Have you ever tried to track down a surname in Ireland? Sometimes you may be lucky and that surname may be tied to a very specific region – but sometimes a surname may come from a number of distinct places in Ireland as the following reader discovered.
Céad Míle Fáilte – welcome to your Letter from Ireland for this week. The weather has been changeable over the past week – but the grass is growing greener by the day as a result! How are things in your part of the world?
I’m settling into a cup of Lyon’s tea as I write, and I do hope you’ll join me with a cup of whatever you fancy yourself as we start into today’s letter!
Readers often contact me wondering where a particular ancestor or surname is likely to have originated in Ireland. Sometimes I can give a direct answer – but sometimes the answer is “it depends”. The following conversation features one of those surnames that originated in many different locations in Ireland.
Here we have Kathleen Brennan from St. Louis – who shares the story of her Brennan ancestry in the USA – and wonders how she can track the origin of these Brennans in Ireland. Over to Kathleen:
Kathleen: Hello Mike, How are you today? Weather is very hot in St Louis and steamy.
Mike: Very good, Kathleen – a little less steamy in this part of the world, but I guess that’s a good thing!
Kathleen: My maiden name is Kathleen Brennan and my married name is Jacobsmeyer. My mother’s family was from Germany and if you look at my family tree you will see that has extensive findings . I was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.
Mike: That is not a surprising comparison – I often hear from people who note that their German side of the family tree is in “top order” and going back to the 1400s, whereas their Irish side is full of guesses and brick walls!
Kathleen: I have been interested in my Irish family tree for about 10 years. My father had one sibling – a sister but my father died when I was 14 and my aunt when I was 18. As a result, there was not much information shared about my father’s side of the family and there are no living relatives to ask questions.
Mike: It is hard Kathleen to have the Irish “story flow” cut off in your family tree at such a young age. These stories and memories of older relatives can be crucial in promoting researched possibilities into useful facts.
Kathleen: I was told that the Brennans emigrated from Ireland in 1860. They immigrated through the Port of Orleans and eventually settled in Saint Louis.
Mike: Some people are often surprised at how active an immigration port New Orleans was through the 1800s – but I hear quite a lot from people of Irish descent whose ancestors came through New Orleans before moving on – often further up the Mississippi river.
Kathleen: Edward Brennan was born in 1830 or 1833. His middle initial was either M or A. His wife was Margaret Malone Brennan and I have different dates for her birth – either 1834 or 1844.
Mike: Brennan is an interesting surname. It comes from the Irish first name “Braon” and arose as a surname in 4 distinct areas of Ireland: counties Kilkenny, Westmeath, Galway, Louth and Kerry. I guess that covers most of the country! However, Kilkenny is probably the most numerous source of Brennans in Ireland.
Although you did not say where in Ireland you Brennans originated, I researched your Edward and noted that his headstone says that he was a native of County Tipperary. So, that would make him a member of the Kilkenny/Tipperary Brennans!
Kathleen: Edward was a labourer and Margaret was a housewife. His father died in Ireland during the potato famine and his mother was Mary Flaherty Brennan who was born around 1800. She immigrated to Saint Louis when she was 60 years old.
Mike: How interesting that Mary made her way over to St. Louis at that age! I also see that the family were shown in the 1860 US census – and their eldest child is a William and born in Missouri. Edward’s mother, Mary is also with them by that time.
A few thoughts. The 1860 census information would SEEM to suggest that Edward met and married in the USA? Also, as the eldest child was named William, there is a strong chance that this was the name of Edward’s father according to Irish naming patterns.
Finally, the surnames Flaherty (Edward’s mother) and Brennan are most prevalent in that combination in Tipperary to the southwest of the county towards Waterford. You can see more on this here.
Kathleen: When my youngest daughter was a senior in high school we accompanied other children and their mothers on a tour of Ireland. We had a fantastic time!! I would like to bring my family back there once we find our relatives.
Mike: How nice that you have had that wonderful experience in Ireland! There is nothing like two generations enjoying a visit to Ireland together.
Kathleen: I am having difficulties finding any information about my relatives. I would like your guidance and direction please. I do have a DNA relative in Ireland according to Ancestry.
Mike: OK – so now you have County Tipperary – and most likely the southeast of the county. I think we need more questions and information from yourself. What do you think? I’ll post this letter in the Green Room where our genealogists and members can offer further suggestions.
Kathleen: I would love to meet you and Carina and share a cup of tea!
Thank you very much,
Mike: You are very welcome Kathleen – and I’ll have the kettle ready to go when you have that return date!
We hope you enjoyed Kathleen’s letter all about her Brennan ancestors. As always, feel free to share the Irish surnames in your family tree – and we are always interested in hearing more of your family stories!
Slán for this week,
Mike and Carina.
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