|Catherine Colgan's birth certificate|
My maternal great-grandmother Catherine Colgan was born 27 December 1864 in Ireland to Edward and Bridget (McHugh) Colgan. Her birth certificate indicates that she was born in Prison, and that the dwelling of her father was also Prison. Edward and Bridget were both school teachers in Ireland, and Edward taught at a Catholic school in Cincinnati after they emigrated. My aunts told me that Edward was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood when he was in Ireland. We all assumed that he was arrested for that, and they threw him and his wife in prison for his transgressions.
When I traveled to County Mayo in 1997, with Catherine’s birth certificate in hand, I stopped into a local pub near Drumadoon where the Colgans had lived to ask about the prison. As I said to them at the time, I thought it unlikely that the prison still stood after all these years, but was it possible records still existed that could tell me why Edward and his wife had been thrown into prison?
Seeing the blank expressions on their faces, I showed them the birth record. They began to laugh, and exclaimed, “Prison is a village near here!” I laughed too, and said they had ruined our favorite family story as we had been making up tales, thinking he was in prison. The barkeep replied, “Oh and to be sure he was, just not the kind with bars on the windows!”
And so the family black sheep was no more.
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