The forgotten village of Grahamston

I often find it interesting to research the locations of where ancestors lived – sometimes with a bit of luck some of the original buildings from those times may have survived and one can see them in Google street view! It often pays off to research their neighbours too, especially if they stayed at the same address for a long time.

Two of my children’s ancestors – Thomas and Catherine (Sweeney) Cooper were listed at living at 42 Alston street in Glasgow in 1871 census, their daughter Mary was also born at that address. When I went trying to find where Alston street was though, it turned out it wasn’t so easy. Alston street does not exist any more!

Where Alston street once was, now is the Glasgow Central Station, right on top of what used to be Grahamston village. Alston street used to run the lenght of the village and was the home of the first permanent theather in Glasgow – the Alston Street Playhouse built in 1764. There doesn’t seem to be any survivng photographs of Alston street, however there are some of the near-by streets.

Some claim that the whole village of Grahamston is still there, under the Central station, and that there may be a treasure buried there too!

Demolishing Grahamston to make way for Central Station, around 1876. Image linked from:

Read more about the history of Grahamston:


Using DNA to add branches to the family tree

I’ve talked about DNA before, and this post is an example of how I use DNA to extend the family tree. I’ve had some pretty cool discoveries – this is an example of one of them!

Sometime ago a match appeared, will call her “Mary” to keep her anonymous.

Screenshot from Ancestry DNA

What caught my eye about this match was that she was a “High” confidence 4-6th cousin match (so likely to find the connection in the last 4-5 generations) and her surname was one of the prominent surnames in my tree.

Ancestry allows you to link a tree to your DNA results, and you can then use that tree to look for common ancestors. In this case “Mary” had a small tree with her mother only – Anna Theresa [surname] but in also included birth and death dates for her mother. Anna Theresa was born and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Thankfully Philadelphia BMD are available online on ancestry and familysearch, so I set to work. I wasn’t aware of any cousins in Philadelphia, but there were some in NY and in Boston, so it was possible somebody moved to a nearby state.

I quickly realised that my match’s surname was her married name, so not relevant to my family tree. However, her grandmother’s name was a nice surprise –  she was a Gallagher! The Gallaghers are a very early brick wall for me but there are so many of them, I have been unsuccessful so far to link anybody to the tree. I hit a brick wall again with Mary’s Gallagher line –  Bernard Gallagher b. 1832 in Ireland and moved to Pennsylvania, no indication where in Ireland or who his parents were. It is still possible there may be a connection there but if so, I haven’t found it yet.

His wife, however, was the breakthrough – Anna Theresa SWEENEY, born 1835 Ireland and died 21 Jun 1912 in Philadelphia. I have seen few Sweeney matches in Philadelphia but never seen any connection. Anna Theresa’s death certificate held the clue:

Death certificate for Anna Theresa (Sweeney) Gallagher, 1912, Philadephlia. Source: (click to see a larger version)


Anna Theresa’s parents were Miles Sweeney and Ann Gorman, who were my husband’s 4x great-grandparents! It still doesn’t list the place of birth, but with a match at this level (3rd cousins on paper) I’m pretty confident that this is correct and I’ve added her to the tree, and hopefully in future this will help linking the other Philadelphia Sweeney DNA matches to my tree.

Unfortunately so far I haven’t been able to get in contact with “Mary” (she is eldery, so may not use the computer much) but I will continue searching for more evidence.

Looking for DNA testers!

I have been a bit absent lately with the blog as life has been busy, but I’ll try to keep on track and post one new post every two weeks, as there is still so much information to share.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been working on my own Bulgarian ancestors, and part of this has been using DNA to support the paper records. I’ve tested over 20 close family members and cousins so far and it has been really interesting – I’ve confirmed relatives and found new and sometimes unexpected connection! Thank you all!

So, I’m hoping to expand and do the same on the Irish lines – apart from confirming the paper trail, it will hopefully help breaking through the brick walls I’ve hit. For example, despite building trees for many Gallagher and McLaughlin families in Derry, I’m still not sure where did William Gallagher and Jane McLaughlin came from! And all experienced researchers I’ve asked have hit a wall too. Another line is the Keenans (all McManus cousins are also descendents from them) who moved to Scotland sometime around 1840s – have no idea where they came from in Ireland. I have built extensive trees in both Glasgow, and then Boston, yet they are still a mystery.

I hope DNA will help! So I’m asking anybody who is interested in testing – to please get in touch. I’m looking for:

  • testing oldest living relatives on any of the lines – Warren, McManus, Kavanagh, Gallagher, as well as any known 1st/2nd cousins to these.  The reason I’m looking for the eldest is because every child only inherits half of the DNA from their parents, so with every generation half of the DNA is lost. Testing any living 85-90 year old relatives is like having access to a golden mine!
  • testing any male cousins (age doesn’t matter) with the surnames Warren, McManus, Kavanagh, Gallagher, McLaughlin, Bradley, Cooper, White, or any of the other direct ancestral surnames. This test is a Y-chromosome test and follows the direct male line, and will show where the family came from and who else with that surname are they related. There is also a big Y-DNA Irish project, so you get the bonus to be part of a very interesting country-wide edge-cutting research! 🙂


(see Irish DNA Atlas project:

The tests are with ancestry and FamilyTree DNA and are saliva tests – either spit (ancestry) or swab (FTDNA). It takes few minutes and results come back couple of months later!

I can post a test, so no cost to you (apart from possibly return postage). Let me know, results are really interesting!

Here is an old post how I used DNA to crack through a brick wall:

Leopold Rossine Warren

Leopold Rossine Warren was mychildren’s Great-Great-Grandfather. He was born on 16 Feb 1890 in Sunderland, Durham, the eldest son of Edward Albert Warren and Elizabeth Jane White.

Leopold was a seaman (cook steward) and comes from a line of seamen – same as his father and his grandfather. I don’t know much about his early years – sadly his parents divorced in 1900  as his mother fell in love and had a child with another man.

Leopold and his two younger sisters Ruth Elizabeth Mary (b. 1891) and Eva (b. 1894) were living with the family of John and Fanny Guest in Thornaby, Yorkshire in 1901 – I believe John and Fanny were friends of the family. Their mother Elizabeth Jane has moved with her own mother together with her two youngest daughters from Joseph Robinson – Beatrice Mabel Warren Robinson (b.1899) and Violet Robinson (b.1900).

Edward Albert and Elizabeth Jane also had two other boys who died infants – Edward Saint Leonard Warren (1893-1893), Albert Edward Warren (1896-1898) and Osmond Warren (1897-1898). It must have been very hard on the family!

Leopold married Josephine Gallagher on 9 Feb 1914 in St Columba, Derry.


The family seem to have lived in both Derry (183 Foster/Lecky rd) as well as Glasgow, and had several children:

  • Leopold John Warren (1913–1984)

  • William Edward Warren (1914–1969)

  • Walter Columbia Warren (1916–1917)

  • Henry Warren (1917– )

  • John Warren (1918– )

  • Eva Warren (m. Toye and emigrated to Canada)

If you have more information on any of the siblings, please let me know and I’ll update!

Leopold died tragically on 17 March 1931 only 41 years old , when the steamer Citrine he was working on as a cook crashed off Bradda Head, Isle of Man. The accident was widely covered in the press at the time as 10 out of the 11 crew drowned. The only survivors were Hugh Morrison and the 17 year old Leo Warren Jr – the oldest son on Leopold, who was the only passanger, and who said his father called him to join them shortly before they took sail to help on the trip.



Source: Northern Daily Mail, 18 Mar 1931

The story, as it happened on the night and told by the young Leo below:

A dramatic story of the sinking of the ship was given a Press Association reporter today by Leo Warren, one of the two survivors.

“My dad,” he said, “was ship’s cook, and I was simply making a trip with him, helping him whenever I could.

“Last night we ran into a howling wind, and were going slowly because of a thick haze which hung over the sea.

“Suddenly, soon after nine o’clock, there wasa midhtly crash, which shook the ship as though it were a matchbox. We had stuck the rocks at Bradda Head.

“The skipper, by wonderful skill managed to get us off the rocks again, but water was pouring in through a gaping hole in the port bows.

“Everyone rushed on deck and we thought we had about five minutes to launch the small boat.

“In the darkness we could feel the ship sinking under us, and people were shouting for help! It was devilish.

“Our hopes went West altogether a few seconds later, for the ship suddently heaved and turned turtle. Then she dived and there wre horrible noises. I think she musht have blown up.

“All of us were scrambling in the water, shouting. It was so terrible! My father was gone, and so have nine other men.

Only Morrison and I got to the rocks. One of us clun on to an oar, and the other got a lifebolt. The water was freezing, and how we reached the rocks I shall never know.

“When we got there we stayed the night, hoping to see the other men come ashore, but it was hopeless and no one came. All are gone, and now the lifeboat has come back with a body.


Brada Head, Isle of Man. Source: Wikipedia, Gregory J Kingsley

Who was Mary A Warren in the 1939 register?

This is a small mystery I’ve finally untangled last few days, and I wasn’t initially going to write about it as I haven’t even mentioned the Warren line yet… but there are so many unknowns there, it may take me a while.

In brief – Edward Albert Warren was my children’s 3 times great-grandfather. He was born on 15 December 1865 in Sunderland, son of Isiah (William) Warren and Mary Ann Akehurst, and he was a mariner. Edward Albert married Elizabeth Jane White in 1888 in Sunderland, and they got divorced in 1900 as his wife has a child with another man (she subsequently married him in 1902). I still don’t know what happened to two of their children – their daughters Ruth Elizabeth Mary and Eva, as well as what happened to his wife and her two other daughters – Beatrice Mabel and Violet after 1901.

Their son Leopld Rossine Warren (b.1890) was also a mariner and married Josephine Gallagher in 1914 in Derry. Leopold and Josephine are my children’s great-great-grandparents.

Edward Albert and Elizabeht Jane’s marriage and divorce is a very sad story, and will be a topic of another post…

I know very litte about Edward Albert’s life after 1901 – he is listed as boarderer in 1911 census at St. Mark’s Street, Sunderland, and working as a ship steward. He also appears on number of ship manufests in 1919 and 1920 as a ship stewart on the ship Stanmore.

When 1939 register was released last year I found him living at 3 Trafalgan Square, which was a retirement home for seamen, and he was listed with a mystery woman – Mary A Warren, born 1893. It took me a while to find out who Mary A was! 1939_EdwardAlbertWarren

Looking at her age, she was as old as Edward Albert’s children but I couldn’t find another daughter for him under this name. Plus they were both listed married. She couldn’t have been his daughter-in-law as he only had one son Leopold, and he was already married to Josephine (living in Derry in 1939). Which left the obvious choice of Mary A being his much younger wife.

It took a bit of searching, but it was her obituary in 1954 that provided the clue, and Mary A’s maiden name – Stewart.


I’m waiting to get the original marriage certificate, but looks like Mary A Stewart and Edward Albert Warren married in 1923 in West Derby, Lancashire – she was 30, he was 58, and they were together until his death in 1941 (she died thirteen years later in 1954).

I’m still not sure why did they not marry in Sunderland as both of them were from there. This is still a part of the puzzle left to be solved (as well as finding out what happened to Edward Albert’s two daughters and the two girls his wife had)

For reference – below is the pedigree chart including Edward Albert Warren:

The SWEENY family in Derry

Catherine Sweeny (sometimes spelt Sweeney) is my husband’s 3-times great-grandmother. Catherine was born in Derry around 1839, widowed young from her first marriage (no children) and re-married again to Thomas Cooper, a tinsmith, in 1865 in Liverpool. They lived for number of years afterwards in Glasgow, and returned to Derry sometime in the period 1878-1882.

Catherine’s father was Miles Sweeny, engineer, who died in 1864, the year prior to her second marriage.


I was lucky to find Miles’ death certificate as civil records only started in 1864! Miles died in 1864 from asthma, such an unfortunate cause of death which in those days was obviously not treatable.

1864, death Miles Sweeny, 55 years old, Granny lane



Derry City Cemetery provided more clues about Catherine’s mother and siblings. I had requested information about Catherine’s grave, and they sent me a list of ALL people buried there!

Derry City Cemetery, Grave No CA170 – Proprietor JAMES HAGAN THE ROCK

 (1) Mary Hagan, The Rock Died 23/9/1867 – Aged 28yrs Parents: Miles and Anne Sweeney

(2) Joesph Sweeney, Fountain St Died 10/5/1870 Aged 1 day – Parents: Denis and Jane Sweeney

(3) Patrick Sweeney Fountain Street, Died 15/3/1871 Aged 10 days, Parents: Denis and Jane Sweeney

(4) Susan Strain, Creggan St, Died 14/6/1878 – Aged 75 yrs Parents: not listed

(5) Anne Sweeney, 2 Sloans Tce Born Raphoe Died 21/1/1881 – Aged 56yrs Parents: Miles and Anne Sweeney

(6) Miles Cooper 28 Bridge St, Born Glasgow Died 19/12/1882 – Aged 4 yrs Parents Thomas and Catherine Cooper

(7) Catherine Cooper 14 Bridge St Died 21/2/1904 – Aged 61yrs Parents: Miles and Anne Sweeney

(8) MaryAnn Sweeney, 8 Mountjoy St Died 12/10/1913 49yrs Parents: James and Mary McGlinchey

(9) Margaret Kyle, 21 The Rock Died 15/7/1917 2yrs Parents: Robert and Annie Kyle

I haven’t been able to find a birth record for Catherine as she was born too early for a civil record, and the old Catholic baptisms for Derry city don’t cover this particular year (however as we’ll see later it’s possible she was born outside Derry). According the above her mother is Anne.

While there are a number of Sweeny families in Derry, I’ve only found one Miles Sweeeny, who was an engineer, and he was married to Ann Gorman.

The cemetery record above lists few other likely siblings for Catherine.

(1) Mary Hagan, The Rock Died 23/9/1867 – Aged 28yrs Parents: Miles and Anne Sweeney

Mary (abt 1839 – 1867) seems to be Catherine’s sister, married to John Hagan who is the proprietor listed on this grave plot.

(2) and (3) – Joseph and Patrick Sweeny are the young sons of Denis and Jane Sweeny. Denis and Jane were married in 1867, Denis’ father is Miles Sweeny, an engineer.

I have not found how (4) Susan Strain is related to the family yet.

(5) Anne Sweeney, 2 Sloans Tce Born Raphoe Died 21/1/1881 – Aged 56yrs Parents: Miles and Anne Sweeney: I’m not sure if this is a sister or a sister-in-law yet, there seems to be a mistake in one of the records. The original death record states Anne was a widow, and the informant was her son Miles Sweeny. I’m undecided for now.

(6) and (7) are Catherine and her youngest son, who died age 4.

(8) MaryAnn Sweeney is the wife of Miles Sweeny (b. abt 1855) Miles Sweeny and Mary McGlinchy were married in 1882 in Derry city, Miles was an engine driver,  son of Miles Sweeny, factory manager.

Miles and MaryAnn were living in Derry in 1911 and had just moved into the area from Urbalshinny, Donegal couple of years prior. All their children apart from the youngest were born in Donegal. Miles reported he was born in Derry city in 1901 census, and Co.Donegal in 1911 census. I’ve found a baptism for Miles Sweeny 20 May 1852 at St Columb’s, Derry city and his parents were Miles Sweeny and Ann Gorman. Looks like GORMAN is the maiden name of Catherine’s mother!

There are few more children born to Ann Gorman and Miles Sweeny, and baptised in St Columb’s – Brigit (1842), Agnes (1846), Myles (1852), James (1857 – this one is a bit hard to read).

There is also a son Alexander (b abt.1836) who married Elizabeth Doherty in 1867, and marriage certificate lists him as a son of Miles Sweeny, an engine fitter.

I have traced numerous Sweeny families in Derry, and have eliminated some as likely unrelated. There are also many Sweeny families as Donegal who I’m not sure if are related to our Miles Sweeny – was he originally from Derry city,  was he from Donegal, or was he from somewhere else completely different!

I’ve included a diagram, this is still a work in progress and quite likely to be more siblings out there!Sweeny_diagram_Apr2017

PS The last little girl buried in that family plot – (9) Margaret Kyle was the daughter of Annie Sweeny, grand-daughter of Miles Sweeny and great-grand-daugher of Miles Sweeny and Ann Gorman. She died just a month before her 2nd birthday from tuberculous meningitis.

Also, the name Miles and Myles seems to have been used interchangably in the records, and same with Sweeny and Sweeney.

Catherine SWEENY and Thomas COOPER

SWEENY-COOPER chart – Click on the image for a larger size

Catherine Sweeny and Thomas Cooper are my children’s 3 times great-grandparents. They were married on 12th January 1865 in West Derby, Liverpool in St Patrick’s chapel, Toxteth park.

St. Patrick’s Chapel, image source: Wikipedia –,_Liverpool

I’m not sure when and why Thomas and Catherine had moved to Liverpool as both of were born in Derry. According to their marriage certificate Thomas was a 26 year old tinsmith, son of Thomas Cooper, blacksmith. Catherine was a 26 year old widow (Catherine had married Hugh Monaghan in 1860 in Derry) and a daughter of Miles Sweeney, who was an engineer and already diseased. Thomas was a Presbyterian, but they were married in a Catholic church and later on their children were also brought up Catholic.

1865 Marriage certificate for Catherine (Monaghan) Sweeney and Thomas Cooper

Their first daughter, Elizabeth, was born couple of months later in Liverpool, but by the summer of 1867 the family had moved to Glasgow where their other six children were born – Annie (1867), Catherine (1869), Mary (1871), Thomas Scott (1872), Rebecca (1875) and William Miles (1878).

The father Thomas worked as a tinsmith and the family lived on 42 Alston St in Glasgow. In 1871, according to the census Catherine’s sister Agnes Sweeney was also living with the family and was emplyed as “machine girl”.

The family moved back to Derry sometime between 1878 and 1882 – their youngest son William Miles was born in Glasgow in 1878 and died in Derry in 1882. (They most likely have moved back prior to 1881 as I haven’t been able to find them in the 1881 Scottish census.)


The family lived on 28 Bridge street for at least a while  (as many other family members!)  – that is the address listed at the death certificate of their son William Miles in 1882, and at the marriage of their daugher Catherine in 1889 to William McCafferty.

In 1901 Thomas and Catherine were living on Harvey Street. Their daughter Catherine and son-in-law William McCafferty were living at the same address, together with two other families.

1901 census Harvey Street, Derry

Catherine (Sweeny) Cooper died on 21 Feb 1904 at 24 Bridge Street, Derry from pneumonia, age 65.

In 1911 her husband Thomas was living with his daughter Rebecca and his son Thomas and Thomas’ wife Deboragh and their children.

1911 census, Bridge Street, Derry

Thomas Cooper (Jr) and Deborah Josephine Donaghey had married in 1906 in Derry and had thee children by the time of the census – Thomas (b. 1907), Mary Ann (b. 1908) and John (b.1910), and few more later on – Catherine (b. 1912), James (b.1913) and Henry (b. 1916)

Thomas Cooper (Sr) died in 1914 from cancer – he was 72 years old.

1914 death Thomas Cooper, 72 years

I’ll write a separate post on the parents and siblings of Thomas Cooper (Sr) and Catherine Sweeny as this one is getting too long.