Newmains to New York – Mary Brawley 1903-1986

There are many people on my family tree that I would love to have met. I’d need a time machine to be able to spend time with them and ask them about their lives and the stories that the official documents don’t tell me. One person I could have met, but never did, was my cousin (twice removed) Mary Brawley. She lived until 1986 and at that time she was only a few miles away from me but I didn’t even know she existed. When I did find out about her through my family history research I heard some stories. One story is that she worked as a nanny for Spencer Tracy’s son. Another is that she was a beautiful singer and sang at Carnegie Hall in New York. I’ve tried my best to put together her story and this is what I know so far…

Mary was born on 24 December 1903 at 9 Coltness Cottages in Mossend, Lanarkshire. Her parents were Patrick Brawley and Mary O’Neil.

Her birth record shows that she was illegitimate. I don’t know the significance of the Mossend address. Both parents lived in Newmains. Patrick was prepared to sign the record and accept paternity but when Mary was baptised her name was recorded as Mary O’Neil.

Patrick was clearly not ready for fatherhood and in 1907 he left Scotland for America. I don’t know what happened to Mary O’Neil but I believe I have found her on a census in England.

Mary was raised by Patrick’s brother, Matthew Brawley and his wife, Mary Hagan. The couple went on to adopt two more children, siblings Matthew and Edith Cran who were born in 1915 and 1917 respectively.

In the 1911 census Mary was living at Cambus Cottages in Newmains. She would have attended St Brigid’s School in the village alongside a number of cousins including my grandfather, Hugh Brawley who was born in 1899.

The next record I have for Mary is a passenger list from 1926 showing that she travelled from Glasgow to New York.

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In 1931 she sailed back to Scotland on the same ship. On this occasion her occupation is recorded as a nurse. She was in Scotland for three months before returning to New York. On the return record her occupation was nursemaid.

In 1937 her father Matthew died so Mary returned to Scotland for a short period. She is now recorded as a children’s nurse. The occupation information from her travel records shows that she was a nanny but unfortunately I don’t have any employment records.

On her previous trips to Scotland Mary stayed with her family in Newmains but on a trip in 1838 her destination address was Yester House in Gifford. I checked this address and found this photograph. A far cry from her home in Newmains.

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Travelling with Mary on this trip were teacher, Winifred Barry and maid, Margaret Seahill. In first class and also heading for Yester House were sisters, Harriet Van Ingen and Edith McClane and their children. Harriet and Edith were the daughters of Herbert L Pratt who, it would seem, was a very rich man. So, Mary was a nanny to the rich and famous but still no Spencer’s Tracy connection.

Mary travelled back and forth between New York and Newmains on a further number of occasions in 1962 she also visited Paris. Look at her address on these arrival documents between 1958 and 1962.

Mary was living at Carnegie Hall, New York! And who else was known to have a studio at Carnegie Hall?  Mr Spencer Tracy.

So that is the story of Mary Brawley as far as I know it.  I’d love to ask her about her life in New York.  She never married. Her biological father was also in New York but I don’t know if they spent time together.  I heard from a family member that she left America for good after ‘something bad’ happened to her.  I don’t know about that.  I do know that she died on 13 March 1986. She is buried with her adoptive parents and sister in Cambusnethan Cemetery.

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Newmains – Ancestry of a Village

On a recent visit to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea in Northumberland I spotted this poster in the Maritime Heritage Centre.

It’s an ambitious project that aims to trace the ancestry of every person who has lived in the village. The Maritime Centre is a great wee museum tells the story of the village and how the people made their living from the sea. There are some great photos of the area as it was and of the people who lived there.

Newmains, the village which features most heavily in my family tree, can’t boast of a coastal location but it does have an interesting history. It became home to many immigrants seeking a better life during and after the Great Famine in Ireland. Many of the descendants of these immigrants are still in the village and local area today and many will be unaware of their Irish roots.

The Irish in my family comes mainly from my mother’s side. Go back a couple of generations and her family were all in Ireland. They came from various counties and I now have a big list of towns and villages in Ireland I would very much like to visit.

The men from these immigrant families found work mainly at the Coltness Ironworks. Their homes were mainly provided by their employers and, even by the standards of the day, they were poor.

The parish of St Brigid in Newmains was founded in 1896 and the records from the early years list the baptisms, marriages and deaths of so many family members. If you click on the link to the parish website you can find the details of these records. You can also find more about the history of the parish.

My grandfather was Hugh Brawley. He was born in Newmains in 1899. He was one of 12 children. His father, Daniel was one of 10 as was his mother, Ellen Keenan.

My granny, Catherine Cosgrove was the only child of Patrick Cosgrove but she grew up with step and half siblings.

Through these families I am linked to so many others in Newmains by blood and by marriage. Here are a few that locals might recognise.

  • Mullervy
  • Cooper
  • Keegan
  • Reynolds
  • Mulvey
  • McAdam
  • Darragh
  • O’Donnell
  • Coyle
  • Bradley
  • Monaghan
  • Brown
  • Higgins
  • Collins
  • Hunstone
  • Hagan
  • Hendry
  • Devlin

A Newmains genealogy project would be a massive undertaking but I would like to know if anyone has any photos or stories of their Newmains Irish immigrant families that they would like to share.

Daniel Brawley 1888-1948

Daniel Brawley was my cousin twice removed. His father was my great great uncle John Brawley Daniel was born on 26 September 1888 in Newmains, Lanarkshire. He was the 3rd child of John and his wife Roseanne McGuinness.

I have previously told the story of how John was killed in an accident at work. At the time Daniel was just 3 years old. With 4 children to support Roseanne would have struggled greatly and, as was quite common at the time, she remarried fairly quickly. Roseanne and her second husband, James Farrell went on to have 4 more children although, sadly, 2 of them died as children. I know that James had at least one child from a previous relationship, a son who was born around 1878. His name was Thomas Farrell. The 1911 census shows them living together n Furnace Row, Newmains.

So Daniel grew up with his mother and stepfather. I don’t know if his relationship with James Farrell was a happy one but I do know that at that time in Newmains there were plenty of Brawleys in Newmains to keep an eye on what was happening.

After leaving school Daniel found work as a blacksmith striker at the Coltness Ironworks but by 1914 Britain was at war and Daniel joined the Royal Field Artillery. His military record shows that he signed up on 2 September 1914 in Wishaw. He served until 1919 and the record below gives some details of his service.

During his time in the army Daniel married Ellen Mullen and the couple had a daughter, Mary in 1915. Mary died in 1921. Daughter Winifred was born in 1922 followed by Patricia in 1925.

Perhaps his time fighting overseas had given him a sense of adventure and Daniel and Ellen decided to leave Scotland for America. Daniel arrived in New York on 17 October 1927. After securing work and a place to live he returned to Scotland for his family and together sailed into Boston on 15 October 1928. Their daughter, Elizabeth was born in Brooklyn in 1929 and Joan was born in the Bronx in 1932.

Also living in New York at that time was Daniel’s uncle, Patrick Brawley. There was only an age difference of 4 years between the two and I was pleased to find a link between them in the city. At one point they were both employed by Refined Syrups and Sugars in Yonkers, New York. It may be that Patrick encouraged Daniel to go to America in the first place.

Daniel remained in New York until his death in 1948. Helen lived a long life, dying in 1982 at the age of 91. In 1962 she applied for naturalisation.

James Brawley 1891-1956

James Brawley was one of my maternal grandfather’s seven brothers. He was the second child of Daniel Brawley and Ellen Keenan. He was born on 31 January 1891 at 12 Furnace Row, Newmains.

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James grew up as part of a large family. By the 1911 census they were living in Main Street, Newmains. James and two of his brothers were steel workers. He continued in this line of work until WW1. Conscription began in 1916 and it was in April of that year that James joined the Navy. The Royal Navy Register provides us with a description of James who, at that time was 5″6 1/2″, with dark brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. The record also lists the ships on which he served. My mother recalls a photo of James in his naval uniform having pride of place at her grandparents’ house.

James remained in the navy until 1919 when, not content to return to life in Newmains, he decided on a new life in Canada arriving there in April 1920. The record below gives James’s religion as Protestant. I don’t know if that’s an error or if he deliberately tried to hide the fact he was Catholic.

His decision to leave Scotland clearly had something to do with a certain young lady. It was on 3 July 1920, in the parish of St Ignatius of Loyola in Montreal, that he married Elizabeth Sandford. The Sandford family were from Wishaw. There is a record of Elizabeth working in Canada as early as 1916. Elizabeth’s brother, Matthew Sandford had married James’ sister, Sarah in 1916 in Newmains.

James and Elizabeth had a daughter, Mary, on 7 April 1921. The family remained in Canada. James died in Scarborough, Ontario on 6 July 1956.

Philomena Brawley Born 1925

Philomena Brawley was my 2nd cousin once removed. Her parents were Hugh Brawley and Bridget Darragh. Hugh was the first cousin of my maternal grandfather who was also called Hugh Brawley. Philomena was born on 31 October 1925 within the family home at 39 Hope Street, Newmains, Lanarkshire. Her parents had been married in January that year and with Bridget already 26 years old they would have been keen to start a family. There was a big family of Brawleys in Newmains at that time and a lot of children. My aunt, Catherine Brawley was also born in 1925.

Philomena was born early and lived for just 3 days. She died just after 6am on 3 November. The cause of death is recorded as “prematurely born and convulsions”. It was Hugh who had the task of registering the death which he did later that same day.

Philomena Brawley is buried in Cambusnethan Cemetery. The plot is unmarked. Her grandfather Peter Brawley (1871-1940) and uncle James Brawley (1896-1917) are also buried in plot E3217.

Bridget and Hugh went on to have a daughter, Catherine, who was born in 1927.

A Family Mystery — Daniel Brawley and Ellen Keenan

Daniel Brawley and Ellen Keenan were my great grandparents. I don’t remember being told many family stories but the one that did stick in my mind is that my mother’s grandparents got married in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  There was no explanation given as to why they were in America and it seemed no one really knew the story. It has taken a while to get to the bottom of this and I really can’t tell you about one without the other so this is the story of my mother’s paternal grandparents.

Daniel Brawley was born on 1 May 1864 in Old Monkland, Lanarkshire.  His parents were James Brawley and Sarah McLauchlan.  Daniel was the third of ten children.  The family eventually settled in Newmains, Lanarkshire.

My great granny was registered as Helen Keenan but was always known as “Ellen”. She was born on 16 December 1869 in Newmains. She was the eighth of ten children. Her parents were Patrick Keenan and Agnes Haughey.

While both Daniel and Ellen were born in Scotland they were of Irish descent. Daniel’s mother and Ellen’s father were born in Ireland and all of the grandparents had been born in Ireland.

Life would not have been easy. Their living conditions were poor and, as can be seen from the photo, hardly adequate for such big families.

I recently discovered that in her early teens Ellen was forced to leave Newmains and her parents to take up employment as a bleachfield worker in Paisley. She would have been away from her family for months at a time.

Daniel found work at the local ironworks as a labourer. Coltness Ironworks was the main employer for the local community and the reason the Brawleys settled in Newmains.

So Daniel and Ellen both grew up in Newmains and the families would most certainly known each other from the time the Brawleys arrived in the village. So my question was – why did they marry in the United States? This was not a time of destination weddings after all.

I started digging and I discovered a second cousin who was also looking for Daniel and Ellen. Her grandfather was Daniel And Ellen’s first child, Daniel. The story in her family was that her grandfather was born in Pennsylvania. He returned to Scotland with an American accent and was bullied by local children as a result. My cousin had managed to track down Daniel and Ellen’s marriage record showing that they were indeed married in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The date of their marriage was 11 December 1888. Neither of us, however, could track down a birth record for Daniel.

I also checked through passenger lists for Daniel and Ellen trying to work out when they left Scotland with no success.

The next record I found was the 1891 census which showed the couple back in Newmains and living at 12 Furnace Row. Daniel is again recorded as a labourer. By this time the couple had had another son. I found the birth record for James who was born in January 1891 at 12 Furnace Row.

I started to suspect that Daniel had not been born in the USA after all but there was no record for a Daniel Brawley in Scotland either. So I had to try a different search and I found him.

Daniel Keenan was born at 15 Furnace Row, Newmains on 30 October 1887. He was given Brawley as a middle name but he is recorded as illegitimate and there is no father listed. So, this was not the great romance I had imagined of a young couple heading off to America to start a great adventure. It would appear that Daniel was keen to leave Newmains but he did so with his brother James and not his young girlfriend. Ellen, it would seem, was just a fling before he headed off for good. Had they intended to stay together surely they would have married before he left if her pregnancy had meant she was unable to travel. So I’m assuming (hoping) that he didn’t know she was pregnant when he boarded his ship. Knowing the baby’s birth date narrowed down the timeframe for Daniel’s departure but I still don’t have a passenger list. I did ask a professional genealogist who advised that many records from that time no longer exist.

Daniel’s ultimate destination was the town of Moosic. I’d love to know what drew the brothers to that particular place. Perhaps they responded to a recruitment advert or maybe they had a family or other connection there. It’s possible there were other Newmains men already there.

Ellen was not prepared to remain a single parent. As soon as she was able she and Baby Daniel sailed on the Steamship Manitoba heading for Moosic, Pennsylvania. The name was transcribed as “Keauan” which made it difficult to find. Also on the ship was Daniel’s younger brother Hugh. I can imagine the Brawley and Keenan families getting together to discuss how to deal with the situation. If Daniel couldn’t or wouldn’t come back, Hugh would accompany Ellen to track him down. The Manitoba arrived in Philadelphia on 9 December 1888 and Daniel and Ellen were married just two days later. You can see from the marriage record that Ellen lied about her age.

Why did Daniel and Ellen return to Newmains? I suspect (and young Daniel’s family believe) that it was Ellen who wanted to come back. She couldn’t settle and missed her family. It wouldn’t have been easy for her with no friends or family support. She would have been left on her own while her new husband and his brothers worked long hours in the mines. I don’t know exactly how long they were there but it is unlikely that Daniel would’ve had an American accent. The couple went on to have twelve (!) children in total. They remained in Newmains until their deaths; Daniel died in 1935 and Ellen in 1941.

They are buried in Cambusnethan Cemetery. I have visited their grave and was saddened to see there is no headstone. The small marker in the picture had been moved from another plot.

The photograph below was taken in 1912 and shows My great grandfather with his eldest son. I do not have a photograph of Ellen.

Married On This Day – Hugh Brawley & Catherine Cosgrove

My maternal grandparents were married in St Brigid’s Church, Newmains on 6 August 1920. Hugh was 21 years old and a labourer at the local iron foundry. Catherine was 20 and a pottery worker. I don’t have a photo of their wedding day. I’m not sure that one exists. The best man was Hugh’s brother, Peter and Catherine’s bridesmaid was her cousin, Sarah Duffy.

Sadly my grandparents died a long time ago. I never met my grandfather and was very young when my grandmother died. I would love to know what she wore and what kind of celebration they had. I know it would not have been a lavish affair but I’d like to think it was special for them.

Daniel & John Brawley 1913-1913

Daniel and John Brawley were born on 8 March 1913. Their father was Daniel Brawley, my maternal grandfather’s eldest brother. The twins’ mother was Mary Berry. This was Mary’s second pregnancy; their daughter Margaret having been born the previous year.

The boys were born in the family home at 16 Hope Street, Newmains. More info on Newmains housing at that time can be found here. It’s possible they were delivered by Daniel’s aunt, Mary Hagan, who was the local midwife. The babies were premature and sadly neither survived the day.

I would never have known of their existence but for the cemetery records held at the North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre. While looking for other Brawley family I found the record of these two babies who are buried in the same coffin in a public plot at Cambusnethan Cemetery.

Even though it’s over a hundred years ago I feel sad when I see these documents and read the time of birth and death. I’m surprised to see that Daniel left Mary to go and register these events the following day. I suppose that must have been procedure but it would have been so hard for both of them. Different times.

Hugh Brawley 1902-1947

Hugh Brawley was born on 8 April 1902 in the town of Rock Springs, Sweetwater County, Wyoming, USA. His father was James Brawley, younger brother of my great grandfather, Daniel Brawley. James left Newmains in 1888. Hugh was the seventh of eight children. His mother, Sarah McGlynn was born in Pennsylvania.

In 1919, without telling his parents, young Hugh and a friend left Wyoming and headed to Illinois to join the Navy. This article from the local paper tells of how they later passed through their home town. I wonder if he’d been refused permission to go and what his parents reaction might have been.

When his time in the Navy was up he returned to live with his parents in Rock Springs.

Hugh married in 1937.

The photograph of Hugh was kindly sent to me by his daughter in law who told me that Hugh and his family left Wyoming for California looking for new opportunities at the start of the war. Sadly Hugh was killed in 1947. He was working for a logging company and was crushed to death when a chain broke causing logs to fall on top of him.

He is buried at Rock Springs Cemetery, Wyoming

A Farewell Party

I have previously posted about Patrick Brawley and how he left Scotland in 1907 for a new life in America. I recently found this newspaper article published on 27 March 1907 about a farewell party held in his honour at the Cooperative Hall in Newmains.

I’d love to know who those 50 couples were and if the Miss O’Neill who did the singing was the same one with whom Patrick had a child. His daughter Mary was born in 1903 but was raised by his elder brother, Matthew.

And was Patrick the P Brawley who sang or was it one of the many Brawley cousins who lived in Newmains at that time?

It sound like a good time was had and it’s nice to find a happy family story. I just wish there were pictures along with the article.