A Twig Reconnects to the Family Tree
We Meet our Fourth Cousins
While vacationing in upstate New York this past summer, we took a side trip with my sister to Lansdowne, which is situated in eastern Ontario, Canada where the St. Lawrence River flows into Lake Ontario.
The purpose of the trip was to attend the O'Connor-Trainor Family Reunion.
It was an opportunity to meet some fourth cousins and return to the North American roots of our maternal grandmother's family.
This was the area where our grandmother's grandparent's first settled in North America when they emigrated from Ireland.
It is also the place from where our great-grandmother, Julia O'Connor (1850 - 1914), left to come south to Western New York to start a new life.
We learned that Julia O'Connor left under the cloud of a scandal involving her boyfriend/husband's theft of money from her father. The cad later abandoned her and her two young children.
Despite the circumstances of her exit, we also learned that she remained in contact with her family through letters and visits in the years that followed.
Julia's mother, brother and sisters later followed her to Western New York leaving only her father, who lay buried in the nearby hamlet of Phillipsville.
We Represented a Twig on the Family Tree as We Were Descended from A Brother
My sister's and my family were not direct descendants of Daniel and Bridget O'Connor like most of the others were. Instead we were descended from Daniel's younger brother, Charles O'Connor and his family.
A direct descendant of Daniel and Bridget, Margaret, while doing research, ran across the write-up in the newspaper of my grandmother's death some 20 years ago and, by lucky chance, was able to locate a cousin who referred her to my sister.
The majority of the family in attendance were the direct descendants of either Daniel O'Connor (1796 -1887) and his wife Bridget Trainor O'Connor (1815 - 1894) or Bridget's parents (and Daniel's neighbor when he arrived from Ireland) Peter Trainor (1774 - 1851) and Catherine McGuinnis Trainor (b 1776).
We, on the other hand, are descended from Daniel's younger brother Charles O'Connor (1810 - 1865) who married and later decided to follow his older brother to Canada. Our great-grandmother, Julia, was born after the family had moved to Canada.
In addition to representing another branch of the family, we added a little color to the group as Julia O'Connor had married the black sheep of a local family, Patrick Ivey (who also went by the surname Iven for reasons that will be clear in a moment) in the area and then come to the U.S.
We Learn More about Patrick Ivey - The Scondral Who Married our Great-Grandmother
A few years after arriving in the U.S. Ivey left Julia with their two young sons, and headed west, supposedly to seek a new home for them.
Shortly after he had left, a telegram arrived informing Julia that he had died.
Years later, after she had re-married and given birth to my grandmother, Ivey showed up on her doorstep seeking to get back together. He had sent the telegram and had proceeded to marry a few more women, never bothering to get a divorce from any of them.
We knew this and the O'Connor's at the reunion had also discovered this in their research.
What we didn't know was that Julia was supposedly a rather headstrong young woman who had married, apparently against her parent's wishes, Patrick Ivey when she was very young.
Ivey then proceeded to either borrow money from Julia's father and failed to repay it or stole it with the result that they left for the U.S. as much out of necessity as desire.
Of course we knew and the Canadian O'Connor's knew that Patrick Ivey was eventually found guilty of bigamy and ended up serving time in a Michigan prison for his crime.
While Julia Left Under a Cloud Her Brother Later Returned With an Invading Army
What our Canadian cousins did not know was that Julia's older brother, Patrick O'Connor, after being discharged from the Union Army following the American Civil War, joined a group of fellow Irish, known as the Fenians, who were agitating for Irish independence.
When the Irish branch of the Fenians was unable to make much progress fighting the British in Ireland, the American branch hatched a plan to hijack Canada (a British colony at the time) and hold it for ransom in exchange for Irish independence.
With thousands of ex soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies who were of Irish descent (most were immigrants from Ireland) available to join and surplus munitions from the war readily available either on the market or from the U.S. government through political connections (in addition to rifles, they also brought canon and even a former navy gunboat), these American Fenians were able to field a formidable army.
President Andrew Johnson at the time was negotiating with Great Britain over the Alabama Affair.
The Alabama Affair was a dispute in which the U.S. sought compensation for shipping losses during the Civil War that resulted from attacks on Union shipping by Confederate forces.
The Confederate ships, one of which they named the CSS Alabama, were not so secretly financed by the British government (a sort of 19th century Iran-Contra affair). President Johnson used the Fenians as pawns to pressure Britain into paying.
The Fenians invaded Canada and were initially successful on the field of battle. However, being unable to get more troops from England quickly, the British government agreed to a financial settlement in exchange for President Johnson cutting off the Fenian's American supply lines.
As soon as the agreement was signed President Johnson promptly had the Army close the border with Canada thereby cutting off the Fenian's supply lines and ability to retreat back to the U.S.
Julia's Uncle Patrick and the other Fenian troops stranded in Canada surrendered and through the protests and other efforts by the Catholic Church and others were eventually released and sent back home to the U.S. rather than being tried and imprisoned or executed for their actions.
While the Fenian's failed to gain independence for Ireland, the Canadians, upset by the inability of England to defend them, ended up achieving limited self government a year later in 1867 with the passage of the British North America Act by the British Parliament.
A Visit To Our Great-Great-Grandfather Charles O'Connor's Grave
After lunch there were about three hours of unscheduled time for families, from both sides of the border, who were descended from Daniel and Bridget O'Connor to re-connect and catch up since the last reunion.
Having seen a couple of photos of Charles O'Connor's grave we were told that it was just a few miles up the road in Phillipsville.
So we headed up there and, just as directed, we found the Holy Japanese Martyrs Cemetery.
This was peaceful and well kept cemetery on the west side of the highway across the street from what used to be the Church that our great-great-grandfather and his family used to attend. The Church is now a private home.
Charles rests in a single grave a few feet from the grave of his brother and sister-in-law, Daniel and Bridget. Charles' wife Eleanor is buried in Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Rochester, New York next to the graves of her daughter, Julia O'Connor Hughes, and her second husband (our great-grandfather) John Hughes, the father of our grandmother.
We End With a Family Mass at St. Patrick's Church in Lansdowne
Just outside of Lansdowne is a beautiful stone church. The name of the church is St. Patrick's Church. The name was no surprise as what other name would a group of early 19th century Irish immigrants choose for their church?
Daniel and Bridget O'Connor along with the other Irish families in the neighborhood raised the funds to build this church.
Two of the Stations of the Cross inside the church were donated in memory of Daniel O'Connor and his wife. One is inscribed Pray for the Soul of Daniel O'Connor and the other Pray for the Soul of Mrs. Daniel O'Connor.
Funds for these were either provided for in Daniel O'Connor's will or funded by his children after the deaths of Daniel and Bridget. The remaining Stations of the Cross were also inscribed as being in memory of other deceased parishioners who were probably of the same generation as Daniel and Bridget.
One of the attendees at the the reunion was a priest. I forgot his name but, like my sister and I, he also represented a twig on the O'Connor-Trainor Family tree being a descendent of one of Bridget Trainor's siblings or cousins.
Story of the Orangeman Who Built the Stone Rectory
Arriving at the church early like a few of us others, the priest related an interesting story about the building of the rectory which is also made of stone (a story I described at length in a blog post on tolerance - see links section for a link to this post).
According to the story/legend, the rectory was built sometime after the Church itself. The priest at the time decided that the rectory should be built of stone just like the church. I don't know if the rectory replaced an earlier one or if priests, like teachers in remote areas in those days, simply rotated among families staying with each in their homes for a period of time.
Funds were raised and a committee appointed to find a stonemason. Unfortunately, there were no stonemasons in the community and, as the chairman of the committee related, there were no stonemasons in neighboring towns.
When pushed by the priest, the committee chairman nervously related that they did find one stonemason nearby. However, he was not only a Protestant but also an Orangeman.
Orangeman were descendants of Protestant Scots who were brought from Scotland to settle and work lands in Northern Ireland from which the native Irish Catholics had been expelled along with the Irish Catholic nobles who had owned the lands following the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
From 1690 to the present relations between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland have been tense and were considerably more tense in the past.
While the priest and his parishioners had no use for their non-Catholic neighbors from the North of Ireland, the priest still wanted his stone rectory to match the stone church. Since his desire for a stone rectory was greater than his intense dislike of his neighbors who were Orangemen, he had the committee hire the stonemason to build the rectory.
And that is how the rectory came to be made of stone like the church.
Met Relatives from Far and Wide
About 100 people, mostly from the area around Lansdowne attended the reunion. About half of those in attendance were from the Canadian side of the border and the other half from the American side directly across the St. Lawrence River.
There were also a few of us who traveled from more distant parts of Canada and the U.S.
All in all it was a great time and a great experience meeting and getting to know these distant relatives of ours.
- The Priest and the Orangeman - A Lesson in Tolerance
A nineteenth century Irish priest and Protestant stonemason in Canada each benefit when they set aside ancient prejudices to undertake a mutually beneficial task.
- Scot-Irish - The Other Irish
While Ireland is a predominantly Catholic nation there is also a sizable Protestant minority whose traditions go back hundreds of years. Large numbers of both groups emigrated to the United States with those of Protestant faiths choosing to be known
- The Rising of the Moon - A Review of a Novel About Irish Americans and Canada
A review of a novel about the ill fated 1867 invasion of Canada by the Irish Fenian Brotherhood.
- Hugo O'Conor - The Irishman Who Founded Tucson
Visitors to the city of Tucson, Arizona in America's Southwest are often surprised to learn that this city just north of the Mexican border was founded by an Dublin born Irishman named Hugo O'Connor. Read the amazing story of how this Irishman came t
- Book Review - The Rising of the Moon – A Novel of the Fenian Invasion of Canada
A book review I wrote about another novel dealing with the Fenian invasion of Canada.
- Book Review - Morgan's Run
A book review I wrote about Colleen McCullough's (author of "The Thornbirds") historical novel about her ancestor who was falsly accused and convicted of a crime in England and became one of the convicts on the first ship to take convicts to Australi
- Book Review - A Passionate Girl
A book review I published about a novel about the Fenians and their invasion of Canada by historian and novelist Thomas Fleming.
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