Thursday, January 29, 2015

Catherine Armstrong Leahey (Leahy)

Catherine Armstrong Leahey (Leahy)

The case of the disinherited daughter.... 

I decided for week two to talk about a brick wall that I have been tackling. I choose this for "King week" because this story involves landed gentry.   Let me start by laying out my line from me to my 4x great grandmother Catherine Armstong Leahey. 
  • me
  • my mother 
  • my grandmother
  • my great-grandfather- Joseph Dillon (m. Beatrice Bailey, she is not in the descent line of Catherine, but she is very important to the story) 
  • my great great-grandmother - Catherine Kelly Dillon
  • my great great great-grandmother Johanna Leahey Kelly
  • my 4 x great grandparents  Patrick and Catherine Armstrong Leahey born in County Tipperary Ireland. 
My great grandmother Beatrice Bailey Dillon shared my passion for family history (or rather, I share her passion... she came first) and she worked on both her own side, and her husband's. As a result my grandmother had gobs of family documents and notes from my great-grandma Bea's research... JACK POT. 

Before I got my hands on all of those goodies though, I had been working on my own and through some distant cousins I was given a research document from an ancestry guild in Ireland outlining the Leahey Family. It gave the names of all of Patrick and Catherine's children and when they came over to America and who they married, but it didn't give the names of Patrick and Catherine's parents.

While going through the tub of documents my grandmother gave me I found a typed letter from another set of cousins, it told of their trip to County Tipperary to find the ancestral homelands and how they were told that Catherine and all of her siblings were disinherited by their father, Catherine specifically was disinherited for marrying a Catholic. The father was gentry of some sort, but no title was given and he lived at Farney Castle and he had left the castle to his nephew, for added color they added that Catherine's father died alone.  This was the first time anyone in my family had heard this story (we thought) and we had no idea if it was true.

Then, when going through some handwritten notes, I found a bunch of notes that Catherine Kelly Dillon gave to my great grandma Beatrice about her family tree. These notes were a gold mine with names, dates, marriages, death locations, and stories she had heard from her mother Johanna and other relatives. Included in these stories was this little gem:

"My Grandmother L. was disinherited
she never went to her Father's home
Aunt Ellen told me her father was Lord Armstrong 

I almost fainted when I read this, the Aunt Ellen mentioned in the note is Johanna Leahey Kelly's older sister. I had sort of dismissed the earlier story because it was kind of vague and didn't really include any details. Once I found this I had to get to the bottom of it. Aunt Ellen was about 10 when I think her mother died and 21 when her father died; it seemed to me that she would have some first hand knowledge of her grandparents. 

I searched records in Ireland and when I found this I thought for sure I had found the evidence I needed... 

The Catherine in this baptismal record is the daughter of the William Armstrong who at the time was the heir to the Farney estate, but had leased it over to his brother John.  I thought I had found her!  

However on further review this is unlikely to be my Catherine. According to several editions of "Burke's" including a Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, this Catherine Armstrong married a man named John Bayly, I thought at first that maybe he died and she remarried, we had always thought that my 3x great grandmother Johanna was born when she was in here early 40s, so that could have happened. But it did not, Catherine Armstrong Bayly had a son named Lancelot-Peter around the time Johanna Leahey's older brother Edward was born. Furthermore, there is evidence that Catherine Armstrong Bayley died in 1874, and we believe that our Catherine Armstrong Leahey died in 1855. 

I'm not yet willing to say that our Armstrong family has no ties to the Armstrong Family of Farney Castle. I have personally experienced and seen on all the genealogy TV shows that these family rumors and legends usually have some grain of truth, some basis in fact that may have gotten twisted over time, but is usually not totally wrong. Also, since Aunt Ellen was born in County Tipperary and was old enough to remember her mother before she died, I think she certainly knew there was some family scandal involving the Armstrong landed gentry that lived in her same County. Also, in pouring of what records I've been able to find, all the Armstrongs in Tipperary county seem to be related somehow and are mostly Protestant, it is not a stretch then to think that Catherine marrying a Catholic in the late 1830s would have been a problem for her family. 

I have  three theories as to where the connection may really lie. Perhaps Catherine was a daughter of the William's brother who was leasing Farney Castle at the time my Catherine Armstrong would have been born, This brother was certainly in the family but not the heir.  My other two theories involve going back in the family line further. Perhaps she is a descendant of the original landed Armstrong, but through a son that was not the heir in one of the proceeding generations or perhaps the disinheritance happened further back and it was her "grandfather's" home she didn't go to. 

Hopefully I'll get to the bottom of this. My family and I went to Farney Castle and toured it, at the time we were still convinced that our Catherine was the one in the baptism record above, and touring the Castle had great meaning for us. I hope I can restore our connection to the place for which I now have fond personal memories.