52 Ancestors Week #1: John Hanlon (1831 - 1895) a Happy 183rd Birthday!

I was alerted to a new weekly blog theme by Randy Seaver on his recent post:  52 Ancestors Friday:  Frank Walton Seaver (1852 - 1922). He credits Amy Johnson Crow with the suggestion.  Amy's blog is  No Story Too Small.

My great grandfather, John Hanlon, was born the 2nd of January 1831 somewhere in Ireland.

I remember my first trip to the family history library in Salt Lake City around 1998.  I marched right down to the 'Irish' desk and said 'hi!, my great grandpa was born in Ireland, his name was John Hanlon'.  I showed her what little I had:  a photo of his gravestone, a few census records.  No obit (none exists that we can find).  The stern sister on duty that day told me to go back to Colorado and not to come back until I've done more work!

I cried.

That was my entry into family history.  And in those years since, there is precious little more that I have found.  I have done a DNA test with every service, but apparently HANLONS IN IRELAND just aren't curious enough about us over here to do any DNA testing themselves.  (read as a little self pity).

So, dearest great grandfather.  I wish I could find out more about you.  WHERE in Ireland are you from?  I know your sister Margaret lived in the same town as you, in Stone City, Jones County, Iowa for a brief period of time.  She was married to Peter Finnegan.  But like you, she left no obituary.

WHERE did you meet and marry your wife Catharine Brady?  Was it in New York City?  According to the 1925 Iowa Census, your children were confused when they gave answers to the question of where their parents were married and gave differing answers.

The first place you and Catharine appear is in the 1860 Census of Brookfield, Waukesha County, Wisconsin. (Source Citation: Year: 1860; Census Place: Brookfield, Waukesha, Wisconsin; Roll: M653_1436; Page: 32; Image: 37; Family History Library Film: 805436.)
I wrote this summary of the census for my ancestry tree:  

The first appearance in the United States for John Hanlon and Catharine Brady is with their children, James and Andrew in Marcy Township, Waukesha County, Wisconsin.  The name is badly mangled, more than likely due to a thick Irish brogue.  Why Marcy Township?  James is listed as a laborer in a neighborhood of farmers.  Was he a farm laborer OR was he a laborer in the lannon mines in the area?  If Joan Hanlon’s father and aunt were correct and the Hanlons came from Kilkenny, Ireland, it would make sense that John would want to continue mining, which was a popular occupation in Kilkenny.  Marcy also provided a Catholic Church where their children could be baptized.  They had been living in Wisconsin since at least Nov 1857 when their first child (and my grandfather) James was born.  The census also lists their 2nd child, Andrew who was 9/12 of a year old when the census taker came calling the 10th of July 1860. (Andrew’s gravestone indicates he was born in 1861).  John’s personal estate was valued at $70, not the poorest in the neighborhood.  It is stated that Catharine cannot read or write. 

In 1868, you and your brother-in-law were in Joliet, Illinois long enough to petition for Naturalization.  No one has been able to find the actual petition yet, unfortunately.

By the time of the 1870 Census, the family has moved to Fairview Township, Jones County, Iowa. (Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Anamosa, Jones, Iowa; Roll: M593_401; Page: 59A; Image: 121; Family History Library Film: 545900.)

The name is still not spelled as we spell it today and John and Catharine must look WAY older than they are, OR are they even at home?  Catharine gives birth to her final child, Frank, the day after the census taker arrives.  This is indeed the family, but I am guessing someone else may have supplied the answers to the census taker since the ages are so far off.   Between the 1860 and the 1870 Census, John & Catharine move their family to Illinois (to be closer to family?  to avoid the draft for the Civil War?). They have four more children in Illinois:  Ellen, John, Mary and Thomas.   The census taker  arrives the 29th of Jul 1870  in Fairview Township, Anamosa, Jones County, Iowa.  Since Thomas, the youngest of the children, is 3 years old, the family moved to Iowa after 1867.  What brings them to this area?  On the two census pages over which the Hanlon family is spread,  you can find Catharine’s brother Andrew Brady as well as John’s sister Margaret (married to Peter Finnegan).  John is also employed at  the stone quarry (in Stone City?) and has increased the value of his personal estate to $100, which is equal to everyone else who is working at the quarry in his neighborhood.  Catharine is keeping house.  John is now a U. S. citizen and Catharine has learned to read and write.  James, Andrew, Ellen and John all attended school within the year.  Andrew is the only one that cannot write..  A few more years and this family will be on the move again. 

In 1880 John had moved his family once again. He is on a farm in Polk County, Iowa.  We have tried to find a land record, to no avail.  This may have been his first land purchase; it wasn't his last as he moved on to Dallas County, Iowa (next to Polk County, Iowa).  This is the last Census in which John and Catharine appear. (Source Citation: Year: 1880; Census Place: Walnut, Polk, Iowa; Roll: 360; Family History Film: 1254360; Page: 583A; Enumeration District: 175; Image: 0686.) 

Our name is finally spelled as we spell it today!   It is unknown when John & Catharine moved the family to Walnut Township,  Polk County, Iowa, but on the 22nd day of June 1880, the family is all together for the very last time in a census record.  John (Sr.) is farming now, a change of occupation from mining labor.  It simply states “farmer” with no indication if he was renting land or had purchased land.  Catharine is keeping house.  Sons James, Andrew and John are working  as farm laborers.  Mary & Thomas attended school the previous year, but not Frank.  Thomas is also listed as  ‘working at home’. Apparently all in the family can now read and write as there is no indication to show otherwise.What happens from here?  I can find none of the family in either the Polk County nor the  Dallas County 1885 Census.  Did they move  away again before settling in Dallas County where Catharine & John die? Thomas disappears not to be found again.  Family notes indicate he dies in San Antonio, Texas before the death of his father in 1895.  Thomas is not mentioned in the will either.  Siblings James and Ellen marry O’Connell siblings in 1887.  Andrew marries Lizzie Moran in 1894.  John marries Lulu Bundy before 1894, but we have not yet found a marriage record.  Frank and Mary both wait til after the death of their parents to marry.  Frank in 1896 and Mary in 1897. 

Iowa conducts a state census in 1885 and 1895 but I have not been able to find the family in either of those census years.

Gravestone of John Hanlon, St. Mary's Cemetery, Dallas Center, Dallas County, Iowa, USA

John has no one missed you from your motherland?  Is no one searching for what happened to you and Margaret?  I will be here if they do.

Descendant tree of John Hanlon


  1. Great post and LOVE your Descendants page !!

  2. I hope a "cousin" will find this blog post and help answer these questions.

  3. In searching for my own Irish Hanlons, I have found some from Clopook, Ballyfoyle, Kilkenny, but unfortunately, the surname is fairly common in parts of Ireland, and quite often the first names are common, too. My research is in the early stages, but can be found in Wikitree. My cousin Brian has a more substantial tree on MyHeritage. We live in Australia.


Post a Comment