November 13, 2012 § 3 Comments
Some time ago I stumbled upon a fascinating clue regarding the relationship between two families. I had been searching for the immigration record of one of the Conroy sisters and by happenstance discovered the true immigration record for Ellen Conroy which I had not found til then. The discovery of it was made possible by an interesting example of human error. In this case, the information transcribed by whoever had indexed the document was incorrect. Specifically the spelling of the place of origin had been absolutely butchered. Had the glaring misspelling not leapt off the computer screen I might have missed it, coupled with the fact that the result was listed on the fourth page of search results, it was a very happy accident, indeed.
The ship manifest for Ellen Conroy, age 21, was dated 1895 and she sailed from Queenstown, Ireland on the SS Cephalonia of the Cunard Line, and landed in Boston. Interestingly she was traveling with one of her sisters, Mary, age 18, and their last residence was correctly listed as Rosenallis, Queens Co. Even more interesting was the revelation that they were traveling with a male companion, named Harry Burns (at least according to the transcription). Closer scrutiny confirmed that the first name was actually Henry, although it is difficult to read at a distance.
Incredibly Henry is described as having already lived in the States, and that on this voyage he is returning “home” to West Newton, Massachusetts. Ellen and Mary’s destination is also listed as West Newton. The next detail regarding their intended final destination really floored me when I read it. Not only are they travelling to West Newton, but specifically they are going to the residence of a Mrs. Harney, Cherry Street, West Newton who is described as Ellen and Mary’s cousin.
Flash forward in time a bit to the year 1909 when in February Ellen Conroy is married to a man named Thomas Martin Harney, who was previously married but is now widowed. Thomas is the son of Thomas Harney and Margaret Lynch both of whom were born in Ireland and later immigrated and were married in America. Thomas Martin himself was born in Newton. The senior Thomas Harney is the son of a (you guessed it) Thomas Harney and Bridget Nunderkin (not sure on that last name, though…), who have another son whose name is (don’t hold your breath) Martin and is about 10 years older. Both sons seem to have been born in a townland in Ireland called Skerry, Queens, County, which is not all that far from the region near Rosenallis from which the Conroys hail.
Here’s the catch: In 1895 when Ellen was travelling to America to meet her supposed cousin, Mrs. Harney of Cherry Street, the woman who fits that bill is the wife of Martin Harney, Eliza Byrne, residents of 271 Cherry Street. Please note the difference in spelling of the last name, an issue which repeats itself throughout my research. Martin Harney and Eliza Byrne seem to have been married in Ireland. They also have a son named Thomas (shocker, I know) who I believe was in fact born in Ireland and then later immigrated to Newton as well. In the Newton city directory below Martin is seen as well as his brother Thomas, the future father-in-law of Ellen Conroy, also living on Cherry Street, not to far away. Thomas Martin is also present on the next page.
So who are these Byrnes who appear to be related to the Conroys? And what degree of relation are we looking at? As best I can figure one of Ellen’s aunts would have to have married a Byrne (back in Ireland) in order for Eliza and Ellen (and her other siblings) to be cousins, at least first cousins. In an attempt to answer some of these questions I decided to see what I could discover of Henry Byrne/Burns and his whereabouts after 1895.
Henry Byrne shows up in the Newton City Directory of 1893 (below) living at 271 Cherry Street with Martin Harney, husband of Eliza Byrne, stong suggestive evidence that perhaps Henry and Eliza are siblings. A careful reader will also notice one John Conroy also residing at that address. Who he is remains a small mystery to me and must remain the subject of another post, another time.
In 1895, presumably after Henry’s return trip from Ireland, he has relocated and is now living with Thomas Harney, 327 Cherry (see above).
Extra careful readers will notice a Mrs. Fannie P. Byrne and a John Byrne both residing at 64 West – could they share a family tie with Henry and Eliza…? We shall soon see.
After 1895 Henry disappears and I have not yet been able to locate him elsewhere or discover what may have happened to him. I suspect he may have returned to Ireland for good but have found no proof of that. For example, he does not seem to be present in the 1901 Irish census. For now this particular trail has run cold. So where else might I find clues?
At one point I went back to immigration records. Perhaps I could find traces of other Byrne family members which would in turn provide some more information. It wasn’t long before a curious tidbit turned up.
Below is the passenger manifest of a ship from Ireland in 1899. Listed is one Andrew Byrne who, according to the record, is coming from none other than Rosenallis and traveling to West Newton.
Sure enough, Andrew first appears in the Newton City Directory in 1907, which is difference of a few years for which I’m not sure why this is the case. However, note who he is living with. He is residing with the same Mrs. Fannie P. Byrne as listed just above but who is now a widow. We see that John Byrne, clearly her husband, passed away in 1905. The address has changed, but clearly the same people.
Andrew last appears in the directory in 1915, and what becomes of him is also a mystery. Fannie ends up moving to Boston, where she in fact had lived before with her husband. So who then is this John Byrne, and are he and Andrew related to Henry and Eliza?
John Byrne’s own death certificate offers some clues. His parents are named as Richard Byrne and Sarah Morgan, but no place of birth is listed. John and Fannie had son also named John, who tragically died at the age of 16 after falling down an elevator shaft, an incident which was recorded in a local police almanac.
On his death certificate we see some more detailed information. John Byrne, the senior, was born in County Down, while Fannie Pope came from Cork. It is worth noting that he is buried in Calvary cemetary in Waltham where Ellen Conroy and most of the Harneys are also buried.
So the great question next was, who are Eliza Byrne’s parents and where did they come from? It seems slightly puzzling that a family that seems to be coming from Rosenallis, Queens County might actually be originally from County Down, but perhaps this is not so strange after all.
I wrote away to the Newton City Clerk for Eliza Byrne-Harney’s death certificate, which I recently received. Unfortunately it only lists her place of origin as Ireland and does not offer any more specific details. However, her parents are listed, but, incredibly, they are not Richard Byrne and Sarah Morgan. Eliza’s parents are named Patrick “Burns” and Bridget Conroy. Yup. A Conroy yet again. Could this be the elusive family connection? Could Bridget Conroy be somehow related to Ellen and her siblings? If so, why does there seem to be such a close relationship with this other branch of Byrnes who have at least one set of parents named differently and come from a different region in Ireland?
It is certain that a connection between my branch of the Conroy family has a connection to at least one of the Bryrne families, but so far the piece of evidence that proves it eludes me. However the travelling habits of these families clearly supports the pattern that people from the Old World often moved to the same neighborhoods in the New. More to come, I’m sure….
March 12, 2011 § 5 Comments
For some time now the blog has been largely focused on the ancestry of the Conroy family of Coen, Ireland. One thing has led to another, and I’ve been quite involved with pursuing that branch of the family tree. Now, however, it is time to turn some of the attention to the other main branch from which I descend, the Dunns.
The story really must be told in two parts. The first relates to the history of the paternal line of Daniel Dunne of Waterford, Ireland. For a long time I knew very little of this history, but recently I’ve uncovered quite a bit more, and the picture is beginning to fill out. The second part comes closer to home, for it tells the story of my grandfather, and the unusual circumstances of his birth. To make things interesting I’m telling this second part first.
The telling of this story involves discussing issues that are sensitive in nature, and carry emotional weight to them. I wish to make it clear that writing about them is not meant in any way to be some sort of exposé or sensational story telling. The attempt to uncover the past is not an attempt to lay blame or accuse, but simply to give voice and honor the truth.
My grandfather was born Joseph Francis Dunn in February of 1908 in Massachusetts; at least that is what he was raised to believe. His mother, Sarah Conroy of Queens County, Ireland, had married a man named Thomas Francis Dunne from Waterford, Ireland. At the time Sarah had been living in Newton and Thomas in Worcester. How they met remains a mystery to me. Sarah soon gave birth to a second boy, my grand uncle James. A few weeks after James’ birth Thomas died; he had been ill with diabetes. Sarah was now a widow with two small boys to care for, and by 1918 she had moved with them to Providence, Rhode Island.
As a young man my grandfather lived in Providence and worked at a local grocery market. As family lore tells it, he frequently made the trip on the train up to Newton where he would visit with his aunt Ellen, one of Sarah’s sisters. Up till this point the story is like any other, but then it takes a strange turn.
The time was now between 1930 and 1940, when America was rolling out new federal programs such as Medicare and Social Security. The country was also about to enter the Second World War. When my grandfather went to enlist in the army a curious problem came to light – he could not locate his own birth certificate. It was not unusual for people born at the early part of the century to lack a birth certificate; mandatory registration had only recently taken effect, and many States lagged behind in full compliance for several years. However, Massachusetts was among those few who had been keeping records for many years, going as far back as the late 1600s. While not completely uncommon, it was unusual for someone born in the early twentieth century in Massachusetts not to have a certificate to their name (incidentally I cannot find a certificate for James, either, although he does have a baptismal record – however, my grandfather does not).
When my grandfather inquired about the discrepancy with Sarah she apparently became very upset, crying and asking him not to ask her questions and to leave her be. You can imagine what kind of effect this would have had over him. No matter how he would ask her, or how he would try to reassure her, the same scene would be repeated; she would not speak to him and would become very sad. Sometime later, when my grandfather had married, his wife would approach Sarah, telling her that no one was going to judge her or be angry with her, that they simply wanted to know what had happed. Despite these reassurances Sarah would keep her silence.
Eventually my grandparents stopped asking her, but they continued to search for an answer on their own. My grandmother wrote to different institutions for any records they might have. One document they obtained was Sarah and Thomas’ marriage certificate from the town of Newton. Examining the record reveals a curious thing – the marriage occurred 10 Jul 1910. How could this be? To make matters even more complicated, James had been born 15 May 1911, followed by Thomas’ death on 28 May 1911, just a short year or so after his wedding. Clearly there was a problem, but perhaps the problem was my grandfather’s birthdate.
In the records my grandmother obtained were letters from some of the early schools in Providence my grandfather had attended as a young child. Each one listed his date of birth as February 1908. Perhaps even more strangely, on one record it listed his place of birth as New York. Since it was his mother herself providing the date of birth, it seems likely that it is correct, making the discrepancy with the wedding date all the more problematic.
Another curious issue came to light when I discovered the 1930 United States Federal Census for Providence, Rhode Island. Sarah is listed, as a widow, living with her two sons, Joseph and James. The birthplace for the two boys is listed as Massachusetts, respectively. However, the age given for Sarah when she was first married seemed odd. It is difficult to read; there is one of those many mysterious slashes or marks that seem to appear on census records, this time right through the number. I believe it is either 16, 17, or possibly 19. It is definitely not 25, the age listed on Sarah’s marriage certificate from 1910. If my grandfather was truly born in 1908, then Sarah lied in the census about her age when she married in an attempt to compensate for his early birth. My grandfather, in his early twenties at the time, would not have known any different.
But eventually he did learn of the difference. Family lore suggests that he even visited St Bernard’s, the very church where his parents were married and his younger brother baptized, in an effort to try to learn something of the truth. He apparently even confronted the very priest who officiated the marriage, who then acknowledged that my grandfather had come this far in his search, but that he should leave the matter alone. The priest then supposedly stated that it would only open up a can of worms. Imagine being a middle-aged man who has only just discovered you don’t really know the truth about your birth, and to have a priest tell you to leave it alone.
There are more strange details in this story. Thomas Francis Dunn lived out his life here in the States in Worcester City, Massachusetts. He is pretty easy to track in the city directories, but in 1909 an unusual thing occurs. He is listed as “removed to New York City”. For a man who otherwise never left Worcester, other than for his wedding in Newton, New York seems like an unlikely place to go. Furthermore, he isn’t there for very long; he returns to Worcester soon enough to be present in the 1910 Worcester census, as well as to be married in Newton in July. What could the reason for this short trip be? Did he visit a friend, or perhaps meet a family member who was immigrating? It is also impossible to ignore the apparent coincidence of his visit to New York in 1909 and my grandfather’s school record listing New York as his birthplace in 1908. Researching the 1909/1910 New York directories so far has proven difficult. For one thing, there are more than just a few Dunns, Dunnes, and Conroys living in the city.
One last odd detail is Thomas’ death certificate itself. It would seem logical that Sarah would have been the informant to his death, and indeed the document lists Thomas’ “widow” as such. But the absence of her name troubles me. I have seen a death certificate fail to list the informant’s name in only one other circumstance. Additionally, the names of Thomas’ parents do not match those listed on his wedding certificate. I have done some research in Thomas’ siblings and I am confident the information in his wedding certificate is correct. So how did Sarah, if she’s the real informant, get her husband’s parents’ names wrong?
All of this leads to some fundamental questions. First, if my grandfather was indeed born in February 1908, then where was Sarah living in 1907 when she got pregnant? Tracking an unmarried woman in city directories is very difficult, and women under the age of 21 are hardly ever listed. In addition to this, I have never been able to find her in the 1910 census in either Massachusetts or New York. The census was taken in April, so she still would have been unmarried, and while I have found the odd “Sarah Conroy” listed here and there, none has ever seemed to be right (birthplace wrong, age, etc.). Second, if Thomas is the birth father, then the couple would have been under tremendous social pressure to marry and make the relationship legitimate, but they aren’t married for almost two years. That seems like a long time to endure the pressures of your family members. But if Thomas is not the birth father then one has to wonder if he knew about my grandfather’s existence at all. And given Thomas’ early death, one also wonders if he or Sarah were aware of his illness when they married, and if, although it is a stretch, that was somehow a factor.
One way or another, Thomas dies in 1911 and by 1918 Sarah and the two boys have moved to Providence, Rhode Island. Almost every other member of Sarah’s family that came to Massachusetts stayed in Massachusetts, and Sarah’s relocation is a stark contrast to that pattern. By 1918 my grandfather would have been 10 years old, old enough to begin to be aware of tensions within a family that may have been trying to hide a secret. Sarah’s relocation was most likely intended to raise Joseph away from the family members who knew the truth behind the circumstances of his birth.
During one of the many times that my wife and I have discussed this puzzle, I began to consider how difficult it would be, as a parent, not to tell your grown child the truth about their birth, unless perhaps the secret was not yours to keep at all. In other words, perhaps Sarah herself is not the birth mother. However, that seems unlikely. I think Sarah’s silence has more to due with the perceived shame that an illegitimate child would have caused at that time, and that my grandfather’s discovery of the issue meant that Sarah’s potential attempt to keep him from ever learning of it had failed. The combination of those two factors was probably more than she could bear.
My pursuit of this mystery is fuelled by many things, but the point has never been to cause more pain or shame to family. I’m highly competitive when it comes to puzzles or games (anyone who has ever played against me in a game of Pictionary will attest to this), and until the last brick-wall in my research fails to crumble I will continue to pursue it. While the ultimate explanation has little value to the family members of the time, they are after all passed on, I do think it has meaning for those of us still here. Both of my grandfathers died when I was a young boy but my memories of them are still strong. I often wish they had been able to know me as grown man myself, and I miss them very much.
UPDATE 3/8/12: I recently uncovered the 1935 Rhode Island State census, which clearly lists Jospeh’s birthplace as New York. Again, this is at odds with the 1930 federal census which lists Massachusetts as the birthplace. I wonder what the 1940 census will say….?
January 20, 2011 § 6 Comments
I think there are two great discoveries that one can make when researching a genealogical project. The first is locate a document that you set out deliberately to find, and the other is to find something unexpected that you weren’t looking for at all. This second kind of experience can be very exciting and lead to even more discoveries, and it is the kind of moment that keeps Junkies like me coming back for more.
It was a discovery such as this I made recently that really stunned me, and uncovered details that I am still working to sort out. I had been searching for an immigration record for Agnes Conroy, daughter of James and Catherine, and was not having much luck. But as I was looking through one search result after another, one stood out dramatically from the rest. It was actually an immigration record for Ellen Conroy which I had never located. I had found records that seemed plausible, but nothing that was without a doubt hers. This, however, was different. It stood out from the other search results mainly because the spelling of Rosenallis, Co. Queens had been so badly butchered by whoever had keyed in the document that it was impossible to miss, and when I took a look at it the manifest itself I knew I had found the right one. All the details matched, listing her birthplace as Rosenallis and her final destination as West Newton, Massachusetts. Also traveling with her was her sister, Mary B Conroy. As I looked at their names I was drawn to another detail. Accompanying them was a man named Harry Burns who was of Irish descent but apparently was already living in the States in Newton. It was clear that he had made the trip back to Ireland and then helped to bring Ellen and Mary across the sea. But the most amazing detail would be the destination information listed under Ellen. According to the manifest Ellen was traveling to meet her cousin Mrs. Harney living on Cherry Street in west Newton. When I read this my jaw hit the floor. Several years in the future, in 1907, Ellen would marry a Mr. Thomas B Harney of West Newton, and Ellen herself would then live out her life on Cherry Street. Did this mean that her future mother-in-law was also her cousin? This seemed unlikely, so I began to look a little further.
When I went referred back to the Newton city directory I would make some pretty astounding discoveries. Suddenly there was Conroy’s popping out all over the place (well, mostly on Cherry Street). I found a John W. Conroy, whom with his son, Eugene, owned a painting business, J. W. Conroy & Son, which is referred to in the Illustrated Boston, the metropolis of New England, 1889. Ellen Conroy’s sister-in-law, Mary Elizabeth Harney married a man named John (J?) Conroy, born in 1870, but I do not know if he is related. The thing that intrigued me the most was the relationship between Ellen and this “cousin Mrs. Harney.” At first I attempted to locate Harry Burns, the gentleman listed on the ship manifest who was travelling with the Conroy sisters, but after a brief search I couldn’t find anything. However, as I looked through the city directory I discovered a Martin Harney, also living on Cherry Street, and in 1893 Martin is living with a John Conroy (possibly the son of JW Conroy Sr or the man who marries Mary Elizabeth Harney) and a Henry Byrne. When I saw this I grew very excited (and also kicked myself for not checking a different spelling for ‘Burns’) and I went back and look more closely at the immigration record. Upon closer inspection with a magnifying glass I could see that the ‘Harry’ was actually a Henry, just that the ‘e’ had been squished into the ‘H’ a little bit. Eventually I found Martin’s marriage record and he married a girl named Eliza Byrne from Ireland. Although I haven’t been able to prove it just yet, I think that Ellen must have an aunt (on either her mother’s or father’s side) who married a Byrne at some point, and thus began the family connection. Mrs. Eliza Byrne Harney then is Ellen Conroy’s cousin as mentioned on the ship manifest.
I cannot show that Martin Harney is in anyway related to the Harney family that Ellen marries into, but I cannot imagine that they’re not given the circumstantial evidence. I also don’t know that the JW Conroy family is related either, but once again it seems very likely that they must be. An initial search of birth and marriage records from Ireland would suggest that all the Conroys, Byrnes, and Harneys all originally came from Queens County, now called Laois. It would make sense, then, that families who knew each other in Ireland would congregate near each other in the New World, even marrying together. Another piece of the puzzle that suggests this is that all of the marriages that occurred in Newton all took place at St Bernard’s, the same place that Ellen and Sarah, my great-grandmother, got married at, and everyone who died was buried in Calvary cemetery in Waltham, Massachusetts (Sarah herself had moved to Rhode Island and is buried there).
Even though there are some loose ends, uncovering this treasure trove of information has been a real exciting experience, and I’m somewhat awed by the realization of how important Newton, Massachusetts has been in the history of my maternal great-grandmother’s family. It is amazing to discover that you’re even more connected with ancestor’s than you had previously imagined.
PS I did find Agnes Conroy’s immigration record after all, only she’s listed by her birth name of Bridget. My friend Michael from Dublin reminded me that girls named Bridget would not like being called Biddy back in the early 1900s, so she most likely changed her name or used a nickname or even her middle name.
January 12, 2011 § 1 Comment
As predicted at the end of last year, it wasn’t too long before I returned to doing research into my family’s history, and the New Year brought a flurry of activity, much of it done in a short time. I cannot do the full story justice in this post, but I’ll at least hit the highlights.
Perhaps the most exciting moment was being contacted here through the blog by a distant cousin living in Dublin, Ireland, who has been very generous with his time and has helped to fill in some details of the family tree. I have to say that it feels like one of the great goals of family research has been accomplished, namely, making contact with living relatives still living in the country of your family’s origin.
The next exciting thing has been the unearthing of an entire group of ancestors living in Newton, Massachusetts that I had no idea existed. I had one of those classic research moments when you realize that names of persons in records you have already viewed once were in fact members of your family tree, only you didn’t know it the first time around. I hope to be able to tell this story a little more fully in a future post.
And lastly, I have been pushing to try to determine where exactly in County Laois the Conroy family is from, and I think I have narrowed down the possibilities, thanks to the help of Griffith’s Valuation, which was a landowner survey conducted in Ireland between 1847 and 1864. It is hard to know for sure if I have found my actual ancestors listed in the index without consulting the “house” books held in the National Archives, or perhaps commissioning the actual Valuation Office to research it. However, I think I am on the right track, and hopefully I will be able to figure this out for sure sometime soon.
More coming soon…!
October 19, 2010 § 1 Comment
My obsession with genealogical research began with one person. I suppose this is how it is for a lot of people who set out to learn something of their ancestors, but over time the significance of that individual’s pull on your research – and your mind – continues to grow. Even when you’ve taken a break from it all or gone off on another branch of family members, you still end up coming back – at least in thought – to the one who started it all.
Sarah Conroy is my paternal great-grandmother and was born around 1885 in Ireland, and she was supposedly from a small town called Mountmellick in County Laois. It was with Sarah that I got my first real taste of the rush of triumph and excitement that comes when you find someone you’re looking for in a record you were hoping to find. I had travelled to the National Archives in Waltham, Massachusetts, hoping to find a record of immigration. I knew she had been married in Newton, MA., so it was likely that she arrived in Boston. I knew he marriage year, too, so I could narrow down the range of years I would have to search.
Within twenty minutes of playing with the search engine on Ancestry.com I had found her. In the search results the word ‘Mountmellick’ leaped out at me, and I gleefully followed the link to view the image. It was her and I had even discovered the name her older sister, Ellen, who had paid the price of her ticket.
Of all my ancestors she has been one of the most challenging to trace, for reasons I still do not understand. I know when she arrived in the US and I know when and where she got married. That event occurred in 1910 in Newton and she married a man named Thomas Francis Dunn, who, as listed on their marriage certificate, was from Waterford, Co. Waterford, Ireland. He had been living in Worcester, MA. with the family of his deceased older brother, William. Thomas himself would pass away, leaving Sarah with two boys, Joseph and James. She then moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where she is listed in a 1919 city directory.
She and her two sons next appear in the 1930 census for Providence as well as some later city directories.
When Sarah immigrated she was greeted by her older sister Ellen, who, as I said above, paid for Sarah’s passage. Ellen herself had immigrated around 1897. At some point she moved to Newton, MA. where she met and married Thomas M Harney, who had been previously married. They were married in February 1909 in Newton MA at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church. A little over a year later Sarah and Thomas would be married at the same church with Ellen as a witness.
Another member of the Conroy family was brother James J Conroy. He appears in the 1910 Census for Newton as a member of Ellen and Thomas Harney’s household and may have worked for the local railroad. He immigrated in 1904 on the SS Ivernia of the Cunard line, the same vessel that carried Sarah a few years earlier.
The trail for James becomes a little sketchy when I start looking forward through the census returns and cities directories, mostly because at this point I cannot confirm if I am still following the same James J Conroy. He appears to have married in 1914 but at this point I do not have any documentation to prove this. Making another trip to the Mass State Archives at some point will help tremendously in this. [Update! Check out the post, https://censusjunkie.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/james-joseph-conroy/]
Returning now to Ellen Conroy, on her marriage certificate from the church there is an Agnes Conroy listed as a witness. This is the first and only time that I have seen this name and I do not know who she is, although it is safe to assume that she would be a sister. My mother told me that Sarah was supposed to have close to fourteen siblings, so finding all of them will be challenging.
It has always been a goal of mine to try to trace the Conroy’s back oversees to their native Ireland, but doing so comes with some significant challenges. The first is of course is that I live here in the States and they came from a different country. The second is that Ireland is really thin when it comes to census information, and the reason for this is a complex one, a subject better left for a forthcoming post. But, for now, we shall just discuss the two major returns that are available in the country – the years 1901 and 1911. As far as the usefulness of census returns to genealogy these are rather late dates and it can make it difficult to trace a family line back very far. However, there are what we’ve got to work with, and in some cases they are all that exist.
For a long time the only way to access the returns was to make a trip to Dublin and visit the National Archives and do the research in person. I often would think and talk about the possibility of getting to the point in my own research when this would become necessary. Now, however, making the trip is not needed, for the entire returns for both 1901 and 1911 have been digitized and are available online for searching. This is really a wonderful thing because it is a great feat alone to digitize a set of extensive documents nevermind make them available as a searchable database online.
It took me a little digging around to find the Conroys in 1901 but eventually I did. At first the stumbling block was that I didn’t know exactly where they lived. I knew they lived in or near Mountmellick from documents I had from Sarah and James, but when I looked at Ellen’s marriage record I discovered that her birthplace was a town called Rosenallis. Thanks to the miracle of Google Maps I looked the town up and found that it was situated very near Mountmellick but a little to the west. In looking through the census returns I could not find anything that matched this location for the family members that I knew about (keep in mind that in 1901 Sarah and James would have both still have been in Ireland and I also knew the names of the parents). I broadened the search and finally I found them listed in a townland called Cones, in the Capard area, which, again according to Google Maps is very close to Rosenallis but just a little ways down the road, so to speak. This was very exciting. Listed were Catherine Conroy the mother as the head of household with her children, John, Sarah, Bridget, Patrick, Lizzie, Michael, and Thomas. A visitor, Peter Bennett, was also accounted for. The father, James Sr., was listed under his own return with no one with him, which is an interesting occurrence in a census and I’m not sure what to make of it. Perhaps he was away from the house but was counted somewhere else. The son, James Jr., was also listed elsewhere as a laborer. I would also find them again in the 1911 return, this time with James and Sarah gone, and most of the rest remaining.
Additional information provided by the return relates to the type of house the family lived in, what sort of outbuildings they might have, and whether ir not they had livestock. In 1911 the Conroys had one stable, one cow house, one calf house, and one turf house or shed. Another interesting tidbit from the 1911 census is the detail of how many years the present marriage has lasted (for the woman or wife), how many children have been born to her, and how many children are still living. The years of marriage help to identify when the couple was married, in this case around 1871, and the census shows that Catherine Conroy had twelve children, ten of whom are still living in 1911.
So this has been a brief (if you can believe it) introduction to the Conroy family. There many loose ends within this story that I am continuing to pursue and future posts will again come back to them. Going forward I hope to trace Sarah a little more thoroughly, as well as her other siblings, and hopefully her parents’ lives in Ireland. Thanks again for reading.