This article should be subtitled "The Case of the Fortuitous Visitor." You'll see why in a moment.
A friend of mine asked me to see if I could find the Irish origins of her mother's Curran family who settled in Norwood, Massachusetts. As I soon found out, there were a lot of Currans in Norwood, but my friend supplied me with enough specifics to get going.
Norwood, about 1920
It wasn't too hard to work back to Peter Curran who married Mary Leonard in St. Mary's Church, Dedham, on 23 April 1882. Peter was 23, born in Ireland to parents named John and Hannah. They lived on Railroad Street, Norwood. Peter worked as a tanner.
Along the way, I also noticed a Martin Curran in Norwood, married 5 May 1878 to a Margaret Leonard. Martin was 28, born in Ireland, also to parents named John and Hannah. Martin was a tanner on the 1880 census.
I suspected that these two men were brothers, but where were they from in Ireland? I located Peter's naturalization record and it said he was from County Galway. That is better information that is usually on a naturalization, but it wouldn't be enough to find his home—there were even more Currans in Galway than in Norwood.
Enter the Fortuitous Visitor
At this point I started looking at the later censuses for Peter and Martin just to fill in the families. I noticed that in 1930 Martin was widowed. In his household was a Bridget Curran, niece, 22, born in the Irish Free State, who said she arrived in the US in 1927. Who was Bridget? Could she help solve the mystery of where Peter or Martin were from?
Well, Bridget happened to emigrate at a time when they asked a lot of questions. From looking at the information on her passenger manifest—she actually left Cork on 18 Oct 1925—we learn that she was headed to her uncle Peter Curran's home at 346 Railroad St., Norwood, Mass. Even better we find that her contact person in Ireland was her mother, Mrs. Curran, of Boohona, Spiddal, Co. Galway.
The rest was easy. In the 1911 census in Bohoona East, Killannin, Galway, there are a Patrick and Margaret Curran with a daughter Bridget, age 7. The naming pattern of Patrick's sons was remarkably similar to that of Peter and Martin Curran's families in Norwood.
The Irish baptismal and marriage records should be consulted to be sure, but I am pretty confident that these people are the right match for the Curran family we started with.
A Final Question
Just out of curiosity: Does anyone know what happened to our fortuitous visitor, Bridget Curran? I didn't find an unmarried Bridget Curran in the 1940 Census in Massachusetts, and the marriage records for Massachusetts for that time period are not online. If you know, please help me out.
In February 2015 I heard from a Curran descendant in Galway who answered my question about Bridget. Here is what she said. I will leave out her name.
"My Grandfather was Michael Curran... his parents were Patrick (Pat Mor) and Margaret Curran. He came from a large family. And I do not know of all of them. However, Bridget emigrated to Norwood, Mass. She married a fellow called Walsh.. cannot remember his first name... and I think he was from Oughterard in Galway. Bridget lived at 296 Railroad Avenue, Norwood, Mass.
"I knew Auntie Bridgie lived to be old as my uncle in Canada used to visit her when she was alive. My mother was Margaret Mary (known as Peggy) and her brothers Patrick (Pat) and John Francis (Jack). Jack lived in Canada most of his life and died there.
"Hope this gives you a lead!"
There are a Bridget and John Walsh on the census of Norwood in 1940 living at 35 Summit Avenue. John's birthplace was the Irish Free State. And Bridget died May 6, 1997. Her last residence was Norwood. The Social Security Death Index says she was born April 1, 1904.
Photograph of Norwood courtesy of Wikipedia:Norwood, Massachusetts.