A Convergence of Keenans

     Although we don’t know precisely where in Ireland our ancestor Matthew Keenan came from, we do have a pretty good idea based on peripheral information. The gravestone described in St. James Cathedral cemetery – “Mary Keenan, mother of Matthew of Longford Ireland” certainly correlates with the 1850 Ship Manifest that brought Sarah and Michael Keenan from Longford, Ireland. Whether Matthew’s mother was Sarah or Mary we can now be quite sure that he came from County Longford, which is located in the central flatlands of Ireland .

     Unfortunately we have no direct knowledge of which town in Longford that Matthew, Elizabeth, John and Margaret, and finally Michael and their mother Sarah came from. Owen, Patrick and Catherine, who arrived later than the initial group, certainly appear to have been close  relatives as well, if not actual siblings. We know that their lives were intimately entwined through  both the baptismal records of their children  and the close proximity of their dwellings in Brooklyn. However neither Patrick nor Owen named a daughter Sarah, as we might expect if their mother was Sarah Keenan. Of course Patrick had only one daughter, named after his wife Ann. But Owen had three – Margaret (b. 1843), Mary (b. 1845) and Catherine (b. 1854).

     Still, Owen is our best hope for trying to pinpoint exactly where our Keenans might have come from in Ireland.  When Owen died in 1877, his Obituary was published in the Brooklyn Eagle.

     Carrickedmund Parish is located in the southernmost part of Longford close to its border with West Meath.

     The Catholic Parish was an ecclesiastical unit of territory that came into existence in Ireland in its present form in the 12th and 13th centuries and was continued by the Established Church of Ireland (Protestant) after the Reformation (circa 1534). It was then adopted as a civil administrative area, but over time the boundaries of some civil and ecclesiastical parishes began to diverge from each other. The civil parish was formally created by Elizabethan legislation in 1601 so that a regular accounting  could be made of income and expenditures in each parish, including monies spent on pensions and poor relief. By 1800 civil parishes had replaced the ecclesiastical parishes for administrative purposes such as census taking and taxation as well. The civil parishes were also incorporated  into  the nineteenth-century maps of the Ordinance Survey of Ireland. (1825-1846). An 1871 report to parliament noted that there were really three classes of parish in Ireland: the civil parish, the Church of Ireland parish and the Roman Catholic parish. The first two generally had the same boundaries, while the third generally did not. The Roman Catholic church had to adapt to a structure based on towns and villages, and that resulted in parishes that generally were larger than the civil parishes.

     To confuse things even more the civil parishes were divided into even smaller segments called townlands. A civil parish was typically made up of 25–30 townlands, some of which  include “urban” areas such as villages.

     Here is a map of the Catholic Parishes in CountyLongford – 


      Now here is a map of the Civil Parishes-

    From this map we note that Ardagh and Moydow civil parishes are now delineated (in blue) although they correspond exactly with the Catholic Parish.  The Catholic Parish of Carickedmond (in red) we find composed of three civil parishes –Taghsheenod, Tagshinney and Abbeyshrule. And the Legan Catholic Parish (in green) is composed of the civil parishes of Kilglass, Rathreagh, and Agharra.

     There were a number of other Keenan families in Brooklyn that lived in close proximity to our family members at around the same time. If they were friends or relatives it might be beneficial to try to determine where they were from as well. 

    We know that our family of Keenans were almost all living on Tillary St., on the block between Prince and Carll, roughly from 1840 through 1846. Matthew moved to the Ninth Ward in 1843 and Patrick followed around 1847. There was however another Patrick Keenan that showed up during that period.  He and Owen Keenan always lived on the same block together, and eventually ended up living in houses virtually next to each other.

Patrick Keenan   (1808 – 1874)

     This other Patrick Keenan, if not a cousin, must have been at least a close friend of Owen’s. Patrick was slightly older than Owen, born probably around 1808. He came to America around 1842, nearly a decade after Owen. He had married his wife Honora Casey in Ireland and they brought their three daughters, Ellen, Mary and Rosanna with them. The next three, Ann, Margaret, and Elizabeth were born in Brooklyn. Irish Parish records reveal however that they also had had a son, Michael, born in 1834, who must have died young.  Patrick worked variously as a laborer , a glassblower and a pedler. Almost all his daughters  ended up becoming hat trimmers – producing those elaborate Victorian ladies hats, bedecked with flowers, ribbons and exotic feathers. Patrick died a few years before Owen, on September 11, 1874. His Obituary read:

       As noted above, the Parish of Ardagh (and Moydow) abuts the Parish of Carrickedmond where our Keenans appear to have been from.

James Keenan (1808- 1866)

     There was yet another Keenan living near our Brooklyn Keenan clan. His name was James Keenan and he too was born in 1808. His wife was Rose Fagan (b.1810), and they also married in Ireland before emigrating  to the U.S. between 1843 and 1846. We know of this because the 1850 Census lists their first three children –  John (b.1839), Michael (b.1842) and Catherine (b.1843)  – as having been born in Ireland. The two that followed – Mary (b.1846) and Ann (b.1850) – were born in New York.

     James was a mason by trade. In the 1848-49 Brooklyn Directory there is a James Keenan, bricklayer, living on Prince St. near Tillary, which was right around the corner from John Farrell’s. In 1850 he moved over one street to Gold near Johnson.  Of course it was around 1848 that Matthew Keenan started  to build his home in the 9th Ward at 58 Underhill Ave. It turns out that James Keenan would soon follow him.

     We don’t know exactly when James made his move to the 9th Ward  but all indications (especially Land Conveyance records) suggest it was in 1851. He didn’t appear in the Directories until the 1855-56 issue, where he was listed as James Keenan, mason, Butler St. n. Underhill Ave. Butler Street was just four blocks south of where Matthew Keenan was, but of course Matthew had died in 1853. If Matthew knew James in the U.S. it was certainly during that decade from 1843 to 1853.

     Although James was living on the corner of Butler and Underhill Ave., in 1852 he started purchasing property on Baltic St. one block north. He bought two adjacent lots on Baltic, one in July of 1852, the other in January of 1856. Then in 1858 he sold one of them to his brother Michael.

   James died on Nov. 14, 1866. His Death Certificate lists the cause of death as Acites which is a retention of fluid in the abdomen, often a result of  cirrhosis of the liver. 

        The Parish of  Lagan (Legan) is of course where the McDermotts were from.

    Jame’s wife, Rose, continued living on Butler St. until she died in November of 1870. Apparently she knew the end was near because in September she made a will, which was then probated on Feb.2, 1872. All of her children were called to witness her will (except Anna who had not survived). John was living at the Butler St. residence, Mary was living nearby at 687 Bergen St., Kate (who had married William Geoghegan) resided in New  York City and Michael was living in Laramie, Wyoming, which probably explained the long delay in probating the will.

Michael Keenan  (1800- 1873)

     Michael Keenan, James’ older  brother, was born in 1800 and had preceded James to America, arriving probably in the mid 1830’s. We don’t know where he was initially located , but in 1838 he purchased a residence on Kent Ave. near Myrtle in the 7th Ward. He first showed up in the Directories in the 1839-40 issue as “James Keenan, pedler, Kent near Myrtle”. The mistaken first name was corrected to Michael the following year.

    It is probable that Michael relocated to Albany, the State capital,  in the early 1840’s. There was a Michael Keenan listed there, living at 283 Washington Ave. in 1844 and 1845. His Naturalization Petition was granted there on November 2, 1846. And it was in Albany  that he met his wife, Margaret (Bridget) Henry, who was  fifteen to twenty years younger than him. There was a lamplighter, Jacob Henry, living at 261 Washington Ave. in 1844, who I believe was her father. I think the couple got married in Albany, probably at St. Mary’s church, which was the second oldest Catholic parish in the country. We know from the 1855 Census that their son John was born in Albany in 1848.

    The Keenans soon returned to Brooklyn, however. Michael was once again listed in the Brooklyn Directory of 1848-49 living back on Kent St. Of course by then his brother James was in Brooklyn as well. Although Michael was listed as a pedler it seems he found a second calling as a real estate speculator and landlord. He bought two lots on Willoughby Ave in October of 1850 for $250. Three years later he sold just one of those lots for $250 and at the same time liquidated his Kent Ave. property for $2200 (he had bought it for $900), while taking back a $1000 mortgage from the buyer. In the following years Michael brought several more properties – on Baltic Ave., Prospect Hill, Vanderbuilt near Flushing. He also inspired his brother James to do the same – and occasionally swapped properties with him.

     At  the same time Michael never seemed to have given up his business. He moved out to the 9th Ward in 1855, first living on Butler St. then moving into his property on Baltic. He was listed as a grocer, and then as a junkman – doing what all the Keenan’s seemed to have done – hauling goods with a horse and cart.  

Michael and Bridget had five children – John, born in Albany, and then four girls, only two of whom survived. After Michael died in 1873, his wife applied to become the administratrix of the estate. In those Letters it is revealed that the the two girls, Elizabeth (Richards) and Josephine (Duncan) had married. John too later married, worked as a plasterer and had six children of his own.

The Mysterious Orohos

          In trying to determine just where in Longford Matthew Keenan and his family originated, we have looked at the other Keenan families living in close proximity to them in Brooklyn during  the several decades after they arrived. There was however another family, with proven connections to the Keenans, who were also living in Brooklyn at the time.

     We find the following in the St. James Cathedral baptismal records:

     1844, Dec 5 – Bapt. of Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Keenan  and Mary McDermott

                   Sponsers – John Oroho  and Mary Oroho

     1848 – June 24 – Bapt. of Mary Jane , daughter of John Farrell and Elizabeth Keenan

                   Sponsors – Thomas Oroho  and Ann Oroho

     Later, after Matthew and his family moved out to Underhill Ave., and James, their eldest, started his own family, we find the following in the Baptismal records from  St. Joseph’s.

     1853 – Nov 29 – Bapt. of James , son of James  Keenan  and Ann Connell 

                   Sponsor:  John Oroho and Mary Keenan 

     1857 – July 12 – Bapt. of John, son of James Keenan and Ann Conell 

                   Sponsors:  Michael Wynn and Mary Oroho

     1861 –  May 12 – Bapt. of Catherine , daughter of James Keenan  and Ann Conell

                  Sponsors :  Patrick Sheridan and Anne Oroho

     The role of baptismal sponsor, or godparent as we call it today, was usually  reserved for a relative or close family friend. It appears from these records that there was a family named Oroho that was very closely linked with the Keenans, in fact that linkage spanned two decades and two generations.  Church records always record the participants by their birth names –  even when a woman’s name changes through marriage she is still identified by her maiden name.  So we see that there were four Orohos linked to the Keenans – John, Thomas, Mary and Anne.

     The name Oroho (and its variants – Orocho, Orrohoe, etc.) is an extremely rare Irish name. In fact in the early 1800’s it was found exclusively in Longford County, and primarily in the Parish of Ardagh-Moydow. There may have been, and indeed probably were, some Orohos in the other surrounding parishes but the earliest existing records all come from  Ardagh-Moydow Parish. In the Tithe Applotment records from 1834 the only Oroghoe landholders were found in Moydow Parish – one in Toneen Townland and two in Castlerea. In Griffith’s Valuations of 1854 we find one Urriho (sp.) in Toneen and Castlerea and one in Catrongarrow Townland, halfway over to Ardagh. (Interestingly in almost every case these Orohos were neighbors with a Farrell family, which was the most predominent surname in Longford.)

       I guess it should not be surprising that after coming to America fellow Longfordmen would seek each other out, but I have a feeling that the Keenans’ bonds with the Orohos went much deeper. In fact when Owen Keenan crossed the Atlantic in 1833 on the ship “Sylvanus Jenkins”, the manifest listed a fellow traveler beside him – Margaret Oroho, age 14 yrs.

     The names of our Brooklyn Orohos, however,  do not show up in the baptismal records of Moydow Parish, which date back to 1793. Carrickedmond Parish, where the Keenans appear to have originated from, abuts Moydow Parish, and so it seems likely that those Orohos, if indeed the Keenans had known them in Ireland, might actually have lived across the Parish line in Carrickedmond.

     Matthew Keenan did not appear in the Brooklyn Street Directories until the 1841-42 edition.  Quixotically the first Oroho listing appeared that very same year.  John Orrohough, laborer, was living on Prince near Tillary. Matthew, on Tillary near Carll, was within a block of him. The 1842-43 Directory then showed John Orhoe, milkman, at 135 Tillary. The next year (1844) the Brooklyn Eagle printed the following obituary on August 27th:  


      In the 1846-47 Directory Catherine Orahoo, widow, was cited living at 133 Tillary.

     Were these Orohos the ones found in the Keenans’ baptismal records? Of course the deceased John Oroho could not have been the baptismal sponsor for the Keenan’s daughter, Elizabeth, who was born in December of 1844. But perhaps he had a son named John who was.

     This is where it gets a bit hazy.

     There exists one  immigration record of an Oroho family that arrived in New York on the ship “Brooklyn” in 1840. Its members were given as follows:

  •      J.  Oroho –                         50 yrs         (born 1790)
  •      Catherine Oroho               45 yrs.         (b. 1795)
  •      Bridget                              12  yrs         (b. 1828)
  •      Mary                                   8 yrs.          (b.1832)
  •      J.                                         5  yrs          (b. 1835)
  •      Anna                                   3 yrs           (b. 1837)
  •      Elizthi.                                0 yrs           (b. 1840)

    This at first might appear to be the John and Catherine Oroho cited above in the Directories. But the Brooklyn Eagle obituary gave John’s age as 66 years – born in 1778 –making him twelve years older than this  “J.Oroho”. And the childrens’ ages would have been inappropriately young for becoming sponsors of Matthew Keenan’s children. And of course there was no Thomas Oroho in the roster. This family was either not the ones living on Tillary St. in 1841-47, or if they were, they were not the Orohos linked to the Keenans. However I believe the Orohos living on Tillary St. were tied to the Keenans, because of the aforementioned age discrepancy, their close proximity,  and also because it would be rather  unusual for an immigrant family to show up in a Street Directory (1841-42) almost immediately upon arrival .

     If we assume that our Keenan family link was with the John Orroho that died in 1844, born in 1778, then his children would likely have been born from around 1798 to 1835 – contemporaries with Matthew and his siblings, the youngest child perhaps contemporary with James Nicholas.  However there are no definitive Directory or Census listings for this Oroho family during those early Brooklyn years. Somehow they managed to slip between the cracks in spite of their clearly being around into the 1860’s.

     There was one Thomas Oroho (Orehu) captured in the 1850 New York City Census who was born in 1808. His children,  John and Catherine (named after Thomas’ parents?), were born in the States in 1830 and 1834. He certainly would fit the profile of the Thomas Oroho that sponsored Elizabeth Keenan’s daughter in 1848.

     What I find even more interesting is that James Nicholas Keenan apparently continued this special relationship with the Orohos even after his father Matthew and his Aunt Elizabeth Farrell had died. His first son, James Thomas, born in 1853, was sponsored by John Oroho and Mary Keenan. John, of course, could have been the son of the aforementioned Thomas (b. 1808), but who was Mary Keenan?  She could not have been James’ mother – Mary (McDermott) Keenan – because she would have been listed using her maiden name. It is quite possible, however, that Mary Keenan was in fact John Oroho’s wife. We have seen that occur many times before. However we know nothing about this Mary Keenan, other than that she was likely a Keenan relative.

One possibility, however remote, is that Mary was yet another sibling of Matthew and Elizabeth’s  ( and therefore James’ aunt). That would go a long way towards explaining the enduring family connection with the Orohos. All of this of course is highly speculative.  But what if John were the eldest son of the John Oroho born in 1778, and Mary were the eldest daughter in the Keenan family (born around 1800)?

      And what if we went back to the Longford Parish records (which we did) and found the following:

                       26-Feb-1816     Marriage           

                       Parish / District:           ARDAGH AND MOYDOW            County: Co. Longford

                       Name:   John Orocho                Mary Keenan

    There were no subsequent baptismal records for this couple. They were apparently childless, or emigrated, or both.  If in fact these were the same John Orocho and Mary Keenan of Brooklyn cited in the 1853 baptism, then they might conceivably have been the ushers for the rest of the Keenans and Orohos that were to appear in Brooklyn afterwards. I’m not by any means advocating that this is what actually happened – but something similar is certainly within the realm of possibility.

     If any of this has any relevance, however,  it is that it helps us to verify the specific area where Matthew Keenan and his siblings were likely raised – the northern section of Carrickedmond Parish, not too distant from Moydow. 

  Locating the Keenans in Ireland

     We now have five Longford families who were all living in close proximity in Brooklyn –  our Keenan family who likely came from Carrickedmond Parish, Patrick Keenan who came from Ardagh Parish, James and Michael Keenan who came from Legan Parish, and the Orohos from northern Carrickedmond Parish  To put this  all in perspective I have drawn a circle roughly encompasing the area we are talking about . It is defined by a diameter of only about seven and one-half miles. No matter where these Keenans were from precisely, they had  all been within a few hours walking distance of each other – and therefore they could have well known each other in Ireland and could conceivably be related in some fashion.  (The area outlined in blue is the Townland of CarrickEdmond )

    Is it possible to go any further in pinpointing the home of our family members in Ireland?  It turns out that it is very difficult, and certainly subject to severe restrictions. Ireland does not have anywhere near the number of genealogical resources that we have been blessed with in the United States.

     The first full government census of Ireland was taken in 1821 with further censuses at ten-year intervals from 1831 through to 1911 ( No census was taken in 1921, because of the War of Independence). However the returns for 1821 through 1851 were for the most part destroyed in 1922 in the fire at the Public Record Office at the beginning of the Civil War. The original census returns for 1861 and 1871 were destroyed shortly after the censuses were taken. And those for 1881 and 1891 were pulped during the First World War, probably because of the paper shortage.

     There are sadly only a few other potential sources of genealogical data. The Tithe Applotment Books are one such source for the pre-Famine period. They were compiled between 1823 and 1837 in order to determine the amount of tithes which occupiers of agricultural holdings over one acre should pay to the Church of Ireland (the main Protestant church and the church established by the State  until its dis-establishment in 1871). There is a manuscript  book for almost every civil (Church of Ireland) parish in the country giving the names of occupiers in each townland, the amount of land held and the sums to be paid in tithes. Because the tithes were levied on agricultural land, urban areas were generally not included. Unfortunately, the books provide only the names of  heads of family, no ages, and  no names of other family members. The population of Ireland was recorded in 1841 as 8.2 million. It would have been substantially less than that during the 1820’s and 1830’s when the Tithe Applotment Books were compiled. The books probably listed by name about 40 percent of the heads of all families.

    The first step in trying to home in on where exactly our family originated from is to locate in the Tithe Applotments any Keenans (or McDermotts) in the general area that their U.S. records have suggested that they had lived.  The following is a map charting all the Keenans and McDermotts that appear in the Tithe Applotments of 1833-34, within the circle that was  illustrated above.

     In Killglass, Aghara and Rathreagh ( the Civil parishes of Catholic Legan Parish) [on the right side of the map] we do indeed find a number of Keenans. The Kilglass records were compiled in 1834 and show nine different Keenans. Of particular interest is the Townland called Ballymaclifford  – there we find five of them – James Sr., James Jr., Patrick Sr. , Patrick Jr. and Michael – all farming lots adjacent to each other.  Ballymaclifford lies about a mile and a half down the road from the town of Legan. We know that James Keenan of Legan, the one who eventually ended up on Butler St. in Brooklyn, emigrated between 1843 and 1846 and that his brother Michael also emigrated in the mid 1830’s. In 1834 (the year of the Applotments)  James would have been 26 years old and Michael 34. If indeed they were farmers in rural Ireland, rather than tradesmen in a village, then it is highly likely that these Keenans in the Legan Tithe Applotments were identical to those future Brooklynites.

     The other Keenans cited in Kilglass Parish were James Jr. (perhaps the same one) found in Treel  (half way between Legan and Ballymaclifford), and a John Keenan in Braney, the northernmost townland in Kilglass, just south of Ardagh.

       Owen’s compatriot, Patrick Keenan, was from Ardagh parish, and he emmigrated around 1842 when he was 34 years old. The only Patrick Keenan in the Tithe Applotments for Ardagh was found in Ballyreaghan, a small townland just to the east of Ardagh village, not far from Legan. However, according to church records, that Patrick died in either 1836 or 1846. Perhaps this was the Brooklyn Patrick’s father.

     We also know that John McDermott (and therefore probably James McDermott) came from Legan as well. However both emmigrated in the 1820’s. In 1834 the Tithe Applotments listed  no McDermotts in Legan Parish. But we know that McDermott was not necessarily the original family name. In James’ 1830 Naturalization application in Boston his last name was spelled Dumont. McDermott was often assigned as the anglicised form of the following Irish surnames: Mac Diarmada, M’Dermody, M’Dermot, M’Dermonde, M’Derby, MacDiarmod, MacDermott, MacDarby, Dermody, Darmody, Diarmid, Dermid, Dermond, Darby, etc 

     What we do find in the 1834 Tithe Applotments for Kilglass parish are two persons, both named Patrick Dermody, one living in the townland of Smithtown, which was part of the village of Legan, the other in Braney, the northernmost townland of  Kilglass, just south of Ardagh. And we know from his death record in Boston that James’ father was named Patrick – perhaps his father  was one of those two Patrick Dermodys.  But lest that be considered a bit too much of a stretch, let me quote from a book published in Dublin in 1901 with the formidable title “Varieties and Synonymes of Surnames and Christian Names in Ireland : for the guidance of registration officers and the public in searching the indexes of births, deaths, and marriages” by Robert E. Matheson.

     In a commentary on this book, one reader exhorted:

“ If you are going to Ireland to do genealogical work, you absolutely must read this. Note the date: 1901, age of the automobile, nearly the age of flight. Yet this establishes that among the ordinary Irish (your probable targets of research), fathers and sons, siblings, even one man at different times, would use different surnames.”  [Note : In the 1844 baptismal record for Mary (McDermott)  Keenan’s daughter Elizabeth at St. James Church, Brooklyn – Mary is listed as Mary Dermody.]

     Unfortunately there  is no way to absolutely verify the McDermott’s hometown. The only existing church records in Legan Parish begin only after 1850. The most we might hope for would be a Death  record for a Patrick or Bridget McDermott/Dermody, but we fine none. There is, however, one more potential clue to throw in this pot. The 1796 Flax Growers List cites a Patrick Dermody farming in Abbeyshrule. This too could have been James’ father. Perhaps James grew up in Abbeyshrule , where he met Ann Maliff , and then his family moved to Legan (Smithfield) before John emigrated. It remains a possibility that can never be verified.

      Finally we must consider our own Keenan relatives – John, Margaret, Matthew, Elizabeth, Owen, Patrick and Catherine . They had all emigrated to America from the late 1820s through 1842. Existent Carrickedmond Parish baptismal records start only in 1835, well after the birth of those relatives. However, if they left their parents behind them, as indeed it appears they did, one would expect that their parents, or certainly some of their relatives, might show up in the 1833 Tithe Applotments records, provided of course that they were farming.

     There were 15 Keenans listed in Carrickedmond Parish in the Tithe Applotments.

(Click on image to enlarge)

     To make a truly verified identification of our relatives, however, we would need to know the first names of both parents and then find the appropriate baptismal records. Of course baptismal records in Carrickedmond Parish before 1835 just don’t exist, however  we can certainly make an educated guess as to the first name of the Keenan who fathered the clan that eventually showed up in Brooklyn.

     The methodology for trying to determine that patrilineal forename is based on the “Traditional Irish Naming Pattern”. As in most cultures, Irish families had a strong history of naming their children after members of the previous generation. While this tradition was not always followed precisely, usually some form of it was adhered to in a remarkably consistent way. The strictest delineation of this naming pattern can be laid out as follows:

  •             First born son was named after his father’s father
  •             Second born son was named after his mother’s father
  •             Third born son was named after his father
  •             Fourth born son was named after his father’s oldest brother
  •             Fifth born son was named after his father’s 2nd oldest brother
  •                or his mother’s oldest brother
  •             First born daughter was named after her mother’s mother
  •             Second born daughter was named after her father’s mother
  •             Third born daughter was named after her mother
  •             Fourth born daughter was named after her mother’s oldest sister
  •             Fifth born daughter was named after her mother’s 2nd oldest sister
  •                 or her father’s oldest sister

     What we must do then is to look at the names of all of the children of our first generation Keenan ancestors to determine if there was a common name that might apply to this naming pattern of the “father’s father”. Of course this tradition was not set in stone, and additional inconsistencies might be introduced through the death of a child whose baptismal records were not found, or who perhaps died before being recorded during the next census year.

      What we do find is that  Patrick Keenan named his eldest son John, and Owen named his second son John. Elizabeth named her second son John as well, but we have to assume that he was named principally after her husband, John Farrell.

     Matthew and Mary Keenan had two sons. The first was named James Nicholas  and the second, Matthew, after his father. Mary’s father was James McDermott, so James Nicholas was probably named after him – but we must also consider that he might have equally been called James after Matthew’s father too. If that were the case  then we are probably dealing with two Keenan families – most likely cousins. That family tree might lay out as follows:

Keenans in Ireland
(Click image to enlarge)


This family configuration could make some sense. We know that Owen sponsored Patrick’s naturalization in 1845, and that Patrick was also closely tied with Catherine (Keenan) Harden (1821-1869). Catherine had only one son, whom she named after her husband, Edward, but the other two both had sons named John.

     Referring to the above map of Keenans that were found in the  Tithe Applotments, we see there was only one John Keenan in Carrickedmond Parish. He was living in a Townland called Loughsheedan. But it turns out he was not farming, because his Tithe assessment was for only about a quarter of an acre. Below is a map from the Ordnance survey conducted in Longford around in 1836-37. It shows that Loughsheedan was just outside Taghsheenod village. Aside from the usual farm fields, we find that there was also a large corn mill and a corn kiln. And there were a few houses on small acreage adjacent to the mill, leased to the workers by the mill owner. Griffith’s Valuations designated the Keenan’s plot as “5c” – adjacent to the Corn Kiln. It seems likely then that John Keenan was a miller by trade.

Map of Loughshedan (circa 1836)
(Click image to enlarge)

     Owen Keenan emigrated around 1833, Patrick in 1836, and Catherine in 1842. If we cross reference the 1833 Tithe Applotment records with those of the Griffith’s Valuations, made twenty years later,  we find that the house occupied by John Keenan in 1833, was subsequently occupied by a James Keenan in 1854. From this it seems evident then that James would have been  his remaining son, probably born around 1820.


1833 Tithe Applotments – Loughshedan
1854 Griffith’s Valuations


     We see that in 1854 the owner of the mill was still Lawrence McDonell (McDaniel) and that two of the tenant farmers, Joseph Allen and William George, remained. But since James Keenan was occupying the house and garden in 1854 it begs the question of whether John Keenan of 1833 was still alive. Since deaths were only sporadically recorded in church records it is likely that John Keenan died in Taghsheenod before 1854, but that his death went unrecorded in the parish records. If that indeed was the scenario, then his  son James apparently remained behind in Ireland , to take over his father’s place at the cottage by the corn mill.

     We don’t know the fate of this James Keenan after 1854. If he was the youngest of the Keenan males, then he would have been born around 1820. Although there is a 1894 death record for a James Keenan (b. 1821) in nearby Mournine , a farmer and widower, we don’t know if that was him.

    That aside, is there any other corroborating evidence that Loughshedan might have been the home of one branch of our Brooklyn ancestors? Indeed there is a strong suggestion of this if we delve further  into the story of our youngest Keenan – Catherine.

Catherine Keenan and Edward Harden

     According to the gravestone of Edward Harden in Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, he was born in 1813 in Granard (Parish) Longford, Ireland.  The Granard Parish sacramental registries go back to 1779. However the Baptismal records are missing from  April 1811 to April 1818, except for a few fragments. That unfortunately is exactly when Edward claimed to have been born (1813-1819), so unless his children were somehow mistaken, we must accept the accuracy of the date and location  that was subsequently chiseled into the granite of his tombstone.


There were only a few Hardens to be found in the early church records of Granard Parish. (Later on there are far more of the surname variants Harten and Hartin.) Furthermore Granard Parish made a complete census of the parish  in 1834 – some 8-9 thousand inhabitants of all faiths.  These records are unprecedented in Irish genealogy –  some 95 pages of names, adults and children alike – the majority of them beautifully scripted and completely legible. I have gone through these and have not found one reference to a Harden. From this it seems conclusive that if indeed Edward Harden had been born in Granard, then he and his entire family must have moved elsewhere by that 1834 Census.

      Records of any Hardens are also few and far between elsewhere  in Longford County. There was a widow Harden listed in the 1796 Flax Growers rolls in Ardagh Parish and a few marriages both there and in Longford town (Templemichael Parish).  But the only other Harden records we find fall principally in two parishes – Shrule and Carrickedmond – both well to the southwest of Granard.


In Shrule we find these two baptismal records :  

  •       Eleanor Hardin                 
  •       Date of Baptism:   16-Oct-1825
  •       Address:    Not Recorded Parish/District:            SHRULE
  •       Father:       James Hardin              Mother: Eleanor Gallagher
  •       Informant 1:          Lawerence Hardin
  •       Informant 2:          Elizabeth Hardin

  •       Mary (Mariam) Harden                
  •       Date of Baptism:   13-Aug-1836
  •       Address:    Not Recorded Parish/District:            SHRULE
  •       Father:       Laurence Harden      Mother:           Margaret Corcoran
  •       Informant 1:          John Cunnigham
  •       Informant 2:          Catherine Corcoran

    It would appear that James,  Lawrence and Elizabeth  were siblings, since Lawrence and Elizabeth were  both sponsors at Eleanor Harden’s baptism. We also find a record for the 1834 baptism of Lawrence’s son in Mullingar Parish, Westmeath about twenty miles away – probably the home parish of his wife Margaret.

  •      James Harden
  •      Date of Baptism : 26 – Oct- 1834
  •      Address: Nor recorded Parish/District : Mullingar , Westmeath
  •      Father : Lawrence Harden   Mother : Margaret Coragan
  •      Informant 1 :    Honor Moran
  •      Informant 2:     Pat  (illegible)

    Next door to Shrule, in Carrickedmond Parish, we find some records that are of even greater interest.

  •      Eleanor Harden                  
  •      Date of Baptism:      16-Jan-1836
  •      Address:      Morneen         Parish/District:  CARRICKEDMOND
  •      Father:         James Harden            Mother: Ann Lynch
  •      Informant 1: Thomas Victory
  •      Informant 2: Ann Dooly   (Alias Victory)

  •      Ann Harden Date of Birth:   
  •      Date of Baptism:      21-Jun-1841
  •      Address:      Morneen         Parish/District:  CARRICKEDMOND
  •      Father:         James Harden            Mother: Ann Lynch
  •      Informant 1: George Burke
  •      Informant 2: Mary Scally

     These records are of significance for two reasons. One has to do with the location, the other with Family Naming patterns.

     We know that Edward Harden and Catherine Keenan had their first child, Eleanor, in 1841 when he was 28 years of age and she only 20.

  •      Eleanor Harden                  
  •      Date of Baptism:      17-Oct-1841
  •      Parish/District:         ARDAGH AND MOYDOW
  •      Father:         Edward Harden          Mother: Catherine Keena
  •      Informant 1: James Levy
  •      Informant 2: Catherine Harden

     Ardagh Parish, where Ellen was baptized, as we noted before, is immediately adjacent to Carrickedmond Parish (see map above).

     James Harden of Carrickedmond Parish named his first daughter Eleanor.  In the traditional Irish Family Naming Pattern, the first daughter was often named after the father’s mother, then the second daughter after the mother’s mother (or vice versa ). Since both Edward and James Harden named their daughters Eleanor, this suggests that they were brothers and that their mother was named Eleanor. Note that the James Harden in Shrule Parish had also named his daughter Eleanor in 1825. Could he have lost his first wife and daughter, and remarried to Ann Lynch a decade later? This scenario becomes increasingly likely with the discovery of another baptismal record from Shrule Parish – this one from 1822.

  •       Carol Harden
  •       Date of Baptism:  Nov. 24, 1822
  •       Address:     Not Recorded  Parish/District:  SHRULE
  •       Father : James Harden    Mother:  Eleanor  Fitzpatrick
  •       Informant 1: Patrick Conaughton
  •       Informant 2: Elizabeth Cleavy

     Carol could well have been the youngest sister of our other Hardens. And the parents names fit perfectly into the naming patterns of their progeny.

The Harden Family in Shrule, Longford
Click on image to enlarge


     It seems likely then that James and Eleanor Harden moved their family from Granard Parish down to Shrule Parish sometime between 1816 and 1822. Apparently their son James moved over to Carrickedmond Parish when he married Ann Lynch, and he subsequently managed to find a tenancy in Mournine Townland by 1836. We don’t know if Edward Harden also moved to Carrickedmond, but he certainly would have visited his brother there, and therefore would have had the opportunity to meet Catherine Keenan

     Marriage records start in Ardagh -Moydow parish in 1793 but in Carrickedmond Parish only after January of 1835. James Harden’s first  recorded child was born a year later (Jan. 1836) , so it is not surprising  that his  marriage record would not exist. However we also find no marriage record in either parish for Edward and Catherine Keenan, which would likely have occurred in 1839-40 . Therefore it is quite possible that they were not in fact married.  Priests often would make a note in baptismal  records if a child was illegitimate – but it was not a universal practice. The original entry for the baptism of Eleanor Harden in 1841 had no such notation.

     Married or not, it appears that Edward Harden and Catherine Keenan were living in Ardagh Parish in 1841. Edward’s 1845 immigration manifest listed his occupation as Printer, so that does suggest that  they were living in Ardagh town, the largest village in the parish.  The two sponsors at their daughter’s baptism were Catherine Harden and James Levy. In Catherine Harden’s  death certificate, filed in Brooklyn in 1904 ( most likely by her daughter Elizabeth) her parents were listed as Daniel Harden and Bridget Leavy. In fact, after a long search,  I was able to locate that marriage record

      Although almost undecipherable it states : 

      “Ardagh on 11 August  1812  Danl. Hardon –  Bridget Levy were married”

     Since we know Edward Harden was born in Granard, not Ardagh, and that his mother was likely named Eleanor, it is prudent to assume that Daniel Harden was his uncle, making Catherine Harden his cousin. The other baptismal sponsor, James Levy, would have in turn been Catherine Harden’s cousin on her mother’s side. 

         So it seems that when their daughter was baptized Edward Harden and Catherine Keenan were living in Ardagh town, close to Edward’s cousins. But it also seems clear that,  given what is indicated of where the Keenans were from, Edward must have met Catherine Keenan while he was in Mourneen townland, either living there or while visiting his brother.

     The Keenans listed in that immediate  area in the Tithe Applotments of 1833 are shown on the following map.

     Catherine Keenan (born 1821) would have been only twelve years old in 1833. If indeed her father was John Keenan of Loughsheedan, then she would have been only a stone’s throw from Mournine. Although the Hardens did not show up in the Tithe Applotments, they might have, after relocating from Granard, simply  been working as agricultural workers, while not actually leasing any land, or alternatively living in a village . We do know, however, that James Harden was living in Mourneen Townland three years later in 1836. He would have attended the same church in Killeendowd that Catherine’s family went to, and so it seems highly probable that this was where Edward Harden met Catherine Keenan.

   The intersection of these two family trees is depicted in the following representation:

Click on Image to Enlarge

     While the scant information that we do  have certainly seems to promote this family configuration, it does leave open the question of the parentage of the other Keenans –  Matthew and Elizabeth Keenan. Based on the records that are found in St. James’ sacramental folios in Brooklyn, we have noted the additional possible  family members named John, Margaret and Catherine, and have also conjectured a possible patrilineal name of James. That family configuration could be represented in the following manner:

(Click image to enlarge)


We know that Matthew and Elizabeth Keenan had close ties with both Owen and Patrick in Brooklyn, so here the assumption is that they would have been cousins rather than siblings. If so, then we should then look for a James Keenan in Carrickedmond Parish close to Loughsheedan where we suspect the others were from.

    Returning to our original map of Keenans found in the 1833 Tithe Applotments (see map below) we see that there were actually three James Keenans that were found living adjacent to John Keenan in Loughsheedan – one in Ballybeg, one in Mournine and one in Lisnacreevagh. Is there any way to determine which, if any, might be the father of Matthew et al.? 

     We know that Sarah Keenan emigrated to the U.S. with her son Michael in January of 1850. We can safely assume that her husband was no longer living at that time, or he would have accompanied her. So if Sarah’s husband was indeed James Keenan he would certainly not have been  found in the 1854 Griffiths Valuations for Carrickedmond Parish.

     Looking first at the James Keenan in Mournine townland we find that both he and William were still there in 1854. Subsequent parish records record his death in 1856, and that of his wife, Bridget, in 1863. William died in 1868.

1833 Tithe Applotments


     The Patrick and James Keenan found in Ballybeg in 1833 were gone by 1854. However the Tithe Applotment listing suggests that James was the son of Patrick (they were farming the same 21 acres)  and that he  therefore would probably not have been old enough to be Matthew’s father. There is also a burial record for Patrick Keenan on Oct. 15, 1849 in Carrickedmond Parish.

    That leaves only one other James Keenan, who was farming 20 acres in Lisnacreevagh in 1833. Michael Keenan and Bryan Keenan (Michael’s son?) were also farming there. But in 1854 only Bryan was left – James and Michael were gone. We have no death record for Michael, but there is a death record in Carrickedmond Parish for James Keenan (no townland given) who died on June 17, 1849. I believe that this was the James Keenan in Lisnacreevagh and that if indeed he was the husband of Sarah Keenan,  it was  his death that motivated her to leave six months later with her remaining son, Michael, to seek out her children in America.

     All of this is largely conjectural, and necessarily driven by family naming patterns, given the   lack of actual baptismal records. We just don’t know.

     If all of our Brooklyn Keenans were in fact siblings the family tree would lay out as depicted below.

The Keenans of Carrickedmond Parish – Longford, Ireland
(Click image to enlarge)