Where in Ireland are your Boylan roots?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Boylan DNA Project?

I am starting to wonder if it makes sense to start a DNA surname project for the Boylan Clan through Family Tree DNA. This could help tie together various branches of the Boylan tree together and help us all find Boylan cousins. From the few people I have corresponded with and seen results from online it appears there are a few separate branches of the Boylan clan. I have been writing to a gentleman whose Boylan roots are in Mayo (far from the typical Boylan Counties like Meath, Cavan, Louth) during the famine and he is having little luck in pinpointing a particular place in Mayo or finding other relatives. Many Irish clans have created DNA projects that help everyone find more info about their deeper roots. There seem to be a handful of Boylans who have had DNA testing but so far no central place to examine the data. If you are reading this and find this concept interesting drop me an email at mboylen2@aol.com.

By the way, here are some pictures I took of Mayo during my recent trip for my newest Boylan contact.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Boylans: Shoes of Distinction

I found this shoe store in Dublin. I got a kick out of it. I somehow can't see my relatives being fashion magnets. It must be some distant branch. LOL

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Kilnaleck, Cavan Boylan's

So after leaving Dromin we decided to travel to Kilnaleck in County Cavan before going into Northern Ireland. As I wrote before, DNA tests had shown that I was related to two separate Boylan's from Kilnaleck. Both of these Boylan's connect somewhere before the paper trail as well. Upon searching Griffith's Evaluation it became clear that Kilnaleck and the surrounding area had one of the largest numbers of Boylan's in the area. DNA had given a very strong rationale for believing my Boylan's had migrated at some point from this area to Dromin.
I knew about Boylan's Bar before I traveled to Kilnaleck. Unfortunately, when I got to town it was still to early so I wasn't able to grab a pint here. We did go the pub across the street to grab breakfast and that pub's walls were covered in football pictures; many of these pictures showed local Boylan's through the years.

This clothing store was just a few storefronts down from the Boylan Bar.

Since I had not found a single Boylan grave in Dromin I decided to go to a cemetary in Kilnaleck to take some photographs of some Boylan headstones. A local told me there was no graveyard in Kilnaleck but there were two nearby. I decided to go to the one at the Catholic Church in Crosserlough. When I got there I happened upon this stone by a happy coincidence. You see, I've been corresponding with one of my "DNA cousins" and he was a direct decendent of Matthew and Marcella Boylan. Therefore, this family is related in some way to me. The gentleman I was corresponding with had never seen the grave so I was happy to share these photos.

Here is a close up of the names.

This stone was located near the other Boylan stone as well. Maybe these images will help someone else.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Images of Dromin

There really only seems to be one church and one bar in this little village. Its still a very sleepy town despite its proximity to Dublin on the new M1 highway. The town seems fairly well to do and the scenery is lush. Some photos of the town are below. More will follow as I edit them.

St. Finian's Church as shot from the Village Saloon

This is shot from the graveyard and the ruins of St. Finian's Monastary.

The inside of St. Finian's church.

The church graveyard.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Michael Boylan and the Jumping Church

One of the most interesting Boylan stories I found in County Louth was the tale of Michael Boylan of Blakestown, Louth. The son of Peter Boylan, a prominent Catholic farmer, Michael was the leader of the Louth freemen in 1798. The men of Louth, (supposedly 15,000 of them) gathered at his door to be led to Tara for the national uprising. Only Boylan's mother intervened and he would not come out of his house. Leaderless the men returned to their homes and no one from Louth would fight at Tara. Because of his cowardice Boylan was turned in by a man named John Kelly and hung for his role in the rebellion.

A local ballad tells his tale:

I am in close confinement and no hopes of liberty
Condemned to death for treason before his majesty.

In Collon I was taken being on the third of
The Drogheda guards conveyed me to where I met my doom
I lived in expectation that the speaker'd set me free,
But I received my sentence from Dan Kelly's perjury.

Tom Hand he acted as a foe, tho' he favored me that
When in walks Dan Kelly and he swore my life away
He swore I had 10,000 men all at my command
Just ready to assist the French as soon as they
would land.
He swore I was united to support the unuon cause
And the jury cried out Boylan you must die by martial laws

When I heard the dismal verse
Twas in the jail I lay
I scarcely got one moment more than one hour to pray
And with my trembling fingers I took my book in hand
The tears came rolling down my cheeks to the ground where I did stand

I met my honoured father as from the jail I came
Heavens must part with you my dear and loving child
I bowed my tender body and they soon hauled me away
Until I reached the tholsel the place I was to die

I wasn't the least bit daunted till the fatal tree I spied
my sight began to fail me, my book I could not read
For to think I'd be cut down in all my prime
A tender hearted blade

Farewell my loving father its parted we must be
Likewise my loving mother your face I'll never see
Farewell my loving brother and loving sisters too
In the 26 year of my age I take my leave of you

I own was united the same I neer denied
Its in the speakers Cavalry I oftentimes did ride
If I woulf turn traitor I would get my liberty
But I won't be called deceiver I will die on the gallous tree
I always behaved myself the country round can tell
It's true Dan Kelly's perjury has proved my sad death knell
Farewell all friends and neighbors its parted we must be
My name is young Mick Boylan. Good Christians pray for me.

Michael Boylan was eventually layed to rest in the Boylan family plot in the Kildemock Cemetary near its famous Jumping Church. The grave is now covered in moss and difficult to read but old transcriptions of the stone report it says:

Per Santam Crucem Tuam Redemisti Munum
This monument was erected by Peter Boylan of Blakestown for himself and his posterity. Underneath lie interred the mortal remains of his son Michael Boylan who departed this life on the 22nd of June 1798 aged 26 years. Also the remains of Stephen Boylan brother to the above Michael who departed this life on the 20th of August 1801 aged 18 years. R.I.P.

Blakestown is only a few miles from Dromin. John Foster was the landlord for Peter Boylan's land. He was also the speaker referenced in the song who did not save Mick Boylan. Interestingly, a Honorable John Foster was also the landlord for one of my Boylan family's plots in Dromin. There were not many Boylan's in Louth during this period and with such small distance, such similar given names, and a common landlord perhaps Michael Boylan is a distant relative of this Michael Boylen. I dount I'll ever know for sure.

Monday, June 25, 2007

O'Baoigheallain to Baylon to Boylan to Boylen?

So I'm back from Ireland...amazing! I learned so much and will be adding new information for awhile. I think the biggest personal revelation is that my Boylan ancestors likely spoke Irish when they immigrated. I had suspected this from my previous research but it was only a theory; now I feel its confirmed. I think I read somewhere that roughly 25% of the residents of Louth were primarily Irish speakers at the time of the Famine. This was true mainly in the rural areas. Well, Dromin is definitely a rural village.

My previous clue had been that in all American records my g-g-g-g grandmother's name was Julia but in all Irish records it was Judith. Some internet research showed that both Judith and Julia came from the same Irish root.

The parish priest in Dromin (more about that in a later post) gave me more useful info. There are still members of the Boylan clan in Ireland that spell their name Baylon. Baylon is a more phonetic English translation of the Irish O'Baoigheallain. In the 1844 Ardee Union Poor Law Rate Book my g-g-g-g grandfather, Matthew, listed his last name as Baylon. I had seen this but considered it a mistake (I should know to never do that...). But in the 1854 version of the same record he listed his last name as Boylan. The Baylon spending seems a further indication of their primary language.

Finally, the priest showed me the grave of the parish priest during the 1830's in the parish cemetary. The picture to the left is of the grave of Father Magee of Dromin. Father Magee delivered his sermons in Irish at the church. This is further evidence that the Catholic population of Dromin spoke Irish.

It is interesting for me to see the evolution of this name over time as the Irish language was assaulted and replaced by English. And then how the name was further altered upon my relatives immigration to the U.S.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Trip is Here

Work has ket me from blogging for some time - and suddenly the my trip has arrived. The first few days should be the most informative. Besides my time in Louth I am really looking forward to the Irish American Heritage Park (I think thats what its called) in Tyrone. Its supposed to be a recreation of famine life in Ireland, on the coffin ships, and in America. Hopefully, there will be enough internet cafes in Ireland to update often!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Paddy's Lament - Worth the Read!

Last week I picked up Paddy's Lament by Thomas Gallagher. Its billed as "The 'shocking, powerful' account of the great famine and the Irish diaspora to America - an invaluable history that illuminates the continuing troubles." Written in 1987, it really lives up to its billing. It is the single best book I have found explaining all aspects of famine life in such a compelling way. I have a hard time putting it down at night. Try reading his chapter's about the coffin ships without experiencing the stench and claustrophobia for yourself. If you have ancestors who lived through the famine this book will add so much context to the story the genealogical records only hint at. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Upcoming Irish Adventure

In exactly one month I will be back in Ireland - I can't wait. I will be spending a couple of days exploring Dromin from my home base in Ardee. I hope to go to mass at the local church, St. Finian's, and explore its graveyard. I hired a researcher to pinpoint the land my ancestor rented in Dromin at the time of the famine so, hopefully, I will be able to find that plot. Somewhere near the church there is a well where emigrants would go to wish for a safe return to Ireland that I also hope to visit. If all goes as planned it should be both informative and reflective.

I'm hoping the graveyard yields some clues to family mysteries pre-1800 and allows me to move my family tree back one more generation. We shall see.

Right after Dromin we will be driving through Cavan (where my DNA test seems to show my ancestors might have moved from). My two Boylan genetic "cousins" are from Kilnaleck. As luck would have it, there is a Boylan Pub in this village so I plan to stop and have a pint. It's supposedly still owned by Boylan's though I doubt I'll be so "American" as to tell them we could be related...but you never know!

I'm hoping to do some blogging from Ireland so you should be able to follow my trip and any new discoveries here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

St. Finian's of Dromin

The parish church in Dromin, Louth (where I assume my ancestors once worshipped) has a great web site that has pictures of the interior of the church, as well as historical background. Check it out: http://dunleerparish.ie/StFiniansChurch.htm

Friday, May 11, 2007

Graves Can Say the Darndest Things...

Sometimes it's easy to forget what the life of a famine immigrant must have been like. While searching for my g-g-g grandfather George Boylen's birthplace in Ireland I found the graves of his two sisters in Mount Calvary in Boston, MA. One grave answered my question of where my family came from: Louth. The other grave gave me a reason to reflect. It reads:

Mary Boylen, Died August 8, 1892, Aged 57 years. This stone is erected in her memory by her loving mistress, Mary E. Holmes, in whose household she was a blessing for 27 years. Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of the Lord.

Even in her death she was still a servant taking orders from her mistress! Mary was a maid in a very tony home on Chestnut Street on Boston's Beacon Hill. I'm sure this stone was a way of showing affection for Mary but its amazing how it looks in the hindsight of history. (Double click on the photo to read the inscription for yourself.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sandbanks Cemetery

Sandbanks Cemetery, otherwise known as Auburn Catholic Cemetery, in Watertown, MA is in sinful condition. To make matters worse, it is owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

According to the work of Mary Daly, who transcribed every tombstone with an Irish place name for her book Gravestone Inscriptions of Mount Auburn Catholic Cemetery, Watertown, Mass, this cemetery accepted new graves from 1850 until 1882. The stones here have Irish last names and most of these were Irish immigrants who escaped the famine only to endure harsh living conditions in Boston. These were the immigrants whose very, very hard earned dollars built the Catholic Church in Boston. Walking around here looking for my g-g-g grandparents stone sickened me.

The cemetery has been largely abandoned by the Archdiocese for decades. Stones have turned over and have sunken into the dirt. Trees and brush have covered many of the stones at the edge of the cemetery. In my opinion, this says so much about the Catholic Church - once you can't donate they forget you - even if they offered you perpetual care.

Many of my Boylen ancestors were buried here. From what I can tell searching this lost graveyard, only one of my family tombstones survived. As you can probably tell I have a love/hate relationship with the Catholic Church. The experience of seeing this abandoned cemetery only reinforced my anger. Shameful.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

DNA: Boylan or McMahon?

So what do we know about the Ancient Boylan clan? We know that a Fourteenth Century poet commented on their horsemanship, we know they came from Flanagan stock, we know their blue eyes were famous, and we know they warred with the McMahons who eventually shrunk the Boylan territory.

I had my Y chromosone tested a year and a half ago when I still couldn't locate my family's last place of residence in Ireland. I hoped it might link me to other Boylan's and, therefore, yield some clues - up until very recently it hadn't helped much. But in the last two weeks I had reasonably close genetic matches to other Boylan's from an area of southern County Cavan (only about 25 miles from Dromin).

But what I find even more surprising is a probable genetic link to the McMahon clan who warred in ancient times with the Boylan's. Whenever I used to see these clan tales in heraldry books I would consider them fables. However, now that I (and I assume my other 2 genetic Boylan "cousins") have shown a strong link (albeit roughly 1000 years ago) to the McMahon clan I am left wondering how many of these stories passed from generation to generation may be true. I am told that in ancient Ireland clans would "foster" the children of their enemies killed in battle. Was this a case of fostering? And if it was who "fostered" who? I guess only time will tell as more Boylan's and McMahon's get genealogical DNA tests. Its amazing what DNA can show!

Oh, and by the way, I don't see any ties yet to the Flanagans!


My personal journey to find where my ancestors left during the Potato Famine ended in a place called Dromin in County Louth (or so I thought). According to a priest from the local parish it is now a very small but fairly well to do farming community with one pub and one church.

To the right is a drawing of the town center by a local artist that is on the cover of a pamphlet done by the Dromin National School Heritage Committee. The booklet is entitled "A Heritage of Dromin: Land of St. Finian's Monastic Settlement and Where Churches Were Built 'Between Two Showers of Rain.' It details much of the history of this small town from the monastic period to the post-famine era.

Interesting Dromin Tidbits:
  • It was in a Dromin monastary that St. Finian and St. Columba had their falling out which led to St. Columba's exit from Ireland.
  • The Church tower was added in 1847 - the year of the Famine. The booklet states "despite the exactions of the Famine, Dromin Parishioners were asked by their priest Father Thomas McGee, to contribute the funds necessary for the erection of the tower. In this respect, their efforts in erecting the church tower must stand as a monument to the faith of the Catholic People of Dromin, who gave generously despite their impovershed circumstances caused by the failure of the potato crop."
  • The immigration schemes of Vere Foster brought many of Dromin's residents to America. Foster spent all of his family's money exporting Irish women (who were more employable than men) to the US for work. The girls would then send money back to their families, typically so another family member could afford passage to America and so on. My ancestors rented Foster family land during the famine leading me to wonder if my g-g-g grandfather's sister's came as part of Vere Foster's scheme. The women Foster guided to the US generally had better transportation than the typical Irish immigrant, were set up with jobs, and were left under the care of a local American priest. Foster and his girls once even stayed with a country lawyer in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, during their US travels.

This booklet has been so helpful in giving my immigrants' stories context. There is not much on the Internet about this little village so I hope this information helps someone else researching their Dromin roots.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Where It Begins...

I've been fascinated by Genealogy for over 20 years after I initially traced my family roots to Ireland. Back then I knew very little; sometimes I think I still do. When I was about 13 I ventured into Boston City Hall. A very kind woman led me into a basement vault and let me look through all the original volumes going back to the 1850's. Within two hours I had traced my family all the way back to 1858 and in the "place of birth" column it said Ireland.

Ireland had always fascinated me. My best friend's parents growing up were from Ireland. I think I was 12 when I traveled to Ireland with them. After that trip I wanted to feel a part of something. Growing up surrounded by first generation Irish Americans (and looking as stereoptypically Irish as I did) many of the kids I knew could say they were from Mayo or Limerick or Cork. My family only thought our last name, Boylen, might be Irish but noone knew for sure. Was Boylen its own clan name? Was it a derivative of Boleyn, like Anne Boleyn? Or were we actually part of the Boylan clan?

Well to make a long story short 20 years later I finally have some answers. Through a lucky break in my paper trail and with the help of DNA testing I am able to say my family is from Ireland. They are famine Irish from the village of Dromin in County Louth. And before they left they spelled their last name Boylan.

I was looking for a way to put my family information out there, connect with others who are researching similar or related families, explore what DNA genealogy can tell us about our Irish ancestors pre-1800 etc etc. If you are interested I hope you will check back occasionally. Thanks for reading!