About 40 minutes away…

While we have drawn an ancestral line from the Flynn’s of Kitchener to the Flynns/O’Flynns of Rathcormac, dating back to the birth of Daniel Flynn on 15 January 1794 in Cork City, it’s time to take a 40 minute walk from Bridgeland East to the lush fields of Ballybrowney, also known as Ballybrowney Lower.

In that area, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a small parcel of land was farmed by Patrick Cahill and his wife Hannah Egan — my great-grandparents. My grandmother, Mary (Molly), was the second oldest of 11 children that Patrick and Hannah raised on the farm at Ballybrowney — six boys (Bill, Denis, Michael, Tom, David and P.John) and five girls (Mary, Johanna (Jossie), Catherine (Kitty), Sheila and Patricia.

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Source: Google Maps

While the farm at Ballybrowney  was outside the little postal townland of Rathcormac, the world for the Flynn, Hogan, Cahill and Egan families was rather small — Fermoy was less than 10 kms away and the big city of Cork was about 25 kms from the centre of Rathcormac. For the most part, life was lived within a 5 kms radius between Ballybrowney, Rathcormac and Kilshannig (the English manor home where my grandparents worked together).

I’m looking forward to spending some time in Rathcormac with my cousins Pat Cahill and Joan Hoskins (children of P. John and Peg Cahill) in May 2016 to dig deeper into our Cahill and Egan roots. What I do have is this: it looks like my great-grandfather Patrick Cahill purchased the land they farmed from the estate of the Esther Mary Alcock Stawell Riversdale in May 1912 (this was the estate of the Viscount Riversdale that dates back to the 1700s). The record suggests that he purchased about 20 acres for about 200 pounds. Here is a screenshot of the listing from the estate proceedings:

Before Patrick Cahill married into the family in 1896, the land was farmed by Hannah’s family the Egans (Denis and Johanna) and before that, Hannah’s grandmother’s family the Callaghans (Patrick and Mary) worked the land.

Johanna Callaghan was born at Ballybrowney on 26 August 1835 to Patrick Callaghan and Mary Foley. Patrick and Mary were married in Rathcormac on 22 November 1834. Below is a screenshot of the marriage registry from the Catholic Parish Registers listing:Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.29.41 AM

Denis Egan, Molly’s grandfather, was born on 2 January 1834 in Castlelyons to Thomas Egan and Mary Mullane. I have very few details of Tom and Mary, other than that they were married in Castlelyons sometime in 1822. Mary was born in 1806 and died in 1876 in Rathcormac — although when I now look at the record I have for Mary I am less convinced that it is a correct representation of the year of her death.

In my next post, I will focus on the family of Denis and Hannah Egan and the beginnings of the Cahill Clan of Ballybrowney.

There is one interesting fact about the Ballybrowney area, that would be known to those living in the area now, that I found to me most fascinating. During the planning and construction phase of the new M8 highway, that now cuts off direct routes from Ballybrowney to Rathcormac, a middle Bronze Age settlement was discovered. Archaeologists suggest that the settlement dates back 10,100 years to a group of hunter-gathers who lived on the lands. For an excellent summary of the findings and some interesting photos/artist depictions see this article from the Archaeology News Network.

The article doesn’t state where these hunters/gathers came from but perhaps my DNA test that is now being analyzed by Ancestry.com might give us some insights into our genetic forebearers.

This is an artist’s depiction of what the settlement might have looked like in 8,000 BC.


This picture was taken from the above article in ANN.


Bridgeland East, Rathcormac

From the 1901 Irish Census, I determined that my grandfather was living with his father’s parents, John and Hanorah (sometimes referred to as Norah or Norry), in the Bridgeland East area of Rathormac — Ráth Chormaic, meaning “Cormac’s ringfort“. It is an area that is now farmland,  just north of the River Bride on the east side of R639 as you enter Rathcormac from Cork City. The land is behind the Bride Villa and extends to behind the Rathcormac Inn.

This is a screenshot from Google Maps that show the exact area:

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Source: Google Maps

At a family reunion in Batesville, Indiana in July 1996, a month after my dad died, distant O’Flynn cousins gave us coffee mugs with a picture of the tenant housing that my great, great-grandparents lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They said that these particular housing units were located directly behind the Rathcormac Inn (which was considered part of Bridgeland East at the time). In 1998, when Stephanie and I visited Ireland, we took a tour of the Rathcormac Inn and asked if we could see their storage buildings — the same buildings that my grandfather would have lived in around 1901 when he was attending school in Rathcormac. I took a few pictures of the buildings, which were demolished later in 1998 and not available for inspection by my brothers when we visited in 1999. Here is one of those pictures


It was in these buildings that John and Hanorah/Honora Flynn raised their six children: Julia (1866-1897 — who moved to Ohio in the late 1800s); Daniel (1868 – ? who moved to Toronto and sponsored my grandfather in 1925); Catherine (1870-? — who also moved to the U.S. and maybe even married Julia’s husband Hugh O’Connor after Julia died in 1897); Norah (1873-1926 — who remained in Rathcormac); Denis (1875 – 1947 who was my great-grandfather); and Mary (1879 – ? for whom I don’t have any information).

John Flynn was born and  baptized in Glanmire Parish on 29 November 1836 and was the son of Daniel Flynn (1794-1866) and Johanna Murphy (1814-?). Here is a screenshot of John’s baptismal record from 1836:

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Source: Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915 (Diocese of Cork and Ross, Baptism Place: Glanmire, Cork)

I have fewer details of Hanorah Hogan except that she was born about 1845 — this was taken from her marriage and death certificates. Her father was Daniel Hogan and I have no information on him. From the Griffith’s Valuation book, printed in 1853, you can see that a Daniel Hogan lived on Bride St. in Bridgeland East — so again, we take a great leap of historical researcher’s faith and say that this must be Hanorah’s father and this is where she grew up and lived all her life. Here is a screenshot of that record:

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Honora/Hanorah and John married in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Rathcormac on 11 May 1864. Here is a screenshot of the church marriage registry:

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Source: Catholic Parish Registers, The National Library of Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Microfilm Number: Microfilm 04995 / 02 (1864).

John, an agricultural labourer, died between the 1901 and 1911 censuses — I have two potential years as either 1902 or 1910. Hanora died on 6 May 1920. A screenshot of the registration of her will is below. Note it lists her daughter Norah Leahy as her executor. It is interesting to note that Hanora still lived in Bridgeland East even up to the time of her death.

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Source: http://www.willcalendars.nationalarchives.ie/reels/cwa/005014924/005014924_00266.pdf

I have no information on where either John or Hanorah are buried — hopefully I will locate their burial plots on my trip back to Ballybrowney. It is interesting though, that through my examination of the records of my great, great-grandparents, there never appears an “O” in front of their names. Did they give it up or did they never have it? Some Irish families gave up the “O” under British rule and joined the Anglican Church. But we have no indication of that happening to the Rathcormac Flynn clan as the marriage record of Hanorah and John are from the Catholic Parish registry. So perhaps it was dependent on the degree that you felt you needed to display your patriotism in the mid to late 1800s.

There is no doubt that these were also difficult times, both economically and politically in Ireland, especially in the south. As tenant farmers, with their small plot of rented land to house their own animals and grow their own food, they owed their existence to their landlord.  In 1901, John and Hanorah Flynn rented their 3rd class dwelling from John Ring — a local  farmer, grocer and vintner, who also owned a public house in the same area (perhaps this was the public house where the Rathcormac Inn now stands). Their house was made either of mud, wood or perishable materials and their roof was also made of either thatch, wood or also perishable materials. It had less than four rooms and had two windows in the front. John and Hanorah also had two out-buildings associated with their dwelling: a piggery and a fowl house.

In the mid to late 1800s, some of the land around Rathcormac was controlled by Viscount Riversdale, the owner of the Bride Villa and Lisnagar Estates, and leased out to Edward Barry, a local doctor. In 1912, the estate and lands of the Viscount was sold off to those who were able to afford portions of the land. I’ll have more to say about this when I discussed the Cahill family’s farm at Ballybrowney.

Politically, the Rathcormac area had a history of rising up against the local landowners and British rule. On 18 December 1834, a group of tenant farmers, who were refusing to pay their tithe to the local vicar (Church of Ireland), were killed by British soldiers just outside of the town near the Bartlemy Cross. The Rathcormac or Gortroe Massacre resulted in the death of upwards of 20 local farmers.

So perhaps even the O’Flynns, who were tenant farmers, didn’t want to rock the boat and decided simply to be known as Flynn.


Let’s Start At The Very Beginning…

The O’Flynn family is certainly not the Von Trapp family singers, so I wouldn’t expect you to start humming that tune or know where our ancestral beginning actually starts.

In 2014 I took a couple of weeks to begin playing with Ancestry.com to see if I could make sense of the “O” no “O” Flynn family. From my scant files on the family and recalling the many stories about the  very prolific and productive Denis O’Flynn, whose first wife (Bridget O’Leary) died around the birth of their 10th child and his second wife (Madge Morey) with whom he had another 10 or so children, that was about all that I knew about the start of the O’Flynn family. And not having my grandfather or father around to check my facts, I was on my own at the start of this journey.

So my great-grandfather was ground zero for me. I knew his name was Denis Flynn or Denis O’Flynn and that his first wife was Bridget O’Leary.

Ancestry.com is great but you have to engage in some real detective work or make some calculated assumptions about certain dates — when was he born, when was he married, when did he die. The Irish census records of 1901 and 1911 are fantastic starting points.

In 1901, Denis and Bridget were living in a house at 16.3 Thomas Street (Queenstown Urban, Cork). Here is a screenshot of the census records:

Here is a copy of the original census form:

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So here is what we can conclude about Denis Flynn (no “O”) in April 1901. That he was 26 years old — putting his birth year around 1875. This is the first piece of the puzzle. The second was his birthplace; Unlike his wife, he was born not in Cork City but in County Cork. Denis was listed as a mail car driver — sounds like a respectable job. I’m not quite sure what he was driving — a motorized vehicle?, a horse drawn carriage? Not sure. But those are two important clues to the puzzle. They also didn’t live in Cork City in 1901.They lived in Queenstown (now know as Cobh) but had lived in Cork City prior to the birth of Daniel Flynn who was 4 months at the time of the census and who was their first child born in Queenstown.

The second caused me to stop and rethink whether this was indeed our Denis Flynn. Can you see what my concern would be? Doesn’t look like my grandfather is listed and knowing that my grandfather was born in 1895, he would have been nearly 6 at the time of this census and yet he wasn’t listed as part of their household. So where was he and why wasn’t he included. There was only one name familiar to me, Norah Flynn. We met my grandfather’s sister, our great-aunt Norah Leahy, in Cork City in 1973. She lived with her husband in a little house in Cork City.

The other names (Daniel and Christina) were not familiar and from quick searches of the records not much could be found.

So I focused my attention on finding my grandfather, John Joseph Flynn, who was born on 20 July 1895, and his parents were indeed Denis and Bridget. But why is he not listed and where was he living. His parent’s house in Queenstown was obviously a busy place as they had four children under the age of 6. Denis seemed to have a good job as a mail car driver, but why isn’t my grandfather listed as their son and living with them.

I recalled a story that he lived with his grandmother, but I assumed that that was after his own mother died. So the hunt for his grandmother was in order but I didn’t know her name or where she lived. Again back to the 1901 census and simple ‘time on task’ detective work. Given that Denis Flynn was listed as being born in County Cork and not Cork City, that allowed me to make the assumption that perhaps he was from Rathcormac as well. So the search for John Flynn in Rathcormac became the next step.

Bingo — John Flynn, age 5 (he was born in July and the census was taken in April) who was born in Cork City was living with his grandparents, John and Hanorah Flynn, in Bridgeland East, just outside the main village of Rathcormac and down the hill from Kilshannig — I’d say that we found him.

So what was he doing living in Rathcormac at the age of 5 with his grandparents and not living with his parents and four siblings in Queenstown in 1901? I do remember my father saying that he went to the same school as his father and his grandfather in Rathcormac during at our first trip to Ireland in 1973 — that’s why my brother Sean and I attended classes in May of that year in the local school to continue the tradition and become the fourth generation of Flynns to attend that school. It’s interesting, I found a recent online news article  that stated that the school we attended was built in 1948 but that the school that my father, grandfather and great-grandfather attended was built in 1835.

So perhaps the reason that my grandfather was living in Rathcormac in 1901 was to attend school, under the guidance of his grandmother Hanorah and his namesake grandfather John Flynn.

What I have learned from academic research is that you need to confirm or triangulate your findings with at least two other sources so that you can be certain that the findings are valid.

In my next posting I will tell you how I refocused my search to the Bridgeland East area of Rathcormac to confirm that my great-grandfather was indeed born in Rathcormac and that his parents (my great, great-grandparents),  John and Hanorah Flynn also lived in Rathormac and that my grandfather had moved from Cork City, probably at the time of his brother Daniel’s birth in 1900, to live with his grandparents in on Bride Street so that he could attend the national school in Rathcormac in 1901.