Thanks again to my mom's cousin Gaye Mulholland in Dublin whose recall of family anecdote is inching us closer to tracing the origins of our great grandfather John Whelan / Phelan.
Many of the family remember stories that John came from a place called Piltown in the south of Kilkenny. Gaye additionally remembered that he may have changed the surname from Phelan to Whelan at the time of his relocation to Dublin, probably around 1900 as this is when he appears in the 1901 census lodging as a grocer's shop keeper in Chancery Street.
In the census record John said that his place of birth was county Kilkenny though what Gaye also remembers is talk in the family that the Phelans may have originated in counties Waterford and Tipperary. Initially this information may seem to confuse things until one takes a closer look at a map of Kilkenny in relation to its neighbouring counties.
What is very interesting from this is just how close Piltown is to the borders of Kilkenny with both Tipperary and Waterford. Both counties lie literally a few miles along country lanes from Piltown. I wonder if this will aid my search for the Phelans in the 1901 census or even the Griffith's Land Valuation of the 19th century?