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Descendants Give ‘Roots’ Back to Roscommon Irish

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 7:41 pm    Post subject: Descendants Give ‘Roots’ Back to Roscommon Irish Reply with quote

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The original version of this post was a recent
Ballykilcline Society press release. This is a somewhat abbreviated and
edited account. In the past, Dan Reilly and I both have posted here
for our Rileys/Reillys -- Mary Lee Dunn

Descendants Give ‘Roots’ Back to Roscommon Irish

Documents from a Massachusetts native that detail Irish families
through many generations beginning in the mid-1700s will soon be
displayed in public facilities in Roscommon, Ireland, by agreement with
the Ballykilcline Society. Two branches of the county library and the
Kilglass Parish community center have agreed to show copies of three
hand-drawn family trees donated to the Society so that local people may
find their own roots as recorded by descendants of Kilglass emigrants
who went to Rutland, Vermont, in famine time.
Some of the charted families had lived in Ballykilcline where Crown
agents ended a long rent strike in 1847 and ’48 by evictions and forced
emigration at the same time that local landlord Major Denis Mahon of
Strokestown evicted thousands of tenants and forced hundreds of them to
Quebec. Only half of Mahon’s evictees survived the trip. Ireland’s
Famine Museum is now located on Mahon’s former property.
The trees list dozens of Kilglass-rooted families, several hundred
people in all. Kilglass people who find their own families on the trees
will be encouraged to contact the Society (www.ballykilcline.com,
maryldunn@aol.com), both to help confirm information on the trees and
to facilitate trans-Atlantic connections.
Acquisition of the trees is the kind of breakthrough that all
researchers hope for, according to Lynne Sisk, who is a member of the
Society’s board of directors. Because of the dearth and nature of early
Irish records, especially before 1800, Sisk said, it is difficult to
confirm the names of wives and children of any local householder other
than through personal knowledge, which makes the trees especially
important and unusual. The Society had noted in talks with Kilglass
individuals that often even they could not trace family earlier than
the mid-1800s. Thus, the trees may bear information that is new to them.
“The people of Kilglass have been so helpful and welcoming to our
members,” Sisk said, “that it is only reciprocity in action to share
with them these clues found in Massachusetts which may give them back
some of their own history.”
The trees were donated to the Society in November 2008 by Peter
of California in memory of his mother Claire Green D’Amico, to whom
they originally had been given in the 1970s though decades later she
could not recall the identity of her source. Mrs. D’Amico died in North
Adams, Massachusetts, in 2007. She was a descendant of Stewarts from
Ballykilcline who had first settled in Dorset, near Rutland. In making
the donation, D’Amico said he realized how valuable the trees’
information would be to some researchers after looking at the Society’s
web site and reading my book, Ballykilcline Rising / From Famine
Ireland to Immigrant America.
While the trees were drawn by an unknown source, the Society has
tested their accuracy in a “sampling” process during the last 17
months. Members have concluded that the information they offer is
generally accurate if not complete – some spouses’ first names and some
children in a family, for instance, are missing and children likely are
not named in birth order. A number of individuals’ names are footnoted
with further information though, for instance, occupation or location.
Each tree begins with one couple: James and Ellen McGuire Reilly,
Stewart and Margaret Donlan, and Pat Thompson and Margaret Scally. The
trees intersect through marriages. Each couple appears to have had
children born in the 1780s. Ellen Thompson, for instance, was a
daughter of Pat Thompson and Margaret Scally. She married James
Stewart, a son of John and Margaret Donlan Stewart, in 1814, the tree
says, and they appear on the list of people forced from Ballykilcline
where their ages were given as 60 and 63 respectively in 1847. Thus,
Ellen was born in 1787 and James in 1784. While that list shows two
children who left Ireland with their parents, the tree says that James
and Ellen had six offspring. Footnotes in successive generations in the
U.S. show descendants’ moves to diverse locales such as Malden,
Massachusetts; Providence, Rhode Island; Schenectady, Troy, and
Buffalo, New York.; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Savannah, Georgia;
Chicago, Illinois; Galveston, Texas; and Boise, Idaho.
While James and Ellen Thompson Stewart were evicted from
they had a daughter – Mary Stewart Reynolds -- and grandchildren who
died at Grosse Ile in Quebec in 1847 where they arrived via passages
forced on them by Denis Mahon, who was “clearing” his property by
eviction. The Stewarts and Reynolds may be the first documented family
to suffer in both emigration schemes from Strokestown in 1847. The
Stewarts went to Rutland and the children there married Reillys from
On first look at the trees, I immediately was drawn to the name
Reilly; a footnote said he had lived in Providence. In fact, I had
sought him unsuccessfully in Rhode Island records eight years earlier.
I have since determined that he was the father of a Thomas Reilly who
lived in Hampton, Connecticut, who was close to and a neighbor of my
own Kilglass family there, also named Riley
In the last eight weeks, I also used the Reilly-McGuire tree to
Virginia researcher Daniel Reilly whose earliest known ancestor was his
great grandfather to go two generations earlier and to recognize that
his family’s home place was Kilglass Parish, which he did not know. His
great grandparents – James and Ann McCormick Reilly -- appear on the
Reilly-McGuire tree. A native of Alabama, Reilly had been searching for
years for information about his family who arrived in Rutland in the
early 1860s. Indeed, Daniel Reilly and Dunn had shared information
through the internet seven years earlier but could not then make a link.
. In fact, James Reilly in Rutland and Luke Reilly in Providence were
first cousins, according to the tree from D’Amico.
The Ballykilcline Society recently provided copies of the donated
family trees to the New England Historic Genealogical Society in
Boston, the Rutland Historical Society in Vermont, and the Roscommon
Heritage Center in Strokestown to aid researchers.

Mary Lee Dunn
Lynne Sisk
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