Proving my ancestry through DNA matches

great grandfather pedigree
This is my great grandfather’s pedigree chart. His father was James Rourke and his grand father was John O’Rourke born around 1790.

Recently, I was able to prove my three times O’Rourke great grandparents through a DNA match even though my match had no idea she had any O’Rourke’s in her ancestry. Not only was I able to finally verify my three times great grandparents names, I helped her add two more generations to her family tree.

In the O’Rourke branch of my tree going back past my two times great grandparents has proven difficult. I have not been able to locate my two times great grandfather’s James Rourke (O’Rourke) baptismal record in the Kilbroney church records in County Down. I have always made an educated guess as to who is parents were and it differed from what other family members thought.

There are two possible explanations why I can’t find James Rourke’s records. Several pages of the Kilbroney Parish church register are faded and his record may be hiding in there somewhere. The other explanation is that his parent’s never got around to baptizing him.

This is what I do know about James Rourke. He died in 1905 at the age of 80 in the townland of Ballintur in the Kilkeel civil registration district in County Down, so his birthdate must have been around 1825. He married my two-times great grandmother Mary Hughes in 1859, so he would have been about 34 years old. He had five children, his first born being my great grandfather John in 1861 and the last being my great grand uncle Francis in 1868.

I also used the Griffiths Valuation document to determine that his father’s name was John. In the Griffith’s Valuation, a John Jr. leased the same land until his death in 1869, when James Rourke took over the lease.

Continue reading “Proving my ancestry through DNA matches”

The Cunningham cousin: From Ireland to Montana

Arthur Cunningham is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Miles City, Custer County, Montana.

I enjoy family history because it’s like a puzzle. If I spend a little time I can find something new and another family connection. I recently spent some time researching Arthur Cunningham of Montana, the man who made it possible for my family to emigrate to the United States. Arthur was a native of Kilkeel in County Down, Ireland.

My great uncle James F. O’Rourke was coming of age in the early 20th century in Liverpool, England when he decided he wanted to emigrate to the United States. James wrote to two cousins, the Cunningham’s, asking if they would sponsor him. Not only did Arthur and James Cunningham sponsor James F., they sponsored and paid for the passage of my whole family: my great grandfather John O’Rourke, my great grandmother, Mary (Rogers) O’Rourke, and their five children, including James Francis and my grandfather Wilfred.

In addition, Arthur Cunningham, a successful sheep rancher in Miles City, Montana, paid for the passage for my great grandmother’s sister, Rose O’Rourke and her daughter, Mary Catherine O’Rourke. Rose was recently widowed when her husband, James O’Rourke, died of tuberculosis in 1901. Rose was hesitant about coming to the United States, but Arthur insisted. Arthur told Rose that she could go back to Ireland after six months if she didn’t like it. After six months, Rose wished to return to Ireland, but Arthur wouldn’t let her. Rose eventually married and settled in Oregon.

Arthur was my great grandmother Mary Rogers’ cousin on her father’s side. Hugh Rogers was his name and his sister, Ellen Rogers, had married George Cunningham.  Arthur was his son. Rose was my great grandmother’s sister, so of course, Arthur was also Rose’s cousin.

The other day I was researching Arthur Cunningham when I hit the jackpot. I stumbled upon a book online, Montana: It’s Story and Biography, A History of Aboriginal and Territorial Montana and Three Decades of Statehood, edited by Tom Stout. The book was published in 1921. In the book was the story of Arthur’s life, from the time he was born in Ireland until the year the book was published. Arthur passed away in 1937, so he was alive when the book was published.

Excerpts from Montana: It’s Story And Biography

Arthur Cunningham, of Miles City, has spent many years of his life in Montana and the Yellowstone Valley, but he is a native son of Ireland, of County Downe (sic), and was born on a little farm at Kilkeel in the parish of Morne (sic), March 18, 1854. Although during his lifetime he has gained a splendid education, this training was not  received in a school room, but instead in the school of experience, which has been his constant teacher. As he was reared on a farm he became an expert in flail threshing grain, and he labored in the fields from his early boyhood days.

Continue reading “The Cunningham cousin: From Ireland to Montana”

Irish genealogy help all the way from Australia

I’ve made a few more discoveries about my great grandmother’s family with the help of a man from Australia with ties to South County Down. Dermot Balson contacted me all the way from Perth and he holds a wealth of information on the people of Kilkeel.

These aren’t my ancestors, but this was taken in the countryside near Kilkeel where my great grandmother’s family was from. I imagine this is very similar to the home that my ancestors lived in. This was taken around near the turn of the 20th century. Demot Balson sent this to me.

After reading my blog, he emailed me a couple of days ago offering his help. I sent him my great grandmother Mary Rogers O’Rourke and her father Hugh’s information and already he has found my possible ties to the Quinn family. He has found one mistake and located my second great grandfather’s death certificate, which has eluded me all this time.

I have the wrong Rose Rogers

First, the mistake:

I don’t have the correct birth record for Rose Rogers, my great grandmother’s sister. Instead, I have a Rose Rogers that was born to an Arthur Rogers and Mary Roney.  Here’s what Dermot wrote:

I found a discrepancy in the 1868 birth record for Rose. Her father was Arthur, not Hugh, and she was born in Moneydaraghbeg, which neighbours Moneydaraghmore. Arthur is not a typo or mistake, nor is he Hugh using another name. As you’ll see from the attached document, this pair Arthur and Mary had two more children, one in 1866, the same year that Hugh had Mary. Rose is definitely NOT Mary’s sister, but probably a cousin. These townlands were swarming with Rodgers and Rooneys.

I agree with Dermot that the “townlands were swarming with Rodgers and Rooneys.” This is why I have had trouble figuring out who is who when I research my ancestors. All my relatives that insisted to me Rose was older than Mary, and they now appear to be correct.

Unfortunately, Dermot could not locate a birth record for my Rose Rogers.

So if Mary did have a sister Rose, it wasn’t this Rose. I can’t find any other Rose Ro(d)gers born anywhere else in the 1860s. The answer may be that your Rose was born before 1864, or that her birth simply wasn’t registered, which did happen especially with Catholic births.

Continue reading “Irish genealogy help all the way from Australia”

Ancestry DNA test helped me solve a puzzle

For a couple of months I’ve been trying to establish just how Quinn family from Atticall,  Kilkeel, County Down is related to me. I can report now that I’ve solved at least part of the puzzle. The DNA test that I took with Ancestry.com a few years ago links me to the Quinn family and I made that discovery yesterday. More on that later.

A little background

As I’ve written earlier, John Quinn established the first grocery store in Newry in County Down known as the Milestone in 1909. He ended up doing quite well in Ireland opening up grocery stores in various locations in County Down. My great grandmother Mary Rogers’ sister, Catherine (Kate), listed him as her cousin and her closest relative living in Ireland when she immigrated to the U.S. in 1910. Here is a link to my earlier post if you would like to read more:  catherine-rogers-murphy-cousin-john-quinn

This is a clip of the 1891 England census where my great grandfather John Rourke is listed as a border in the same Birkenhead (near Liverpool) house that Richard Quinn is listed as a boarder. Note that all adult household members are from County Down.

My grandfather’s cousin, Mary C. O’Rourke revealed in a video taken in 1986 that she was playmates when she was in Ireland with two of John and Mary Quinn’s (Fitzsimmons) oldest sons – John and Patrick. John and Patrick later changed their names to the Gaelige version – Sean and Padraig – and fought for Irish independence in the early 1920s. Sean died in the Irish Civil war in 1923 and Padraig was injured and lost a leg in the same conflict. Padraig went on to become a successful medical doctor in Ireland.

Taking another look

Just recently I went back and looked and my great grandfather John’s records. In the 1891 England census he is listed as a boarder in Birkenhead in a home occupied by the Sloan family, also from County Down. I suspect my great grandfather was a relative of the Sloan family. Also listed as a boarder is a Richard Quinn from County Down. John Quinn had a brother named Richard and Richard’s age listed in the census is 20, born the same year as John Quinn’s brother Richard.  Hence, I believe, they are the same person. I don’t believe Richard is related to my great grandfather, only to my great grandmother’s family. I now think it is a possibility that Richard Quinn may have introduced my great grandfather to his future wife, my great grandmother Mary Rogers while they were all living in the Liverpool area.

Continue reading “Ancestry DNA test helped me solve a puzzle”

Tips for researching your Irish ancestors

This is the entry in the Kilbroney Parish record where my great grandfather’s baptism was recorded. It is the only place his birth was recorded since he was born in 1861, and civil records didn’t exist in Ireland until 1862. His baptism recorded is the third one underneath the year 1861 — Feb. 6, 1861.

I‘m a self-taught amateur genealogy buff, researching my Irish family and I thought I’d share with others how I’ve researched my own ancestors. People have often asked me, how did I find out all that information? The answer is that I have found interesting information on many of my ancestors by using several different approaches. Like much original research, there is no one magical website or library, or place where you are going to find out everything. It takes persistence, but you will be surprised at what you can find out.

Ten years ago I didn’t know anything. I knew the names of grandparents and that they were born in Liverpool. That was it. To top it off, I didn’t even have my grandmother’s correct birth name. My father passed away when I was five years old and I was cut off from my father’s side of my family. This made it all the more enticing to find out about this branch of the family. It wasn’t until I came into contact with one of my uncles  in 2006 that I found out just where in Ireland the family originated from. But again, my uncle didn’t know precisely where his family was from — only roughly.

And, Ireland can be especially tough to research. A lot of records before 1862 only exist in the hundreds of different parishes in Ireland. Most are Roman Catholic, but then there is the Church of Ireland and in Northern Ireland, the Presbyterian parishes. There was no centralized location because it wasn’t required to register birth, deaths or marriages civilly until after 1862.

Here’s how I went about researching my ancestors:

I  subscribed to an online genealogy site — Ancestry.com. This is probably the most important step that I took in researching my Irish ancestors. Yes this costs money — a lot of money. I spend $300 a year for the World Explorer membership. If you can’t afford that, there is a less expensive option. Also, your public library may offer Ancestry.com for free, as well as your nearest LDS church. Ancestry.com gives me access to hundreds of databases that I can search and it includes Ireland and UK databases, essential if you are researching the Irish. Ancestry.com has tools to create a family tree and once you enter an ancestor, it will compare that person with the millions of other’s who have family trees on its site.

Continue reading “Tips for researching your Irish ancestors”

James O’Rourke: A life cut short by a devastating disease

James O'Rourke
James O’Rourke

I have wanted to know the cause of my great grand uncle James O’Rourke’s death and to find out why he only lived to his mid-30s. I went online to General Register Office in Northern Ireland and did a search for James’ death certificate. I was unable to read the horrible handwriting on it, so I ordered a copy to be mailed to my home. Yesterday, after at least two weeks waiting, I received it in my mailbox. James died April 20, 1902 in the Kilkeel Workhouse. James’ cause of death as phthisis (a word I had to look up) or in other words, tuberculosis.

When I think about what happened to him, I’m deeply saddened. James died at the age of 36 in 1902 in Kilkeel, Ireland. He was in the prime of his life. He was married and had a young child — Mary Catherine O’Rourke. James also had a job in Liverpool, maybe not a very desirable job, but he was earning money and supporting his family. The family frequently came back to his home in Ireland to visit.

We know little about James’ life before he died. What we do know is this: He was born in Ballintur  near Killowen in what is now Northern Ireland in 1864. His parents were James O’Rourke and Mary Hughes O’Rourke and he was the couple’s third child. Tragically their second child, Francis, died in infancy from cholera. James was named after his father and had three brothers growing up: my great grandfather John, who was older than he, and two younger brothers, Thomas and Francis.

James at some point — probably in the early 1890s — left Ireland for Liverpool because there was little work in Ireland outside of farming during the late 19th century and early 20th century. James married Rose Rogers, the sister of his elder brother’s wife. He worked on the docks in Liverpool as a coal porter, probably loading and unloading coal on the many ships that docked in England’s busiest port. James and Rose had two children, both girls, though one, Annie Josephine Ivy, died tragically when she was eleven months old  in 1901.

Continue reading “James O’Rourke: A life cut short by a devastating disease”

Catherine Rogers Murphy and her cousin, John Quinn

My great grand aunt, Catherine Rogers Murphy (my great grandmother’s sister), did not immigrate to the United States until three years after her sisters, Rose Rogers O’Rourke and Mary Rogers O’Rourke, according to records I have found online.
Instead, Catherine Murphy immigrated in 1910. She traveled from Liverpool, England on the ship Caronia with two of her children, Vincent and Norah Murphy. Vincent was 16 and Norah was 11. Her destination was Bellingham, Wash.

The Milestone
The Milestone, Newry, Northern Ireland’s first supermarket, founded in 1910 by John Quinn.

Two weeks ago, I wrote that she had immigrated with my great grandparents, but I could only find her husband’s name on the ship’s manifest. Catherine’s husband, John Murphy, traveled on the same ship that my great grandfather’s family immigrated to America.
John O’Rourke and my great grandmother Mary Rogers O’Rourke and their five children, came to America on the Teutonic in April 1907. Also immigrating at the same time was Rose Rogers O’Rourke, Mary’s sister and Rose’s daughter, Mary Catherine O’Rourke. My great grandfather John married Mary Rogers and his brother, Jim O’Rourke, married Mary’s sister Rose. It’s a little confusing, but Mary Catherine and John and Mary’s children were double first cousins. John Murphy was on that ship as well.

But Catherine immigrated in 1910. On the ship’s manifest she listed her closest relative in Ireland as a Mr. J. Quinn, The Milestone, Newry.

Dunnes Stores
The Milestone is Dunnes Stores today.

John Quinn and the Milestone

As I wrote last week, John Quinn was the owner of the first supermarket in Newry, Northern Ireland – the Milestone. He was born in Attical, a townland near Kilkeel. He lived in Liverpool for a time where he worked as a grocer. Many of his 10 children were born in Bootle (near Liverpool). He moved his family back to the County Down and where he opened The Milestone. He ended up being quite a successful businessman and opening several stores in Northern Ireland. One of his children, John (Sean) Quinn, was a member of the IRA and was killed in the Irish Civil War.

Continue reading “Catherine Rogers Murphy and her cousin, John Quinn”

The Quinn boys fought for Irish independence

I’ve always been intrigued by the legend or story that one of my ancestors was killed fighting for Irish independence. In fact, in one of my earlier posts Mary C. O’Rourke Stupfel says on videotape that two of her cousins and childhood playmates in Ireland, the Quinn boys, were later involved in the Irish insurrection. One of the boys was killed, according to the story. The other was injured and later recovered.

Padraig Quinn
By UnknownDigital Photography: Conor DevlinDerivative work: MagentaGreen – This file was derived from  Padraig Quinn(19241112).jpg:, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48149627

This was the second time I’ve heard this story in my family. In my earlier post on the video, Mary C. says the cousins’ names were John and Patrick Quinn. Each time I watched the video, I wanted to learn more about this story and find out just who the Quinn boys were and what their involvement was in the quest for Irish independence.

When I initially heard the story, I assumed she was talking about the Easter Rising in 1916. The Easter Rising was an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week, April 1916 and it occurred in Dublin. Irish republicans launched the conflict to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in the First World War.  It lasted for six days and the British eventually suppressed the insurrection. Some 485 people were killed including IRA members, British military and civilians.1

The event was significant because soon after, the British executed 15 lRA leaders, in essence turning public opinion against the British and paving the way toward Irish independence.2

John Quinn was not killed in the Easter Rising, nor was he killed in the Irish War for Independence that occurred between 1919 and 1921. John Quinn, later known as Sean Quinn, was killed in the lesser known Irish Civil War in 1923. His brother Patrick, known as Padraig, was captured in the same conflict, but survived and was later released.

The Irish Civil War

The Civil War broke out between opposing factions of the IRA after the treaty with Britain was signed establishing the Irish Free State. The treaty was rather contentious, but the majority of the IRA, including Michael Collins, supported it. The other faction, anti-treaty IRA members, believed the treaty with Britain didn’t go far enough toward Irish independence.3

Sean Quinn was a high ranking officer in the Fourth Northern Division of the Irish Republican Army and staunchly anti-treaty. He was ultimately killed by his own countrymen, Irish Free State troops.

Continue reading “The Quinn boys fought for Irish independence”

The importance of reviewing genealogy materials

Rose Rogers O'Rourke Morrison
Rose Rogers O’Rourke Morrison

It’s always a good idea to take a second look at genealogy materials and sources when studying family history. I took a second look at my materials today and realized something that I had not previously known. All three of the Rogers sisters, my great grandmother, Mary, and her sisters, Kate and Rose, all immigrated to America at the same time. All three families had their passage paid by cousin Jim Cunningham of Pullayup, Wash.

I knew Mary and Rose had immigrated together. But I did not know that Kate and her husband, John Murphy, had also made the journey. Today I reviewed a document I received about four years ago from distant cousin Anne Fernando, a member of the Stupfel family. Members of the Stupfel family are descendants of Rose Rogers O’Rourke Morrison (my great grand aunt) and her first husband, James O’Rourke (my great grand uncle). Rose and James are both related to me by blood since my great grandfather, John and his brother James, married sisters Mary and Rose Rogers.

The document was a narrative of Rose’s life and it stated that she immigrated to the US with her sister Kate and her husband, John Murphy. It does not mention that my great grandparents and their five children also made the journey. My grandfather Wilfred was one of those children. I find that interesting, but whoever wrote the document might not have been told that.

A new discovery

So I went back and checked the manifest of the ship Teutonic that made the voyage from Liverpool, England to New York carrying my ancestors back in April 1907. I found John Murphy’s name on the manifest just a few names above Rose’s. Sure enough, his voyage was paid by Jim Cunningham. The only thing that troubles me is that I didn’t find Kate’s name. It could have been on a previous page or maybe she made the journey at another time.

Teutonic manifest
This is the Teutonic manifest from April 23, 1907. John Murphy’s name is four names above Rose O’Rourke’s. My great grandfather’s family is listed last.

The document also states Kate and John Murphy settled in Menlo Park, Calif. So I did some searching on Ancestry.com and found a gravesite for a John and a Catherine Murphy at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Menlo Park, Calif. I’m not entirely sure they are my relatives. Also listed on the gravestone are what appear to be three of their children – John Jr., James and Vincent. After more searching, I located a World War II draft card for Vincent that he filled out when he was 48 years old. On the draft card, Vincent gives his birthplace as County Down, Ireland. So maybe they are.

Below is the story of my great grand aunt, Rose Rogers O’Rourke Morrison. There are a few factual errors in the document. Rose was actually born near Kilkeel, not Rostrevor and her young daughter, who died at 11 months, was named Anne Josephine Ivy. Continue reading “The importance of reviewing genealogy materials”

Finding a cousin and a genealogical gem with DNA

Taking a DNA test through Ancestry.com or Family Tree DNA can lead to some exciting and wonderful genealogical  gems and discoveries. I have taken tests with both companies and each time I find a relative I never knew existed it can lead to something unexpected.

A few months ago I was analyzing my new DNA matches on Ancestry.com when I noticed a new match — a third cousin named Kathleen Hickey. I wrote to her and it turns out she is, in fact, a third cousin. (DNA isn’t always a precise science). Her grandmother and my grandfather were double first cousins.

My great grandfather, John O’Rourke married my great grandmother Mary Rogers and his brother, James O’Rourke, married Mary’s sister, Rose Rogers. James and Rose had two children, only one who survived – Mary Catherine O’Rourke. Mary Catherine O’Rourke is Kathleen Stupfel Hickey’s grandmother.

Kathleen sent me a DVD of her grandmother reminiscing about her childhood in Ireland and Liverpool, England where she was born. The video was taken during a Stupfel family Thanksgiving gathering in Oregon in 1984.

Continue reading “Finding a cousin and a genealogical gem with DNA”