Moynahan Surnames

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Finding Our Brennan Ancestors In Kerry, Ireland

My Irish ancestors from the west and south-west of Ireland

This blog post is the first of several that I hope will assist me in locating the townlands and parishes of my ancestors in Ireland.

My 3rd great-grandparents John and Catherine (Bowler) Brennan emigrated from Kerry, Ireland to Essex, Ontario in 1853 with their only child Mary (my 2nd great-grandmother born in 1841) who was only twelve years old at the time.

County Kerry, Ireland 
1841 to 1851

The living conditions in county Kerry Ireland during the ten-year period between 1841 (when my 2nd great-grandmother Mary Brennan was born) to 1851 were horrific.

In 1846 "there was nothing but distress and destitution" (Source: The Land and the People of Famine Kerry 1845-1851, Emma Catharina Linzel, 12004378 )
A pencil drawing entitled 'The house of Pat Brennan', a small farmer on Daniel O'Connell's estate at Derrynane, Co. Kerry. 'The Pictorial Times', Feb. 7 1846. Held in the National Library of Scotland. Published in 'The Irish Famine- A Documentary History' by Noel Kissane ISBN 0-907328-24-5  (Source: The Pictorial Times")
The above graphic came to my attention after I read the Brennan Blog: Breaking your brick wall with newspapers by Martine Brennan. Martine added,  
"A quick search of Griffith's Valuation online finds one Patrick Brennan, tenant of Maurice O'Connell, in the townland of Darrynane Beg, Civil Parish of Kilcrohane, Poor Law Union of Cahersiveen six years later in 1852."
My Brennan ancestors were preparing to leave County Kerry, Ireland for Canada in the Americas around the very same time period that this pencil sketch was made. My Brennan ancestor eventually settled on land in Sandwich, Essex county, Ontario right next to the O'Connells who had emigrated as well. When you are researching, ALL facts and coincidences are noteworthy!

I hope to discover more about the story of my 2nd great-grandmother Mary (Brennan) Moynahan (pictured below with her daughter Nellie) who emigrated from Co. Kerry, Ireland at twelve years of age in 1853.
My 2nd great-grandmother Mary (Brennan) Moynahan with her daughter Nellie
Mary Brennan: Born in Ireland 1841

Mary was born  in 1841 in Ireland. All of the Ontario censuses records (1861-1921) say that Mary was born in Ireland. None of the census records say that Mary was born in Kerry, Ireland but the headstone of her parents at St. Mary's cemetery in Maidstone, Ontario does specify county Kerry.

Mary's father John Brennan headstone states that he is a "Native of County Kerry, Ireland" and her mother Catherine (Bowler) Brennan's headstone states that she was "Born in 1819 in Kerry, Ireland"

It is clear that "Kerry" was an important distinction that the Brennan family wanted carved into their headstones.

On Mary's death certificate of 1926, her age is recorded as 85 years making her birth date 1841. The Ontario census records of 1861, 1881, 1891 and 1921 concur.There is a small variance on some of the census years in ONtario:
  • On the 1861 census: Mary's age is 20 and her birth date is estimated to be 1841
  • On the 1871 census: Mary's age is 28 and her birth date is estimated to be 1843
  • On the 1881 census: Mary's age is 40 and her birth date is estimated to be 1841
  • On the 1891 census: Mary's age is 50 and her birth date is estimated to be 1841
  • On the 1901 census: Mary's birth date is March 20, 1842
  • On the 1911 census: Mary's birth date is August 1840
  • On the 1921 census: Mary's age is 80 and her birth date is estimated to be 1841
This helps narrow down my searching from 1840 to 1843 in the online Irish registers that were put online in July 2015 by the National Library of Ireland (NLI):
Mary Brennan's 1853 Emigration

Based on Ontario census records (1861-1921), we know that Mary Brennan was born in Ireland between 1841 and 1843 and we also know from the census that she emigrated from Ireland in 1853.

Mary's emigration from Ireland to Canada is also mentioned in her June 25 1926  Essex Free Press  Obituary:
"An old resident of Maidstone Cross section passed away on Monday moring at her home 432 Hall Ave. Windsor in the person of Mary Moynahan, relict of the late Jerry Moynahan. Mrs Moynahan, whose maiden name was Mary Brennan, daughter of John Brennan was born in Ireland 85 years ago. When 12 years of age she came with her parents to Canada and they settled in the township of Sandwich South......."

 1857 - The Brennans Settle In Essex, Ontario

In 1857, John Brennan got the deed for 298 South Talbot Road and the family is shown on the 1861 census in Sandwich West as mother, father and daughter and all from Ireland.

Daniel Sullivan is the person who sold John Brennan the land and I have learned that Daniel Sullivan was born May 1818 in Tralee, County Kerry. (NB He was the same age as John Brennan)

Source: Onland: Historical Books: Abstratct Indexes: Essex County

1859 - Godparents 

Every clue that could possibly help in tracing the Brennan/Bowlers back to their townland in Kerry Ireland must be examined.

In the record below, John and Catherine (Bowler) Brennan are the godparents of Mary McAuliffe, daughter of Michael McAuliffe and Anna Maria Houlihan. I am still trying to locate records on the Essex county McAuliffes.

Was Mary Brennan An Only Child?

It is common for Irish Catholic families of this time period to have large families with many, many children but this time period in Kerry was difficult

It is unusual to see Irish Catholic families with only one child. I wonder if the Brennan family met with severe hardship during the famine in Ireland in the 1840s or if they suffered losses on the voyage across the Atlantic.

It seems clear that Mary (Brennan) Moynahan did not receive an education in Ireland. Both her mother Catherine (Bowler) Brennan and Mary were recorded on the 1861 Ontario census as unable to read or write but John Brennan could read and write.

I thought I would look for more clues by looking back on my correspondence from the 1980s when I began to ask questions about my Irish ancestors of cousins like Brother Bernard Broderick (1916-1992), Evelyn Janice (1916-2009) and the Finn and Lennon families.

Looking For Clues From My Cousin
Evelyn (Lennon) Janice (1916-2009)

In the 1980's I wrote to my 1st cousin 2x removed Evelyn (Lennon) Janice (1916-2009). Evelyn had to prove that her grandmother was born in Ireland in order to get citizenship so I wrote hoping to learn more about our shared family history

Evelyn (Lennon) Janice attended De La Salle school and was often told to stop over and visit with her grandmother Mary (Brennan) Moynahan after school. It was these visits with her grandmother that inspired Evelyn to do more research on her Irish roots.

Pictured (left to right): Marie Lennon, Evelyn (Lennon) Janice, Caitlin Clyne, and Clarice Lennon (circa 1983) (Photo: Courtesy of Caitlin Clyne)

Evelyn's parents Edward and Kate (Moynahan) Lennon lived at 15 Moy Avenue in Windsor, Ontario (according to the 1921 census) and 432 Hall Avenue where Mary lived with her daughter Nellie Moynahan ran parallel and was the next street over from Moy. (Read more about this Lennon family at 52 Ancestors No.16 - The Lennon Sisters )

Here are some of Evelyn's remembrances from her visits with her grandmother:

I love the details that Evelyn shared with me in her letter (dated April 18, 1988) about the starched apron, sharing ice cream and tossing a coin in the Atlantic and I am so grateful to have these images of my 2nd great grandmother Mary (Brennan) Moynahan (1841-1926)

And Evelyn also shared what she learned from her trip to Ireland on October 1986:

Looking For More Clues From
My Jobin Cousins of Maidstone

I found the following article that was written about my Great Aunt Nellie Moynahan who was a school teacher in Essex County.

Nellie was the daughter of Jeremiah and Mary (Brennan) Moynahan and she was born in Maidstone Ontario on March 31, 1865.

Her mother Mary Brennan was born in Ireland and I think the following sentence may yield helpful clues: She "came to Maidstone with her parents from Ireland to reside in the McGuire home." 

Could the McGuires be a clue to the townland that the Brennans came from in Ireland? Were they related in some way or perhaps friends in county Kerry?

Name distribution in 1659

I have located all of the Canadian BMD records (almost) for my Brennan/Bowler ancestors from County Kerry. 

The one exception is that I have been unsuccessful in locating a death record/burial record/obituary for Catherine (Bowler) Brennan online. I plan to write to St. Mary's church in Maidstone, Ontario to see if they can locate a record.

The list of outstanding records needed:
  • 1890 death record/burial record/obituary for Catherine (Bowler) Brennan (1819-1890)
  • Kerry, Ireland: birth record for John Brennan (1819-1881)
  • Kerry, Ireland: birth record for Catherine (Bowler) Brennan (1819-1890)
  • Kerry, Ireland: birth record for Mary Brennan  (1841-1926)
  • Kerry, Ireland: marriage record for John Brennan and Catherine Bowler
  • 1853 Emigration Record for family John, Catherine and Mary Brennan
  • Research Essex Sullivans, McGuires and McAuliffes for clues
We are planning a trip to Ireland in 2019. I am hopeful that I will locate the needed records by then.

Some Kerry, Ireland Research Links

County Kerry (Irish: Contae ChiarraĆ­) is a county in Ireland. It is located in the province of Munster. The county town is Tralee, Kerry. The name Kerry is derived from Ciarraighe, or "people of Ciar" the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. (Source: Family Search: County Kerry)
 Searchable Databases
Browse-able Databases 
Geography Links
  • For a free guide to Sneem Catholic Parish, County Kerry Genealogy parish records available online, see: Irish Ancestors
History Links
Irish Famine & Emigration Links
 Miscellaneous Links
My 2nd great grandparents
Jeremiah and Mary (Brennan) Moynahan
John Brennan

Source: Amherstburg Echo: Reports of John Brennans illness and death

John Brennan's Death Certificate

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