Our Irish Roots


© Copyright 2004  Robert M. Holley, Jr.

My gg-grandfather John Paine Keenan (1824-1901)

My gg-grandfather John Paine Keenan (1824-1901)

My g-grandfather Bruce L. Keenan [BLK] (1855-1949)

My g-grandfather Bruce L. Keenan [BLK] (1855-1949)

Family of Bruce Lazzelle Keenan about 1902 - my g-mother Marguerite standing in rear

Family of Bruce Lazzelle Keenan in about 1902 — my grandmother Marguerite is standing in the rear


©2004 by Robert M. Holley, Jr.

Discovering the Basics: Fall, 2001

To keep partly sane after 9/11, I began to “play genealogy” for real; just before the attack I had been experimenting with some Internet genealogy sites. But now, out came old files and pictures that had been stowed away many years and had barely survived Hurricane Andrew. I had always wanted to trace back my families– just like in Alex Haley’s Roots— and it seemed to be a very, very appropriate time to do that.

Among these stored things, was a sheaf of papers, some old pictures, and an autograph book that had belonged to my great grand-father, Bruce Lazzelle Keenan (BLK). They had been given to me by my grandmother, Marguerite Keenan Holley (Granny Holley), on our visit to her Newport News, VA home after her stroke in the mid-1970s. I had sifted through the Keenan papers a few times some years ago, but I don’t remember seeing much of significance; the autograph book had some beautiful hand drawn floral designs done by ladies?, but the signatures and inscriptions didn’t mean much to me. My wife and I talked with Granny quite a bit about old families on that visit, but my notes and remembrances of those discussions were mostly about the Holleys and Granny’s mother’s family, the Overstreets; I don’t think she talked much about the Keenans.

In looking back through the papers again in 2001, WOW! Out popped a wrinkled, roughly typed, plain looking page dated May 10, 1937. I don’t remember ever having seen it before. I was stunned; I realized right away that it was kind of a “Rosetta Stone” for our Keenan family– a one page letter that 81 year-old BLK wrote to his daughter, my grandmother– describing the origins of his family, and what he remembered about his old Keenan relatives.

From the 1937 letter ( see copy in Appendix I ), I gathered the following information:

According to his gravestone, BLK’s grandfather was born in County Fermanagh, Ireland. His family came from Ireland to New York City, then to upstate New York, then to Allegheny Co., PA, and then to the southwest-most part of Pennsylvania. Some of his grandfather’s brothers went south, one to western Virginia toward Kentucky.

BLK’s father, who I soon found out from Internet-accessible data was John Paine Keenan, accompanied his father, Hugh Keenan, west from Pennsylvania to Iowa in 1845-6. BLK said that John Paine was accompanied by his “full sister (my aunt) and some half-brothers.” This led me to believe, early on, that Hugh Keenan had two marriages.

John Paine Keenan decided to leave the Iowa family and returned to the border area of Pennsylvania/Virginia, where he settled by 1850 in Monongalia Co., VA (West Virginia after the Civil War). He married Nancy Lazzelle in 1852, and they had five children, which were listed (without dates of birth) in the 1937 letter:

Leonidus Harnaline (1854), Bruce Lazzelle (1855), Mary Elizabeth (1857), Thomas Grant (1863), and John Franklin (1873).

BLK said in the first paragraph of his letter, just after describing the earliest of the Keenan migrations, “there were both Keenans and McDonoughs as I recall.” From this, I wondered from the beginning if his grandfather’s (Hugh Keenan’s) mother might be a McDonough.

BLK also remembered long trips over to Pittsburgh (presumably when he was a West Virginia teenager in the 1870s) to visit his “distant” Keenan and McDonough relatives, who still lived there. At least one of these aunts was quite wealthy, and BLK with his usual humor told how awkward he felt sleeping on her clean sheets.

After a few months of sniffing around the “freebie” Internet, checking out genealogy forums and message boards, I supplemented my discovery powers by taking out a subscription to Ancestry.com and later Genealogy.com. Among other data resources, this gave me access to all of the detail U.S. census records from 1790 to 1930.

It was quite surprising what was “out there” in the “freebie” sites. I was really frustrated at first because, as renowned as BLK became in Oklahoma, searching on his name yielded virtually nothing. There were all kinds of stuff on Robert Mitchell Overstreet, grandmother’s grandfather, and many of my other relatives– but just nothing on Bruce Keenan. Out of desperation, I searched on the name of his eldest brother, “Leonidus Harnaline”– surely no one else could possibly have that name! And presto, up came a whole history of BLK’s mother’s (Nancy Lazzelle’s) roots.

John Paine’s wife’s family is very well documented. On her mother’s side, Nancy was descended from the Bowlbys and Carharts– two of the best documented families in America. If you ever want to get DAR/SAR status, Major Cornelius Carhart, born on my birthday, September 6, in 1729, fought with great distinction for Gen. George Washington at Elizabethtown and Monmouth. I traced the Bowlbys back to Nottingham, England in the 1600’s and finally even back to 1503. One of our guys was either keeper of the Sherwood Forest, or best friend of the keeper!

I noticed that BLK’s faded autograph book had signatures of several Courtney girls; they signed: “ _____ Courtney, your cousin, Marion, Iowa”. Also, in the sheaf of BLK’s papers, there was an invitation list for his wife’s, Alice Overstreet Keenan’s, 1939 funeral– more of the same names from Marion, Iowa. I supposed that this town, near Cedar Rapids, in eastern Iowa, must be where Hugh took his family in 1845. In the packet my grandmother gave me, there were also several pictures of BLK as a young man, and one penciled “great grand father Keenan, Granma H’s grandfather”. This was BLK’s father, John Paine– documented for their Granny by one of my Holley cousins in Virginia.

Using the archives at the USGenWeb website (cemetery records, pioneer lists, biographies, etc.) and detailed U.S. census data for Linn County, Iowa, I was able to track Hugh’s family from 1850 through 1880. His was the only pioneer Keenan family there, so I felt certain I was dealing with our folks. Hugh’s nickname was “Shoe” and one of his occupations was a bit unusual. In addition to having a farm, he was a cooper– a barrel-maker (as we shall see, this really turned out to be a very important fact).

Tracing the name Courtney, I was able to deduce that Hugh’s first daughter, John Paine’s “full sister,” was Mary Ann… she married Joel Courtney, another Iowa “pioneer” in 1852. Mary Ann’s girls Emma, Retta, and Dora Belle were the ones who put their signatures (and maybe some beautiful designs) into BLK’s autograph book in August, 1883.

In Iowa, we know that Hugh was married to an Elizabeth. A West Virginia biography for one of BLK’s brothers, stored out on the Internet, said that his father was named John Paine Keenan, and on a nicely-done family site, Bowlbys of America, it said that his mother was named Elizabeth Paine (that made good sense to me because it accounted for John’s middle name). A few web forums, however, hinted that Hugh’s lady in Iowa was named Elizabeth Linton. I wondered for a little while if Elizabeth’s last name might be McDonough, but BLK seemed to be talking about the very early family when he mentioned McDonough, and then I found a Benjamin Linton family living in 1830-50 Greene Co., PA, right near the Dunkard Township census location where we think our Hugh Keenan was in 1840—- just before he left for Iowa– so I kept that Linton name in mind.

From his gravestone in the Marion, IA Crab Apple Cemetery (the grave BLK apparently remembers), we know that our Hugh Keenan died on 2-7-1879; from the inscription, we were able to deduce his date of birth as 12-26-1799; as per BLK, he was born in County Fermanagh, Ireland.

Elizabeth Keenan died on 12-27-1896; from her inscription, we were able to deduce her date of birth as 8-31-1803; the various census reports favored her birth as being in Maryland. The Benjamin Linton family that I found in Greene Co., PA traced back to Frederick Co., MD.

From the Iowa census and other web sources, I was slowly able to figure out a rough skeleton– a good deal of the Iowa family– Hugh’s children and some of his grandchildren.

At that time in late 2001, I believed that our Hugh Keenan’s known children and dates of birth (DOBs) were:

John Paine (1824), Mary Ann (1827), Margaret (1835), James (1837), Rebecca (1839), and Hugh, Jr. (1841).

I assumed from the break in DOBs and BLK’s comments about “half-brothers” that John Paine and Mary Ann were born by the first wife, Elizabeth Paine, and the others by the second wife, also named Elizabeth. So, I figured that Elizabeth Paine may have died in the late 1820s and Hugh married the second Elizabeth around 1834.

In Greene County PA, Dunkard Township, very closely nestled together, in addition to an 1840 Hugh Keenan who fit the above family profile, and a Benjamin Linton (1820 thru 1860), we found a George Pain (1810 thru 1830), a Mary Pain (1820), and, intriguingly, a John Kanan or Kunan (1830).

In the adjoining Whitely Township, we also found a Hugh Keenan in 1820 thru 1840. This Whitely Hugh Keenan was weird– he did not seem to be the right age for our Hugh. And, then also another younger Whitely Hugh Keenan appeared in 1860—- but our Hugh was in Iowa! As we shall see, all these Hugh Keenans really make things very confusing.

In my first few weeks of hunting, I fortunately came across Judy Keenan’s name on an Overstreet web forum. Judy’s husband, Allen Claude, is the son of John Kenneth Keenan, BLK’s youngest son (see below).

I e-mailed her, compared notes, and I could see that she had discovered much of the same basic Keenan information I had found on the web. She helped me get in touch with a bunch of our Keenan clan, and I found a few more by myself out on the Web. We chatted back and forth. This is just a great way for families to communicate and do research. My 40 years’ experience with a computer—- seven on the Web— was a huge plus. Very little of this discovery could have happened without the Internet and the World Wide Web!

With four or five folks conversing together, and using newspaper clippings, pictures, and a few of BLK’s personal letters grandmother gave me, piecing together the basics of Bruce Keenan’s life was fairly easy. He grew up near Morgantown, WV, graduated with a law degree from UWV (1885), taught a while, and went west to Wichita, KS. As a newspaper reporter, Justice of the Peace, political aide, etc., he met and wed Emporia, KS’s Alice Overstreet in 1890. After a stay in Washington DC, he was appointed U.S. Indian Commissioner and moved in 1904 to Tahlequah, OK (actually Cherokee Nation before 1908 OK statehood). My grandfather, C.O. Holley, from Stigler, OK, attended teacher’s college in Tahlequah, and that’s where he met and married Marguerite (Margie) Keenan. BLK’s children were: Robert Bruce (1891), Marguerite (1892), Hypatia (1894), Claude Overstreet (1898), and John Kenneth (1900).

Terry Frary’s elderly mother, Mary Ella, (daughter of BLK’s first son, Robert) was a big help with her memories and ability to identify various pictures I had of Oklahoma houses and people. (Terry and Mary Ella also have a treasure trove of Overstreet history/memorabilia!). Everything fell neatly into place; there were even the scrawlings in BLK’s autograph book— “Marguerite & Hypatia Keenan, Washington, DC: February/March, 1902” reflective of BLK’s service to Kansas U.S. Rep./Sen. Charles Curtis [?] before he was appointed Indian Commissioner.

Finding out about John Paine’s life was quite a bit more challenging, but his census records, a biography of one of his sons, and a Bowlby family website filled in some of the pieces. He raised a fine family, but his life didn’t seem terribly exciting. As per the History of West Virginia bio referenced above:

“John Paine Keenan devoted his active life to farming, and he died at the old [Cass District] homestead in 1901 and his wife in 1912.”

A fortuitous contact with Doris Brozak, granddaughter of BLK’s youngest brother, John Franklin, was later able to shed much more light on the lives and descendants of BLK’s West Virginia brothers and sisters.

John Paine Keenan appears in the decadal census for the Cass District of Monongalia County, VA/WV from 1850 through 1900 (1890 is missing because that whole census burned). The 1850 entry was the trickiest to find as John was still unmarried and was staying on someone else’s farm. The enumerator wrote him down as John Kenon, but he really couldn’t hide from me; the real tip-off was his occupation– cooper! [That name, Keenan, by the way, is spelled about 12 different ways over 200 years– so one has to be very alert and patient!]

Over some months, I was able to tell Judy, Terry, and the others about some of the more exciting things I did, like possibly discovering John Paine Keenan’s mother’s name — Elizabeth Paine, finding John’s family’s census data, and about my methodical work in piecing together fragments of the Iowa Keenan family. Of course, I really had some great clues to work with that no one else had – particularly the 1937 letter and the autograph book. Little did any of us know at that time, but there were other Keenans out there with even more important clues– just waiting to be discovered!

Following False Trails, Winter 2001/Spring 2002

One of the most informative (but really misleading) pieces of Keenan information I initially was able to find on the Web was the above mentioned biography of Thomas Grant Keenan, BLK’s brother, who became a judge in Monongalia Co., WV. In part, according to 1923’s The History of West Virginia, Old & New, vol. II, pg. 152:

 “…[John Paine Keenan] was born in Dunkard Township of Greene Co., PA, in 1824, son of Hugh Keenan and grandson of James Keenan. James Keenan was a pioneer of western Pennsylvania. On bringing his family to America, he settled in Greene County, and met his death at the hands of Indians in the border warfare.”

Well, I spent many months looking all over the Web for this James Keenan and his fatal encounter with the Indians.  After some time, though, I began to realize that this bio just didn’t add up.  If our Hugh was born in Ireland in 1799, what was his grandfather doing settled in America in the 1780s–  the time the Pennsylvania/Ohio border was live with Indian warfare?  And, despite my exhaustive search, there was just no apparent record of a James Keenan being a well-known Pennsylvania pioneer.

In late January 2002, I was checking back on the Ancestry.com World Tree Project website for Keenan families, when suddenly I found a very new entry–  a Sarah McDonough had married a Hugh Keenan and had a daughter, Sarah Ann (born 1820), brought up in Greene Co. PA.  Sarah Ann married a John Snider, and it was the descended Snider family that put these findings up on the Ancestry.com site.

I should have been more careful, and less excited, but the names they listed, the dates, and the locations were just too perfect not to be our Keenan/McDonough families.  According to the Snider data, Sarah McDonough was born aboard a ship on the way to or from America in 1783.  They said that Sarah’s father and mother were Thomas and Catherine McDonough of Fermanagh, IRE.  Sarah married a Hugh Keenan, born about 1778, son of a James Keenan.  In addition to having a daughter, Sarah Ann, Hugh and Sarah Keenan had a daughter, Alice, born 1818 in Ulster Co., NY [remember BLK’s letter about upstate NY!]. This new Hugh Keenan (b. 1778) might surely also explain at least one of the weird Hugh Keenans we found in the Greene/Whitely, PA census.

I spent a few months asking questions about the non-Snider descendants of this union, and the McDonough part of the equation, and desperately trying to convince myself that our own 1799 Hugh was somehow the son of this Hugh and Sarah.  Thinking back on it now, the Sniders were very helpful with providing information about the families that descended from Sarah/Hugh, but they didn’t really seem to know much about before 1820—-  they said they got their early data from others, and they didn’t know much about the Keenans.  In fact, they didn’t really know too much about Sarah Ann’s siblings either; I found out later that they even tried to “kidnap” our John Paine Keenan as being the youngest son of their 1778 Hugh Keenan.

After looking through hundreds of pages of census records in old Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and conferring with a few other collectors of Keenan data, I finally figured out some of what I think happened with these folks. I am not sure yet exactly whose daughter 1783 Sarah McDonough was, but she did marry a Hugh Keenan in about 1806.  They apparently had at least four children, Catherine (1807), Hugh (1814), Alice [Elsey] (1818), and Sarah Ann (1820)—-  the first three of whom may have been  born in Ulster NY.  Just like the family mentioned in BLK’s letter, this Keenan family apparently went to upstate NY and then they migrated over to Greene, PA and settled down just a few miles west of where we think our Hugh Keenan eventually did. The Hugh Keenan born 1814 was the younger one that we found in the 1860 Greene, PA census; his father Hugh, Sr. died in Greene about 1852. Our Hugh was in Iowa by that time.  But, for a while (1820-1845), there were at least three Hugh Keenans lurking about in this one little Pennsylvania county; no wonder the Sniders were confused; so were we!

But don’t discount this other Keenan family as just a coincidence; I think it’s more complex than that.  There is an eerie similarity of male names in the offspring of this Whitely-centered Hugh Keenan family and in our Keenan families–  Hughs, Johns, and James all over the place.  [1814 Hugh Keenan even had a son he named John P., so maybe that’s why the Sniders thought that John Paine Keenan belonged to their family]. And, as time would show, it would also appear that our own Keenan family was in Ulster, NY during the period 1808-1820.  And, to take the cake, both Keenan families appear to have married into what seems to be the same (or closely related) McDonough family(ies).

Discovering the Voyage to America –  June/July 2003

After the first few months of 2002, I had to put the Keenans away for a while and concentrate on some of my other families, and those of my wife. I just wasn’t making any progress.

I stayed pretty much bogged down in the same place, as far as the old Keenans were concerned, for over a year.  I was completely stymied by all the Keenan blind alleys, and I was not getting anywhere at all with the names McDonough or Paine either. Judy and I had compared notes around the beginning of 2003, and found ourselves stuck at about the same place. We discussed some theories, and she mentioned that someone found a Hugh Keenan name on an 1811 voyage from Belfast, so I decided to try out immigration lists.  They are somewhat sketchy before the 1840s, but what the heck!  I didn’t look very hard, though; I think that I used one of my genealogy subscriptions to confirm that the Belfast ship data was there. The 1811 timing didn’t seem just right for our Hugh Keenan, but I kept some of the “links” to the immigration data in mind just in case.

In March 2003, I received some correspondence from Glenda Thompson, a Linton researcher. Her Benjamin Linton record of his nine children showed a daughter Elizabeth who had married a “Kenan”. Benjamin’s marriage date looked good for Elizabeth being a first child. Glenda also mentioned that Benjamin had a Greene Co. will; I also found on a website that he had two daughters Rebecca and Margaret. These matched the names of two of Hugh’s children by the second Elizabeth. I also found a Latter Day Saints (LDS) data entry verifying an 1841 birth certificate of a Hugh Keenan born to an E. Linton and unknown Kenan.

This kind of got my Irish blood flowing again.  I got tied up for a number of weeks watching my daughter graduate from FSU and doing some graveyard prowling in South Georgia looking for one of my Hearns, but in mid-June I started looking back over my huge sheaf of badly organized Keenan notes.  A year back, in one section of Genealogy.com called “Roots Cellar,” I had come on the names of a few people researching the Pennsylvania/West Virginia Keenan families.  Not much there about who these folks were…   and no phone #s or e-mails, just street addresses… Doris Brozak, Crown Point, Indiana… wonder who that could be, interested in John P. Keenan?  I used Google to search the Web for that unusual Brozak name and came up with an e-mail address.  On June 25, I sent out a short message and asked if she was the “Roots Cellar” person and if she had any information about John P. and the old Keenans. The very next day Doris answered:

“Hi Robert,

Yes, I am the same [Doris].  My grandfather was John Franklin Keenan.  I do have some information about them, but not a whole lot.  They are a funny family to find and get information from, I have found.  I was born in Morgantown, WVA and John Franklin Keenan married Lavery Belle Ridgway.  John Payne Keenan is his full name.”

I was really flabbergasted that I had just happened on BLK’s brother’s grandchild.  This was the second elderly “grand-daughter” in my various families that I had turned up in a year.  I answered right back and sent her a copy of my latest Keenan findings and mentioned that we were really stuck on the Paines.

A few days later, Doris corrected herself and said that Payne really should be Paine; that was John’s mother’s name–  Elizabeth Paine.   She said she had some interesting data about Elizabeth, and quite casually she added,

“I got the information from a letter to my Mother dated January 13, 1926 about Hugh Keenan coming here when he was 3 years old in 1803.”  

That set off some big bells, and on July 2, I decided to try the immigration thing again … plugging in the specific 1803 date.  I wasn’t doing anything that systematic, I was really just fooling around on the Internet at lunch without really being sure what I was doing, and suddenly I came up with the passenger list of the ship Cornelia, which sailed from Londonderry, Ireland to NYC on 4-15-1803.  Aboard were a Hugh Kennen, age 51 and a Hugh Kennen age 3. I noticed also that among the other passengers, there were a Hugh and Mary Donnelly family and a James and Rose Tracy family.

Recalling BLK’s letter, I started looking back at some census entries I had previously noted for Keenan families in upstate NY.  In 1810, in Ulster NY, New Paltz, I found living side by side two large families– that of Hugh Kennon and one of John Kennon; Hugh was of the right age to be the one on the Cornelia.  John was of the right age to be the John Kunan we found in the 1830 Greene PA census.  And, just a few doors away, I found a Hugh Donnelly family and a Thomas Tracy family– might these be the same families as were aboard the Cornelia?

This was all pretty tenuous data, I guess, but I concluded right then that our little Hugh Keenan was probably on the Cornelia, and that this was our Keenan family in 1810.  Because of his age, I also felt that the older Hugh Kennen on the Cornelia wasn’t little Hugh’s father– I really suspected then that Hugh’s father was John Keenan.  I looked back carefully at the John Kunan in the 1830 Greene/Dunkard census to study the enumerator’s handwriting.  The letter “u” was not a “u” at all; it was a poorly-written double “e”.

Wow!  I responded back to Doris with my ship discovery right away and asked her to send me a copy of the 1926 letter. She said her husband was really sick, but that as soon as she could she would mail me the letter along with some BLK family data she had received in correspondence with Patrick D. Keenan of San Antonio, TX.

A Bombshell—  Emma’s Old Letter –  July 2003

Much sooner than I expected, Doris wrote and said that her husband had thankfully much improved;  she was about to mail me a package of papers– including the old letter to her mother.  I kind of fidgeted for the whole time I waited for it…she hadn’t been very specific, but “Even if there’s nothing else,” I thought, “we’ll know it was probably Hugh on the Cornelia, and we’ll also find out something definite about Elizabeth Paine.”

When I received the letter ( see Appendix II ), it really just took my breath away!

It was a short history of the family written by Emma [Keenan] Courtney to Doris’ mother, Irene Ridgway [Keenan] McKay (Emma was the very same cousin who signed BLK’s autograph book).  It was somewhat like BLK’s 1937 letter, but much more specific and with much older information.

First, there was mention of the 1803 voyage, and the same NY to PA moves as BLK described.  And then, much more: several names and good clues for probing the elusive Paine family–  including details on an Indian scalping (remember that WV biography?).   And, my goodness, explicitly named there were four of Hugh Keenan’s seven brothers and sisters: Andrew, Thomas, Mary Ann, and Kitty.  Three of those were associated with a specific location.  And, a big surprise– there was a Richard Keenan, a son of Hugh, whom I guess no one else really knew about.

Emma Courtney closed her letter with the married names of some of Hugh’s daughters and grandchildren in Iowa that I didn’t have… what a treasure trove of facts!  I could hardly believe it.   What is more amazing is that one of the most important facts was very well hidden; it did not emerge for many months and was almost missed.  It led directly to our McDonoughs.

I really have to chuckle now at Doris’ first words about the Keenans:

“I do have some information about them, but not a whole lot.”


Hugh Keenan’s Unknown Son–  Richard

Within a few days, I had found Richard P. Keenan in the 1860-70 Wetzel Co., WV census. Among his nine children, were a Mary Ann, a John, a Richard and a Hugh G.  Both our 1799 and our 1841 Hugh Keenans were named Hugh G. (more on that later).  I corresponded with Cindy Mondak and Teresa Kisko, Richard’s descendents. They supplied me with lots of Richard’s family data, and from his gravestone Cindy had his exact  DOB—- 12-5-1825.  It fit perfectly between John Paine, 2-7-1824 and Mary Ann, 12-11-1827.  I still wasn’t sure this was the right guy until I discovered a Richard Cannan in the 1850 Greene PA/Dunkard Township census– right in the same place our other Keenans had been—- right date of birth, right wife’s and child’s names.  And, guess what his occupation was?  — a cooper!   A few days later, as described below, I found that Elizabeth Paine’s father was named Richard Pain, so that pretty well sealed it.  Unless I’m very mistaken, Hugh and Elizabeth Paine Keenan named their sons after their respective fathers—- John and Richard.

It was right about this time, July 19, that I decided to try to contact another of the “Roots Cellar” folks I had previously found.  There was a Ruth Terrill, Dodge City, KS, who was interested in Hugh G. Keenan.  I couldn’t find a current e-mail for Ruth, but I found a probable phone number from the Internet, and one night I got brave and just called it…

Once again, I had an amazing correspondence.  Ruth is the wife of Ralph Terrill, great-grandson of Hugh G. Keenan, Jr., born in 1841.   Their family had kept a very careful accounting of the mid-western Keenan folks, and Ruth was later able to provide me with many details of the families of Iowa Hugh’s children and grandchildren.

Their oral tradition also verified that Hugh came to the United States, with his uncle Hugh, in 1803.  They knew a bit about the life in Pennsylvania– something about the Indian scalping, a bit about the “other” Hugh Keenan family and some link to McDonoughs, but nothing on the Paines or this new son of Hugh’s– Richard Keenan.  It had been passed down through their families that Hugh’s Iowa wife was Elizabeth Linton [a short time later, we verified that fact by finding Benjamin Linton’s Pennsylvania will].

One of the most interesting things that Ruth told me is the middle name of Hugh G. Keenan, Jr.  It was GULVER.  This name seems to have passed down from 1799 Hugh, may have been passed down to one of Richard’s sons, and is unusual enough that it just could be the key to finding our original Keenan family in Ireland.

Hugh Keenan’s Brothers and Sisters

After documenting Richard Keenan’s rather large family and descendants (the four children we could trace produced 30 grandchildren), I started looking for Hugh’s brothers and sisters who had been named in Emma Courtney’s 1926 letter.  Ironically, the first one I found was the simplest to locate and verify. Mary Ann Keenan, just like Emma said, was living in the Pittsburgh home of a Mart. Connolly, with wife Sarah, in both 1870 and 1880. There was also a Mary Ann Keenan of a consistent age in some other persons’ Pittsburgh homes in 1850-60.  I guess it was her reported age that really threw me off.  Mary Ann consistently fibbed about her age–  I figured from the census reports that she was born about 1835; as it turned out, she was really born in 1814.   She was so really simple to find, but how could she possibly be the sister of a Hugh born way back in 1799?  “That’s a real puzzle to solve later,” I thought, and I went elsewhere.

I found a Thomas Keenan living in Pittsburgh from 1850 through 1880– a good time for Emma to have been able to pay him the visit she talked about.  This Thomas was born in NY in about 1808, so that fit the previously discovered data about Ulster, NY.  He had a small family– only one surviving daughter, so he didn’t take long to document.

A few days later, I started to look for the Andrew, whom BLK described: “…one or more of [Hugh’s] brothers went further south in western Virginia near Kentucky….”  and Emma Courtney said, “Andrew lived in the western part of West Virginia.” Without too much effort, I found a well documented Andrew Keenan in the 1858-1888 records of Jackson County, WV– right on the Ohio River in the southwestern part of the state.  Betty Briggs, researcher of another unrelated Jackson County Keenan family was kind enough to provide me glimpses into her old county records and also thoughts on Andrew.  1858 Jackson County marriage records first show a marriage of Andrew Keenan [age 35, birth NY, parents: John and H.] to Chloe Rowley [age 24, birth VA, parents: Henry & Amanda].  From a special (w) symbol (for widower?), it looks like Andrew had already been married once.  There is an 1838 marriage of an Andrew Keenan in Fayette County, VA, further south.

At the McPherson Cemetery, Jackson Co., WV, there is a gravesite for: Keenan, Chloe, b. Aug 11, 1838; d. Apr 8, 1915, d/o Henry and Laura Amanda (Buffington) Rowley), and Keenan, Andrew, Oct 20, 1814 – Mar 22, 1888 (s/o John).

Andrew’s date of birth in the various Jackson records varies all the way from 1813 to 1823, but the preponderance is about 1814-17. The 1870, and 1880 Jackson Co. censuses, for example, list Andrew as born NY in 1816 and 1817 and the gravestone says late 1814.  Chloe’s birth year varies from 1834 to 1839, with a preponderance of about 1838.   I wonder if Andrew/Chloe didn’t fib about their ages in a few places to reduce the “age gap”– he was probably 20 years older than Chloe.

So, there are no smoking guns here; there really is no official genealogical “proof” yet that this Andrew is our Hugh Keenan’s brother, but he really fits well to many of the other facts or strong suspicions that have been developed–  he settled in the right place: southwest VA/WV, he seems to have been born in an appropriate place/time:  NY/1814-17, and his father was a John Keenan.

Chloe and Andrew had eight children who survived to adulthood.  We were able to trace seven of them.  Those seven produced forty grandchildren whom we could identify, so “defining Andrew” took quite a while!

Emma’s letter said that two of Hugh’s brothers went south to Mobile, AL and died there, and also that there was a sister named Kitty.  I searched the records of southern Alabama from 1820 to 1870 without finding any likely suspects.  The whereabouts of “Aunt Kitty Smith” are also unknown.  With or without a location, finding a Smith is a very daunting task.

The Paine/Enochs Families & the Indians

I was kept very busy, sometimes full time, with all the new Keenan discoveries, but I couldn’t pass up the most tantalizing part of Emma’s letter–  about the Paine family.  There were a lot of details, but they were hard to sort out.  She spoke of a “grandmother Paine” and a person named Enock and all this information about a wilderness Indian attack.  Possibly, I thought, this could have been the origin of the information that passed down about a pioneer Keenan being scalped on the frontier.

We found several Pains/Paines in the very early Greene County, PA census, going back to 1800:  Richard, Mary, George, and Reuben, and also some people named Enochs and Enix.  All these folks seemed to be clustered together where we found the John Kunan/Keenan entry in 1830.  We also found a Richard Pain in the old Pennsylvania Militia records for the area—-  vintage 1782.

A few days’ Internet work yielded this short reference– referring to wilderness Pennsylvania:

“The Enochs were veritable frontiersmen of the Buckskin era with quite a number being killed or scalped by Indians.”

And, a short time later while searching for Enochs, I stumbled on a very professional article on the Enochs (also spelled Enix or Eniex) families published by Karen Bridgeman and presented to the Marshall County, WV Historical Society.  I e-mailed Karen the text of Emma Courtney’s 1926 letter, and a few days later it became apparent to me that we had a new cousin. As one of its direct descendants, she may know more than anyone else about the Enochs family and its part in the fascinating history of the early Ohio/Pennsylvania/(West)Virginia border country.

After some lengthy correspondence and correlating to Karen’s knowledge, I think we have figured out most of what is in Emma’s letter.  Emma’s rendition is not completely correct, but in view of the complexity of that piece of history, along with some very confusing names, it is really pretty factual for memory and oral tradition—- for something that happened some 100-140 years before she wrote it down.  It also correlates very well to one of the more notable Indian attacks on the Pennsylvania frontier—-  the 1781 (or 1783) Christina Sykes Affair ( see Appendix III  and  http://community.fortunecity.ws/millenium/hollyoaks/92/capture.htm ).

In that incident, near Dunkard Creek in Greene County, PA, 10-year-old Christina Sykes (or Six) was kidnapped by Wyandat Indians who whisked her away and eventually held her for 22 years near Detroit, MI.  In the initial manhunt for the kidnappers, a friend of Conrad Sykes, Christina’s father, a man by the name of Enoch Enochs, was ambushed and scalped by the Indians, as was another searcher; Enoch’s home was also burned. As per Emma’s accounting, survivors of this rampage, including Enoch’s wife and baby, fled to a fort.

Enoch’s wife died about six years later, and their young boy (the babe in arms that Emma mentions) was adopted by Richard and Mary (Enochs) Pain.  The surviving Enoch Enochs (that’s NOT a typo) and Lewis Six (Christina’s brother) appear in the 1830 Greene, Dunkard Twp. census about ten households away from John Kunan/Keenan.

This Mary Enochs, as it turns out, was the “Grandmother Paine” in Emma’s letter– not the wife of the scalped Enock, but his sister.  In addition to adopting the infant survivor of the Indian attack, Mary Enochs and Richard Pain/Paine, not George, fathered our Elizabeth Paine (b. 1805-10). George Paine (b. 1792) and the Eben (b. 1787), who Emma mentions, were Elizabeth’s older brothers.  That is verified in Richard Pain’s will.  And, again, it should come as no surprise that Elizabeth Paine Keenan chose her father’s name for the name of her second son.

Because of all the Enochs, this Paine/Enochs lineage is rather tortuous, so I shall not dwell further on this, but instead I will refer you to the Paine/Enochs family tree in Appendix IV.

Stumbling onto the McDonoughs

Toward the end of August 2003, I passed the two year anniversary of the beginning of my hunt for my roots.  New discoveries were winding down a bit on the Keenan front, and all of a sudden I was confronted with a few bonanzas of data from my mother’s side of my family and also some from my wife’s Brandley and Fulford families.  This was probably fortuitous because I have found that laying aside one family for a while, and then picking it up again, frequently gives you new insights.  Studying some seemingly peripheral character or circumstance may also yield big dividends.  Such was the case with the Keenans & McDonoughs.

Around Christmas time, I saw a GenForum post from Francis Keenan requesting information on Major Peter Keenan—-  a Pennsylvania Civil War hero who died at Chancellorsville.  Several of our folks had claimed Peter as part of our family, and early on I had been able to collect some good information that would dispel that notion.  In spite of his reputation, there isn’t much factual info out there on Peter’s lineage, though, so I thought it would be helpful to pass on what I had. Francis, a philosophy professor, turned out to be an authority on various Keenan families, so this led to a very interesting interchange of information on our research.

In trying to summarize for him the data I had so far compiled on the Keenans, I decided for some reason to have another look at Sarah Connolly, Mary Ann Keenan’s companion mentioned in Emma’s letter.  Because I had kind of “postponed” looking at Mary Ann, I am not certain that I really grasped the fact that Emma had specified Sarah as Mary Ann’s cousin. “What could that mean?”, I wondered.  “What was Sarah’s maiden name?”

I had previously verified via the census reports that Mary Ann was with Sarah in 1870 in the household of Mart. Connolly, and in 1880 Sarah was head of that household; Mart. must have passed.  In 1860, I discovered that Mart. was Martin Connolly, and his presence in the Pittsburgh 4th Ward went back to at least 1850.  Then, it got pretty interesting.  In the 1850 Connolly household, I noticed there were three McDonoughs

It was obvious from the census data that whoever this Martin Connolly was, he had been a very, very successful businessman—  a baker/grocer.  Wealthy families are often well documented, so to “discover” Sarah I went looking for Martin.  Pretty quickly, I found RootsWeb posts from 2000 and 2002 reference a Connolly family that had arrived in America in about 1847 and were in the bakery business in Pittsburgh.

On 1/2/04, I e-mailed Steven Connolly:


saw  your old Connolly post on the RootsWeb board…

I have been in / around the Connolly bakeries in Ward 4, Pittsburgh, PA for the past 24 hours.

I believe Martin Connolly’s wife, Sarah, is closely related to my Hugh Keenan family.   Hugh’s alleged sister, Mary Ann, was enumerated as Sarah’s cousin in the 1880 census, and she also is with the Connolly’s in the 1870 census. I think that she stayed with them until the time that Sarah died in the late 1890s?

I think that Sarah’s maiden name was McDonough, but not certain…     if so, this might be a long sought link with McDonough families…  I know we were related somehow.

would appreciate any info you have on the Connollys, and I will be glad to fill you in as much as I can on this connection in PA.”

Steven replied almost immediately and summarized some of his findings about John Connolly’s, (his gg – gfather’s) family.  Martin Connolly was his John’s brother.  He was not sure of Sarah Connolly’s maiden name, but she was from Greene Co.,PA,  and from Martin’s will, he knew that she had a sister named Deborah Cosgrove. He thought it quite possible that Sarah was a McDonough, and he had also noted in the one census report that Mary Ann Keenan was recorded as Sarah’s cousin.  Mary Ann had apparently had been treated as a family member:

…. “When Martin died, he bequeathed several thousands of dollars and part ownership of his residence at 231 Penn Street in Pittsburgh to Mary Keenan.  The other partial owners were Sarah Coyle (later Rogers) and Mary Masterson.  I have been unable to track Sarah Coyle who was Martin and John’s younger sister, Mary Connolly’s child, but Mary Keenan and Mary Masterson are buried in Martin and Sarah’s plot in Section W of St. Mary Cemetery in Lawrenceville, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh.  Most early family members are buried there.  How did you arrive at the possibility that Sarah’s maiden name was McDonnough?  It would make a great deal of sense and explains why Martin took care of her in the Will and had her buried with them.  Please let me know as much as you can about Mary Keenan!  If you wish to call me you can reach me at (410) xxx-xxxx.  Best to call around 10:15 p.m. “

Boy, this was a big hunk of exciting information to digest.  I went scrambling for the online St. Mary cemetery records, and sure enough, there was Mary Ann Keenan, R.I.P. (1814-1897) with the Connolly’s…  and look at that birth date 1814— not 1835…   Now, things began to make much better sense.  Using the 1814 made it much more realistic for Mary Ann to be both our Hugh’s (b. 1799) sister and Sarah Connolly’s (b. 1821) cousin.  Because of the “age gap”, I just hadn’t thought it through correctly, but now I could.  If Sarah was a McDonough, and also a cousin, then she and spinster Mary Ann Keenan could have had a common McDonough grandparent–  If BLK was descended from McDonoughs as he recalled, then our Hugh Keenan’s mother had to be a McDonough– a sister of Sarah [McDonough] Connolly’s father.

While all that was beginning to jell, I e-mailed Steven the copies of the 1937 and 1926 family letters, and I tried hard to focus on the end of the New Year Holiday and watch some football games.  But, that name “Deborah Cosgrove” kept running through my mind..  “Cosgrove, Cosgrove..  I’ve heard that before.”

I went for my notes and recalled that Alice (b. 1818), one of the “Whitely Keenans”—- from that “other” nearby Hugh Keenan family–  had married a John COSGRAY.  Could the written record have been miscopied and Deborah was really a Cosgray? I noticed that name confused quite a bit in several sets of records:  Cosgray, Cosgrove, Cosgrave.  In the 1850 Green Co., Wayne Twp. census, I first located a James Cosgray who I was almost certain fathered the John Cosgray who married Alice Keenan. Within just a few doors of that family was an 18 year-old Deborah McDonough.  In the 1860 census, in the same location, of the right age, there was a widowed Deborah Cosgray.  From later information, it developed that Deborah had married Ignatius Cosgray  (d. 1858), brother of the John Cosgray who had apparently married Alice Keenan.  Could all of this be just a coincidence– a horrible trick played by similar names and geography?  Or, was this a place where the Keenan/McDonough families intersected? At that point, impulsively, I decided to call Steven.

Steven filled me in more on his lengthy research on the Connolly family, told me a bit about Martin’s fabulous business success—-   he owned several blocks of urban Pittsburgh— [he believed that his home was very likely that of the rich “Aunt Somebody” in BLK’s letter] and told me about some of the records and documents he had access to.  From Martin’s will, which had named heir John McDonough as “my brother-in-law,” and from the census designation– Sarah M. Connolly, he had long suspected that Sarah was a McDonough, but he was confusing Sarah’s family with a later-immigrated set of McDonoughs into which his  gg-gfather, John Connolly had married.  The thing that stood out for me, though, was the John McDonough; if John McDonough was Martin’s brother-in-law, then Sarah was for certain a McDonough.

So, the next question was– who was Sarah’s father?  I started looking for McDonoughs again.  This was rather complicated because that name is spelled many different ways—- McDonagh, McDunna, McDona, McDonnough, etc., and the various indices with which the census records are indexed/sorted seem to choke badly on the “Mc” part;  one sometimes gets completely different search results with using an unspaced “McDonough” vs. using a spaced “Mc Donough” as a search keyword.  Within a short time, however, I made an astounding discovery on the McDonough GenForum message board.  There was a June 2001 post there from a Marina McDonough to Rick Snider [of the same Snider family with whom I had previously corresponded about Thomas/Catherine/Sarah McDonough]:

“Hi, for a long time I have been looking for information on Richard McDonough, born 1791 in County Fermanagh, Ireland and I just stumbled on something that I found interesting and is related to what you are looking for. http://members.tripod.com/~Data_Mate/irish/Cornelia.txt

At this address is the passenger list for the Cornelia  that came from Londonderry to New York in 1803. Listed are Catherine and Thomas McDonough, each age 50, which corresponds close to the ages you said they were and mentioned are boys, one is Richard and it says he is 13, which matches the year I have him being born. Richard settled in Allegheny County, PA. If you think that this is related to what you are looking for, email me.”

You have  GOT  to be kidding me!  Despite frequent visits to GenForum, I had completely missed seeing this post.  The Thomas and Catherine McDonough, who I previously thought came to America with daughter Sarah in 1783, were actually aboard the 1803 Cornelia with our Hugh Keenan.  I had even circled their names when I first looked over the passenger list, but having really believed the Snider data about an earlier voyage, I failed to make the connection!  In addition to son Richard, there were three more young boys: James (b. 1790), Hugh (b. 1790), and Thomas McDonough (b. 1801).

I immediately e-mailed Steven and told him we should focus on those boys—-  one of them could well be Sarah Connolly’s father. I also posted a message back to Marina summarizing what we had found about our Keenans/McDonoughs/Connollys.  She posted right back:

“Well, Robert, the first thing that I notice that is interesting is that John McDonough [son of her Richard McDonough on the Cornelia] had a son named William Connolly McDonough. They seemed to include other family names as middle names and I was wondering if this might be one, but I didn’t know who the Connolly’s would be….”

She continued that her Richard had married in New York in 1814, had come over to Pittsburgh in 1816, stayed a short time, moved down to Greene County for about six years, and then back to Pittsburgh in 1824.  From an old history of Clarke County IA, she knew a good bit about her Richard’s children, several of whom had removed to that place in about 1855.

Then, a few days later, on the LDS and Ancestry.com websites, we found a time- and place-appropriate Hugh and Rebecca McDonough with son James (b. 1826). From this, we deduced that the Rebecca McDonough found in the 1850 Martin Connolly home (b. PA 1799) was quite possibly Sarah’s mother.  And then there was a “smoking gun”: on an Ancestry.com site, Steven found an entry for Hugh McDonough’s son, James’ family.  He sent me the following:

James McDonough    Greene, PA    B. 06/08/1826    D. 06/08/1901

married: Rebecca Minerva Kahler


Sarah Connolly McDonough    Josephine, Louis Creek, OR   b 05/16/1857    d 04/30/1865

Carlos Shepard McDonough                ”                                    b 01/28/1859    d 03/31/1931

Helen Flint McDonough                        ”                                    b 12/15/1860    d 05/05/1930

Hariet Deborah McDonough                   ”                                 b 06/14/1863    d 03/06/1943

John William McDonough        Jackson, Willow Springs, OR    b 08/03/1865    d 11/  /1925

Martin Connolly McDonough                ”                                  b 01/17/1869    d 1904

George Clarence McDonough               ”                                   b 01/01/1874    d 11/  /1950

The names cry out that they are related.  Any idea how we can connect with the person who sent in the information???

Steve Connolly

Hugh McDonough’s Descendants  ( see Appendix V )

Coincidences do happen and they may mess up genealogical conclusions, but even lacking complete “proofs”, we could not help but infer from the above facts that Hugh McDonough (born County Fermanagh, IRE, in 1790, a youngster aboard the 1803 Cornelia) was the father of Sarah Connolly and her siblings: John, James, and Deborah.

Sarah [McDonough] Connolly (b. 1821) outlived her husband, Martin, by 25 years.  She died in Pittsburgh in 1899, a few years after Mary Ann Keenan.  Sarah and Martin had no children.

Hugh’s son, James McDonough (b. 1826), and his children are very well documented, and we followed their exciting pioneer migration to Jackson Co., Oregon in the early 1850’s. We found seven children by James and 14 grandchildren in the 1860-1930 censuses.

John McDonough (b. ~1825) was very difficult to pick out from a variety of people by that same name in the Pittsburgh area.  I did some very nifty work in using the census reports to track back the unusual name of his grand-daughter (named in probate papers at Sarah Connolly’s death) to the correct John.  Before he inherited the money Martin Connolly left him, John was a shoemaker and a farmer [afterward, he became a stock broker].  I found that occupation very interesting, as the Greene County Cosgray family that we suspect interacted with McDonoughs and Keenans were also shoemakers. If Deborah lived next door to them, maybe John did too. John’s small family was hard to trace.  His single daughter died before 1900, his son, who supposedly was in 1900 California, could not be located after 1880, and the grand-daughter could not be found after 1900.

Without knowing if the Connolly will erred and meant to refer to a Deborah Cosgray rather than Cosgrove, or without other evidence, we still cannot be certain that we located Sarah’s sister, Deborah McDonough.  The Deborah [McDonough] Cosgray we did find in Greene County, born 1833-35, had two children: Rebecca and James [possibly named for their grandparents– Rebecca McDonough and James Cosgray].  Deborah and Rebecca can be traced until after 1900.

There is some evidence to believe that Hugh McDonough had two other sons, Hugh, Jr. [b. ~1828, found in the 1850 household of Martin Connolly], and Simon [b. ~1838, found in the same Greene Co. 1850 household as Deborah McDonough].  Hugh, Jr. could not be traced beyond 1850.  Simon married and had nine children we could identify.

The Other McDonoughs Aboard the Ship Cornelia

Right after I discovered the McDonoughs aboard the 1803 ship, I discovered in the 1810 census, in Shawangunk, NY, just a few miles from New Paltz where I found the two sets of Kennons, the families of a Thomas and a John McDonough.  The Thomas McDonough family looks like the McDonough family on the ship– one male older than 45, four boys born 1784-1794, and one born 1800-1810.

From a RootsWeb post, unconfirmed otherwise, we have a record of the death of a Thomas McDonough in Davistown, Greene Co. PA on  4-28-1820.  Catherine allegedly died there 5-18-1822.

Just a few days ago, I discovered a James McDonah (again, those nasty spellings!) in the 1820 Greene, PA, Dunkard Twp. census.  With the number of adults and varying trades of those in the household, this looks like it could be multiple families; this home is only a few census pages from Benjamin Linton and is 12-18 households away from George and Mary Pain and Enoch Enochs, who are all definitely connected to our Keenan family.

One of the mysteries of these McDonough folks is that they are almost invisible after their immigration to America. This may be due to the spelling problems mentioned above, or the unfortunate fact that none of them seemed to live to be very old.  Hugh (b. 1790) probably died in the late 1830’s and Richard (b. 1792) died in 1840.  A suitable James     (b. 1790) is only found as above—-  we know nothing more about him, and we are not certain about Thomas (b. 1801).

There are three males, age 26-45, and three adult females in this 1820 James McDonah household, so I have to wonder if these could not be the families of the Cornelia brothers, James, Richard, and Hugh McDonough, all collected under one roof.

A few weeks ago, we heard from Jacki Ebanks, another descendant of Richard McDonough, the boy listed as 11 years old on the Cornelia passenger list.  She answered one of our GenForum posts, and she and her family kindly provided us data from her elderly mother’s McDonough notes.  There was a lot of information there to bolster the Pittsburgh and Clarke Co., IA data we had received from Marina McDonough on Richard’s descendants.

Rounding Out the McDonough Family

The most interesting part of Jacki’s mother’s notes were previously unknown data about the extended family of Thomas and Catherine McDonough of County Fermanagh.  Either the 1803 Cornelia list is incomplete, or there were multiple voyages of these McDonoughs to America.  The new data identified four daughters, various grandchildren, and one son who were apparently not aboard the Cornelia.  From what we have been able to determine so far, these seem to have been children older than those of the 1803 voyage.  We know the married surnames of the daughters:  McCaffery, Carlin, Meghan, and Kenan.  Son John was supposed to be a bachelor who went south to New Orleans.  There is a John MacDonogh household just north of New Orleans in 1830; there are two bachelors there older than 50 years of age.

From the new data, we were able to locate in Pittsburgh two McCaffery families of the sons of the first McDonough daughter-— but not the daughter herself.  Unfortunately, the families vanish after 1850-60.  We have had no luck so far in identifying the Carlin or Meghan families.  And now there is the biggest mystery.  Who was this McDonough daughter married to a Kenan?  The answer one would like to give, of course, is that person is our Hugh Keenan’s mother, but it is not that simple.  We have the 1783 Sarah McDonough to take care of.   Remember, she married a Keenan–  and not our Keenan!   And, Sarah is believed by some to have been a daughter of the same Thomas and Catherine McDonough we have been discovering.

So, there are two possibilities:  (1) 1783 Sarah is not the daughter of this Thomas and Catherine, but possibly some other related McDonough; or (2) Sarah is a daughter of this Thomas and Catherine but not the only one who married a Keenan.

Having proved to my satisfaction that Mary Ann Keenan and Sarah Connally had a common McDonough grandparent, and that Sarah’s father was indeed Hugh McDonough, Thomas and Catherine’s son, I cannot help but believe that the unnamed McDonough daughter was married to our John? Keenan, father of our Hugh Keenan, and grandfather of BLK.  We have no way of knowing if the newest data includes an exhaustive list of Thomas/Catherine’s children.  And, if there were two daughters who married related Keenans (and that often happened in those days), maybe as the very sparse data was passed down, someone thought there was a duplicate and ended up only recording one of them.

Having little knowledge of where the original information came from about Thomas and Catherine being the correct parents of 1783 Sarah McDonough, I am somewhat suspicious of whether they really were.  If Sarah was born on the way to America in 1783, as per oral tradition, it means that mother Catherine crossed the ocean at least twice.  On the other hand, the proximity and timing of the death of Thomas/Catherine to the household(s) of the “Whitely” Keenans–  Sarah McDonough and Hugh Keenan (married 1806) make it rather  tempting to make them Sarah’s parents.  Could it be that there was an earlier and related McDonough—- say a brother of Thomas McDonough—-  who sired Sarah?

The Remaining Mysteries–  Where Do We Go from Here?

Some of the remaining mysteries are:

(1)  What was our Hugh Keenan’s mother’s name and when was she born?  Lacking anything else, if I had to take a guess, I would say it was Mary Ann—-  the name of Hugh’s sister and his first daughter.  But, the only recorded clue we presently have is from Andrew Keenan’s marriage record—-  and that is only good if we assume Andrew is really ours.  Andrew’s mother is recorded as H. Keenan. There is another obscure reference in the Snider Ancestry.com World Tree data to an “Alvy McDonough” being married to John Keenan.  Is there some place else for us to look?  John Keenan does not seem to have left a will in Greene Co., PA, and we do not know where these old Keenans might be buried in Pennsylvania.  Could Thomas or Catherine McDonough have left a will?

(2)  What was the relationship, if any, of these two different Keenan families that we have found.  From the data that is now available, it would be most tempting to say that our Hugh’s father, John?, was the brother of the “other” Hugh Keenan who married Sarah McDonough and lived nearby to our Keenans in Greene Co., PA.  Their estimated ages, times of marriage, proximity, naming conventions, etc. all make sense for that. Were it not for the age of the Hugh Kennon reported in the 1810 Ulster NY census living right next to John Kennon, I would say that those were the two Keenan families living side-by-side–   with the Thomas McDonoughs living just a few miles away. The Keenan brothers could have married McDonough sisters, and everything would make a lot of sense.  The Hugh Kennon in 1810, however, is older than 45 years of age;    that makes him look more like the Hugh Keenan  (b. 1752) who brought our little Hugh over on the Cornelia.

(3)  How/when did these various families and family members get to America?  If the 1803 Cornelia passenger list is really complete, there’s a bunch of folks who have to be accounted for. How many voyages were there?  Did they go back and forth to Ireland?

(4) What was our Hugh Keenan’s grandfather’s name?  Could it possibly have been James, a generation off from the History of WV bio that got the Indian attack all wrong?   Is it just a coincidence that the “other” Keenans have a James as their Hugh’s prospective father?

(5)  Who was this “uncle” Hugh Keenan who brought our little Hugh to the New World?  Why was he alone with little Hugh?  Was big Hugh really little Hugh’s father’s brother, or could big Hugh have been little Hugh’s great uncle—-  say the brother of the above James?  It’s important to know this.  If the shipboard Hugh was little Hugh’s real uncle, that kills the theory of John and the “other” Hugh Keenan being brothers—-  Hugh and Hugh would not be brothers.

(6) What part of County Fermanagh did the Keenans come from?  If we knew that, the chances of finding them in old Irish records would be enhanced.  If the Thomas McDonough-related families we now know about lived close by to Keenans, we may have accumulated enough information to begin pinning this down.  I seem to see that the McCafferys were typically found in the northern part of Fermanagh, near County Tyrone.  Richard McDonough’s wife was from County Tyrone.  There is an obscure LDS reference to a Thomas and Catherine McDonough being born/married in Magheracross Parish, County Fermanagh;  that is in north central Fermanagh, right on the border with County Tyrone.  The Irish Flax Growers Census of 1796 shows Hugh, John, James, and Patrick Keenan families in parishes just to the east. Nine of the ten Keenan families in that census lived in northern Fermanagh near the Tyrone border.

Like most genealogical work, finding answers to one set of questions raises another whole set of unanswered ones.  That’s where we are today with these Keenan/McDonough families.  To be genealogically “proper”, of course, a lot of the fairly consistent information we now have from web or census sources could be better substantiated by finding appropriate wills or documents.  Those might turn up new facts that would answer some of the remaining mysteries.

From my three years’ research experience, however, I am prone to think that an equally valuable scenario for pushing back time would be to discover more new sources of information–  either information that Keenan and McDonough relatives may possess now and not realize the value of, or information from relatives whom we don’t know yet.



Update #1  — 8/24/2004

News since the 7/30/2004 Report  – 

Tracing My Keenan / McDonough Roots

It has been a very exciting few weeks since I put up the web site for study of our Keenan/McDonough families.

Ruth Terrill, wife of the gg-gson of Hugh Keenan, Jr. (b. 1841),  contributed some very valuable data, including excerpts from the will of Thomas McDonough, who died  at age seventy on  4-28-1820  in Greene County, PA.  We had not heretofore known if such a will existed.

This will proves that, however they got to the United States, and however many voyages they took,  there was only one Thomas and Catherine McDonough who were important to our family—  all of the key McDonough “players” we have been talking about seem to have descended from this Thomas and Catherine. Thomas was born in County Fermanagh, Ireland in about 1750 and Catherine in about 1749.   Ruth thinks that she has data in her files about Thomas’ Pennsylvania gravesite— showing the actual parish in which he was born.

Thomas’ listed heirs were sons: Richard, James, Thomas, John, and Hugh, and daughters: Sarah, Alvy, Catherine, and Ezabally (Isabelle?).  Sarah is identified as married to Hugh Kenon, Alvy was married to John Kenon, Catherine was married to Arthur Wiggin, and Ezabally was married to James McCaffery.

So, now it is clear that the “other” Keenan family in Greene, PA, Whitely Township is descended from Thomas and Catherine McDonough through their daughter Sarah. There is also strong evidence now to support the prior speculation that our own Keenan family descended from their daughter, Alvy McDonough.

As per the will, Alvy was married to a John Kenon. We had already suspected for several reasons that a John was the father of our Hugh Keenan and also that he was married to a McDonough.   The most important of these reasons is that it appeared that Thomas McDonough’s son, Hugh, was the brother of the mother of our Hugh Keenan.  The will now verifies how Hugh’s daughter, Sarah (McDonough) Connolly, and our Hugh Keenan’s sister, Mary Ann Keenan, came to be cousins.   That Sarah Connolly and Mary Ann Keenan were cousins is stated in both the census and in a 1926 letter from our Hugh’s granddaughter.  The conclusion must be that Alvy McDonough was our Hugh Keenan’s mother.

Ruth also has some fascinating documentation from a book of “British Aliens in the U.S. during the War of 1812.”  It shows the following Keenans in upstate NY:

Hugh Keenan age 37, 11 years in US, wife and 5 children, New Paltz,

Ulster co.., farmer (19-24 Oct. 1812)

John Kennan, age 37, 11 years in us, wife and 6 children, New Paltz,

Ulster co., farmer (19-24 Oct. 1812)

Now, the above are likely the two families we had previously described from the 1810 census, with one exciting new twist–   the ages of the two farmers are exactly the same.  This makes it more likely to me that John Keenan (later of Greene, Dunkard, PA) and Hugh (head of the “other” Greene, Whitely, PA Keenan family) were brothers.  Could they indeed have been twins?

But, there are some conflicts here among the 1810 census data, the 1803 Cornelia passenger list, and the 1812 alien listing.  This goes back to Question #5 of the “Remaining Mysteries” I noted in my 7/30 narrative.  Who was the “uncle” Hugh Kennen who allegedly brought our little Hugh to America in 1803?   I lost track of all the various Hughs and stated a really goofy conclusion in my 7/30 report– that it would not make sense to have the shipboard Hugh be little Hugh’s uncle.  Save for his stated age (51), it would actually make very good sense to have him as the uncle.  Ruth, in fact, says that scenario is in line with family oral tradition.

If that “uncle” Hugh was really 51, though, as is stated on the Cornelia passenger list, it really conflicts with the neat “brothers” theory– because it appears that the Hugh Keenan who married Sarah McDonough (born about 1783) was from her generation, not 1752. Indeed, we know from the 1820, 1830, 1840 Pennsylvania censuses that “Whitely” Hugh was born no earlier than 1770.

Going by oral tradition that it was Sarah’s husband aboard the Cornelia, it would be extremely tempting to simply say that the passenger list (or its transcription) was in error.  But, we also have this annoying 1810 census report that states that the Hugh Kennon living next door to John Kennon in New Paltz, NY was more than 45 years of age (that is, born before 1765).

If we believe the 1812 data (which favors Hugh and John Kennon being brothers of the same generation), the 1812 Hugh would have been only 35 in 1810 and about 28 in 1803.

How do we explain this?

Could all the data actually be correct?  Maybe Hugh on the ship was little Hugh’s great uncle.  Maybe the Hugh Kennon in 1810 New Paltz, NY was an older Hugh Keenan related to the younger one; and the younger one (age 35) was off on another trip.

Or, here’s another interesting possibility.  The Cornelia ship list is alphabetic; we do not really know who was with whom.  Could the older Hugh Kennen have just been a stranger and the younger Hugh Kennen have really been accompanied on the ship by his grandparents, Thomas and Catherine McDonough?

One other thing that is also peculiar with the known data is the number of children at Hugh Kennon’s 1810-12 home in New Paltz, NY.  The number of children at John’s in 1810-12 can be made consistent with what we now know about our Hugh Keenan’s known siblings. If this is really Sarah [McDonough] Keenan’s family, however, then she had more children than are presently accounted for.  Catherine, born 1808, is the only one of Hugh/Sarah’s children we know about born before 1810.  There is an unaccounted for James Keenan (b. 1800-1810) found in Greene, Whitely PA census for 1830.  This could be an early child of “Whitely” Hugh, but for the 1810-12 data to be correct– for all the children to belong to Hugh/Sarah– there would still need to be three more children than we presently know about born before 1810.

Another very helpful contribution from Ruth was data on the James McDonough  (b. 1790) family.  Heretofore, the only trace of James we possibly had was an 1820 census report from Greene, Dunkard PA.  From old correspondence with James’ descendants, Ruth was able to provide James’ death date, his two wives’ names, and his two adult children’s names.  From those, we were able to trace 13 of his 15 grandchildren and their families.

Robert Holley

Miami, FL



Update #2   June 2014  ->  April 2017

If you follow the migration story of my Keenan family from northern Ireland, in and possibly before 1804,  you’ll note that soon after arriving in America the clan settled in Ulster County, NY.  Sometime around 1820, the family moved on— a few of my gggg-grandfather John Keenan’s children eventually wandered to the far south, one (Andrew) went to the southwest part of Virginia (now WV),  and  others (including my ggg grandfather Hugh) moved to Pittsburgh and then to Greene Co., PA and Monongalia Co., VA (now WV).  Only a few– Mary Ann and Thomas- stayed on in the in the city of Pittsburgh itself.

I was certain from oral history that Thomas (1810-1888) had lived in Pittsburgh into the late 1800s, but there was not much else to go on. Back in 2004, I had found a very likely looking Thomas Keenan, of right age, born NY, married to a Margaret, enumerated in the 1850 thru 1880 Allegheny Co., census. These Keenans seemed to be associated with a Duffy family that lived close by. Since those names are so very common and I had so little information about my Thomas,  I didn’t then pursue this very far.  In the spring of 2014, I decided to try to locate a Pittsburgh grave for my gggg-uncle Thomas  and was successful via Find-A-Grave in finding one for both him and his wife. The markers in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Lawrenceville, are close-by to those for the family of a Thomas A. Duffy and his wife Rosanna. Mary Ann Keenan (1814-1897), known sister of Thomas, is also buried nearby in St. Mary’s.

Following up on this burial information, using US census, city directories and other sources previously unavailable, I found that a Thomas Keenan and a Thomas A. Duffy appeared to be living right together or close together in Manchester, PA or at 50 Fayette Street Allegheny City, PA.    For 1860-70, Thomas Keenan was a plow driller / engineer and Thomas Duffy was a boat engineer. Thomas Duffy’s wife, born ca. 1836, was Rosanna. Judging from the DOB of the Duffy’s first child, Margaret, Rosanna married Thomas Duffy about 1855-59.  All that coincided very well with suspect Thomas Keenan’s child Rosanna listed in 1850-1860 census.

Later research showed that Thomas Keenan and Thomas Duffy seem to have spent much of their lives plying the Ohio and connecting rivers. Thomas A. Duffy (1830-1908) was a quite well known river-man and at death is the subject of obits in several river-connected towns. His wife Rosanna died in 1896; her and some of her children’s St. Mary’s graves are near to those of Thomas and Margaret Keenan.  Thomas A. Duffy’s PA death cert shows that he was also buried at St. Mary’s. I have tracked a few of the longest surviving Duffy children and their parents are recorded as Thomas A. Duffy and Rosanna Keenan. The Duffy’s also had a son named Thomas Keenan Duffy (1867-1905).  Not too much doubt left in my mind that these two families were very closely related.

Then came my greater surprise and delight–   I found an Ancestry.com Public Member Tree site posted by a Jeanne Raines showing the marriage of a Thomas Keenan to Margaret Doyle and also baptism of their daughter Rosanna— in the last part of 1835 in Pittsburgh’s St. Paul’s Church.  Jeanne had been looking for a relative named Margaret (possibly Rosanna) Keenan born the same year, likely in Pittsburg, who had gone on to marry a Kentuckian by the name of McCauley.  After doing some fabulous church and cemetery research at St. Paul’s Church and St. Mary’s Cemetery, Jeanne had finally concluded that Rosanna Duffy unfortunately could not possibly be the relative she was pursuing.  However, she left all her research on-line for me to stumble on.  What Providence!

I was astounded at the coincidences in names, dates, and geography that led to Jeanne pursuing her relative the way she did;  in fact, I was so intrigued that I spent some time trying to assist her in solving her puzzle.   All of this was so weird that I  even had a few lingering doubts that the Pittsburgh river-man Thomas Keenan was really my relative.

Not to worry.  Just the other day (April 2017),  I stumbled onto this treasure trove of Pennsylvania Wills now available at Ancestry.com.  I found the 1897 will of my gggg-aunt Mary Ann Keenan (whose life story had already provided the missing link in connecting up my Keenan family to our patriarch Thomas McDonough).  Two of the heirs Mary Ann named (her great nieces Sarah and Mary) were children of Thomas Duffy!


Update # 3    September-November, 2016

On 9/11/2016, I was contacted by Michael Brogan, a descendant of our forefather Thomas McDonough (1750-1820) via Thomas’ daughter Catherine (ca. 1783–1870).  Michael said that Catherine had been married to an Arthur Meegan (1775-1845).  Owing to a misreading of Thomas McDonough’s 1820 will, most researchers I had been in contact with for over a decade believed that Catherine’s married name was Wiggin or possibly Meghan.

Once we rechecked the old-time scrips (capital “M ” vs capital “W”) in the [likely abstracted] handwritten will  and conferred with Michael about the proper spelling (oh, those Irish names!), two months of  research resulted in the addition of more than 800 Meegan-related individuals to our McDonough/Keenan data base.   Catherine Meegan’s children’s names and their spouses names are listed in the updated skeleton Family Tree of Thomas McDonough.  The complete Meegan ancestry is available upon request.



Thomas McDonough Descendants –  Updating of Family Tree

The Thomas McDonough  Family Tree presented in Appendix V of  “Our Irish Roots” undergoes periodic updates as we discover more information about our large  McDonough / Keenan families.  The latest such tree is presented here  and contains information collected through 04 June 2017.

Appendix V family trees generally cover only a few early generations;  sometimes we provide more  a bit more detail for a  particular line if it is requested by a family member (see for example  the breakout for Richard P. Keenan in the 06/04/2017 tree).

Upon request, very detailed multi-generational family trees for our McDonough / Keenan Families can be produced from our Family Tree Maker database.  That data base currently (12-05-2017) contains information for 6816 different individuals and 2654 marriages in the McDonough / Keenan Families.

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