One Lyons Family of Southern Ireland prior to 1850

"A Working DRAFT" - Comments, suggestions and input appreciated


  • The following is an attempt to analyze and integrate recent historical document finds with older data collected by family historians, census records and travel records by family members.
  • In historical research, it is all about what we find and not what we don't. Yet a negative is useful as a clue for continued research. A primary source document is nearly always preferred to a secondary or tertiary document as it should provide first hand information at or near the dated period and location of interest. However, primary source documents are not always accurately represented owing to diverse reactions and behaviors of humans. Some outright lie for financial gain or notoriety, exagerate and provide best guesses. Some actually fully believe the information they are providing is true based on verbal communication and translation but fail to provide sources or are not careful on gramatical and spelling of the material. This is why it is imperative to obtain more than one primary source document from different sources before a 'factual' statement can be accurately made.

  • The areas of ancient Kilbolane and Shandrum parishes along the border of counties Limerick and Cork from ca 1780 to ca 1850, including the towns of Charleville, Newtown and Milltown, is the focus of discussion. Surrounding towns and communities to include Drumcollager, Feenagh, and Bruree are important to business, friends and marriage relationships and hold clues to life and times of the era. Consideration of historical events prior to this timeperiod is important to understanding
  • The following genealogical sketch is loosely provided primarily from the Jan 2014 Burnsville MN Document prior to ca 1830 and annotated with other data. This should provide a beginning toward our family and of the geographic area which they lived in the early 1800's.

    Background to our Lyons family in America

    Using conventional genealogical approaches, our Lyons in addition to other family surnames has been document and described elsewhere at Http://`surname` primarily after their immigration to America. This has been accomplished using direct communication with Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc to capture as much info from direct memory as possible. An attempt is made to validate this data using records of the census, deeds, church records, city/ town directory and fire registries to name a few. Speculation from clues provided on the internet from other researchers are only provided to fuel thought for continued research and does not imply any factual information whatsoever.

    Making the leap to another country after migration of our ancestors is often exceedingly difficult with any certainty owing to the commonality of names in various registers and access to international homeland records due to lengthy geographical distances and travels.

    As families multiply and migrate around the globe they do so at an approximate rate of 2 to the exponent 'number of generations'. This leads to family documents and heirlooms being transferred and separated very rapidly among divided families over a large area. Decendants loose touch with other relatives with historical documents in the form of letters, old bibles, pictures or family summaries become fragmented, lost or discarded. We have noticed the relocation of a 17th century bible from Lancaster PA to British Columbia in one branch of a family only to be finally retrieved in the 20 century with the family not ever realizing the significance of the bible.

    The internet has become an incredible resource for sharing information from personal websites, to discusion forums like (now owned by ancestry), databases like ancestry, and the federal census, court records, libraries, and now even facebook is seeing the publication of family histories. While all these avenues are tools for pulling people together as a global family, there remains a real need in getting people to realize the connection between data and sources with value. Our personal website has been successful many times at placing us in contact with distant relatives British Columbia, California, St Louis, Texas, PA, NY, VA and MD. Our personal website has placed us in contact about 2000 with a distant cousin from the the Pacific Northwest and a common ancestor validated using conventional genealogy to a southern Maryland ca 1750 family. Another interesting find with our personal website was a late 19th century picture album in an attic of a Berkeley Springs WVa Home that otherwise would have been discarded or placed in some obscure collection.

    Human Migration, Significance and Importance of Genetic Lineage

    America is only about 400 years old to european settlement and record keeping. Records of european couuntries, with any luck, might be available to about 1200AD in some european countries. These represents only a snapshot in time for human migration.

    Our cousin, Lloyd Lyons (1929-2011) in ca 1995 in his compilation of old family letters with thoughts of european ancestry proposed the name Lyons "appears to be both patronymical and locational in orign .." and It is said that they were of Norman descent, and came to Ireland around the year 1603 as part of a French expeditionary force sent to attack England, and were stranded in Ireland by the collapse of the French Naval forces . While the date appears to be a typographical error, we thank Lloyd for his efforts as we attempt to expand on this logic with references to medieval history, human migration and french origin. Prior to the 'norman conquest of 1066', England and presumably Ireland were composed of Angle and Saxton peoples since just after the fall of the roman empire ca 400-500. The invasion of southern England by William Duke and the Normans from france in 1066 preceded the subsequent invasion of Ireland 100 years later by an Anglo-norman breed led by Richard Strongbow and his De-Cogan followers. Strongbow and the 'Cogans' supposedly settled the areas of Cork and Waterford and initated the building of numerous castles in attempt to maintain norman rule (wikipedia). The early irish (1700) manuscripts reference numerous castles that are not apparently listed on modern maps with observation of many deep 'morasses' throughout the area. More modern manuscripts refer to swampland that may be old moats. Note the french proposition 'De' in DeCogan and of DeLion (reference by lloyd from the counties of Meath and Dublin) meaning 'of or from'. The preposition was subsequently translated by the irish to yield th 'o' preposition as O'cogan or o'lyons of the same meaning. Continued anglicizations over the years resulted in further shortenings to the various name spellings we have today (Lion, Lyons, Lyon, etc). A Melinda Lyons in 1998 on the Genforum discussion forum refers to CastleLyons built by Clean O'Lyons in 1010AD. No source is provided to validate the date and/or information and only serves as a clue for continued thought since the location of the town of Castlelyons is not far from Charleville where numerous Lyons' people are observed and is like associated with an early irish settlement of the french warriors.

    The 'human genome project' of the mid 1980's now allows us to gain a glimpse of our heritage via haplogroups. Methodologies have been developed and commercialized to enable us to use our genetic footprint both to exceed the limitations of conventional genealogy but to settle disputes and uncertainties in family linkages. They cannot, however, provide absolute names and dates of individuals. Companies such as 23andme, familyTreeDNA, Ancestry and other startups provide services from about $50 to $400 upon submitting a tissue specimen via saliva. Our data based on maternal michondrial DNA reveals the H1 haplogroup. This has provided us with at least three distant cousins and validated with conventional genealogy. The oldest connection via this technology links our late 1778 southern Maryland to a California family who migrated via St Louis abt 1834. The technology continues to strive to comprehend the basis of our presumed heritage back to about 140 thousand years.

    Quest for Irish or Perhaps 'French-Irish' Roots

    Traveling overseas to our ancestral homelands can be enjoyable and rewarding but at considerable expense. Since John Lyons (ca 1803-1888) immigration to America ca 1847, a number of his descendants became curious of their roots and returned to the area. Johns grandson, William Patrick Lyons, is believed to have traveled back to Charleville ca 1920's. Mildred Anne Hart in Jul 1999 and our Paul Williamson in Jun 2000. Although details of each trip are incomplete, every subsequent trip has gained additional knowledge.

    Gibbings Grove

    Gibbings Grove and its history is central to our interest due to its geographical proximity between Charleville, Newtown and milltown and the effect on the ecomomic and cultural state of the area. Apparently prior to the english civil war of 1641, the area was referred to as Toonmore which was likely held by catholics since they had abt 60% of the irish vote allowing for land ownership. It is unknown whether our family was there at that time or whether they had land since many records had been destroyed. Oliver Cromwell, with his gained control in 1660, imparted many changes, one of which crushing the catholics in retaliation of the vatican and seizing all land and voting rights. In 1662, the king issued land to two Gibbings brothers one of which was John Gibbings, a reported Cromwellian soldier and thus Protestant. This land amounted to over 1200 acres. As a consequence, the catholics had little choice but to become tenants to the protestants who essentially were gaining revenge for the previous persecution done to them. Some of these tenants lived in guest houses directly on the grounds of the main house but most apparently lived in thatch houses in the surronding areas of Newtown such as our people where they worshipped in unpublicized dwellings. Smith (1701) mentions the poor during the time surviviving chiefly on potatos and milk. There are numerous pictures and publications on the Gibbings, property and houses. There is no real reason to describe them here since they were built after the confiscation of any land that might have been owned by our family. Since 1830, the catholics had made some ground in their rights as evidenced by the growing number of registries that survived demolition to minimize persecution. Albeit a bit late to the mass emmigration of the 1840's.

    However, the oldest document written in America by John Lyons' son, John E. Lyons, includes a statement about the location where his father lived:

    "His boyhood days were spent in the vicinity of Gibbings Grove, County Cork. He referred to a place called Copper (Capper, Coffer, Cappen??) Alley near Gibbings Grove where lived one of his companions, John Wall ......... "

    Copper alley according to Paul appears to be east of Gibbons toward Newtown or Newtownshandrum as is referred today.

    "The intersection that the locals call Copper Alley is nothing more that a Y in the dirt road. No signs, no anything." with reference to a Wall family

    ".... but there WAS a Wall family who lived here ~ 10 years ago. "

    By 1701 as described by Smith, Gibbons Grove existed and owned by a Mr Gibbon 3mi south of Charleville which was originally 'Toonmore' celebrated for it cyder apple.

    By 1912, Gibbings Grove had been sold to the Cagney family. A letter dated 4 Aug 1999 to Anne Hart from her travels and the latest owner, Vincent Cagney of Gibbings Grove since 1896 also refers to several small thatched houses at the crossroads in Shandrum known as Copper alley and further mentions the families of Wall and O'Connell living there in 1847. Paul supports this evidence at the Newtown Shandrum Church recording the Marriage of Timothy O'Connell and Honora Lyons on 4 Feb 1845. Photos of the area, passed down from William P Lyons mother, Emma Wargo Lyons, during his visit ca 1920's shows two houses at copper alley.

Thatched house at Copper Alley

Photo looking back toward "Gibbons" (sic)Grove taken in the 1920's


In the 1840's, our Lyons family are observed in the area of Kilbolane and Shandrum parishes between Drumcollager, co.Limerick and Charleville, co. Cork along the border of the two counties as evidenced by the NewtownShandrum Church records of 1845 and as described by Paul Williamson and communicated to him by locals in 2000. These areas are shown on the old map (date unknown) of the "Ordance Survey of Ireland" retrieved from the LDS family history library archives places Gibbings grove sandwiched between Milford in Kilbolane and Newtown in Shandrum (became Newtown Shandrum on current maps).

Charles Smith in his book dated 1710 refers to this area as origianly large deep 'morasses' filled in by the 17 century for building. These are referred to in modern writings as possible old moats. Growing potatos in such a wet environment is not surprising a famine from rotting potatos would soon develop. Timothy Lyons, father of John, is said to have died of 'some abdominal illness' in 1832.

History of Milford Twp/Parish Kilbolane Cork Co. Ireland and comparisons with recollections from Paul Williamson's trip

A Mr Matt Murphy wrote about the History of Milford apparently in the 1920 with extensive references to the area 100 years prior and the period our family was there ca 1820's. The population than "well exceeded 200" and dwindled to 169 by 1926 obviously as people emigrated to America.

The graveyard of Ballinakill,a logical and common burial of people in the area, dates to medieval Charleville of 1442 when the Synan family lived there. Paul noted the very antiquated and aged monument in the center of the cemetery as is portrayed in Matt Murphy's writings in the 1920's describing the monument.

" There was also, about 1857, a school for the few Protestant children in the parish, at Prohust not under the National Education Commissioners, and there was a "Hedge School" at Monabrica (Coon), three miles from Milford, which was for years conducted by a Blind Schoolmaster (1) until his death at the age of 70. The Protestant Church is in the graveyard of Ballinakill Iiciwcen the townlands of Kilbolane and Gurtnagoul and about a iuilc from Milford. This Church was built by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1829 and on the site of an old Abbey. When digging for the foundations the workmen came upon a small slab or tablet of stone, one side of which on being cleaned and polished bore the inscription: "This is the burial place of the Synans." with the Arms of the family and the date "1442". This slab, the Rector, the Rev. Jonathan Bruce caused to be inserted in the outside masonry of the western wall, and almost immediately over the burial place of the Synan family "where it will remain while the edifice lasts." ....

Common names to our family and alliances such as the Walshes and Bowens, significant to Thomas Lyons wife, are repeatedly noticed in both Matt's writings and other old Irish documents of the area.

"In the townland of Kilbolane are the remains of a rather small building called "Teampul n Boin", the wall of which covered with ivy, are still standing in about an acre of ground fenced around and planted with trees. It is commonly supposed to have been a "Chapel of Ease" of the Bowens when they lived at Kilbolane and some members of the family appear to have been buried there as people still living have a recollection of seeing coffins exposed within the walls."

Matt further refers to Gibbings Grove and the old Castle across the Road that Paul and Anne refers to:

" ..... Gibbings Grove House, formerly the residence of the Gibbing family, to which a former Countess of Combermere belonged and in her will she left {200 to erect a stained glass window in Tullylease Protestant Church, as a memorial ofthe Gibbings family. When this Church, ceased to be no longer used the Church Temporalities Commissioners had the window removed, and remounted in Kilbolane Protestant Church near Milford, 1893. .."


"The Castle of Kilbolane which stands near the village and formerly a seat of the Earls of Desmond was a fine Anglo Norman building said to have been erected soon after the coming over of Strongbow by the De Cogans, from whom the Desmonds had the estate. The Castle was partially destroyed by Cromwell. The building was of square form with a ciruclar tower at each of the four angles, two of which are in a fair state of preservation. Some years after the Castle was destroyed a good mansion was build quite near and was subsequently occupied, at one time or another, by the Powers, the Bowens, and the Barrys and Hannigans."

However a clue uncovered by Paul while digging a sunken tomstone at Ballinakill cemetery suggest our family may have mingled with the Synan's at the end of their 'Dynasty':

Erected (symbol) Registr By Denis Lyons of
Lauraugh in Memory
of his father Denis who
Dep. Life Augst 12th
1822 Ag 74yr and
also his mother Anne
Lyons alias Synan
Who deptd life March
4th 1827 Ag 70yrs
May their souls
(Why bother digging deeper)

The name Denis Lyons persists into the 20th century at Gibbings as Vincent Cagney states in his letter to Anne Hart in 1999 that a Denis Lyons lived in the gate house at Gibbings Grove where he worked ca 1939. the family migrated to England ca 1950 and included a Timothy as well.

Consolidating Family History Data and information from Clues

We obviously don't know when they actually settled south and central Limerick/Cork but John himself was reportedly born in limerick likely just 3 miles north of Charleville near the village of Bruree where his mother, Margaret Coll (Cull) was from. John named one son William Patrick providing a clue as to those names being derived somewhere in his or his wife's ancestry. Lloyd E Lyon's summary states: "Patrick Lyons seems to be the earliest name in our family of which we are aware. His name is undocumented and if he was really related to us he probably lived and died in the 18th century and may have been the father of Tinothy Lyons, the first ancestor of whom we are certain and who lived his entire life in Ireland He does not provide any source, however, the Burnsville letter dated ca 1880 lends at least two clues of a Patrick Lyons of the proper age. One that he was from Milford, a sizable but small village; and second of his emigration to New Orleans shortly after Patrick Irwin (ca 1828) and died shortly after suggest he may have been older and left after his wife, Mary Irwin had died and children married and settled. The third clue that he seldom wrote back might explain the lack of knowledge of his existence.

Regardless of the immence popularity of the name, Patrick in Ireland, Paul recorded to other marriages at the Newtown Shandrum Church appearing to be of two different generations about John Lyons and siblings and that of his father: 1) a Patrick Lyons - Mary Hourahan - 3/3/1840 and 2) a Patrick Lyons - Elizabeth Foley - 22nd (Jan, Feb, Mar, or Apr) 1816. Thus a clue that Patrick of #1 could easily be Patrick III.



  • Lyons family historical summary written by Lloyd E. Lyons (1929-2011)
  • Cork Ireland photos taken ca.1920 by William P. Lyons (1863-1931)
  • Cork Ireland data acquired in Jun 2000 by Paul Williamson (1970 - )
  • Cork Ireland data collected by M Anne Hart in Jul 1999
  • Chelsea London 1851 census
  • Historical Letter (origin Burnsville, MN) written by McKasy/McCasy ancestors calculated ca 1880 t_maCasy_p1_2014.jpg and t_mcCasy_p2_2014.jpg.
  • "History of Milford" by Mr Matt Murphy ca 1920's
  • The Antient and Present State of the County and City of Cork" by Charles Smith, 1701, Old english transcript,
    p. 381 William Lyon of Shandon (sic) bishop 1583 d. 1617 p. 314 castle Kilbolane 4 mi SW Charleville built after "coming over of Strongbow by the Cogans" old Desmond Family estate; good house and improvement of Mr Bowen; Many castles in Area

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    Last Updated 03 July 2014