Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Irish and the Jack O'Lantern

The story of the Jack O'Lantern comes from Irish folklore.

Jack was a crafty farmer who tricked the devil into climbing a tall tree. When the devil reached the highest branch, Jack carved a large cross in the trunk making it impossible for the devil to climb down. In exchange for help getting out of the tree, the devil promised never to tempt Jack with evil again. When Jack died, he was turned away from heaven for his sins and turned away from hell because of his trickery. Condemned to wander the earth without rest, Jack carved out one of his turnips, took an ember from the devil, and used it for a lantern to light his way. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern".

Colleen Degnan Johnson

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tooa and Dooraa in County Monaghan

HUGE discovery for me and I'm excited.

A couple of years ago I uncovered the ship record for my great grandfather, Patrick Finnegan. I never even knew what county my maternal Finnegan's came from until this ship record. Listed on the record was County Monaghan and beside it was Castleblayney. I was thrilled. The other thrilling moment came when I noted that he was travelling from Ireland to the United States to meet his sister, Mary Finnegan. I never even knew he had siblings.

I have searched and searched Castleblayney to no avail. I did have Patrick's birthdate and the name of his parents, Peter Finnegan and Mary Boyle. There were no marriage/birth records in Castleblayney. I dropped this search then. I was so frustrated especially with the spelling switching back and forth from Finegan to Finnegan.

Within the past year, I started to explore this side of the family again but I have been busy and not really concentrating on genealogy. I did uncover that Patrick Finnegan's sister Mary married his Larkin brother-in-law. So, how did this side of the family go missing to my side of the family when we had two connections now??? So puzzling!

Thank you to the Irish Archives. They have completed their scan project and the 1901 and 1911 Census records are online now. I jumped on last night and within hours I had my answers and my family's townland, as well as more siblings and Boyle uncles.

Was my great grandfather incorrect when he put Castleblayney as his last residence on the ship record? No. He just happened to list the name of the Poor Law Union he resided in which was Castleblayney.

He actually lived in Tooa, Ballytrain, County Monaghan in the Aughnamullen Parish. Yahoo! I found Peter and Mary Boyle, his parents. His siblings: Peter, Catherine and John along with himself, Patrick. In the 1911 Census records, Catherine and John were still living on the family farm with their uncle, Francis Boyle. Now, when I went backwards for Francis into the 1901 Census records, I found another brother, Hugh Boyle.

Where was the Boyles family farm? It was in Dooraa, Ballytrain, County Monaghan within the same Aughnamullen Parish.

If you still had family living in Ireland during 1901 and 1911, the Irish Archives is a great resource. Check it out:

Colleen Degnan Johnson

Friday, May 14, 2010

Brown Family Vacation 1931 NH

This is my paternal great grandmother's family, the Brown family. They originated in Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada before immigrating to Boston, Massachusetts, USA. I owe this picture find and some others to a distant relative uncovered on

L to R front row: Mr. Ridlon, Jeanetta Taylor Brown (my great-great grandma), Charlotte Brown Ridlon, Lillian Brown Degnan (my great grandma).

L to R back row: Leo "Tony" Degnan (my grandpa), Ruth Degnan Robbins (Leo's baby sister), and Charles "Charlie" Brown.

This photo was taken in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, August 1931.

Colleen Degnan Johnson

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Irish Clune Family Photo

This is a family photo that was sent to my maternal grandmother once she arrived in the U.S. It's set on the family farm in Tierlaheen, Co. Clare, Ireland, around 1930.

This is a group shot of her siblings that remained in Ireland.

L to R: Patrick "Pat" Clune, Mary "May" Clune Hogan, Bridget Clune O'Looney, and Margaret "Gretta" Clune Rynne. I do not know the dogs name....sorry.

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2010!

Colleen Degnan Johnson

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ennistymon on the Inagh

Ennistymon on the Inagh
Le Tadhg O hEagráin

I’m no poet, I’ve no pen, but my story I’ll relate,
Concerning my childhood, sure I know ‘tis my fate,
In a town in a valley, I was brought up with care,
Ennistymon on the Inagh, On the West Coast of Clare.

The waters of Inagh, come tumbling down,
‘Neath the bridge o’er the falls, quite close to the town,
Stand and look if you’re passing, any bet I will dare,
To equal my cradle, on the West Coast of Clare.

From the East and the West, from the world all around,
The tourist come flocking, our sights they abound,
But there’s none so lovely, so happy or fair,
As my dear little village, on the West Coast of Clare.

There are places of fancy, of fame and renown,
But my choice is my birth place, my own little town,
Snuggly nestled and happy, no trouble or care,
In my dear little village, on the West Coast of Clare.

Come ye back our dear exiles, to the green hills of Clare,
To your home in the valley, your cradle lies there,
All your loved ones and neighbours, your joy they will share,
With a Cead mile failte, to the West Coast of Clare.

Sure we all will assemble, in our own little town,
Our birth place is calling, we can’t let it down,
We’ll fly or hitch hike it, or go by shanks mare,
To that town in the valley on the West Coast of Clare.

There’s a grave near the village, up on Moughanna hill,
Sure it’s the finest that ever you’ve seen,
Won’t you bury me decent, and lay me down there,
On the hill oe’r the village, on the West Coast of Clare.
Brother Michael F. O’Conchuir of Woodmount, Ennistymon
Colleen Degnan Johnson

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Margaret Donahue Maher Bench Uncovered

Did I say, "Uncovered"?

Well, almost.

I truly did not have much when I began researching my paternal great grandmother several years ago. I had her first name from Massachusetts census records along with her married name: Margaret Bench.

I cannot even say that I received a 'free bonus' from these records as they conflicted with each other. Her first name and birth years were different on the census records. I know that's part of genealogy; but honestly, this is the silly stuff that makes me bang my head several times over.

I was very happy when my grandmother's birth certificate provided Margaret's maiden name as Donahue. Correct spelling??? Not so sure about that fact. The same birth certificate states that my great grandfather was from Biminham. Where??? LOL

He was originally from Birmingham, England. A little off on that fact they were and places the accuracy of the maiden name in serious doubt (spelling wise).

The Cambridge Library came in handy as I located her death announcement. This gave me her death date which lead me to the Cambridge Cemetary and death certificate. These little beauties provided the following information: death date, age at death, burial information, and father's name. My great great grandfather's name was a treasure to me and also confirmed the Donahue name. One small difference was the spelling of Donahue. It was listed as Donaghue.

Margaret's wedding certificate provided a different name. Out of St. Elizabeth's in Chicago, IL, came the fact that her name at the time of her marriage was Margaret Maher. So, this was her second marriage. She was approaching 40 at that time (1913) and it wouldn't surprise me if she were widowed as my great grandfather had been. It must have been a shocker to both when my grandmother happened along in May of 1914. She was their only child together. I still haven't uncovered her first marriage or any children from that marriage. My great grandfather did have children from his previous marriage and we are still quite friendly with those family members.

My great grandfather's naturalization records provided me with my remaining details. Of course, he was elderly at the time of his naturalization and most details were left unanswered. One important detail for me was my great grandmother's place of birth. He listed it as County Mayo, Ireland. Thank you for that gold nugget great grandpa.

Prior to Christmas 2009, I began to search through the County Mayo records. I lucked out. There were not a lot of Donahue's to look through. There were even less to go through when I plugged the father's name into the mix.

Margaret Donohoe
born 11/24/1867 Kilmaine RC Parish
Cong, County Mayo, Ireland

Father: John Donohoe
Mother: Julia Cullinane
Sponsor: Malachy Donahue

What was awesome about discovering this information was that the Civil and Baptism records misspelled the names also. The Civil record used Donahue and the Baptism record used Donohoe. The Civil record shows the mother's maiden name as Cullinan and the Baptism record uses Cullinane.

Several things add up to make this my record. Of course, not without a question or two. I'm still not a 100% sure but I'm 95% positive.

The names do add up. Father and daughter names check out. I cannot go by the birth year as her age changed throughout history. The fluctuation fits with my paternal great grandmother. It appears that my grandmother, Julia, was named after her grandmother, Julia Cullinane. It's in County Mayo and it's a Roman Catholic Parish.

In the search for my great grandmother, I not only received her info but have gained a County, great great grandparents and a great great grand uncle. What also tickled my funny bone? Cong, Co. Mayo is where my favorite movie was filmed: The Quiet Man. Good stuff.

Colleen Degnan Johnson