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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.