Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lee Origins -- Across the Water to Cork

In case you've forgotten (see earlier posts), the John Tidball who immigrated to Minnesota married Mary Ann Lee, the daughter of Bartholomew Lee of Bristol, England. Bartholomew's birth family was living on Host Street in Bristol at the time of the 1851 census. John Lee, 46, and Hannah Lee, 43, were born in Cork, as were the three children – Margaret, 19, Bartholomew, 14, and John, 7 – were born in Cork,[1] suggesting the family came to Bristol between 1844 and 1851. Possibly the economic dislocations associated with the great Irish potato famine pushed the Lees out of Ireland.

The Lees lived with six other families at 33 Host Street. Three of the families were Irish, including the Timothy Hennesey family. Both Timothy and his wife Mary were born in Cork. Timothy Hennesey also was a mason’s labourer. Possibly, they were related through their wives. The Henneseys probably came to Bristol by 1847, as both their children, Patrick, 4, and William, 2, were born in Bristol. If the Lees and Henneseys came to Bristol together, their date of arrival would be narrowed to the 1844-1847 period.

Later censuses pinpoint the Lee’s Irish origins at the towns of Castle Martyr and Middleton, about 15 miles northeast of the city of Cork. The 1871 census indicates John Lee was born at Middleton about 1805; Joanna (Hanna) was born at Castle Martyr about 1806.[2]

Since Margaret Lee was born about 1832, it is likely John and Joanna were married in Ireland about 1825-1832. Surviving Catholic church records might document the births or baptisms of Bartholomew and John. The Castle Martyr Catholic parish is in the civil parish of Mogeeley. Birth records date from 1835 and marriage records from 1833. (When I did the research several years ago, they are in the custody of the local parish, but the National Library of Ireland had a microfilm copy, but I have not accessed it. The records were indexed at the Mallow Heritage Center.)

Lee and Hennesey families did live in Castle Martyr during this time. An 1846 Irish directory listed a James Hennesey and a Thomas Lee in Castle Martyr. Both were bootmakers,[3] increasing the possibility that the two families knew each other. A Christopher Lee was a saddler and harness-maker, a William Lee was a tailor and a Margaret Lee was a straw bonnet-maker. A John Hennesey was a boot-maker in Cloyne, five miles southwest of Castle Martyr.[4] These might or might not have been the families that went to Bristol.

Cloyne was a market town about 20 miles east of the city of Cork and about four miles from the coast. The directory reported: “With the exception of large quantities of boots and shoes made here, the trade of the place is very inconsiderable.” Cloyne had a cathedral and a Roman Catholic chapel. Castle Martyr had only an established parish church, but several Roman Catholic chapels served surrounding hamlets. The directory author added: “The scenery in the neighborhood is particularly fine, and the land around is in a good state of cultivation.”[5]

John and Johanna Lee probably lived at Cloyne and Aghada, where baptisms are found for the three children living in Bristol in 1851. [6]

            Baptized at Aghada Parish, 22 October 1831
            Father: John Lee; Mother: Johann Kenefeck
            Address: Lorog
            Sponsors: John Hurley and Frances Nenefeck

            Baptized at Cloyne Parish, 19 May 1836
            Father: John Lee; Mother: Johanna Kenifeck
            Sponsors: Timothy Ahren and Johanna Lee

            Baptized at Cloyne Parish, 7 May 1843
            Father: John Lee; Mother : Johanna Kenefic
            Address: Ballycroneen
            Sponsors: David Sheehan and Catherine Haly

I have not extended my Irish research since viewing transcriptions of these records. There is more work to be done, but my research priorities have been elsewhere. This, alas, is a problem for genealogists -- we can only pursue a few branches at a time.

[1] 1851 Census of England, Gloucestershire, Bristol St. Augustine the Less, p. 13, schedule 67, John Lee household, HO 107, Piece 1,951, GSU film 87,351.
[2] 1871 Census of England, Gloucestershire, Bristol St. James, p. 20, schedule 122, John Lee household, RG 10, Piece 2,531. GSU film 835,256.
[3] Slater’s National Commercial Directory of Ireland (I. Slater, 1846).
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Irish Family History Foundation (, digital transcripts of baptism records, accessed 28 June 2009.