Tony Hennessy MAGI

James O’Connor & Catherine Power of Sporthouse

Many years ago I came across this lovely old photo in a biscuit tin of photos, newspaper cuttings and assorted bits and bobs in the custody of my mother’s brother.  When asked he didn’t know who the couple in the photo were.  I took the photo to my last surviving granduncle who happily identified them as his grandparents James O’Connor and Catherine Power who had a little farm at Sporthouse, a few miles outside Waterford City. I was also told that James was also a coachman.

The civil record of James’s marriage to Catherine lists his father as Michael Connors, a farmer.  Beyond that however, despite many fruitless hours of research, I could find little or nothing about James O’Connor’s origins.  And so there the story rested for maybe thirty years …

In 2018 Séamus O’Connor, a distant cousin I’ve never met, now 88 years old and living in Dublin all his adult life, decided to write his memoirs.  It turns out he and his brother Michael were born and reared in the old homeplace at Sporthouse. Their father Willie had married late in life and Seamus is now the last remaining grandchild of James and Catherine O’Connor, my greatgreatgrandparents.  While both his grandparents had died before Séamus was born he does have a strong folk memory of them both from stories handed down by his father, all of which he has put to print.  Among them is the fact that James was ‘a big man but the smallest of five brothers’ the others of whom were involved in the Fenian Rising of 1867 and who, having been on the run in the Comeragh Mountains following the failure of the rising, fled Ireland and subsequently supposedly settled in New Orleans.

And so a new chapter in my family research – the O’Connors of New Orleans –  opens up …

The moral of the story – cast your net as wide as possible amongst your wider family.