Monday, February 7, 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Mary Donnelly Corr

I'd like to introduce you to my fourth-great grandmother, Mary Donnelly Corr, of County Cavan, Ireland. Two years ago I didn't know a lick about her. But through some persistence and a little bit o' luck (the usual suspects), I know a lot more about this woman than I ever dreamed.

It starts with her daughter, Mary Corr Gorry, who was married to James Gorry. I knew she was a Mary but I didn't know her maiden name until I ordered a copy of her death certificate from July 1901 in New York City - her parents' first names were unknown, but her father's name was listed as "Mr. Corr." Being the Nancy Drew-in-training that I am, a lightbulb immediately went off in my head. Here was my first connection to the obit for Catherine Corr that my dad had found in his father's basement. I don't believe in coincidences, so my Mary and this Catherine had to be related. Catherine was the daughter of the late Thomas, and judging from the date of things, it appeared that my Mary, born between 1830-1835 and Catherine's father Thomas, were sister and brother.

Off to Ancestry! A search for "Mary Corr" born circa 1832 in Ireland turned up a passenger list manifest from May 7, 1846 for the Macedonia into New York harbor with a Mary Corr, age 17, a Thomas Corr, age 20, a Philipp Corr, age 26, and a Mary D. Corr, age 45, all from County Cavan, Ireland. No family relations were included but I made the assumption that Mary D. Corr had traveled to America with her three children - Philip, Thomas, and Mary. I now had my Corr line, only recently even unknown, back a generation, and to a specific county in Ireland as well.

Which brings us to Mary D. Corr. Luckily, "Philip Corr" is a fairly unusual name, so an Ancestry search for him turned up a hit in the 1850 census, where Philip "Carr" is living with his new wife Bridget, their infant son Thomas, and a Mary Donelly.

Now, we always try to verify and prove everything. But sometimes in order to find those connections that lead us to the proofs, we have to make assumptions - not wild assumptions. More like educated guesses. So this was my educated guess - that this was indeed my Philip and Mary, and that the "D" in "Mary D. Corr" was for Donelly, possibly her maiden name. Why she was using it or recorded as such in the census, I don't know, but it was another clue.

From there, I had my first experience using the New York Emigrants Savings Bank database, which if you can find the right kind of entry, has a wealth of information in it. Luckily for me (and believe me, I don't usually have this kind of luck, finding things so easily, when I do my research) both Thomas and Philip had accounts at that bank, and cross-referencing their entries helped to verify a lot of the information. In an entry for Philip from 8 July 1856, we have Philip Corr, a cartman living at the corner of 5th Street and 14th Avenue, a native of Dungimmon, County Cavan (so now we have a *town* too - excitement!) who arrived May 7, 1846 on the Macedonia. Father, Thomas, is dead. Mother is Mary Donelly. An entry for Thomas Corr from July 1857 lists him as a cartman living on the corner of 5th St. and First Avenue. He was a native of Dungimmon, County Cavan (check), arrived May 7, 1846 on the Macedonia (check). Father, Thomas, dead (check); mother, Mary Donnelly, in New York (check). Married to Bridget Baxter, 3 children. Thomas Corr and Bridget Baxter were the parents of Catherine Corr, of obit fame.

So a hello, too, to Mary Donelly's husband, Thomas Corr. I haven't been able to find Mary in any other census and I have no idea when she died; I don't know a thing about her husband except that he died in Ireland before 1846 and I know nothing of her life there. But by now, I had a wealth of information about her, starting with the simple fact of her existence and a name to put instead of "Mary Corr Gorry's mother," and almost all from records not her own, as our matrilineal research often works. I also had to follow a convoluted path from her daughter Mary to her granddaughter and Mary's niece Catherine to her son and Catherine's father Thomas to her other son Philip in order to find her.

The moral of the story is - look everyone! Everyone can be found. Unless, like some of my ancestors, they apparently don't *want* to be found. But that's a story for another day...

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