Hello, everyone!

Just wanted to get the discussions kicked off in this ancestry / genealogy group by asking where you've hit your dreaded "brick wall."  How far back have you been able to work through your ancestral line?

Mine came with my third great-grandfather.  The only record on which I've been able to find him is from his son's death certificate where he is listed as the father.  His son was born around 1867, so this likely means he was born in what ... the 1830s or 1840s, right?  Haven't been able to find anything on him, and I'm not sure if he was born in Kentucky (where he eventually ended up) or in Virginia (where the generations preceding him ended up).

Anyway, I went ahead and did the DNA analysis a few years ago so I was able to jump over the wall and get beyond it that way ... but there's still that one or two generations I'd love to be able to locate and link everything up in a nice clean line.

Any tips for me?

How about you ... where are you stuck?

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Jack, I'm not sure if you know about Conners Genealogy. http://www.connorsgenealogy.com/NewYorkState/ I've found it a wonderful resource and wanted to pass along to you.

Also:My 2nd ggf, David Little, appears to have done the same as your ancestor - working either the rail roads and/or canal systems as a blacksmith between 1856 (his arrival in Castle Garden from County Down - 1863 (when he is living in Oakland, Garrett, MD). Some places to research




Happy Hunting!


Beth, thanks for the quick reply.  Good memory jog, I had forgotten about the Conners website, need to check on what may have been added.  J

you're most welcome, Jack!

Also, just saw that a special article on the Erie Canal and it's Irish laborers has been posted in Wild Geese.

all the best

My brick walls are numerous.

The first one is tracing my mother's family O'Reilly. We do know that they appeared in Placentia, Newfoundland in the late 1700s. A Garret and John Reilly (O'Reilly) are names from that time. They were fisherman by trade or necessity and also built boats. There was an english garrison there at the time but also an established Irish presence.  

The 2nd brick wall is one Redmond Power (my G-G-G grandfather) who married Anastasia Dooling (my G-G-G grandmother) in St. John's Newfoundland in 1839. As to where they came from remains uncertain however both names are common in the southeast of Ireland, particularly County Waterford where 80-90% of Newfoundlanders of Irish descent can trace their ancestry.

A 3rd brick wall is learning more about my G-G-G-G grandfather Michael Brassil who lived in Ballylongford, county Kerry in 1834. I know his son John Brassil emigrated to Newfoundland in 1812 but am unable to learn any more about his family. One possible and interesting link is that the Brassil family of Ballylongford had originally come from Laois, or then Queens County. A number of families were 'transplanted' from there in the early 1600s to the Ballylongford and Tarbert area of Kerry including it seems 2 Brassil families. (History of Queens County....)


Try Irish Genealogy.ie for Kerry records from 1900 back to 1700. Its a free Irish Government site. Let me know if you had any success please.

Regards Michael

Don't know where to begin so many. I guess my Grandfather John O'Connor is a good example. .His background has been like hitting a granite wall .Based on his immigration papers and wedding forms he was born in Lixnaw in County Kerry .His mom was Mary Ahern from Castlemaine his dad was a John O'Connor, we are not sure where he was from  since the lived in Lixnaw my guess would be that was his home town . There must have been family also in Kilflynn that is where my grandfather first met my grandmother Bridget Walsh they would marry here in NY at the very beginning of the 1900's Have gone thru the Irish data bases for his birth records and nothing for county Kerry .My brother and cousins were able to take a trip over and went to the Kerry diocese to see if they had anything no records could be found .We know he served in the Royal Munster Fusiliers and spent time in India we have a photo of him taken in Calcutta,India.Still chopping away at that wall .Happy New Year. 


Try IrishGenealogy.ie

for Roman Catholic & COI records from 1700 to 1900. these records are confined to Dublin Cork Carlow and Lucky for you Kerry


I thought I might post here to see if anyone could suggest venues to be research a family mystery.

My father's maternal Uncle Eneas (or Aeneas) Leahy was born in Caherlevoy, County Limerick around 1890, son of Batt Leahy and Margaret Lenihan. Caherlevoy is at the point where Cork, Kerry and Limerick converge. Four of his 7 siblings emmigrated here to Washington, DC, beginning around 1910. I have found the entry records for each of them - Mike, George, Dan and my grandmother, Johanna.

I have found five pieces of documentary evidence for Eneas. He is shown at home with his family in Caherlevoy in the 1901 UK census. He can next be found in the 1911 UK census as a private in the Irish Guards at the Pimlico Barracks in the city of Westminster. The next record shows him enlisting in the United States Army at Camp Meyer, Arlington, Virginia, across the river from Washington, in December, 1913, precisely one week after my grandparents' wedding. In December 1915 he is shown on the manifest of a steamship with the rest of his company entering the port of New York, returning from military service in the Panama Canal Zone. Finally, he is shown being discharged from the Army in upstate New York at the end of March 1916.

There is not a lot of family lore surrounding him. My father believed he had been a cook on a steamship. A couple of years ago, I learned that one of my cousins has a huge frypan that had belonged to him; the story attached to it is that he had used it as a cook on an Erie Canal boat. At first, I had envisaged something like the canal boats used in Europe and here on the C & O Canal, but in researching it a bit, I learned that by Eneas' time, the Erie had been considerably enlarged and modernised. By then, it accomodated quite large lake steamers and freighters that even sailed Atlantic coastal waters.

He also left behind a trunk with his name inscribed with his sister (my grandmother), which is in the possession of another cousin. One day, while staying with my grandparents' family, sometime after his US Army discharge, he disappeared. As it happens, my grandfather and his brothers, as well as his brothers-in-law all appear in WWI US Draft Registration records; Eneas does not, so he appears to have disappeared before June of 1917. Neither does he appear in the US Census of 1920.

My dad's eldest brother, who was born in 1914, could recall accompanying his mother to offices trying to find out what had happened to him. Two rumors had circulated; one that he had gone to Canada, possibly to join the RCMP, and another that he had gone to Australia. Fairly careful research into both possibilities has turned up nothing.

What follows are my speculations:

First, based upon his age, Eneas would not have served a full term of enlistment in the Irish Guards before about 1914. Of course, he could have been discharged for medical reasons, but it is unlikely that he would then be fit for induction into the US Army a year-and-a-half later.

He could also have been discharged dishonorably. There as growing dissension among Irish soldiers in the British Army, but this was usually dealt with by imprisonment rather than discharge. Likewise, other non-political offenses would probably not have resulted in discharge.

Speculation 1 - He deserted the British Army.

Second, while all of Eneas' emigre siblings can be found in immigration records between 1909 and 1913, he cannot. Of course, such records are not perfect; I have not been able to locate a number of relatives' immigration records from the 19th century. However, by the time Eneas and his siblings arrived, the immigration system was well managed. His siblings - all of whom bore relatively common names - can be easily identified despite the fact that three of the four given names appear more than once. Only Eneas - an unusual name - cannot be found.

Speculation 2 - He either entered under an assumed name or in some other fashion entered the country without documentation. Why? See Speculation 1.

There is one other piece of information, which may or may not be pertinent. Many of the Irish immigrants in DC at the time came from that same area as my grandparents and their families.  A distant relative by marriage of my grandfather - he was married to my grandfather's 2nd cousin - was a man named Jim Dore, who by this time was the head engineer at he Old Soldier's Home. According to 2 independent sources in Ireland, Jim was also the head of the IRA (I believe, at this time, it was actually the IRB) here in Washington, DC. At the time, Eneas' brother Dan Leahy was an ambulance driver at the Home. One of Jim Dore's responsibilities would have been to recruit men - especially men with military experience - to go to Ireland and fight for independence. There is some circumstantial evidence that he may have recruited Brigadier General J. J. O'Connell (no known near relation to my O'Connell/Leahy family), who was living here in DC at the time of the Easter Rising.

J. J. O'Connell eventually became one of Michael Collins' top lieutenants during the subsequent Irish Civil War. He was captured by Anti-Treaty Forces and threatened with execution, though eventually he was traded for prisoners held by the Free State Government.

In any event, Eneas would almost certainly have known Jim Dore.

Speculation 3 - As an experienced soldier, he was recruited to return to Ireland and did so under an assumed name to protect himself from the consequences of his desertion from the British Army as well as to protect his family from reprisal. He most likely died while fighting under that assumed name.

Of course, it is possible that something mundane happened to him while staying with his sister's family. Perhaps he was simply knocked over the head and dumped in the Potomac River after a night of drinking - death by misadventure, as the Brits call it; but the mystery of his arrival here and circumstantial evidence of his contact with the Republican movement have lead me to the speculations I've shared here.

Can anyone here point me to any records - Republican or otherwise - which might hold the possibility of further investigation?


Joe Ó Connell

As I have just begun to search in Ireland, I really can’t say I have hit a brick wall….yet.  I mainly want to make a connection with others knowledgeable of the family name.  I have been mainly focusing on my maternal grandfather’s side of the family…surname Shahan.  I’ve always been told that the family came from Ireland, particularly from County Cork and possibly County Down. I have finally found who I believe was our immigrant ancestor, Cornelius Sheehane who arrived in the United States in Talbot County, Maryland in 1679 with his two brothers. Albeit it was from someone else’s work I discovered this information, I am seeking verification and a connection. From searching the Internet I have found many “Sheehane, Shahan, Sheaughan, etc’ names in Ireland but do not know much else.

Thanks for allowing me to join this group and I look forward to more discussion.


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