Letter: Marion Cahalan to John McInerney, March 6th 1963:
Account of Early Cahalan Family History

This letter is, in many ways, the foundation text of our Cahalan family genealogy. Written by Marion Cahalan, granddaughter of James and Mary Mulfahey Cahalan, immigrants from Ireland, it recounts their lives and the births of their children. It survives in three xerox copies and a further typed copy transcribed by my grandfather, Joseph Cahalan, with his notes, which is also below. The original is not in my collection, but the number of copies would seem to indicate that others also have this information and that the letter was ascribed great importance as an 'official' statement.

The images below reproduce the letter and transcription. Note also the discussion at bottom for a consideration of possible errors in the texts.

The image below reproduces Joseph Cahalan's transcription, with his notes:

Transcription:

 

This is a partial history of the Wyandotte Cahalans prepared by Marion Cahalan in 1963 at the request of John Mcinerney. Some of her dates are wrong--she states that the family

came to Wyandotte in 1857. Actually it was in 1853. Also she states that her father (John C.) was born in 1858. Actually it was 1859.

James and Mary Mutfahy Cahalan of Nenagh, Tipperary, Ireland had seven children: John, Catherine, Anna, Bridget, James, Richard and John C.

Grandfather Cahalan and his eldest son John came to America in 1849 to get work and earn enough money to bring the rest of the family to America. They worked around Lima, N.Y. Where John died probably in his teens and was buried in Lima. Finally grandfather had enough money and sent for his family and settled in Wyandotte in 1857.

Father (John C.) was born in 1858 and named after his eldest brother because of the custom of that period and grandmother's grief. 

Catherine (Aunt Kitty) married Michael Norton--no children

Anna married Patrick Mcinerney and had five children: John F., Jimmy (who was deputy sheriff of Wayne County) and May and two small children who died of scarlet fever and your father almost died of it too. Jimmy and May were not married.

Bridget married Patrick Needham and had eleven children. 

Molly is the only one living.

Dr. James married Anna Melody and had one son: James 

Emmet 

Richard was not married. 

John C. married Anna Hogan of Hubbardston, Michigan 

and had eight children. 

Discussion:

As mentioned in the Narratives section of this site,Marion’s letter and the available census sources, taken together, present us with some difficulties. Though his tombstone records his birth in 1850, James and Mary’s son James’ birth date is given by census information on Ancestry.com (not always a reliable source) as 1852. Richard’s birth date is also variously given there as 1851, and the same source lists his birthplace (like his brother James’) as County Tipperary. There is certainly an error in the record, here. Given the fact that Marion states that James emigrated in 1849, then one son or the other would have to have been born while his father was overseas. (The dates given by Joseph’s family tree accord with--and are most likely taken from--inscriptions in Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Wyandotte, which should be authoritative since they were produced at the direction of surviving family members.) 

 

What is much more likely, however, is that Marion is in error in giving 1849 as the date of James’ emigration, and that Joseph is thinking of this event--rather than the date of the family’s migration to Wyandotte--when he states 1853. This speculation has the advantage of explaining the break in the pattern of births between 1852 and 1859.

 

Another source supports this thesis, a book indexed on Ancestry.com and titled About Historic Michigan, Land of the Great Lakes: its Life, Resources, Industries, People, Politics, Wars, Governments, Institutions, contains a profile of James and Mary’s last child, John C. Cahalan Sr., which states that James and Mary “came to the United States in the early fifties.” Since the source for this information was likely John C. himself, we may take it as sound.  Additionally, Landmarks of Wayne County and Detroit, by George B. Catlin and Robert B. Ross (1898), in reference to James and Mary’s son James Cahalan, MD, cites 1857 as the date of Mary’s migration. James Cahalan, MD, was most likely the source of this citation, also, so it is likely that the immediate family of James and Mary knew the date of Mary’s journey--and their own--as 1857.

©2019 by Gregory Loselle