About

Welcome to my blog about my Irish (mostly) and Yankee ancestors. The focal points are several: The Famine Irish generation and their children on Federal Hill in Providence, in Harrisville, and throughout Rhode Island; the borderland between Counties Monaghan & Tyrone; County Roscommon; County Sligo. I studied history at the University of Rhode Island and received my masters degree in history from the University of Connecticut. I taught history for eleven years before wandering into the wine trade.

36 Comments

  1. Laura Trottier said:

    I’m with the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau and I am putting together information on special pieces of Irish heritage for a few upcoming groups coming to the city. I know the library has a special collection on Irish Literature and there is a potato famine memorial as well. Do you know of anything else around Providence with ties to Irish culture?
    Thank you!

    January 23, 2015
    Reply
    • federalhillirish said:

      Hi Laura,
      The first place to visit is St. Patrick’s Cemetery. It is the final resting place of the famine generation of Irish to the city. To me what is most remarkable is the importance people put on including their home parish in Ireland on the stones (see my essay, “The Silent City”).
      Next, I’d suggest the stretch of Atwells Ave from Dean St to McNight. There is very little evidence of the past there, but you will find McAvoy and Trainor Streets, named for Irish residents, and the small park where St. John’s RC (Irish) church was located. And they will find the best “Irish” food on that stretch, with Venda Ravioli and a host of other places that serve great Italian specialties. My essay, “When Federal Hill was Irish,” might be a good introduction to the Irish history of the neighborhood.
      There is the neighborhood around Wickenden Street that was known as “Corky Hill,” when mostly Cork natives made it home. A visit to the City of Providence Archives is a must. Just visiting city hall is great, but for visitors to get a sense of the depth of material available is very much worthwhile. And the staff is friendly and welcoming.
      My latest essay. “Irish Surnames in Rhode Island…,” may be of keen interest to those of Irish ancestry. Most of our ancestors were illiterate and very poor. As a result, most of us with famine generation ancestry have little idea as to where in Ireland they originated. Material I have uncovered at the Rhode Island Historical Society is shedding needed light on the subject.
      With assimilation, it is a challenge to see the Irish footprint, but it is there. The Italians, with their wonderful cuisine, manifest a lasting legacy. The Irish were not so lucky with their food, and those of us who grew up with it are in large part happy to move on (excepting great breakfasts).
      Please feel free to link any of my articles to your website.
      Laura, if I think of anything else I will let you know. By the way, if you do use my blog, I would love to see how you use it.
      Thank you.
      Ray

      January 24, 2015
      Reply
      • John Smith said:

        Hello,

        Just found your page and am fascinated. You mention Wickenden St “Corky Hill”. The great George M. Cohan was born on Wickenden St. His mother Nellie or Nettie returning there from the vaudeville circuit to have the birth where her family lived. The whole Cohan family performed often in Providence. and there is a nice statue to George M. on Wickenden St. now.

        March 17, 2017
        Reply
        • federalhillirish said:

          Wow! It is a great statue, as is the one at Times Square. I’ll email you, John.

          March 18, 2017
          Reply
    • federalhillirish said:

      Laura, have you added anything regarding Irish heritage in Providence? I will be most interested to see what you put on your webpage.
      Thank you.
      Ray

      February 18, 2015
      Reply
  2. Mary Todd said:

    I’m planning on visiting Rhode Island this summer to research my family who came from County Leitrim. Besides visiting the Archives I will take your advice and visit St Patrick’s Cemetery although my family is buried in St Francis’s Cemetery. As research is my main objective is there any other place you would recommend and is there any time that is best for research? Thank you for your help.
    Mary Todd

    April 29, 2015
    Reply
    • federalhillirish said:

      Mary, where are you traveling from? What specific info on your first generation do you have? As for preparation, is there a stone in St. Francis? Have you gone to the Southern New England Irish site to see where it is? Give me specific info and I will direct you as best as possible where to go. Be sure to go to the famine memorial. Perhaps you might want to buy a brick or two to honor ancestors. The contribution helps with the upkeep and then all visitors will see your ancestors names and give them a thought.

      April 30, 2015
      Reply
      • Mary Todd said:

        Thank you for your reply. I am traveling from Florida and have never been to Rhode Island before. My great-grandfather, Hugh Fox, came to the USA in 1884, two years later he sent for my grandfather, Patrick Fox. In 1889 they brought the rest of the family over: Ellen Fox (wife and mother), Mary, James, Catherine, Annie, and Nellie. They lived at 359 Blackstone St. Hugh died Dec 8, 1901 and is buried in St. Francis Cemetery. I plan on visiting the graves while in Providence, I don’t know if there is a stone. I had never heard of the Southern New England Irish site, thank you for telling me about it. I will check that out and the Famine Memorial. I want to find wills and death certificates plus a birth certificate for my aunt who was born in Providence. I also want to see if my grandparents were married there, I don’t know where they met and married as my grandmother was from New York, not Rhode Island. I’m told Nellie Fox lived in Nyack, NY with the nuns but that is all I know about her. Thank you for all you do.

        May 28, 2015
        Reply
        • federalhillirish said:

          Mary, I assume you have been to ancestry.com. I see quite a bit on Hugh Fox there. As for RI search, state archives at 337 Westminster will have a copy of “Return of a Death” for Hugh. It may say where in Ireland he was born. It’s possible there was a will. They may have a copy, or you may find one at City Hall archives (top floor). My own guess is that there was no will. He was a spinner. As such, he was of modest means, like most Irish and Irish-Americans of the time. Be sure to locate where he is buried in St. F ahead of time. The cemetery is huge. My own research suggests that Fox family members came to RI from Leitrim and Limerick. You might be able to narrow that down.
          Are you going to visit the house where he lived? That might be an interesting visit.
          Good luck.
          Ray

          June 5, 2015
          Reply
  3. Thomas F McLaughlin, Jr said:

    I am a novice in the area of genealogy but find it wonderfully rich and intriguing.

    I am from the Mt. Pleasant McLaughlin family that immigrated from Tyrone County. My great-grandfather was Providence born, James Henry McLaughlin (1853), son of Hugh (1828) of Tyrone County. James married to the former Mary J. Connoly (1858) in 1879 and they settled and raised their sizable family on Amity Street. James was a Furniture Merchant in Federal Hill working with Patrick F McKenna – McKenna & McLaughlin at 259 Atwells Avenue. I believe that also operated their business at 205 Atwells Avenue either prior to, or after 1901 date they were at the 259 address.
    James and Mary had 7 sons and one daughter: Dr. William C (1880 – 1937), Joseph P (1882-1895), Augustus H (1884 – 1948) also work for McKenna and McLaughlin, Henry J. (1887 – 1965) Councilman and President of the City Council, and unnamed son, J. Francis (1890 – 1974, Dr. Edward A. (1893 – 1972) Director of the RI Health Department 1930s – 1960s and Mary (1897 – 1904).
    My father was Thomas F of Belmont Avenue in Mt. Pleasant and Park Avenue in Matunuck. I grew up with Red McKenna’s boys, Michael, Robert and recently deceased David of Carlton Street and Roy Carpenter’s in Matunuck Beach.

    I provided you with all of this family the back ground to you to see how you are connected to the McKenna’s on Carlton Street and the Patrick McKenna of McKenna and McLaughlin Furniture business in Federal Hill.

    I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.

    May 16, 2015
    Reply
    • federalhillirish said:

      Thomas, it is great to hear from you. How old are you? My father, also Ray, grew up in Mt. Pleasant. We also have a McLaughlin link, as you can see from my essay, “The McLaughlins and McKennas,” but I don’t think they are related to you. I do not believe that I am closely related to your McKenna connection. In the 1860’s, McKenna was the most popular name on Federal Hill. Do you have photographs, documents or stories you would share with me? I am writing a history of the migration from that little patch of land covering north Monaghan and south Tyrone. From that small bit of land, came more than half of the immigrants to Providence from Ireland. It is an amazing story that I want to get out there. Have you been to Tyrone? It is an experience you want to have.
      Great hearing from you, Thomas.
      Incidentally, Connoly was a common Tyrone name, McLaughlin not so much. The greatest concentration of McLaughlins was in Donegal, with a sizable number from Derry (I believe mine came from there). It is so hard to sort it all out.
      Thank you.
      Ray

      May 23, 2015
      Reply
    • federalhillirish said:

      Thomas, I get so much spam response to my blog that I only clean it out from time to time. So I just saw your message. You must know from my blog that I have McLaughlin family as well. What do you know of Hugh McLaughlin? Did he have siblings? Do you have a tree on ancestry.com or anywhere else? Do you have photos or any records of McKenna & McLaughlin? I am writing a book on the migration from Tyrone/Monaghan to Providence and would love to include and credit any info that you have.
      The best way to reach me is by my email address, federalhillirish.com.
      I look forward to hearing from you.
      Ray

      July 27, 2016
      Reply
    • Bill McKenna said:

      I could be wrong but I believe that Dr. Edward A. McLaughlin’s son, the late Ted McLaughlin later lived in the Edgewood section of Cranston. Ted worked for the IRS. My family lived in that Blessed Sacrament parish where the McLaughlins lived before I was born. John and Anne McKenna, my parents, and Joe, Lenore and Gene my brothers and sister. I know the Ted McLaughlins who grew up in Edgewood. Very nice family. They are related to the late John McLaughlin, former Jesuit and speechwriter for President Nixon and host of the McLaughlin Report television program who I met briefly at Ted’s wake.

      April 4, 2017
      Reply
  4. Ronan Mackey said:

    Trying to get some information on bishop James Donnelly of scotstown co Monaghan his parents names etc his early life any help at all

    December 3, 2015
    Reply
  5. paul reynolds said:

    Hi everbody am looking for my great aunt you lived in providence at 47 wisdom ave Maryjane fay and her husband John Joseph fay mary came from drogheda in co louth she left ireland between 1910 to 1920 she died in 1945 her husband was American with irish parents
    I would love to find their graves can you please help me

    February 7, 2016
    Reply
  6. Mary-Jo (Nolan) Jackson said:

    I am looking for more information on the Nolans from County Wexford. Thanks!

    July 12, 2016
    Reply
  7. Michele said:

    Hello. My interest in Tyrone immigrants to Rhode Island ties to migration to CA. I am tracing several RI immigrants c 1835-1852, from North Providence and nearby, namely O’Neill, McNamee, Mulgrew, Greenhalgh. My interest is also in extended family that immigrated to RI but stayed behind while relatives improved themselves in gold country. I live in MA so can make a day trip to locate resources and experience a bit of history.

    August 28, 2016
    Reply
    • federalhillirish said:

      Michele, you may be ahead of me on this. The only Greenhalgh folk I can find in RI came from England. O’Neill is quite common in several counties in Ireland, including counties Tyrone and Monaghan. Mulgrew is quite rare in the famine Irish generation in Rhode Island. However, I found one Peter Mulgrew who came from County Tyrone to NY in 1833 and was naturalized in 1856. At the time, he was residing in Blackstone, Massachusetts, which borders RI. I consider the mill villages of the Blackstone River Valley to be an extension of the Providence community. As for McNamee, they all seem to come from Tyrone, as well. If so, your Mulgrew and McNamee ancestors were part of the same South Tyrone migration that my family was a part of. I am trying to wrap up a book on the South Ulster migration to Providence (and greater Providence). I am going to be making a presentation on the subject in County Monaghan (the heart of the migration) in April. And perhaps by then I will have a finished manuscript. Let’s stay in touch.
      Ray

      August 28, 2016
      Reply
      • Michael Mulgrew said:

        My ancestor was a Francis Mulgrew who came to Australia with his sister Sarah Mulgrew and a Bernard Mulgrew. Sarah married a Peter Giese and I have a photo of her with her husband. It seems to be the only one of that generation of Mulgrew immigrants. There seems to have been written communication between the family in Australia and Rhode Island but no records remain that I have found.
        Peter Mulgrew parents were a Terence Mulgrew and Isobella “Bella” Donaghy. They lived in a place called Shantavny Irish, County Tyrone. I would be interested in any information on Peter Mulgrew that may come through your project.

        March 8, 2017
        Reply
        • federalhillirish said:

          Michael, I have found Mulgrew famine folk in Providence. I wonder why your family went to Oz? Do you think there was a Tyrone community there?

          March 8, 2017
          Reply
    • Loree Muldowney said:

      Michele,
      I am interested in your genealogical ties and families. I am of the Mulgrew family in Rhode Island. I also have some information on a Mulgrew-McNamee-O’Neill RI to Calif. connection. My own family are from Errigal Keerogue Parish in Tyrone, sometimes simply called Ballygawley. First known ancestors, Terence Mulgrew and Isabella Donaghy. Their daughter Margaret married Matthew McGuigan there, and migrated to Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Matthew’s parents were Matthew McGuigan and Catherine Mulgrew. It gets complicated. Besides Catherine being Margaret’s mother in law, I have not so far been able to connect them as cousins, aunt, whatever.
      Throw into the mix, Felix Mulgrew of Ballygawley who came to R.I. About 1845, he was the baptismal sponsor of one of Catherine Mulgrew McGuigan’s children. Was he a younger brother? nephew? of Catherine?Unable to determine. And yes, Michael Mulgrew whose post is below and I are cousins. I grew up in Providence, but am in California now. Further note: McGuigan surname, in my family, became Goodwin.

      March 9, 2017
      Reply
      • federalhillirish said:

        Loree, Do you have stories, photos or documents from the 19th century? Do you know why Felix came to Pawtucket? Did he have family there?
        I have come across a few McGuigan/Goodwins in my research.
        Thank you for the note.
        Ray

        March 10, 2017
        Reply
        • Loree Muldowney said:

          I have no photos, thanks to a daughter in law’s cleaning out the home of Margaret Mulgrew Goodwin after her death and thowing away several photo albums I have been told she had. Likewise no documents that might help you, except for copies of records at RISA, Family History Library — much of which is now published on FamilySearch.org or Ancestry.

          I assume that Felix came to Pawtucket because he had family there — my family. That thought comes from him having been baptismal sponsor of one of Catherine Mulgrew Goodwin’s children; and many land dealings between him and Owen McAvoy who was married to Ellen Mulgrew, a sister of Margaret Mulgrew Goodwin. Felix left for the Calif. gold rush about 1852; his wife and 3 children followed about a year later. The Goodwins (including the other families), Farrells, and Hughes all seemed to be closely aligned.

          March 11, 2017
          Reply
          • federalhillirish said:

            That was the tradition, Loree. A person dies, throw away the photos. Or, the old person destroys the photos her/himself.
            There were more than a few Providence folks who went west for the gold. As for your family, they were part of a tradition of people from the borderlands of Tyrone, Armagh, Monaghan and Fermanagh coming to America. The first were here by 1797, with a steady flow by the 1820’s.
            The names you list are all Tyrone/Monaghan names.

            March 11, 2017
          • federalhillirish said:

            Loree, In my upcoming talk in Monaghan (very close to Ballygawley) I am going to refer to “California widows,” the women left behind when their husbands went looking for gold. You have given me an excellent example in Felix. I will use his story. So, in a certain way, I will be bringing him home.
            Thank you.

            March 11, 2017
  8. Michele said:

    Ray, yes, let us keep in touch. I am interested in your presentation come April.

    November 18, 2016
    Reply
  9. Bill McKenna said:

    Ray,

    I recently got a DNA report back from Ancestry.com. Don’t answer if you don’t want to but are you a participant? Thought we might establish cousinhood.

    Hope all is well.

    God bless

    Bill

    November 20, 2016
    Reply
    • federalhillirish said:

      Bill, I have. I also participate in the familytreedna McKenna family study. You may want to look into that. Where are you located?
      Ray

      November 20, 2016
      Reply
  10. Bill McKenna said:

    Also, Ray, have you ever established a link with either the Archbishop or Juan (John) McKenna the fellow involved with Chilean Independence?

    November 20, 2016
    Reply
    • federalhillirish said:

      They both come from Truagh. I’m not sure what else you are asking.
      Ray

      November 20, 2016
      Reply
  11. Mary Flynn said:

    My gg grandfather, Patrick Flynn, emigrated from Ireland to Providence. He was born in 1825, emigrated in the late 1840’s, and married at the Cathedral in Providence. He and his wife, Elizabeth Tague, had five children, two of whom survived childhood. He was a teamster who died in 1860 from injuries incurred when the was thrown from his cart and crushed by a wheel.. He was buried at St. Patrick’s Cemetery; I have visitedthe cemetery and there is no marker at his burial site. The cemetery staff escorted me to the spot and told me the three children who didn’t survive to adulthood were buried next to him.
    My family had always assumed Patrick was from Leitrim, mainly because it is thought that his wife was from Leitrim. However, I was recently looking at the 1930 censuses of the children of Michael Flynn, who was Patrick Flynn’s younger brother. (As you probably know, census enumerators had to make a distinction between Northern Ireland and Irish Free State in the 1930 census.) In the 1930 census, all three of Michael Flynn’s children stated that their dad was born in Northern Ireland. So, this was a revelation, as it was the first time I ever heard that Patrick Flynn might be from Northern Ireland.
    I was wondering if you have any ideas on how to proceed from here regarding finding the birthplace of Patrick Flynn. I do know his parents’ names because they are listed on the marriage records at the Cathedral. His father was Thomas Flynn and his mother was Margaret Kady. Other names that might give a clue about where he is from are ones from censuses (people who lived with him or his brother according to the censuses) and baptismal sponsors of his children. These names are Donnelly, Smith/Smyth, Havenaugh, and Dossey. If you have any ideas on the place origins of these names or thoughts on how to find out his birthplace, could you please let me know? It means a lot to me and I’d appreciate it so much. Thanks for your time.

    Mary Flynn Toomey

    December 14, 2016
    Reply
    • federalhillirish said:

      Mary, Great to hear from you! I will send you an email response.
      Ray

      January 3, 2017
      Reply
  12. So sorry I missed your talk at Holy Ghost, Ray. If it was anything like your writing, I’ll bet it was a hit. Waiting for your next piece.
    Ed

    December 22, 2016
    Reply
  13. mary cleary said:

    hello ray. i am planning a trip to providence in the autumn, i have done some research on my ancestors the Hanleys, I have reached a brick wall regarding one grand uncle Joseph Hanley, he is listed in 1901 census living with brother james and family in acorn street , he was 23 years old , i can find no trace of him after that, my grand father (JOSEPHS BROTHER) use to say joseph was killed on the railway, i wish so much to find out what happened to him and where he is buried, all his siblings are buried in cranston, any suggestions would be much appreciated, mary ,

    May 22, 2017
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