Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Reevaluation of Hugh O'Neill Family Births and Migration
by Ron Darrah
Up to now, we have been basing our understanding of the births and migration of the Hugh O'Neill family on the statements contained in the 1937 genealogy prepared by George W. O'Neill. Several recent discoveries of documents cause me to reevaluate some of these statements.
The main source of information for George W. O'Neill on this particular area was Richard O'Neill, the youngest son of John O'Neill, the eldest son of Hugh. Richard was born in 1849 and talked to George W. from around 1913 until 1935, when he was 64 to 85.
George admits that Richard was providing his information from memory, or, in other words, was (A) talking about secondhand events that happened over a hundred years ago, (B) events that happened over 30 years before he was born, (C) were not backed up by any documentation, and (D) could not be verified as all the principals were long dead. Another problem is why George evidently interviewed Richard in 1913 or so and did not publish his manuscript until 1937, two years after Richard died.
Richard even states in a 1915 letter to George, that "With reference to my father's brothers and sisters, I have no exact data and tradition tells but little." George also stated about Richard, "It seemed...that he had access to no records of any sort, and so could only give such facts as had been kept in mind."
The above two paragraphs provide clear rationale to take a closer look at Hugh's children and the family migration sequence.
1. Wife Deborah's Death Date: Richard stated that his grandmother died in 1822. Her tombstone, about a mile from where Richard lived, clearly says 1823.
2. Daughters Esther and Sarah's Birth Dates: Richard and/or George says Esther was born January 8, 1796, and Sarah February 26, 1796. An obvious error; if Hugh and Deborah were married in February of 1794, Esther was probably born in 1795 and child number one.
3. Son John was probably born next in 1797, as several census and other documents support this date.
4. Daughter Deborah was possibly born in 1799, making her the third child.
4. Daughter Sarah gives her birth year on several documents as 1800, so she was most likely the fourth child.
5. Son William was born in 1801, as verified on several documents, so he was child five.
6. Daughter Julia was consistently reported on documents as born in 1804, so she was child number six.
At this point we turn to the 1810 Census of New York City, where Hugh O'Neill was listed in the Seventh Ward:
Here we have two sons under 15 [John and William]; one adult male [Hugh, in the wrong age column], three daughters under 10 [Deborah, Sarah, and Julia], and one adult female [wife Deborah]. Where was Esther? If you were a 15-year-old daughter of a low-paid Irish immigrant schoolmaster, you were probably working and living in the household of an affluent family nearby.
So this entry seems to match our Hugh O'Neill family about as well as could be expected.
But where is Hugh, Junior? I believe that Hugh, Jr. was not born until late 1810 or 1811, and not in Herkimer County, but in New York City.
The rationale for this is a War of 1812 Alien's Return for New York on Ancestry, in which Hugh is listed:
Note that this is August of 1812, Hugh is still in New York City, is listed as age 38-the correct match, and is a Schoolmaster-also a perfect match. In addition, he has one child born in the United States, almost certainly Hugh, Jr., between the 1810 Census and this Return.
There is a strong possibility that the War of 1812 motivated Hugh and Deborah to move inland, hence their migration up and through the Mohawk Valley and down to Pittsburgh.
The first Catherine may have died in 1806 on board ship, or she may have been born in Herkimer County, New York, in 1812. The family possibly remained in upstate New York for the winter and to allow mother and daughter to recover. It is even possible that a different baby died in Utica. We will probably never know the answer to this question.
As to the remaining children, Alexander was possibly born in 1813-1814, and Thomas in 1815-1816, as several documents maintain. The last Catherine undoubtedly died with her mother in 1823.
So, here is my revised version of Hugh O'Neill's family:
Esther January 8, 1795 Clonacen
John October 6, 1797 Newtown
Deborah December 12, 1799 Co. Carlow
Sarah February 26, 1800 Garryhill
William December 13, 1801 Co. Carlow
Julia April 16, 1804 Co. Carlow
Catherine, 1 October 16, 1806 Co. Carlow
Migration to U.S.
Hugh December 31, 1810 New York City
Migration to PA
Alexander September 11, 1813 Pittsburgh
Thomas October 15, 1815 Pittsburgh
Migration to OH
Catherine, 2 1823 Summerfield
Rather than depending on a secondary version reliant on memory, I think this version can be more correctly verified by written records. I plan to use this conclusion in my own research.
January 16, 2013