Mary Ann McDonnell 18471847

Mary Ann McDonnell 1847

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Place of migration
Stayed in Ireland

Mary Ann McNally ( nee McDonnell) b 1847 was the last survivor of The Great Hunger when she died in 1956 age 108.

The oldest person in Ireland she was interviewed in a Castlebar nursing home in 1953 and was still lucid in both languages.


All of her 8/9 children emigrated to Massachusetts. ( Fitchburg, Lowell, Leominster....paper Mills etc)

While she lived to 108, one of her sons, Patrick, survived to 104, and Bridget ( Enright)  a daughter to 99.

Remarkable considering the Great processed foods, plenty of fresh air and exercise. None suffered from obesity! No gastric bypass, no psychiatrist, no divorce. They had problems but they were stronger, mentally and physically.

One, Thomas McNally, returned after marriage in Leominster 1913, to live in Thallabaun, nr Louisburg, Westport, Co Mayo.

Additional Information
Date of Birth 15th Mar 1847 (circa)
Date of Death 25th Feb 1956 (circa)


  • Thanks for posting this, it's amazing that she lived that long. My great-great grandmother, was Margaret McDonell from Kilgeever, she was born around 1835. I wonder if they are realated. 

    Kathleen Rush

    Friday 14th February 2020 04:47PM
  • Hi there

    I'll have a look. Nothing is guaranteed.

    Perhaps you could see if the townland is mentioned.....Cross, about half a dozen homes.

    There's another Cross, not in Kilgeever parish, miles away. The 1901&1911 census records have the names of the heads and wives, children and others. While it's uncertain without checking if your Margaret is there being elderly, at 66 years there's a fair chance.

    Anyways, I'll see if I can establish a link and post it here.


    Harry Carson UK


    Friday 14th February 2020 05:07PM
  • Just looked at the National Archives census.

    Link to Cross town land , Ailemore ( misspelt as Ailemone!!)


    Some relevant surnames there.

    I'm rarely this prompt in life..... you'll be thinking perhaps, this guy is obsessed! 


    Good luck and feel free to contact me.



    Friday 14th February 2020 05:19PM
  • Hi Harry, Thanks for responding so quickly, My Margaret McDonnell married Michael Durkin in Askillaun, Louisburg and had my great grandmother  (also Margaret) in 1854. Maggie Durkin married Michael Berry in 1870, also Kilgeever/Askillaun/Louisburg. Don't know if that helps. I'm sure there are too many McDonell's to count, but it would be really cool if there was a connection with Mary and Margaret. 

    Thanks, Kathie

    Kathleen Rush

    Saturday 15th February 2020 01:54PM
  • Thank you so much for posting this story xx


    Thursday 23rd July 2020 01:31PM
  • I have McDonnells in Cork my Great Gradad Richard McDonnell c1864 and his daughter or one of them was called Mary Ann. Amazing lady .

    Friday 24th July 2020 02:22PM
  • Just in case I DNA match Enright probably a small match Richards father was said to be Patrick McDonnell not sure what circa as I haven't found Richards birth for sure. I would love to connect with another McDonnell or McDonald. I have Irish in a few areas in Ireland and in different areas of my tree. Even Durkin comes in a marriage not off the McDonnells as such though but my tree is a tangled one.

    Friday 24th July 2020 03:20PM
  • Thank you so much for posting this information!  Is there a transcript available of the interview she gave in 1953, mentioned above?  My great-grandmother and her sister, born in 1832 and 1839, respectively, lived in Castlebar during the Famine, and were orphaned while young.  It would be fascinating to hear about life in Castlebar at that time!

    Amy Patterson O'Keefe

    Amy Patterson O'Keefe

    Monday 31st August 2020 04:16PM
  • Unfortunately, the only information is when asked about the possibility of WW3 she said there'd be no chance of it if the decision makers were in the front line.
    I say, 'unfortunately' because I too would like to understand what life was like in the 19th century, particularly during An Gorta Mor. I deliberately avoid calling it a famine as the occupation forces were exporting thousands of tonnes of beef, lamb and grain. There was enough food. It just wasn't available for the people. The Choctaw people sent hundreds of dollars to help!! Despite their own trail of tears.
    So, yes, I'd like to know. But our families suffered because of decisions made by foreigners.
    There ya go! Get me started and it's a job to stop me.
    Kindest regards
    Harry Carson


    Monday 31st August 2020 04:33PM
  • Thank you, Harry!  She sounds like she must have been quite something!  And you're entirely correct about An Gorta Mor ..... "famine" is a misleading label.  Such tragic and unnecessary loss of life.  A wonderful book on the subject is "The Great Hunger" by Cecil Woodham-Smith.  I read it while traveling through Ireland (with a quick pass through Castlebar; not long enough!) in 2005.


    Amy Patterson O'Keefe

    Monday 31st August 2020 04:42PM
  • Amy, if I may call you by your real name..... Thank you for...1. replying and agreeing and 2. For recommending Cecil Woodham-Smith's book.

    I rarely reply because I'm lazy and excuse.

    But I have to comment. Cecil....was a she not a he! Who'd have thought. I've read a lot. And a lot about the 1840s in Ireland. Usually they avoid blame, treading a fine line and utterly failing. Cecil Woodham-Smith's book/ account is almost universally praised for it's humanity and integrity. 

    And I have not read it. I didn't know it existed! Shocking. And I know my stuff....haha!!

    So... thanks. I'm ordering it today ( Abe Books. Here in England it's good and I'm weaning myself off Amazon).

    521 I'll be off line for a couple of days.


    Harry Carson in Cornwall, England


    Monday 31st August 2020 05:08PM
  • Hello, Harry in Cornwall! (A place that's been on my travel "bucket list" for some time now!),

    Yes, it was unusual for a woman to be named "Cecil" -- still is, I would imagine!  She was a wonderful writer, and the book is one that can be read more than once, as it's so full of detail and vivid in its description of the dreadful period of the late 1840's.  Her descriptions are harrowing.  So sad to reflect on what it must have been like for our ancestors to leave behind that beautiful land for the unknowns of life elsewhere -- decisions made from a desperation we could never comprehend!

    Enjoy the book, and best of luck in your future research!


    Amy in Midlothian, Virginia (USA)

    Amy Patterson O'Keefe

    Monday 31st August 2020 05:13PM
  • Hi, my great, great grandmother born 1832, Kilrush, was one of the Irish girls who emigrated to Australia with her sister Johanna, as part of the Earl Grey, Irish orphan girls scheme in 1849. Married an Englishman from Somerset who emigrated at the age of 17, a stone mason,  in Melbourne, then transited to the Wimmera, Victoria, during the time of the Eureka stockade revolt at Ballaarat. Settled in the Warracknabeal area and had 10 children. Died at the age of 75. I feel very lucky. The resilience of such people from that era still amazes me.

    regards and best wishes



    Monday 31st August 2020 07:32PM
  • Oh, by the way of connection, My Great grest grandmother was also named Mary Ann McDonnell, Father Sinon and Mother Biddy nee-Cain. Gets a litle confusing, 1 or 2 other Mary McDonnell were born to Sinon and Biddy, all baptised at St Sinan's Kilrush. I can only assume, one or more of these other Marys died in infancy.




    Wednesday 2nd September 2020 05:28AM
  • My family were also Cains from Mayo. Any connection I wonder? Judith


    Sunday 14th November 2021 03:32PM
  • Does anyone know of a Patrick Cain who was married to a Bridget Kesting or Keating who had a son, Michael who was born around 1830 in Mayo? They emigrated to England and ended up in Hull.




    Thursday 28th April 2022 08:58PM
  • My 3x Geat grandmother was also born in Castlegar in 1831 so also survived the great hunger - Biddy Corcoran nee Connelly found herself widowed in 1871 and by 1875 she set sail with 7 children to New Zealand for a new life where her children did well. 


    Sunday 15th May 2022 04:47AM
  • My family we O'Connor or Connor and I dont have much information to go on. But if we forget about names, my oh my Mary Ann McDonnell looks so much like my late mum, its uncanny. My mum was 95.5 years when she died. Amazing ages these women achieved!


    Sunday 15th May 2022 11:40AM
  • My family we O'Connor or Connor and I dont have much information to go on. But if we forget about names, my oh my Mary Ann McDonnell looks so much like my late mum, its uncanny. My mum was 95.5 years when she died. Amazing ages these women achieved!


    Sunday 15th May 2022 11:40AM
  • It's no fun to throw a spanner in the works, but the civil marriage record for Mary Ann notes she was 17 in born c1853 and not during the Famine.


    Married 31-Jan-1870  

     Louisburgh district

    Co. Mayo

    John Mcenally, a farmer, 27, and  Mary Anne Mcdonnell, 17

    Both lived in Cross, a townland in Kilgeever parish


    Johon's father: Ned Mcenally, a farmer

    Domnick Mcdonnell, a farmer



    Witnesses: Pat Needham Ann Mcdonnell


    Louisburgh Church



    Sunday 15th May 2022 01:04PM
  • Here is Mary (Ann)'s baptismal record (from rootsireland):

    Mary McDonnell
    Baptism: 22-Mar-1853 Kilgeever RC parish Co. Mayo

    Parents: Dominick McDonnell Mary McDonnell
    Sponsors: John Malley Bridget Malley


    Sunday 15th May 2022 01:08PM

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