mad in pursuit notebook


Patrick Dunne and John Coughlin... Welcome to America


October 20, 2009

Bridget's wordsThis photo is legendary because of the pouting boys: Curly (my dad), Bill, and Jack Price. And my grandmother’s notation on the back: “at bottom my three kids I must have belted you all look so sad.”

Uncle Pat remembered it showed John Coughlin, father of our newfound family member Mary P. so I dug it out. But as I look at it, no one seems quite sure about “Uncle Pat from Boston” or “Uncle Pete from Ohio.” Uncle implies  the brother of a parent or grandparent. But I thought I had all those people accounted for.

I’m swimming in the data I’ve collected and drowning in more online databases. My best clue came from (can you believe this?) my dad. I have a worksheet in my files that he was using as he puzzled through names and relationships in the early days of his family history work. He lists Pete and Pat as brothers of his grandmother Catherine Martin Dunne. I’m looking for some confirmation. Maybe they were her older brothers. who emigrated to the US early on. But… it’s unusual for the oldest sons of an Irish family to leave, since they are usually the ones who got to run the farms… Someone must know…

Another tiny mystery: what was the occasion that got Boston and Ohio relatives to go to St. Louis?

April 3, 2012

Back at work updating family history files in preparation for a trip to Ireland. The Dunne family is spread out on my work table. I am still missing Uncle Pat Dunne's passage info. I also see some messages back and forth about John Coughlin's involvement with the IRA before he came to the US. I still don't know who "Uncle Pete from Boston" or "Uncle Pat from Ohio" is. I wonder why they were in St. Louis at the time of the famous photo above. Whose wedding or funeral made the trip worthwhile? I was inputting burial data for Michael Martin's family on Was it his marriage or the birth of his daughter that drew family from the east? I couldn't find any relevant data.

I can't say what intuition brought me back to Pat Dunne, or what faint scratching led me to remember John Coughlin in the picture -- but something told me to look at the photograph again. Yep, the cousins were both there... both immigrants, about the same age, single guys mooching off their relatives. (In 1930, Coughlin was living with his cousin, my Grandma [Bridget Dunne] Price and Dunne was living a couple blocks away with his sister [Ellen Dunne] Auntie and her husband Ernest Price.) The lives of these first cousins must be intertwined.

I had never looked for John Coughlin's passage information, so I dug in. There were many results, but near the bottom of the first page was a John Coughlin from Ballygar... near the family farm in Rushestown. Bingo! So could Patrick Dunne be on the same ship? My eyes scanned. There was Patrick Dunne on the line above. Double bingo!! Both were headed for the home of Ernest Price on Cote Brilliante in St. Louis -- Auntie's house.

Tears welled up in my eyes. John Coughlin and Patrick Dunne had set out from Cobh, Ireland on the S.S. President Roosevelt, 4 May 1928, and arrived in NYC on 11 May. No doubt the gathering in the photograph was a celebration of their arrival in America.

My dad was born in 1922 and looks like about 6 in the photo, so that tracks too. My dad would have loved this little discovery and I felt like he was with me.

dunne and coughlin

Patrick Dunne didn't have any children, so his details don't get much attention. But since I have met John Coughlin's daughter and grand-daughter, I posted my findings on Facebook. Mary P posted back:

Mary P. Thank you so much for your work Susan. As you know, John Coughlin is my father. My brother and I have very few pictures from the past, so he and I had never seen this picture. When I saw that you thought it was from 1928, my first thought was that my dad could not have been in our country for very long. Then I read the rest of your posting and enjoyed seeing that it was because he and your uncle had arrived in our country. Thanks again for all your work. You have no idea how much I love seeing the picture again and learning about what ship he had arrieved on.

And later:

Mary P. Thanks again. You have no idea how much this means to me. I grew up with the feeling that almost all of our relations were in Ireland. You have been a wonderful gift to me in my later years of life.  Also, I need to tell you that I enjoyed your book. I just finished it about a month ago...

Me. ‎@Mary, now I'm tearing up again!

Mary P. That makes two of us.

Sometimes it's the puzzle-solving that motivates my family search... but someone to share it with is the payoff.

Oh, and I have given up on "Uncle Pete from Boston" or "Uncle Pat from Ohio" for the time being, after since all the complexities in my search for Thomas Dunne. I don't think they are Catherine Martin Dunne's brothers. They could be Martins or Dunnes or Wards... it's wide open...

Apr 8, 2012