The Irish in America

WHERE GENEALOGY COMES FULL CIRCLE


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Oops…was it a mystery or memory block?

Father John J. Molloy

The “mystery” from last time was actually solved a few years back.  My mom reminded me that we confirmed the identity of the priest when we compared the photo-pin to a photograph of Father John J. Molloy that we found in the book Meet Shieldsville, by Mary L. Hagerty.  I spaced this discovery out, and I must admit that this was not entirely an accident.  At times I become overwhelmed with my own family history research, and when a discovery opens up a new can of worms and I don’t have the time or energy to deal with it, I will slip the cover back on and vow to deal with it at a later date.  This is precisely what happened with good old Father Molloy.

Priest Pin

Above is a reproduction of the photo of Father Molloy.  It is not of the highest quality, but I think you can appreciate the resemblance to the photo-pin on the right.  My great-grandmother worked as Father Molloy’s housekeeper (1905-1910) before she was married.  While I was pleased to learn the identity of the priest, it meant that there was even more to learn about Father Molloy.  The first thing I wanted to know was how Annie came to know Father Molloy.

John J. Molloy was born in County Mayo, Ireland and educated at St. Patrick’s College Maynooth, County Kildare.  He was ordained in 1891 and arrived in Minnesota later that year.  Father Molloy served as an assistant pastor for a number of parishes throughout Minnesota before settling at St. Patrick’s in Shieldsville.  He served the community for fifty-two years.

All of that was well and good, but I couldn’t find anything in the biographical information on Father Molloy that could point to a connection to my great-grandmother.  That was until I read in his obituary that he was survived by one sister named Delia in Manchester, England.  Immediately I  thought of the dozen or so photographs taken in the studios of Manchester, England that Annie had saved.  Of course, none of the photographs were identified, but I assumed they were of family members.  Annie had one sister who moved to Manchester and raised a family (Bridget) and another sister who lived there for a few years before returning home to Kildare (Catherine, who I have mentioned before.)  Manchester could be the connection, but it made my head hurt and I told myself I would tackle this another day.

I believe the day has come.  It is time to dust off my Manchester file and see if I can’t figure this one out.  A wonderful book, The Reynolds Letters, provides considerable insight into the lives of Irish emigrants living and working in Manchester during the 19th and early-20th centuries.  I will use the resources available on ancestry.com and elsewhere on the internet to see if I can learn anything more about a possible Molloy-Hill connection in Manchester. 

Here are some of my of mystery Manchester photographs…

 

Probably one of the Hill girls...

Unknown Couple from Manchester

Perhaps Annie's sister and family?

The Hill sisters that I believe spent time in Manchester are:

Margaret (Maggie)

b. 1866

Catherine (Katie)

b. 1872

m. John Howe

Bridget (Delia)

b. 1876

If anyone has experience researching Irish emigrants in England, specifically Manchester, please let me know.  I will keep you posted…


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Mystery Priest

Photograph pin, ca. 1890-1900

This “photo-pin” belonged to my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan.  Annie passed away in 1937, and this pin was among a small collection of cards, photographs, and memorial cards that made their way to my mom.  Click here to see a 1930s Christmas card from Annie’s sister Katie in Ireland.

I remember seeing this pin as a child and being puzzled as to why my great-grandmother had such a thing.  Who wore a pin with someone’s picture on it, especially a picture of a priest?  I didn’t get it, but I was relieved that the fad of priest-photo-pins didn’t carry over to the 1980s – the thought of wearing a picture of my parish priest Father O’Sullivan stuck to my cardigan gave me goosebumps!

Several years ago I became curious about the identity of the priest in the photo-pin, and I started to ask questions…

  • Could this be Annie’s brother, or maybe an uncle or a nephew?
  • When Annie came to the US, she worked as a housekeeper for Father Molloy.  Maybe this is him?
  • Were pins like this common or did she have this specially made?

I have never been able to answer these questions.  I know Annie had one brother, John, but I know nothing about his life, and I have seen photos of Father Molloy, but only as an older man and there isn’t a strong resemblance.

Maybe you can help me with the third question.  Has anyone come across an item like this, maybe in an old box of your great-grandmother’s treasures or at an antique shop?  The pin measures about two inches in diameter with a coppery, scalloped edge.  Leave me a comment if you have any ideas…

Check out this website for more on photo jewelry.

 

 

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