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Gowran Roman Catholic Church ©2011 Janet Maher

I continue to examine documents for possible links between my study in Connecticut and the areas of Ireland that I have pinpointed as places of origin for a select group of people. Certain families within a relatively close range from towns near the borders of Tipperary, Kilkenny and Laois, Ireland, settled in Naugatuck, New Haven County, Connecticut. In forms of wave migration, Thomastown, Kilkenny, was one place that became clear.

After the Great Famine (1845-1849) it can be assumed that many Mahers who had once lived in the Barony of Gowran, and other areas of Ireland, emigrated or did not survive. If they were not leaseholders, some may not have appeared in Griffiths Evaluations even if they might have lived and worked on the land. Thus, some continued to remain invisible. There is a strong likelihood, however, that Mahers in Ireland after the Famine had been related in some way to emigrated Mahers whose ancestries led back to the same areas. The following is an example of a way to gather indirect information that might help to locate families and form a bridge between emigrated individuals and those who continued the family lines in their homeland.

Roadsigns to Gowran or Carlow ©2011 Janet Maher

Through baptism records I have determined that one of the Maher families in my study originated in Kilfane, which was in the Union of Thomastown, Barony of Gowran. Ask About Ireland’s Griffiths Valuation index turned up 105 hits for the surname Maher in the Barony of Gowran, Kilkenny, almost thirty years after the first members of the family appeared in America. Mahers were living in the Gowran areas of Columbkille, Dungarvan, Gowran, Graiguenamanagh, Grangesilvia, Kilfane, Kilderry, Kilmacahill, Powerstown, Saint John, Shankill, Thomastown, Tullaherin, and Woolengrange.

In 1850 one Philip Maher remained as a leaseholder in the townland of Ballykeoghan. An Anne Maher leased a house in the townland of Newtown, Parish and Union of Thomastown. In Kilbline, Parish of Tullaherin, Union of Thomastown, was listed one Patrick Maher who leased fifty acres of land, with house, offices and garden, and one Martin Campbell, who leased, in turn, a small parcel of land from Patrick Maher. In Knockbrack, Woolengrange, Union of Thomastown, Margaret Maher lived on seventeen acres of land. By pulling each name up in this way, one at a time, it is possible to learn details about each person who appears in the online Griffiths Valuation index and attempt to match them to other information one might have. There is a large jump between Griffiths Valuations and the 1901 census, available (with the 1911 one) from the National Archives of Ireland, but information from Griffiths may help to link the earliest immigrant settlers that left Ireland around the time of the Famine. (In Ireland is the collection of the actual Griffiths returns.)

Mahers living in Gowran in 1901 included those in the townlands or streets of: Bodal (Patrick Maher, a tailor); Brickana (Margaret Maher, working as a servant); Commons (John and Catherine Maher and family); Gallowshill (John and Bridget Maher and family); Main Street Upper (Mary Maher and her sisters) and Lower (Mary Maher and her son); and Talbotshill (Margaret Maher, a farmer). In 1911 with some changes, the groups and most of the individuals were still there.

In house #1 in Gallowshill [Gallows Hill] in 1901 were John and Bridget Maher, John’s father, Michael (a retired farmer), and John and Bridget’s children: Mary, [Jeramiah], Joseph, Bridget, Teresa, along with a farm servant named Michael Cunningham. This house had likely been Michael’s, as his name was first entered, then crossed out, by the census-taker in Form B1, the House and Building Return. John might have been Michael’s oldest son, heir to the family house and land.

By 1911 Michael had died and Joseph was gone from the house, which was now considered as house #2 by the census taker. Some time around 1904 John and Bridget’s daughter, Agnes had been born. The House and Building Return for 1901 listed Mary Hogan as the owner of house #2. (In 1911 the numbers for both families were reversed, although given the data, they did not exchange houses.) Mary’s structure had two more front windows than John and Bridget’s three, and in 1911 a few more changes could also be seen. Both houses were built from “stone, brick or concrete.” Mary’s roof was made of “slate, iron or tiles.” John’s was thatched or made of “wood or other perishable materials.” John had eight out-offices or farm-steadings; Mary had ten. For both, these included a barn, stable, cow house, calf house, fowl house, piggery, turf house and potato house. Mary also had a dairy. Nine people lived in four rooms in John’s house; two people lived in three in Mary’s. In 1911 they each seemed to have expanded the spaces inside the houses, such that there were now two rooms in the individual dwellings, and John had added another window. Both families were Catholic.

I photographed several of the tombstones on the grounds of Gowran Church, Kilkenny City, Kilkenny, last summer, with a focus upon surnames that also appeared in early Catholic Naugatuck, Connecticut. Here, among my images, was the stone for what appears to have been the same Jeremiah, above, and three of his sisters! This stone, which at one time may have had an image or carving attached to its face, was inscribed:

In Loving Memory Of  / JERMIAH MAHER / Gallows Hill Gowran / Died 1st Nov 1937 Aged 54 Yrs / His Sisters BRIGID MAHER / Died 23rd Jan 1970 Aged 85 Yrs / TERESA MAHER / Died 1st June 1982 Aged 83 Yrs / And AGNES MAHER / Died 16th  Feb 1987 Aged 83 Yrs. [The grave site extends forward about ten feet in an enclosed area covered with small white stones.]

From this information it might be surmised that neither Jeremiah nor his younger sisters had married. We do know that their parents’ names had been John and Bridget (or, the original spelling, Brigid) Maher and that their grandfather, a widower, had been Michael Maher, born about 1821, according to the 1901 census. We can also picture them in place as, perhaps, a typical Catholic farming family in rural Kilkenny. Did Jeremiah’s older sister, Mary, and younger brother, Joseph, marry and/or settle in another part of Ireland? What was Bridget’s maiden name? With further research, such as a study of baptism and marriage records, much more might be revealed about this family.

[Jermiah] Maher and sisters, Gowran ©2011 Janet Maher

Another Maher grave in Gowran Cemetery included this inscription:

Erected By His Widow / In Memory Of / JOHN MAHER, Gowran / Who Died 21st January 1881. / Aged 66 Years. / And Of Their Children / ALICE and CATHERINE / Also in Memory of  / ELIZA MAHER / Widow of the Above / Who Died 5th February 1885 / Aged 66 Years / And Their Daughter / MARY / Who Died 15th March 1907 / Aged 65 Years. / R. I. P.   [At the lower edge of the stone was also: ELIZABETH Died 28th Sep 1913 / BRIGID 7th Aug. 1919 / JANE 19th…(more)]

Some other surnames that I found in Gowran Cemetery which also exist in early Irish cemeteries of New Haven County included:

[One large Celtic stone in an enclosed plot; just outside the plot another large stone, family name Hanlon with inscriptions.] Cross / Jesus Mercy, Mary Help / This Cross Was Erected By DANIEL BLANCHFIELD BLANCHFIELD’S PARK / In Memory of His Mother / BRiDGET BLANCHFIELD / His Brothers RICHARD and PETER / And His Nephew JAMES BYRNE / Who Died 13th Jany 1885 In The 25th Year Of His Age / His Grandnephew, OWEN BLANCHFIELD KEHOE / Who Died 2nd Feb. 1993, In His 69th Year. / And His Nephew, JAMES RICHARD (JIM) KEHOE, / Who Died 17th Nov. 2000, In His 46th Year. / R. I. P.  [At base] His Mother, MAURA KEHOE [dates covered by plant, 2009] Aged 83 Yrs.

Pray For the Soul of / MICHAEL BOWE, Ballyquirk / Who Died Sept 15th 1879, Aged 81 Yrs. / Also His Wife ELLEN BOWE Nee WALSH / Died May 23rd 1891 Aged 69 Yrs. Also Their / Son THOMAS Died Sep. 9th 1910 Aged 70 Yrs. / Also Their Son JOHN Died Feb. 2nd 1912 / Aged 66 Yrs. and Their Son MARTIN / Died May 2nd, 1923, Aged 78 Yrs. / Also Their Daughter ELLEN / Died July 22nd 1930, Aged 75 Yrs.

Sacred Heart of Jesus / Have Mercy on the Souls of / JOSEPH BUTLER / CASTLE VIEW / died 19th June 1965 / His Wife MARY / Died 31st Jan. 1967 / Their Son, JAMES, / Died 6th July 1993 / R. I. P. / Erected By Their Loving Family

Cross / Erected By JAMES CAHILL / Of Gowran / In Memory Of His Children / ELLEN CAHILL / Who Died March 19th 1879 / Aged 7 Years / MARY CAHILL / Who Died August 20th 1882 / Aged 20 Years / MARGARET CAHILL / Who Died November 5th 1885 / Aged 19 Years / Also ELLEN and MARTIN CAHILL / Who Died Young / R. I. P.   [Side] Cross / Also / In Memory Of / ROBERT CAHILL / Who Died 14th August 1893 / Aged 28 Years / And / PATRICK CAHILL / Who Died 16th September 1894 / Aged 20 Years. / Also / In Memory Of The Above-Named JAMES CAHILL / Who Died 13th December 1896 / Aged 67 Years. / Also His Wife / BRIDGET CAHILL / Who Died 29th April 1920 / Aged 81 Years.

Sacred / To the Memory of / JOHN KELLY / of Dungarvan. / Who Died 15 December 1878 / Aged 62 Years / Also Three Of His / Children Who Died Young / And of His Wife / MARGARET KELLY / Who Died 16 March 1907 Aged 72 Years /  And of His Son JAMES J. KELLY / Who Died In Melbourne 19 Oct. 1913. / Aged 40 Years / And His Daughter / MARY FRANCES HAYDEN / Who Died Jan. 30th 1831 Aged 65 Years / Also His Son WILLIAM F. KELLY / Who Died Nov. 14th 1943. Aged 80 Years. / Requiescant In Pace.

[Two stones sharing the same enclosed plot filled with small white stones] Erected / In Loving Memory / Of / JAMES J. O’DONNELL [CLASHWILLIAM] / Died 18th May, 1962 Aged 80 Years. / His Wife ANGELA Nee DOWLING / Died 22nd Apr. 1983 Aged 87 Yrs. / Their Son ANDREW / Died 17th May 1995 Aged 78 Yrs. / Their Son MAURICE / Died 8th Nov. 1995 Aged 62 Yrs.   [Stone #2]  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus / Have Mercy / On the Souls of / NORA M/ O’DONNELL / Who Died 24th May 1963. / Infants of LOUISE and JOHN. / JAMES BRENDAN O’DONNELL / Died 25th Apr. 1997 / Aged 73 Yrs. / R. I. P.  [The stonecarver was Mullan, from Kilkenny.]

Cahill stone, Gowran; Blanchfiled to the right, behind ©2011 Janet Maher

©2012 Janet Maher/Sinéad Ní Mheachair

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