Share This:

My great-grandfather was Mathias Breen of Co. Clare.  He emigrated to the US in 1851 with his sister Margaret.  He married Ann Howard from Galway and had a very sucessful career as a contractor and builder in St. Paul, Minnesota. At his wedding, Mathais was attended by his sister and a Luke Madigan, who went on to marry his sister.  We believe Mr. Madigan also had Clare roots, possibly near Mathias. 

Mathias' daugher, Ann Elizabeth Breen married my grandfather, William Prendergast, born in Illinois but parents probably from Co. Mayo.  

The only evidence we had for a long time about Mathias' home townland in Clare was a newspaper ad from someone named Cumminn, looking for Mathias and Margaret two years after they left.  This advertisement said they were from "Laghkil" in Co. Clare.  An Irish genealogy project at Boston University compiled those ads searching for immigrants and abstracted them.  In the abstract, they  said: "Laghkil/Laghile"  and said it was in the Parish Kilfintinin in Lower Bunratty. But we believe that was added and the orginal advertisement said only "Laghkil."

So for some time we've been searching in vain for Breen's around Laghile in Kilfintinin in East Clare.  Recently, we discovered that there were Breens living in Killofin in 1830-1855-1901.

From what we can find from records available to us over on this side of the ocean, it appears that there was an older Mathais Breen living in Ballina and also a James Breen.  There was a Thomas Breen living in South Lakyle (Lackile in the 1834 Tithe Applotment Book).  My great-grandfather Mathais was the child of a Thomas Breen and Mary Maroney Breen. They were farmers and I suspect the Thomas Breen of S. Lackile, 1834 is probably Mathais' father.  Mathais was born in 1833, so we think the Mathias living at Ballina was his grandfather.  We think his wife's gravestone in in the Killofin parish cemetery.

In the 1855 Griffith's Survey Book, there is no Breen in the parish but there is a "Thomas Brien" living in South Lakyle, and I am suspecting the Griffiths Survey got his name wrong.  In the 1901 Census there is a large Breen family, headed by Thomas Breen, born about 1861, living in South Lackyle.  I am thinking perhaps these peope are related to Mathais of  Laghkil/Lackile/Lakyle in the 1830s to 1851.  I am wondering if there are any Madigans or Maroneys around who were related to the people named above.

So, if anyone knows of Breens or relatives living in or around West Clare who are, or might be, related to my great-grandfather, Mathias Breen, born 1833, emigrated 1851, son of Thomas Breen and Mary Maroney, PLEASE get in touch with me and let me know what you know!

Thanks you and greetings from Portland, Oregon (on the Pacific Coast), USA

William Prendergast








Thursday 16th Feb 2012, 04:17AM

Message Board Replies

  • Hi William,

    Thank you very much for your query to Ireland Reaching Out. You should post your message on the Ballina message board. Do you know if this was Ballina, Co. Mayo or Ballina, Co. Clare?  Please post it on the appropriate county, as there may be someone in the community there, who might know more information relating to Mathias Breen. Also post it on the Kilfintinin parish page:

    Clare County Library have an excellent resource list for County Clare and you might be able to find the grave inscriptions you mentioned in Killofin there.

    Do you know the name of the ship Mathias emigrated on?If you do, there might be details available in the US. Usually this information was detailed in the port of arrival rather than the port of departure.

    You should try getting in touch with the parish priest in the area. They might have more details from church registers. Or the General Register Office (GRO) for records of births etc.

    You have done very well in your search so far. Best of luck!

    Kind regards,

    Sinead Cooney

    Monday 20th Feb 2012, 12:07PM
  • Thank you for your interest.  My original post was somewhat abbreviated and I did not mention sources that I have consulted.  As I said above, in the beginning of my search, we knew only that Mathias Breen, in US sources, always and only said he was from "Co. Clare."  From an 1890 biography of Mathias in "History of St. Paul" (MN), we know he emigrated with his sister Margaret, and we have found them  on a ship's passenger list of 1851 (ship "Sandusky", Liverpool to New York, Aug., 1851).  

    Margaret also witnessed Mathias' wedding in Maryland, USA, in 1858, along with a James Mulligan, whom she later married.  Access to some family history of a Madigan/ Mulligan family shows that James and a brother Luke (who may have been of Co. Clare) Madigan emigrated through Baltimore about 1852.  Mathias Breen witnessed the marriage of Luke Madigan (later Mulligan) in Washington, D.C. in 1854.  

    In the Boston Pilot newspaper of the time, in the feature "Searching for Lost Friends", we found an 1853 ad seeking information about Mathias Breen and sister Margaret, from "Laghkil, Co. Clare" emigrated 1851.  These ads have been abstracted and indexed by a project at Boston College.  In that index, their origin was entered as "Laghkil/Laghile", and said to be in Kilfintinin parish, Lower Bunratty.  In that parish, near Cratloe, we found "Laghile," and for some time had been searching in the Tithe Applotments and Griffith's Valuation for evidence of Breens there, with no success.  An earlier publishing of "Searching for Lost Friends" from the Boston Pilot (book of that name by Okeefe and Harris) lists ONLY "Laghkil" as the Breens origin, and we suspect that the Boston College abstractors MAY have made a mistake in identifying it as the E. Clare townland of "Laghile", near Cratloe, and adding that ".../Laghile, Kilfintinin, Lower Bunratty" as an (unfortunately misguided) attempt to clarify the original ad posters "Laghkil", which does not exactly match any townland that I can find in the index of townlands for the Tithe Applotment of that time.

    Recently, a new source "British Ireland Papers", was discovered in an online archive of British govt. documents dealing with Ireland.  In that archive is: "Return of Persons to whom Licenses to Keep Arms Have Been Granted by Magistrates," 1832 (includes issues up to 1836). (  In that document, we find 3 Breens (including a Mathias, whom we take be be the grandfather, since "our" Mathias was born in 1833) including a Thomas, name of the father of "our" Mathias.  These 3 Breens are listed as residing at "Ballina."  The magistrate who issued the Licenses is listed as C. M. Vandeleur at Kilrush.

    When I went searching for "Ballina", I found the townland of that name in Kilofin Parish, and an almost adjacent townland of  South "Lakyle" (or some older sources "Lackile" or "Lakile").  In those 2 townlands, in the 1838 Tithe Applotment, we find Breens of the same names, including Thomas (name of "our" Mathias' father) at South Lakyle.  

    In the Clare Library we find the headstone inscription from the Kilofin cemetery at Labasheeda, a townland very near Ballina on the other side, for Mary McGrath Breen, d. 1833, dedicated by her husband Mathias Breen (the elder I am sure).

    In the 1855 Griffith's Valuation we find no Breens in Kilofin, but a Thomas "Brien" at South Lakyle, which I take as a name commonly interchanged with "Breen."  Also of interest is that the name of the Landlord of the S. Lakyle tenancy is "C. M. Vandeleur,"  that same name as the 1832 Magistrate of Kilofin who issued the License to Keep Arms to the 3 Breens at Ballina!  We know that "our" Mathias' father, Thomas, remained in Ireland and died about 1888.  The 1901 and 1911 Censuses both show a family of Breens, father a Thomas, at South Lakyle.  

    So, you can see that I have consulted most (all?) of the sources available at the Clare Library, and all the evidence seems to point to Lakyle, Kilofin as the seat of Mathias who emigrated in 1851.  

    Your are quite correct that the two tasks I have been unable to do are search parish church records and search headstones in the local graveyard.   The headstone listing for the Kilofin parish graveyard in the Clare Library has a partial listing that includes 5 other Breen graves, some memorializing several people.  The latest Breen death noted is 1980.  I very much would like to make a personal visit to this graveyard to inspect the memorials there!

    The parish records seem to have been abstracted, in part at least, to the Irish National Archives, and may be available on microfilm also through the Mormon church and perhaps a "Co. Clare Genealogy Center,"  though I have not found those to be available online.  I plan to contact the local Mormon Family History Center to see if the microfilms can be obtained.

    I know that there are several other townlands with the name "Ballina" and names like "Lakyle" in various spellings.  But I am focusing my search now on the townland of S. Lakyle in Kilofin Parish because of all the evicence I have cited above.

    I am very much interested in contacting anyone who is of, or knows of, the modern Breen family in or near Kilofin Parish and might have information or memories about these Breens of 1832--1911 there.  Save for that, I am planning to eventually make a trip to this West Clare area myself!  

    Thank you again for your interest.


    William J. Prendergast, M.D.; Portland, Oregon, USA

    PS: a brief biographical sketch of Mathias' career in the US is contained in an obituary posted in the Clare Library forum here  :


    Monday 20th Feb 2012, 07:06PM
  • Hello William

    Just an update.

    In correspondence to you via email, I have written to the Clare People Newspaper and the Clare Champion Newspaper, with the hope it may jog someones memory or there might be some living descendants in the Kilofin parish of Clare.

    I have also written to the parish priests in the parishes surrounding the Kilofin area, and put a short article about tracing your ancestors on the parish newsletters. I spoke with a gentleman from the area near kilofin and he knows a family of Breens currently living in that area. I will let you know how i go.



    Paula Kennedy

    Monday 27th Feb 2012, 11:36AM
  • Hi William

    Just to let you know, I recieved an email, in response to the article I put on the Clare people newspaper.

    Please see below. I have the contact details for this lady.


    Ireland Reaching Out


    Re Request in Clare People for information on above.


    Mathias Breen from Ballina is listed on the link below   Freeholders in Clare 1821.


    My ancestor Michael Breen, Kilmacduane is the next name on the list - he also has a son Matthew.


    There was another Matthew Breen who became a judge in New York in the early 1900s


    I have more info on this family if your contact would like to get in touch.


    Paula Kennedy

    Friday 2nd Mar 2012, 03:45PM
  • I am quite interested in getting in touch with this person.

    Apparently the links did not copy over from their message.  But I am very interested in corresponding, either directly  by email or through this message board.

    Paula Kennedy, I believe you have my direct email address, which it would be fine to share with that person responding.  I am quite interested in the 1821 Freeholders listing for Mathais, and would appreciate the link.  I had missed that finding, but, frankly, I had not yet looked carefully that far back.  It was only recently that I found the Kilofin gravestone inscribed by (this?) Mathias for his wife Ann McGrath Breen in 1833 (year of my gr. grandfather's birth).  Until then I had only been looking for a Mathias born in 1833 and left in 1851.

    As I believe I said in my lengthy accounting of the information I have on the Breens, I suspect this may be the grandfather of my gr. gr-father, Mathias who emigrated to the US in 1851.

    In the US, we have identified 2 great-grandsons of that Mathias (one being myself).  I have children and grand-children in Oregon and the other has children in St. Paul (where Mathias died in 1890).  But we have not yet identified any other descendents of these Breens from W. Clare.


    Friday 2nd Mar 2012, 05:50PM
  • William


    Hello, my name is Bob Nehls, and I split my time between Wahington across the river from Portland, and California.  My mother's family is from Killofin, Labasheeda, County Clare and came to Iowa around 1850.  They were the Keanes and Lillis families whose descendants are still in Killofin and nearby areas.  They were associated with the Breens and I have visited Killofin/Labasheeda  several times and talked with the cousins-we stay in touch.  I met Donal Breen at Killofin Cemetary while he was visiting his mother's grave, she was a Keane and we are definitely cousins as we visited our triple great grand parents graves, John and Catherine Keane.  Donal passed away about 10 years ago and had lived in Cooraclare about 10 miles from Labasheeda with his wife.  I do not know if they were related to Mathias and cannot remember if there were other Breens buried in Killiofin Cemetary though there is a list of headstones on line for the cemetary.


    I remember seeing a reference on Killofin House some time ago in a book on historic houses and it listed associated families of the Keanes, Lillis, and Breens.  The listed places in your posting could be mispellings of numerous locations around Labasheeda.  I do not know if I can help you in your family research, but would be happy to talk to you or correspond by email if you think I could help.  My email is above.


    Good luck with your search   Bob Nehls

    Wednesday 24th Oct 2012, 02:24AM
  • Hello, I am also searching for a connection to Mary McGrath Breen, Kilrush area, she had a daughter Mary Breen McDonnell married Patt McDonnell b.1814, one of their sons was Patrick Joseph McDonald/McDonnell b.1878, Killard, Doonbeg, Co. Clare, very close to your area.

    I'm still digging, I want to figure out which McGrath Mary McGrath Breen was married/attached to, my McGraths are from Doonbeg and my cousins there tell me we are cousins to the McDonnells via Mary McGrath Breen but I'd like to know the exact connection. There are a few McGraths married to Breens from that time, and it's a puzzle.

    Thanks for looking !
    Barbie McGrath Brueski


    Thursday 16th May 2013, 07:30PM
  • Re the McGrath connection to my gr. grandfather, Mathias Breen (b. 1832, emigrated 1851):

    I make a connection to the McGraths because of a Kiofin cemetery gravestone that is transcribed in the Kilofin graveyard collection viewable online from the Clare Library:…

    In that listing, you will find a gravestone  (#226) dedicated by Mathias Breen to his wife Ann:

    IHS Here lies the body of Anne Breen alias McGrath who departed this life Feb the 22nd 1833 aged 55 yrs May she rest in peace Amen Erected by Mathias Breen for his wife and posterity

    Because my Mathias was born in 1832, I have concluded that this was likely his grandparents.  My Mathias' father was named Thomas, and appears on the Tithe and Griffith's Valuation Records on a plot at South Lakyle (spelling varies).  

    "Mathias" Breen (I assume the elder) appears in the Tithe Records at Ballina (very near Lakyle) in Kilofin but not in the Griffith's (dead by then?).  The Tithe Records are near contemporary with that gravestone inscription.  Also, an unsual source, "A Return of Persons Licensed to Keep Arms" compiled by the British Parliament between 1832 and 1836 lists Mathias, Thomas and James Breens, all at Ballina and all keeping arms.

    My gr. grandfather Mathias MAY have had a younger brother Dennis.  He DID have a younger brother Thomas. IF his parents followed the usual convention of naming (NOT always observed), Mathias would have been named for his grandfather.  Dennis for his mother's father and Thomas for his father.  Thomas' wife was Mary Morony and I have found a Dennis Morony in Kiltumper, Kilmihil, where there are Breens as well (Tithe Records).

    I mention Dennis and Thomas by way of showing that I THINK the Breens were following the naming connection.  Furhermore, there is evidence that my Breens were connected in Kiltumper as well.  Dennis has a living descendent who lives in Kilmihil now and is convinced he is related to Breens in Lakyle.

    Sadly, due at least in part to the records being mostly about the male heads of household, I don't have ANY other information linking my Breens to the McGraths.  But Kiltumper is not far from Doonbeg and I'm pretty sure there are links from Kiltumper to Lakyle.  

    Beyond that, I can't give much help.  But look over that "Arms Registry" listings.  You may find some of your men in there!  

    I'm very intererested if you think you can link your McGraths to my Ann McGrath Breen.  Please let me know.  I'm going to be in Ireland in September and am going to spend a lot of time prowling the backroads in Lakyle and Kiltumper, among other places.  Doonbeg isn't far and I would love a McGrath lead to pursue!

    Bill Prendergast


    Thursday 16th May 2013, 09:28PM
  • There are a number of extensive online discussions of Matt Breen from Lakyle in Killofin parish who ended up in St. Paul, Minnesota:…

    Paddy Waldron, IrelandXO Volunteer

    Thursday 12th Dec 2019, 09:07PM

Post Reply