Monday, April 6, 2009

Where was Patrick Whelan from?

Patrick was the brother of my great-grandfather, Timothy Whelan. They both arrived in Chicago in about 1850. I have never found a document that stated where Timothy was from, although my aunt told me he was from Kilkenny. When I began to discover information about Patrick, I hoped to find proof that they were from Kilkenny. (It’s always nice to prove the family stories are true.) Unfortunately, Patrick was not a very reliable source of information. I have 2 documents that state which county in Ireland he was from. Both are based on statements by Patrick himself, and the documents name 2 different counties—Kilkenny and Kings.

The first source which gave a location for Patrick was a database on the Illinois State Archives website. A search of the Illinois Muster and Descriptive Rolls Database produced an Illinois Civil War Detail Report for Patrick which indicated he was born in Kilkenny, Ireland.

I requested and received a copy of the document that the information in the database came from. It was a Muster and Descriptive Roll, which clearly indicates that Patrick was from Kilkenny—no error in data entry, handwriting interpretation, etc.

I used the information from the Illinois website and from to request copies from the Civil War pension file of Patrick, and from his widow’s pension file.

I have already posted some material from the widow’s pension file. I have found interesting information in Patrick’s pension file, which I will begin posting as well.

The pension file for Patrick included a deposition made by him on July 1, 1899 which stated,” I am the claimant above cited and I hereby declare that I was born on or about April 14 1821 in Kings County Ireland. We had no family Bible in our House therefore no record of my birth in a Bible. I can neither read or write hence I was unable to make or keep a record of my birth, but I am over 78 years of age and totally disabled for labor of any kind.”

The pension files and the muster roll copies are definitely referring to the same Patrick Whelan. His unit, rank, and occupation are identified in the muster roll and the pension files.

I would like to find additional evidence regarding where Patrick was born. Some sources I’ve tried:
death certificate—Birthplace not stated.
cemetery record—Birthplace not stated.
headstone—None exists.
church marriage record—Birthplace not stated.
civil marriage record—None exists. Destroyed in Chicago Fire of 1871.

There are additional records which I am still looking for that may contain Patrick’s birthplace. These include obituaries, probate files, deeds, and naturalization record. Suggestions of other sources to try are most welcome. Just leave me a comment.

I’ve found clues regarding siblings of Patrick in his widow’s pension file. I hope these clues will lead to additional documentation regarding the place of origin of Patrick Whelan.

I’ve also done a brief survey of Irish sources online. At I searched on the surname Whelan in Griffith’s valuation. I found 227 Whelans in Kilkenny and 53 in Offaly (Kings) County. At the Irish Central Signposting Index website, a look at their coverage indicated that it doesn’t include Kilkenny or Kings counties. The Irish Family History Foundation had records of 8 Patrick Whelans born in Kilkenny in 1817-25. I haven’t taken the next step yet of paying to view the records. Kings County is not included in the online index.

So, where were Patrick, Timothy and their siblings from? Well, at this point I’m leaning towards Kilkenny, but the evidence is sparse and conflicting. So, for now I will continue my exhaustive (but enjoyable) research.

Source citations and additional information available upon request.