I must give a huge thanks to fellow family history researcher Jamie Evans for sharing with us the extensive amount of research he has carried out in just a very short amount of time during the past 2-3 weeks.
Regular readers of my blog will recall that Jamie contacted me a few weeks back having found this website and realising the strong possibility of my paternal ancestors, the Finn family of late 19th century Newtown in Birmingham, being connected to his own ancestors.
The most significant similarity being that we both have ancestors named Finn who came to the tiny streets around St Chads RC Cathedral in Birmingham from Ireland in the 19th century and that some members of these families subsequently left Birmingham in the late 1800s and early 1900s to live in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Jamie’s thorough and dogged detective work has led not only to the discovery of a wealth of new information which it seems will ultimately link our mutual ancestry, but reveals fascinating information about these Irish Brummie families who settled in Cleveland. It is perhaps fitting then that I sit down this afternoon, on both Mothers Day in the UK and the occasion of the St Patricks Day festival in Birmingham City Centre, to summarise Jamie’s most recent emails.
To recap, Jamie’s mother, Martha Lilly Walton, was born in Weaman Street in 1913. His grandfather John Walter Walton died after service in WW1 in August 1918. Prior to his death John Walton had been a very close friend of a man name John Finn and his wife Catherine. The two families not only lived very close to each other in Weaman Street (Newtown) but both moved to Coventry Street in Digbeth in about 1917 where they remained close neighbours, the Finns at number 75 and the Waltons at number 74. Jamie’s mother referred to Catherine Finn as “our nan”.
In 1922, Jamie’s grandmother, now a widow, sailed from Liverpool on the SS Olympic (sister ship of the Titanic) apparently to visit ‘the Finns’ in Cleveland, Ohio. She left her 4 daughters behind in Birmingham but returned 6 months later with the intention of taking them back to Cleveland with her. However, the grandmother of the children (mother of John Walton) clearly did not want her grandchildren to be taken away to the States and took out a court injunction which led to the children being removed from the ship before it sailed from Liverpool.
Jamie’s mother often told him about the Finns, who kept in touch with his grandmother until her death in 1935.
Identifying John and Catherine Finn
Initially Jamie and I discussed the possibility of John and Catherine Finn being connected to both of our lines of ancestry. The aim being to find out more about John Finn and where he fits in to the wider picture. For starters, it seems way too much of a coincidence to have two families named Finn living in the tightly knit neighbourhood around St Chads Cathedral in late 19th century Birmingham who both have these very precise references to family members who migrated to Cleveland, Ohio.
My earlier blog posts show two possible candidates for John Finn, both of whom by another coincidence were the sons of couples named Patrick and Catherine Finn. However, these are clearly two different families as one is to be found living at Brickiln Street in the 1861 and 1871, whilst the other family is also in the 1871 census and is repeated in the census of 1881 and 1891. Both of these John Finns were born in 1857. It therefore becomes difficult on this evidence alone to pick which, if either of these John Finns was the man we are looking for.
However, in evidence given to me a number of years ago by another researcher named Ian Payne, it was suggested that the family of Finns listed in the 1881 Census were related to my ancestors. Ian Payne told me that the head of this family, Patrick Finn was the brother of my g-g-grandfather Martin Finn. Martin Finn was father of my g-g-grandfather Thomas Finn and his older brother James, who was Ian Payne’s g-grandfather.
The interesting further point here is that Ian’s grandmother, Mary Jane Payne (nee. Finn) went to America in the late 19th century and Ian’s father was born on a ship returning to England in the late 1800s. Ian also told me that John Finn remained close to the Payne family and was buried in St Joseph’s church yard in Nechells.
Various questions arise from this enquiry:
Was Jamie’s great (or perhaps g-g) grandfather, John Finn, the same man who was related to the Payne family (who incidentally ran a coach company, Paynes Coaches, in Aston) and/or one of these two John Finns in the Census records?
What became of the Finn family of Brickiln Street from the 1861 and 1871 census? Were they related to us and where did they move on to after 1871?