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!"
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