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Brand new to Irish research, so forgive my many questions I will probably be  posting on this Board. 

My great-grandmother, Margaret Mary O'Sullivan was born 24 December 1850 in Killarney, according to her obit and death certificate. Her parents are listed as Patrick O'Sullivan and Mary on her death certificate. She left Killarney as a "young girl" according to her obit and went to Port Jervis, New York in the US. She married my great grandfather, James Hayden in Port Jervis. They eventually moved to Windsor, Connecticut in the US. 

I'm looking to find her mother's maiden name and sibling names and really anything more about her, like her baptism date.  I'm told O'Sullivan is a really common name so its overwhelming when I start researching and there are hundreds of Patrick O'Sullivans. There is some anecdotal information from her granddaughter

"Years ago in Ireland, things were tough.  You couldn't go to school if you were Catholic.  The way they made sure that no one could say they weren't Catholic, was to have a statue of the Blessed Mother, and if you would spit at the Blessed Mother, you weren't Catholic.  No Catholic would do it.

My Grandmother O'Sullivan, lived in Killarny which was quite a long way from the soldiers.  The roads were very bad so they didn't go down there too often and she went to what was called the Hedge School.  You wrote something with a stick on the ground and if the soldiers came, you could wipe it off with your foot.  She didn't get down there so often and my Great Grandmother O'Sullivan cooked at the rectory so in the morning she had to take Margaret (that's my Grandmother) with her and the clerics taught Margaret how to read and write which was a small miracle in those days. "

Thanks for any help!

Jenny Hawran


Friday 27th May 2022, 10:49PM

Message Board Replies

  • Jenny:

    I searched the subscription site Roots Ireland for the Killarney RC parish records. The only Margaret Sullivan (O'Sullivan) baptismal records in Killarney with father Patrick and mother Mary were in 1833 and 1875.  NOTE Most 19th century records usually dropped the O.

    What year did Margaret marry?

    It is possible that she was baptized in a parish near Killarney. Many immigrants would say they were from the nearest big town rather than from a smaller area that was not known to Americans.

    I widened my search to all of Co. Kerry and located two possible leads in nearby parishes. Keep in mind that immigrants also adjusted their age when they came to their new country. Usually, made themselves younger. They also changed their date of birth. I'm always suspicious of people allegedly born March 17th or December 24/25.

    Margaret Sullivan baptized March 15 1846 in Kilgarvan RC parish father Patrick Sullivan mother Mary Shea. Live in Ardtully

    Margaret Sullivan baptized August 15 1848 in Beaufort RC parish father Patrick Sullivan mother Mary Sullivan (Sullivan was likely her maiden name). Lived in Cullina

    NOTE Beaufort is the RC parish just to the west of Killarney and Kilgarvan is the parish to the southeast of Killarney.

    Have you tested your DNA?

    Let me know what questions you have.

    Roger McDonnell

    Castlemore Roscommon, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Monday 30th May 2022, 04:02PM
  • Hello Jenny

    My name is Donie O Sullivan and my Father was a Killarney man so I am taking an interest in your request.Roger .above seems to have covred the situation well I completed my O Sullivan family tree some years ago and found that the Killarney parish records go back to about 1793 .I found my great grandfathers wedding there in 1806.Most Kerry O Sullivans are decendants of the O Sullivan Môr branch ie the major branch and they have a slightly different coat of arms 

    I will have a look at some records and will let you know if anything else surfaces.

    I havd read your story and a few things stand out..The government sponsored national school system was founded in Ireland in 1831and by the 1850's there were state schools all over the country for 5-14 year old children.By the time teachers were recruited and parsihes could afford to contribute to the cost it was in the 1840's before the system was widespread. The famine greatly affected the school system as I know that when our local school opened in 1847 there were about 300 pupils attending hedgeschools but only 70 attended the school ,mainly out of fear.  .Hedge schools were everywhere up to then and some continued afterwards while parents could afford the fees to the teachers.

    Your great grandmother would have got her education in a hedge school

    You mentioned being a distance from Killarney town but must have been no more than about 5 miles from it to walk there which would rule out most neighbouring parishes.The mention of a rectory is interesting as these  belonged to the protestant clergyman whereas the catholic priests residence was generally called a presbytery.,However protestant clergymen, who were quite wealthy often employed catholic people.I assume your Grandmother was a catholic.

    Your Great grandmother could have been born in a different parish and moved ,when she married ,to the Killarney area.

    i will look for your great grandmothers wedding and see what that turns up



    Donie Sullivan

    Monday 30th May 2022, 09:29PM
  • Jenny

    I seem to have mixed up your great grandmother Margaret mary with your great,great grandmother Mary. It is mary who would have attended the hedge schools and Margaret mary should have attended normal state school.I looked for marriages for Patrick and Mary1840-1850 and found a patrick married a Mary Leary in killarney on 16th Oct 1849- a good possibility.

    Another patrick married a Mary Sullivan in killarney 2nd feb.1845- another possibility.

    a third patrick married a Mary Donoghue in neaby Glenflesk parish on 1st Aug 1844,a rural parish . about 5 miles from Killarney.

    a fourth Patrick married a Mary sullivan in Firies parish about 6-7 miles from Killarney.

    I failed to find margaret mary's baptism and the date may not be correct as it is from memory only. i will search if any of the 4 above couples had a daughter to match even though the date s may not match,will let you know if I find anything


    Donie Sullivan

    Monday 30th May 2022, 11:17PM
  • Attached Files

    Hi Roger and Donie, thanks so much for replying.

    Roger - Margaret didn't marry until she came to America. She married in the state of New York in 1872. Thank you for the tip that 19th-century records normally would drop the "O" ! have tested my DNA, and right now I do have a match trying to figure out how we are related. She is pretty sure it is on Margaret's line. Thank you for those baptism leads, very helpful.

    Donie - I love hearing how far you went back on your O'Sullivan line and where it originated. So that means we are most likely distant cousins?

    So, a Hedge school is a government-sponsored state school?

    Yes, she was Catholic. Thank you for those possibilities, yes!

    I found Margaret's obituary and it also has some good leads for siblings.I've attached the file. It says she has a sister, Mrs. Driscoll (I found her name to be Katherine) and a brother, Daniel.

    Donie - is your family tree somewhere public - like Ancestry? Would it be ok to share my email with you?

    Would siblings most likely all be baptized in the same church? If I can find a Katherine and a Daniel baptized with the same parents, then that would be the goal?

    Thank you both for your help, I'm excited to have some possibilities!



    Tuesday 31st May 2022, 07:36PM
  • FYI: Update - I might have a lead on Patrick O'Sullivan's wife via DNA. This person who is DNA match to me on Ancestry is working with a hypothesis that it could be Mary Eagan


    Tuesday 31st May 2022, 08:40PM
  • Hi Donie and Jenny

    O those numerous Killarney  Sullivan/O"Sullivans do provide challenges for family history enthusiasts! The use of the O seems to vary.Complicated when a Sullivan marries another Sullivan as in my family

    My four great grandparents came from Killarney- one couple from the town (Humphrey and Maria McCarthy Sullivan) had 8 children whose Baptisms were all located.Humphrey lived in Old Market Lane Killarney in 1854,and is listed in a 1828 Trade Directory as a spirit store and public house owner)

    Five of those children came to Victoria Australia and had success gold mining.I have not been able to locate John(born 1822)

    and twins Margaet/Mary(born 1823) .perhaps all died in infancy or childhood

    Good luck with  further searching





    Tuesday 31st May 2022, 11:29PM
  • Hello Jenny

    A few pointers on your reply above.

    Hedge schools were not state sponsored.They were set up and funded,privately , mainly by catholics families and each child had to pay a fee to the teachers to support them.During penal times they were banned and therefore took place in secret locations,often in the open air in a sheltered location and also in cattle sheds with lookouts posted.As the penal laws were relaxed towards the late 1700's they were more open. The protestant community had proper schools funded by wealthy landlords  much earlier and my parish is typical. A local landlord donated 6 acres to the local protestant parish clergy to accommodate a new purpose built school with living quarters ,upstairs for the master and his family..This was in 1822 and whereas  the local state sponsored non denominational school opened in 1847.Interestingly the Catholic parish had built a new church in 1821 and the new protestant school was erected right across the road from this churdh...almost like an act of defiane..This became an issue during the famine as the protestsnt commuity opened up a soup kitchen in the school  at mass times across the road..There is a mith that those who chose the soup over attending mass dropped the o and Mac from their names 

    My e mail is It is possible we could be distant tree  on Ancestry is O Sullivan Family Tree and is basic lineage but I have produced a story of the family with more info and i can e mail that to you

    During the 1800's some families moved residence for various reasons especially during the famine.Some were evicted, some changed to another landlord .some moved to a relatives location ,some may have got employment  elsewhere ,especially skilled masons,horse trainers etc.As families emigrated others would have moved in so there was a fair amount of movement 

    Many families dropped the O and the Mac to fit in better with the establishment and this was prevalent on those that emigrated to America. Some also  adopted names of colours to be neutral such as  brown,black,green etc  trades like mason,gardiner, baker etc were also used..

     I will examine the additional info you provided later


    Donie Sullivan

    Thursday 2nd Jun 2022, 10:05AM
  • I have looked on Find My Past and the baptismal records of the Haydens children and their marriage record in Ornage County NY. all appear (I will try to attach). When you are looking for verfication and you run into a brick wall a helpful strategy is to to step to the side. In all these records there are the names of godparents and witnesses who are usually close realtives and some appear more than once including Haugh, (O)Sullivan, O'Driscoll (Mary Agnes O'Driscoll and your obit lists a sister named O'Driscoll, Strahan, Nolan Purcell and O'Connor. Catherine O'Sullivan is the witness at the marriage and Kate Sullivan is a godmother - likely the same person and Margaret's sister.

    I would try and get the death records of the brother in Indiana and Mrs. O'Driscoll in Middletown to confirm parents' names. When did Margaret die? DId you get her death certificate. Then if need be you could expand to do some research on some of the godparents. Certainly O'Connor is very common in Kerry and perhaps the O'Connor godmother is another married sister.



    Thursday 2nd Jun 2022, 09:58PM
  • Attached Files

    As far as Killarney is concerned, my great grandmother, Mary Noonan (1863-1914) was always understood by her family as from Killarney and the 1886 passenger list lists Killarney as her place of origin. More specifically she was from Barleymount, several miles from Killarney, in the Parish of Firies at the time of her birth and since added to the Parish of Fossa.


    Thursday 2nd Jun 2022, 10:02PM
  • Hi Again, Jenny,

    On Find My Past at St. Joseph's in Middletown in 1872, Daniel Driscoll and Catherine Sullivan marry and have 6 children baptized there. Again witnesses and godparents will give you more clues and now you can look for the death of Catherine Driscoll


    Thursday 2nd Jun 2022, 10:13PM
  • Hi Edward, thank you so much for all the leads! I did find some records previously on Find My Past for Margaret's children, yes, but I didn't even think to check for her sister Catherine for some reason! I will dive into those records. I did send for Catherine's death certificate recently, yes. Margaret died in Windsor, Connecticut, USA in Nov of 1909 and I do have her death certificate, yes. It lists her parents as Patrick O'Sullivan and Mary. The informant was Margaret's daughter, Kathryn. 

    Yes, I think I will focus on getting the death info on Margaret's brother, Daniel and her sister Catherine and explore godparents as well. Everyone here has given me some good leads on possible maiden names for Margaret's mother, Mary. This will keep me busy for a while! Thanks everyone!




    Friday 3rd Jun 2022, 09:04PM
  • Hi Donie, 

    Thank you for the information and for your email address. Mine is  I will email you shortly. Thank you!





    Friday 3rd Jun 2022, 09:11PM

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