The Finns Of County Mayo

In the eastern boundary of County Mayo, in the Republic of Ireland, there is a bulge in the border where it meets County Sligo and County Roscommon.  In this bulge there is the village of Cloontia, where my maternal grandparents owned a small farm.  To the east, in County Sligo, lies the small town of Gorteen, which was important to them, because it housed the dairy in which their milk was processed.   Milk gave them their main source of regular income.  To the south in County Roscommon, lies the larger town of Ballaghaderreen, which was also important to my grandparents, because it was the main commercial centre in the area.  Until 1898, Ballaghaderreen was part of County Mayo and there is allegiance to Mayo through the participation of the town in the Mayo Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Football competition.

Grandad Finn

My maternal grandparents were Thomas Finn (pictured 1895-1972) and Kate Finn (1896-1995 just short of her 100th birthday), who was a Finn before and after she got married.  Finn is a very common name in this part of the world, which makes researching the family tree difficult.  The farm was down a narrow country lane and next door was another farm known as Roddy Finn’s, another Finn family that were unrelated to mine.  They were known locally as Luke Finn’s and Roddy Finn’s farms, any mention of Thomas just causing confusion.  This was because my mother and her sisters were known as Luke Finn’s girls after her grandfather on her mother’s side.


My mother is Theresa Finn and she was born in 1929 (see the blog page on East Sussex Backlers).  She had an older brother, Michael, who passed away in 2015, just short of his 90th birthday.  Michael lived in Failsworth, part of the Manchester conurbation.   Michael was married to Elizabeth Ailean (known to all as Auntie Eileen), from the Kane family back in Ireland and they are buried in the same plot.  Michael and Eileen had five children, Tom, Alan, Elizabeth, Helen and Gerrard.  The picture on the left shows Liz, Alan and Helen at my Aunty Maureen’s 80th birthday celebration.

My mother’s younger brother is Tommy (born 1940) and he lived in Radcliffe, just north of Manchester for many years, before retiring back to Ireland near Ballaghaderreen.  He married Peggy (born Margaret Mary Nugent of County Clare on 8th October 1939) and they have four children, Gary, Deborah, Denise and Karen.  Sue and I went to see Tommy, when Peggy was in Manchester helping with Gary’s wedding arrangements, so unfortunately we missed meeting her in her new home.  Sadly we have just returned from Peggy’s funeral in Gorthaganny, County Roscommon, on 22nd January, because she passed away on 17th January 2016.

My mother has two living sisters, Mary Margaret (born c.1927), known to us as Aunty Maureen, who lives in Islington, London and Annie Josephine who lives in Warwick, Rhode Island, USA (known to us Aunty Ann).  Maureen was married to Frank Oliva, who is no longer with us, and they have two children, Gary and Mandy who both live in London.  Aunty Ann (born c.1925) was married to Bob Murphy, who has passed away, and they have two living children, the oldest Bobby, who lives in Seattle and the youngest Neil, who lives close to his mother.  My middle cousin Kevin, whom I never met, is no longer alive.  I met Annie, Bob and Neil on my first visit to the USA in 1981 and Sue and I met Annie, Bob and Bobby, along with Bobby’s son on another trip in 1986.

Cousins Yvonne and Jackie

My mother’s two sisters who are no longer with us, were Brigid Agnes (born c.1924), known to us as Auntie Betty, who lived in South Norwood, London and Kathleen (born c.1928 – known to us as Auntie Kath), who lived near my mother in Westham, East Sussex.  Aunty Betty’s partner was Jimmy Harris, with whom she had four children, Yvonne, Jacqueline, Sonia and Mark.  They kindly used to let me have a room when I was taking my accountancy exams in London.  After Jimmy died, she married Albert Hart.  The picture on the left shows my cousin Sonia with her husband Mark at my Auntie Maureen’s 80th birthday and the picture below on the right shows my cousins Yvonne and Jackie.

My Auntie Kath, married Frederick Wilson of Pevensey Bay and they had two children: Teresa, who is less then a year younger than me (pictured below), and her younger brother Stephen.  They also had Warren, an adopted brother.  Because they lived near us and Teresa was in my age group, I grew up in close proximity to them.

Cousin Teresa

In the blog page East Sussex Backlers, I mentioned that we lived with them twice when they lived in Hailsham, East Sussex, either side of being posted to Northern Ireland.  They subsequently moved to Westham and they lived even closer.

My grandparents sold their farm in Ireland when my grandfather had a stroke and they moved to Manchester to be near my uncles.  I have visited the farm, which is now a ruin with my wife Sue twice and on the third occasion we took my mother, visiting Roddy Finn’s and another neighbour, Tim McDonough, whom I first met when I was 14.

My mother also told me that she had a sister, Nora Patricia, who did not reach her first birthday, being taken by whooping cough.

Cloontia is a rural village with the centre having a pub on one side of the road, with the school (now closed) and a post office on the other side of the road.  We met many locals in the pub with my mother on one evening and the lady who ran the post office gave my mother the family bible, left behind by my grandparents when they moved to Manchester.  It was a great evening and somehow live music appeared to make it rather special.  The picture is of the musicians in the pub that night.

Cloontia Entertainment

These pictures are of the pub and post office from our 1995 trip.

Also on this trip we met Jimmy Kelly and his wife Maura Kane, sister to my Aunty Eileen.  This is their bungalow with my wife Sue and my Mum on the right photographed outside with them on the left.

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I found out recently that I have a great aunt called Ann, my grandmother Kate Finn’s sister, who emigrated before my Auntie Ann to Boston, Massachusetts, USA from Ireland.  My mother tells me my Great Aunt Ann got married to a man called James Hanrahan and they had three children, a daughter Kathleen and two sons.  I now know that there was a further son – see the blog page Long Lost Hanrahans.  My Auntie Ann told me the Hanrahan family moved to New Hampshire.  My Mum also said she believed  that two of their descendants served in the Vietnam War, so I have an undiscovered branch of the family to explore at some point.

Since writing this almost a  year ago (now March 2017), I have been able to add more information about earlier generations, but as usual there are more questions needing to be answered.  I have obtained a copy of my grandparents marriage certificate, dated 13th March 1923, which shows they were married in Ballaghaderreen Cathedral.  It identifies my grandfather’s father as Michael and my grandmother’s father as Luke, with both being farmers.  One of the witnesses was John Finn, my grand father’s brother.

From the 1911 census record, I have been able to establish that my 2 x grandfather, Michael was born in 1854 and my 2 x grandmother Bridget was born in 1858, with her mother, my 3 x grandmother, Hanoria born 1827, living with them, who had been married 62 years (1849).  I have not been able to find a surname for Bridget and Hanoria.  I have now found a record (December 2017) that records a marriage between Jacobus (James) Finn and Hanoria Brennan that took place on 9th October 1852 in Boyle, County Roscommon, which may be the correct ceremony.  (EDIT: March 2019 – this is not correct, Hanoria’s maiden name was King).  In the 1911 census, besides my grandfather Thomas, his brothers Patrick (born 1892), Michael (1894) and James (born 1897), were also living at home.  Michael and Bridget  had been married 21 years (1890) and had had 6 children, of whom 5 were still living.  In the 1901 census, John (born 1891), whom my mother remembers, was also at home, so the identity of the sibling who was no longer with us, is not yet known.

My 2 x grandparents, Luke Finn, born 1857, married Bridget Phillips, born 1859, on 2nd February 1887 at Bunninadden chapel, Tubbercurry.  Their marriage certificate identifies her father, my 3 x grandfather, as John Phillips, and Luke’s father, my 3 x grandfather as another earlier Michael Finn, both farmers born about 1830.  The witnesses were Patt Finn and Bridget Rush.  Bridget, born 1840, my 3 x grandmother, was married to John Phillips.  In the 1911 census, Luke and Bridget had been married 24 years (1887) and they had had three children, all of whom were still living, one of them being my grandmother Kate, who was the only one still at home.  The 1901 census showed the other two children at home too James (born 1889) and Annie born 1891 – see the blog page The Long Lost Hanrahans.

I have been given a marriage certificate for Michael Fynne who married Mary Higgins on 13th January 1859 in Lackagh, Galway and a baptism record for Luke Fynn on 29th January 1867 from Bekan, Mayo that shows the father as Michael Fynn and the mother as Bridget Higgins.  I am not sure from these records if Bridget Higgins and Mary Higgins are the same person.  The date of the baptism is 10 years after the date for Luke’s birth that I have found in other records.   It seems that Mary Higgins may be my remaining, previously unidentified Irish, 3 x grandmother.  (EDIT: March 2019 – this is not correct – none of these people are related).  I also need to know the identity of Hanoria’s husband, my one remaining unidentified Irish 3 x grandfather.  More answers are needed!

UPDATE 20th June 2020: This update adds two photos, the first being my Uncle Michael with his wife Eileen and two of my cousins (not able to identify them). The second is my Great Uncle John Finn, sitting with my Grandad Thomas Finn standing. This photo was produced in post card format and helpfully annotated on the back.

33 thoughts on “The Finns Of County Mayo

  1. I just discovered that I have a great grandmother named Ellen Finn, who was from County Mayo. She moved to the United states and married a man named Julius Lee…whose family name was changed from Lundquist…and he was from Sweden. I now realize I will have my work cut out for me if I try to find further descendants of Ellen’s, as you mentioned Finn is a very common name.


  2. I am having difficulty locating where in Mayo my great-grandfather Michael Finn came from and who his parents may have been. I estimate from the US Census info that I have gathered that he was born between 1858 and 1861. He married a Mary Lavin in Newark, New Jersey in 1885. They had 7 children, one of whom was my paternal grandmother, Margaret Finn. I believe she was their second born and there was one child I can not account for. Other children’s names were Catherine (Katie who died at age 5), Mary (aka May), Bernard Aloysius, another Catherine and Anna. I have been in touch with a fifth cousin (found each other through DNA) that lives in the UK, whose family was from Spotfield, Bekan, Mayo. We have been working together to try to find our common relative, but still have not pinpointed who that person may be. If anyone related to the Finns of that area know anything, please respond to this post. Thank you.


  3. I have traced my ancestry back to Luke Finn born Sep 3 1807 – At Kiltoom, County Roscommon, Ireland. I cannot find any proof of this or his parents he married Mary Maloney and moved to Tasmania Australia. He and a brother I believe were in the armed forces. ….any relation to your Finns?


  4. Go to you will find a wonderful 21 page article by a man named Finn of Cloontia, county mayo. He wrote it in 1999 and it tells the Cloontia tale. My family, the Duffy’s are there. I’m still reeling from the discovery. Good luck.


    1. Hello Sheila. Your post made me want to send this message. I too am a Duffy and just like you, I found Tom Finn’s record of Cloontia which was an incredible find. I sent a copy of it to my Great Uncle Patrick Duffy in Georgia, USA (sadly deceased now) as he was mentioned in it, along with my Grandad, James Duffy who was born in 1924. Their father was Bernard Duffy (my great grandfather) who married Mary Kate Mcgeever. Don’t know how we link together in all this but we must be related somewhere. Happy New Year. Sláinte


      1. Hi – please look for my reply to Sheila’s post re: her family, the Duffy’s. My great-uncle, Martin Regan, married Mary Duffy.


    2. My mom’s cousin Tom Finn wrote an article about the same subject – I tried to go to the link and it pulled something up in Chinese? Do you know if Tom Finn was the author?


      1. Scott, The link to Tom Finn’s paper from my blog page is broken. I have tried to find another link, but all I discovered was the sad news that Tom Finn passed away on 24th July 2019 at the age of 100. I will try and find another source and I do have a hard copy, but not sure of copyright problems if I post it myself.


    3. Hi, Sheila,

      My mother’s uncle, Martin Regan, married Mary Duffy Regan. My mom’s mom was Mary Ann Regan (aka Annie), referred to in the 1999 article by Tom Finn of Cloontia. I suppose we are indirectly connected through marriage . I continue to search for information on my mom’s maternal relatives, the Regans and the Forkins. Good luck to you in your efforts, too. ~ Noele


      1. Hi Ray,

        Last night my Aunt Colleen Ernst passed away. She was my mom’s only sibling and they were related to Tom Finn —- Bridget Finn Gorman was their grandma. Aunt Colleen is pictured below in her first communion dress. That is my mom next to here with Grandma and Grandpa Gorman behind them. I am guess that my mom and Aunt Colleen are catching up in heaven as we speak!


        On Sat, Dec 11, 2021 at 3:53 AM Backler Connections wrote:

        > Noele Rose-Roth commented: “Hi, Sheila, My mother’s uncle, Martin Regan, > married Mary Duffy Regan. My mom’s mom was Mary Ann Regan (aka Annie), > referred to in the 1999 article by Tom Finn of Cloontia. I suppose we are > indirectly connected through marriage . I continue to search f” >


      2. Hi Scott, So sorry to hear this news about your Aunt Colleen. May she rest in peace. Could you email me the photo you mention, because it was not attached. I will post it on here, if you are OK with that. With condolences. Ray


  5. Let me explain the Towey connection. They’re very into reunions. They evidently discovered this blog, thank God. That’s why it’s under their name. But I can tell you, I remember so many of the names I have seen in this blog: the Forkins, the Hunts, the Mc Geevers etc. memories from my childhood. Go to You’ll love it. This 80 year old man wasa master of detail. It’s like a miracle. I loved it.


    1. Hi Sheila, Thanks for your comments. I found the Tom Finn paper a while ago and then wrote a blog about Cullgeragaurn and this weekend More on My Grandad Finn, both blog pages linked to Tom Finn’s great piece of work. Apparently he is now over 100 years old according to my Uncle Tommy. Good luck with meeting up with your cousin Margaret and it would be great if you had any more information. Ray


      1. I will double check but my mom’s grandmother was a Bridget Finn and she came to the US in 1907 to Cincinnati, OH. Since Tom Finn was my mom’s cousin I am guessing that Bridget was his aunt. Two of Bridgets sisters also moved to Cincinnati as well. While I do not have a ton of history on the Finns I would be more than happy to share what I do have in my files. When I get time I pull out the file and do additional research………slowly. It is fun and interesting and I am working my way up to a trip when I am retired where I can spend a month in Ireland to see it all in person. Just contact me if you would like me to send what I have.


  6. Dear Ray-
    I am just starting to try to back out some family history as I plan a trip to Ireland for next spring. My mother Catherine (Kitty) Finn (married name Johnston) was born around 1942 and raised in Ballaghadadreen, Co. Rosscommon (she was intentionally vague on her year of birth). She emigrated to the US to Warwick/Barrington, Rhode Island when she was a teenager. Her parents were James and Mary Finn. James was born in Cloonia, Country Sligo sometime around 1910. I only know of his two sisters, Bridget and Catherine, though there could have been more. Both Bridget and Catherine emigrated to the US when they were teenagers to Warwick and Barrington, respectively. Bridget never married and Catherine married Thomas Grady. My mother was the oldest child and had three brothers and two sisters: Seamus; Paddy; Thomas; Bridget; and Margaret (who passed away as a young child). I’m not sure if my Finns are connected to your Finns or those of Thomas Finn. I read Thomas Finn’s piece but struggled to figure out if the generations matched up…there were certainly several Thomas and James Finns but I am not sure from which generations. Any advice or guidance you can give would be much appreciated.
    Sheila Mulcahy (daughter of Kitty Finn)


    1. Hi Sheila, I have spent some time looking at the records on FindMyPast that has a good set of Irish records and I have not been able to find anything conclusive. I have also re-read Thomas Finn’s 1999 paper looking for connections from the information you gave me and I can find none. Because James was born about 1910, the only published census he could appear in is 1911. There are some James Finn’s in that census in the area. The area around Ballaghaderreen is close to the three county boundaries of Sligo, Mayo and Roscommon. Ballaghaderreen is now in Roscommon, but used to be in Mayo, so you have to search both counties for older records. There are many Finn’s in the area and it is very difficult tracing family records, with the best results being from church records. It may pay to start with getting a copy birth certificate for your mother, if you don’t have one. I would be happy to help you further, if you can provide more information. Best wishes, Ray


      1. I forgot that I also have some information on the boats that Bridget and her sisters came to the US on way back when.


  7. Hi Ray
    I enjoyed reading your record of your Finn ancestors in County Mayo.
    Your Great Grandparents Michael and Bridget were farmers in Tavnaghbeg West. Their son John inherited the farm and lived there with his wife Kate and brother Jim. Tom (your Grandfather) married into the Luke Finn household and farm in Tavnaghbeg East.
    I’m Martin Keane and our family farm was alongside John Michael Finns farm.
    I have recently come across an document where Michael (your Great Grandfather) applied to become an US Citizen at the age of 26 in 1887.
    He was most likely born in 1861 and not 1854 when you compare the information in this document with the 1901 Census which records his age as 40.
    You will note that the children’s ages in 1911 Census (House 13) when compared to 1901 Census (House 25) loosely tally but the parents are shown to somewhat older,
    If you send me your email address I will send you a copy of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Declaration.


    1. Hi Martin. I am Treise Fairman. Granddaughter of Nancy Keane. She married my grandad Harry Fairman in London and they had 3 children. My dad Ken being the eldest.


  8. Great to hear from you Martin. I didn’t know my GGF Michael had emigrated. I did search the USA censuses, because I have had many DNA matches in the USA, but I didn’t think any of the Finns matched because of dates and not being sure that anyone had emigrated. I have a photo of John Finn sitting with his brother – my grandad – that I will send you when you email. I am guessing you are related to my Aunt Eileen Keane and Jimmy Kelly’s wife Maura. I have spelt the surname as Kane in my blog, because I only recently realised it was spelt Keane. Ray =


    1. Hi Ray I am the eldest son of Gerry Keane. Gerry was the youngest of a family of four siblings, his sisters being Nancy, Eileen and Maura who were my Aunts. Sadly, all have passed away, my Dad being the last in 2012. Our surname originates from the one Irish name “O’Cathain (male) and Ní Chathain (single female) and in our own family “Kane” “Cain” and “Keane” have all been used. So, no need to edit the name . I am married and live in County Kildare. During these unusual times I took some time out to lock down with my mother who is 92 in our home house in Tavnaghbeg.

      On searching some old family records, I found a few records relating to the Finn household. The reason they exist here, is because my father took over the Finn farm when John and Jim passed away and John’s wife Kate was cared for by my Father and mother in our home when we were growing up.

      I cannot authenticate that this US Declaration of Intent (which I am attaching) is your GGF but it was with a copy of the Title deeds of the farm handed down from Michael to John to Dad together with a copy of John and Kates marriage certificate. If you are not already aware there is quite a lot of age exaggeration in the 1911 Irish Census and I am attaching an Abstract which you may find amusing. In checking back age records, I find that the1901 Census is closer to reality, however, many people in that era, it seems,were never certain of their date, or year of birth.

      I look forward to seeing that photo of Tom (known as Tom Luke) and John Michael -it will bring back many memories. My Grandfather Martin was a very friendly with both of them. Keep up the good work!

      Kind regards Martin

      Abstract The United Kingdom’s Old Age Pensions Act of 1908 instituted means-tested, non-contributory pensions for men and women aged 70 or over. The pension and the lack of civil registration of births before 1864 caused many Irish to exaggerate their ages in the Census of 1911. In this paper a linked sample from the manuscript censuses of 1901 and 1911 is used to estimate the magnitude and determinants of this age misrepresentation. Our results show three types of age discrepancies: those associated with a significant reduction in age-heaping; those associated with efforts to obtain a pension before age 70; and some apparent age-exaggeration unconnected with the Old Age Pension. Population Studies © 1991 Population Investigation Committee Sent from my iPhone


  9. Hi Martin, I put my email address at the end of the reply above and it is

    Your post is very interesting and I have added two photos at the end of my blog page today as an update. I can email you these and more photos in my possession when I hear from you directly. Do you know the maiden surname of John Finn’s wire Kate? Also, on the 1901 census there was a Patrick Finn – do you know what happened to him, because he wasn’t on the 1911 census and is difficult to trace. Any help grateful received. Best wishes, Ray


  10. Hi Ray,
    I have been trying to ‘organise’ the inhabitants of Cloontia for several years now. My husbands Irish kin are the McGeever’s (AKA Geever’s) who were close neighbours of the Finn family. In 2019 my husband and I both visited Cloontia, hoping to meet up with Tom Finn. Sadly we found that he had died about two weeks before our arrival. His account of the inhabitants of Cloontia have given me some clues but our GG grandad, Michael McGeever died in 1912 aged 82
    Thomas,the son of Michael and Mary (MCDONNELL) arrived in Stoke-on -Trent, Staffordshire between 1871 and 1881. He was later accompanied by Michael Joseph MCGEEVER who was the son of Patrick McGeever and Honoria FINN. Thomas only had one child in 1883 before his wife died of TB. This means our DNA trail is limited. I would love to discover more!
    I love your blogs.
    Sue McGeever


    1. Hi Sue,

      I will email you with some information. I have a few DNA connections to McGeevers and also to Thomas Finn the author (my Finns in USA blog page refers to four Finn sisters who emigrated to Cincinnati). It would be interesting to hear whether your hisband has a DNA connection to me or any of the people mentioned.


    2. Hi Sue, I am researching the McGeever’ too, Patrick and Honoria are my Great Great Grandparents. I am the Granddaughter of Patrick Joseph (Billy) McGeever’ son Patrick Thomas McGeever and my dad is Edward John McGeever. Happy to share what I have with you. xx


  11. Ray – While I have not been able to do a ton of research since I have come across your blog (darn work keeps getting in the way!) — I wanted you and everyone else to know how cool this really is!


  12. A good while back on this blog I said I would be traveling to Ireland to visit my cousin Margaret Duffy. Sadly she died last year. The Covid 19 fiasco interfered with all our plans. Very recently I revisited this blog because my grand daughter is doing a college semester at the University of Limerick and I wanted her to see the wonderful Tom Finn recollections of Cloontia. Happily she is now in Ireland and has met several of our cousins two of whom will be students with her in Limerick. In the process I came across a blog by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. He was appointed to the Irish embassy by George Bush. He tells about his visit to Cloontia to research his wife’s family. Her maiden name is Patricia Duffy Regan. We may be related. I’m now on a new quest to see what will come from this new bit of information. You can find his blog very close to the article by Tom Finn.


  13. To Noelle Rose-Roth, a while back you responded to my blog re the Duffy family, for many reasons, mainly the covid mess I lost interest. I recently returned to the blog because my granddaughter is skeduled to study at the University of Limerick. She will be attending school with two of her Duffy cousins. In my return to the blog I discovered that Rooney the owner of Pittsburgh Steelers was married to Patricia Duffy Regan whose family came from Cloontia. He was appointed embassador to Ireland and decided to look up his wife’s family. You mentioned a similar name as his wife: the combination of Duffy and Regan. His blog is in the iPad relatively close to the Finn blog. Good luck in your research.


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