This is a story of a success, a surprise discovery and the hazards of not paying enough attention or making assumptions. Oh to be in Ireland where it’s possible to check the primary records!
I’m a great fan of ensuring I have family certificates and I used birthdays etc to gain a good repertoire of my key family certificates. Somehow I’d missed getting Mary Callaghan McSherry’s…who knows why. Thanks to the new Queensland online BDM search and online ordering I was able to rectify that yesterday for a mere $20. In a matter of a minute there it was to review. Bingo!! There was the proof I needed: her father was indeed David Callaghan, a fisherman, as I knew from her marriage in Gorey, but it also states that she was born in Courtown Harbour. This confirms that the David Callaghan I’d hypothesised as her father is the correct one, though I still want/need to see the baptism registers.
I alluded to this in my earlier post. I’d done a google search using the words: Callaghan fisherman Courtown Wexford. To my surprise up popped a book extract which was something of an eye-popper. Margaret Callaghan, daughter of Edward Callaghan (who in turn is said to be the brother of John and David fishermen in Courtown), turned out to be the wife of Ace of Spies, the true story of Sidney Reilly. The book by Andrew Cook is available as an e-book so of course I couldn’t resist buying it to see more detail. My good fortune is that it also includes detailed footnotes on the Callaghan family, some of which I’ve been able to cross-check using Family Search and FindMyPast (world) (FMP). Other aspects I’ve been unable to verify eg Margaret has eluded me in the 1891 English census.
Critically the book’s footnotes identify Edward Callaghan’s place of birth in the parish of Ballygarrett, in which Courtown is situated. Why is this important? Because at least one of my DNA matches has traced his family to the same parish, but our match is too strong for this to be “identical by state.” The book also identifies Edward’s parents as John and Elisa Callaghan[i] so tentatively they would also be the parents of our David.
FALSE ASSUMPTIONS (make an ass out of me)
Error 1: I had stupidly blipped over the marital status of David Callaghan’s family in the Household Returns for the 1901 census. Kate Callaghan was not David junior’s wife, she was a widow and he was unmarried. As yet we don’t know which of David Callaghan senior’s sons she had married. I have now edited my previous post to correct this.
Error 2 was assuming that the Anne Callaghan on the Griffith Valuations may have been David and John’s mother whereas in fact it may be that John Callaghan, also living in the Oughton houses may be the correct ancestor.
An assumption, in my head at least, was that Anne Callaghan who was admitted to Wexford Gaol for stealing a chemise may have been the same one as on the Griffith Valuations. This may be the case, but she may also be the wife of David Callaghan as we can see from the birth entries identified below. She was 45 in 1877, suggesting an estimated year of birth of 1832. She could be a sister of David Callaghan (est YOB 1834) or his wife, or an unknown relation or even sister-in-law but not his mother because of her age.
Where to from here and what can be done from Australia?
Action: Order in the microfilms of the Ardamine, Wexford valuation lists so I can trace the change of ownership of the two houses held by John Callaghan and Anne Callaghan in 1853. This might clarify the lines of descent, and correlate deaths with the transfer of occupation.
Meanwhile let’s put together the BDM details that can be uncovered from Family Search, FindMyPast (world) and the National Archives of Ireland’s 1901 census.
From the census: David Callaghan, a fisherman, 67 years old, Roman Catholic and illiterate. Living with him is his daughter Bridget, aged 33; his son, also David, aged 27 and a fisherman, David senior’s daughter-in-law Kate, aged 33 and her son David #3, aged 7.
I’ve come up with the following which remain conjecture until seeing the full detail on either baptism/birth/marriage/death registers.
One thing that is explained by the Callaghan inheritance is why I’ve always loved fishing ports, especially ones with small boats, fishing creels and ropes. What is ironic is that no bells rang for me when I visited Courtown Harbour (why?) on 3 December 1989 with my mother and youngest daughter.
THE FAMILY OF DAVID CALLAGHAN
David Callaghan b abt 1834 possibly died 1913, aged 78 July-Sept 1913. (Still alive at 1911 census). From the Irish birth registrations, David senior’s wife’s name is Anne but no maiden name is stated.
Children identified to date:
Mary Callaghan (McSherry) b 1861/1862
Bridget Callaghan b abt 1868 died/reg April-June 1937, aged 67 (est YOB 1870) (FMP)
Ellen Callaghan b 8 March 1870 (Irish Birth Regn)[ii]
David Callaghan #2 b 1874 born 21 April 1873 (Irish Birth Regn)[iii] and still unmarried in 1901 but in Oct-Dec 1908 he marries Mary Kinsella (vol 2, p727) and in 1911 is living at Riverchapel with his mother-in-law. Per the census enumeration, the couple have been married three years and have no children.David is now a sailor, not a fisherman.
Action: follow up his merchant navy/navy records and the marriage record. It may be David Callaghan junior who dies in 1950 aged 71 (FMP), despite the variation in his YOB.
Action: To follow up the marriage and baptisms when (??) in Ireland (the parish registers are not on Roots Ireland).
One possibility is that David Callaghan senior first went to sea with the merchant navy in 1840. Certainly there is a David Callaghan, aged 18, ticketed in 1846. He was an apprentice, from Courtown and had gone to sea as a boy. He is described as 4ft 10ins, brown hair, grey eyes, fresh complexion and no marks. What stands out for me here is the lad’s height as his daughter was quite tall but perhaps he hadn’t grown fully, or it is the wrong person, or a cousin….or….The anomaly is the variation in his year of birth.
THE FAMILY OF JOHN CALLAGHAN
The other Courtown resident in the 1901 census is John Callaghan, 62, living with his wife Catherine aged 60, sons Patrick 32 and James 23, and daughter Elizabeth Redmond 34, her husband James 35 and her daughter Mary, 9 months.
John Callaghan died 1911 (pre census) aged 71, so estimated YOB is 1840 which fits with the census. Hypothesis: he is David Callaghan senior’s younger brother and perhaps also brother to Edward (per Cook’s book)
John’s wife is Catherine Callaghan nee Cullen 60, est YOB 1841. She is still alive in 1911 but she may be the one who dies in 1936, aged 86.
Patrick Callaghan 32 (est YOB 1869) born 20 February 1869 (Familysearch, Irish Births)
James Callaghan 23 (est YOB 1878) born 7 May 1878 at Seamount (Familysearch, Irish Births)
Elizabeth Callaghan 34 (est YOB 1867) born 22 February 1867 (Familysearch, Irish Births)
married James Redmond July-Sept 1899 (Vol 2 page 755 per FMP)
THE FAMILY OF EDWARD CALLAGHAN
Edward Callaghan married Anne Naughter 1870 (Irish Marriages 1845-1958, FMP, Vol 2, p898)
Their (identified) family:
Elizabeth Callaghan 5 January 1871 (Edward Callaghan and Anne Naughter)
James Callaghan 24 February 1872 (Edward Callaghan & Anne Naughter)
Margaret Callaghan was born in the southern Irish fishing village of Courtown Harbour County Wexford on 1 January 1874 (v2 p873 FMP)[iv]. It is this Margaret who is the wife first of the Rev Hugh Thomas and subsequently of Sigmund Rosenblum aka Sidney Reilly.
One thing that bemuses me about Margaret Thomas nee Callaghan is that Cook says that in the late 1890s she’d have been taken as an educated, cultured Englishwoman of the Victorian upper classes[v]. Frankly it bemuses me how a young woman, said to have left home at age 14, would have been able to make the transition from a somewhat knockabout life in Courtown Harbour, to that of an educated and cultured woman, let alone lose her Irish accent and replace it with an upper class English accent.
Although Margaret’s father Edward is said to be still alive in 1898 I can find no obvious trace of him in the 1901 or 1911 census records for Ireland.
I now have confidence that Mary Callaghan was born in Courtown Harbour and that her father was David Callaghan, a fisherman. It appears from the births of later siblings that her mother’s name was Anne. I have a hypothesis that the family of John Callaghan, living in the Oughton houses in Courtown Harbour is related, possibly her uncle, aunt and cousins.
If the relevant facts in the Ace of Spies book are correct, and it does seem very thorough, further searching should find David, John and Edward in the Ballygarrett parish registers at the National Library of Ireland. Similarly the wife of the rather infamous and inventive Sidney Reilly would be my Mary Callaghan’s cousin.
With luck, Ballygarrett research might reveal the links to other families whose DNA overlaps mine.
Please read this story in conjunction with my earlier post, A Conjecture of Callaghans from Courtown.
Keep an eye out for Find My Past’s release of further Wexford Petty Session records.
Search for Ardamine cemetery records, which are supposed to be coming online through the Wexford County Archives.
Action as listed above.
[i] Ace of Spies, The True Story of Sidney Reilly. Cook, A. The History Press, Stroud Gloucestershire, 2004. footnote 75 chapter 2.
[ii] GS Film number: 101206 (Family Search)
[iii] GS Film number: 255877 (Family Search)
[iv] FamilySearch born 1 January 1874 to Edward Callaghan and Anne Nochter (sic).
[v] Cook, op cit, location 614 of the ebook.
10 thoughts on “Oh to be in Courtown, Ireland”
Your detailed research is inspiring, Pauleen… I learn so much, even if I don’t have connections to the same area..I love reading the journey of your discoveries, the positives and not so positives and why each is/was relevant. As for The Ace of Spies, it was simply waiting you you to spy it…you were certainly meant to. I look forward to reading of the rest of this voyage of discovery.
Thanks Chris, you’re such a great supporter! I was quite stunned when I spied Ace of Spies…and then thrilled…and then frustrated when I couldn’t track the census data in England that should have been there. I had to draw a line under it for now & get back to more pressing tasks. Fingers crossed we can sort out the DNA links and ultimately the proof in the church registers.
Have you tried contacting local Courtown people who might look things up for you, through posting on Ireland Reaching Out for the particular parish. They can be quite keen. A few of our Irish Special Interest group in WA have had success this way. Might veven contact some living Callaghans.
great reminder Jenni…will give it a try.
Great work Pauleen. I love it when one thing unleashes a whole lot of other information and gives you lots of new things to follow up!
It is indeed fun Prue…but it would be even more fun if I could look at the church registers from Australia on microfilm 😉