Can anyone help me solve the following mystery: When researching my ancestors in the church records room of The Cathedral of St. Peter & Paul in Athlone, Roscommon/Westmeath I met with much success and traced my ancestors back to an 1800 birth in Athlone...and his father was listed as being born in 1761 and written in pencil in the margin of the record book was "from Military Kilkenney".

I have been told that Athlone and Kilkenney were military garrison towns back in the late 1600's/early 1700's...but what kind of Military brigade my ancestor fought for is a mystery to me...Would he have been part of an Irish Brigade fighting against the British as the Brits pressed westward following the Battle of the Boyne (1690) or heaven forbid would he have been a 'souper' fighting for the Brits?

I have tried to research Military aspects of Kilkenny around the time of 1740 - 1800 without much success. My ancestor born 1800 Athlone was Thomas Quinlan and his father who was born in 1761 and was "from Military Kilkenney" was named William Quinlan.

Any insights from this group will be most appreciated.


Kevin Quinlan

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Replies to This Discussion

I googled "military kilkenny" and found this - haven't read it yet, may later because the topic is interesting -

Robert A. Mosher

Thank you VERY much Robert...I have downloaded and saved the thesis and I will look forward to reading it! The introductory summary of the thesis' content sounds very interesting indeed!

Best Regards,


I have assumed that - since my ancestors are tied to a majestic Catholic cathedral in Athlone, that my ancestor born in 1761 may have been in the Kilkenney military of The United Irishmen during the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and in the aftermath of the Rebellion migrated westward to Athlone where my Great, Great Great Grandfather was born in 1800.

-Kevin Quinlan

Mr. Quinlan, With some regret, you should know that if the official record of that time read "military" they meant, exclusively, British Army. United Irishmen or members of any other insurrectionary movements would have been noted in the official record as "rebels", never as "military". Kilkenny Castle was the ancestral home of the Butlers of Ormond, from long before the Battle of the Boyne the most prominent landlords in the counties Kilkenny, Tipperary and Waterford. Kilkenny town was a garrison town of the British Army. Most (although not all) United Irishmen activity during the 1798 rebellion, in that part of the country, was confined to the counties Carlow and Wexford. The term "souper" referred to Irish converts to Protestantism following the Famine (mid 1840s) as this was often a requirement to be admitted to a workhouse or to be fed from a soup kitchen. Regards, Paul Thomas Meagher.

Dear Paul Thomas Meagher,

Thank you very much for your very valuable information. Your information - as you correctly assumed it would - disturbs me greatly to know that my ancestor was a British Military man in the late 1700's...I can only take some comfort to know that he apparently held strong to his Catholicism rather than convert to Anglican or Protestantism. (There are several generations of Quinlans in the church records of that St Peter & Paul Cathedral in Athlone that I mentioned prior...)...I was astonished to learn through recent research that the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland actually sided with the British Crown forces against the 1798 Rebellion! I was so surprised to read that!

Again my sincere thanks for your insightful information.

-Kevin Quinlan

Kevin - for what it's worth, he probably didn't have a lot of choice.  Soldiering in the ranks was generally not considered a good career choice, but for those whose skills were limited to farm work or general labor it was an alternative to the work house or emigration.  It's also worth noting but not necessarily relevant to your ancestor's case that Irishmen were encouraged to enlist in the army in order to learn soldiering and thus be better prepared a planned future rising.  The rebels of 1798 were generally more effective when they had previously served in a local militia or volunteer unit (regular army enlistments were longer in those days and less useful to the revolutionaries for this purpose).  The Roman Catholic Church as an institution was almost always supportive of the existing power structure in each country of Europe as the constituted authority (and if a monarch chosen by God!).  However, that never prevented individual priests and prelates from openly supporting the rebels.. All of us doing genealogical research, I think, have to accept that sometimes our ancestors did things we would rather they hadn't - but I think we have to realize how difficult it really is to put ourselves in their shoes (unless they happened to leave us letters, diaries, memoirs, etc) and we need to cut them some slack and assume that they made the best choices they could depending upon their circumstances.

Thanks Robert...I really appreciate your reply very much and like all that you wrote and I agree. They lived under distressed conditions at best...and probably made the choices that they felt were best to preserve their lives and their family's well-being at the time.

This particular ancestor (Athlone from Military Kilkenney) of mine...His Grandson lived through the famine as a youngster in Athlone, emigrated to America in 1858 age 19 from Galway to Castle Gardens, NY...steamship up to Southington, CT to work on a farm...Then two years later enlisted in Hartford in 1861 to fight for the 12th Regiment CT Volunteers...fought through the entire Civil War under the command of John W. always a military family.

Interesting question, Kevin. I don't have a ready answer. Has an online search turned up anything of interest. I imagine not or you would have updated us here.  Might 'From Military Kilkenney" might simply mean the information was from "Military Kilkenney" or perhaps the birth was recorded in military records held in Kilkenny or connected to the county in some way. I do imagine that checking with the Athlone historical society might provide some actionable information, or at least facilitate more networking


Thanks very much for your 'out-of-the-box' thinking (in a GOOD way) !...Your pointing-out that "from Military Kilkenney" could have multiple meanings inspires me to push onward in my search and your idea to contact the Athlone Historical Society for their insights is something that I will do next...I will report back to you. Thanks for your great website and forums.


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