Share This:

Post for the Kilfintinan Parish message board:

(for extensive further information, see Kilofin Parish message board posts by me)

Am searching for origins of my great-grandfather Mathias Breen(e), (see link below) who emigrated from Clare with sister Margaret in 1851.  He never stated (that we can find) his home townland, but an ad for information about Mathias and Margaret appeared in the Boston Pilot in 1853, and the poster ( a John Cunninn) stated they were from "Laghkil."  The later Boston College abstract seems to have added "Laghkil/Laghile, Kilfintinan, Lower Bunratty".  I have searched the sources (mainly the Tithe Applotments and Griffith's Valuations) around Laghile (near Cratloe) in Kilfintinan without seccess.

In a related finding of some possible interest, I encountered a person researching the poster of the Boston Pilot ad, John Cunninn, as a possible member of an E. Clare family she is researching with names Cannon and Cunneen.  As you can note from her posts, she was suspicious of Breen as an E. Clare family and suggested Lakyle in W. Clare.

Recently, I have found serveral strong pieces of evidence that Mathias' home townland may have been Lakyle (Lakile) in Kilofin near Kilrush in W. Clare.  I have found Breens, including some of the appropriate given names, in that parish in various sources from 1832 to 1911 (Tithe book, Griffith's, Kilofin Parish headstone).  But I am posting this also in the Kiffintinan Parish forum on the off chance that someone around Laghile may have some knowledge of Breens in that area during that time.  Any information in connection with this family name is most greatly appreciated!

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


Monday 20th February 2012, 06:54PM

Message Board Replies

  • Forgive the mis-spelling of KILRUSH ("Kilfrush") in W. Clare, in my post above!


    Monday 20th February 2012, 07:01PM
  • Hi William

    Just to let you know I have been doing some research on the Breens. I will write a short article to the Clare Champion and Clare people, seeking information on your ancestors from the Kilofin area of Co Clare.

    I will let you know I how I go.




    Paula Kennedy

    Wednesday 22nd February 2012, 02:45PM
  • Hi William

    I have been out to Kilofin Townland today and took some photos of the area. I went to the Kilofin graveyard and found Thomas and Margaret Breen headstone. I have sent them via email to you. It is a lovely little townland, near the coast. I spoke with a local gentleman, who had some local knowledge of the area and showed me the old homestead of the Breens.


    Paula Kennedy

    Wednesday 4th April 2012, 07:25PM
  • I am new to this site, but am very interested in information about Breens in this area.  My great grandfather Patrick James Breen lived in Labasheeda with his sister Jane and brother John around 1860.  I'm not sure he was born there.  His parents Timothy and Bridget Breen were likely from Cooraclare.  They emigrated to the US in the late 1860s and ended up in Nashville, TN.  I haven't been able to connect all the family members and when and where they lived, but I'm working on it and would be happy to correspond with anyone on the site.  I'm visiting Ireland in September for the first time and will be in Clare.  Thanks for any help or information.

    Kevin Kern

    Kevin Kern

    Sunday 25th June 2017, 03:15PM
  • B


    Kevin: My gr. grandfather, Mathias Breen, who I was just beginning to look for back in 2012 when I first posted here, was born at Lakyle in Kilofin parish in 1832, the oldest of (at least) 5 children. He emigrated in 1851 with his sister Margaret, arriving in New York in August.  He went initially to Cumberland, MD where he worked on the railroad as a stone mason. After marrying there he became a journeyman mason in Richmond, VA where he got trapped by the Civil War. Escaping to Washington in 1863, he worked there on the Aquaduct & the Treasury Bldg.  He was joined in Washington by two brothers, Michael and Thomas. He then relocated to St. Paul, MN where he won a contract to build a Federal Customs House & Post Office. He was a very successful builder in St. Paul and raised 3 children there, the youngest my paternal grandmother. He died in 1890.  

    Mathias' father was Thomas Breen of S  Lakyle (appears in the Griffiths Valuation as "Brien".  He had (at least) 1 child who did not emigrate: Denis.  Denis farmed for a time with his father but then took up land at Kilthumper in Kilmihil parish where his mother's family (Morony) had been  Denis gave rise to 4 generations up to the present and still has living descendants (name of Kirk) in Kilmihil parish.  I have matched DNA with them, confirming this history (some of which is based on pretty sketchy records as is typical for Ireland before 1860).  Before Thomas, things get VERY sketchy, but he was probably born in 1814, possibly @ Ballena in Kilofin parish to a Mathias Breen & Ann McGrath Breen  Thomas MAY have had siblings James & Bridget.  

    Breen is a fairly common name in W. Clare and there have been a lot of them in the townlands of Kilmihil parish. The descendents of Denis include at least 1 Patrick.  Descendants of Denis held the S  Lakyle land up into the1950s and there was a Patrick living around that time that was related to them. 

    Have you done DNA?  If you don't have reliable history of how your Breen's were connected to those in Clare, it might help  At least it would be very interesting to see! Ancestry DNA is a relative bargain and a good place to start if you haven't.  

    Thanks for posting!  Stay in touch. 

    Bill Prendergast



    Monday 26th June 2017, 05:09AM
  • Thanks for posting, great to hear from you.  Yes I've done both Ancestry and 23andMe but have not connected with anyone in Ireland.  I know my Breens were in Labasheeda as my grandmother and parents had visited many years ago, but that hasn't helped me in my quest - finding out who my people were, what were their lives, and why and when did they emigrate.  There is a Patrick Breen who is a surveyor in Griffiths, and perhaps that is my GGF.  In the US he is described as a railroad bridge builder in 1880, and of course it was quite common for the Irish to move inland from the East Coast by working on the railroads after the end of the Civil War. Hopefully I will learn more when I go to Ireland.  Thanks again and please stay in touch. 

    Kevin Kern

    Wednesday 28th June 2017, 10:28AM
  • Kevin:  What is your account name in AncestryDNA?  My DNA account is identified by my name (I think it's WPrendergast, I can't actually see myself in my list of matches).  If I search my matches for anyone with the surname Breen listed in their account information, I get 13 total matches. Two of those are cousins definitely identified as descendants of my gr. gf.  Mathias' brothers Michael and Denis.  There's 11 more DNA matches that have Breen listed as a surname in their trees that I can't identify.  None of the acct. names look like your name but some are just initials or obvious aliases. Do you have a family tree posted on Ancestry?  Or connected to your AncestryDNA acct.?


    Thursday 29th June 2017, 05:50AM
  • I don't have a family tree on Ancestry.  I haven't spent a lot of time on the Ancestry DNA, more on 23 and Me.  But I'll go there and check it out.  Thanks for the info. More to come.  I gather none of your Breens were connected to Tennessee in the 1800s?

    Kevin Kern

    Friday 30th June 2017, 07:48PM
  • I changed my name on Ancestry DNA to my name.  I did have a few Breens come up as 4th-6th cousins, but not yours. I'll see what that yields.  

    Kevin Kern

    Friday 30th June 2017, 08:34PM

    As far as we know, no close Breen relatives went to Tennessee.  But Mathias (my gr. g.f.)was in Cumberland, MD working on the railroad early on.  As I said above, he married there, and his sister married an Irish immigrant from near their home on Clare, a James Mulligan (later changed to Madigan).  The sister and her husband had property in Cumberland as did the sister's brother Luke.  Eventually, James Mulligan and his wife (who would be my 2nd gr. aunt I guess) went to St. Paul to work for Mathias, but Luke stayed in Cumberland and also had some land in nearby W. Virginia.  The Mulligan bros. are both buried in Cumberland (James sent back there to the family plot from St. Paul).  

    I relate that just by way of saying that the Breen-Mulligans were a close bunch.  And Cumberland was there first "base" in the US.  It was a gateway to the West (but different from "The Cumberland Gap" to TN).  And we've wondered if there weren't Breen siblings or other relatives from W. Clare that came over between 1850 and 1870.  So it's not inconceivable that related Breens chose Tennessee (or KY or OH) as their next destination.  

    Do you know what port of entry your Breens came into the US through?  Mathias and his sister came through NY City, but the Madigan-Mulligans, and we THINK Mathias' future wife, came through Baltimore.  If you have a rough idea of when they emigrated from Ireland, there are places where you can search the immigrant ship passenger lists.  It's a big job though if you don't have an organized, indexed system (like Ancestry) to help you! The reason port of entry is of interest in Tennessee is that (and this is not 100% reliable, but can be a clue) East TN tended to be settled fairly early and by people who'd come over the various "gaps" from the Atlantic Coastal Plain after coming through ports of entry along the Coast.  On the other hand, West TN, which was settled a bit later, was readily accessible via Mississippi River steamboats and a lot of Irish did come through the New Orleans port on their way north to palces up the river.  

    You of course mentioned Nashville, which is right in the "middle", so if you don't know their trail before Nashville, that's not much help!  As you probably know, Nashville is on the Cumberland River, which was accessed via the "Cumberland Gap" from Virginia, and is NOT the same route West that goes through Cumberland, MD, which is reached from N. Virginia.  So if Nashville was their first known place in the US, and they seem to have arrived there fairly early after emigration, they MAY have come over the Cumberland Gap (Daniel Boone route West) from central-southern VA.  Just musing on this and you probably know way more than you've mentioned so don't necessarily pay any attention to my rambling!!

    One thing an Irish researcher in Co. Clare told me about Clare immigrants:  if they were subsistence farmers living on a leasehold (and most, but not all, were), and especially if they left in the 1840's or early '50's (famine times), they were probably looking for something in the US that did NOT involve farming!  In otherwords, Irish immigrants with that background were looking for employement that offered steady work, reasonable pay and the security of not having to depend on a crop.  So, if you know, it's very interesting to look at what kind of jobs they took when they first arrived.  

    If you have even a little information (names, approx. birth dates and places), it's really helpful in your matching on AncestryDNA to have a family tree linked to your DNA entry.  That was, if you show up as a match on someone else's entry, they can take a look and see what surnames are in your family tree.  Problem is, of course, that many times you don't have wive's surnames, but I recommend giving it a try with as much information as you can scrape up, even if it is uncertain.  It will help you get the most out of your DNA matches.  

    As far as you and I matching, I don't see a Kevin Kern in my matches, but I do have a Rodney Kern (who has a tree connected to his entry), but I don't find an obvious connection to him from comparing our trees.  Do you know about "triangulation"?  That's where, with distant cousin matches, for example between you and me, we don't show enough common DNA to come up as a "match", but you might match with someone who does match with me.  I only have one KNOWN, CLOSE relative on AncestryDNA and that's "R.M.", which is Robert McQueen, who is my first cousin (son of my father's sister) and shares my Breen connection with me (Breen being my paternal and his maternal grandmother).  So if you don't see "WPrendergast" in your matches, you might look for "R.M.".

    Good luck with your searching.  It's hard to think that "our Breens" aren't related somewhere, back in the history of Co. Clare, having lived within a couple of miles of each other (Labasheeda to S. Lakyle being just a good walk).  Let me know if you find out more about your Breens in Clare.








    Saturday 1st July 2017, 04:50PM
  • None of Many thanks for the information.  I don't see any R.M. in my DNA matches.  There is a "P.P." administered by a Barbara Prendergast - I gather no relation to you?  It's hard to believe our Breens are not related.  It will be interesting to see what I learn when I visit Ireland in September.  I found a local politician in Clare named Patt Breen, and I emailed him to let him know of my upcoming visit.  So far he has not rolled out the red carpet.  

    You mention the Irish in Tennessee.  Tennesssee's state flag has three stars, representing the three different regions of Tennessee, east, central, and middle.  Calling Tennessee a "state" is a little akin to calling Iraq a "country," as the people and cultures are very different.  Interesting factoid: as the crow flies, Kingsport, TN, is closer to Canada than it is to Memphis.

    Some of the early Irish in Memphis came up the Mississippi from New Orleans, but probably more came down the river from Chicago. In my research I find many of the Irish in Nashville came from Cincinnati, after spending some time in an eastern seaport.  I don't know when or where my Breens arrived in the U.S., but the various censuses that tracked that information put it about 1865-1869, and they clearly were in Nashville by 1868.  That means they may well have come directly to Nashville from Ireland, without living in any port city at all. So my theory is that they had relatives who ended up in Nashville after the Civil War who said there was opportunity in Nashville, and they should come.  I say all that because there was another large Breen family in Nashville before the Civil War - Philip G. Breen - who became very successful in the limestone business.  So I've always thought they must be related, and yet, I've been unable to find anything definitive.  Both families had many children, all of whose names come from the list of about 12 names it seemed were available to new Irish parents at the time.  In genealogy research you quickly realize the exponential growth of people from generation to generation.  

    As far as what they did for a living, my grandmother always said the British ejected the Breens from their farm and burned it.  Perhaps.  After the Civil War, the Irish had great opportunity rebuilding RR bridges in the south.  In particular there was a bridge over the Tennessee River that was rebuilt immediately after the war.  I'll wager my Patrick Breen worked on that.  In any event, it established an easier pipeline back and forth from Memphis and Nashville that caused those two Irish communities to mix more, as mine did.  



    Kevin Kern

    Sunday 2nd July 2017, 02:24PM