I’m writing about Timothy Brennan (plus siblings) again. Last month I concluded he was pretty boring to research. I must like chewing sawdust, because a month later I’m still researching him, largely because I found out a bit more information and hit a mini genealogy jackpot with a letter to Timothy from his brother, which led to some other discoveries.
The letter was written in 1869, some 20 years after Timothy’s arrival, and was from his younger brother, Paul, a reluctant military man. At the time, Paul and his wife were stationed in Toronto, and had been there for 2 years, but still had not seen his Timothy or their other siblings. In the letter, he mentions a few other relatives, and this has helped me connect Timothy to 2 other siblings who must’ve immigrated with him or around the same time. Today I’ll talk about the them.
As mentioned last month, parents were Paul Brennan and Mary Walsh in Leighlinbridge, Carlow, Ireland. There were a lot of Brennans in the area, and quite a few Walshes. Paul and Mary were hitched in a shotgun wedding in September 1820 and their first son, Timothy, was baptized in the same place (St. Laserian’s) 6 months later in April 1821. Paul and Mary were farmers in Seskin Lower, along with 19 other families in the 1848 Griffith’s valuation. Their surnames frequently appear as sponsors and witnesses in each others’ marriages and births. Here’s a picture of the place today. I chose the oldest, most run down building. Maybe it was around when they were…
Timothy: My great-grandfather. He was the firstborn child, and came to Canada in the late 1840s during the great famine. He spent the first decade in Canada working as a foreman at Phillip Thompson’s saw mill at Chaudiere (Ottawa timber raft pictured below). After his marriage in 1856, he moved to Fallowfield outside Ottawa with his wife’s family, the Kennedys from Tipperary. On his marriage record she’s called Ann Kean, although she was a Kennedy in all other records. They had 6 children including my great great grandfather, Patrick.
John: baptized in 1824. I haven’t been able to track this brother down in Canada, although a John Brennan is mentioned in the letter from Paul to Timothy. I think he crossed the sea as well, or perhaps they had another relation of the same name. Researching John Brennans in the area hasn’t proved rewarding yet. Michael and Alice did have an 18 year old son called John at the time of the letter – perhaps it is he who is referred to?
Mary: Born around 1825. I didn’t even know she existed until the letter, in which she’s referred to as Mrs. Rice. I’ve not found a baptism record for her in Leighlinbridge, but I did find the world’s most illegible French marriage record (below) in Maniwaki (near Ottawa) in 1856. I’m pretty sure it says her parents were Paul Brennan and Mary Walsh – but maybe I’m seeing that out of wishful thinking? Either way she’s related somehow. She married John Rice and they had 10 children. I researched this angle after seeing the name Mrs. Rice in the letter and realizing known brother James Brennan was living beside the Rices.
Michael: Born 1826 in Seskin Lower. He was the first of the siblings to marry in Ottawa, in 1850. Witnesses of his marriage were Walshes (his mother’s maiden name), although his parents are called Paul Brennan and Mary Wilson. I think Wilson is an error on the record. He and his wife and had a modest-sized family of 15 children. His wife, Alice Kelly, died in 1879 and he died in 1898. They were first living in Ottawa, but later relocated to Quebec and lived next to likely sister Mary in the years after she lived beside James. This is how I found him and then tracked town his mis-transcribed marriage record.
James: Born 1832 in Seskin Lower. I think he was the youngest sibling to go to Canada. He married Catherine Houston in 1858 and their first child was born 3 months later. In his marriage record, his mother is called Mary Wols. They went on to have 8 children. They lived near Mary and Michael.
These 3 families, who all went to Gatineau, had a lot of kids and reused family names a lot. I find it very difficult to keep track of subsequent generations, but I think there are still Brennans in the area today. Gatineau is north of Ottawa and was also an area of the timber trade. I suspect all the Brennans were originally in the timber trade when they arrived, but shifted to farming later.
Johanna: B. 1836 in Seskin Lower. I’m not sure what happened to her. Maybe she immigrated, maybe she stayed in Ireland, maybe she died…
Paul: b. 1839 in Seskin Lower. This is the letter writer. He apparently did not immigrate with his older siblings, but remained in Ireland, where he married Mary Murray (say that 3 times fast!). He joined the military (29th regiment of foot, out of Worcestershire) and they were placed in various locations around the world. They were in Toronto for 2 years (when he wrote the letter), and had 2 children there. At the time of the letter Paul was appealing to his siblings to help buy him out of his service (for $90, which represents $205,000 in economic power these days), as he was about to be shipped out. They were not able to emancipate him, and Paul and family shipped out in 1870 and ended up in Jamaica for a few years. He then bought himself out or completed his tour, because a few years later he ended up back in Ireland (Dublin) where they had the rest of their children. They eventually did immigrate to Canada, and settled in Ottawa, not far from Timothy. He died a few years later of consumption. Three of his sons worked for the Grand Trunk Railroad. Their son Paul and his moustache are pictured below.
Bridget: b. 1842. Like Johanna, this is the only record I have of Bridget. I’m assuming she did not come to Canada, as she was younger than Paul.
1. I’m still looking for John and “Uncle Walsh,” who were both mentioned in the letter.
2. When I related the story of the letter to my mom, she recognized the name of its owner as my grandmother’s cousin, who I’ve apparently met a number of times. I’ve got to up my genealogy game. I’ve since been in touch with her, and she doesn’t seem to have the genealogy windfall I briefly dreamed about.
3. All the marriage records for this family have errors in them. I feel like there’s more out there (John Brennan), but they are probably misspelled!
4. I was surprised about the marriages which took place fewer than 9 months before baptism records for the couple’s first child. I did a bit of research and found out that pre-famine, social mores in Ireland were quite different. After the famine, the power of the church rose and celibacy was demanded. This allowed Irish standards of living to improve and keep larger pieces of land in the family, rather than dividing it up between descendants; this, of course, was largely at the expense of much of women’s status. Until this point, women had been the de facto heads of families. The patterns of inheritance also changed after the famine, which led to the late marriages seen in Irish populations after the famine. Before the famine, when the church did not case such a large shadow, sex and children outside of marriage were not stigmatized as after the famine. Although some of these marriages were post famine, the Brennans left during the famine and were likely not as strongly influenced by the mores the were shifting back home.