Monday, December 24, 2012

Matrilineal Monday: Mary Ellen Brennan

Mary Brennan was my maternal grandmother's mother. She has proven to be a bit difficult to research. She immigrated to the United States from Ireland1, but no one in my family was quite sure when. The only information my grandmother was able to tell me was:

1. She came by herself, so was likely a teen or an adult at the time;
2. She was here by 1938, as my grandmother was born in New York in January 1939;
3. She was from County Roscommon.

To make matters worse, my grandmother is not quite sure what year her mother was born. My grandmother's only brother passed away in 2002, and there was allegedly a family Bible, but it's not in my grandmother's possession so that's no help. My grandmother knew her mother was "old" at the time of her birth, so I took that to me at least 30 years old. That puts Mary's birth at latest around 1908, but it could also have been earlier. There were several siblings, which could help identify our particular Brennan family in a census, but a preliminary search for a family with the known siblings name on the Irish census came up with bupkis.

I knew it was a long shot, but I began combing through Ancestry's naturalization records. I was searching for Mary Ellen Brennan's born between 1895-1905, from County Roscommon, applying for citizenship in NY--where I knew she was living at the time of my grandmother's birth.

To my surprise, I think I've found her!

Celtic Manifest, Arrival: May 8, 19202

Declaration of Intention, 19273

Petition for Citizenship, 19303

By the time Mary appears on the 1940 census with her husband and daughter, she is listed as naturalized4. So the time line fits. I am not accepting this as absolute fact yet, but I feel pretty confident that this is my great grandmother.
1M. Barbara Pisanello and Stacy McConnell. Oral interview, 11 October 2012, by Stacy McConnell at Barbara's home in Media, Pennsylvania. Audio recording in the possession of Stacy McConnell, Azusa, California.
2Manifest, S.S. Celtic, 28 Apr 1920, stamped p. 42, line 13, Mary Ellen Brennan, age 20; “List or Manifest of Alien Passengers,” digital images,, ( :accessed 24 Dec 2012).
3“New York, Naturalization Records, 1897-1944,” database and images, ( : accessed 24 Dec 2012); Mary Ellen Brennan, no. 158912, sworn 2 Jun 1930; citing Petitions for Naturalization from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1897-1944; NARA Series: M1972; Roll #: 682.); Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
41940 U.S. census, New York County, New York, population schedule, Manhattan, enumeration district (ED) 31-1241, sheet 6A, dwelling 140, Martin Hannigan household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration, microfilm roll Roll: T627_2653.


  1. Good job! It's always such a challenge to find our immigrants when we know very little about them. But it looks like you knew enough to make progress. I hope this turns out to be your ancestor!

    1. Thank you, Nancy! I'm sorry, I just saw your comment now. I'm trying to reach out for a distant cousin on this side now to make some more headway. Some of these branches of the family are so difficult to track!


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