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  • The Irish Origins of Owen Hannigan of Hallowell and New Limerick, Maine

    Researcher: Marie E. Daly, Director of NEHGS Library

    Part 1
    The Hannigan families in Maine were researched with the goal of determining their Irish origin. These records include census records, vital records, naturalization petitions and passenger arrival lists. Previous information about Owen Hannigan’s birthplace and family may have been obtained from a genealogy posted on the Internet. While this genealogy may be useful, especially for the extracted marriages, baptisms and deaths from St. Mary’s church in Houlton, the information I have collected from Maine records contradicts some of the assertions about the Irish origins of the Hannigans. Although a number of records in Ireland of Owen Hannigans who were from County Cork had previously been collected, evidence in Maine records suggests that the family originated in County Sligo.

    Census records
    1850 census for Hallowell, Maine1:
    Owen Hannigan, age 60, labourer, born Ireland
    Hannah ditto, age 51, born Ireland
    John ditto, age 20, labourer, born Ireland
    Edward ditto, age 16, born Ireland
    Owen ditto, age 10 [?], born Ireland
    Mary ditto, age 15, born Ireland
    Bridget ditto, age 12, born Ireland
    Catherine Hannigan, age 19, born Ireland

    Living within the same dwelling with Owen was:
    James Hannigan, age 50, labourer, born Ireland

    Louis ditto, female, age 50, born Ireland Michael ditto, age 21, occupation none, born Ireland James ditto, age 20, occupation ditto, born Ireland
    1860 census for New Limerick, Maine2:
    Owen Hannigan, age 65, farmer, real estate $1,000, personal estate $200, born Ireland
    Anna Hannigan, age 60, housewife, born ditto
    Edward Hannigan, age 25, farmer, born ditto
    Sarah Stein, age 13, born ditto

    John Hannigan, age 28, farmer, real estate $100, born Ireland
    Bridget Hannigan, age 22, housewife, born Ireland
    Bridget Hannigan, age 6, born Ireland

    Thomas Hannigan, age 29, farmer, real estate $200, personal estate $80, born Ireland

    Mary Hannigan, age 21, housewife, born Ireland
    John Hannigan, age 1, born Maine
    Patrick Fleming, age 50, farmer, born Ireland
    Jane Fleming, age 58 [?], housewife, born ditto
    James Fleming, age 40, farmer, born ditto

    Analysis: Since James Hannigan and his family, including his probable sons James and Michael, were living in 1850 in the same Hallowell dwelling as Owen Hannigan, the two families were probably related, and James Hannigan was possibly the brother of Owen. This relationship is important, since the naturalization for a James Hinegan [probably James Hannigan, the younger] of Hallowell indicates that he had been born in Sligo, and had arrived in New York on 1 May 1849.


    Vital Records
    The Vital Records of Hallowell, Maine to the Year 1892 was searched for Hannigan entries. The birth records showed a number of entries from 1821 through 1841 for children born to Owen Hannigan. It is not uncommon for New England town clerks to register the births of children who were living in their town, but who had been born elsewhere. In this case, I believe that these children were all born in Ireland, and were recorded in Hallowell sometime between 1848 and 1860.

    Mary Hanigan, b. 1821
    Michael Hannigan, b. 10 Nov 1823
    Peter Hannigan, b. 6 January 1825
    Tom Hannigan, b. 4 January 1827
    John Hannigan, b. 26 February 1830
    Catherine Hannigan, b. November 1831
    Edward Hannigan, b. 6 September 1833
    Mary Hannigan, b. November 1835
    Bridget Hannigan, b. 17 November 1837
    Owen Hannigan, b. 17 March 1841

    Peter Hannigan and Ellen Cowed [see later New Limerick birth record of William Hannigan in which his mother’s name is listed as Ellen Currid], int. 14 September 1849.
    Michael Hannigan and Ellen Magoun [probably McGowan], int. 9 December 1850
    Thomas Hannigan and Mary Hart, int. 29 October 1851

    Owen Hannigan’s son, John Hannigan, who was born on 26 Feb. 1830, was probably the same John Hannigan who shows up in New Limerick in the 1860 census. The WPA index card for his naturalization petition indicated that he had been born in County Sligo.

    The marriage records showed the marriages of Peter and Thomas Hannigan, children of Owen Hannigan, and Michael Hannigan, son of either James or Owen Hannigan. The marriages took place soon after their arrival, and they probably chose wives who came from the same area in Ireland, as did many Irish immigrants. The wives were Ellen Currid, Ellen Magoun (probably McGowan), and Mary Hart. All three of the wives’ surnames are common in County Sligo. Furthermore, Currid is very uncommon and occurs in only two parishes in Ireland, both in County Sligo: Drumcliff and the adjacent parish of Ahamlish.

    The Hallowell records indicated the deaths of two unnamed children of Owen Hannigan on 24 April 1849, with the cause of death for both as smallpox.5 The dates of these deaths would have coincided with the voyage of the Hannigan family who arrived in New York on 4 May 1849, on board the ship Mozambique. Perhaps these two children were on board, and died at sea. The Maine Old Cemetery Association cemetery transcriptions were checked, but there were no transcriptions for Catholic cemeteries in New Limerick or Hallowell. The genealogy posted by Wayne McCarthy lists extracted Hannigan baptisms, marriages and deaths from Houlton records.

    Missing Friends Advertisements
    A search was done for the surname Hannigan and for the place name of Hallowell among the Missing Friends database which is taken from advertisements in the Boston Pilot newspaper. There were a number of references to Hallowell. One of the ads was for a Roger Hart, native of Johnsport, parish of Drumleog, Co. Sligo. There is no parish of Drumleog in Sligo, or in Ireland. However, there is a place name Johnsport in the parish of Drumcliff, Co. Sligo. Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland indicates several Roger Harts in County Sligo, with one in the parish of Drumcliff, townland of Carrigeens, located close to Johnsport.6

    The search also revealed an advertisement placed by Mary Bree, sister of Michael Hinegan, who had lived for six or seven years in Hallowell before moving to Chicago. Michael and Ellen Henigan showed up in the 1870 Chicago census with two children born in Maine, and one in Illinois. This is probably the son of Owen or James Hannigan who married Ellen McGowan in 1850 in Hallowell. The surname Bree is also uncommon in Ireland and occurs primarily in County Sligo. In fact, Mary’s Bree’s husband, Dennis Bree, shows up in Griffith’s Valuation in the parish of Kilmacowen, townland of Breeogue, which is located on the south side of Sligo town, not far from Drumcliff. There are no Henigans in that parish.7

    Naturalization Records
    The WPA Index to New England Naturalizations was searched for persons named Hannigan [soundex code H525 which lumps like sounding names together].8 Two index records showed people in Maine: James Hinegan of Hallowell, born 1832 in County Sligo, and John Hennigan of New Limerick, born in County Sligo in 1826. The naturalization petition for John Hennigan of New Limerick, probably the son of Owen Hannigan, could not be obtained since the WPA index card indicated that the record was missing. The naturalization petition for James Hinegan of Hallowell was obtained, and I found that the actual petition differed from the index card. The petition shows that James Hinegan of Hallowell had been born in Sligo in 1832; and that he had sailed from Sligo on 9 April 1849 and arrived in New York on 1 May 1849 [the index card erroneously recorded the date of arrival as 1844].9 This James Hinegan was probably the one who in 1850 lived with James Hannigan in Hallowell in the same dwelling house as Owen Hannigan.

    Passenger Lists
    The passenger arrival lists were searched for James Hinegan who stated in his naturalization petition that he had arrived in New York City on 1 May 1849. The results showed a ship, Mozambique, sailed from Sligo and arrived in New York on 4 May 1849. The passenger list recorded not only a James Hinegan, but also several Harts, including a Roger Hart, and several Hinegans: Bridget, age 30; Cath, age 23; Elenor, age 24; Honora?, age 27; James, age 20; Math, age 24; Michl, age 21; Owen, age 29; and a John Hungan, age 25.10 As we had seen earlier, a Missing Friends advertisement for Roger Hart of Johnsport County Sligo indicated that he had gone to Hallowell.

    The WPA index card for John Hennigan of New Limerick stated that he had arrived possibly in 1842 to some unnamed port. However, John naturalized many years after his arrival, and may have stated that he came as a child. A search was done for U.S. passenger lists from 1841 to 1843, but did not reveal anyone fitting the description of John, who would have been accompanied by an adult due to his young age. The passenger lists for the port of Boston do show number of Hannigans coming from St. George New Brunswick over a period of a few months in 1841, but no Owen Hannigans, and no children as young as John. It is very possible that Owen and his family came into North America via New Brunswick, since there was a major passenger route between Sligo and Saint John in the 1830s and 1840s. Indeed, my subsequent research showed that Owen Hannigan immigrated to the port of Saint John, New Brunswick in 1847. [See Part Two below]

    There was a well-known migration of people from County Sligo to the port of Saint John, New Brunswick in 1847. These people were cleared from the estates of Sir Robert Gore Booth and Lord Palmerston, who paid their passages to Saint John. This migration has been documented in an article, “Lord Palmerston and the Irish Famine Emigration.11” Sir Robert Gore Booth, whose Lissadell estate was located next to Johnsport, was a major landlord in the parish of Drumcliff, including the townlands where many Henigans lived. Many of the immigrants arrived in such miserable condition that officials in Saint John voiced great concern.12 Unfortunately, there are no passenger arrival lists for Saint John, only the names of people who were admitted to the poorhouse. Among the poorhouse admissions was a Mary Henigan, age 20, who had sailed on the ship from Sligo Æeolus that had arrived at Saint John on 9 June 1847. In addition there is a reference to letters written by Catherine Henigan and Owen and Honor Henigan from Saint John in February and March 1848. [A Catherine Henigan, age 19, lived with Owen and Hannah in Hallowell, and was listed after the rest of their children. Perhaps she was a niece.] Not all the emigrants could gain admission to the poorhouse. Catherine Henigan wrote her parents, “Those who could not go to the States are in the Poorhouse or begging thro the streets of St John.” The original reference to these letters appears in a 28-volume set, Irish University Press series of British parliamentary papers. Emigration. These letters are discussed in Part Two of this paper. There are copies of the series in the Boston Public Library and Boston College O’Neill Library [O’Neill Oversize Book Area J301.H1 E4]. So there is evidence of an Owen Henigan arriving in Saint John in 1847, perhaps on the ship Æeolus.

    Irish Records
    Some researchers had reason to believe that Owen Hannigan came from Mourne Abbey, Co. Cork, and had found a number of records referring to Owen Hannigan in several different parishes in Cork. However, the U.S. records all point to County Sligo as the family’s origin. A search was done in the Index to Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland, but did not show any Owen Henigans in Sligo.13 If Owen had migrated to North America before 1848, he may not show up in Griffith’s. I also checked the Tithe Applotment Books for Sligo. The entire county has been indexed on the web.14 I also looked at the actual Tithe Applotment records for Ahamlish, and found that there were no Owen Henigans in Ahamlish.15 There were no detailed Tithe records for the parish of Drumcliff. Therefore, Owen could have been in the parish of Drumcliff, and since the detailed record does not exist, he would not appear in a countywide index. So Drumcliff has not been ruled out. Indeed, there was a James Henigan there in Griffith’s, as well as a John, Michael and Thomas, all living in the townland of Barnarobin. The Henigans in Drumcliff all came from a few adjacent townlands (see enclosed townland map) that border the parish of Ahamlish. Sir Robert Gore Booth was the landlord of these townlands. Someone has posted on the web an index to the 1901 census for the parish of Drumcliff. The 1901 census shows a number of Henigan families in these townlands, perhaps descendants of a few families who stayed.16

    The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (in Belfast) has an extensive collection of estate papers for the family of Robert Gore Booth. The summary seems to lament a lack of rental rolls, although there were disbursements for labor on the estate.17 These records would be a potential source of information about the Hannigan family.

    This leaves the Catholic Church records as the last place to search. Unfortunately, the parish registers for Drumcliff do not start until May 1841, two months after the birth of Owen and Anna’s last child.

    Although someone had previously asserted that Owen Hannigan was from County Cork, the evidence from Maine records points fairly conclusively to County Sligo as his origin. The naturalization petitions for his son, John Hannigan, and for the James Hannigan who lived in Owen’s house in Hallowell, both indicate they had been born in County Sligo. In addition, the fact that his sons and relatives married soon after arrival spouses with distinctly Sligo surnames also points to County Sligo as the sons’ origins also. While the naturalization petitions do not provide the parish or townland, a Missing Friends advertisement for Roger Hart of Hallowell indicates his origin as Johnsport, in the parish of Drumcliff. So the research concludes that Owen Hannigan was most likely from County Sligo, and possibly from the parish of Drumcliff. This will be proved conclusively in Chapter Two of this paper.


    Part Two
    I subsequently searched for the letter of Owen and Honora Henigan printed in the British Parliamentary papers. These papers include a number of letters from emigrants from Drumcliff. Since Sir Robert Gore Booth, the landlord for the parish of Drumcliff, submitted these letters to the British Parliament Select Committee on Colonisation [sic] from Ireland as evidence about the emigration of his tenants to Saint John, New Brunswick, I believe that the letter of Owen and Honora Henigan of Hallowell, Maine proves that the family came from the parish of Drumcliff.

    In the previous chapter, I referenced a research paper about the assisted migration of starving Sligo tenants of Lord Palmerston and Sir Robert Gore Booth (image left) to Saint John, New Brunswick. Lord Palmerston was the landlord of the parish of Ahamlish, and Sir Robert Gore Booth was the landlord of the adjacent parish of Drumcliff.18 The condition of the passengers on the first ship, the #olus, so shocked New Brunswick officials that they made a complaint to the Colonial Office.19, 20 Two more ships from Sligo also carried passengers from the Gore Booth estate: the Yeoman, with 514 passengers, and the Lady Sale.21 It is unclear which ship the Henigan family traveled on, but they were most likely on one of these ships. A Mary Henigan showed up in Saint John workhouse records as having sailed on the #olus, so perhaps the rest of her family was also on this ship.22 One of the British Parliamentary letters lists a committee of men from the #olus, and among the list is an Owen John. This may have been Owen Henigan, and the surname John was a patronymic to distinguish his branch of Henigans from other branches. Many of the passengers from all three ships were sent to quarantine on Partridge Island, and much has been written about the horrendous conditions they endured on the island.23 A book has just been published by the Four Courts Press on this migration: Sir Robert Gore Booth and his landed estate in County Sligo, 1814-1876: land, famine, emigration and politics by Gerard Moran (on order at NEHGS).

    The British Parliament convened a “select committee” to examine the issues of assisted migration, and asked Sir Robert Gore Booth to testify before the committee. To defend himself against the accusations of the Canadian critics, he collected some letters that recent emigrants had written back to their families on his estate in Drumcliff. The letter of Owen and Honora Henigan was included among these letters. Furthermore, there are references to Henigans in other letters, which provide a first-hand glimpse of what your ancestors endured in their travel to America. The other letters with Henigan references are the letter of Catherine Bradley, who mentions a Catherine and Biddy Henigan, and the letter of Catherine Hennigan who mentions the death of her sister Biddy, and the fact that her uncle had moved to the States. Catherine may have been the niece of Owen. In Owen’s letter, he mentioned that the daughter of John Henigan was living in the countryside in New Brunswick (where Catherine Hennigan was working).24 So Catherine may be the daughter of John Henigan, who may be the brother of Owen Henigan. Unfortunately, Owen Henigan did not name his son, to whom the letter was addressed, or his townland of residence. He did mention the miserable conditions they endured in Saint John, and that their son Peter had sent them funds to support them and to pay for their travel to Maine. His son also procured a dwelling house in Hallowell and food for their arrival. Although he does not mention his son by name, he does refer to his son’s wife as Nelly (probably a nickname for Ellen or Eleanor). He also mentioned Molly Healy, Molly Scanlon, John Crystal, John Hark [?Harkin], Michael McLoughlin of between Carney [Carney town] and Oxfield, Edward Hennigan of Patch, Pady Hennigan, and John Hennigan.25 I checked the 1901 online census for Drumcliff for older Hennigans or Hannigans, and found a 70 year-old John Hannigan in Cartronmore and a 70 year-old Margaret Hannigan in Cartronwilliamoge.26 In the previous chapter, we saw in the 1850 census for Hallowell, a James Henigan, possibly a brother of Owen, living in the same house in Hallowell as Owen. We also see another James Henigan, age 50 years, living with a Michael Henigan, whose wife was named Helen.27 Perhaps Michael and Helen (who could have had a nickname Nelly) was the son to whom the letters were addressed. Since they emigrated at a later date, they may have been listed in Griffith’s Valuation. There were two James Henigans, one in Cartronmore and the other in Keelty. There were two James Henigans in Hallowell, Maine in 1850. We also note that Owen mentions a John Henigan who may have been his brother. Griffiths Valuation lists one John Henigan in the townland of Barnarobin.28

    Sir Robert Gore Booth
    Sir Robert Gore Booth, Fourth Baronet of Lissadell, was born in 1805 and died in 1876. He inherited the title of Baronet and his father’s estates in Sligo in 1814. The two Sligo properties were the Ballymote estate (located in the parish of Ballymote, fifteen miles SE of Sligo town) and the Lissadell estate (located in Drumcliff).29 In 1833, he built a neoclassical mansion at Lissadell, which still stands today. Although the estate was sold in 2003 to private owners, they do allow visitors who have made an appointment. The website for the house is In 1839, Gore Booth cleared the townlands of Ballygilgan or Seven Cartrons and Cartronwilliamogue to create parklands for his mansion. He paid for the passages of the inhabitants to immigrate to Quebec on the ship Pomona, and local legend claims that the un-seaworthy ship sunk almost immediately.30 During the Great Famine, Gore Booth was not receiving any rents from his tenants, and furthermore, had to pay for their keep in the workhouse. He was convinced that the average acres-per-farm had fallen so low that the farms could no longer support the families. He offered (and pressured) his tenants the opportunity to immigrate to Saint John, New Brunswick. About 1,500 people were shipped to Saint John from June – November 1847.31 Owen Hannigan was among these tenants. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland has the estate papers, which include some rental rolls from the 1830s, and documents regarding the assisted emigration of the Ballygilgan tenants in 1839. The estate papers also contain ledgers of disbursements for labor, and may include the Henigan family. For a description of the estate papers, go to the PRONI website at

    Further research
    Since the Family History Library has the films of the Drumcliff Catholic parish register, I suggest ordering the film, even though it is too late for the births of Owen’s children. The records are in the IGI on, but they don’t give the godparents’ names. Owen or Honora might show up as godparents for other couples’ children. The heritage center may not have indexed their records on godparents, so I think it is cheaper and better to go through the films. The LDS film number for the baptisms and marriages of the Catholic parish of Drumcliff. Co. Sligo is 989735.

    Also, it may be worthwhile going through the revised valuations to see how the occupancy of the land changed over time. Did the Henigans of Barnarobin disappear in the next valuation? Did brother John Henigan stay, and if so, who eventually got his land? Barnarobin is in the electoral district of Carney, and the revised valuations are on FHL film #868158.

     This case of Owen Hannigan of Hallowell and New Limerick, Maine is quite instructive about the problems and rewards of researching Irish ancestors. The incorrect research by other descendants had been entered into the IGI and put on the web, leading many people to conclude the Hannigans were from Cork. But a more extensive review of primary documents, such as naturalization records, as well as an analysis of the Hannigan family connections through marriage, showed that the family was from Sligo. The inclusion of Owen Henigan’s letter in the Sir Robert Gore Booth testimony to the British Parliament proves that the Henigan family of Hallowell and New Limerick, Maine originated in the parish of Drumcliff, County Sligo. Many Irish Americans make the mistake of focusing too narrowly on their ancestor, and consequently don’t realize they may have been part of a much larger group, as in the case of the Henigan family’s assisted emigration to Saint John. Broader searches that include historical articles about emigration may provide useful leads for genealogical research.

    End Notes
    11850 Federal Census, Hallowell, Kennebec County, Maine, Roll M432-256, page 192.

       21860 Federal Census, Hallowell, Kennebec County, Maine, Roll653-434, pages 60-62.

    3Mabel Goodwin Hall, Vital Records of Hallowell, Maine to the Year 1892, Volume 1 – Births. Maine Historical Society, 1924. Maine Dept. of Vital Statistics, Index to Vital Records Prior to 1892. Salt Lake City: Gen. Soc. of Utah, 1953.

    4Mabel Goodwin Hall, Vital Records of Hallowell, Maine to the Year 1892, Volume III – Marriages. Maine Historical Society, 1926.

    5Mabel Goodwin Hall, Vital Records of Hallowell, Maine to the Year 1892, Volume V – Marriages and Deaths. Maine Historical Society, 1928.

    6Missing Friends 1831-1920 Database,

    7General valuation of rateable property in Ireland [microform] / [compiled by] Richard Griffith, Bart., Commissioner of Valuation. Dublin : Irish Microforms Ltd., c1978.

    8Index to New England naturalization petitions, 1791-1906. Washington, [D.C.]: National Archives, National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1983.

    9Naturalization Petition of James Hinegan of Hallowell, Maine. Kennebec Superior Court, Augusta, Maine, Vol. 18, p. 507.

    10New York, 1820-1850 Passenger and Immigration Lists.

    11Tyler Anbinder, “Lord Palmerston and the Irish Famine Emigration,” The Historical Journal, vol. 44, No. 2, June 2001, Cambridge University Press.

    12Extracts of reports from the Govt. Emigration Agent at St. John’s [sic], New Brunswick. Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

    13Family Tree Maker index to Griffith's Valuation of Ireland, 1848-1864. Novato, CA: Brøderbund Software, Inc., c1998. Also Griffiths Valuation Index Extracts 1848-1864, on
    14County Sligo Tithe Applotment Books, 1824. Indexed by Bill McGee.

    15The tithe applotment books. [Dublin?]: European Micropublishing Services, 1990.

    16Index of 1901 Census, County Sligo.

    17The Lissadell Papers, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

    18Tyler Anbinder, “Lord Palmerston and the Irish Famine Emigration,” The Historical Journal, vol. 44, No. 2, June 2001, Cambridge University Press.

    19Gerard Moran, Sending Out Ireland’s Poor: Assisted Emigration to North America in the Nineteenth Century. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2004.

    20Steve McKinley, Out of Ireland. Saint John, New Brunswick: Times Globe, 1997.

    21Letters to Sir R. Gore Boothe

    22Daniel F. Johnson, The St. John County Alms and Work House Records, 1843-1850. St. John, N.B.: D.F. Johnson, 1985.

    23Elizabeth Cushing, Teresa Casey, Monica Robertson, A chronicle of Irish emigration to Saint John, New Brunswick, 1847. Saint John, N.B.: New Brunswick Museum, 1979.

    24Irish University Press Series of British Parliamentary Papers: Emigration, Vol. 5, Appendix X, pp. 122-132. Shannon: Irish University Press, 1968-71.

    25Letter of Owen and Honr. Henigan, Irish University Press Series of British Parliamentary Papers: Emigration, Vol. 5, Appendix X, p. 131. Shannon: Irish University Press, 1968-71.

    26SLIGO County Ireland Drumcliff 1901 Census

    271850 Census, Hallowell, Maine, roll M432-256, page 191.

    28Richard Griffith, General Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland. Dublin: Irish Microforms Ltd., c1978.

    29The Lissadell Papers (D/4131)

    30“Lissadell House, Coffin Ships, the Pomano and Sir Robert Gore-Booth,”

    31Gerard Moran, Sending Out Ireland’s Poor: Assisted Emigration to North America in the Nineteenth Century. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2004.

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