McCarthy/???? of Kilmichael, Co Cork

This McCarthy family hailed from Kilmichael Parish in County Cork, Ireland. The oldest known son, John McCarty (c1816-1891), arrived in the Town of Claverack, Hudson County, New York, U.S.A. circa 1848. The rest of the known members arrived two years later. According to family lore there was yet another brother who immigrated to the USA. There is neither direct evidence nor family lore to suggest a reason why Claverack was chosen. In 1855, matriarch Margaret McCarthy, age 70, widow of Daniel McCarthy, was maintaining a household that included all seven of her known children. By 1864, John McCarty and his family have moved to Wisconsin. The rest of the children, except for one daughter whose whereabouts are unknown, remained in the Hudson area.

Why this family left Ireland is not known with any certainty but it's easy to speculate. We can say with certainty that these McCarthys were not a family of means. We know that none of them were trained professionals, like doctor, lawyer or merchant. In fact, they were all illiterate. This suggests that they were probably cottiers - tenant farmers with very small holdings - from the very lowest rungs of the economic ladder. These were the economic classes that were the first to leave Ireland during An Gorta Mór - The Great Hunger in the late 1840s. The potato crop, upon which the majority of these Irish peasants depended for sustenance, failed completely in the year 1846. There also were general potato crop failures in 1845, 1848 and 1849. It has been estimated that one million people died of starvation or disease during this period and that another one million people emigrated. In conclusion, the primary impetus for this McCarthy family to leave Ireland was probably the potato famine.


Kilmichael, from the Irish Cill Mhichil, means Church of Micheál.


Tombstones for two of Margaret's children, Eugene McCarthy and Catherine Brown, list their birthplace as the Parish of Kilmichael, County Cork. The term "Parish" in Ireland has two connotations, one civil and one church. A civil parish is a political subdivision of a county. A church parish is an ecclesiastical subdivision of a diocese. These subdivisions, civil and church, although they overlap, sometimes have different boundaries and/or different names. Does this refer to a civil parish or a church parish? The life of the average Catholic peasant revolved around the church. It wouldn't be farfetched to say that the peasants weren't even aware that there was such a thing as a civil parish. The tombstone inscription almost certainly refers to a church parish.

In the case of Kilmichael, there is both a civil parish and a church parish by that name. The civil parish of Kilmichael lies halfway between the Towns of Dunmanway and Macroom. It is located partly in the Barony of East Carbery (West Division) and partly in the Barony of West Muskerry.

Records of the church parish were searched for events involving this family without success. Maybe these McCarthys were from some other Kilmichael that also was considered, by the locals, a church parish. According to Alexander Thom's 1851 General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland there are two Kilmichael townlands and one Kilmichael Town in County Cork plus a Kilmichael East townland and a Kilmichael West townland. More searching is required.


Irish surnames commonly in use today are anglicized spellings of the Irish used 800-years-or-more ago. These spellings were usually arrived at phonetically by non-Irish speakers. This can be a vexing problem for the family historian because this practice can give rise to many spelling variations of the same name. The McCarthy surname itself is not that much of a problem. If you were to spell the Irish name using the Latin (Roman) alphabet, rather than spelling what was heard, it would be written Mac Cárthaigh. If you heard it pronounced by a native Irish person of that period, you would probably spell it phonetically, as MacCarthy, MacCartie, MacCarty, MacArthy, etc. So, these spellings must be considered interchangeable, at least in the context of researching history.

The prefixes "Mc" and "Mac" both mean the same, which is "son of". And although the "Mac" spelling is more common in Scotland and the "Mc" spelling is more common in Ireland, it would be a mistake to presume they are not interchangeable. There are also some cases, although not in this family, where the "Mac" has been dropped leaving Carthy, etc. This last variation should not be dismissed or ignored but historically it designates a family different from MacCarthy and was most common in counties outside of Cork and Kerry.

Reconstructing a family

Reconstruction of family branches from events that occurred one-hundred-years ago, or more, pose some risk. The risk is that data on unrelated people will be incorrectly grafted onto the family tree. Many of the records available contain no data that can be used to confirm that the person named is the one related. The only defense against this unhappy occurrence is the collection and careful analysis of as much data as possible. The hope is, using this approach, that inconsistencies and contradictions will be discovered. And that, with further analysis of these anamolies, mistakes can be avoided.

For instance, marriage and christening events recorded at Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Hudson included Claverack McCarthy names. These names appeared as marriage principals, marriage witnesses, parents of christened children, and christening sponsors. Parish priests do not normally record family relationships in their registers and they did not in the case of Hudson's Saint Mary's. It would certainly make it much easier for family historians if they had. However, at Saint Mary's, names of parents were not recorded for brides and grooms. Neither were relationships recorded, if any, of witnesses and sponsors either to the principals or to each other. Nevertheless, events recorded at Saint Mary's were a major source used in the reconstruction of this McCarthy tree.

In chronological order, the recorded church events used were:

- Martin (sic) McCarthy, child of John McCarthy and Ellen Galvin, christened in 1857 with sponsors Patrick McCarthy and Catherine Galvin;

- Catherine McCarthy married William Brown in 1859 before witnesses Patrick McCarthy and Ellen McCarthy;

- Julia McCarthy married John Martin in 1859 before witnesses Patrick McCarthy and Margaret Adams;

- Patrick McCarthy married Catherine Horan in 1860 before witnesses John McCarthy and Mary Gooney;

- Eugene, child of Patrick McCarthy and Catherine Horan, christened in 1861 with sponsors John McCarthy and Bridget Gooney;

- James, child of Patrick McCarthy and Catherine Horan, christened in 1862 with sponsors John Cooney and Margaret Sullivan;

- Mary Margaret Sullivan, daughter of Thomas Sullivan and Margaret McCarthy, christened in 1867 with sponsors Patrick McCarthy and Sarah Collins; and

- Daniel, child of Patrick McCarthy and Catherine Horan, christened in 1870 with sponsors Thomas Sullivan and Catherine Brown.

Census records provide more evidence that support the reconstruction of the family tree. Comparing the given names of family members from census to census helps provide some continuity. Also, the ages listed in the census help to differentiate family members from others in the community with the same names.

Note: Ages aren't recorded in church records either.

Note: The matriarch Margaret and her son Eugene are listed in the same household with Thomas and Margaret Sullivan, one of Margaret's daughters, in 1860. William and Catherine Brown, another of Margaret's daughters, are listed "next-door."

The Claverack McCarthys that remained in Columbia County were there continuously, as nearly as we can tell, until at least 1873 or death. And although there were a number of families in the area who either had the McCarthy surname or had a McCarthy wife, there wasn't much duplication of given names.

Second-to-lastly, Eugene McCarthy and Catherine McCarthy Brown are buried in the same plot of the Hudson cemetery. Patrick McCarthy is buried in an adjacent plot. Margaret McCarthy Sullivan is buried a few yards away.

And finally, three anecdotal pieces of information also support this reconstruction:

1) A newspaper clipping of young Delia McCarthy's obituary (daughter of Patrick McCarthy and Catherine Horan) was found among John McCarthy papers in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin;

2) Before Frances McDonald married Leo Heeney, her mother told her that she, Frances, was related to Leo, the man she was about to marry. Frances is descended of Patrick McCarthy, Leo of Patrick's sister Julia McCarthy Martin;

3) Catherine McDonald Gaffney remembers her mother telling her that Catherine's great-grandfather Patrick McCarthy came to the area with two older brothers both of whom went out west. We know about one older brother, John, who went to Wisconsin. That would qualify as "out west" in the context of 1850s Hudson.