The Family News Letter          Vol. 5






Abraham, Martin, and Paul


The O'Donnell Family



The Irish Catholic Parish Registers


 Tipperary's Children

                                            Lincoln and the Civil War

The Irish Brigade



The following story is the result of five years of research and my best efforts to properly document the history and events of those family members who came to America fleeing the poverty and famine of Ireland in the 1850’s.  They came seeking a better life and we are in their debt.  This newsletter is dedicated to them   

Abraham, Martin, and Paul....and Michael, and maybe.....John?

The Immigration Story Of The Sullivan Brothers

 Just when I think I have everything chronologically figured out, something unforeseen drops out of the family tree that changes everything.  To the best of my knowledge, it was Mary Sullivan that was the first of the Clogheen family to reach the United  States in 1872, and that was based on all the material researched up until 2010.  She would marry James Fleming of Carrickbeg, Co Waterford Ireland and settle down in Rosendale, NY shortly thereafter. It was my cousin Maureen, James and Mary's granddaughter who told me the stories about her Uncle Joe Fleming, his love for literature and gift of the written word.  Maureen along with her brother Donald and sister Patricia were raised in Plattekill, NY and spent many weekends at the family homestead in Rosendale, where her Uncles Joe and Bill  still resided.  One day while visiting her Uncle Joe, she lamented that her family was so small and wished that it was so much larger.  Her Uncle Joe smiled at her and replied "Maureen, if you only knew.  Your family is as numerous as the leaves on a tree.  He was right. 

Uncle Joe was a prodigious writer and town historian, who is best known for recording the histories of the D&H Canal and the Rosendale cement industry. He worked in various capacities in both industries which by 1900 had seen better days and reached total shutdown in1907.  He later worked with the mining and construction crews building the New York City water project from 1908 thru 1914 when the project was completed.  Of significance to me is his chronicle of the Fleming and Sullivan family histories, most of which would have passed away along with those he wished to remember but for his niece Maureen who carefully safeguarded his works.  I expressed my interest several years ago in learning more about the Fleming family and their connection to the Sullivan family here and in Ireland, and it was then that she told me about the books he had written during his later years.  Shortly before his death in August 1950, he hoped to fulfill a lifelong dream and sent a transcript of his works to Iona University in the hope that it would be published.  Unfortunately, his work was rejected and he passed away the following month.  One of the excerpts from the biography of his mother follows: 


Martin L Sullivan

In his mother's biography he wrote:

"At the age of five, mother began learning the dressmaking trade under the jurisdiction of her Aunt Mary (Spotwood) to whom she remained a constant companion until shortly after my grandfather’s death from an old injury which necessitated a plate in his skull for many years.

            He died early in 1871 and the following June, Mother and her sister Margaret came to America and located with her Uncle Martin Sullivan on the Strand in Roundout ( Kingston) NY, where he conducted a general store and operated a small men’s clothing factory.  Mother and her sister remained with and worked for their Uncle Martin until they were married.  This Great Uncle of mine came to America in the (Eighteen) “fifties” and worked in New York City at plastering and bricklaying until the outbreak of the Civil War when he went out with the Old Sixty Ninth (Irish) Regiment for the duration.

            Besides contracting the small pox he also received an abdominal wound which advised his not resuming his trade after being mustered.  Coming to Rondout in 1865 he remained in business there until the panic of 1873 when he returned to New York and resumed his trade.  This aggravated his wound and he died a short time later.                   

The existence of Martin Sullivan is not new, however the revelation that he departed Ireland and moved to America challenges long held beliefs both here and in England where a large segment of the family resettled.  There is no step by step progression when researching someone and separating fact from fiction is critical.  While some pieces of information bear fruit, others seem to lead nowhere. The details from this entry are more than I have to work with normally, so now to verify their authenticity by referring to public records and put his account to the test. 

            The village of Rondout now part of Kingston, NY was a busy port facility at the confluence of the Rondout and Hudson rivers chiefly connected to the coal and cement industries.  Easy access to markets in New York City was provided by river steamers and later by railroad.  The post-Civil War population of Kingston, NY was approximately 6,000 people and fortunately a business directory still exists for the year 1866 where Martin Sullivan’s name appears as a clothier on Dock Street.  So it appears that Joe Fleming was accurate about his Uncle Martin  in this respect and the story is worth further investigation.      

The NY 69th Regiment Irish Brigade        


   Left: The Rondout business directory for 1866

 Below: Strand Street, Rondout, Kingston, NY



The Emigrant Savings Bank Records

The decades between 1830 and 1850 saw a dramatic increase of immigrants arriving in New York City.  Almost two million Irish passengers mostly poor Catholics fleeing oppression and famine and with very limited funds to sustain themselves, disembarked at Castle Clinton in lower Manhattan.  In order to respond to the need to aid transition in their new home, The Irish Emigrant Society was founded by a group of prominent businessmen in 1841.  By 1849 it was recognized that some form of depository system was needed in the Irish community for the purpose exchanging sums of money between North America and the continent of Europe.  At the urging of the Archbishop of New York John Hughes, eighteen of the Society's members contributed shares towards the formation of The Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank in 1850.  The effort was so successful that by 1857 the bank was the seventh largest in the country with over 1.5 million dollars in assets.  The Emigrant, as it was popularly known kept meticulous records of each depositor which included Index Books, Test Books, Depository Account Legers, and Transfer Signature Test Books.


New York, Emigrant Savings Bank Records, 1850-1883 for Martin L O'Sullivan

In 1865, while living at 53 Oak Place in Brooklyn NY, Martin L. Sullivan opened an account with the Emigrant Savings bank for his brother Michael.  The Test Book states that twenty eight year old Martin, a Tipperary native, arrived in 1852 aboard The Oregon, is married to Mary Fitzgerald and has three children.  Five highly informative pieces of vital information all contained in one line of information: Name , Age, Nativity, Arrival, and Relationships which can be cross-referenced.  In some cases this may be the only information available that can be used to trace an immigrant ancestor back to their native Ireland.       

Overview - 1860

Thomas Fitzgerald arrives in Boston, Massachusetts with his wife Alice and four children on 20 Sep 1849 aboard the passenger ship Waldron.  They travel to New York City and take up residence there.  Landing in Boston and traveling overland to New York is more economical than traveling an additional day or two by sea and many Irish refugees follow the same plan.  Some poor farmers evicted from their homes by landlords were offered passage to Canada or New York but most either paid their own way or were helped by family already in America.   Thomas a stone cutter by trade and his family have traveled from Clonmel, Tipperary Ireland and it isn't long before he starts a small but profitable grocery business.  

According to the Census of 1860 Thomas Fitzgerald lives in the 17th ward of New York City, with his wife Alice sons Maurice, Edward, and Thomas, a married daughter Mary and son in law Martin O’Sullivan.  Thomas is a grocer with a personal estate of $300, a tidy sum in pre-civil war New York City.  The 17th Ward, now known as the East Village was a very different place then, considered a mixture of  upscale middle and working class by most residents of the day.  Thomas would be considered as part of the growing merchant class, in contrast to the general impression that all Irish immigrants were poor, uneducated, unruly drunkards as depicted by the Thomas Nast cartoon to the left. 

Martin Sullivan arrives in New York on 27 May 1851 aboard the passenger ship Oregon and settles in Ward 18 just above the 14th street boundary. In 1857 Martin a plasterer by trade is listed at 255 East 15th Street a location between what is now 1st and 2nd Avenues.  Two blocks over at 249 E. 13th Street he probably purchases his groceries from the local store owned by Thomas Fitzgerald and family.   It isn't clear whether or not Martin knows the family from his days in Ireland as Clonmel and Clogheen are only 25 km or 15.5 miles apart, but it can be said  that Tipperary and Cork people seek out their own.  He courts and marries Mary Fitzgerald, the only daughter of Thomas and by 1859 he is living at the same address of 249 E. 13th Street with his wife and child.  Martin is a tradesman and in a better position to support himself and his family than many of his countrymen.  Both families live in relatively secure circumstances by 19th century standards and are upwardly mobile in spite of the economic downturn of 1857 which affected working class New Yorkers.  But things were about to change drastically as war loomed and class and ethnic distinctions reached the boiling point.

Civil War and Bloody Riot - 1863  

At the outbreak of war in 1861, New York residents rushed to volunteer for service in the defense of the Union.  However, by 1863 the increasing mortality rate on the battlefield and the severe drop in the amount of volunteers needed to fill the ranks, left the Union Army severely depleted of manpower.  In order to reach expected levels, the Congress passed The Civil War Conscription Act of 1863.  Each State was required to draw names from a list of able bodied men between the ages of 20 and 45 years of age by way of a draft lottery.  By then New York City is a sharp contrast of haves and have nots and there were simmering  resentments against the merchant and upper classes who for the price of a $300 exemption could buy their way out of service.  Fernando Wood, former Democrat mayor as well as some city newspapers like The New York Herald actively promoted the secessionist cause and anti abolitionist fever. The city's largest ethnic group was by far the Irish, which was over 200,000 or 25 per cent of the total population by 1860.  Irish women worked in the factories and as servants, while the men labored on the docks and warehouses and menial jobs.  Unlike most Northern cities, support for the Union cause in New York City was shaky especially among the poor Irish working class.  As the tide of war slowly began to turn in favor of the Union, President Lincoln seized the opportunity to proclaim that slaves in the Confederate States would be considered free and liberated from ownership.  This was a calculated move by the President to pressure the rebellious states to put an end their participation in the secession and at the same time wreak havoc on the Southern economy which was faltering after almost two years of war.  But there were unintended consequences for the northern economies as well.  Many Irish laborers were already the bottom of the socio economic underclass and felt threatened by the newly proclaimed status of nearly three million slaves which would surely compete for lower wages.  Lower wages, a requirement to serve which would exempt the gentry class, unwillingness to fight for the cause of abolition of slavery, and the loss of Southern markets and jobs to war, was a perfect mixture of rage which was looking for an opportunity manifest itself.  And so it did on July 13, 1863. 

The first draft lottery occurred on July 11 without incident, however when the second lottery occurred on July 13 1863 at the Provost Marshall's office on 47th street and Third Avenue a large mob had already gathered.  It is widely believed that the outbreak of violence began when the members of the Black Joke Fire Department arrived and incited the crowd to destroy the building.  It isn't necessary to follow a step by step progression of what takes place between  Monday July 13 and Thursday July 16 Vodrey does it much better that I could, but it is critical for the purposes of this article to document the incidents that occurred within the eastside neighborhoods of Gramacy Park and Stuyvesant Square.

A more detailed account of what happened next may be found here:

Blood in the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots

The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable

By William F.B. Vodrey

Right: To the right is a copy of the 1863 Colton Map for New York City which uses an extrapolation of data to project a visual account of the events that took place mostly in the 15th 17th 18th and 21st precincts from July 13th through 16th 1863.


 So far I’ve provided some historical perspective of historical events and family statistics up until the morning of 13 July 1863 when crowds gathered before the Office of The Provost Marshall to protest the draft lottery.  I did not understand why Martin Sullivan was living in Brooklyn in 1865 and further more why Thomas Fitzgerald is nowhere to be found.  By using the information recorded about events that had taken place during the draft riots and applying them to the New York City Colton Map of that same year it became clear that the chaos during those four days was all around the dwelling at 249 East 13th Street.

It was believed at the time that events taking place during the riots were random acts of violence  perpetrated by a leaderless mob, but most historians now reject this viewpoint.   At the very beginning of  the disturbances there were concerted efforts to block communications by severing telegraph lines as was the case on Second Avenue and 8th Street.  Many police stations were turned into isolated island fortresses forced to confront crowds as much as ten times their numbers. Some of the most vicious fighting that took place over the four day period was in the streets of the 17th, and 18th wards along 1st Avenue and 19th Street at the battle of the barricades.   After using canister shot to disperse rioters Colonel Henry F. O’Brien was overcome by the crowd and beaten to death.  Further up Second Avenue mobs attacked and looted weapons from the Union Steamworks Arsenal where rifles were being manufactured for the war effort. Very near to that location the 18th Precinct Police Station was also attacked and set ablaze along with adjacent buildings with Police suffering many injuries.  To the south on 5th Avenue and 14th Street the residence of Mayor Opdyke was damaged and if not for the intercession of Tammany officials would have suffered the same fate.  


Paddy's Lamentation                 Paddy's Lamentation by Karliene


Well it's by the hush, me boys, and sure that's to hold your noise
And listen to poor Paddy's sad narration
I was by hunger pressed, and in poverty distressed
So I took a thought I'd leave the Irish nation

Here's to you boys, now take my advice
To America I'll have ye's not be going
There is nothing here but war, where the murderin' cannons roar
And I wish I was at home in dear old Dublin

Well I sold me ass and cow, my little pigs and sow
My little plot of land I soon did part with
And me sweetheart Bid McGee, I'm afraid I'll never see
For I left her there that morning broken-hearted

Well meself and a hundred more, to America sailed o'er
Our fortunes to be made we were thinkin'
When we got to Yankee land, they shoved a gun into our hands
Saying "Paddy, you must go and fight for Lincoln"

General Meagher to us he said, if you get shot or lose your head
Every murdered soul of youse will get a pension
Well meself I lost me leg, they gave me a wooden peg,
And by God this is the truth to you I mention

Well I think meself in luck, if I get fed on Indian buck
And old Ireland is the country I delight in
With the devil, I do say, it's curse Americay
For I think I've had enough of your hard fightin'               




The New York Public Library has a marvelous collection of digitalized information that I included in this newsletter in order to draw conclusions about what took place in the East Village of New York City during the month of July 1863 and how it radically changed the fortunes of the Fitzgerald and Sullivan families.  To the left is a graphical image of the East Village as it appeared in 1862, the year before the Draft Riots and probably the most accurate representation of  life as it was in two dimensional form.  The NYC Fire Insurance, Topographic and Property Maps were used by insurance companies to record the composition, purpose, and boundaries of structures for the purpose of indemnity against loss.  Those maps were also used no doubt by the fire departments to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires such as the 1835 conflagration which destroyed much of lower Manhattan.  It has been a valuable asset in helping to place the families and determine what might have caused them to flee to Brooklyn.           

For our purposes Plate 43 of The William Perris Maps contains an overly key added in order to interpret the nomenclature and purpose of the neighborhood surrounding East 13th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A.  The Building marked 249 was a dwelling of brick, probably two stories with a non-coped roof of slate or metal and a store on the first level.  It should be noted that the buildings behind No. 249 seem to run counter to the Commissioner’s Grid Plan that was first proposed in 1811. They are the ruminants of  the structures that ran adjacent to the demapped portion of Stuyvesant Street which ran from Broadway just south of 8th street all the way to the East River.  St. Mark’s Church is the most prominent building along the street and like the structures in the 13th Street map runs counter to the grid.  It is one of the oldest paths in Manhattan, owing its existence to Peter Stuyvesant Governor General of New Netherlands who owned the original bowery (bouwerij) or farm.      

The evidence points to the probability that the grocery business on East 13th Street was ravaged by the mobs during the four days of unrest.  Thomas Fitzgerald’s identification with the merchant class, however humble his business might have been, most certainly made him a target of the crowds wrath.  Not only did the Fitzgerald and Sullivan families lose their business, but they were homeless as well.  The New York State Census  for 1865 shows Martin Sullivan living in Brooklyn , married with  three children,  and lists his occupation as Liquor Dealer.  A far cry from his occupation as a plasterer and probably necessitated by his abrupt departure from Manhattan only months before.  The Fitzgerald family appears to have fled from Manhattan to Brooklyn as well, but this was a temporary arrangement because later that year both families would find themselves in the small but prosperous town of Rondout along the Hudson River in Ulster County.                                                                                                                                                                                  

Rondout New York

The First Federal Income Tax 

On December 20, 1860 South Carolina became the first state to secede from the United States. With the beginning of hostilities in Charleston Harbor, the federal government faced with more secessions and the prospect of war, debated various methods of raising revenues for prosecuting war.  Up until 1860, most revenue was based on tariffs collected on imported goods.  But the economic downturn of 1857 left the United States as well as Europe in a depression and tariffs alone would not reduce an already staggering Federal deficit, let alone finance an army.  President Lincoln and his Cabinet proposed a threefold approach to the problem by increasing tariffs, establishing a property tax, and a tax on income.  It is the last of these for which I am interested because it lists Martin L O'Sullivan of the town of Rondout in Ulster County, New York as a peddler (4th class) of clothing and subject to an assessment of ten dollars in taxes.  So it can be determined that he moved his family from Brooklyn to Rondout sometime in late 1865 to early 1866.









Joseph Fleming was born on July 4, 1881 in Rosendale , NY. to Mary Sullivan and James Fleming.  Although his historical references to his Great Uncle Martin have some inaccuracies, there are also portions which can and have been verified by me.

“This Great Uncle of mine came to America in the (Eighteen) “fifties” and worked in New York City at plastering and bricklaying until the outbreak of the Civil War

Martin Sullivan entered the Port of New York on 27 May 1851 on the vessel Oregon.  He was part of the exodus of the Famine Irish Immigration of 1846 - 1851.

“he went out with the Old Sixty Ninth (Irish) Regiment for the duration.  Besides contracting the small pox he also received an abdominal wound which advised his not resuming his trade after being mustered.”

Knowing what I do about Mr. Fleming and his proclivity for accuracy, I have to conclude that he relied on second hand information he felt he could trust.  There is a possibility that the family in Rosendale had lost touch with Martin’s family so it may account for the fact that he actually lived well past the year reported by Joseph Fleming.  I have extensively researched the claim that Martin Sullivan served with the 69th  Infantry Division or New York Irish Brigade as it was known, and have had no success in confirming the claim that he ever served in that group or in any other *NY State Militia during the Civil War.  Furthermore I was unable to find his name on any of the lists of those registered for the draft or the veteran pensioner lists.  This claim seems to be without merit. 

 *New York Civil War Units 

"Coming to Rondout in 1865 he remained in business there until the panic of 1873 when he returned to New York and resumed his trade.  This aggravated his wound and he died a short time later." 

Martin and his family moved to Rondout in late 1865 and managed a clothing business on the Strand until about  1878 or 1879 when they returned  to New York City where he resumed his trade in the building industry.  He passed away on 22 December 1885 from kidney failure.


Vitals For Martin L Sullivan

Born:             Clogheen, County Tipperary, Ireland 20 June 1832

Arrived:         27 May 1851 • Port of New York - Oregon

Citizenship:    Common Pleas Court of New York   27 April  1857

Married:        1858 - Mary Fitzgerald

Died:              22 Dec 1885 • Manhattan, New York, New York, USA

Burial:               49-02 Laurel Hill Boulevard Woodside, NY 11377

             Coisricthe:     Section 7 Range 19 Plot F2


                     Children of Martin L Sullivan and Mary Fitzgerald                       

Margaret Elizabeth Sullivan b. Aug 1859  New York, NY d. 29 May 1915 Brooklyn, New York
Mary Elizabeth Sullivan b. Jun 1862 New York, NY d.
George Martin Sullivan b. Jan 1865 Brooklyn, New York d.
Catherine Mollie Sullivan b. 1867  Rondout, New York d
Thomas Sullivan b. 1871  Rondout, New York d.
Catherine Sullivan b. Oct 1877  New York, NY d. 11 Oct 1934 Queens, New York
Eleanor Sullivan b. Mar 1879  New York, NY d. 16 Apr 1928 Queens, New York
Helen Sullivan b. about 1885 New York, NY d.


                        United States Census                                                                                                     New York State Census

1860 United States Federal Census                                                                                                                   New York, State Census, 1855

1870 United States Federal Census                                                                                                                   New York, State Census, 1865

1880 United States Federal Census                                                                                                                   New York, State Census, 1875


Paul Sullivan

The story of Paul Sullivan seems to begin with an ending, but like everything else I've uncovered, this is just part of the story.  Several years ago, quite by accident I might add, I came upon an admission form for the alms house on Blackwell Island NY. 

The form is an admittance for one Paul Sullivan of Clogheen, Tipperary a plasterer by trade.  He is widowed, destitute, ill, and recently released from Belleview Hospital with few prospects.  This was for all intents and purposes, the end of the line for this man and he was here to die.  At the time I viewed this as merely coincidental because as far as I knew the Paul Sullivan in our family was still in Ireland.  And so with nothing to link him to our family and very little else to go on, I dismissed it as pure chance.  To this day I am irritated that I did not file this away for future research like I would normally do but regardless, I arrived at the same destination if just a little bit late. 

It was when I began extensive research on Martin Sullivan that I uncovered a bit of information that unmistakably linked them together as family.  Martin first appears in the New York State Census of 1855 in Saugerties, Ulster County, NY.  This link (NYSCI1855_U-Saugerties-ED2-P53) shows him living with a Jerimiah Sullivan (possibly an uncle) in addition to Timothy and Michael Sullivan who are boarding with him.  I am not sure what the relationship if any is with Timothy, but Michael will be covered below. Sometime after June 1855 for reasons still unknown, Paul his wife and two children would leave New York City and relocate to Cabot Street in Roxbury, Massachusetts. On May 31 1860, Paul Sullivan becomes a citizen of The United States and it was his brother Martin who would sponsor him.  The family will reside at Cabot Street through 1861 when after the death of his wife Mary, he will move to Cincinnati.

Paul Sullivan’s story has many twists and turns and trying to place it all in a cohesive narrative has caused me more than a few frustrating moments which have taken the better part of a year to sort out.  One such frustration occurred after realizing I spent so much time investigating another Paul Sullivan who was the same age also having a wife by the name of Mary.  My problem was that they both lived in the same area of Roxbury, Massachusetts at the same time.  Both Pauls lost their wives within a few years of each other also making it difficult to discern between the two families.  “Our” Paul disappears after the death of his wife Mary Lynch Sullivan in April of 1861 and does not reappear until 1868 in the city of Cincinnati.  There is no record of draft by either the States of Massachusetts or Ohio for the years 1863 through 1865, or any record of enlistment found in the Federal records.   Remembering that he listed a sister living in Cincinnati on the Blackwell Island Almshouse Form, it begins to make sense that he might uproot and move to be with a family member.  Did he try to evade the draft?  That is a question that may never be answered. He would reside there from 1868 through 1871 when he again returned to New York City.

Equally disappointing is the lack of information concerning his two sons Martin and John who were ten and six in 1860 and seem to disappear after the Massachusetts Federal Census that same year.  There are tantalizing but unsubstantiated pieces of information that John may have joined the army and moved to a western outpost finally appearing as a retired soldier in the 1910 Federal Census taken in Portland Oregon.  I believe that Paul’s daughter Margaret went to live with Martin and Mary Sullivan after the death of her mother and was adopted by them.  Margaret is listed on the 1865 New York State Census when she went to live with her Uncle Martin in Brooklyn. She is also listed again in the 1870 Federal Census during Martin Sullivan’s time on the Strand in Ulster County.  James, the youngest child would die in infancy in 1860 at 13 months.

So how does a widower with three children find himself back in New York City alone and in such a dire situation.  Sometime around 1874 Paul returns from Cincinnati and begins again to ply his trade in construction.  I find no listing in the New York City directories after 1878 when he seems to disappear altogether, until he finally shows up at the Blackwell Island Almshouse in 1887.  He had recently been released from Belleview Hospital where he had been treated for an unspecified illness.  I can only speculate that it might have something to do with alcoholism since it was so prevalent in those days, and it might have some connection with the hard life he seemed to have experienced.  So with no family, no source of  income, and no prospects, he becomes a ward of the City of New York.    

Coincidently also in 1887, a young woman newly engaged as a reporter for the New York World accepted an assignment by Joseph Pulitzer to investigate conditions at The Blackwell Island Women's Asylum (above right).  Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, using the pseudonym Nellie Bly (right) was committed to the women's asylum and spent ten days experiencing firsthand the abuses inmates suffered at the hands of the medical community of that era.  Her expose along with her book Ten Days in a Mad House documenting the mistreatment of the poor and insane resulted in a grand jury investigation forcing much needed changes to the health care system.  The unflinching Ms. Bly set a new standard in an era when professional aspirations for women were few or nonexistent.  She became an instant celebrity and a  pioneer the field of investigative journalism inspiring icons such as Jacob Riis and Upton Sinclair. 

It's difficult to tell if the Nellie Bly expose had any effect on events, but evidently Uncle Paul possibly lived out the rest of his life at Blackwell Island.  At some point I will find the time to examine the City records for Blackwell Island and find out Paul Sullivan's fate.  Finding a burial site is important to me for *Coisricthe, but realistically I believe that finding his resting place will  be a daunting, if not impossible task.  Paul Sullivan rests with the multitude of forgotten and turned out souls from another time. They gave all they had to give to feed the engines of their adopted country until there was nothing left to give.  Just a small tribute to Paul Sullivan and all those like him.  Téigh le Dia a Chara

*Coisricthe is an act of consecrating the burial site of those that came to America from the town of Clogheen.  Soil from the burial site of Fr. Sheehy in Shanrahan is added to the grave as a remembrance from whence they came.

Update for Paul Sullivan  -  31 March 2019

        When I initially researched Paul Sullivan and compiled this newsletter almost two years ago, I knew there was more to this story. In fact I have become obsessed by it.  With the commitment of Paul Sullivan in December of 1887 to the hell that was Blackwell Island there were few if any prospects for his eventual removal.  I was convinced that it was the end of the line and his problematic life had finally consumed him and all that was left was to locate his grave among the countless societal castoffs resting in pauper’s graves.  As I have done with almost all of our family here in America, I was determined to find him and  perform Coisricthe, and honor him for his courage and sacrifice regardless of whatever shortcomings he might have had in this life.

        Recently I came across the digital records of the City of New York, and among them were the archived files for Blackwell Island which included admissions, discharges, and deaths as well and the census forms from 1758 through 1952.  To say I was delighted that this source was suddenly at my disposal would of course be a tremendous understatement and I was determined to take advantage of this windfall.  The obvious choice would be to examine the Death Leger (nynyma 0008 225 Death Ledger 1884-1900) and fix the date for his demise. Surely I would only need to search two or three years of records and there I would find his name and complete the circle of his life.  As I painstakingly searched 1888…1889…1892…1900, nothing.  He would have been 74 by that time, not an impossibility, but not likely for a man in his condition.  Is it possible he did not die on Blackwell Island, hopefully he did not, and was it possible he was discharged at some point in time.  Turning to the discharge leger (nynyma 0008 222 Discharge Ledger 1888-1893 pg 33) I did not have to go very far until I found his name among the discharged patients in June the following year.  So he did not die there, but where did he go from there?   

        Genealogy can at times be very challenging, and I am reminded that I have been engaged in finding my father’s family in one form or another for thirty years now and considering that I began with almost nothing, I am grateful be in the position I am in today.  I will continue to keep at this with the hope that there is more out there to add to what I already have.  It seems that I have much less time for writing than I would choose to have, so as I wrote most of this on the beach in Cancun where there are few distractions and continued to fine tune it once I returned home, I now find there are now additions to my additions.  

        Christopher Sullivan my grandfather, lost his father when he was but twelve years old, and the following year his sister left for America to join her Uncle Martin on the Strand on what is now Kingston, New York.  His brother Edward would follow a few years later. Surely he must have heard the stories about his uncles Martin, Paul, and Michael in the New World and made a choice to follow in their footsteps.  By the time he arrives in Boston in April 1885, Michael is dead, Martin would pass away eight months after his arrival, and Paul is languishing somewhere in New York City.  I can’t be sure how much contact he had with Martin’s family but eventually he moves nearby to the family home in Long Island City as it appears on his marriage record in 1894.  Oddly enough, there is a detail on the marriage register that has always bothered me since I found it about a dozen years ago.  My grandmother’s parents are listed as James and Mary and my grandfather’s parents are listed as Margaret and Paul instead of William.  Why so?  Surely Christopher knew his parent’s names, or was it perhaps intentional.  Was he the last remaining family member of his generation, and was this how his nephew chose to honor him at his wedding.  Redemption?  Maybe I’ll have an answer someday.



Vitals For Paul Sullivan

Born:             Clogheen, County Tipperary, Ireland 25 June 1826

  Arrived:         1848

Married:        About 1849 - Mary       d. 20 Apr 1861 Roxbury, MA

Citizenship:   Superior Court of New York 31 Aug 1860

Died:              Unknown

Burial:            Unknown



 Children of Paul Sullivan and Mary Lynch                                     


Martin Sullivan b. 1850 New York, NY  
John Sullivan b. 19 Aug 1853 New York, NY  
Margaret E. Sullivan b. 15 Mar 1856 Roxbury, MA d. 10 Sep 1893 Boston, MA
James Sullivan b. 6 May 1859 Boston, MA d. 25 Aug 1860 Boston, MA


 United States Census                                                             New York State Census

1850 United States Federal Census                                                                                                        New York, State Census, 1855

1860 United States Federal Census 

1880 United States Federal Census 



Michael Sullivan

There is less documentation when it comes to Michael Sullivan, at least as of this newsletter (12/16) but there is hope that more is to be found in the New York City Municipal records.  Michael was born on or about October 1 1828 to Martin Sullivan and Margaret Lonergan and came to America in 1854.  The New York State Census shows him living with his brother Paul and his wife Mary in the 18th Ward of Manhattan and oddly enough in Saugerties a week earlier in the residence of Jeremiah Sullivan along with his brother Martin.  I will update Michael Sullivan's history as it becomes available and the information that I have can be verified.    

Vitals For Michael Sullivan

Born:          Clogheen, County Tipperary, Ireland 1 October 1828

Arrived:      1854

Married:     About 1864 - Ellen Dannin     

Civil War Draft 1864



New York, Emigrant Savings Bank Records, 1850-1883 for Michael O'Sullivan


John Sullivan

There is a hint of evidence that perhaps older brother John had immigrated to Boston as well, but the only documentation that is available for reference at this point is one death record.  The recorded parents appear as Martin and Margaret which maybe a coincidence or perhaps not.

Record of Death in Boston 13 December 1887  

Catherine or Margaret Sullivan?

One of the sisters, either Catherine or Margaret immigrated to New York and eventually resettled in Cincinnati, Ohio as the Blackwell Island Admission indicates. As of this writing I am unable to determine which sister it was or what her married name might have been.  It is documented that Paul Sullivan lived in Cincinnati between 1868 and 1871 after the death of his wife in Massachusetts.


The O'Donnell Family  -  In hoc signo vinces 


  Aunt Maggie

I love a good mystery and I love the challenge of uncovering and putting together minute details with the hope of creating the larger picture.  There are not many keepsakes passed on through my father's side of the family, but what I do have I treasure.  About twenty five years ago my mother gave me a small envelope with some items and among them was a cemetery deed and a badly faded family photograph.  Handwritten at the bottom of the photograph were the words "The O'Donnells and Aunt Maggie".  Now I am not certain as to the origins of the photo but I suspect that it was in the possession of my Aunt Mary since she was the guardian of the family archives so to speak.  She knew a good deal of the family history and it was my great misfortune not to take the opportunity to ask about our family and of her experiences before she passed so we could preserve what she knew. 

In the early summer of 1968 following the death of our father, my mother suggested that we visit with the folks in the Boston area in order to thank them for their support and to visit with those who could not make the funeral.  I was of course  more than willing to oblige having just received my driver's license two months previously and considered it a chance to show off my skills at long distance driving.  Mother and I would begin the Tour de Boston by spending  that Friday night with Aunt Mary. Being newly minted at the wheel, I persuaded my mother to allow me the keys to the car for an hour so I could see the neighborhood and surprisingly she agreed.  There must have been a lot to talk about and I was not to be privy to the conversation.  It was not long after this occasion that I first saw the cemetery deed for my grandparents.  Although I did not realize it then, it could not have had a better fate.

My mother told me early on that my grandmother was an O'Donnell and that she and my grandfather Christopher had died from tuberculosis when my father was about eight years of age.  We would  gather around the dinner table on Sunday afternoons and all manner of topics were discussed.  My father would almost lovingly talk about his years in St John's home for boys in Brooklyn  where he and his two brothers were placed after the death of their parents.  But any questions  about my grandparents would go unanswered.  Later in life I would find a similar reticence from my Uncle Joe and  it would be left to my mother to fill in the voids.  Mother told me that Catherine and Christopher were buried at Calvary Cemetery in Maspeth, NY along with sister, Mary O'Donnell and their son Paul Sullivan.  That was the end of the story, or so it seemed at the time.

What ever became of O'Donnell family in the picture I would ask myself while gazing at a moment frozen in time.  I would spend the next twenty five years attempting to put together the scanty details which would give life to those in the picture and beginning with what little I had about my father's family, I decided to see what I could find in the public record.

Catherine O'Donnell had two sisters.  Mary, who was married to Patrick Mulcahy and died in January of 1899 is on the cemetery deed.  Margaret, the young girl in the photograph to the left was the youngest of the three.  Once I was able to find the death certificates for Catherine and Mary (see Vital Documents Index) I learned that their parents were James O'Donnell and Mary Coughlin. Using a combination of city directories and birth certificates, I was able to find Christopher living in Brooklyn between the years 1898 until his death in 1912.  Although there are no known birth certificates for Arthur or Joe Sullivan, I do have their Baptismal records.  Those were obtained by using the address of the residence and its proximity to the nearest church.  That still left William and Mary unsourced until, through a lucky break on William's WW 1 draft card, listing his birthplace as Long Island City, NY.  It is on those Baptismal records from St Mary Church in Long Island City that the names of Catherine's sisters appear as sponsors. 

Margaret Sullivan was a mystery to me and as of 2004 all I knew about her was that she was a sponsor for my uncle William Sullivan at his baptism.  At this point in time it is still unclear to me just when Margaret O'Donnell immigrated to the United States, but I believe she was not much more than 15 years old.  At any rate, it appears that all three sisters were here to stay and employed by 1892.  The details of how I found Aunt Maggie were covered in an earlier newsletter (see The Lost Child Vol 2), but as always it seems there is always so much more to her story.  Was this the entire family, or perhaps, were there  brothers as well. 

Shortly after the death of her husband Edward Sullivan in November 1906, Margaret and her son William left Staten Island New York and move to Worcester Massachusetts and they were counted  in the 1910 census.  Massachusetts records indicate that she had remarried, and that she and her husband George Graton have two sons Burton and Robert.  The connection to Worcester Massachusetts was unclear at the time, but I knew it was probable that she already had connections there and she had prospects for employment were good.  That being the case, all that remained was to find the link in her past.  It would take the convergence of two sources of information occurring almost ten years later that would help me to complete my grandmother’s family tree. 


The Mollie McNeil Letter

In May of 2016 my brother Ed emailed an almost forgotten copy of a letter that had been stored in his files for thirty five years.  The letter (below) was written to our mother sometime between April and July of 1977 by Mollie (O'Donnell) McNeil confirming that indeed she was related to the family of Catherine O’Donnell.  Our mother had inquired about the O’Donnell family through my Aunt Mary, who apparently very familiar with her extended family and more than willing to help reestablish ties.  In retrospect, I think that my brother and I had something to do with mother's approach to Aunt Mary because at the time we both had questions about our father's family that she was unable to answer and Aunt Mary had the answers.  It was widely accepted that the O'Donnell family had their roots in the town of Clonmel, County Tipperary and that may have been based on what appears on reverse of the picture that appears on the right.  This is a fair assumption as the towns of Clogheen and Clonmel are a mere 26km apart but that will change as access to the Irish Church records becomes available later in 2016. 

I honestly didn't think I had much of a chance of finding out much more than was in the letter as all the principles had long since passed and along with them any help in finding out more but I would press on anyway.  In October of that same year using the information in the letter I came upon what appeared to be a match in one of the family trees listed in Ancestry.  The Mary McNeil who appeared in the McNeil tree was born Mary Lillian O'Donnell in Southborough, Massachusetts on  19 August 1892.  As the letter states, she had a younger sister Josephine who passed away in 1971.  But most significantly Mollie's grandparents were listed as James O'Donnell and Mary Coughlin, an exact match to my tree.  Our family trees complement one another in that the McNeil tree documents the male side of the O'Donnell family while Tipperaryschildren gives substance to the female side of the family.  If only I could trace them back to their Irish roots.   


The Catholic Parish Registers of Ireland - Nl       

An incredible event for genealogists took place at the end of 2015 making it possible for family researchers outside of Ireland to trace their lineage through the National Library of Ireland.  I came across the new database records in March of 2016 while using Ancestry and decided to go straight to the NLI source.  Needless to say I have been very busy tracing Sullivans, O'Donnells, Mallons, and Duffys since that time.  I plan to devote more time to the Irish Catholic Church Records in the next newsletter but for now it has allowed me to span the gaps in our family history.  

The family lineage can now be traced back one more generation to James O'Donnell and Bridget Lonergan of Clogheen, County Tipperary Ireland.  The Lonergan name is a familiar one to me as it is the name of my great-great grandmother who also came from Clogheen.  It is in fact the most prevalent name in that part of Tipperary and one of the most common in that county.  William O'Donnell was born of James O'Donnell and Mary Coughlin and baptized in Old St Mary Church on 15 December 1860.  William O'Donnell and my grandfather Christopher Sullivan were born  eleven days apart in Clogheen and will become future brothers in law through Christopher's marriage with Catherine O'Donnell.  William’s younger sister Margaret will later marry Edward Sullivan further strengthening the family ties.  William O'Donnell would marry Margaret Halley, daughter of  Thomas Halley and Julia Farrell also of Clogheen.  If there has been one reoccurring factor in studying the Clogheen families through the years, it has been that they tend to marry into families they are familiar with in and around  the town of Clogheen.  The observation also holds true as they moved to this country as well.  St Mary Church left as it apeared in 2006. The church celebrated its 150th anniversary on September 11, 2014.

                                                                           Right:  St Mary Church Clogheen, County Tipperary Ireland


    Left: Mary Lillian O'Donnell McNeil and Sister Josephine


                     The dates given below are baptismal dates which are on or near the day of birth as was the custom of the time.

                      The Children of James O'Donnell and Mary Coughlin  

                                      John O'Donnell                                                                28 Feb 1859 -

                                      William O'Donnell                                                            15 Dec 1860     -     13 Dec 1909

                                      James O'Donnell                                                              10 Jan 1863 -

                                      Patrick O'Donnell                                                             19 Oct 1864

                                      John O'Donnell                                                                 19 Jun 1867      -      Apr 1954

                                      Catherine Marie O'Donnell                                               10 Oct 1869      -      9 Jan 1912

                                      Mary O'Donnell                                                               16 Apr 1872      -      24 Jan 1899

                                      Margaret O'Donnell                                                         26 Oct 1875      -      4 Apr 1912





620 Pelhamdale Ave

Pelham Manor, NY


Dear Mrs. Sullivan,

          Was glad to receive your letter and “yes” you have the right person, as I was Mollie O’Donnell and my sister Josie died in 1973 and then I came here to live with my daughter Margaret here in N.Y.

          We went to Arizona at Easter to spend her vacation with my son Bill, and while we were there he had a letter from Mary in Quincy, and she gave him a lot of information he had been looking for as he is so interested in the family tree and I could not give him so much as so many years have gone by and not feeling to well myself  but for my age I guess I should not complain as I will be 85 years old this coming August so I cannot walk too well and do not go out alone and have lost the sight in one eye.

          I thought the Edward he had a letter from was your husband instead of your son.  I know that when Aunt Mame died she left William, Arthur Edward and I thought a Joseph, am I wrong, Mary and Peggy.

I am glad to hear from your letter that the O’Donnells came from Clonmel, Ireland as I could not find out where my father was from.   

          Aunt Maggie was married to a Sullivan and I think she had a son but have forgotten his name and I have completely forgotten about Uncle Paddy and whether he was married or not.

          I have a son Charles who still lives in Massachusetts and his wife died some years ago, and left one son who is married who has two children, which gives me six grandchildren and two great grandchildren, and my daughter Margaret whom I live with is single and works here in Pelham Manor for Exon.

          I have intended writing to Mary and Peggy since I got home but time slips away from me and I was very tired when I got back as it is a long trip even though you fly.

          Bill has five children so very active and something doing all the time.  The oldest girl is graduating from High School this year and the only boy will graduate next year, then the next one is fifteen , then twelve, and the youngest is five.

          My daughter works all week, and by the time she takes care of the shopping and laundry and Mass on Sunday, the time is pretty well taken up.

          It was nice to hear from you and glad you are able to work and hope you can continue to be able to.

Let me hear from you again,


Mollie McNeil