The O'Donoghue Society

For all those interested in history and genealogy and whose names are derived from the Gaelic


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Contributed by Jim Horgan

My wife, Bridget and I made our first visit to the O'Donoghue farm in 1989.  Bridget's mom was an O'Donoghue and this was the farm Bridget's grandfather grew up on.  The property is located in Ardydonegan, Duagh, Kerry on a beautiful spot that rolls down to the banks of the river Smerlagh.  We had to drive through the Scanlon family farm to get back there and found cousin Joe living in a tent inside of the old farmhouse which was falling down around him.  He is still living there and the County Council has since provided more suitable housing for him on the property.  Joe was a wonderful host at that time and told us many stories about the farm and the local area.  I was taking furious notes about any tidbits he shared about the O'Donoghue family history and this was the beginning of my research in to my wife's family history!
Contributed by Mike Donahue

An anthology of newspaper columns written by Finley Peter Dunne helped me understand what life was like in Chicago when my great grandfather, Patrick Donohue and his wife, Mary Kelly Donohue raised their family in the Southside neighborhood called Bridgeport.
Dunne was an American journalist; he was born in Chicago in 1867. His Irish immigrant parents settled in Chicago at about the same time as my great grandfather. By 1900, Finley Peter Dunn was the most widely read newspapermen in Chicago.
To tell his stories, Dunne created a character named Mr. Dooley, the proprietor of a saloon on Archer Avenue, at the north end of Bridgeport. In Dunne’s newspaper columns, Mr. Dooley discussed the news of the day while serving a customer named Malachi Hennessey.
Mr. Dooley and Hennessey spoke in the dialect of the unfashionable neighborhood where they lived; they were Chicago’s “shanty Irish.” Having them speak in dialect allowed Dunne to say what went unsaid in other (polite) newspaper columns. He described life of Bridgeport through Mr. Dooley's chats with Hennessey, painting a portrait of ethnic urban life in the neighborhood where my ancestors, including my grandfather, Mike lived and worked.
Dunne wrote more than 500 columns between 1893 and 1915. Selected columns were published in eight anthologies. I found copies in the Indianapolis Public Library and read two of them. They were insightful and reminded me that my grandfather, who was born just a decade after Finley Peter Dunne, likely read these same stories when they were first published.

Contributed by Tim Donohue

So many to choose from.


Certainly your books Heroic Landscapes:Irish Myth and Legend and O'Donoghue-People and Places would be a good foundation.


In a more general sense I really enjoyed these books.


"The Imortal Irishman" by Timothy Egan. A look at Irish American Thomas Francis Meagher banished to Tasmania in 1849 for life. He was part of the 1849 "Young Irelander" uprising along with Patrick O'Donoghue, William Smith O'Brien and other prominent nationalist. Their eventual escape to America cover much of the history of the early famine and independence movement.


"In The Time Of Famine" by Michael Grant, a fictional look at the life of a young man born into the terrible times of famine and his struggle for dignity and life. Not specific to O'Donoghue but the historical facts are worth the read if you are interested in learning more personal insights about Ireland during the time of famine and the migration. 

Submitted by Carol Hurley

The indescribably harsh decade of the Irish Famine turned out to be in time a positive happening for my Irish Immigrant ancestors and their descendants.    My paternal greatgrandfather was Thomas Hurley.  According to son’s written history, Thomas was born in 1815 to Jeremiah Hurley and Honora Fitzgerald, in County Kerry, somewhere south of the Shannon River, not far from Tralee.   He emigrated in 1846.  He possibly sailed from Queensland, Cobh Ireland to Liverpool, England for Atlantic sailing To New York City.  There he was hired as a railroad laborer in Vermont.   In I847, he married Catherine Lawlor in Brattleboro, Vermont.   Catherine too was a Kerry Immigrant from near Listowel.   In 1840, 15-year old Catherine sailed with older brother Richard to Quebec, Canada.   For seven years, they were indentured servants at a Catholic Indian Reservation. 

Thomas and Catherine’s first child, my grandmother Honora, was born in 1848.  They were to have 12 more children.   Seven made it to adulthood. 
Thomas and Catherine found their way to Virginia where they farmed for 18 years.   In spite of a huge family to support, the couple managed to save enough money to buy a mountain in the brand new state of West Virginia.   And had the wherewithal to split it into legal lots.   It covered a portion of three counties, Fayette, Greenbrier and Summers.   They deeded only to Irish Catholics.    Farming was not easy in the steep, rocky Appalachian Mountains.   This enterprise could be called a “rural ghetto,” like the Catholics in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan.  

Thomas and Catherine organized their fellow Irish Catholic immigrants into a united group where labor and resources were shared for the greater good of all.   Not really so unlike the ideology then being formulated by Marx and Lenin across the Atlantic.   
My mother and father, children and grandchildren of Famine immigrants, grew up next farm to each other on “Irish Mountain,” as it came to be known.   Mother Irene’s parents were Mary Sullivan and Patrick Donahoe, son of Florence Donnoghue and Mary Moynihan, famine immigrants from Killarney.   Father William Hurley’s parents were Honora Hurley and John Hurley, a Cork Famine immigrant. 
I grew up in Ohio listening to stories about life on the remote mountain.   Day to day survival had to be really tough, but their core strength and deep Catholic faith provided an unbreakable bond.   Eventually Thomas and his Mountain neighbors accumulated enough money to purchase a tract of land in Fayette County.    For the next 25 years they cleared the land, buried their dead, and built a charming New England Style chapel-meeting hall called the Sacred Heart Church, where weddings are still being held today by descendants of the original Irish Mountain settlers.    The first mass was held I 1898, some 25 years after Thomas became the first resident on his Mountain.  My two sisters, and many, many relatives are buried there.   My brother Basil Hurley and our first cousin Bernard Twohig wrote a history of the area called “Foresight, Fortitude, Fulfillment.”   And what an apt description this is of these remarkable Irish immigrants.
Although there is an anti-immigrant sentiment in our land today, I’m so proud of My Immigrants.  I can’t but think that their commitment to their families, their faith, and to their new country was anything but a great gift to America, and to their descendants.  I have hundreds of cousins who share my story, themselves Irish Mountain descendants.  We can all be proud and joyous about our bountiful heritage. 
Submitted by Bob Donahue

I don't know if this is of interest to this month's blog question, but the topic is intriguing to me because my own genealogical research has presented me with a puzzle.
Overall, I'm 1/2 Irish/English (dad's side) and 1/4 Irish + 1/4 Québecois (mom's side).  I became hooked on genealogy when I started researching my ancestry, expecting to find little, but assuming that I'd learn quite a bit about my Irish roots (since any talk of ancestry growing up was about my dad's family).   Instead, I discovered an enormous amount of information about Québec ancestry (greatly preserved church records, easily obtainable online). Over the last 6 years, my family tree has grown to over 70,000 people, but 95% on the Québec side.  (I'm still hoping to make a breakthrough on Dad's side, but revelations are sporadic.)
So - how does this have anything to do with the Irish potato famine? I've been able to confirm ancestors on Dad's side for 5-6 generations, and  I've got all of my mom's ancestors recorded back 10 generations or so.  

Except one.

My great-great grandmother, Célina Boulé (or Laliberté), was born around 1840, supposedly in Québec.   We have her marriage record, which only lists her as "Célina" (no last name, no mention of parents), which typically means she was illegitimate or an orphan.  She seems to have been close to the Boulé family (enough to adopt the surname) but there's no record of a baptism (which isn't that uncommon) and her presumably adoptive parents don't appear to have had any other children.  So for the longest time I've been working under the hypothesis that she was a Québec orphan and was adopted.

Until the DNA testing results.

While I'm mostly Irish/English, the ratio of French-based DNA is too low.  But I have birth or origin information for ALL of my great-great grandparents on both sides of the family, and it ought to be 75/25 but according to the results it's more like 85/15.  So there's a discrepancy.

Although I learned about Irish immigration to the US, it hadn't occurred to me to consider that the Irish might've gone elsewhere (duh) - until I read an article about Irish emigration to Québec.   In the 1840s-1850's over 100,000 people fled Ireland coming to Québec, many fleeing the famine.   

This made me reconsider:  what if Célina isn't French at all?  Is it possible that she was a *Irish* orphan who came to Québec fleeing the famine, and was then adopted by a childless Québecois couple?   Is that's the case, then my DNA results start to make sense:  more like 82/18 which still isn't quite right but it's a LOT closer.

I'm trying now to find DNA relatives who are 4th cousins but whose family trees show no overlap with mine in the hopes that this might identify who Célina really was.   Hopefully, I will be able to uncover some of her history, possibly confirming my new suspicions. 

And I'm continuing to work on the Irish side too.  Promise!  :-)

Submitted by Marcia Anne Donahue

My family, formerly landed gentry and once the noble occupiers of a formidable castle, which they themselves had built, had their ranks decimated by the famine to the point that ONE SOLE SURVIVOR was left; either he or his son, was eventually obligated to flee his homeland, probably for political reasons, making his way to the USA, the son making his way to Chicago, where he married and had a family. We are basically survivors, but we were uprooted. My grandfather, who was the grandson of the sole survivor, went on to marry and sire my father (He had a total of four children, the first-born of whom died, a son.) and the actress Elinor Donahue. He also had another daughter, Gwendolyn.

January's subject was 'Emigrant ancestors who returned to Ireland'.  Could be for a visit or permanently.  Tell us the story.

Here is Cleve's Watson's story

From Ireland to the USA and back

I did not know what research journey I would undertake when I asked my wife a simple question. What do you know about your mother's father?The answer was that he was Irish and died before she was born.

With the help of this site and others in Ireland we have at last put together a picture of his family life.

His father Patrick Donoghue and mother Mary Mcdarby married in Carlow October 1888 and within days were on the ship Berlin which arrived in New York on 26th October.
Patrick set up in New Jersey as a Bar Tender and had 6 children.  The first did not survive but the second was James the grandfather born December 1890.
For an unknown reason they all to returned to Carlow on ship Germanic in February 1898.  Unfortunately Patrick died soon after and Mary remarried. As was so typical in those days
Mary also died young soon after and the smaller children ended up in a Dublin children’s home.  James and his brother John did not go to the home but Mary’s sister took them in to the McDarby
family home.

During the First World War James requested from the USA a copy of his birth record. This probably saved his life. So he was not called up. His brother John did not bother and was killed
in France in 1916. The other brother Christopher managed to survive but did not marry.  The two sisters became nuns. So the family only continued with James.  Later James ended up in England and married Florence, her family also came from Ireland but a few generations before. James and Florence had two children: James F and Florence P.  This time James F could not avoid the call up for World War Two and survived the hostilities but was killed after the European war ended during the peace in June 1945, while guarding Nazi suspects. His father James did not take this news very well and passed away only 5 years later. His daughter Florence P married and had my wife Frances but Florence P contracted a form of cancer and died when my wife Frances was only two years old.  Her grandmother Florence raised Frances with the help of Frances' father.

A few years ago my wife Frances and I visited James F's grave in Germany and noticed there was no personal family inscription on the headstone.  We contacted the War Graves Commission and although unusual have given us permission for a new headstone with our family inscription to be added.

A happy ending for James and his family after all the years of turbulence.

We sometimes wonder what would have happened if James had not returned to Ireland.

Cleve Watson

January 2019.


Michael O'Donohue's story

If you will allow me, I would like to reply in a indirect way to this snippet. My story is all about a family returning 'home' (as the Irish say) two generations later.

My father was a Wexfordman, born in Dunmain. He left Ireland twice. First, on a short trial run in England, then second for good. Like many Irishmen in the late 1940s, he started off as a labourer, helping to rebuild London after the Blitz. Afterwards, he moved around building sites until he finished by settling in the Midlands in the early 1950s with his newly wed, English mother.

My childhood was gently influenced by Irishness, but the family wasn't an active part of the emigrant Irish community. Nevertheless, trips back 'home' to Wexford were moments of excitement, mixed with an impression of slighly exotic, otherwordly place. Strange road signs, car number plates, Aunties and Uncles that I couldn't understand, life on the farm and so forth. Back in England, we were brought up to support Ireland's football and rugby teams and went to a Roman Catholic school with a whole bunch of kids 'like us' (i.e. children of Irish parents).

I finished up leaving England at the age of 25, with lots of expectations and no regrets. As a second generation emigrant, I settled in France and had children of my own, with my French wife. Now and again we have travelled to Ireland over the years and discovered all those places (Counties Cork, Clare, Donegal, Dublin etc) that I never visited when I was a child. As a child, Ireland was strictly limited to Wexford and never ending family visits.

As my eldest son grew up, I realized with a shock that his ambition as an adult was to return 'home'. Studies in Trinity College Dublin and a contract with a company was all that was required for him to go back to his roots. He has now lived in Ireland for nearly 4 years, speaks English with a nice Irish accent and gives the impression that the wanderings of his father and grandfather are simply a parenthesis in a long family history of Irishness


John Donahue's story

Two of my friends, born in Ireland, returned there for good and died there.  I was told my grandfather may have returned for a brief visit but can't prove that.  Other friends born there have visited and come back to America.  One told me that those people talk funny.  I said "they talk like you Pat".  He answered "I always thought I talked like you fellows"." One friend born in America but raised in Ireland had a thick Irish accent.  His younger brother born in Ireland but raised in America had no accent at all.


Marcia Anne Donahue's story

I can tell you how it 'affected' my father, although it isn't the type of response you would expect - You see, when WWII broke out, my father was serving in the Canadian Army and was susequently sent overseas in 1940, where his first post was in Liverpool, just a mere hop on the ferry boat to Dublin; however, the British Authorities, perceiving my father as too much of a security risk (He was politically active.), issued an edict that officially BANNED HIM FROM EVEN SETTING FOOT ON IRISH SOIL, so, although he was a mere stone's throw away, he never had the chance to make the journey. My uncle (my MOTHER'S brother), on the other hand, made multiple trips to Ireland during his tour of duty in the U.S. Army and even met and fell in love with an Irish girl, but his mother interfered and broke them up, as she had already selected someone for him to marry; he didn't marry the 'selected' one, either, although he did eventually marry but never really forgot the Irish girl.