We finally found out where Ellen Connors, wife of Patrick Dailey, mother of William and James Dailey was born in Ireland. I say ‘we’ because this search was started long before I even knew I was biologically connected to this family. I picked up this search in about 1999, following in the footsteps of Dorothy Dailey Anderson, Denis Dailey and Bill Phillips. I never met Dorothy but have some of her notes and know that she spent years trying to trace the origins of this family, including at least one trip to Ireland for research. Denis and Bill also spent years trying to sort out the various Connors in County Cork, which is all we knew then about Ellen Connor’s place of birth. Denis and I traveled to Osage, Iowa in our search in 2008 where he introduced me to Ellen’s great granddaughter Mary Williams and we visited the cemetery where Ellen is buried. We also traveled to Flandreau SD to do research and visited the Dailey homestead. I promised Denis before he died that I would continue the search and would share what I learned.
With their notes and encouragement, I continued their search for the Connors but I have had several advantages which they didn’t. I know they would have discovered what I’ve learned if they had had the benefits of DNA, the internet and all the Irish resources that have only become available online in the past decade or so. I also couldn’t have done this without the help of Mickey Cunningham, a genealogist in Warren County NY! I stand on the shoulders of giants. I miss Denis and Bill so much and wish they were here to share in my excitement.
Several years ago, Clark Dailey, Ellen and Patrick’s 2G grandson also joined in the search for the Irish origins of Ellen and Patrick. He and his sister’s enthusiasm and tremendous collection of family pictures helped us finally get the answers we were looking for!
Quick backstory: Ellen, her younger sister Mary Connors and Patrick Dailey immigrated from Ireland on the Albert Gallain in 1852. We knew from her obituary that Ellen had been born in County Cork. They lived and worked in Warren County NY for a couple of years before traveling to Osage, Iowa in Mitchell County in 1855. They had been married in Glens Falls NY in 1853 and had their first child, James Everett there in 1854. They traveled west with several other families, specifically Daniel and Ellen (nee Dailey) and their daughter Jane Lane, Daniel and Bridget Sheehan, and James and Cornelius Tobin. Later some other Irish families came to Mitchell County as well, including the Beechers and the Sweeneys. Many members of these same families remained in Warren County NY. These Irish families remained close socially and there were several marriages between them over the years.
Patrick Dailey died the day after they arrived in Dubuque from cholera as did one of the Beecher children. After burying her 25 year-old husband, pregnant with William, and carrying 1 year old James, Ellen continued to Mitchell County with the Lane and Beecher families where they all bought land and began their new lives. In May of 1855, Ellen bought 40 acres of unbroken prairie land and had to build some sort of shelter before winter set in. I have to believe that her strong faith and her good friends from Ireland got her through these most difficult times. Ellen married Samuel Coon in 1860 and they had several children together.
Ellen Connor Dailey Coon left no clues about her specific origins other than the fact that she’d been born in County Cork. Trust me, we searched everything she left. No clues. So I started chasing her sister Mary, who was in Osage in the 1856 census and then disappeared. It took several years and many dead ends to find out where she’d gone. I kept searching in Warren County NY since she’d lived there for a couple of years and had to know many of the Irish folks who’d stayed there. There was a Mary Connors who had married Edward Sheehan in Glens Falls, Warren Co. who was the right age, but she left very few clues either. Even her obituary listed her as Mrs. Edward Sheehan–no first name even! Thanks to the fact that the records from St. Mary’s Church in Glens Falls weren’t destroyed in the fire that burned down almost the entire town in 1864, and with the help of genealogist Mickey Cunningham, I know that Edward Sheehan married Mary Connors in 1861 at St. Mary’s Church. But was she the right Mary Connors? There were so many Irish immigrants in those days and you’d be surprised how many were named Mary Connors! But the closeness of this group of Irish immigrants made me speculate that after her sister Ellen remarried in 1860, perhaps her younger sister went back East to get married.
Luckily for me, the Glens Falls newspapers starting from the 1880s have recently been added to the subscription site Newspapers.com. I started searching for Sheehans and Connors. I learned that there was also a Julia Connors who had married another lad from Ireland, David O’Keefe but she died in 1881 and her obituary cannot be found and neither can her death record. So far. I’m still looking.
Then I found a news article about a woman in Glens Falls named Miss Nancy O’Connor who had worked as a housekeeper for the local priest who left her his house upon his death. That was big news, but not as big as the fact that Miss Nancy O’Connor died suddenly several years later in 1916 on her way home from confession. That news made the front page of the Glens Falls newspaper. It also listed the name of her surviving sister, Mrs. Edward Sheehan. So now I knew that Nancy and Mary were sisters, but still couldn’t connect them to my Ellen back in Iowa.
Nancy O’Connor’s will was complicated and that, too, was news in Glens Falls. When it was finally probated, as was custom of the time, the newspaper printed an article listing who her heirs were and how they were related to her! EUREKA!! At this point, I’m dancing in the stacks of the library and would be shouting out loud except that it’s a library. They frown on these things for some reason…..
As listed in her will and printed in the newspaper, Nancy O’Connor’s kin, in addition to her sister Mary Sheehan, are nieces and nephews: James Dailey of Watonga OK, William Dailey, Pipestone MN., G. S. Coon, Louisville KY, Mary Coon Cole, Osage IA, some O’Connells from Ireland, David O’Keefe, Watertown, Mary B. O’Keefe, Pittsburgh MA, Mrs. William A. Sheehan, Glens Falls NY.
This single article told me that Nancy O’Connor and my Ellen Connors were sisters because James and William Dailey were her nephews. Julia O’Keefe and Mary Connors were also her sisters. With additional information from her probate files which were on the FamilySearch.org site (I LOVE the LDS!), I was able to definitely know who Ellen Connors’ sisters were.
In about 2008, baptism records for County Cork were digitized and indexed and put online for anyone to search for free at irishgenealogy.ie I spent a lot of time, putting together a spread sheet of all the Connors and Daileys I could find along with their parents, townland of origin and sponsors. I often wondered if it was a waste of time but it finally paid off!
Now that I knew that Nancy, Mary, Julia and Ellen were sisters I could guess that that all had the same parents. Nancy O’Connor’s death certificate indicated that her parents were Daniel O’Connor and Julia Herlihy and that she was born in County Cork. Checking my spreadsheets, I found this family in the Parish of Boherbue, the Diocese of Kerry and living in the townland of Glenreagh when these girls were born between 1836 and 1844 to Daniel O’Connor and Julia Herlihy. (They also had brothers William and Cornelius, but like any genealogy project, one answer leads to five more questions!)
If you’ve read this far, thank you. I wish Denis Dailey and Bill Phillips were here to do the genealogy happy dance with me but I’m sure they’ve been with me throughout this long journey. I would appreciate any comments, questions, or suggestions from anyone who’s interested. I still want to trace Patrick Dailey but since he died so young, he left very few traces. We don’t even know for sure if he was born in County Cork. So as soon as I can, I’ll go back to the drawing board to look for him. But knowing where his wife came from is a good starting place.