My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Sunday, March 18, 2012

SATURDAY'S STRUCTURE - Donegal Castle, County Donegal, Ireland

Newly Restored Donegal Castle
Donegal Castle, built by the elder Sir Hugh O'Donnell in 1474 (that's 538 years ago!), is located in the centre of Donegal town, County Donegal, Ireland, in the northwest of the country. It was built on a bend in the River Eske. It is 35x55 feet in size, with walls eight feet thick. At the time it was built the castle was regarded as one of the greatest Celtic castles in all of Ireland. This was noted after a visit by the visiting English Viceroy, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Henry Sidney in 1566, in a letter he sent to William Cecil, the Lord High Treasurer, describing it as "the largest and strongest fortress in all Ireland." He added, "it is the greatest I ever saw in an Irishman's hands; one of the fairest situated in good soil and so nigh a portable water boat of ten tonnes could come within ten yards of it."

Model of 1590 Donegal Castle
Home of O'Donnell Clan
In 1592 the King of Tyrconnell abdicated in favor of his eldest son by his second wife, Ineen Dubh; Red Hugh O'Donnell, at the age of just 19 years old, became the head of the O'Donnell clan and the leader of Tyrconnell (now Donegal). England had taken over Ireland, against the will of its inhabitants. O'Donnell, along with Hugh O'Neil (head of the O'Neil dynasty, regarded at the time by many as King of Ireland) and other clan leaders, revolted in 1594 against the English in an attempt to drive them out of Ireland. This revolt against English occupation was known as the Nine Years War.

O'Donnell and O'Neil led several successful battles, defeating the English armies, but this was short lived. After the defection of his brother-in-law to the English side, in return for their backing his own claim to the O'Donnell chieftainship, Red Hugh - "the O'Donnell", as he was known - knew that their only chance to expel England from their country was with the aid of a Spanish invasion. It was during this time that the O'Donnell clan was forced to abandon their stronghold. Before leaving their castle they did their best to destroy it, setting fire to it, thus making it unusable to the English.

O'Donnell and O'Neil were defeated at the Battle of Kinsale, even with assistance of Spanish general del Aguila. At this point O'Donnell left for Spain, to build additional resources for the cause of Irish independence. Other Irish chieftains were also arriving in Spain at this time. O'Donnell was making plans for his return to Ireland but after a year of not hearing from Phillip III, who had promised his support, Red Hugh traveled to Valladolid, the capitol of the Kingdom of Spain, to meet with the king but died en route. He was buried at Simancas Castle in 1602.

Model of 1620 Donegal Castle
Home of Basil Brooke
After the Irish defeat by England, the castle and the land was granted to Sir Basil Brooke, an English Captain. Brooke repaired the tower, replacing the original slit windows with three- and four-mullioned windows to match those of the new three-story gabled manor house which he erected next to the tower. The tower roof was gabled and a huge bay window replaced the original entrance to the tower. Both Sir Basil and his son Sir Henry served as Governors of County Donegal. Henry sided with the Parliamentarians during the Civil War, losing Donegal Castle to Clanrickarde in a surprise attack. Sir Henry recaptured his castle just three days later, and his son Basil successfully defended the castle against the Jacobite forces under Sarsfield. The Brooke family owned the castle for many generations, but by the 18th century it had fallen into ruins. In 1898 the owner donated the castle to the Office of Public Works.
Donegal Castle in Ruins, ca. 1900

The following reference from Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland, published in 1900, gives a description of DONEGAL CASTLE after over a century of neglect.--
"The town of Donegal is beautifully situated on a bay of the same name, and does a thriving trade. To the tourist, the great object of attraction is its splendid old castle, the ancient seat of the O'Donnells, lords of Tirconnell. The ruin, compared with others in the island, is in a tolerably good state of preservation, and from what remains it must have been a noble mansion, and worthy of the rank of these once powerful chieftains. Two magnificent sculptured chimneypieces, in the style of James I., still remain in a very perfect state. The grand hall on the ground floor, is arched, from which several smaller apartments open; and upstairs the grand banqueting hall was lit by several Gothic windows, which look out upon the bay; and at one end are the remains of a great bay window the entire height of the chamber, which bespeaks its ancient magnificence. This ruin derives a melancholy interest from the affecting history of the life and adventures of Red Hugh, the last of the powerful line of the princes of Tirconnell and lords of Donegal."

Donegal Castle remained in ruins for over two centuries. Very recently the original 15th century castle keep, built by the elder Hugh O'Donnell, was renovated by the OPW. It is now open to the public and daily guided tours are available on the hour.
Inside the Great Hall
Renovated Donegal Castle

This poem, written by James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849) expresses both the great loss and the great passion people felt for this symbol of strength of Ireland, of Donegal, and for the O'Donnell clan.

Interior of Wing Addition

The Ruins of Donegal Castle

O MOURNFUL, O forsaken pile,
What desolation dost thou dree!
How tarnished is the beauty that was thine erewhile, 
Thou mansion of chaste melody!
Demolished lie thy towers and halls;
A dark, unsightly, earthen mound
Defaces the pure whiteness of thy shining walls,
And solitude doth gird thee round.

Fair fort! thine hour has come at length,
Thine older glory has gone by.
Lo! far beyond thy noble battlements of strength,
Thy corner-stones all scattered lie!

Where now, O rival of the gold
Emania, be thy wine-cups all?   
Alas! for these thou now hast nothing but the cold, 
Cold stream that from the heavens doth fall!

Thy clay-choked gateways none can trace, 
Thou fortress of the once bright doors!
The limestones of thy summit now bestrew thy base,
Bestrew the outside of thy floors.

Exterior of Wing Addition

Above thy shattered window-sills
The music that to-day breaks forth
Is but the music of the wild winds from the hills,
The wild winds of the stormy North!

What spell o’ercame thee, mighty fort,
What fatal fit of slumber strange,
O palace of the wine! O many-gated court!
That thou shouldst undergo this change?
Fireplace with Brooke Crest

Thou wert, O bright-walled, beaming one,
Thou cradle of high deeds and bold,
The Tara of Assemblies to the sons of Con, 
Clan-Connell’s Council-hall of old!

Thou wert a new Emania, thou!
A northern Cruachan in thy might,— 
A dome like that which stands by Boyne’s broad water now, 
Thou Erin’s Rome of all delight!   

In thee were Ulster’s tributes stored, 
And lavished like the flowers in May;
And into thee were Connaught’s thousand treasures poured,
Deserted though thou art to-day!  
How often from thy turrets high,
Thy purple turrets, have we seen 
Long lines of glittering ships, when summer-time drew nigh,
With masts and sails of snow-white sheen!

How often seen, when gazing round
From thy tall towers, the hunting trains  
The blood-enlivening chase, the horseman and the hound, 
Thou fastness of a hundred plains!
Entry Gate to Donegal Castle
How often to thy banquets bright
We have seen the strong-armed Gaels repair,
And when the feast was over, once again unite
For battle, in thy bass-court fair!
Alas for thee, thou fort forlorn!
Alas for thy low, lost estate!
It is my woe of woes, this melancholy morn,
To see thee left thus desolate!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

FRIDAY'S FAMOUS - Red Hugh O'Donnell, King of Tyrconnell (1572-1602)

In honor of St. Patrick's Day and our Irish ancestry, I wanted to highlight a former leader of the kingdom of Tyrconnell - Hugh O'Donnell, often called Red Hugh O'Donnell. It is believed that all O'Donnells were descended from the family of Red Hugh and his ancestors. Thus, those of us descended from John Huber O'Donnell (1905-1965), my grandfather, are also part of this clan,

There have been numerous books written about Red Hugh O'Donnell, poems, and even songs. In 1966 Disney released a live-action movie, The Fighting Prince of Donegal, based on the novel Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal by Robert T. Reilly. Here is his story in a nutshell:

"Aodh Rua Ó Dónaill, anglicised as either Hugh Roe O'Donnell or Red Hugh O'Donnell (1572 – 10 September 1602), was An Ó Domhnaill (The O'Donnell) and Ri (king) of Dun na nGall (anglicised Donegal, now known as County Donegal). He led a rebellion against English government in Ireland from 1593 and helped to lead the Nine Years' War (a revolt against English occupation) from 1595 to 1603. He is sometimes also known as Aodh Ruadh II or Red Hugh II, especially within County Donegal." [Taken from]

"Hugh Roe O’Donnell, also called Red Hugh (born c. 1572, County Donegal, Ire.—died Aug. 30, 1602, Simancas, Spain), lord of Tyrconnell (now County Donegal), Ireland. When he became chieftain of the O’Donnells, he was only 20 years old but already was an inveterate enemy of the English because of his previous experiences. When less than 16 years old, he had been kidnapped by Sir John Perrot, the English lord deputy, who—conscious of the O’Donnell family’s connections with the powerful O’Neills of Tyrone—feared a dangerous combination against the English government He was long imprisoned in Dublin Castle, made an abortive attempt to escape in 1590, and was finally successful in January 1592.

The Gaelic Chieftan (1999)
Near the town of Boyle, at the site of the Battle of the Curlews in 1599
Red Hugh’s first concern was to drive out the English sheriff and his company of undisciplined marauders who, despite promises, had come to Tyrconnell and occupied the monastery of Donegal, after expelling the friars. This he accomplished successfully. He then led two expeditions against the O’Neills. Red Hugh’s exploits in 1594 have been exaggerated. But in 1595 and 1597 he made good his control of Connaught from Sligo to Leitrim. By 1596 he had joined forces with O’Neill, and the war that followed was famous for the great Irish victory of the Yellow Ford in 1598, where O’Donnell played a major part, and for the disaster ofKinsale (December 1601). O’Donnell’s march to join O’Neill at Kinsale was remarkable: in 24 hours he and his men covered no less than 40 miles, including the almost impassable Slievefelim Mountains. Red Hugh’s support of the Spanish commander, Juan del Aquila, who counseled an immediate attack against the advice of the more cautious O’Neill, may well have brought about the crushing defeat that may be regarded as the death blow of the old Gaelic Ireland. O’Donnell then went to Spain, where he died of a fever—not, as was long said, of poison administered by an English agent."  [Taken from]

His Legacy
  • He was highly praised in the Irish language writings of the early seventeenth century for his nobility and religious commitment to the Catholic faith - notably in the Annals of the Four Masters and Beatha Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill ("The Life of Red Hugh O'Donnell") by Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh. Although his posthumous reputation has been somewhat overshadowed by that of his ally Hugh O'Neill, his leadership and military capabilities were considerable especially considering that he was active at a very young age and only 29 years old at the battle of Kinsale. His personality seems to have been particularly magnetic and contemporary sources are united in their praise of his oratorical ability.
  • In 1977, the Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill Guild was formed to seek his recognition as a saint of the Catholic Church.
  • In 1991, a plaque was erected at Simancas Castle in commemoration of Red Hugh O'Donnell.
  • In 1992, commemorating the 390 anniversary of the arrival of O'Donnell in Galicia, the Grammy-award winning composer of Riverdance, Bill Whelan, brought together the best musicians of Ireland and Galicia and released the symphony "From Kinsale to Corunna".
  • In September 2002, Eunan O'Donnell, BL, gave the Simancas Castle Address in honour of Red Hugh, during the O'Donnell Clan Gathering to Spain.
The O'Donnell Clan Association, an International family organization, has a website, with newsletters, pictures and upcoming events -

The most popular O'Donnell song is "O'Donnell Abu":
Proudly the note of the trumpet is sounding
Loudly the war cries arise on the gale;
Fleetly the steed by Lough Swilly is bounding,
To join the thick squadrons in Saimear's green vale.
On, ev'ry mountaineer,
Strangers to flight and fear;
Rush to the standard of dauntless Red Hugh!
Bonnaught and Gallowglass,
Throng from each mountain pass;
On for old Erin, "O'Donnell Abu!"

Princely O'Neill to our aid is advancing,
With many a chieftain and warrior clan;
A thousand proud steeds in his vanguard are prancing,
'Neath the borders brave from the banks of the Bann:
Many a heart shall quail,
Under its coat of mail;
Deeply the merciless foeman shall rue
When on his ear shall ring,
Borne on the breeze's wing,
Tír Chonaill's dread war-cry, "O'Donnell Abu!"
Wildly o'er Desmond the war-wolf is howling,
Fearless the eagle sweeps over the plain,
The fox in the streets of the city is prowling -
All, all who would scare them are banished or slain!
Grasp every stalwart hand
Hackbut and battle brand -
Pay them all back the debt so long due;
Norris and Clifford well
Can of Tirconnell tell;
Onward to glory - "O'Donnell Abu!"
 Sacred the cause that Clan Connell's defending -
The altars we kneel at and homes of our sires;
Ruthless the ruin the foe is extending -
Midnight is red with the plunderer's fires.
On with O'Donnell, then,
Fight the old fight again,

Sons of Tirconnell,
All valiant and true:
Make the false Saxon feel
Erin's avenging steel
Strike for your country! - "O'Donnell Abu!"

To get a real feeling of the love and admiration that Ireland has for Red Hugh you really need to check out this video made with various images of Hugh O'Donnell, County Donegal. It's all set to music that was written and sung about this hero of Ireland. It's really worth your time:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

MONDAY'S MOTHER - Charlotte Elizabeth McCluskey McCaffrey (1838-1917)

Charlotte Elizabeth McCluskey, my great-great-great-grandmother, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 15, 1838. Her parents, , were  She was the oldest daughter, and second child born to Patrick McCluskey (1810-1855) and his wife Mary (1805-UNK), my 4x-great-grandparents. Patrick and Mary had immigrated from Ireland.

At the age of 16 Charlotte married Thomas Joseph McCaffrey (1832-1896) on August 15, 1853, at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Philadelphia. Thomas was living in Baltimore, Maryland, working as a pattern maker in an ironworks factory serving the United States Navy. He was born in Boston, Massachussetts, the middle child of five born to Thomas McCaffrey (1799-1890) and Susan (1793-1869), immigrants from County Tyrone, Ireland.

Charlotte and Thomas were living in Washington, DC at the time of the 1860 U.S. Census. Abraham Lincoln was elected President that same year. But Thomas was a Southern sympathizer and moved to Alabama in 1861, the year Lincoln took office, to make cannon for the Confederacy. Charlotte was left in Baltimore with their three children: Thomas Joseph, born May 14, 1854; Susan, called "Susie", born March 3, 1856; Elizabeth Agnes, called "Lizzie", my great-great-grandmother, born December 23, 1858. Their daughter Mary Frances, born March 13, 1860, had died before she was 8 months old, on November 10, 1860.

While Thomas was in Alabama, first at Brierfield Ironworks in Shelby County, and later at the Selma Ordnance and Naval Foundry in Selma, Charlotte not only cared for Thomas, age 6, Susie, 5, and Lizzie, 2, alone in Baltimore, but she was also expecting baby number five.  She went to Philadelphia, possibly to stay with her widowed mother at this difficult time in her life, when tragedy struck. On May 28, 1861, daughter Susie, just five years old, came down with Scarlet Fever and died at the home of her grandmother. Six months later John Beauregard was born, November 10, 1861, exactly one year to the day after the death of daughter Mary Frances.  Charlotte returned to Baltimore with Thomas, Lizzie and baby John when once again the family suffered a devastating loss. John Beauregard died on June 23, 1863, at just 18 months old.

Battle of Baltimore
April 19, 1861
from Harper's Weekly (May 4, 1861)
[Another possible reason the Charlotte was in Philadelphia in May of 1861 is because of the "Battle of Baltimore"which occured on April 19, 1861. This was the site of the first bloodshed of the Civil War. Maryland was a border state, and a slave-holding state, which did not secede from the Union, but had a great number of southern supporters, including the Mayor and other public officials. President Lincoln had ordered Union troops to protect the nation's capitol from possible take-over by the confederates. On this day, Union troops had disembarked from the train in Baltimore and had to march through the city to board another train across town to take them to their final destination. A mob of successionists and southern sympathizers began throwing rocks and bricks at the train and the soldiers and blocked their route. Fearing for their safety several Union troops fired into the civilian mob and chaos ensued. After the city police force gained control, four Union troops and twelve civilians were killed. Small skirmishes continued in the month ahead but eventually tempers cooled. It makes sense that Charlotte took her family away from the violence and to the safety of her mother's home in Pennsylvania.]

Charlotte, along with other southern sympathizers were forced to leave Baltimore after this. Eventually she and her two surviving children travelled to Selma, Alabama, where Charlotte gave birth to their sixth child. Charles Andrew. "Davis" as he was called (after Confederate President Jefferson Davis) was born on May 2, 1865. Once again the timing of this must be understood with regard to what was happening in the Civil War. Union General James Wilson was moving through Alabama, under orders to destroy all Confederate property at Tuscaloosa. This was at the end of the War. Selma was the location of one of the South's main military manufacturing centers, producing tons of supplies and munitions and turning out Confederate warships. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was leading the defense of the city. But with the Union's 9,000 soldiers versus the Confederate's 2,000 men, many of whom were not veterans but militia consisting of old men and young boys, the city fell to the Union. Charlotte's husband Thomas was among this militia. The Battle of Selma took place on April 2, 1865, one month prior to the birth of Davis McCaffrey. The battle lasted through most of the day but by nightfall all that was left to do was to round up the confederate prisoners who had not jumped into the Alabama River or escaped through the woods. Thomas McCaffrey was among those who were captured at Selma and briefly held prisoner.
Ruins of Confederate States Naval Foundry at Selma

The Union forces looted the city of Selma that night, setting fire to many of the businesses and homes. They spent the next week or two destroying the arsenal and naval foundry, before heading on to Montgomery. On April 9, 1865 Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army. Prisoners-of-war were released at this time. On April 14, 1865 President Lincoln was assasssinated. Eighteen days later Charlotte had her baby.

Charlotte would give birth to seven more children, for a total of thirteen: Joseph William "Joe", born January 28, 1867; James Michael, called "Jim", born February 13, 1871;  Margaret Loretta, called "Maggie", born December 18, 1872; Charlotte Teresa, called "Lottie", born April 5, 1875; William George, "Will", born May 31, 1877; Agnes Gertrude, born September 26, 1875; and Marie, born June 17, 1882, and dying the following day. Charlotte was 44 at the time of Marie's birth.

Charlotte and Thomas and their growing family had moved to Rome, Georgia, by 1872. The last five of their children were born here. Charlotte lost her husband on May 21, 1896. Their oldest son Thomas had died in 1872; son Jim had died the year before his father, at the age of twenty-four. In 1897, son Will died at only 19 years old.

Grave of Charlotte McCluskey McCaffrey
Myrtle Hill Cemetery
Rome, Georgia
By the 1910 U.S. Census, Charlotte had moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where daughters Lizzie, Lottie and Agnes lived with their families. Charlotte was living with Agnes when she died on June 12, 1917, at the age of seventy-nine. The cause of her death was listed as Mitral Insufficency. Bronchial Pneumonia was listed as a contributing factor. She was buried next to her husband and children at Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Rome, Georgia.

Charlotte had buried her husband of 43 years, eight of her 13 children, eleven of her grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She was survived by five children, thirty grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.
Notice of Death
Rome Tribune
(click to enlarge)

[NOTE: Charlotte's daughter Lizzie married Charles Clinton "Charlie" Flemming (1854-1932). They lived in Birmingham. They had eleven children, eight living to adulthood, including their oldest, my great-grandfather, Harry Clinton Flemming (1878-1955). Harry married Pearl Alphonsine Horst (1884-1961) and together they had eight children, including my grandmother Susan Elizabeth Flemming (1909-1999).]