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I am researching my family prior to emigration to the U.S.

My 2nd great grandparents, William (born approx. 1818) and Ellen (born approx. 1817) O’Brien brought their family from Waterford to America, settling in Gardiner, Maine, U.S., in the early 1850’s. Among their children born in Ireland was my great grandfather, William Henry O’Brien (born 25 March 1851 in Waterford). I haven’t been able to find a port of entry to the U.S., but I believe it may have been Boston. Other family lore is that they came in through Canada to Maine, but I have not been able to confirm either theory.

William and Ellen later had more children in the U.S., and the family was listed in the 1860 U.S. census. After settling in Gardiner, William found employment as a tailor, but it is unknown what his occupation was back in Ireland.

I do not know William’s parents’ names, but I believe that Ellen’s maiden name was also O’Brien. Her parents may have been John O’Brien and Mary Dunn, probably born in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s. I found a notice of Baptism issued by the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore which could have been Ellen’s, dated was 20 Jul 1817, in the town of Knockanore. But this is speculative since I cannot be absolutely sure when and in which part of Waterford they were from.

I also found a Griffith’s Valuation Record from 1849 that included a William O’Brien, as well as the name of a Thomas Guinivan, who leased some land from a James Coughlan. I have reason to believe this was my William O’Brien, because he had a connection with individuals with these names. This was in Waterford County, the Barony of Coshmore, the Parish of Lismore and Mocollop, in the Townland of Toor.

So…. I am looking for a connection in Ireland. Did William and Ellen have any siblings who remained in country? Who were their parents and grandparents, and did they always live in Waterford? Unfortunately these family names are very common and I often get hundreds of results when I do a search.

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!

Mary Rodowicz

Wednesday 12th January 2022, 01:31PM

Message Board Replies

  • Mary:

    Do you know the names of the siblings to William Henry O'Brien who were also born in Ireland?

    I searched on the subscription site Roots Ireland and do not see a baptismal record for a William O'Brien who was born and baptized around March 25 1851 and had a father William. I see a March 9 1851 baptismal record in St/ Peters and Paul in Waterford town father William O'Brien and mother Mary Darigan. There are no 1851 baptismal records where the mother is Ellen or Eleanor. There are records in 1848  1849 and 1852. The maiden names were Leary, Menton and Donnell respectively.

    Roger McDonnell

    Castlemore Roscommon, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Wednesday 12th January 2022, 04:56PM
  • Thank you for the prompt response.  William Henry had an older sister Fanny/Fannie, born around 1847, and a brother John, born around 1848, both in Ireland.  This information is based on US census data in 1860 and 1870, when these persons were listed as children of head of household with an age and place of birth (Ireland). 

    The place and exact date of birth that I have for William Henry are based on his death certificate, issued in Gardiner, ME in 1914.  I realize this does not guarantee that the birth facts are correct, but they are the only things I have to go on.  I haven’t found a birth certificate in the U.S., so I don’t believe he was born here.  Now I’m wondering if perhaps William Henry was born somewhere enroute from Ireland.  To that end, it would be helpful if I knew their ship and port of entry.

    I also tried looking for a marriage certificate for his parents, William and Ellen, around 1845.  Again, the reason I believe that Ellen’s maiden name was also O’Brien is based on records here in the U.S., which may or may not be accurate.

    One more thing:  There were a Michael and Timothy O’Brien who were around the same age as William (the father) and who lived near the family in Gardiner, ME, in the 1850’s and 60’s.  I am wondering if they were perhaps siblings of either William or Ellen, who emigrated with them.

    Wondering if there is another approach I should use to pursue my research?  I seem to be at a brick wall.

    Mary Rodowicz

    Thursday 13th January 2022, 12:10PM
  • Mary:

    I went back and looked for baptismal records for children of William O'Brien and Ellen O'Brien. I found three records in Knockanore parish in the 1840s which may be of interest but there was no John or William shown for that family.

    Francis baptized November 13 1842 Mary baptized April 3 1847 Ann baptized June 11 1849

    I tried to review the Knockanore register  for the Francis record to see if I could determine if Francis was male or female but the register was not very legible and I never found the record. It was also in Latin which was common for the 1840s. You may have better success. If the register was of poor quality in later years, the Roots Ireland transcribers may have difficulty wih other family records or this is a different family.

    I also did not find a marriage record for William and Ellen but the index for the Knockanore register indicates the marriages started in 1853.

    There were 39 William O'Brien/Brien records in the Griffiths for Co. Waterford.



    Castlemore Roscommon, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 14th January 2022, 04:20PM
  • I forgot to mention that there was a sibling named Ann;  I have 1850 as her year of birth, but it could have been 1849.  There was also a Mary but she died in 1854 at the age of 2 years, and is buried with her parents and sister Maggie, according to the gravestone in Gardiner, ME.  But again, that may not be accurate.  I had assumed she was born in the U.S.

    Thank you for doing this research on my behalf.  You have given me some additional places to look for records.


    Mary Rodowicz

    Saturday 15th January 2022, 03:16PM