Courtown Callaghans revisited

Courtown harbour 20160910_145048I suppose it’s not surprising that Murphy and his law have a particular fondness for researchers of Irish genealogy. While it’s far more accessible than was the case for many years, thanks to all those recently digitised records, stumbling blocks still abound to challenge our research confidence.

Such is the case with my Callaghans (aka Callahan/Calligan etc) from Courtown near Gorey in Co Wexford. Each step forward seems to come with a shaky step to the side…or backwards.

In my earlier post, I discussed my aspirations for research discoveries in Ireland last year. Sad to report, much of those questions remain unanswered or have generated more questions. Despite my best endeavours I’m still unable to find the following for my ancestor, David Callaghan and his wife, Anne nee Callaghan.

I cannot find:

  • Baptisms for either Anne or David
  • Names of parents for both
  • Place and date of marriage
  • Baptism of children before 1868, though other clues have provided me with three children’s names: my ancestor Mary, born ~1860 who married Peter Sherry in 1881 and was of “full age”; Patrick drowned 1893 aged 33; and Bridget (unmarried).

Ballygarrett parish yearsIt does not help that the Callaghans were fishermen and/or sailors so could have married and had children far from Courtown. Nor does it help that they were typically illiterate and may not have completed the necessary documents, or been blasé about meeting imposed reporting deadlines. I find it highly unlikely that they did not baptise their children however, so why are missing from those? The notation on the church registers that “no baptisms were recorded in 1863-65” may be part of the problem.

Although the parish registers for Ballygarrett cover a wide range of years, the presence of Callaghan names appears to be haphazard. You might expect that it would be perfectly possible to do family reconstructions quite easily but sadly, no. While I’ve indexed any I found, it still leaves me with lots of questions and ambiguities.

Given these limitations, this is my current reconstruction of my ancestral family:

David Callaghan #1 (b? date/place?)  married (date/place?) Anne Callaghan (same maiden name confirmed) (b date/place?)

Their known descendant lines are:

Mary Callaghan b ~ 1860 married Peter Sherry (later McSherry) 1881 in Gorey Wexford. This family emigrated to Queensland in 1884. They have many descendants.

Courtown 20160910_133624

May they rest in safe anchorage. Photo Courtown Harbour, P Cass 2016.

Patrick Callaghan b ~1860 married Catherine (Kate) Dunbar in Dublin South in 1886. They had one son, David Callaghan #3, in 1893, only five months before Patrick was accidentally drowned.  Both Patrick and later young David were sailors. I can find no record of David (b 1893) marrying so perhaps he had no children.

Bridget Callaghan b~ 1867/68 unmarried, died 1937.

Ellen Callaghan born March 1870 at Courtown died 1870.

David Callaghan #2 born April 1873 at Courtown, died 1950. He too became a fisherman and sailor. David married Mary Kinsella, also from Courtown, in 1908. Mary died in 1956 and the witness was a nephew. It seems this couple had no children.

20160910_152921 Patrick Callaghan

Patrick and Catherine (Kate) Callaghan.

Even though I can find no record of the marriage of David and Anne Callaghan, or births/baptism for their earlier children, I suspect that son Patrick may have been the eldest son. I base this theory on the fact that it was Patrick’s widow, Kate, who became head of the household by the time of the 1911 census and “inherited” the house. When I visited Courtown, in September last year, I was very fortunate to be introduced to an older gentleman who kindly gave me a photograph of Kate and Patrick. I think I tend to be too polite when visiting with random acquaintances as I don’t want to convey the impression that I’m “fortune hunting” or interested in getting the land, rather than the family ancestry. I’m also reluctant to strain their hospitality.

CALLAGHAN David grave 20160911_114024

Photo P Cass, Sept 2016

David Callaghan #2 (d 1950), his wife Mary and nephew David Callaghan #3 are all buried in Ardamine Cemetery near River Chapel, south of Courtown Harbour. David #3 (d 1971) is buried with Thomas Turner and Mary nee Dunbar. I cannot determine what his connection to them might be, although David’s mother was a Dunbar but not from this area.

Another connection I’m curious about is Mary Callaghan, daughter of a David Callaghan, born about 1838, and hence an age peer of my David Callaghan #1 (brother, cousin, no relation?). Mary married Luke Doyle in Courtown in 1868. Mary Doyle is witness to many of the various Callaghan births and some deaths. It may be that she was simply the local midwife or “nurse”, but she could also be a relation.

I am still mystified how the various Callaghan families from Courtown connect, or even if they do. I suspect that the claim made in Ace of Spies, that David #1, John and Edward were siblings, is incorrect. Certainly, the children’s naming patterns don’t suggest that. They don’t seem to follow the predicted pattern of father’s father, mother’s father, father and mother’s mother, father’s mother, mother…or is it just that I’m missing children.

I’ll leave this mystery here for now and live in hope that I may get a random “hit” one day, that explains not only these ancestral links but also a couple of strong DNA matches I have from the general area. I’m also going back to one of my earlier posts to add in new info rather than recreate the wheel.

Resources used:

General Register Office, Dublin, Ireland an in-person search netted me a reasonable number of certificates only to find Murphy’s Law struck again with the free release of many digitised images (see link below), the very next day. Luckily some of those I obtained are yet to appear online. And while the walk there gave me some sight-seeing and exercise, it would have been good to catch the bus 50 metres from the hotel and arrive outside the door of the GRO! Ah well, next time.

Irishgenealogy.ie  – Civil Records (FREE)

Catholic Church registers at National Library of Ireland – FREE – Ballygarrett Parish

Ancestry.com  and Findmypast.comabove Catholic Church records indexed and searchable

1901 and 1911 census – FREE online at National Archives of Ireland

Billion Graves – Ardamine Cemetery

North Wexford Historical Society

The kindness of strangers, and a cat, in Courtown.

Riverchapel Ardamine cemetery

Ardamine cemetery and St John’s Episcopal church. Photo P Cass, Sept 2016.