holding and then passed it on to a descendant of one of the Whelan clan.

My great great grandfather James Burke and his wife Catherine were to spend the rest of their lives, working and living on that farm in Killonerry.

Their eldest son David, moved away around 1863 to begin his own life.  Second born son William migrated to Australia sometime in the early 1860s.  I can't find any information about what happened to Tobias.

Maurice, the fourth born, appears to have moved away briefly in 1875 when he became a father, but then moved back onto the farm in 1876 when he married.  He went on to have a family and raised them all on the family farm.  Fourth born John married in 1873 and moved away.

In 1873, James's wife Catherine passed away.  They had been married for 40 years.  James was 62 years of age by then.

James himself died just five years later, in 1878, aged 67.


At the time of James's death, it appears that son Maurice, Maurice's wife Anne Prendergast and their two children, as well as my Great Grandmother were still living on the family farm.

My Great Grandmother Bridget Burke remained on the farm with her brother and his family for a period of five more years, and then she migrated to Australia.  Maurice then became the owner of the family farm, worked the farm, raised his family for another 14 years until his death.



I'm joining Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project / challenge.


The prompt for Week 34 is 'Non-Population'.

You can join by blogging or posting on social media with the tag #52ancestors.



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