THE FAMILY

As I was saying above, James Joseph's double name showed the family he belonged to was the following: Patrick O'Brien married Maria Behan at St Michael's RC church, Limerick City, on 27 August 1848, in the presence of Donat O'Brien and Bridget Grady.

Issue on record to Patrick and Maria, all baptised in St Michael's:

John James
James Joseph
Patrick John
Donat
Anastasia
26.11.1852
17.01.1854
18.05.1855
02.07.1858
26.09.1860
sps: Morgan J.O'Brien and Mrs. Margaret Whelan
sps: Donat Cussen O'Brien and Catherine Scanlan
sps: James and Bridget Behan
sps: Donat Cussen O'Brien and Arabella O'Brien
sps: James and Catherine Whelan

So far so good, but when it comes to O'Briens it is very hard to know what to do next. We don't know Patrick's father's name nor do we have an age for him, nor do we know when he died, nor is it passible to seriously search for him, as on the one hand there are umpteen Pat O'Briens and we have no address for this one.

At this point, therefore, I concentrated my attention on the gloriously named sponsors, in the hope that perhaps someone of them might give us a lead.

Trying to go back - Dunkin Donat

Since it was useless to search back for the baptism of Patrick O'Brien, I searched for Morgans and Donats. These are both quite tricky, but not as bad as Patrick. They are both uncommon names outside of the O'Briens, but very much favoured by certain lines of O'Briens, especially Morgan. What's tricky about Morgan is that it is difficult to put into Latin; I've seen Modestus and Pelagius for people who eventually turned out to be Morgan.

Donat is easy to latinise: Donatus. The trouble with this one is the ease with which indexers (havng never heard the name) can confuse it with Donal, the Gaelic for Daniel, or the fact that it is a variant of Donagh, the Gaelic for Denis (which we spell with one 'n' in this country). It means you have to keep an eye on people with Denis running in the family, and there are a lot of those. Despite bearing those caveats in mind, this approach was not successful. There were too many Morgans and no Donat(us).

I next tried moving sideways on Morgan J. and Donat Cussen: who did they marry? Again, too many Morgans, but this time Donat yielded quite a lot of informaton:

Donat C. O'Brien married Elizabeth Trousdell on 21 August 1853. They married in both Church of Ireland and RC churches of St Michael on the same day. The witnesses at the Church of Ireland service were Alexander and Thomas Trousdell: at the Catholic service: Patrick O'Brien and Anne Keane.

A non-Catholic marriage record was a find; as stated in the introduction, registraton of non-Catholc marriages dates from 1845. We therefore get a much fuller marriage record than if he had married a Catholic!

Of Donat, it tells us that he was a gentleman, a Catholic, that he lived at the railway terminus. His father's name was John, a farmer. (The railway station seemed an odd address, but I later found out from Slater's 1856 Directory of Ireland, p.300, that he was actually the station master and then lived in Cecil St. The directory referred to him as D.C. Q'Brien.)

Of Elizabeth, it tells us that she was Chuich of Ireland, a minor (under 21), the daughter of Alexander Trousdell of Nelson St (now known as Parnell St). This street runs past the entrance to the station, which is still in the same place. Alexander Trousdell was a pawnbroker.

Issue of Donat and Elizabeth, all baptised in St Michael's RC:

Anastasia
Alexander Morgan

John George

Donat
William
Anne Elizabeth
Elizabeth Mary

bpt.
bpt.

b.
bpt.
bpt.
b.
b.
bpt.

02.07.1857
05.02.1860

21.08.1864
25.09.1864
18.07.1866
25.12.1867
29.07.1869
19.07.1874

sps: Terence and Arabella O'Brien
sps: Patrick O'Brien, Ann Trousdell
and Ellen Roche

sps: Maurice Roche and Anastatia O'Brien
sps: Morgan O'Brien and Ellen Roche
Baptism Not Registered
Baptism Not Registered
sps: Alexander O'Brien and Anne Nealon

In typical Limerick fashion, their address changed frequently, though they never moved very far. The birth records show that In 1864 Donat was in Nelson St. In 1867 and 1869 he was at 29 Thomas St. In 1874 he was in Cecil St. In all of them, he was described as an oil and colour merchant.

The 1866 Bassett's Directory of Limerick is a Street directory (most are ordered by trades) and shows him at 29 Thomas St, but as a pawn broker. That was the main Trousdell line of business. Curiously, his name is not in the 1870 Slater's directory.

I failed to find a record of Donat's death. His son of that name died in 1886, by which time he (the son) had gone to live in Nelson St. He was a post affce clerk.

The 1901. census shows that Donat Sr's wife Elizabeth, aged 66, still C. of I., was living in Nelson St with her son Alexander (still single). No sign of Donat, but that he was still alive is certain: otherwse Elizabeth would have been described as 'widow'.

Learning that his father was John was of little immediate help in finding Patrick. But it did explain the 'J' in Morgan J. At this stage I was convinced the family had recently moved into the city.

The Cussen Connection

Clearly, using Cussen as a middle name had to have some significance. Catholics did not usually use a surname as a middle name: most did not even have a middle name. Donat was apparently imitating his Protestant friends, perhaps through Elizabeth's influence, perhaps as a weapon of the upwardly mobile young man of his day. It was an angle that had to be ivestigated.

The only family in Limerck headed by an O'Brien married to a Cussen did not initally appear to have a Donat in it, but it did have a Patrick and a Terence and the only Arabella on record in the whole of Limerick. Also, the head of that family was John. The reason the family did not immediately shout out to me that it as the right one was the apparent absence of Donat (hidden under Dionysius, with hundreds of others) and the fact that the indexers were unable to decipher Arabella.

James Joseph's Grandparents

John O'Brien married Elzabeth Cussen shortly before the records of Newcastle West parish began in 1815, probably sometime in the 1812-14 datespan.

All of their recorded children were baptised there, as follows (the frst book is very frayed, leadinq to omissions or partial readings):

Patrick
Robert
...lla
Terence
Margaret
Connor
Denis
Arabella
05.09.1816
20.02.1819
00.04.1821
27.11.1825
22.03.1828
00.03.1830
25.11.1831
04.12.1834
sps: Robert Cussen and Margaret Vaughan
sps: Michael Minihan and Cath. Griffin
sps: Matt O'Brien and Elizabeth Vaughan
sps: Connor O'Brien and Anastatia McCarthy
sps: Patk O'Brien and Mary Cussen
sps: Patrick Minihan and Mary Cussen
sps: Connor and Anastatia O'Brien
sps: John Morrison and Mary McCarthy

(I noted in passing that Michael Minihan was married to Margaret Cussen.)

A search of the Tithe Applotment Books for Newcastle parish showed no John O'Brien. Further investigaton failed to find any O'Brien whatever in the parish. This surprsed me for two reasons: First, Patrick said his father was a farmer, so he must have been in the TAB. Second, that 'farmer' was not a euphemism in this case for farm labourer is suggested by the upwardly mobile Donat, who I would suggest started out in life as Denis. I'd say he acquired his middle surname and upgraded (legitimate) version of his frst name at the same time. That his brother Patrick had also acquired some social standing in Limerick City is indcated by the rererence to the godmother of his first child as 'Mrs'; church records do not usually use titles. So, I reason, their father was hardly a labourer. How then was he not in the TAB? I don't know yet, but it may be that he lived in Newcastle and had his land in another parish, where, because of his extremely common surname I cannot ientify him, i.e. distnguish him from any other John O'Brien.


Last revision: 5/20/97

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