Share This:

Greetings from Sydney, NSW, Australia.  I’m trying to find information on my Walsh ancestors who came from Gowran, Kilkenny.  My 3 x great grandparents were James Walsh and Bridget Heffernan both born abt 1822, they married in Gowran on May 12th, 1847 (I have found their marriage record in the ‘catholic parish registers’).  James and Bridget immigrated to Australia aboard the Hyderabad, they arrived in NSW on 19th Feb 1848 with their infant son James, their ages were listed as 26 and 25.  The immigration record shows that James was a carpenter.  I recently tracked down the death certificate for James in Australia (he died 6 March 1857), it appears his brother Nicholas had also immigrated to Australia as he was listed as the informant on the death certificate.  He listed James’ parents as James Walsh and Eleanor Hennessy from Kilkenny, Ireland.  Both James Walsh snr and Nicholas were also listed as carpenters. According to the death certificate James was 33 years old when he died so this puts his birth year around 1824.  I have been unable to find any baptism records for James with parents listed as James Walsh and Eleanor/Elinor/Ellen Hennessy (Henesy Hennesy etc) in Kilkenny (I have searched several years either side of 1822/1824).  The only baptism record I have found is for a James Walsh born to James Walsh and Ellen Hennessy, baptised on 26th April 1824 in St. Mary’s, City Cork, Cork, Ireland.  I have no idea if this might be my James Walsh. 

There are only 10 public trees on Ancestry that I have found which have a James Walsh and Eleanor Hennessy (various spellings) born around 1790 who lived in Gowran, Kilkenny.  They have a son Nicholas born 1814 listed as well as children John (twin to Nicholas) and Catherine, one tree also lists a Joseph b 1815 and David b 1817 (though they list they are not certain David is connected to this family), I have found the baptism records for all of these children in the Gowran records. None of the trees have a son James listed.  Normally I would still think that I had possibly found my ancestors but these trees have Nicholas and family as having arrived in the USA in 1851 and Nicholas dying in Louisiana USA in 1859. In this case it would be very unlikely that he is the same Nicholas who was living in Sydney, NSW, Australia in 1857 (I have found records for him 1855-1857 at the address in Sydney which was listed on the death and I think at a nearby street from 1861-1863).  Either these are not my 4 x great grandparents or these trees have the wrong Nicholas attached.  I have not yet been able to find the correct death record for Nicholas in Australia in order to provide me with more information about where and when he was born.

There are also another couple of immigration records which bear similarities but I can’t prove they are the correct records for my family.  A record for a John Walsh 33 (another carpenter from Gowran in Kilkenny) and family, wife Bridget 35, James 9, Eleanor 5 and Mary 2 who arrived in Sydney on the Subraon 12 April 1848 (so only two months after my ancestor).  The fact that his two eldest children are named James and Eleanor may be a coincidence but they could also be named after his parents as well as the fact that he is a carpenter from Gowran.  John could also possibly be the twin of the Nicholas in the baptism records I have found.  The other record is for two brothers but the ages, occupation and where they came from do differ, Nicholas 26 and David Walsh 24, farm labourers, native place Golden Tipperary.  However, their parents are listed as James and Eleanor (both dead) but it also lists they had two brothers John and James already living in Sydney, NSW.  It doesn’t help that Walsh is such a common name!

Lastly I have had my DNA tested and have a distant match with someone from Ireland who has a John Walsh from Graiguenamanagh (who married a Joanna (Anna) Murphy in 1853), they had a daughter Margaret in 1856.  Given that Graiguenamanagh is approx. 16 kms from Gowran I assume that his John is somehow related to my James.  I also have a distant match with a lady who was born in Ireland, she is descended from a John Walsh and Mary Leary, whose daughter Ann Walsh was born in 1834 in County Wexford.  Somewhere all our Walsh ancestors must be linked.

Sorry for such a long post but I wanted to provide the info I had already found so a not to waste anyone’s time.


Any help or thoughts gratefully received.  Many thanks Karen.

Karen Horwitz

Friday 9th August 2019, 07:34AM

Message Board Replies

  • Records for what appear to be your James Walsh and Bridget Heffernan (misspelled as "Heffern") have been created by someone at the Family Search database, indicating that James was baptized in Gowran on 22 Auguist 1822 and showing the same marriage date which you already have.  James's parents are shown as Walter Walsh and Anna Crann, but the names of Bridget's parents are not given.  No brother named Nicholas is shown, but five other siblings are shown, and one of them is named John (who may be the John you located).  No children of James and Bridget are shown.

    There's no indication that the Hennessy surname is relevant to this family, but there may be an error in what has been input at Family Search.  Anna's family is traced back two more generations, leading to County Down, which is a long way from Gowran, so someone may have made a mistaken connection to another family (anyone can input info, and mistaken connections are often created, which need to be corrected).

    As for Nicholas, keep in mind that it might have been a midddle name.  Traditionally, they were more common among Protestants, but they became more popular among Catholics in the 19th century, and parish priests often omitted them in parish registers (in many cases, they even abbreviated first names).

    FamilySearch is operated by the LDS church, and is free to use.  The site is located here:

    You have to create an account to use it, but they don’t ask for much personal info, and no missionaries will contact you or anything like that.  The database does not have separate family trees, and is essentially one huge tree of linked records, in which there is a single record for each person, with a unique identification number (although sometimes people unknowingly create duplicate records for the same person, which you can merge when you spot them).  You can search by name, but also by that number, and the number for James Walsh is MHZW-VFF.  Once you are at that record, you will see how easily you can move up and down the tree by clicking on the names of other people who are shown.

    The FamilySearch site also locates other potentially relevant records and offers them to you for consideration, and it is well set up for incorporating the new data, and for things like merging duplicate records when you find them (the site even suggests possible duplicates).  You can also see who contributed info to the records and send private messages to them.  If you get hooked on the site, you may want to take a class at one of the Mormon Family History Centers about how to use the many features which it offers, because there is a bit of a learning curve when doing the more complicated changes.


    Friday 9th August 2019, 04:48PM
  • Thank you kevin45sfl and Miriam for both taking the time to look into my query and reply to my message.

    kevin45sfl - thank you for your information regarding FamilySearch, I am familiar with FamilySearch and do have an account but I must admit I have never looked at their "Family Tree".  Thank you for the I.D. # which made it easy to find James - I feel in this instance they may have the incorrect James attached to this family.  I try and back all my research up with certificates and source material and I have the death certificate for James and Bridget's son Mathew who was my ancestor (information given by his wife), his parents are listed as James Walsh (carpenter) and Bridget Heffernan.  I recently found James' death record stating his wife was Bridget Heffernan and his parents were James Welsh (carpenter) and Eleanor Hennessy (with a notation in the margin that Welsh was Walsh).  The informant on this was listed as Nicholas Walsh (brother, carpenter).  The length of time living in NSW tied in with the immigration record I found for James and Bridget in 1848.  Given that the information was given by Jame's brother I know the names of his parents should be correct.  Re the baptism record for James (parents Walter and Anna) I had that in my files as a query before I knew the names of his parents.  It is so frustrating because Walsh is such a common name!

    Miriam - thanks for taking so much time to look into the files.  In answer to your question - YES, the death certificate for James listed the informant as Nicholas - Brother, Carpenter, Liverpool Street (I have found rate assessments for Nicholas at that address with James living next door).  So the names of his parents would definitely be James Walsh and Eleanor Hennessy.  Nicholas listed that James was born in C. Kilkenny, Ireland and he had been in NSW for 9 years. It lists James' wife as Bridget Heffernan and he married at the age of 23 - all this ties in with the immigration record and the marriage record I found for a James Walsh and Bridget Heffernan from Gowran, Kilkenny.  As above in my reply to kevin45sfl, James walsh and Bridget Heffernan are also listed as the parents on the death certificate for my 2x great grandfather Mathew Walsh - so I know the names are all correct.

    Thank you so much for checking Root Ireland as I do not have a subscription there.  I have a world subscription to Ancestry so most of my records come from there and the various free sites I can find.  The baptism records for Catherine, Nicholas, John and David (b1817) are the ones I have come across before and these children are all attached to the trees I have found for James Walsh and Eleanor Hennessy.  I have my tree on Ancestry and know how careful you have to be adding people.  The ten trees for James and Eleanor seem mostly to have copied from the original poster and they all seem to be descended from Nicholas, I feel that they have attached their Nicholas to my ancestors as they do not have any certificates showing the names of their Nicholas's parents.  I guess I just need to find the correct Nicholas in NSW and purchase his death certificate - I have been going through all the records and newsitems (trove) for any Nicholas Walsh and eliminating them as I go.  There were two Nicholases in Sydney at the time of James' death and all of the records I have been finding sadly relate to the other Nicholas.  There is one possiblity of a Nicholas who died in 1902 as his parents are listed as James and Ellen, however I think this Nicholas may be too young.  I guess I will have to buy the certificate if even only to eliminate him. 

    There are only two marriage records for a Nicholas Walsh/Welsh in NSW between 1830/1890 - the one in 1847 is the other Nicholas I mentioned and the second one is 1882 for a Nicholas J - I think I have also eliminated him as he was much younger.  Nicholas is proving to be very illusive!

    Thank you for the Griffiths Valuation link - if only they had listed occupations!

    One other thing of interest is that there is a marriage record for a Thomas Murphy and Catherine Walsh (25 Sept 1847 Gowran) with witnesses James Walsh and Bridget Heffernan.  This is only the fourth entry after the one for my James and Bridget.  Given that this is four months after their wedding would they enter Bridget using her maiden name?  This could possibly be James' sister Catherine.  On the same ship that James and Bridget came to NSW on, there is an entry for a Thomas Murphy and his wife Catherine but her age puts her 10 years younger than the Catherine born in 1812 and lists her from "Gordon"? Kilkenny.

    Once again many thanks,

    regards Karen

    Karen Horwitz

    Saturday 10th August 2019, 02:00AM
  • Thanks once again Miriam for your reply.  It's nice to have someone affirm what I've been thinking.  Since I couldn't find the parish of Gordon I thought it was probably Gowran.  I'll keep in mind the 24 hour subscription to Roots Ireland and I might take it out when I have more records to print (I have several other Irish lines to pursue).

    Kind regards, Karen.

    Karen Horwitz

    Sunday 11th August 2019, 12:14AM
  • What's great about FamilySearch instead of Ancestry is that, on FamilySearch you can look for duplicates - so you can add you ancestors to a Family Tree that is already created AND you can contact people that have your ancestor on their tree and it doesn't belong there. If they're no longer a member, you can delete them from your family tree - you can't delete them from the database but you can delete them from you tree.  On ancestry, I tried contacting people - there were so many erroneous ones that I just gave up in the end - but from one I got a very rude reply.  They weren't aware my ancestor was even on their tree!!! I find this very worrying for future generations who may take all this information on Ancestry as gospel.


    Sunday 12th January 2020, 11:59AM
  • Hi Karen, I read your post with interest because of the Hennessey name. Griffith's shows that my McDonald ancestors from Dunbell (also just a few miles from Gowran town, and in Gowran RC parish) have a Margaret Hennessey living on the same property, but I haven't been able to figure out how she's connected. My theory is that she is a widowed Margaret McDonald who had married a Hennessey.

    My two cents on your dilemmas - I've had similar problems, and I think you're right on the money. With the baptism records, (it seems worse on Ancestry than on RootsIreland or FindMyPast) if the name is mis-transcribed, or impossible to transcribe because of a smudge or tear or microfiche flaw, you won't find them on a search. The only way around it is to attempt to read every page of the original from around the right time - I've found a couple this way, but it is such a chore that I have yet to complete my 2nd ggf's family. One of these day's I'll do what you've done and post them here in the hopes of finding connections.

    As for Ancestry and FamilySearch, it sounds like you've confirmed your doubts about the ties to other trees. When I see that kind of thing, I look at the sources. Usually, when the person is mis-placed, there is nothing to support it, or even sources that confirm the error! Also, looking at more of the (other) trees will quickly show how serious the person is about genealogy. If you see a lot of obvious mistakes, you can write off those trees as unreliable. I don't use any information from Ancestry trees unless it is properly sourced and I can make sense of the sources.

    On Irish RC marriage records, female witnesses are typically listed by their maiden name, so that record is probably good information. There was a brilliant article not too long ago from our wonderful hosts on this site about names in records - it explained that and more, like who was usually chosen as witnesses and baptism sponsors (almost always a sibling as I recall).

    BTW, I've been traipsing around cemeteries in Gowran and no kidding, there are soooo many Walshes! :-) Since your folks were clearly RC, you can at least eliminate Protestant Walshes, of which there are a few. Names like Walter are not typical of RC families - unless there's a St. Walter that I don't know about ... 

    The town and parish are pronounced "Gorn," which is odd if you haven't heard it before, so it seems very likely that it could be misheard as "Gordon."

    I have Walshes and Murphys among my DNA matches, so we may be cousins! (Although my Walshes were from Cork.) Are you on Ancestry DNA? I did a quick look and didn't see anyone with your name.

    Happy Searching!


    Wednesday 11th March 2020, 09:05PM
  • Hi kellymac,

    Thanks for your message and information.  Sadly, I haven't yet found any information about Eleanor Hennessy or her parents!  I did have my DNA tested on Ancestry, my username is karenhorwitz1 and my tree is Walsh / Exton Family Tree.  I also have my DNA on MyHeritage and Gedmatch A387167. I hope you can find me.

    I also have Walsh/Welsh ancestors from Cork.  The Cork branch is on my mother's side of the family so I have Walsh ancestors on both sides.  Elizabeth Welsh/Walsh was born 1820 in Cork to parents Robert Walsh and Ellen Ryan, I haven't found any info about the family yet.  Elizabeth immigrated to Australia in 1840.

    Regards Karen

    Karen Horwitz

    Friday 13th March 2020, 06:24AM
  • Hi Carole,

    My apologies for not acknowledging your post from January, I had read your comments at the time but forgot to get back to you when I had time to do so. 

    Thanks, I haven't really used the Family Search family tree feature, I must have another look at it.  It can be so annoying when people don't reply to your messages on Ancestry but it's always nice to find someone who is happy to communicate.  Sorry you had such a rude reply from the person you contacted.  You are right, it is a worry when people have the wrong information in their tree (and there are so many).  I try and verify mine with sources but I'm sure I've likely made a few errors along the way and would be happy if someone told me I had the wrong person.

    kind regards Karen

    Karen Horwitz

    Friday 13th March 2020, 06:37AM
  • Hi guys . My G,G, grandfather John Ruth was born in 1834 in Ballyhale parish Pitt-Gowran, Ossory Discese Kilkenny . His parents I believe are Richard Ruth and Bridget Walsh.  John married in 1856 parish of Nenagh co Tipperary to a Bridget Dunne their witness ( Daniel Hennessy & Mary Ryan. In the early 1860 the family lived in new Zealand & late 1860 their living in Australia. Maybe a connection. Thanks Rosie.


    Tuesday 17th March 2020, 01:47AM
  • Hi Rosie,

    I guess it's quite possible that there could be a connection somewhere between your Walsh family and mine though Walsh is such a common name.  The fact that a Hennessy was a witness to their marriage is also interesting. Where did they live in Australia?  Mine lived in Sydney.   Have you done a DNA test, that may tell us if we have a connection?  I did a test with Ancestry but entered my results on Gedmatch and MyHeritage as well.

    regards Karen

    Karen Horwitz

    Wednesday 18th March 2020, 05:13AM
  • Hi Karen and kellymac - more good news about Family Search - I had instructions from a genealogist on how to remove people from your family tree - this doesn't delete them from the website - it just removes them from your ancestral tree.  I did three yesterday - they were obviously not supposed to be there - for example, all three of them were born in the USA and my great great grandparents never lived in the USA - and didn't visit there as well!!!  kellymac as for the name Walter, I only knew one Walsh personally who in Kilkenny, was definitely Catholic and was Walter.  I think the name came over with the Normans. I wish I could get some replies from people from Gowran who know of their Doyle ancestors.  I'm in touch with a few families who have Doyle ancestors but they don't know any more than I do!!!!  Oh well.  Will keep seaching and maybe one day.......




    Thursday 19th March 2020, 10:45AM
  • Hi karen. No I haven't done a DNA test . When John Ruth went to New Zealand he was in the 18th regiment on foot, they were fighting the Maori's and his wife had two more children born there one Elizabeth my great grandmother. A few years later he was posted to Melbourne Australia now they were fighting the Aborigines again they had another child born there. In the 1870s the whole family we're back in Devon uk and eventually back to Ireland starting on his army papers planing on residing in Cork. I to feel somewhere there maybe a connection through the Walsh name. Yes a couple coincidence for sure. He was RC, from gowran Kilkenny. It also states he was a servant.  Rosie.


    Friday 20th March 2020, 01:56AM
  • Thanks for that info Carole.  Good luck with your Doyle research, hopefully someone answers!  Like you said....maybe oneday.

    Regards Karen

    Karen Horwitz

    Friday 20th March 2020, 02:35AM
  • Hi Rosie, What an interesting story, given he was from Gowran there quite likely may be a connection.  Hopefully one day I'll be able to link all these Walsh families together.

    regards Karen

    Karen Horwitz

    Friday 20th March 2020, 04:21AM