Saturday, 4 April 2015

Ancestors in Newcastle

Men working in the quarry near Wilmcote, Warwickshire

I received an email this week from a person named Eric Carpenter in Newcastle upon Tyne who is researching his ancestor Charles Carpenter who moved to the north east of England in the mid 1800s and married a woman named Catherine McCarten.

Eric has sent me some family photos and other scanned documents from his research. He did not know the precise connection to my family tree but suggested we were both connected through the Carpenter family who originated from the hamlets (my is pun fully intended) of Warwickshire around Stratford upon Avon.

My own line to the Carpenters is explained somewhere on this blog and in my family history research documents (see links in right column).

Emily Carpenter was one of my great-great-grandmothers on my father's paternal side. Emily was born in Wilmcote in Warwickshire in the mid 19th century and came with her parents to live in Birmingham, which is perhaps 25 miles from rural Stratford but was at that time one of the centres of the industrial revolution in Britain and part of a rapidly expanding urban conurbation. Birmingham was known as the city of a thousand trades due to its rich diversity of small trades and workshops, it was the hub of the canal network of the late 18th century connecting London and Bristol in the south with places like Manchester and Liverpool in the north. Birmingham had also been home to James Watt and Mathew Boulton who developed the steam engine in the late 1700s, thus driving the industrial revolution all over the world.

Birmingham was therefore a logical destination for poor agricultural labouring families like the Carpenters who joined the majority of my ancestors, pouring into the conurbation in Victorian times in search of housing and employment. They mainly came from the surrounding shire counties, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. They also came from Wales and post-famine Ireland.

Wilmcote was a small hamlet just a few miles north of Stratford upon Avon. It was the home place of William Shakespeare's mother Mary Arden, well-known for her family farm and homestead. I once visited Wilmcote and talked to a vicar in the tiny local church. He told me that in the early 19th century the area was the site of a large temporary camp for 'navvies' (navigation workers) - the people working on the canals and railways from Birmingham, through Warwickshire to the south.

I knew from census records that members of the Carpenter family, including my g-g-g-grandfather Henry Carpenter, worked in a local quarry, presumably cutting stone for the construction industry. I immediately found it intriguing to find out why one of the family, Eric's ancestor Charles, would have ended up settling so far away in Newcastle when everyone else around him had their eye on Birmingham, Coventry or the Black Country. Journeys for working class migrants were hard in those days, there were no National Express coaches or Virgin Rail, a 200 mile journey like this would most likely have been done on foot.

Newcastle had its fair share of industry and employment opportunities in the 19th century. Situated on the great Tyne estuary it was an important port and a centre of ship building. It was also an area of coal mining and related industry. But why travel so far, probably on foot, to find employment when the factories and workshops of the West Midlands were on his doorstep? My immediate thought was the railway industry.

Subsequent research has pinpointed Charles as the youngest child of William and Elizabeth Carpenter of Wilmcote in the parish of Aston Cantlow. He is found as a 4 year old with his father William and brother Henry (my g-g-g-grandfather) living in the home of his older sister Hannah and her husband George Keasey on Aston Road, Wilmcote in the 1841 census. His mother Elizabeth (nee. Green), who would have been in her late 50s was not in the household which might suggest she died following a very late-in-life childbirth.

In the 1851 census my ancestor Henry, now 24 is still living in Wilmcote with his father, his wife and small children, but there is no sign of Charles who would have been 14, suggesting he has already left home in search of employment. At the moment I can't find Charles anywhere else in the 1851 census. Soon afterwards, my ancestor Henry moved to Birmingham where he was found working as a locomotive driver, substantiating my theory that the family might have followed new opportunities presented by the railway industry.

Charles turns up in the 1861 census living in county Durham in the north of England, sure enough registered as a railway labourer. This is where he married Catherine McCartan. It seems that Catherine might have been born in Ireland as she was registered in 1851 as a 14 year old servant in a large house in county Durham. By coincidence, Catherine and Charles married in 1861. They later moved to Newcastle where the family has remained throughout the 20th century, probably unaware of their Irish and Warwickshire roots until Eric has started his research.

I now await a reply from Eric to progress our mutual research. Whether one day we will establish connections with the Arden family of Wilmcote is perhaps wishful thinking - the scholars may not be comfortable about a Geordie and a Brummie making claims to Shakespeare's genealogy.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Families connected to my family research (A-L)


Origins in Newport, Shropshire in late 1700s. Came to Birmingham in early 1800s. Large family lived in Lee Bank area throughout 19th century and early 20th. Marriage connections to Millington, Carpenter, Culwick, Davies, Edge, Harley, Partridge, Hudson, Aston & Hankinson. Also connections with the cycle industry in Coventry.


Originated from Frome, Somerset and moved to Smethwick in the 19th century. Connected to the Higgins family. Involved in the iron industry.


Origins in Bilston and Uttoxeter in mid 1800s then settled in Willenhall in late 19th century. Married Butcher.


A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed.


Originated from the city of Worcester. Moved to Birmingham and married the Higgins family.

Birch / Berkes

Lived in Wellington, Shropshire in mid 1800s. Shop owners. Marriage into Millington family of Wellington. 


Originated in Bayton, near Cleobury Mortimer, Worcestershire in the 1800s. A branch of the family lived at Ladywood, then Bartley Green in Birmingham. Connections to mining at Bayton.  


A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed.


Origins in Norton near Bury-St-Edmunds in Suffolk. Related by marriage to Millington of Birmingham. Long origins in Suffolk area going back many centuries.


Located in the jewellery quarter at Hockley, Birmingham in the 19th century. Connected to the Clayton family.


Origins in Barbourne, Worcestershire late 1800s. Moved to Seaforth, Liverpool then Birmingham. Lived in the Newtown area of Birmingham in early 1900s.


Origins in Northfield, Birmingham. Connected to the Flynn family of Aston and Newtown.


Origins in Bewdley in early 1800s and Willenhall in late 1800s. Lived in Lozells area of Birmingham.


Origins at Ketley Bank, Wombridge near Wellington in Shropshire in the 1800s. Connections with local mining and with the Ketley Bank church.


Origins in County Offaly / Westmeath in early 1800s. Connected to Stone family through marriage.


Family from Belfast married into Millington family in Birmingham early 20th century.


Origins in Dublin early 20th century. Married Yourell family of Dublin and came to Birmingham in mid 1900s. 


Originated Wilmcote and surrounding areas of Warwickshire. Arrived Birmingham mid 1800s to Lee Bank area. Marriage connection in Birmingham to Adderley and Millington. Marriages in Warwickshire included Bradley, Green & Keasey,  


A family who lived in Aston with connections to the Clayton family.


Originated in Shrewsbury and moved to Willenhall in the 19th century then Birmingham. Strong links with the Newtown and Ladywood areas of Birmingham.


Origins in Moate area of county Westmeath and Offaly. Related to the Stone family of Lurgan through marriage.


Family with origins in Ashby-de-la-Zouch related through marriage to Robey of Melbourne.


Family origins Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. Connected to McKiernan family by marriage.


Connected to the McKiernan family in Cleveland, Ohio by marriage.


Originated from Wednesbury, Staffordshire in the 1800s. A branch of the family lived in Birmingham and some went to Vancouver, Canada.


Birmingham family connected to McKiernan and Finn by marriage.


The Curley family originated from Ireland but came to Birmingham in the 19th century. They live in the Digbeth, Ladywood and Quinton areas of Birmingham.


The Cusion family originated in Portlaoise (Maryborough) in the Irish Midlands. They married the Lawlor family in the late 1800s. The Cushions also had links with the city of Cork.


Family with origins around Woodville in South Derbyshire. Related through marriage to Robey family of Melborune.


Originated in Portaloise in County Laois, strong connections to the Lawlor family in the 19th century.


Birmingham family in Newtown, connected to Finn family by marriage. Irish origins. 


Origins in Moate area, Ireland. Related to Stone family of Lurgan through marriage.


A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed.


Family originated from Gorey in County Wexford. Came to Sparkhill, Birmingham in the 1950s. A large number of the Dwyer family remained in Wexford.


A family with connections to Newtown and Ladywood areas of Birmingham. Married to the Clayton family. A branch developed in Canada following the migration of an Edwards child as a Middlemore home child in the early 20th century.


Origins in Wellington, Salop. Marriage connections to Millington family of Shropshire.


Origins at Finningham, Suffolk. Related through marriage to Brinkley family of Suffolk.


Orignated in Portaloise in County Laois, strong connections to the Lawlor family in the 19th century.


Irish family who originated from Galway and came to Newtown, Birmingham in the early 1850s. Connected to the Flynn family, also from Galway.


Origins in Norton, Suffolk. Related to Brinkley family through marriage.


Origins in County Westmeath and Offaly. Connections with Moate, Mullingar, Ballinasloe and Tullamore. Related to Stone family through marriage. 


Irish family who originated from Galway and came to Newtown, Birmingham in the early 1850s. Connected to the Finn family, also from Galway.


Originated from Stourbridge and came to Birmingham in the 19th century. Connected to the Brookes and Clayton family.


A Wexford family connected to the Dwyer family of Gorey.


A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed.


Origins in Moate area of county Westmeath and Offaly. Related to the Stone family of Lurgan through marriage.


An Irish family connected to the Finns and Claytons of Newtown, Birmingham. Origins Mayo and Roscommon.


Originated in Cork city, Ireland, strong connections to the Cushion and Lawlor family in the 19th century.


Connected to the Finns of Newtown, Birmingham in the early 20th century. May have originated in Worcestershire.

A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed.


Origins in Moate area of county Westmeath and Offaly. Related to the Stone family of Lurgan through marriage.


Family in Lee Bank, Birmingham late 1800s. Married Adderley and moved to Surrey. 


Originated in Wombridge near Wellington in 1800s. Coal mining family with strong Methodist church tradition. Connected to Cadman and Millington through marriage. 


Found in Lee Bank, Birmingham in late in 1800s. Married Millington family. May have had a mining background.


Origins Piltown area of Kilkenny. Connected to Whelan/Phelan by marriage.


Originated from Elphin, Roscommon. Came to Wolverhampton shortly after the famine of the 1840s. Moved to Bilston, Smethwick and Birmingham.


Origins in the Moate area of County Westmeath and Offaly. Related to the Stone family of Lurgan by marriage.


An Irish family who probably came to Birmingham following the famine of the 1840s. Lived in Newtown and had connections with the Finn, Flynn and Clayton family.


Origins in Finningham and Oakley, Suffolk. Related by marriage to Brinkley and Elsey of Suffolk.


Birmingham family of late 1800s married Adderley.


Birmingham family with connections to the Payne family of Aston and Newtown through marriage.


An Aston family with connections to the Kirby and Payne family through marriage


A family with connections to Newtown and Ladywood areas of Birmingham. Connections to the Clayton, Edwards and Madden family.


Originated in Aston parish in late 1700s but also connected to St Phillips, Birmingham in 1800s. Connected to Millington family by marriage.


Family of Birmingham late 1800s. Married Guy then Millington. Lee Bank area.


Connected to the Flynns of Newtown, Birmingham in the 19th century.


Connected to the Millingtons of Lee Bank, late 1800s.


Connected to the Finns of Newtown, Birmingham in the early 20th century.


A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed.


Origins at Piltown area of Kilkenny, connected to Whelan / Phelan family through marriage.


Origins in Moate area, Ireland. Related to Stone family of Lurgan through marriage. 


Origins in Moate area, Ireland. Related to Stone family of Lurgan through marriage.


A Wexford family connected to the Dwyer family of Gorey.


Birmingham family who lived in Newtown in the early 20th century. Related to the Payne family and produced a number of professional boxers.


An Irish family connected to the Finns, living in Newtown, Birmingham in the late 1800s.


Connected to the Flynns of Newtown, Birmingham in the 19th century.


The Lawlor family originated in Portlaoise in County Laois, Ireland. They moved to Dublin in the early 1900s and later a branch came to Birmingham.


Lived in Ladywood throughout 20th century, publicans at the Vesper Bell pub. Married Robinson and Townley of Birmingham. 


Dublin family connected to Whelan family of Bolton Street via marriage.


Originated in Cork, connected to the Flynn family of Birmingham

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Families featured in this blog (M-Y)


Originated from Mayo, Ireland and settled in Newtown, Birmingham. Connected to the Jeenes, Clayton and Edwards family.


Origins in the Moate area of County Westmeath and Offaly. Related to the Stone of Lurgan through marriage. 


Dublin family connected to Whelan family of Bolton Street by marriage. John McDonnell was a poor law guardian in late 1800s and chair of League of the Blind. 


Connected to the Payne family of Aston.


Irish family with origins in Dublin and Cork. Settled in Birmingham in the late 19th century. A McKiernan family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Another branch of the family lived in Yardley / Acocks Green.


Dublin family connected to Whelan family by marriage.


Originated in Monaseed, Wexford, connected to the Dwyer family.


Originated in the Salopian villages north of Wellington and came to Birmingham in the early 1800s. Strong links to the Lee Bank and Ladywood areas of Birmingham.


A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed.


A Dublin family connected to McKiernan of Birmingham and Ohio via marriage in 19th century.


Originated from Liverpool and married the Cornish family of Plymouth before settling in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. A branch lived in Ladywood, Birmingham in the early to late 20th century. 


A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed.


A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed. A branch of the Murphy family went to Ontario, Canada in the late 1800s.


Family lived in Lozells area of Birmingham in late 1800s and early 20th century. Married Butcher and Wearing.


Originated in Oxfordshire in 1800s. Married into Millington family of Birmingham. Connections to the railway industry.


Origins in Newry, County Down in early 1800s. Lived in Bromsgrove and Birmingham from mid to late 1800s. Travelling background. Married Millington family.


Family of Edgbaston, Birmingham. Married Millington of Lee Bank mid 1900s.


Originated from Stoke near Coventry. A branch moved to Aston and married the Finn family. Well known for their commercial coach company run from Ashted in Birmingham.


A family of Jewish origin from London who settled in Birmingham in the early 20th century. Connections with Pentonville, West Ham, Holborn, Hackney and Lambeth. 


Originated from Monmouthshire, Wales in the early 19th century and became stone masons in Hasbury, Worcestershire. A branch of the family went to New Brunswick, Canada in the late 1900s.


A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed.


Originated from Charlbury, Oxfordshire. Connected to the Curley family of Birmingham.


Connected to the Finn family of Birmingham by marriage. A Ratchford family moved to Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1900s. 


An Irish family connected to the Flynns of Newtown, Birmingham in the 19th century.


Connected to the Finns of Newtown, Birmingham in the early 20th century. Ran a second hand book shop in Ladywood.


Long established family of Melbourne and Castle Donnington areas of south Derbyshire. Roots go back to 13th century.


Origins in Bearwood and Smethwick in 1800s. Lived in Ladywood in 1900s. Married Lee and Townley family of Vesper Bell pub, Ladywood.


Connected to the Finn family of Birmingham by marriage. A Robinson family moved to Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1900s. 


A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed.

Smyllie or Smellie

Origins at Coatbridge near Glasgow. Catholic Scottish family who may have originated from Ulster or Donegal, Ireland. Related to Millington of Birmingham through marriage. 


Originated at Lurgan near Moate in County Westmeath. The Stone family farmed land at Lurgan for many generations. Married the Dwyer family of Wexford who came to Birmingham in the 1950s. 


Connected to the Finns of Newtown, Birmingham in the early 20th century.


Connected to Millingtons of Lee Bank, Birmingham in late 1800s.


A Wexford family connected to the Mellon family of Monaseed.


Irish origins, connected to the Finn family of Newtown.


Origins in Darlaston, West Midlands related through marriage to Smith, Copestake and Robey of Melbourne, Derbyshire.


Connected to the Payne family of Aston.


Originated at Treadworth, Gloucestershire in early 1800s. Moved to Birmingham in mid 1800s and married Lee family of Ladywood.


Originated in Wellington area of Shropshire in late 1700s, connected to Millington family of Wellington.


Living in Birmingham in late 1800s. Married into Millington family of Lee Bank.


Family living at Lurgan near Moate, Ireland in early 19th century. Related to Stone family through marriage.


Origins in Bidford, Warwickshire. Marriage connection to Bourne.


A family living in Aston in the late 1800s. Connected to the Phillips and Clayton family.

Whelan / Phelan

Dublin family of Bolton Street in late 1800s-mid 1900s. Origins in Piltown/ Fiddown, Kilkenny.


Origins in Liverpool. Married Millington family in Birmingham in late 1800s.


A Cork family with connections to the Glavin and Cushion family.

Worral / Warrad

A family living in Birmingham in the late 1800s with connections to the Flynn and Finn families.


Originated in Tettenhall near Wolverhampton. Married the Clayton family of Willenhall and later Birmingham. 


Dublin family connected to Whelan family of Bolton Street by marriage.


Family of Dublin early 1900s. Married Campbell family and came to Birmingham mid 1900s.

To be updated soon - more names to be added


Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Introduction to my research about Father Larry Flanagan of Manhattan

Father Larry Flanagan
Almost every year for the past twenty plus years my wife Theresa and I have    visited Ireland from our home in Birmingham, UK. The primary reason for our   journeys has been to visit Theresa’s mother, Catherine Dwyer, who lives near Moate, in a rural area on the border of counties Offaly and Westmeath.

Catherine (aka Kitty) moved from Birmingham back to her home town in Ireland after she became a widow over two decades ago. In 1997 the first of our own three children, Patrick, was born and from thenceforth our somewhat irregular visits to Ireland turned into annual family holidays, providing us with a reason not just to visit the rural Irish Midlands located in the middle of the great Bog of Allen, but also to venture out around the island to experience the rich landscape, culture and history of places like Kerry, Galway, Mayo and Sligo.

Having a keen interest in both family and social history, Ireland has provided me with an increasingly fascinating pool of information from which to feed my hobby as I have entered middle age. When I started researching my family tree in the mid-1990s, the world wide web was still in its infancy and searching out even the most basic UK record sources, such as the census, births, marriages and death records, meant sitting for long periods of time in libraries and public record offices trawling through microfilm reels and microfiches.

When it came to Irish records to aid the amateur genealogist, they were virtually non-existent and I remember a major breakthrough for me was sometime around 1995 when I spent 3 to 4 hours in the register office in Dublin literally turning the tattered and well-thumbed pages of huge tomes casually handed over to me by a large working-class Dubliner whose demeanor gave the general impression of a character from a Roddy Doyle story as he plonked one dusty volume after another onto the desk in front of me.
It is now a well-known fact of Irish genealogy that some 90% of 19th century   census records, along with many other public records, were destroyed in a fire during the Irish civil war of 1922. I won’t go into the details of where, when, by whom or why as I am certain that frustrating the future efforts of family history geeks like me would have been low on anybody’s agenda. Though I do think there is a sad irony in the consequence of the actions of revolutionaries having been to destroy such a significant resource of their own great-grand-children’s heritage.

Thanks to a more recent revolution, the incredible and rapid development of the internet in the last two decades, family history research has not only become much easier, but has veritably blossomed and my personal research has benefitted way beyond my expectations back in 1995. This includes Irish research, the publication for instance of two virtually complete sets of census records (1901 and 1911) online by the Irish government and other interesting

records such as the Griffith’s land valuation records of the mid-19th century have been a huge source of information, particularly for those of us (ahem, the majority) whose Irish ancestors belonged to the poorer Catholic classes.

Another great source of information for the researcher of Irish family history are the county based family history centres across Ireland which remain the best repositories of records collected from local parish churches, such as baptism, marriage and burial records. These records can be as good, if not better than state registers of births, marriages and deaths, but they are not freely available and there is a cost to obtaining them. Thanks to the family history record office for the counties of Offaly and Laois, based at the Midland whiskey distilling town of Tullamore, I have managed to make significant progress in building the tree of my mother-in-law’s family in an area which takes in Moate, Tullamore, Athlone and Mullingar. The research process has been enhanced over the years by our visits to Granny, when she has imparted to me rich family anecdote and old family photos which would have been unavailable from any record office or website.

On the surface, Kitty’s ancestors at Lurgan near Moate, were typical of the      generations of God-fearing, hard-working Catholic farmers not just of the Irish Midlands but throughout the whole land. Scraping an existence from land and life-stock, burning turf dug from the local bogs for heat, pulling water from the well, walking long-distances often shoeless through all weathers to school, church and market, making and mending their own clothes, enduring difficult economic times almost as a  constant and keeping their heads down in times of political unrest and rumour of uprising, which have been many throughout Ireland’s history. More than occasionally there are stories of those who left Ireland for better opportunities abroad, the common destination of the 19th century being America whilst in the later 20th century it was more likely to be the UK.

Tales of great poets, radicals or political leaders are relatively rare in rural Offaly and Westmeath, where stories of hard-working farmers, hard-playing GAA men and hard-praying mothers are much more common. Intrigue, celebrity and controversy play second fiddle in the Irish Midlands to steadfast, unsophisticated, pastoral living.

Having only discovered in the past few years the wonderful story of my own great-great grandfather, John McDonnell, a blind Dublin man who shook off the shackles of a late 19th century blind asylum to become a factory owner,    property landlord and elected poor law guardian, I felt that years of digging out down-trodden migrants fleeing from famines and rural depressions into the     disease and poverty of urban industrial slums, had finally been rewarded with a rare genealogical gem, an extraordinary swimmer in an ocean of those around him mainly close to drowning. But was it too much to ask to find another such gem?

One evening during our most recent family holiday to Ireland, in August 2014, I once again took the opportunity to gently interrogate my dear mother-in-law on the subject of her Offaly and Westmeath ancestry. I am never disappointed and each year she has some new item of interest from the hitherto forgotten archive which lies in assorted biscuit tins, folders and boxes in the cluttered store room off her parlour. An old photograph, a newspaper cutting or a bundle of Mass cards held together by a rubber band which has seen better days. Or perhaps an anecdote recalled from her rural Irish childhood—all of which is gratefully received as I sit with finger tips poised over laptop keyboard.

This year Kitty recalled a family connection with Irish history and told me the story of how an ancestor on her mother’s side of the family, the Flanagans, had given sanctuary to Eamon de Valera shortly after his escape from Lincoln Prison. The relative was a man name Lawrence Flanagan, born in Moate, who was a Carmelite priest in New York when the fugitive, de Valera, knocked on his door one night seeking refuge.

Kitty also showed me Reverend Flanagan’s memorial mass card following his death in 1966 and pointed him out as the officiating priest in the wedding         photograph of another relative who married in New York in the 1950s.

On our return from Ireland two weeks later I launched myself into trying to find out about this intriguing story. Was it purely the chance decision of a desperate fugitive to knock on the door of a Catholic priory in the Irish quarter of a foreign city? Was de Valera taken to the Carmelites by supporters in America? Or did Eamon de Valera know Lawrence Flanagan beforehand and was his place of refuge planned out in advance of his escape from Lincoln?

So began a consuming and intriguing search for more facts to substantiate this story, both online and through the pages of Irish history books. My mission was to build up the background to this potentially fantastic story, which even on its brief initial telling is like a script for a movie, the fugitive Irish leader-in-exile given refuge by a priest in the midst of early 20th century Manhattan.  

The following document is the result of my initial research. What I want to say from the start is that very little of these 80 plus pages contains my original writing and the majority of pages contain long citations from other researchers. As my document is primarily a piece of genealogical research at this point in time, I have not tried to do any re-editing of citations and joined them together with minimal contextual narrative. My future intention is to author some much shorter articles to offer for publication, which condense the story, as I feel it is of much wider interest but needs to be edited into a human interest story.

I therefore publish this not-for-personal-gain work online as my initial piece of   research and am keen to acknowledge and recommend all of the original sources I have cited in fairly lengthy chunks. In particular I would highlight the research work of Alfred Isacsson, O.Carm., who has four extensive histories of the New York Carmelites online, from which I have quoted in length. I would also wish to point readers in the direction of the works of Tim Pat Coogan who has written a weighty biography of Eamon de Valera as well as research about him included in other books, providing detailed accounts of his life but also useful insights into the character of ’the man who was Ireland’.  

If this can be best described therefore as an anthology of citations, wandering on and off a sequential timeline as it evolved during my research, at the end of the document I have attempted to provide a summary and conclusions in my own write, which I hope brings everything together to discern fact from myth and reality from speculation, as well as offering some understanding of personalities and   motives in their historical context.

Pete Millington


The family connection with Father Lawrence Flanagan

Catherine Stone (aka Kitty Dwyer) was the daughter of Edward Stone and Catherine Flanagan of Lurgan near Moate, Westmeath.

Kitty is my mother-in-law and grandmother of our children. Whenever we go to visit Kitty she always tells me a bit more about the family’s history in the rural bog land of Offaly and Westmeath. 

On a recent visit, Kitty told me that her mother had a cousin named Lawrence Flanagan, a priest of the Carmelite order who went to New York.

Kitty told me three pieces of information about Lawrence Flanagan which started off some further research into his life and his work in New York and which also hinted at a role in the fight for Irish independence in the early 20th century.

Firstly, Kitty shared her personal memory of meeting Father Lawrence Flanagan when she was a child living on the farm at Lurgan near Moate. Her fleeting memory has a movie-like imagery to it and instantly conjures up a picture of this intriguing man striding through the Irish countryside on a home visit from America, perhaps during the 1930s or 1940s:

“I remember him coming to visit us one day in about 1940. He was walking along the Balycumber Road from Moate and then he turned along the Bog Road and through the fields to our house at Lurgan. I remember that we ran and told our mother that Father Flanagan was on his way along the lane so she was able to quickly clean around the house and get out the best china cups. Father Flanagan was a very tall man and I remember his lace-up boots were extremely well polished. He stayed for tea with my mother and I             remember him blessing us all and blessing our home before he left”.

Kitty also told me that for a large part of his life Father Lawrence Flanagan lived and worked as a priest in New York. She showed me some photographs taken at the wedding of her own cousin, Mary Stone, the daughter of her uncle (her father, Edward Stone’s brother), Daniel Stone, which have Father Flanagan in the background of the church, presiding over his relative’s wedding ceremony. This would indicate that Daniel Stone and his family possibly followed their relation, Father Flanagan to live in his parish in New York.

The third piece of information which Kitty told me was without doubt the most intriguing. This was a snippet of a story relating to the Irish War for Independence. She told me that one night Father Flanagan received a knock on his door in New York to discover it was a fugitive none-other than the infamous insurrectionist Eamon de Valera, the leader at that time of Ireland’s struggle for independence from Britain who had escaped from Lincoln prison in February 1919 and travelled secretly to the United States.

Kitty said that when she lived in Birmingham, bringing her family up in Newton Road, Sparkhill, her mother had sent her an Irish newspaper cutting which contained more detail about this story, following the death of Father Lawrence in 1966. She has searched for the cutting recently but been unable to find it in her house.

She does however have a Mass Card dedicated to the memory of Lawrence Flanagan, which provides some useful key dates in his life.

The Mass Card reads:

In Memoriam

In Prayerful Remembrance of Very Reverend Lawrence D Flanagan
Born June 19th 1882
Professed October 17th 1901
Ordained March 17th 1907
Died April 3rd 1966
Order Carmelite