Category Archives: Family Histories

Message from Canada

Last week a reader from Montreal, Canada with ties to the Hughes Family left a comment. Can anyone help a neighbor to the North?

What a surprise. I am living in Montreal but I’am born in Gaspesie, in the province of Québec. I do genealogic research for many years but I can’t find information about the family of my great grand-mother family in Ireland. Her name was Rosann Martin and her father Patrick Martin and mother Mary Arthur. Rosann is born in Caplan but her father and mother in Ireland. They came in Bathurst NB around 1828 where an other daughter Helen, was born in 1829. The Martin family was with the Hughes and Hamilton. They move all in Caplan around 1830. They were close of William Hughes and Mary Martin and also Margaret Campbell. Do you have more information about them ? I’ll like very much to be in relation with some members of the Hughes Family. It’is possible? Thanks.

This comment was in response to a post from 2010 – click here to read the entry. For more, click here.

Please add a comment to this post with any information you might have. Thanks for your help!

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Return to the Reardon Family

Jim from Minneapolis, a reader of the blog with a connection to the Reardon family, sent me a copy of a typed history of the Henry Reardon family. The history was written by Ada E. Johnson. At the end of the five-page document is this note:

Written by Ada E. Johnson, I am now 90 years old and wrote this history at the request of my Grandchildren and great Grandchildren and I have at this time 28 Great Grand Children, Eleven Grandchildren and Two Great great grandchildren and two more in a couple of months.

Ada’s history is valuable, especially for its details of Henry and Bridget Reardon’s early story prior to arriving in Tara Township. We have touched on their story in previous posts on the blog. Jim’s grandfather had a  sister who married into the Reardon family. This branch of the family is addressed in a later addition to the history made by E.B.:

John, born in 1856, was married to Catherine Hogan and they had a son James born in Tara township in 1883. James married Catherine McDonough in 1912 at St. Marys Catholic Church in St. Paul. They had 6 children. Their first, a son Raymond died of diphtheria at 15 mo. Five daughters followed: Gertrude, Florence, Rose, Marjorie, and Eleanor. All were born and raised in Clontarf.

John died in 1934–James died in 1963. Both are buried in the family plot in St. Malachy’s cemetery, Clontarf, Mn. John’s brother Robert and James’ son Raymond are buried beside them.

Catherine “Kate” McDonough Reardon doesn’t get much attention in those paragraphs, but that’s OK…Jim sent some pictures!

Catherine McDonough and James Reardon wedding - 1912

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Kate and James were married at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 3, 1912. The couple is seated in the center with the bride’s brother George McDonough on the left and Irene Reardon on the right.

Raymond Reardon - 1914

The couple’s first-born and only son, Raymond died of diphtheria at fifteen months. According to Jim, the family’s home was quarantined during the illness and James’ aunt Mary Donovan came to prepare the baby’s body for burial. Only Mary, Kate, and James were present at the burial.  Diphtheria was highly contagious, so people must have kept their distance until the incubation period was over.

Kate and James lived at the Jack Kent (also known as “Lockwood”, in Tara?) place before moving to the Hurley place (in Clontarf?). Apparently, James’ father John Reardon lived with the couple for a time – click here to read John Reardon’s obituary. I wonder where in Clontarf this photo of Kate was taken?

Kate Reardon - 1937 - Clontarf

When I get to the Swift County Museum in April, I will look up a few more Reardon obits, so I can find out some details on James and Kate’s lives.

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It might not look like much…

My sister and I were browsing through my grandma’s old recipe book the other day and came across this little gem:

Mary to Agnes - page 1 - click to enlarge

Mary to Agnes - page 2 - click to enlarge

This letter was written to my grandma Agnes McMahon Regan by her older sister Mary McMahon Fuchs. When the McMahon family moved to Minneapolis in 1924, Mary stayed behind in Benson and lived with her Aunt Maggie Foley.

My grandma told me that growing up, Mary was often needed to help out at the Foley house in Benson. Aunt Maggie worked as housekeeper for Father Shea and took care of her parents, pioneer Tara settlers Patrick and Mary Foley, in their old age. My grandma never understood why Mary had to go to the Foleys all of the time, since her own mother could have used her help on the farm. Plus, my grandma would point out, her mother would also have enjoyed the company of her eldest daughter.

Let’s take a closer look at the letter…

The folks at Archival Solutions were kind enough to transcribe the letter for me so I could bypass the step of deciphering mid-century cursive writing and get right to the good stuff: the content. I find with transcribed letters, I am better able to appreciate the flow and nuances of the text that I sometimes miss when I am struggling with spelling and punctuation errors in the original documents.

My grandma would tell me how she and Mary were “great pals” and this is clear in the first part of the letter:

So you and Margaret (their sister) are doing your Christmas baking together. That sure is nice. I sure miss you…I have made some cookies and candy. Wish you were here and would make coffee and we could munch. Ha, Ha!

When I was a kid, I don’t think I really got the “great pals” thing…they were both old. Of course, I grew to understand that even old people had pals, but I don’t think I realized how close Mary and my grandma were until I read this letter.

A Fuchs, several Regans, a McMahon, and a couple of Byrnes

Mary talks a bit about family and friends, commenting, “Poor Jack Byrne. Does he suffer much?” Jack Byrne had roots in Tara Township and was married to Nellie Regan. Jack died in February 1954, which is one clue for my dating the letter to 1953. The photo at the left shows Mary’s daughter Franny, my grandma, their sister Rose, Nell & Jack Byrne, with my mom and her brother Johnny in front.

On page 2, Mary expresses her disappointment that they will not be going to Minneapolis for Christmas. We also get a glimpse into her feelings for her Aunt Maggie:

Well Agg, as things look now, we won’t be able to come down for Christmas – sure are sorry about that – but her nibs was in the hospital for 8 days and they gave her some drug and they gave her too much of it – took her appetite and she still doesn’t eat…

“Her nibs” was a slang term meaning a self-important person. It was used much like we might say “her majesty”, and not to refer to actual royalty. This was Aunt Maggie to whom Mary was referring… I will talk about Maggie Foley in a future post with some insight from my grandma as to why she might have been referenced in such a manner!

Mary inquires on Eileen’s (my mom’s) Christmas vacation and hopes the family will come to Benson for a visit: “Let us know when you can come and stay as long as you can…” My mom says they went out to Benson often, and she has fond memories of the visits. She said she could always tell Mary was so pleased when they would come for a visit, but was especially pleased to see her sister.

Mary ends her letter asking my grandma for several addresses – cousins, aunts, and uncles who lived in the Cities. And finally, the reason the letter was saved in the first place…a recipe. Mary doesn’t indicate what the recipe is for, but my mom says it is definitely a Christmas favorite – spritz cookies. When these McMahon women baked, they meant business! The recipe calls for 10 cups of flour and four cups of shortening!

My grandma kept the letter initially because the recipe was something she only made once a year – otherwise she would have committed it to memory like so many of her other recipes. After years of making the cookies, she didn’t need to look at that letter for the ingredients or baking instructions. I suspect that she kept it and looked at it for the exact same reasons I treasure the letter today.

When I first read the letter, I immediately remember the year we all made Christmas cookies together. When she was done mixing the dough by hand, I had the task of scraping my Great-Aunt Mary’s fingers with the dull edge of a knife to make sure not one scrap was wasted. That memory leads to how much I miss my grandma and love my own family and great-pal-older-sister.

Each time my grandma unfolded that piece of paper, long after her days of baking 10 cup cookie recipes had passed, I can only imagine what memories filled her heart, but I know she never forgot the love she had for her sister and pal, Mary.

************************

If you would like to see an example of what the transcribed letter looks like, please email me clontarfhistory@gmail.com.

Please visit the Archival Solutions website for more information on transcription and other services. They believe that history matters and we must preserve our history in order to keep the stories alive for future generations.


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Excuses, excuses…

My apologies for the lack of new content on the blog over the past few weeks.  I will spare you any excuses and get right to some Clontarf history…

Anne has been learning a lot about the Clontarf Club and adding the new information in the comments of the Clontarf Club page.  Click here and scroll down to read the comments.  Hopefully we can compile all of these bits into a narrative telling the story of the Club.  Stay tuned!

Recently we have had some visitors to the blog with ties to the Fennell family of Clontarf.  Anne Schirmer shared the following photograph with me from her Clontarf genealogy collection:

Thomas and Catherine (Curtis) Fennell Family - 1922

Thomas Fennell was the son of Francis and Armeline Goulet, who were early settlers in the Clontarf area.  Thomas was the youngest of eight children born to Francis and Armeline in Glencoe, Minnesota.  Who are the members of this handsome family?  I am unable to identify them precisely in the photo, but I will share the information I have on the children.

In no particular order (but could be roughly by age)…

  • Eva “Evie” (1901-1976), married Clarence Ascheman.
  • Margaret, married Henry Peerboom.
  • Joseph, married Eleanor Bouta.
  • Agnes “Toots”, married William Wallace.
  • Martha, became Sister Marilyn, a Sister of Saint Joseph.
  • Edward.
  • William.
  • Louis “Buster”, (1909-1987), lived in Benson.
  • Thomas Anthony.
  • Edna.
  • Richard.
  • Mary.

Please let us know if you are able to fill in any of the blanks.  I will share the entire Fennell Family history from the Clontarf anniversary booklet in an upcoming post.

I wonder if the Dick Fennell who gave my grandpa John Regan the card pictured below is the same Richard Fennell, son of Thomas and Catherine?  It’s a cute Valentine…

I wonder what happened to Dick Fennell?  Share if you know!

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Fleming Family History

James Fleming Obituary (oops...sorry it is crooked!)

This obituary appeared in the January 17, 1919 edition of the Swift County Monitor.  James Fleming’s homestead was the northwest 160 acres of section 22 in Tara Township.  Among the Flemings immediate neighbors in 1902 were the Fentons, the Kennas, the McMahons, the Gallaghers, and the Foleys.  The Galvins lived about a mile away.

In a Fleming family history, Robert Galvin writes about his grandfather’s heritage and life.  James was the son of Irish immigrant parents in Syracuse, New York.  At the age of nine he was orphaned when his parents and two siblings died of cholera after moving west to Ohio (1854).  James was a drummer boy in the Civil War briefly until his true age was discovered and he was released.  James worked for the railroad until the lure of free land brought him to Minnesota and Tara Township where he filed for homestead.

There is a great description of his first months in Tara Township and how he met his wife Delia Cooney.  Let me know if you want to see more and I will share it…

James Fleming’s wife, Bridget “Delia” Cooney, came to Boston from County Galway, Ireland in 1872.  Eventually, she made her way west arriving in Saint Paul in 1879.  The story has her working for Henry Sibley and being friends with a girl named Mary who would marry James J. Hill.

Delia sounds like a great woman – self-reliant, tough, witty, and a great storyteller.  Before I came across this history, full of information on the Flemings, Donald and Gerald Regan told me that a wake in Tara or Clontarf didn’t really get started until Mrs. Fleming arrived.  Robert writes how she “loved to talk and tell Irish fairy tales…and ghost stories.”  It all matched up.

Bridget "Delia" Cooney Obituary

Does anyone have photographs of the Flemings?  I would love to see a picture of Delia, because she and my great-grandmother Annie Regan were reportedly friends, and I have some snapshots with LOTS of unidentified people who could be Flemings.  Please let me know!  Leave

a comment or send me an email: clontarfhistory@gmail.com.

Pictures like this...I know some of the people, but not the little lady on the left...maybe it's Delia?

NEW COMPETITION!!!!!!!!!!

I still have a few XXL Clontarf Prairie Pub t-shirts to give away.  I will do a drawing of the people who have subscribed to the blog – new subscribers and existing subscribers.  The competition will close on Sunday night (8-21) at 10pm, so if you haven’t yet subscribed to clontarfhistory.com, do so now and be entered in the drawing.  I will announce the lucky winner on Monday.

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Clontarf Tidbits and Galvin Family Genealogy

April 5, 1901 Swift County Monitor

Whenever I come across one of these Clontarf columns in a neighboring town’s newspaper, I am saddened by the fact that Clontarf never had a newspaper of its own.  I suppose I should be grateful for these sporadic reports of Clontarf events…at least it is something!

I obtained this clipping from the Swift County Historical Society when I requested an obituary for Tara resident Timothy Galvin.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the items mentioned in addition to the death notice (more about Timothy Galvin in a minute.)

A few things that stuck out in this clipping…”Sport” McDonald is one of my favorite Clontarf figures.  I like the nickname.  I wonder if he ever made it to Montana?  I know he made it back in time to woo and marry Michael Donovan’s daughter.  What were you doing in the woods all winter James O’Neil and W. Rutan?  And, the T. Foley mentioned here as delaying a trip to the coast with Ed. McCarthy is my great-grandmother’s brother.  I wonder if he ever made that trip?

Now back to Timothy Galvin.  A couple of weeks ago, Colleen left a comment seeking information on her Galvin and Fleming roots in Tara Township and Clontarf.  This is why I looked up this clipping in the first place.  I previously wrote a bit about her great-grandfather Timothy Galvin – click here to go to the post on Tara Township, section 10, Timothy Galvin’s home.

Unfortunately, the brief notice of Mr. Galvin’s passing does not provide many details about his life and family.  Several years ago when my mom and I were in Clontarf doing research, we came upon a typed genealogy (from the late 1960s?) of the Galvin-Fleming clan, completed by Robert F. Galvin of Saint Paul, Minnesota (I believe he would be Colleen’s uncle.)  The genealogy provides some data on Timothy Galvin, but there appears to be a couple of questionable dates – Timothy Galvin is said to have been born in 1860 and his wife Catherine Kelly in 1861.  I suspect this is incorrect since Colleen said the couple was married in 1872.  Both Timothy and Catherine were born in County Cork, Ireland.  Included are the names of Timothy and Catherine’s children, their spouses, and their children’s names.

The genealogy on the Fleming side is much more detailed and includes entertaining narratives of the lives of James P. Fleming and his wife Bridget (Delia) Fleming.  James fought in the Civil War and was one of the original settlers of Tara Township.  I will share more about the Fleming family in my next post.

In the meantime…does anyone have anything to say about the Clontarf column from above?  Any names or events stick out to you?  Anything you would like to know more about?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

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She Liked Nice Things

Annie, ca. 1900

Until my mom and I began researching our family history in 2004, this was about all I knew of my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan – she liked nice things.  And we wouldn’t have learned much more if it wasn’t for Donald and Gerald Regan.  Donald and Gerald are Clontarf natives who grew up across the railroad tracks from Annie, her husband Neil, and my grandpa John.  Over the past seven years, Donald and Gerald have shared their memories of life in Clontarf.  Working as a team, one brother fills in the blanks when the other can’t quite recall a name or detail.  They are really quite remarkable, and their memories are a treasure!

In the August/September 2011 issue of Irish America magazine, I wrote about how we learned about Annie, guided by our chats with Donald and Gerald.  Click here to read the article online.

Here are the two photos I mention in the piece:

Annie Hill and Cornelius Regan, wedding -- 1911

Neil, Annie, and John Regan -- 1915

Perhaps there is a mysterious figure in your family tree?  Sometimes it just takes a little bit of digging, but you can uncover the story behind the mystery.  In our case, talking to people who knew Annie along with researching census returns, church records, newspapers, and other public documents helped us answer questions we thought would remain unanswered forever.  A little luck never hurt, either!

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