Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Letter from 1948 "delivered" by the Irish Post Office leads to Discovering a Cousin: The Mannion 's of Addergoole in Lahardane and Castlehill, Mayo,Ireland


The obituary of Anne Cormac Mannion Barrett1, provides a wealth of information helpful when researching Irish ancestors. Anne's father is identified as John Mannion and her mother is "the widely-known, talented and accomplished", Elizabeth Cormac (spelling variations include Cormick and Cormack).  Anne's mother is listed as being from Castlehill.  This clue to a potential townland provides one of the most important facts when researching back to Ireland. The townland serves as the rural address, not quite today's equivalent of a postal code, but they were standardized in the 1820s and 1830s by the Boundary Commission and Ordnance Survey.

The obituary indicates that Castlehill is "one of the most picturesque estates in Mayo, Ireland". Researching the Griffiths Valuation for Ireland led to identifying a John Mannion in Castlehill, likely representing Anne's family. However, further research yielded little additional information.

Obituary for Anne Cormac Barrett (nee Mannion)

While reviewing records, letters and email correspondence, I reviewed what appears to be an account of the family in Ireland, possibly written by Thomas F. Barrett. This letter provided another lead in the Cormac line while providing many names in the Mannion family. Yet there were no dates and the names did not always correspond to evidence found on some individuals, including baptismal records for the Parish of Addergoole.

Page one of "Family Names and a little record of no account"


Turning then to a letter written by an “aunt Catherine” to “Kathleen” on 9 Feb 1948 which was kindly provided by a cousin laid out a few additional names of the family in Ireland not previously identified.  The additional clues indicated the townland of Laharadane, the names Lavelle and Devaney as well as Flynn and McHale and of course more recent names from 1940s.  Could any of these people still be living in the area in Ireland?

Transcription of letter from 1948:

Dear Kathleen,
I promised you I would look up the address of some of the family in Dear Old Ireland so thought better write it as if I call you on phone you would have to bother getting a pencil and paper and jotting it down so here is the best information I can give you. You know if course Charlie Manning is over there and his sister is there she is a Mrs. Walsh. I believe they are living on the family estate and I think it is Lahardane County Mayo. Aunt Frances was a Mrs. Frank Lavelle but her husband and stepson as well as Aunt Frances have all departed. Aunt Frances died about the same year Uncle Henry died which I think was about 1944 or 45. Aunt Frances was in the Post Office in Lahardane for 70 yeas she was about 95 years old I believe and spent her last days with a Grand Niece a Mrs. Frank Devaney (Emily) and she has 2 children girls Frances Marcella and Ann Marie. They lived in County Sligo. There was nieces of Aunt Frances Flynn one of them the youngest Marcella Flynn married a Jim McHale. There was a John and Charles Flynn that were living in Lahardane and a Flynn by the name of Henry living in Dublin. These are the older members of the family there was a Anna Marie Flynn but if you can not locate them you probable locate some of the younger members of the family. The Flynn Family is (Mamma Sister’s Family). The priest in Lahardane will probably put you straight on some of the members of the family. I hope she will visit the shrine of Our Lady of Knock. I remember my mother making a visit there. I guess we call them Novena’s they called them pilgrimages in those days.

A fortunate trip to Ireland offered an opportunity to spend a few extra days and research the family and possibly visit the townlands of my ancestors.  Since Castlehill was called an estate, it seemed to offer a good starting point.   The Landed Estates database for Ireland is useful in tracking names and places of estates in Ireland, a search of the database indicated that the house from about the 1830s was still “extant”2 and therefore, I hoped there was a way to visit the site.  I looked into hiring a guide in Ireland, as I intended to spend more time taking photos and looking around and did not need the worry about driving on which side of the road, let alone not knowing the roads in rural Ireland. My one criteria for a guide, they at least had to I indicate an interest in genealogy so they would not think I was nuts for ignoring the Blarney Stone, Waterford and the Cliffs but rather wanting to head to rural Ireland to see Lahardane and Castlehill by Lough Conn.

I wrote to Ms. Helena Nugent, in particular sending off an email asking about visiting Castlehill, Laharadane and County Mayo as way to “walk in my ancestors” home. Ms. Nugent responded promptly, and began to ask questions and in particular asked if I had any cousins in the area.  I indicated that I did not know but thought not, as I had no information beyond the obituary information for Anne Cormac Mannion and the letter dated from 1948 and the account from possibly Thomas F. Barrett.  All of this was forwarded to Ms. Nugent, who was interested in the information, indicating that there was a lot of information in the material.

To my surprise, Ms. Nugent wrote me back indicating that I had a cousin still in Lahardane.  I asked how she found my cousin, Ms. Nugent called the Lahardane post office and proceeded to read the letter from “Aunt Catherine”.  The postal worker was kind enough to listen then asked her to hold as a patron who happened to walk in might have “some information”. The patron listened patiently as Ms. Nugent read the letter,  where upon reaching a line about “Francis Marcella” he stated that that was his mother.  Marcella still happened to live in Lahardane and he was kind enough to provide contact information.

Ms. Nugent contacted Marcella Gibbons (Devaney) and we then began a long train of emails. Marcella is descended from Anne Cormac Mannion's brother Michael Mannion. Together we pieced the information together, finding multiple records on Ancestry.com (now available through the National Library of Ireland for Parish Records), thus assembling a tree for the Mannion family indicating we are 4th cousins, 1 times removed.
Children and Spouses of John Mannion and Elizabeth Cormac


Children of Francis Mannion and Mary Clifford

Children of Michael Mannion and Sarah Gunning

Children of Anne Cormac Mannion and John J. Barrett



We arranged a meeting during my too quick of a trip to Mayo, meeting in Ballina and then taking a ride to Castlehill the next day.  I was able to learn more about my cousins who remain in Ireland. We then were able to visit Castlehill, thanks to the kindness of the owner.  I was able to see the view towards Lough Conn and know that this is where my 3x-great-grandmother was born. 

View from Castlehill towards Lough Conn

Marcella and I continued to piece together more of the Mannion lines, from Ireland to Pennsylvania and Delaware.  This led to contacting another cousin descended from Maria Mannion, daughter of Francis Mannion and Mary Clifford, living in the U.S. 

Meeting my Cousin in Lahardane
L. to R. Thomas "Toss" Gibbons, me, Marcella Gibbons (Nee Devaney)

It is amazing to start with letters with few names and no real dates, a list of names (not always accurate) and some luck to find a cousin in Ireland.  Knowing the townland and Ms. Nugent's insight to call the post office of these smaller areas, as well as the luck in Marcella's son being at the post office at that moment, provided a wonderful trip to Ireland.  The trip offered me a chance to meet a cousin I never knew I had, walk in my ancestors' footsteps and see sites that added to the family history and took me off the tourist path.  You never know what you can find by reviewing your files, and looking again at what might have been missed, and what records are more readily accessible now.   




The events were from a trip in 2014.
© 2015 William C. Barrett.

1The Scranton Republican (Scranton, PA). "Death of Mrs. John J. Barrett, of Pittston." December 26, 
     1893, 8. http://www.newspapers.com/clip/248943/the_scranton_republican_26_dec_1893

2NUI Galway. "ESTATE: CORMACK/CORMICK." Landed Estates Database. Accessed August 23, 2015. 
     http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie:8080/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=263.