Sunday, October 2, 2016

Finding my Irish Roots-First Steps

I have had a major brick wall on my paternal great-great grandmother’s side.  I am trying to find out where in Ireland they came from so one day I can go and visit.

What I know about my great-great grandmother, Sarah Hughes Rowan;
  • Sarah was born in NY about 1850.  (NYC birth records are spotty for this time period and I could find nothing for Sarah)
  • I know Sarah married John W. Rowan and they had 8 children.  Only 4 of their children (Joseph Valentine Rowan, William Rowan, Mary Rowan White and my great grandmother Sarah Rowan King) lived to adulthood, married and had their own families.
  • Sarah’s family was Roman Catholic. 
  • There is a family story that Sarah was a 2nd cousin to Arch Bishop John Hughes who founded St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
  • According to Sarah and John’s marriage certificate she lists her parents as Patrick Hughes and Susan McKenna.
Rowan John Sarah marriage 2 highlight
One of my additional dilemmas is that there are many, many ‘Patrick Hughes’ during this time period.

Several months ago I found a DNA match on Family Tree DNA and one of her Surnames was 'Hughes'.  We corresponded and I talked about not having been able to find anything beyond maybe one census record for Patrick and Susan in 1950 in NYC.  Within 24 hours my new DNA cousin was able to find a record on Ancestry that I had searched and searched for (ugh).  Thanks to Susan’s generosity I believe I have a great record to help me in my search for my Irish roots.
Book Cover Hughes Patrick and Susan McKenna marriage highlight
Register of Marriages in the year 1840
If this is the correct family record then I now know;

Patrick and Susan were married on 8 November 1840.  They were married in the Parish of Clonfeacle, in County Tyronne, Northern Ireland.  One of their witnesses was Ellen McKenna.  (was she Susan’s sister perhaps?)

Considering the information I know about Arch Bishop John Hughes:
  • The names in the Roman Catholic Marriage Susan McKenna and Patrick Hughes match Sarah Hughes Rowan’s marriage certificate for her parents.
  • Patrick and Susan getting married in Ireland in 1940 and daughter Sarah’s birth in 1850-1851 in New York City would fit.
  • I know from research I have done on Arch Bishop John Hughes family;
  • John’s mother was Margaret McKenna.  Could Susan McKenna and Margaret McKenna be sisters or relatives?
  • Patrick Hughes and son Patrick were born in Ulster, Tyronne, Ireland.  John and sisters Mary & Margaret were believed born in Annaloghan, Tyronne, Ireland.
I believe the record I found for the marriage of Patrick and Susan is probably the one I was looking for.  Now I have a county and possibly a parish in Ireland to begin searching for more information.  I will also continue to search for more US records.

A VERY special thank-you to my DNA cousin Susan for helping me break this brick wall by finding a record I wasn’t able to find.  I hope we can figure out our paper connection soon!
If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,


  1. Hi Debby! I'm hoping to reach out and get in contact with you. My grandmother was Archbishop John Hughes' great-niece! I'd love to know more.

    1. Oh, Bernadette, definitely, please contact me at . I would love to correspond.