Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Finding a Hometown in Ireland

My grandmother's grandfather was Patrick O'Donnell.  He was from "Ireland," which is not surprising or helpful with such a name.  Without a town, it is impossible to locate with any certainty the correct Patrick O'Donnell in Ireland.  He died in Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey- United States- in 1931.  His records on this side of the pond do not specify a place of origin in Ireland.  I found a sister of Patrick named Rose, who married James Kenny in Bayonne in 1883.  Rose provided me with more opportunities to uncover the hometown of her and her brother, but Rose's records also would not give up a location more specific than Ireland.

Enter the family stories.  My grandmother told me that she had a cousin who was a priest.  Not surprising in an Irish Catholic family.  My grandmother's cousin told me that they had a cousin who was a priest at Notre Dame.  This is more helpful, but there is no lack of Irish priests and churches called Notre Dame.  I did take note of two men named O'Donnell who served as president of Notre Dame University in Indiana.

I was at the Bayonne Library yesterday and found an obituary for Patrick O'Donnell in the Bayonne Times using his date of death.  In the obituary, his hometown in Ireland was not revealed, but I discovered two more siblings in the United States.

Patrick O'Donnell was the uncle of a priest, Charles Leo O'Donnell 1884-1934, who was a president of the University of Notre Dame.  Patrick's sister, Rose, was listed, and so was a previously unknown sister- Mrs Kathryn Mason Kennedy of Stockton, California.  A nephew with the last name O'Donnell indicates that Patrick had a brother for me to find and that I should start at Notre Dame University.

Having a priest in your family is great for genealogy.  Reverend Charles is especially wonderful because he was a president of a well-known university and he was a published author of poems.  People have researched Charles and cite his parents as Cornelius (or Neil) O'Donnell and Mary Gallagher.  This O'Donnell branch lived in Indiana, which is why I never found them in New Jersey.  The burial places of Neil and Mary and their children are on FindAGrave with references to hometowns in Ireland:  Ardara for Neil O'Donnell and Killybegs for Mary Gallagher, which are in County Donegal.  In his poem, "A Road of Ireland," Charles wrote:

     "When she came up from Killybegs and he from Ardara
     My father met my mother on the road, in Donegal."

It looks as if Charles' father, Cornelius/Neil O'Donnell was a brother to my ancestor, Patrick O'Donnell; and their sisters were Rose and Kathryn.  From the records I have compiled for Patrick and Rose, the parents of these four siblings were Peter O'Donnell and Margaret Gallagher.  It is interesting that Cornelius O'Donnell may have married a Gallagher; I wonder if there was a relation.  At this point, I do not know if Peter and Margaret came to the United States.

Ardara is few than ten miles north of Killybegs in County Donegal, Ireland.


I now have specific location to look for records on my O'Donnell and Gallagher ancestors.

This story illustrates why you must follow your lines up and then across and back down through siblings and cousins.

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