Saturday, June 8, 2013

Family Stories

Catherine Colgan's Birth Certificate
This was actually the BlogHer writing prompt for yesterday, but due to the fact that we were having 35 of my husband's associates and family members at our house for dinner last night, I was too busy to write on Friday.

My most interesting story involves my great-grandmother Catherine Colgan, who married Michael J. Crusham pictured in a previous post. One of my cousins had obtained Catherine's birth certificate which indicated that she had been born to Edward and Bridget Colgan on 27 December 1864 and listed the Place of Birth as Prison. The birth was registered in the District of Balla in the County of Mayo in Ireland. There was much speculation in the family as to why she might have been born in prison. Both Edward and Bridget were school teachers in Ireland before emigrating to the United States in 1867. Her father was rumored to have been a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, so perhaps he and his wife were thrown in prison because of that?

Catherine Colgan in the hat circa 1942
In 1987 my husband and I traveled to the Republic of Ireland, so one of my missions was to find out what I could about the prison birth. At the Family Research Center in County Mayo I showed the genealogist Catherine's birth certificate. I said that while I was pretty sure the prison was no longer standing, I was wondering if they had any records available so that I could see why the Colgans were in prison when they had their baby. He looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face, and then told me that Prison is a village! We laughed about the misunderstanding, and I told him that he had ruined our favorite family story as we had thought Catherine was born in a prison. He said, "Oh and to be sure she was, just not the kind with bars on the windows!"


  1. What a lovely story! Part of my family is also from Ireland and I hope to someday go there and see the places where they lived. I think of Ireland often and my favorite fiction that I read tends to be set in Ireland or Scotland.

  2. Julie, Ireland is everything people say it is and more. I hope you can arrange to go there. You will fall in love with it! Have you checked out They have a free magazine you can download each month filled with pictures and hints on researching your Irish families.

  3. That's a great story! Funny what things turn out to be when we think we know, but we actually don't...

  4. This is funny! There had to be a prison nearby? And I guess neither the town nor the prison exists any more because Google Search doesn't bring it up. I have stuck my toe into genealogy because of BlogHer and my foot is sinking in now. I may be in trouble.

  5. Linda, we set out to find Prison, following the directions of some folks in a pub (which may have been our second mistake), and apparently two falling down buildings in a row constitutes a "village". Not much to see there, but we did find the land that had been owned by Edward Colgan's father, and an old schoolhouse that sits on the same property as the school where Edward had taught. Amazing! What out for your foot as genealogy tends to be like quick sand - it easily sucks you in!

  6. Great story indeed!
    I loved it.