When I first started my blog back in January 2018, its main purpose was to document my family history, through completing a 52 week challenge, about my ancestors.
A year on, I’ve done just that and boy I’m glad I did. I feel pretty pleased and a little proud that I managed to complete it even though life tried many times to set me back to fail.
Looking back to my first post in my 52 Ancestors challenge, I believe my writing and documenting improved as the weeks went on, well I hope I did.
Of course when I first started I wasn’t 100% convinced about sharing the certificates I have purchased, as I have had many certificates stolen from Ancestry and claimed as their own.
Against my better judgment aka gut feeling, I decided I would include all certificates and documents I have purchased, in hopes I would be contacted by who ever was interested in them. I still hope this is the case but I’ve seen a few pop up over the net, which is a shame really. It doesn’t take five minutes to credit where you got your information from. Never mind, we live and learn.
Getting back to it, after re-reading my first few posts, I feel as if I should now included certificates and update any information I found or have been kindly given. (Thanks Stacey and Matthew.)
Also new information has come to light, which I really want to share with you, so a little refresher into their lives, I feel is a must.
Week one of my “52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks” post was about my Great, Great-Grandfather, John Cornelius O’Connor and it’s his life or should I say mystery that I am wish to re-share with you and hopefully over the next few weeks you will understand why.
Firstly let me tell you a little about the O’Connor name and its history.
O’Connor is among the top 10 commonest surnames in Ireland with the name deriving from at least six distinct Gaelic septs located in different parts of the country. O’Connor, with its variants Connor, Conner, Connors etc, comes from the Irish O’Conchobhair, probably meaning ‘lover of hounds’, ‘wolf-lover’ or ‘patron of warriors’. The O’Conchobhair septs were located in Kerry, Cork, Offaly, Clare and Roscommon.
The Offaly family take their name from Conchobhar (d.979), who claimed descent from Cathaoir Mor, a second-century king of Ireland. They were powerful in their original homeland until the 16th century, when they were dispossessed of their lands. The Kerry O’Connors were chiefs of a large territory in north Kerry, displaced further northwards to the Limerick borders, by the Norman invasion, where they retained much of their power down to the 17th century. Today, the descendants of these O’Connors are the most numerous and can be found in every County in Ireland, with the majority concentrated in the Kerry/Limerick/Cork area.
Probably the most famous of all the O’Connor families are the O’Connors of Connacht – the main branches of this sept being O’Conor Don, O’Conor Roe and O’Conor Sligo. The ancestor from whom they take surname was Conchobhar, King of Connacht (d.971), direct ancestor of Turlough O’Connor (1088-1156) and Roderick O’Connor (1116-1198), the last two High Kings of Ireland, both of whom were progressive monarchs who ruled through the 12th century. Unlike many of the rest of the old Gaelic aristocracy, the O’Connors of Connacht managed to retain a large measure of their property and influence through all the calamities from the 17th century on. Their direct descendant, as certified by the Genealogical Office, Dublin Castle, is the present O’Conor Don: Denis O’Conor, and the family seat remains in the ancestral homeland, ‘Clonalis’ in Castlerea, County Roscommon. Built early in the 18th century Clonalis contains many relics and portraits of this great family and it is the only house open to the public that is wholly of the old Irish.
It is interesting to note that this important and aristocratic family consistently maintained its position, remained with their people and never revoked their Roman Catholicism, evidence of which is apparent in all the 16th — 18th century manuscripts. The history of the O’Connors, particularly, those of Connacht, forms the subject of a number of books and many famous family members are documented in these books.
In Griffiths Valuation c1850s, three variations of the surname were found, of which Connor was the most numerous (5377 households), mainly concentrated in Cork and Kerry. The plural form Connors was recorded at 1749 (mainly Wexford and Waterford) and households using the name O’Connor – mainly in Munster – only numbered 841.
In military circles Cabrach O’Conor (1584-1655) and Hugh O’Conor (d.1669), son and grandson of O’Conor Don respectively, took a prominent part in the 1641-1652 wars.
Charles O’Conor (1710-1791), antiquary and collector of Irish manuscripts; his two grandsons, Rev Charles O’Conor (1764-1828), librarian at Stowe and author, inter alia, of ‘Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores Veteres’ and Matthew O’Conor (1773-1884), author of ‘History of the Irish Catholics’.
James Arthur O’Connor (1792 -1841) was born in Dublin, the son of William O’Connor an engraver and print-seller. He was self-taught as an artist and began landscape painting and went to London where his pictures were exhibited at the Royal Academy. Although they were regarded as possessing extraordinary merit he died a poor man. In 1818 – 19 he spent some time at Westport House in Mayo, where he painted some local landscapes for Lord Sligo. Many fine O’Connor paintings can still be seen there.
In religious life two O’Connor brothers of the Kerry sept, Michael (1819 – 72) and James O’Connor (1823 – 90) were both bishops in the USA.
(Source – https://irelandroots.com/oconnor.htm)
The O’Connor family name was found in the USA, the UK, Canada, and Scotland between 1840 and 1920. The most O’Connor families were found in the USA in 1880. In 1891 there were 333 O’Connor families living in London. This was about 32% of all the recorded O’Connor’s in the UK. London had the highest population of O’Connor families in 1891.
In 1881, Labourer, Tailor and Coal Miner were the top 3 reported jobs worked by O’Connor. The most common O’Connor occupation in the UK was Labourer. 6% of O’CO’Connoronnor’s were Labourers. A less common occupation for the O’Connor family was Charwoman.
Between 1986 and 2004, in the United States, O’Connor life expectancy was at its lowest point in 1992, and highest in 1999. The average life expectancy for O’Connor in 1986 was 63, and 58 in 2004. (Source – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/name-origin?surname=o%27connor)
The O’Connor Coat of Arms and its meanings-
Let’s get down to business and re-visit the life of, John Cornelius O’Connor.
John Cornelius O’Connor, my Maternal Great, Great-Grandfather, was born on the, 29th February, 1872. We always thought, he was born in 1873 but as he was born on a leap year, it can not be the case and must have been 1872.
He was born at sea on his fathers vessel/boat.
His family came from Ireland, we believe from Co. Kerry, to John Cornelius O’Connor and ?. We believe his Mother may have been called Mary but this has yet to be confirmed.
John had two sisters called, Annie and Rose and a Brother called Thomas, but that is about all we know about his early years and family.
Rumour has it, the O’Connors left Ireland and went into service in London, England, while John boarded a ship either as crew or a passenger and sailed away to Canada in hopes of making a better life for himself, as many other Irish did.
While in Canada he fell in love, married, fathered two Sons, whom we believe are called James O’Connor and Thomas O’Connor. They later died while serving in The Great War. (I will share more about the very little that is known about them at a later date.)
Tragedy struck while John Cornelius was living in Canada when his wife, the love of his life died.
He was heartbroken, the better life that he had sailed towards, had crumbled beneath him and he was a million miles from home. I can only imagine the pain, the heartache he would have felt. 💔
Only John and his two Sons will ever know what happened next, unless I finally uncover a document hiding in some dusty corner of the internet or at a records office.
In 1907, John Cornelius, packed up his belongings, boarded the ship, Corsican and started his return to the United Kingdom, a journey to a very different future than he must have once planned, leaving his Sons James and Thomas in Canada, we believe with their maternal Grandparents. (This is only rumour)
John arrived in Southampton docks, leaving behind not only the huge piece of metal they called Corsican but life as he knew it.
John Cornelius, took up lodgings with my 3rd Great-Grandparents, Alfred William Wheeler and Emily Wheeler nee Shinkfield. (You can read about Alfred’s life here and Emily’s life here and here.)
He fell in love with his landlords daughter, Ethel May Wheeler and they married on the 26 December 1908, at St Mary’s Church, St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire.
John Cornelius O’Connor, was a 34 year old ,widower and working as a Coal Trimmer.
Ethel May Wheeler was a 22 year old spinster.
John and Ethel were both residing at, Number 14, Albert Road, Southampton.
Their Fathers were named as John Cornelius O’Connor (deceased), Master Mariner and Alfred Wheeler, Coal Porter.
Their witnesses are Albert Edwin Wheeler and Clara Helena Wilson.
On the 18th August 1909, at Number 12, Deal Street, Southampton, Hampshire England, John Cornelius and Ethel, welcomed their Daughter into the world.
They named her, Eileen May O’Connor.
John’s occupation was given as a Coal Porter and they were residing at Number 12, Deal Street, Southampton, Hampshire England.
Ethel May O’Connor Nee Wheeler, registered Eileen’s birth on the 27th September 1909.
Eileen May O’Connor was baptised at St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire, England, on the 8th September 1909.
John occupation was given as Trimmer and their address was 12 Deal Street.
Eileen would later marry, Reginald George Wilfred Willats and have one Daughter Doreen June Willats.
You can read about them, here, here and here and about Doreen, here and here.
By the 1911 census, John Ethel and Eileen, were residing at Number 4, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton, which was a dwelling of only 3 rooms.
John was 37 years old, Ethel 24 and Eileen was just 1.
John was working for a Coal Marchant as a Coal Porter.
Ethel and John have been married 2 years, they have 1 child born living and 1 child sill living. Ethel is pregnant with their second child.
John’s and Ethel’s second Daughter, Dorothy Rose Emily O’Connor was born on the 4th May 1911, at Number 4, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton, Hampshire, England
John was still working as a Coal Porter.
They were residing at, Number 4 Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton.
Ethel May O’Connor Nee Wheeler, registered Dorothy’s birth, on June, 14th, 1911.
John and Ethel, baptised Dorothy Rose Emily O’Connor, on the 2nd June 1911 at St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire.
John’s occupation was given as Coal Porter and the family are residing at, Number 4, Crosshouse terrace, Southampton.
Dorothy would later marry, Harold A E Croucher and have two children, Peter Harold Croucher and Joy E Croucher.
On the 4th of December 1913, John and Ethel welcomed their third Daughter, Kathleen Helena Florence O’Connor into the world.
She was also born at Number 4, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton, Hampshire.
John was still working as a Coal porter.
Ethel May O’Connor Nee Wheeler, registered Kathleen Aka Kitty’s birth on the 7th January 1914.
They baptised, Kathleen Eleanor Florence O’Connor, on the 7th January, 1914 at St Mary’s, Southampton.
Kathleen would go on to marry, William Alfred Young and have 2 Sons and 3 Daughters.
By 1915, the O’Connor family had moved home, just a few doors away to Number 11, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton.
On the 2nd of July John and Ethel’s Son, Patrick John O’Connor was born at Number 11 p, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton.
John was still working as a Coal Porter.
Ethel registered his birth on the 10th August 1915.
Patrick John O’Connor was baptised on the 25th August 1915, at St Mary’s, Southampton. He would later marry, Violet Elizabeth Maud Long.
I can only imagine the delight John must have felt to hold a son in his arms again after leaving his two boys in Canada.
I can only imagine the pain that John would have been feeling, as memories of his two sons in Canada would have come flooding back to him.
I wonder if he was in contact with them, or they were just a painful memory that never got spoken about?
By 1918, John is still porting coal and was still residing at Number 11, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton.
Once again they welcomed a new arrival into their humble home.
Norah Margaret O’Connor was born on the 3rd May, 1918, at Number 11, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton.
The family is rather large now, money must have been tight as the family grow in size and the Great war was still looming over the city. It is believed John, Ethel and his children were well feed, not one mouth went hungry, as John would go fishing on his boat Allanha, bringing home plenty of fish for everyone in the street to eat.
Allanha sadly got bombed and destroyed in Southampton waters where it was moored at Crosshouse Harbour.
The Great War is now over, it’s 1920, and the O’Connor family are still residing at, Number 11 Crosshouse Terrace. John was working as a coal porter. Life must have been returning to normal after the war, as once again Ethel finds herself expecting.
On the 17th November 1920, Brennan Cornelius O’Connor, was born at Number 11, Cross House Terrace, Southampton.
His birth certificate shows that John was still working as a Coal Porter. Their residence was still Number 11, Cross House Terrace, Southampton.
And Ethel registered Brennan’s birth on the 8th February 1921.
Brennan would later move to South Africa and marry Joan Lillian Janse Van Rensbury. They had 10 Children together.
Home life must have been busy and exciting as the children grow, learning all they needed to know, readying themselves for their own adventures.
Ethel’s childbearing days were still not over, as she once again found herself in the family way. Ethel gave birth to Molly E O’Connor, between the April and May quarter of 1923, in the Southampton district.
Molly went on to marry Anthony Rogers.
Ethel finally had enough of childbearing, wouldn’t you after having 7 children.
She banished John to live on his boat in hopes that she wouldn’t fall pregnant again. Being Catholic they really didn’t have much choice.
Unfortunately John sadly passes away on the 4th October 1939, at Number 1, Botley Road, West End, Hampshire, England, aged 66.
His occupation is listed as a, Watchman, on his death certificate.
His residence at the time of his death was Number 32, Canute Road, Southampton, Hampshire, where I have traced Ethel, Patrick and Molly as residences in the 1939 register.
John Cornelius, was buried at Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton, Hampshire, England, on the 7th October 1939, in plot, Plot: K009 / 285.
This is sadly where his story ends but not his memory or the love his family still feel for him.
As for his two sons, James and Thomas O’Connor, who he left in Canada, when he returned to England all those years ago.
During the Great War, John took my Great Granny, his oldest Daughter Eileen May O’Connor, to Netley Military Hospital, where he introduced her to one of her brothers, a Canadian Solider in the Great War. He sadly lost his life there, as did his brother.
After years of trying to trace, John Cornelius O’Connor’s roots, I have hit one brick wall after another.
No one seems to be able to find any trace of his birth, due to him being born at sea.
My Grandmother, Doreen Townsend nee Willats, can remember that he had a soft Irish accent, so she believes he came from the west of Ireland.
My mum has also told me that she intended to name my sister Kerry after her Grandmother Eileen O’Connor, but the name Eileen was classed as old fashioned at that time, so she named her after the location the O’Connor’s came from, Co Kerry.
The only other proof I have of him coming from Co. Kerry, is the ship log of his return to England. (I’m 99% sure it’s the right ship log)
As I mentioned earlier, we are lead to believe that John, had one brother, Thomas and two Sisters, Annie and Rose/Rosina.
At present I have not been able to trace their births, but I have managed to find his two Sisters marriages. Unfortunately after ordering the certificates, they gave conflicting evidence about their Father’s name and occupation. But the information does tie in with a letter from Annie O’Connors Daughter, Rose.
It’s all very confusing, becausese on John’s, marriage certificate, his Father is named as John Cornelius O’Connor, Master Mariner. This complies with John’s birth at sea.
But on Annie’s marriage certificate to James William Taylor, her father is named as John Patrick O’Connor, carpenter, deceased. Occupations do change, especially as they had moved away from Ireland. People also changed their names around, going by their middle names.
On her second marriage to Albert Cranham, her Father is named as Patrick O’Connor, once again a deceased, Carpenter.
On John’s Sister, Rosina O’Connor, marriage certificate to Walter Wiseman Mason, their father is once again named as John Patrick O’Connor, a deceased Carpenter.
I cannot find any trace of Thomas, and there doesn’t seem to be any family information/stories floating around about him or even why and when, the family left Ireland.
I swear I found them on a census record years ago, which is mentioned in the letter above from Annie O’Connors Daughter, Rose. I can’t find any trace of it now, though I wonder if my Nan, still has the copy I gave her, hmmmm, Nan ????
It’s definitely a huge puzzle with lots and lots of missing pieces but I’m sure as sure can be, I will not stop trying to find them.
I NEED to find them.
If you somehow stumble across this blog and names, dates, anything pops out at you and you realise that these wonderful souls are part of your family history, your DNA, your roots, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com, I will be over joyed to hear from you.
My cousin, Stacey Loveridge, Granddaughter of Norah Cooper Nee O’Connor, did just that, when she stumbled across my blog while visiting Ireland searching for information about John Cornelius O’Connor and his roots.
Stacey has very kindly shared her birthday adventures in Ireland, which she took with her Mum, Margaret Cooper and Sister, Joanne, back In April.
I hope to share this with you during the week, so please pop back, to see a little of the beauty of Co. Kerry and Castle Island and hear all about their adventures.
Also within the next week or so, I will share a little more about John’s Canadian Sons, James and Thomas O’Connor, which thanks to Stacey and her Brother, Matthew Loveridge, we believe we have finally discovered their names and a little about their military deaths.
While research is slow going, none of us O’Connor descendants are prepared to give up. We are a tiny bit closer to discovering who are Irish Ancestors were and we will knock down the humongous brick wall that stands firmly in our way.
Until next time, Too-Da-Loo