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Information requested  regarding James Brennan (1805 ?) and his wife, Mary or Bridget (Biddy b. 1810 ?) Higgins. Known children-

Margaret b.1833 ? d.1921 Washington, D.C.     Mary b. 1840 ?in Ireland d. 1907 NYC     Bridget- later went by Theresa-b. 1846 Ireland d. 1919 Washington, D.C. 

Margaret married Dennis Mc Donnell at Killinvoy Feb. 11, 1857 diocese Elphin. Children born in Ireland-  Dennis 1867,  Michael 1866, John 1858, Patrick 1863.

The couple left Ireland and appear on the US Federal Census 1870 in Washington, D.C.  My brick wall. Looking for information, Parents,siblings etc. Can not find the Ship they arrived on either. Any  help would be much appreciated.

Only Margaret was married in Ireland of the children. John Brennan who married Sarah or Cecil Cronan is somehow a cousin.

Other paperwork says Brennans come from Roscommon.


Saturday 24th Apr 2021, 08:09PM

Message Board Replies

  • Hi Kathy,

    I was looking at your query and noticed that none of Margaret and Dennis's children--Patrick, Michael, Dennis-- was named James. This is unusual, because according to the very widely practiced Irish naming patters, the second son would have been named after the maternal grandfather. Of course, it is possible they had a son James who died.

    I have a question mention the 1870 census...did you find U.S. records after that?



    Sunday 25th Apr 2021, 05:04PM
  • Hello Kathy,

    The Irish government began to compile birth, marriage, and death records for all religious denominations in 1864. Partial civil registration however, commenced in Ireland on 1 April 1845 when the government recorded civil marriages and Protestant marriages. Catholic marriages were not recorded under the civil registration system until 1864.

    Genealogists and family historians with Irish Catholic ancestors born before1864 have to rely on church parish registers to see if baptism and marriage records exist for them. Some Catholic churches also recorded burial and death records.

    Your information shows that Denis McDonnell and Margaret Brennan were married at Killinvoy on February 11, 1857. This means there will not be a civil registration marriage record for them. Catholic marriages traditionally took place in the bride’s parish. Killinvoy was a Civil Parish in County Roscommon. The Catholic parish went by several different names, two of which were Killinvoy and St. John’s.

    According to the National Library of Ireland, the Killinvoy/St. John’s Parish baptisms are available from 26 July 1841 to 30 January 1881. Marriages are available from 17 July 1841 to 28 February 1881. Killinvoy Catholic Parish death records are extent from 1854 to 1881.

    Go to the following National Library of Ireland link to see the dates of coverage for the Kilinvoy Catholic Parish registers, as well as to view a map of the Catholic Parish of Killinvoy:

    The parish registers page will also show you all the alternative names for the Catholic Parish of Killinvoy. Click on “Show more/less,” to view all the alternative names for the Catholic parish.

    If your Brennan, Higgins, and McDonnells had resided in the Killinvoy civil and Catholic parishes prior to 1841, there will not be church records of baptisms, marriages, or death for them, infortunately. This means there will not be a church marriage record for James Brennan and Mary or Bridget Higgins, or a baptism record for Margaret. Your records show Margaret was born in 1833, and that her sister Mary may have been born in 1840. Their sister Bridget/Theresa was born 1844.

    I looked for the baptism transcriptions of Mary and Bridget/Theresa Brennan in the Killinvoy Catholic Parish, and surrounding Catholic parishes, but did not find them. These surrounding parishes include Kiltoom, Dysart, Athleague, and Roscommon and Kilteevan,

    According to a book by Brian Mitchell called “A Guide To Irish Parish Registers,” published by the Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., Baltimore, Maryland in 1988, parishioners living in the Killinvoy Civil Parish, as well as the civil parishes of Kilmeane, Rahara and St. John’s, attended St. John’s Catholic Church. St. John’s is not in Killinvoy, but in the townland of Killiaghan and Gort, County Roscommon. As you will see later though, some genealogy sites call this church the Killinvoy Catholic Parish church.

    Based on your information I found the marriage transcription, as well as a copy of the original Killinvoy Catholic Parish marriage record for Denis McDonnell and Margaret Brennan. The transcription comes from the Find My Past (FMP) website.

    FMP is mainly a subscription-based or Pay-As-You-Go website, with the exception that FMP does not charge to search Irish Catholic baptisms, marriages, and available church death/burial transcriptions for all of Ireland. Most of the parish records cover the 19th century, but some go back to the 18th and even 17th centuries

    The FMP search portal for the FMP baptism transcriptions can be found at:

    Catholic marriages can be accessed at:

    To look for Catholic Parish burial transcriptions at FMP go to the search engine at:

    Attached to each FMP baptism, marriage, and burial transcription are links that will take you to copies of the original parish registers held by the aforementioned National Library of Ireland in Dublin.

    The FMP marriage transcription gives the first names of Denis and Margaret in the Latin form. Denis is “Dionysium.” Margaret is “Margaretam.” The transcription also shows the couple were married on 1 February 1857, rather than 11 February 1857. To access the transcription you may have to register with Find My Past. Registration is free and downloading the marriage transcription is also free.

    The transcription can be accessed at:

    Attached to the transcription is a link that will take you to the Killinvoy Catholic Parish registers from the National Library of Ireland. Go to the link at:

    You can enlarge the register page by means of round icons in the upper center/ right of the screen. The icons are white with green backgrounds. You can also access the full-screen function by clicking on the last icon on the right with the two arrows pointing northeast and southwest.

    The marriage for Dionysium McDonnell and Margaretam Brennan is the 7th entry down from the top of the left-hand register page. Th right-hand page is blank. The date of marriage shown is Feb 1st, which does look like Feb. 11, the date you have.

    The name of one of the witnesses to the marriage is Gulielmo (William) Fehely. The second witness is Joanna Nolan. The letter R to the right of Joanna’s name is the initial of the priest who married Dionysium and Margaretam.

    I was hoping the marriage record would give the name of the town or towns where Denis and Margaret were living just before they married. But such is not the case.

    Your records show that Denis and Margaret had four children: John 1858, Patrick 1863, Michael 1866, and Dennis 1867. Of these four children, Michael (1866), and Dennis (1867), would likely have civil registration birth records. What is important with the birth records is they usually give the name of the town where the child was born, along with the names of the parents, the father’s occupation, and the person who was present at the birth and who reported the birth to the district registrar.

    Civil registration birth records can be accessed for free at the website by clicking on the “Civil Records” link, just to the right of the “Church Records” link.

    I found Michael’s birth record at He was born in the townland of Lisphelim, County Roscommon, on July 6, 1864. His father is Denis McDonnell whose residence is Lisphelim, and whose occupation is “Farmer.” Michael’s mother is Margaret McDonnell, formerly Brennan. Margaret the mother, residing in Lisphelim, reported the birth to the registrar, John O’Connell, who recorded the birth in the Athlone Registration District on July 15, 1864. Michael’s birth record is the second entry in the register at Number 93, which you can access at:

    Next, Denis McDonnell was born in Lisphelim on August 13, 1867. His father is Denis McDonnell, a “Labourer” residing in Lisphelim. His mother is Margaret McDonnell, formerly Brennan. The person who was present at the birth and who reported the birth to the registrar was Biddy Brennan, grandmother of the child. Her residence is Lisphelim. Biddy would be Margaret’s mother, formerly Biddy Higgins, as you know. John O’Connell, the registrar, recorded the birth in the Athlone Registration District on August 16 1867. The birth record for Denis is Number 39 in the register at:

    We now know that Margaret McDonnell’s mother, Biddy Brennan, was still alive as of August of 1867, and living in Lisphelim.

    Lisphelim is also anglicized as “Lisfelim.” In Irish the name of the townland is “Lios Fheidhlim,” A “lios” in the Irish language is a ring fort or fairy mound. Fheidhlim is the male name Philip. Thus, the name of the town in English would be Philip’s Ring Fort or Philip’s Fairy Mound.

    Lisfelim is located near the eastern shore of Lough Funshinagh. See the Google Map at:

    I suspect, but cannot prove conclusively that Denis and Margaret were married in St. John’s Church, located in the townland of Killiaghan and Gort. It makes sense that St. John’s would be their church, as a Google Map shows that the church is just 2.5 miles northeast of “Lisfelim.” See the map at:

    A Google Street View of St. John’s Church, Killiaghan and Gort, can be viewed at:

    The house to the left of the church may be the presbytery, where the parish priest or priests live. In America the presbytery is called the rectory.

    According to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage/Buildings of Ireland website, St. John’s was constructed in the early 1840s, well before the 1857 marriage of Denis and Margaret and the baptisms of their children.

    For a Google Street View of Lisfelim, go to:

    To confuse matters somewhat in this research, I found there are at least two other places in County Roscommon with the name Lissanisky. These are Lissaniskey Knockcroghery, and Lissaniskey Donamon, but these are several miles north of Lissanisky Lisfelim. On the Google Map at the following link, Lissanisky near Lisfelim is so small that it is not on the map:

    Back at the FMP website I looked for the baptisms of Denis and Margaret’s children: John 1858, Patrick 1863, Michael 1866, and Dennis 1867.

    I only found the baptisms for Patrick, and Denis.

    I can see why John’s baptisms may not have been located by the transcribers at FMP. I checked with the availability of Killinvoy/St. John’s baptism registers for 1858 at the National Library of Ireland site, and found 1858 baptisms are only available for the months of February, September, October, and December.

    Concerning Michael McDonnell, he was born on July 6, 1864, according to his birth record noted earlier, but the FMP website does not have a baptism transcription for him, at least not that I could locate. I next went directly to the National Library of Ireland website to look for his July 1864 baptism in the Killinvoy/St. John Catholic Parish, but didn’t find it.

    As you’ll see the first names of the two McDonnell children in the FMP baptism transcriptions coming up are either abbreviated, or in the Latin form.


    The June 16,1861 FMP baptism transcription for “Patm” McDonnell can be found at:

    Patrick’s father’s first name is transcribed as “Deonetti.” His mother’s first name is transcribed as “May.” These are the way the first names look in the original baptism register. A copy of Patrick’s original baptism record is the first entry at the top of the left-hand register page at:

    The name of the godfather appears to be Joannes (John) Olis, or Oles. The name of the godmother is Margt (Margaret) Higgins. Margaret Higgins may have been Margaret Brennan McDonnell’s aunt, or maybe a Higgins cousin.

    Denis McDonnell was born on August 13, 1867, as noted earlier.

    His baptism transcription also includes his date of birth.

    His FMP transcription shows he was born on 8 August 1867, and baptized on 18 August, 1867. Either his civil registration birth date is incorrect, or baptism date is wrong, as Denis couldn’t have been baptized before he was born. I would go by his birth date in the baptism record.

    His first name is transcribed as “Dyomsuy,” which would be the misspelling for the Latin name “Dionysium,” the English equivalent which is Denis. His father’s first name is transcribed as, “Dyonisio.”

    The FMP baptism transcription for Denis can be found at:

    I found a copy of Denis’s baptism in the Killinvoy registers, which you can access at:

    The baptisms in this register span both the left and right-hand register. Denis’s baptism is the 5th entry up from the bottom of both pages. To the right of Denis’s last name McDonnell, is the date of his birth, 8 August 1867. To the right of his date of birth are the names of his parents. To the right of their names is the name of the town where the McDonnells lived when Denis was baptized. The name of the town looks like “Lisfalem,” but could also be Lisfelim.

    The right-hand register page begins with the date Denis was baptized, 18 August. To the right is the name of the priest who baptized Denis, Joanne (John) Nangle, Vic. Vic is the abbreviation for “Vicar.” To the right of the priest’s name are the names of the sponsors, or godparents. They are Michael O’Shaughnessy and Honoria McDonnell, who may have been the sister of Denis Sr.

    Three different sources shows the McDonnell family living in Lisfelim. These are the birth records for Michael and Denis, as well as the combination St. John’s Catholic Parish birth and baptism record for Denis


    I now wanted to see if any McDonnells or Brennans were recorded in records prior to the marriage of Denis McDonnell and Margaret Brennan in 1857. For this search I accessed an Irish property tax record known as Griffiths Valuation at the free Ask About Ireland website.

    Griffiths Valuation was enumerated in the 32 counties of Ireland between 1847 and 1864. The valuation for Lisfelim and surrounding townlands was completed by the year 1853.

    Unlike a census, Griffiths Valuation did not enumerate individual members of a family, such as husband, wife, and children in a household residence. Those named in the valuation were individuals who paid to lease property, such as land, houses, and outbuildings. Each person who paid to lease the property was called an “Occupier.” The other person listed in Griffiths Valuation was the person who owned the property, or who worked as the middleman collecting the rent on Gale Day for the owner. This middleman was called the “Immediate Lessor.”

    You can access Griffiths Valuation transcriptions and original copies for free at the Ask About Ireland website link at:

    I didn’t find any McDonnells leasing property in Lisfelim in Griffiths Valuation. But two Occupiers named Brennan did. These are Patrick and Bridget Brennan. Bridget may be Margaret’s mother, as Biddy is a nickname for Bridget. Patrick may have been Margaret’s father, brother, or even uncle. There is no way to tell what the relationship was in this Griffiths Valuation record.

    The valuation page is attached to this reply. Patrick and Bridget Brennan are the 2nd and 3rd entries up from the bottom of the page, just to the right of the number/letter combination 11 a b. Just below Bridget Brennan is an Occupier named Bridget Oweless.

    Griffiths Valuation shows that Patrick and Bridget Brennan had leased individual houses, but leased over 34 acres of land in common. Patrick’s section of land was valued at 6 Pounds and Bridget’s section at 5 Pounds. Patrick’s house value was 1 Pound. The value of Bridget’s house was 15 Shillings.

    The total valuation for Patrick’s lease was 7 Pounds. The total valuation for Bridget’s lease was 5 Pounds and 15 Shillings. Patrick and Bridget would have paid a percentage of these values toward the property tax.

    The 34 plus acres of land that Patrick and Bridget leased in common would have been for farming.

    The number/letter combination 11 a b, refers to the location of Patrick’s and Bridget’s leaseholds on an Ordnance Survey Map of Lisfelim. Their houses though, may not have been contiguous to one another. This map can be downloaded from the Ask About Ireland website, but I’ve gone ahead and attached the map to this reply for quick access.

    Toward the bottom of the map you’ll see the name Lisfelim in large block letters. At the top center of the map you’ll see a section of Lisfelim called Lissanisky.

    A larger view of Lissanisky is also attached to this reply. You’ll be able to clearly see the number 11 on a large plot of land on the map. Just above and to the left of Lisanisky you’ll see in descending order the letters a, c, and b. The letter a is the location of Patrick’s house. The letter c is the location of Bridget Oweless’s house, while the letter b is the location of Bridget Brennan’s house.

    Kathy, if you ever go to Ireland after the Covid makes it safe to travel there again, consider making a visit to the Valuation Office in Dublin, and ask one of the representatives if they could go over the Griffiths Valuation entries for Patrick and Bridget Brennan in Lisfelim, and confirm that the location of the leaseholds were in the Lissansiky section of Lisfelim. I find it much more challenging identifying locations from a map online, than having a map in front of you, especially maps that accompany Griffiths Valuation.

    Below is contact information for the Valuation Office:

    Valuation Office,
    Irish Life Centre,
    Abbey St Lower, North City, Dublin 1, Ireland
    Hours: 9:15AM
    Phone: +353 1 817 1000

    You can email the Valuation Office before you arrive in Ireland and ask if they would be able to see you on a certain date. Or, maybe someone from the Valuation Office can confirm the location of the Brennan leases on the map of Lisfelim through an email message to you before you go to Ireland.


    Kathy, if you go to Ireland someday you’ll will be able to visit the town of Lisfelim that was home to your McDonnell and Brennan ancestors in the 19th century. When there you could talk with residents of Lisfelim to see if they know where the Lissanisky section of town is, not far from the eastern shore of Lough Funshinagh. I’m not sure if it Lissinisky exists anymore. Owners of B&Bs in Ireland are very knowledgeable about their towns and may know about the Lissanisky section of Lisfelim, or may know of someone who knows where Lissanisky is, or was. Hopefully there are B&B’s located in, or near Lisfelim if you decide to go there someday, and stay in the area.

    The are three attachments with this reply:

    Brennan’s in Lisfelim, Griffiths Valuation
    Griffiths Valuation Map
    Griffiths Valuation Map Enlarged

    Sources Referenced In This Reply:

    National Library of Ireland
    Brian Mitchell's "A Guide To Irish Parish Registers."
    Find My Past
    National Inventory of Architectural Heritage/Buildings of Ireland
    Ask About Ireland
    Valuation Office, Dublin

    Best Wishes,

    Dave Boylan


    Thursday 29th Apr 2021, 02:16PM

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