We have several photographs in our collection that were taken in Manchester, England. These fall into the “Your Grandpa’s People” and remain, to this day, mostly unidentified.
Over the weekend I was working on my Ancestry.com family tree and took another look at our Manchester photos. Frustrated by all the “unknowns” in the captions, I decided to put my best guess IDs on the photos. We will see if they stick.
I will start with one I am fairly certain about. This is my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan’s only brother, John Hill. John was born on April 7, 1870, near Kill, County Kildare, Ireland. He was baptized two days later on April 9th. John was five years older than Annie.
John and his wife, Clara lived in Broughton, Manchester, England.
John’s youngest sister, Bridget “Delia” Hill Reynolds, and her husband John and family also lived in Broughton. I connected with a DNA match cousin whose grandma was Delia. He shared with me that her brother John lived with the Reynolds family.
There is one problem. Mary Hill O’Brien’s daughter Mamie had an album with a photo of the trio (minus John Hill) labeled, “Aunt Maggie and family.” I am pretty sure it is Delia. For a number of reasons, it just makes sense to me. I know nothing about Maggie. Once the Hill girls hit age fifty, they look very similar. I have positive IDs on Mary, Katie, and Annie, so I’ll just keep digging…
Today is my grandpa John William Regan’s 100th birthday. He was born on a farm in Tara Township, near Clontarf, Minnesota on July 23, 1913. John was the only child of Neil and Annie Hill Regan. Neil was a first-generation Irish American and Annie came from Kill, County Kildare. He was baptized at St. Malachy Catholic Church on August 10th.
Grandpa had red curls. Annie kept his hair in long ringlets until Grandpa had ear surgery at age four and had his hair cut.
Neil, Annie, and John – 1915
John must have had fun helping his dad on the farm.
John also kept Annie company on the farm. Annie doted on her son – you can tell by his dapper outfit!
In 1921 the family of three moved off the farm and into the town of Clontarf. The eight-year-old John finally started school and Annie had John take violin lessons from a local musician.
At school, my grandpa became known as “Red” Regan because of his hair. Soon playing ball and running around with the other boys took precedence over violin practice. Grandpa had a life-long love for cars and began driving at a young age.
Grandpa graduated from Benson High School in 1933. He was a star on the football team. I guess that stands to reason since he was nearly twenty-years-old during his senior year!
After graduation, Grandpa worked behind the bar at Bruno Perrizo’s in Clontarf. Here he is in his apron with childhood pal Leo Molony.
My grandpa moved to Minneapolis in the late 1930s. He hit it off with Agnes McMahon over a game of cribbage at his friend (and Agnes’ cousin) John Foley’s place. John and Agnes were married in 1941.
It’s strange to think of my grandpa’s 100th birthday because he didn’t even live to see his 58th. He passed away the year before I was born, but I am lucky to have learned about my grandpa through the memories and stories my grandma, mother, my grandpa’s cousins, and old friends shared with me over the years. I missed out on something really special – he would have been a fantastic grandpa!
There are other Johnstowns in Ireland, but I am talking about Johnstown in County Kildare. I would love this village even if I had no connection to it. The picturesque ruins of the medieval St. John’s Church (above) are one reason the village is so appealing.
Another reason is the village’s sense of history. Several years ago I met Brian McCabe – Johnstown’s local historian – when I was researching my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan. Annie was born near Johnstown, and her sister lived in the village. When we visited in 2009, Brian was a wonderful guide, telling us what Johnstown would have been like in the late nineteenth century when Annie knew it, before she left for America.
Brian shared the rich history of Johnstown. Since the village is just 25 miles from Dublin, it is popular with people who commute to work in the city, with several large housing estates and new construction. But Brian is very knowledgeable about Johnstown’s past and place in history. He told us all about Palmerstown Houseand the Earls of Mayo. And of course, he covered the 6th Earl of Mayo who died in India in 1872 and is buried in the churchyard. He is known as the “Pickled Earl” since his body was preserved in a vat of rum on the long journey back to Ireland following his assassination.
Monument to the 6th Earl of Mayo (photo by Regan McCormack)
Johnstown is a lovely, peaceful village in the midst of motorways and urban sprawl. The community values its history, and it shows with the beautifully maintained public areas and the handy signs marking buildings of interest. I am always impressed when people are truly dedicated to preserving their history, and when it happens to be a bit of my personal history, all the better!
The BOOK OF NAMES is a project which aims to recognise the women in our past who have made the journey from Ireland to other lands.
Artist-researcher Rachael Flynn is currently working on an arts project through which people will be able to submit the names of their female Irish ancestors in order to build up a record that seeks to pay honour to their struggles and successes.
By adding the names of their Irish mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, aunts, cousins… the people who add names to this collection will have the chance to effectively ‘light a candle’ in memory of these relatives.
Rachael asks for some basic information in order to add a female Irish relative to the Book of Names: name, date and port of departure, destination, and your contact information. Very simple.
I had the data about my great-grandmother’s emigration, but I wanted to revisit the passenger list I had copied from Ancestry.com ages ago. I remembered how exciting it was to locate this information because I knew for certain it was my Annie. I struggle with genealogy at times, becoming distracted and discouraged quite easily. It always seems to me that it shouldn’t be so difficult to find the information you are looking for…
I had spent hours looking for other relatives, so I prepared myself for a long search. There was the question of her first name – would she be listed as Annie, Anne, Anna, or Ann? It had appeared in each form in some official document or anther. Then her surname – Hill can be English, Irish, Swedish, German, etc. And she emigrated to the United States around 1900, along with hundreds of thousands of other people!
I lucked out and found Annie on a passenger list not long after I began the search. I had not expected the departure port to be Glasgow, and I was a bit surprised that the list said Annie came from Kilkenny (Kildare was her home county) but I was certain I had located the right Annie when I read that her passage was paid by her brother-in-law Mr. O’Brien of Clontarf, Minnesota and her final destination was also Clontarf. Clontarf was a tiny town, this had to be my great-grandmother.
This morning I came across the following posting on a RootsWeb message board from 2008:
From the London Times of April 21, 1899 comes this ad:
ANCHOR LINE.–GLASGOW to NEW YORK.
Furnesia, 5,495 tons, April 27; Ethiopia, 4,001 tons, May 11.
Excellent accommodation. Cabin fares from £9 9s.; second cabin,
from £6.–A.H. Groves, 14, Rue du Helder, Paris; T. Cook and
Son, Paris and London; Henderson Brothers, 18, Leadenhall st. E.C.
The following comes from the NY Times shipping news:
May 13: “SS Ethiopia. (Br.,) Capt. Wadsworth.
(from Glasgow.) sld. from Moville for New York to-day.”
For days the NY Times lists her as expected on
Sunday, May 21. On May 22, however, she is listed
as expected that day. On May 23, “SS Ethiopia,
(Br.,) Wadsworth, Glasgow May 11 and Moville 12,
with mdse. and passengers to Henderson Bros.
Southest of Fire Island at 5:35 P.M.
– submitted by Marj Kohli
Thank you Marj Kohli of Canada! I wonder where Annie boarded the S.S. Ethiopia? In Glasgow (she had sisters living in Manchester, England) or did she make the journey up to Moville on Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula? I don’t believe it says on the passenger list, but I will check it again.
I also wonder what held the Ethiopia up? It was supposed to arrive in New York on May 21st, but didn’t make it until May 23rd. Adventure on the high seas? Too bad Annie didn’t keep a travel diary (or if she did, too bad it didn’t survive!)
I am honored to have her name included in Rachael’s Book of Names along with all of the other incredible Irish women who made the journey to a new life. I encourage all of you with an Irish mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, cousin, or auntie to submit their name and their story to Rachael’s project. Visit her website here and follow her on Twitter for all the latest information. It is really a very easy process – take a few minutes and honor your Irish relatives!
Who will you submit? I have some more Irish ladies to get to – a couple more great-grandmothers, some great-great-grandmothers, and a few great-grand-aunts. I better get busy!
Annie and her chickens on her farm in Tara Township, near Clontarf, Minnesota
Over the past several months, I have used the items left behind by my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan to help tell the story of an Irish woman who came to the United States at the turn of the last century.
I find these remnants from Annie’s life fascinating, and they have provided tiny, yet invaluable peeks into her life. They have also complicated my vision of Annie, creating new questions and contributing to ongoing mysteries. This is especially the case with the photographs.
Nearly all of Annie’s photographs are unidentified. There is ONE photo with the label, John’s Aunt Mary.
John's Aunt Mary
Initially I was so excited to find an identification that I forgot I had no idea who this Aunt Mary was! I assumed the “John” was my grandpa, and he had an Aunt Mary Regan, but she died when she was thirty-years-old. This Aunt Mary appeared older than thirty. And the photo was one of Annie’s, so this Aunt Mary must have come from her side. I knew so little about Annie’s family, so I set the photo aside and I would think about it later.
Later turned out to be seven years ago my mother and I began looking into our family history. When we learned that Annie had a sister named Mary Hill O’Brien who lived in Montana, I remembered the photo. Some lucky timing brought me in contact with Mary’s grandson who still lived in Montana. Jack O’Brien has this same photograph of his grandmother, Mary.
Here is one last postcard that was among Annie’s things. This is from Mary to Annie:
Lucille O'Brien amongst the sheep
from Mary to Annie
Annie, ca. 1900
Click here to read my story in the current issue of Irish America magazine about how meeting two of my great-grandmother’s nephews has brought me closer to developing an understanding of the woman Annie was.
Whit Week Procession (postcard sent to Annie Hill Regan)
Whit Week is here and that can mean only one thing…hmmmm…I wonder what that could be? If this was the early twentieth-century in Manchester, England, odds are it would mean donning a new white dress and marching in a Whit week procession like the ladies pictured above.
Since the demise of the Whit Monday bank holiday in the UK in 1967 and Ireland in 1973, I am not sure how much attention is paid to the week following Pentecost (read more about Whitsun by clicking here.)
This photo of a Whit Week parade appears on a postcard from the early twentieth century, and survives in a small collection of photos and cards that belonged to my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan (born in Kildare, emigrated to Minnesota 1899.) With no postmark, no address, and rather ambiguous greeting and signature (both are Push), this little card is a bit puzzling. My best guess is that the card came to Annie from her younger sister Bridget Hill Reynolds of Manchester, England. From what I have read, processions like this were more popular in England, and the postcard mentions “our Maggie” – Bridget had a daughter named Maggie, who eventually emigrated to America joining her Aunt Annie in Minnesota.
The card mentions looking forward to a visit “next year.” I wonder if Annie ever did travel from Minnesota to Manchester, England to visit her sister’s family? Did she return home to Ireland on this visit? I have searched for possible documentation of such a journey, but so far have come up empty. I will have to keep at it and see what I can find.
Reverse of postcard
Maybe you can help me figure this photo out…
Have you seen Push as a nickname or slang in correspondence from the early 20th century?
Do the dresses provide a more concrete date to this photo?
Is Whitsun or Whit Week still observed in Ireland and England?
William Hill memorial card, 1898 (click to enlarge)
In 2009 I visited Rathmore Churchyard. I was unable to locate William’s grave, but I suspect it rests hidden in the overgrown grass, somewhere amidst the gravestones of Hill relatives of whom I am not familiar.
Rathmore Churchyard, County Kildare (2009 Regan McCormack)
The other card is for James Hill. I assume James was a nephew, and one can imagine this loss was felt deeply by the entire family.
James Hill memorial card, 1895 (click to enlarge)
Memorial cards can provide great information to the genealogist or family historian. In the case of Annie’s father, I knew his name from her birth certificate, but I learned his birth year, date of death, and place of burial only from this memorial card tucked into a stack of old photographs. But memorial cards can also raise more questions than they answer, and prove to be as frustrating as an album full of unidentified photographs or a postcard with faded text.
Because they are so portable, I am sure a great many memorial cards crossed the Atlantic, mailed to emigrant daughters and sons in America, accompanying letters detailing all the latest news from home.
Share your stories about how items like memorial cards have assisted you in the search for your family history. Perhaps a memorial card is all that is left to tell of an emigrant relative’s life in America? I would love to hear your stories, so please, leave a comment!
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.
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:
m. John Howe
If anyone has experience researching Irish emigrants in England, specifically Manchester, please let me know. I will keep you posted…
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…
I am always interested to see what internet searches bring people to The Irish in America. Here are some of the recent search topics:
Irish beginnings in America
Irish people searching for American relatives
What was the life of an Irish immigrant like in America?
Irish emigrant letters
Irish immigrants able to read and write?
Emigrant letters can be an important tool for Irish seeking information on relatives who came to America. Many Irish people who have contacted me for assistance on locating relatives have some memory of letters from these emigrants. Either the actual letter, or stories of the letters received over the years. Some people still have the letters and can refer to them for details of the relative’s life in America.
In Irish family history research census data, passenger manifests, and birth and death certificates provide the pertinent information you need to complete a family tree. If you go a little further, obituaries and newspaper clippings will expand your understanding of the individuals you are researching. Photographs can put faces to the data, but letters can provide intimate glimpses into the lives of your ancestors. The emigrant letter is fast becoming a treasured source for information on the experiences of Irish emigrants (see this article on a recent donation to the Cork City and County Archive.)
Of course, for those of us researching in America, we won’t find the emigrant letter, but rather, if we are lucky we might find a response to that letter. I often day-dream of discovering a dusty box of letters in a long-forgotten attic, letters written to one of my ancestors that would provide some insight into the life they left behind in Ireland. Alas, I have yet to find such a stash, but I do have a little something.
My great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan would have been my best bet for saving such correspondence. We have many of her things – china, furniture, and photographs – but no letters, only a tidy envelope containing two Christmas cards and several postcards.
Christmas card, Katie Hill Howe to Annie Hill Regan (front)
Christmas card, Katie Hill Howe to Annie Hill Regan (inside)
The card pictured above was sent to Annie in 1930 by her sister Katie from Ireland. I can only imagine the cards and letters the two sisters exchanged during the thirty years that passed since Annie left County Kildare to begin a new life in Clontarf, Minnesota. Because people did not often save their correspondence, that makes this small packet of my great-grandmother’s so important to me. Obviously the contents were important enough to her that she set them aside and saved them. This tells me much about my great-grandmother, as well as provides a peak at the family she left behind in Ireland.
Katie Hill Howe and family, Johnstown, County Kildare (photo from MJ Harshmann)