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.

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.

Patrick Brawley 1884-1956

Patrick Brawley was born in Newmains, Lanarkshire on 22 May 1884.  His parents were James Brawley (Born about 1837)  and Sarah McLaughlan (Born about 1839).  He was the youngest of ten children and was born 27 years after his eldest sibling, John. By the time Patrick was born James and Sarah had lost two children.  Patrick (born 1873) and Matthew (born 1875) both died of scarlet fever in October 1876.  The family were employed in the local iron works and lived in accommodation provided by their employer.  The family home in Brown Street would have offered little in the way of luxury. In 1887 young Patrick saw two of his brothers, Daniel (born 1864), my great grandfather and James (born 1866) leave Scotland for new lives in America.  In 1888 brother Hugh (born 1869) did the same.  This would obviously have had an influence on a little boy seeing his brothers leave him and his world behind. By the 1891 census Patrick was living with his parents, brother Matthew (born 1877) and sister Elizabeth (born 1861) along with Elizabeth’s husband, Charles McCafferty.

Tragedy struck the family in 1892 when brother John died of a fractured skull at his home in Newmains and again in 1895 when Hugh Brawley was killed in a mining accident in Pennsylvania.

In the 1901 census Patrick was still living with his parents and was employed as a steel dresser. James and Sarah had now lost four of their sons and it would be easy to imagine that as the only son still living at home Patrick may have been a bit spoiled. Sister Elizabeth was still at home but not with her husband.  Patrick’s 5 year old niece, Sarah, was also living in the house.

In 1903 19 year old Patrick became a father when neighbour, Mary O’Neill gave birth to their daughter, Mary on 24 December.  The child was registered with the surname Brawley and Patrick signed the register.  She was baptised as Mary O’Neill on 8 February 1904 in St Brigid’s Church in Newmains.  Both parents are listed on the register. Despite acknowledging his daughter it would seem that Patrick had no intention of settling down to a quiet family life.



From St Brigid’s Parish Baptismal Register

In 1907 he too headed for America arriving in New York on 2 April 1907 on board the SS Columbia.  He headed initially to stay with brother James, who by this time was living in Rock Springs in Sweetwater County, Wyoming. In 1913 Patrick married a widow, Mary Bates whom I believe had the maiden name McCrorie. According to the Rock Springs newspaper at the time they were married in a quiet ceremony. Mary had two children, Mary and Roy and in all future records the two are listed as Patrick’s children. Strange that he should end up with a wife and daughter called Mary after leaving the two Marys behind in Scotland.

Patrick did not remain in Wyoming. On his WW1 Draft Registration he was working as a pressman for DuPont de Nemours in Pomton Lakes, Passaic, New Jersey.

Patrick returned to Scotland at least once. In 1922 he visited along with his wife and the two children. By that time both of his parents had died and I have no way of knowing if he ever spent time with daughter, Mary who was brought up by his brother Matthew and wife, Mary Hagan.  Maybe he wanted to show off to the family left at home as by 1922 he was living in New York and I get the impression that’s what he dreamed of all along. Not for Patrick the backbreaking work in the mines or ironworks.  He had found a job as a barber which suggests he was quite a sociable character.  His home on 6th Avenue, Brooklyn was rented and they didn’t own a radio set! (Great census question I think)

The 1940 census shows that Patrick was unemployed and seeking work but fortunately this didn’t last too long as by 1942 according to his WW2 draft registration he was working in sales for Refined Syrups in Yonkers.  Again sales a sales job indicates he might have been quite outgoing. He’s described as 5’10 1/2 and 168lbs with brown eyes and dark hair.

I lose track of Patrick after that. The next record I found was his death record. He died on 18 September 1956 in Brooklyn, New York.

John Brawley 1857-1892

John Brawley was born on 12 June 1857 at Calderbraes, Old Monkland, Lanarkshire. He was my 2nd great uncle and the eldest child of my great, great grandparents, Sarah McLaughlin and James Brawley. His brother Daniel was my mother’s paternal grandfather.

For the first few years of his life the family moved around as James’ work dictated. The 1861 census shows the family in Newmains followed by periods in Old Monkland and Ayrshire. By the 1871 census the family are back in Newmains.

On 12 July 1877 John married Roseanne McGuinness. The couple had four children

  • James Born 1881
  • Sarah Born 1885
  • Daniel Born 1888
  • John Born 1890

Like many others in my family, John lived in Furnace Row, Newmains. This photograph from North Lanarkshire Heritage shows the row with the Works in the background. A mineral railway runs immediately behind the row. (I would love to know who are the people in the picture.)

John was employed as a furnace tube cleaner at Coltness Ironworks. The local newspapers would regularly report on accidents at the works and this article describes what happened to John.

There was indeed a fatal result. John died on 2 March 1892 as a result of his injuries. Surprisingly he did not die in hospital but at his own home. The cause of death is recorded as a fracture to the base of the skull. He was 34 years old.

Roseann remarried the following year. She and her second husband, James Farrell had a daughter, Margaret in 1894. Roseann died in 1932.

James Brawley 1866-1955

Of my great, great grandparents, James Brawley and Sarah McLaughlin’s ten children, James lived the longest. What must that be like to see eight siblings go before you? Only one much younger sibling survived him. Tragically, he also outlived his wife and two of his own children. In his 88 years he must have seen so many things and experienced so much.  If only he had written it all down.

James Brawley was born in Kilwinning, Ayrshire on 30 September 1866.  His other siblings were born in Lanarkshire so I assume his father had had to move to Ayrshire for a short time for work.  James was James and Sarah’s fourth child.  John was born in 1857, Elizabeth in 1861 and my great grandfather, Daniel in 1864.  At the time of young James’ birth, his father was employed in the ironworks as a furnace filler.  The family later moved to Newmains, Lanarkshire where they settled.

More siblings came along. Hugh was born in 1869, Peter in 1871 and then there were the two wee ones, Patrick and Matthew who were born in 1873 and 1875 respectively but who died within days of each other in 1876.  Another two sons followed with another Matthew in 1877 and Patrick in 1884.

Life would’ve been tough for young James.  There were many mouths to feed and they lived in cramped conditions in housing provided by my great, great grandfather’s employers.  The 1881 census shows a fourteen year old James out of school and employed as a dye worker.

It appears then that James and my great grandfather, Daniel hatched a plan to seek their fortunes in America.  They left from Glasgow some time in 1887 bound for Pennsylvania.  The plan it would seem was to find jobs in the mining industry.  I’m assuming they must have responded to some time of recruitment ad but I havent been able to find any details of that. They were joined in Pennsylvania the following year by younger brother, Hugh.

James married Sarah McGlynn on 24 October 1889 in Kingston, Luzerne, Pennsylvania.  The couple went on to have eight children:

  • James (Born 1890)
  • Sarah (Born 1892)
  • Thomas (Born 1894)
  • John (Born 1898)
  • Mary Colleen (Born 1898)
  • Agnes (Born 1900)
  • Hugh (Born 1903)
  • Elizabeth (Born 1907)

They moved from Pennsylvania to Wyoming where they settled in the town of Rock Springs in Sweetwater County.  The family were living in Rock Springs in 1903 when Hugh was born and James remained there until his death.

Over the years James would have received notifications of the deaths of is family.  Brothers John and Hugh both died in tragic circumstances in 1892 and 1895 respectively.  His father died in 1905.  I know that he did return to Scotland on at least one occasion.  He visited in 1910 and I imagine this would have been the last time he ever saw his mother who died in 1916.

It is hard to imagine how hard it must have been to be so far away from family, especially during time of bereavement.  His parents were illiterate so there would have been no letters from them.  I would hope that they may have enlisted help to communicate with their son but those letters would surely have lacked the personal touch.

In 1930, at the age of 64, James was still working as a coal miner.  Moving to America might have given him greater opportunities but it wouldn’t have been an easy life.

His wife died in 1937.  In 1947 he lost two of his children.  Hugh died in an accident in California.  I know from records that Elizabeth also died that year but I have been unable to find details of her death.  I do know that she was married and her name was Salardino and that she was buried in Colorado.

James died in 1955 at the age of 88 which is pretty good going in my family.  The cause of death is given as pneumonia following a heart attack.  He did have to face tragedy but I would like to think he knew joy in his life.  He had his children and many grand children.  Prior to his death he was living with his daughter, Mary Colleen and her husband.  His obituary on the Find A Grave site suggests he was loved by many.