I thought I would write a little bit about my Kelly ancestors today.  

Joseph Kelly and his wife, Bridget, came here in the 1860’s through Castle Gardens on the bottom of Manhattan before Ellis Island existed as an immigration station.  I do not have the ship they arrived on or the exact date yet.  I would love to have that information but ship’s clerks had the worst handwriting ever.  Now that so much information is being computerized there is a better chance of getting my information, but I digress… 

For years my dad & I struggled with conflicting stories of Joseph’s birth location since he was reported as being born in both Drogheda and Dublin.  The family is definitely from Drogheda, in  County Louth.  Drogheda is a coastal city north of Dublin on the east coast of Ireland not too far from the border of Northern Ireland.

Bridget’s mother is listed in Griffith’s Primary Valuation in 1853 as a widow who rented a house worth 4 shillings.  Her name was Bridget Henry and she married John Conly (Connolly- there are many spellings) who obviously died before 1853. 

It is difficult to give an exact age for Bridget (the daughter) because every record had a different age or birth date.  There are two reasons for this phenomenon.  First, age and exact dates did not mean much before 1840 which is the date of the first census reports.  The second reason is that the Irish did many things to hide their real identities from the British – like write church records in Latin and give the wrong date for someone’s birth or baptism.  So birth dates are accurate plus or minus 20 years on all Irish records from that era. 

If I believed Bridget’s baptismal records, she would have been 9 years old when her first child was born, so I don’t believe the date.  She was also pretty fuzzy with dates on her own, because the ages of her children did not progress in 10 year increments through the census reports.  I find this really funny.  I will add some of this info later.  She was probably born around 1834. 

So, Joseph & Bridget got married and started to have children.  Mary 1853 & Ann 1854 were born in Drogheda.  Then they moved to Dublin probably as a first step in leaving the country.  That was where Joseph 1855, Peter B. 1862, Josephine 1865, and Alicia 1867 were born.  The first child born in America was born on George Washington’s birthday, so they named him George Washington Kelly (1874).  He was followed by Walter 1875, Imelda 1877, and John 1879.  John did not live more than a year and Bridget had two other children who died in infancy for a total of 12 children.

When they moved, they left Ann in Drogheda.  She probably came to America after her grandmother died.  Her sister, Alicia, matched her up with the older brother of her husband who recently emigrated from Scotland.  They were both in their 50’s and never previously married before they married in Staten Island. 


I went to a genealogy meeting this morning with a friend who is also interested in genealogy.  It is nice to have a friend who shares your interest.  It makes the meetings much more fun.

One of the things they do at the meetings is sell items that the library does not want any more.  I found several booklets from Bedford County, PA.  I noticed Fishers in several copies so I bought the whole bunch.   I will read them for any pertinent material and probably give them back to the Genealogical Society.  The booklets got me thinking about our family and history and how we fit into the big picture.

Tom’s family has roots in Fishertown, Bedford County.  The family story is that a John Fisher came here from England along with William Penn with a stop in Ireland to get a bride.  This is not a verifiable claim since there is a gap of about 100 years between William Penn and the John Fisher who is the first Fisher that we can pin down. 

Pennsylvania was founded as a grant from the king of England to William Penn as a payment of a debt that the king owed his father.  The senior William Penn was given land in Ireland and lived in what is now known as Bunratty Castle.  We visited the castle when we were in Ireland and there is a plaque stating that William was born there. 

William Penn became a Quaker and went around England preaching his new beliefs.  The Quakers were persecuted for their faith and many of them fled to the Penn estate in Ireland and to America to escape prison, confiscation of their property or death.  The king was not happy and things may not have gone well with William except that the king owed his father all that money.  So, he may have thought that giving William land in America was an ideal plan to not only pay back William’s father but to rid England of William and as many Quakers who wanted to follow him. 

Although we do not know how the first Fisher happened to get here, we do know that our family’s John Fisher lived in Fishertown, Bedford County, on a 300 acre farm that he eventually divided between his 3 sons.  John and his ancestors were probably Quaker since the whole area is known as Quaker Valley.  The history of the area shows that when John Wesley came through, most of the Quakers became Methodists.  This would seem to line up with our family history since Tom’s dad was raised as a Methodist.

Because my Lenihan ancestors lived in the same area in Ireland, I wonder if we would have met if our families stayed in Ireland instead of migrating to America.  I know it is not possible because we have other family branches but it is interesting to speculate under what circumstances our ancestors may have bumped into each other many years ago in a land far away. 

Welcome to my blog.  My daughter, Emily, suggested that I create a blog to share the family history that I have uncovered over the years.  I thought that was a good idea and here it is.

My father, Walter Kelly, got interested in genealogy after he retired and moved to Florida.  He had two cousins, Arthur Brittingham and Bill Kelly, who also dabbled in genealogy and they traded information over the years.  My mother’s cousin, Vincent Dillon, gave her an outline of the Lenihan branch of her family.  I typed their research results into the computer but I did not get hooked.  The real catalyst was the birth of my grandson.  I had a desire to research our family and pass our family history to him as part of his legacy.

Although my dad started before me, I think I would have caught the bug on my own since I love history.  I think everyone wants to know where they came from.  When I was a child I remember wondering about my family history.  The stories of family members coming to the United States from Ireland were intriguing.  I have found that many of those stories were not true, but they were the basis of a search that lead to finding the truth. 

This has been an adventure that has taken me to several states and to Ireland and has helped me to get to know not only who my ancestors were but many other interesting people I have met along the way who are are searching for their family past or who are just nice folks. 

Come along with me.  I hope you enjoy the ride.

December 2018
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