Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Keys To Ireland

This post is for the 11th Edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture.

Topic: "My Key To Ireland"
Questions: How did I find my ancestral county/village? What were the resources used? How did I feel when I made the discovery? If I haven't found the area, tell everyone my plan to uncover it. If I've always known my ancestral location, tell everyone about it.

I have multiple keys to Ireland as most of my ancestors hail from there. To make this a little easier to follow, I'm going to break my information down by family names. I will start by stating that my most valuable research records thus far have been ship and naturalization records.

Degnan is my maiden name. My family didn't know anything about this side of the family until I researched it. I soon discovered my family living in Boston, MA. I did know that my grandfather had been born there. Once I uncovered his father's name, I was able to retrieve his birth certificate from the NEHGS archives. From his birth certificate, I located the names of his parents and went in search of their marriage certificate. As luck would have it, I obtained the marriage certificate which also listed the parents names for the bride and groom. Unfortunately, place of birth only states Ireland. Patrick Degnan's naturalization record also gave no clue to a location in Ireland but it did give me a date to search for ship records. The ship record was my glory. My great-great grandfather's ship record actually listed County Longford as being his place of birth and his last residence. Through the Tithe records, I can now safely assume that the Degnan's came from northern County Longford. I was extremely excited to finally know where my family originated. I also discovered that Patrick Degnan married Margaret Galvin who was from County Cork. A fact also retrieved from her ship record.

My mother's family is Finnegan and Clune. I've always known the Clune family and their farmland in County Clare. My grandmother was the only child of five that was sent to America. Everyone else remained in Ireland and still does. The Clune's are located just down the road from the Cliffs of Moher and Lahinch in Clouna, Russa and Cullenagh. I absolutely love it there. It is truly beautiful. My mother is finally going to see it this May and I cannot wait to hear all about her vacation once she returns.

The Finnegan side has been a little tricky for me. I finally had a breakthrough last year. Again, the glory goes to the ship record. I knew that my great grandfather came here around the turn of the century and that his name was Patrick Finnegan. Once I obtained the marriage record from RI, I thought RI had made a transcription error. The marriage certificate showed the spelling of his name as "Finegan" with only one N and not two. So, I continued to search for naturalization and ship records with the spelling of Finnegan. I finally stumbled upon a ship record that matched everything minus the spelling. It was for a Patrick Finegan arriving in Boston from Ireland in 1905 who was going to his sister, Mary, in Rhode Island. His last place of residence is listed as Castleblayney, County Monaghan. I then searched for the naturalization record with the spelling of Finegan instead of Finnegan. Bingo! The naturalization record confirmed the ship date, spelling and county origination. I have no idea why Patrick decided to change the spelling of his name once my grandfather was born but I now know Finnegan should be spelled Finegan and that the family comes from County Monaghan.

I do have one mystery Irish key. My paternal great grandmother was from Ireland. I have her marriage certificate from Illinois which states her name as Margaret Maher. Now, my grandmother's birth certificate states that her mother's maiden name was Donahue. My great grandfather's naturalization record does give his late wife's place of birth as County Mayo, Ireland and that she came through New York in 1910. They were married in 1913. Her death certificate only lists her father's name as John Donahue. So, I am looking for a Margaret Donahue Maher Bench (in that order) born around 1874 to John Donahue in County Mayo, Ireland, that came by way of New York in 1910 to Illinois and then onto Cambridge, MA where she died in 1935 of heart disease. I don't have a plan of action for locating the family's exact village. I was just happy to see that she was from County Mayo. Perhaps some day I can figure out her mystery.

So, my keys include: County Longford, County Monaghan, County Clare, County Mayo and County Cork.

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office

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