Thursday, 30 May 2013

Searching for Peter McDonnell

I've been doing a bit of hunting for an ancestor named Peter McDonnell who was g-grandmother's youngest brother born in Dublin, a son of John McDonnell the blind basket maker of Bolton Street. My mom's cousin Gaye related a family story that in the early 1900s John McDonnell bought a farm in the country near Dublin but one of his sons didn't like living there so set fire to the house when the rest of the family were at Mass.

Its a dramatic tale and G-G-grandfather John McDonnell was not happy, probably to say the least and rejected his son who it is thought went to live in America and was never heard of or from again.

In the 1901 Census the McDonnells were living at Chancery Street in Dublin, the site of the basket factory and their youngest son Peter was 12 years old. In 1911 the McDonnells were at Bolton Street with no Peter present or to be found locally. Can we therefore speculate that the move to the farm and the incident with the house fire took place during the first decade of the 1900s? We know that the old man, John, died at Bolton Street in 1916.

In his Will of 1916, John McDonnell makes no mention of his son Peter, though he did state "My son Christopher McDonnell has already got his share and has no more claim". This being the only mention of a son named Christopher who did not appear in the 1901 census. Were Peter and Christopher one and the same person and if so this could complicate the search.


There are a number of records showing individuals by the name of Peter McDonnell travelling on ships from Ireland to the US. This one shows a 19 year old Peter McDonnell sailing from Queenstown to Boston on The Saxonia in April 1907. He is sharing a ticket with 19 year old John Byrne and 22 year old Jas Glynn.


Another individual named Peter McDonnell (24 years old) is found sailing on the Cunard Line's Caronia between Queenstown and New York in June 1909. This one is slightly older than the person we are looking for.


This record shows an index of the passengers who arrived in Boston on The Saxonia on 12 April 1907. The list includes 19 year old Peter McDonnell. If this was our Peter McDonnell, it will be interesting to see if I can find him in the US Census.

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