Family Tree Update

I last published my family tree on 28 August 2015, and am pleased to issue an update with more than 150 additional source documents, mostly focused on my Irish ancestry from my father’s side of the family.

My research has been most productive on my Fogarty line, including confirmation that they came from Ballyporeen in Ireland (in Gaelic, the town is called Béal Átha Póirín), and identification of the surname of my Great Great Grandmother, Margaret Walsh. In addition, I resolved some long-standing rumors.

Let’s start with the rumors.  My grandmother, Margaret Elena Fogarty, died of breast cancer in 1927 at age 38.  In 1931 my grandfather, Martin Joseph Conlon, married Ella Fox, who gave birth to my uncle Ed (Martin Edward Conlon) the next year.  Six weeks later, the family was in a major car accident in Cohasset, killing Ella, sending my uncle Joe (Joseph F. Conlon) to the hospital for a few months, and giving my father the scar on his chin (the dimple on my chin was not inherited from him).

My father recalled that there was a court case (I hope to someday find the records), and my grandfather never again drove a car, despite owning the Jenney gasoline station in Whitman.  I remember my Dad saying that he thought Ella Fox and Elena Fogarty were related, and that there might have been some bad blood between my grandfather and his Fogarty in-laws after the accident.  Despite the accident, the Fogarty family in Whitman was very close to my Dad and his brothers.

Two years ago I visited my Dad’s first cousin Manus Getchell, whose mother Mary Frances Fogarty was the younger sister of my grandmother.  We spent a few hours talking about the family history and looking at pictures, and he  gave me Aunt Alice Fogarty Collins‘ photo album from when she was young.  Manus told me about taking his family to Ireland some time back and visiting the Fogarty home town of Ballyporeen, which is also the ancestral home of President Ronald Reagan, and that the locals took him down to the cemetery where they said our relatives were buried.

An Irish researcher, Breda Nolan, has put together an extensive tree of the inter-connected families of Ballyporeen, but the source documents are not linked to individuals, so I viewed this as indicative but not conclusive. In genealogy, as in politics, an oft-told lie eventually becomes the truth, so before publishing this as a fact I wanted some documentary confirmation.

We began with a DNA test in the hope that it would turn up some mutual cousins, who I hoped would help me confirm the origin.  I have found though that the autosomal DNA comparisons only allow us to confirm a family connection, they don’t replace old fashioned research.

So I turned next to the nephew of Ella Fox, who was the son of Ella’s brother Thomas Joseph Fox.  My Dad had given me a scanned photo of Tom and Ella, and Uncle Ed’s daughter Rita gave me some information about the nephew.  My telephone conversation with him and and some emails confirmed that Tom and Ella were from Ballyporeen, but were they related to us?  For this, a DNA test was perfect, and it showed that he was indeed a second cousin on the Fogarty line.

At this point, I decided to renew my Ancestry subscription to see if I could find any documents to add to what was now a very convincing story.

  • Tom Fox’s draft registration showed he was born in Skeheenarinky, near Ballyporreen.
  • Ella Fox’s immigration records showed she was from the adjacent Coolagarranroe Woods.  Confusingly she gave different birth years, on different records.  Perhaps she thought she would be more marriageable if she was younger?
  • I hit the jackpot with the immigration records from my great grandfather, William H. Fogarty, which confirmed his Ballyporeen origins.
  • Next I found some Irish census records, from 1901 for Coolagarranroe, and with the aid of my cousin Tom Fox, could confirm the house his father and aunt lived in.
  • From his own records, Tom also provided my with the last name of our Great Great Grandmother, Margaret Walsh.

So thanks to a team effort, I have a new travel destination.  And best of all, there are handball alleys in Ballyporeen, so I will bring my gear and seek some matches to make room for a Guinness afterwards.

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