Introducing the O’BRIEN family from Ballykelly, Broadford

mary obrienJust to set the scene with this new blog I’d like to introduce you to my East Clare ancestor, Mary O’BRIEN from the townland of Ballykelly, parish of Kilseily, town of Broadford.

You might think that finding “Mary O’Brien from County Clare” would pose a challenge to any researcher but I struck it lucky with a circular letter I posted out, back in 1987, to any relatives I could identify. You see where I was indeed fortunate was that Mary married a Bavarian man, George Mathias KUNKEL, which made name searching so much easier. I suspect I’d have been stymied if she’d married Michael Ryan, for example.

Anyway my circular letter found its way to one of George and Mary’s surviving grandchildren, Anne Kunkel. Anne was an absolute goldmine! Not only was she a grandchild but she had lived with George and Mary on their farm at the Fifteen Mile, near Murphys Creek, Queensland. She obviously knew her grandmother very well and she had so many stories to tell me about their lives, and also the relatives. Anne was that precious person, a reliable witness. All the bare-bones data I had from births, deaths and marriage indexes, which I might add were much more restricted in those days, were confirmed by Anne, with one exception: one child had been born Elizabeth but thereafter known as Louisa. What I did know from both the oral history and the certificates was that the O’Brien parents were Michael O’BRIEN and Catherine REDDAN.

The old kitchen area of the Kunkel farm at the Fifteen Mile.

The old kitchen area of the Kunkel farm at the Fifteen Mile.

The other precious thing Anne gave me was the gateway into the O’Brien ancestry. She could tell me Mary’s parents’ names, her siblings’ names, whether they emigrated and to where, as well as the women’s married names. You can imagine just how important all this was.

Anne told me that Mary emigrated with her sister Bridget O’BRIEN, that they’d been six months at sea and “had a job before ever they got here”.. You can read a recent post about how I may have found her emigration here.

Anne also knew that Bridget had married a man named John WIDDUP and lived in New South Wales.  I was lucky to have another unusual name to pursue and was able to order Bridget WIDDUP’s death certificate on which her son had provided Bridget’s place of birth as Broadford, Co Clare, even though he’d got her mother’s name incorrect. My Bavarian grandfather had only ever provided “County Clare” when asked that question for certificates.

Nora Garvey, photo from her great-granddaughter.

Nora Garvey, photo from her great-granddaughter.

And so the story unfolded. I was given the link to 4th cousins in Sydney, and thanks to work trips there I was able to meet with them. They held a treasure trove of family photographs, funeral cards and anecdotes. Their ancestor, Honora O’Brien, Mary’s sister, had remained in Ireland and married a man name John GARVEY from Ballydonaghan townland, Bodyke. During the 1886 evictions, Honora and John very nearly lost their home. Over the decades that followed a number of Honora’s children emigrated permanently or temporarily to the United States, but several also came to Sydney where their aunt Catherine was living.

Honora Garvey remained in Ireland throughout her long life. Her husband John pre-deceased her on 4 March 1888. Honora died, aged 76, on 12 January 1917 at Ballydonaghan townland and her son Denis was present at her death. She is buried in the old Bodyke cemetery, County Clare, and is remembered on the far side of the world in the stained glass windows of St Peter’s Church, Surry Hills. The windows were donated by her Australian-based family in her memory.

Catherine O’Brien, emigrated to Australia and married a man who was also from Broadford (Glenomera), Patrick HOGAN. The Hogan and Garvey families lived close to each other and maintained close family relationships over many decades, retaining knowledge of their kin in Ireland and America.

These stained glass windows in St Peter's Catholic Church, Surry Hills, Sydney commemorate the Garvey and Hogan parents' lives.

These beautiful stained glass windows in St Peter’s Catholic Church, Surry Hills, Sydney commemorate the Garvey (left) and Hogan (right) parents’ lives.

Meanwhile back in Ireland, sister Margaret O’Brien married William McNAMARA and settled in Killaderry townland in Broadford. Another sister, Ellen O’Brien, married Thomas KINNANE from Hurdleston townland (various spellings), Broadford. This couple, with children Tom, Michael and Mary, reportedly emigrated to New York. I haven’t spent much time trying to find this family but should add it to my research list.

One brother, John O’BRIEN, who was baptised in 1848, remains a mystery. Not only does he not feature in the oral history, I can find no trace of him beyond 1859/60 when he appears in the parish register as a witness to two baptisms. (The Broadford parish register is available on microfilm

The O'Brien land at Ballykelly.

The O’Brien land at Ballykelly.

Mary’s brother Thomas O’BRIEN remained in Ireland and inherited the family farm after his parents’ deaths. In due course it moved out of the family, a fact which can be traced through the Griffith Valuation Revisions. Thanks to the assistance of the local clergy I was put in touch with the man who owned it in 1992, and he generously showed me the land.

It’s easy to see just how important it is to get your message out there, and find a reliable person to share the oral history. And in case this all sounds too idyllic, let me tell you that my grandfather was George and Mary’s eldest grandchild and would have known them well. Although he lived next door to me all my life, I never heard any of this from him because he was disenfranchised from his family, and also I was probably caught up in my own pre-teen world.

The other significant aspect of the story is the importance of chain migration for the Irish, with one person in the family following another, as well as their determination to select which migration option best suited them.

If you would like to share your story here, please let me know. I promise not to harass everyone with requests.

The grave of George and Mary Kunkel at Murphys Creek, Qld

The grave of George and Mary Kunkel at Murphys Creek, Qld

15 thoughts on “Introducing the O’BRIEN family from Ballykelly, Broadford

  1. Pingback: Bridget WIDDUP nee O’BRIEN from Ballykelly. | East Clare Emigrants

  2. Interesting site my family the Michael Bartley’s were from Bartleystown, Kiltenanlea, Clare and are listed with Sir Hugh Massy also. I’m not able to find it any more. I have seen a photo of the Massy’s house that burned. There son Patrick Bartley immigrated to the US in New England. I’ll be following are you on facebook?

    • Thanks for getting in touch Anne. Massy had very large fingers in the Clare pie 🙂 You may have seen the photo of the Massy house on the Clare library page? Where in the world are you? These families scattered all over the world, incl as you say, to New England. There is a Clare group on FB which you might find interesting….I don’t have one specifically for East Clare. I usually, but not always, note my posts on there. I’ve had family commitments just lately which is why I haven’t added new stories for a few weeks.

      • Patrick immigrated to Rhode Island. He married Johanna Stanton from Limerick here. We just took our first trip to Ireland in November and as we where driving thru the area near Limerick he mentioned the O’Brien’s were a well know family in the area. Well I just found out Johanna Stanton’s Mother was Alicia/Alice O’Brien.

      • Thanks for commenting Anne. Unfortunately Alice O’Brien doesn’t fit in my family tree, and I also have no info on her. Good luck with the hunt.

    • Hi Anne,
      As you would have seen on the East Clare Emigrants post of March 2014 re Mary Ann Massy, she came to Australia and went to her cousin, Mrs Lublin in Sydney. That Mrs Lublin was born Mary Ann Whelan in Doonas Clare in 1818, the daughter of Patrick Whelan and Mary Massy.
      When she arrived in Sydney in 1838 on the “Magistrate” she is described as the niece of Patrick Bartley on the same ship. I thought that she may have been a neighbour or friend, rather than a niece, as I think that unmarried girls had to travel with a male relative, and I could not make the connection.
      But I will tell you what I have discovered about this Patrick Bartley:
      He was born Doonas in March 1809.
      His parents were John Bartley and Mary Enwright.
      In 1830 he married Mary O’Brien, born Kilkeddy, Limerick in January 1811, daughter of Patrick O’Brien and Catherine Lynch.
      On the ship with them were their children, Thomas age 5, John age 3, Ellen age 7, and also a baby daughter born 12 days before the ship arrived in Sydney.
      They went on to have another 7 children.
      Mary died 11 Jan 1873 at Cooma NSW; Patrick remarried in 1875 to Margaret Devereux. Patrick died 25 Feb 1890 Cooma NSW.

      Patrick also had a brother Lawrence Bartley (1816-1875) who emigrated to NSW 0n the “Strathfieldsay” in Jan 1838 with his wife. They had married 1 Dec 1836. He was certified as “honest, sober and industrious” by the Rev Thos Westtopp, Rector of Doonas, and by John Carroll and Edmund Dwyer.

      Hope this is of interest to you,

      • Hello Gabrielle,

        I received your email about Patrick Bartley. It sounds like he might be my Patrick Bartley’s Uncle. My Patrick Bartley was born sometime between 1835-1840. I’m leaning more toward 1835 his Father was Michael Bartley. Michael Bartley worked for the Massy Family, They might have paid your family fare so they could accompany there relative. It sounds like your Patrick and Michael Bartley might have been brothers.

        What ever I’m sure they must be related. The name that really seems a link is Lawrence Bartley. My Patrick and his wife Johanna named there first child that. Thanks for the information.
        Anne Dooley

      • One more thing. I also understand the Catholic church are going to release there records in 2015. This should be a big help in solving a lot of questions.

      • The only problem Anne, is that they will be digitising the records, but not indexing them, so there’s still going to be a need for an idea of parish etc.

  3. My husband is related to a branch of O’Briens – his grandfather was a James O’Brien who died at Cundletown in NSW in 1925. There is a record of a James O’Brien arriving in NSW in 1860 from ‘Ballykerry’ (which must an error for Ballykelly as there is no Ballykerry), Broadford, NSW. Searching for this place led me to your site. Do you think James would be related to your O’Briens? Seems likely…Thanks, Jen

  4. Very interesting story. I just got my FTDNA results, and you and I match. My brick wall ancestor is William O’Brien from Ireland, and I’d like to find his whereabouts. I have all but two of my Irish ancestors tracked to counties now. I have an Ancestry match with James B. Conway, whose ancestors are all from Co. Clare, so I’m assuming for the moment that at least one of my two unknown county ancestors could be from Co. Clare. His Mary O’Brien ancestor is from Miltown Malabay, which isn’t very close to Broadford. Australia is on my list of places I want to visit, so hopefully we can figure out how we’re related and meet someday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.