History of the Kearney Surname
Edward Kearney (& Ann Fagan)
James Kearney (& Mary McDonnell)
Mary Ann Kearney (& Henry Marcus Gross)
-Sustain and abstain-
We will, therefore, begin this brief history of the origin of the Kearney surname with Naill of the Nine Hostages. Naill is known as somewhat of an Irish myth and legend. It has been established that he was a great historical figure who ruled Ireland from 378 to 405 AD. Naill is claimed to be the 124th Monarch of Ireland. He is known for undertaking raiding parties and kidnapping settlers who were living along the coast of Wales. It has been said that on one of these raids, Naill took a young boy hostage who later escaped and returned to Ireland. This young boy was said to be the future Saint Patrick.
Nail had twelve sons. Maine was one of these sons. Maines tract of land, which was handed down from father to son, is reported to have been in an area referred to as Teathbha or Teffia. Over the centuries, ancestors of Main, and local clans competed for the position of "King of Teathba". It is interesting to note that this territory slowly became smaller over time as land was divided among fomilies, and competition between clans took place. It is thought that Maines territory comprised of a good part of the current counties of Westmeath and Longford.
One of Maines descendants was Tadhgan. (also known as Tagan or Tagain). Tadhgan probably lived some time during the eighth centuries, around the year 900 AD. He became the founder of a line referred to even centuries later as Muintir Tadhgan (clan or people of Tadhgan). A burial stone in Clonmacnoise bears his name.
At Durrow there are two burial stones which bear the names of Tadhgans two grandsons (Or perhaps a grandson and a later descendant). One is Aghda, or Aigidiu, and the other Cathalan.
Cathalan had a son named Catharnach whose descendants began to be known as O'Catharnaigh.
The first mention of the O'Catharnaighs is found in the Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters. In the middle of the eleventh century surnames and nicknames began to develop. Eventually "O'Catharnaigh" was adopted as a surname. Still later it was abbreveated and anglicized to Kearney, O'Caharny, Kenny, Kinney, and other spelling variations.
There are no clues about Edwards life as a child. His parents names are unknown. Whether he had any siblings is also unknown. The earliest record that gives us any clue about his life is found in the town of Longwood, County Meath. It was here that Edward married Anne Fagan on 7 November 1841. (The Catholic Church records in Longwood commence in 1829 so it is not possible to trace this family back a further generation in this area.)
A little more than two months after the couple was married, on 12 January 1842, a son named Michael was born. It is thought that this child may have died in infancy, as there were two children named Michael in this family. However, no death record for a Michael Kearney could be found in Longwood.
Michael was followed on 11 April 1843 by a sister, Mary. Longwood records show that on 4 September 1865, a Mary Kearney married Patrick Kavanagh. (Our Mary would have been 22 years old at this time.) As no parents names are listed on this marriage record it is virtually impossible to prove or disprove if this is, indeed, the same Mary who was born to Edward and Anne. It does, however, give us cause for further research.
Two years after the birth of Mary, on 6 July 1845, Elizabeth was born. These must have been hard times for the Kearney family. The year that Elizabeth was born marked the beginning of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland. In October 1845 a serious blight began to effect Ireland's potatoes, ruining about three quarters of the country's crop. Over the next year an estimated 350,000 people died of starvation. An outbreak of typhus followed which further ravaged the weakened population.
In the midst of these hard times on 28 August 1848, my great-great grandfather, James was born. Both the marriage and death records of James indicate that his father, Edward, was a farmer and laborer. In 1848 the main industry in Ireland was agriculture. Large areas of land were under the control of landowners living in England. As there is no listing for Edward Kearney in the Longwood area land records of 1820/1830 (Tithe Applotment) or 1854 (Griffiths Valuation), it is possible that Edward rented, rather than owned the land on which he worked. Because of a lack of capital, many farmers, like Edward, used antiquated implements and backward methods. The average wage for farm laborers was eight pence a day.
In 1851 the Census Commissioners estimated that nearly a million people had died during the Irish Potato Famine. However, Edward and Anne's life was blessed once again, and on 8 September 1851 another son was born. This child was named Michael as well, presumedly after his deceased older brother. The names of Michael's sponsors were Thomas Fagan and Bridget Hussey. It was the custom of the time for a child's sponsors, or god-parents, to be a member of the family. Could this Thomas Fagan be Anne's brother or father, and his wife?
Three years later, on 24 September 1854, Edward and Anne's last known child, Anne, was born. Baby Anne's sponsor was Bridget Fagan.
By the end of that year nearly two million people (about one quarter of the population) had left Ireland for more promising places. The Kearney family is not listed in the Longwood/Killyon area in the 1901 Census Returns. Was their family effected by the starvation or typhus that had struck all around them? Did they move to another area in County Meath, or were they among the numbers that left the country? If they did emigrate what was their destination? With further research I hope to be able to find the answers to these and other questions.
James Kearney was born 28 August 1848 in Longwood, County Meath , Ireland to Edward Kearney and Ann Fagan. James was the fourth of six children.
According to his marriage record, at age 33 James lived at #1 Upper Dominick Street in Dublin, Ireland and worked as a labourer. His future wife Mary McDonnell, the daughter of Joseph McDonnell and Mary Boyd, lived at #42 on the same street (or building?). At that time, young Mary was employed as an upholsterer. On 15 January 1882 twenty one year old Mary and thirty three year old James were married a the Catholic Chapel of St. Josephs' in the District of Summer Hill, Dublin, North.
The death record of James seems to indicate that he and Mary immigrated to Australia shortly after they were married. What their reasons for leaving Ireland were we don't know. History tells us that between 1818 and 1900 qualified emigrants received passage money or land grants as incentive to emigrate. Assistance was viewed by officials as an alternative to providing poor relief for the starving masses during the famine. After 1840 colonies such as Australia offered money or alnd grants to skilled workers to attract needed immigrants. Could this have affected James and Mary's decision to emigrate?
While living in Australia, James and Mary had five children. The oldest, Joseph Edward was born in 1884, followed by Michael John (Jack) in 1885 and James Patrick in 1886. Thomas Walter was born in 1888 and Mary Ann the following year.
On 7 December 1888 while working on the railway, James sustained a laceration wound to the thigh. Family legend says that the heroic James was attempting to remove an obstacle from the track to prevent derailment and possible injury to others, when the accident occured. However, so far, there is no data to substanciate these claims. Communication with Queensland Railways failed to locate any information on James. However, "It should be noted," they stated, "that prior to the era of ......using day labour, large numers of people were engaged on railway work throughout the state as empolyees of the railway contractors rather than employees of the Railway Department. As such, no records of these persons are held within Queensland Rail". James' death record indicates that following the accident he was taken to the Brisbane Hospital and treated by Dr Hase. The following day he died. James is buried in the Toowong Cemetery in Brisbane, Portion 7, Section 68, Allotment 14.
Four and a half months after his death, on 23 March 1889, Mary Ann was born. The widowed Mary brought her little girl home to live at Thomas Street in North Ipswich, Queensland.