War Hero Finns in USA

Patricia Finn Thornton has conducted excellent research into her family history, amplified with extensive notes. Unfortunately, she is no longer with us having passed away on 17th August 2014. Patricia was buried on 23rd August at Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bala Cynwyd an area of Pennsylvania to the north west of Philadelphia, were immigrants from Wales predominated, mostly of the Quaker faith. My supervisor, George Conyne, for my doctorate at the University of Kent, UK, attended Haverford College in this area. I have visited Lancaster to the west of Philadelphia, passing through this area on my way into the city. Patricia was born in 1945, the year her father died, killed in action in Italy during the Second World War. Her picture below was added to the Find A Grave memorial website by someone with the user name mbm1311.

Patricia Finn Thornton – something in this photo makes me believe there is a connection to my family.

Patricia married a military man, Frank Thornton, in 1967. She was one of seven children, who grew up in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. She was well educated and graduated from St. Pius X High School and East Stroudsgate State University. She took courses at Temple University and Trinity College, Dublin, then obtained a Masters from Drexel University in Philadelphia. She taught English at the American School in D’Hahran, Saudi Arabia for five years and, after a short gap on returning to the USA, for the next twenty-one years at Lower Merion High School, a community near Bala Cynwyd, until retiring in 2007.

Her father was Captain Frederick J. Finn, born in New York in November 1916 and her mother was Herlinda Spade (21st January 1917- 16th March 2013). Her parents were married in October 1941 at Fort McClellan, Alabama. Frederick was killed near Ponte Rocca, Italy on 20th April 1945, whilst leading his men in Company L of the 85th Infantry Company part of the 10th Mountain division. Patricia began volunteering with the 10th Mountain Association in 1986 and in 1992 she co-founded 10th Mountain Descendants Incorporated to give support to veterans and their families. She was President of this organisation from 2001-6. Her mother Herlinda re-married and Patricia had some half-brothers and a half-sister, but as they are not my direct family connections, I have not researched further along this line. One emotional moment occurred when an unnamed veteran approached Patricia at a 10th Mountain reunion and presented her father’s Captain bars that he had found near where her father had been killed.

Frederick’s parents were Patrick Joseph Finn (born 10th November 1875 Kiltycreen, Sligo, Ireland who died 6th January 1921 in New York and Mary Tone (1st February Westmeath, Ireland 1875 – 21st August 1955, Nassau, New York). Patrick Joseph and Mary were married on 20th January 1909 in New York. Patrick had arrived in New York in 1899 on the Lucania and he then entered the New York 69th National Guard, known as “The Fighting Irish”. He became a United States citizen in 1913.

Patrick Finn on his wedding day on 20th January 1909 at Holy Trinity Church, 83rd Street, New York

They had John Finn who died 28th October 1909, very close to his birth, four more sons, Thomas Raymond Finn (1911-1982), James J. Finn (1912-1978), Henry P. Finn (1914 – 19th April 1945), the aforementioned Frederick J Finn and a daughter Ellen Patricia Finn (1918-2011). Ellen Patricia had the married name Shaughnessy. She appeared on this family gravestone, which shows the deaths of Patrick Finn and his wife Mary Tone, plus their children John, Henry P and Captain Frederick J, along with Mary’s brother John Tone.

Finn family gravestone

Patrick’s parents were Thomas Finn and Ellen Gorman, who have been featured in a blog post “More on Finns in the USA” in the penultimate paragraph. Patrick’s siblings are mentioned in this paragraph. Their gravestone also featured one of their younger daughters, Ellen J Finn (Ellie).

I have a DNA link to Patrick Finn (1881-1921) and his son James Joseph Finn (1911-1978) through an Ancestry tree managed by John Palser called D.P. This means all of the Finns in this posting have a distant relationship to me. Frustratingly, this does not lead further back into my Irish Ancestry, but it does cement my American connections. One of these connections is to John Jack Finn in Australia – see the blog post “Finns in Australia” and another is to Henry Finn in New Zealand, who will feature in a later blog page, where I have already completed the research. These were two of Patrick’s brothers.

I would like to conclude this post by adding some information about Henry P Finn, who died the day before his brother Frederick J Finn, and two more of their brothers. This must have been terrible for the family to bear, with both brothers passing away within the last few weeks just before the end of the war in Europe. Henry was in the military engaged on essential war work, but succumbed to tuberculosis in Iowa, whilst insisting he stayed at his post. He left a widow, Margaret Lichensten, who was daughter of the Mayor of Manly, Iowa. They had a son Brian Patrick Finn.

Henry P and Frederick J were survived by two other brothers in the military. Thomas Raymond Finn was a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy in the Pacific and James J Finn was a Technical Sergeant in the Flying Tigers in China. These were Patricia Finn Thornton’s other uncles and they completed a stellar military family, the sort revered in the USA.

There will be more on Patrick Joseph’s siblings in a later post, because there is too much to add to this post, provided I can find further information about their lives. They are Bridget Beatrice, Catherine, Mary Anne, Thomas, Michael, James, Matthew, Emily, Matilda and Frederick Alfred, plus Henry already mentioned in connection with New Zealand.