Mary Kate Coyle
The earliest ancestor recalled by the Mt. Pleasant Kearneys' family tradition is Mary Kate Kearney, born Mary Kate Coyle, sometime around the turn of the 19th Century in Shercock, Co. Cavan. She was the only member of her generation whose name was handed down--whether because she was exceptionally beloved or a memorable character is not known. It's possible that the Kearneys' connection to the relatively well-off Coyle family was considered worth remembering.
Coyle, a not uncommon surname in Co. Cavan, derives from the Irish name Mac Giolla Chomgaill, or "Son of the Devotee of St. Comhghal"-- Comhghal (pronounced Cowal) being a two-fisted priest of the 7th Century who founded Bangor Abbey, at one time the largest monastery in Ireland. (Comhghal also accompanied the better-known St. Columba on his trip to Scotland to convert the Picts and confront the Loch Ness Monster.) The same name is sometimes anglicized as MacIlhoyle or MacCool.
The Coyles are originally from Donegal (where they gave their name to a town called Ballymacool), but a branch of the clan was living in the Shercock area as early as the 18th Century, if not the 17th, as evidenced by a tombstone found in Old Killan Churchyard. The stone reads:
IHS/Memento Mori/God be merciful to the soul of James Coyle died March yr AD 1771 aged 103 and his wife Margaret Coyle who died May 16 1740 aged 50 yrs Erected by her son Pat' Coyle of Glesleck near Killan
If James Coyle was really 103 in 1771--a claim that should be taken with a grain of salt--than he would have been born about 1667. Margaret's year of birth would be roughly 1690. Therefore Patrick Coyle would have most likely been born about 1710 or 1720. It's likely that all three were ancestors of Mary Kate Coyle, born about 1800; the best guess is that this Patrick was Mary Kate's great-grandfather.
According to the available records, the Coyles seem to have been somewhat more prosperous than most of their neighbors in the Shercock area. The Tithe Applotment Books show an Owen Coyle Sr., an Owen Coyle Jr. and a Patrick Coyle all living in 1825 in the townland of Lex--the home of the Kearneys, according to Brian Carney’s gravestone. But the only Kearney household listed in Lex in 1825 was that of "Widow Carney"--Mary Kate Coyle, whose husband James had died two years earlier. One imagines the young widow felt lucky to have so much extended family living nearby.
She is listed as living on 12 acres of land; under English law, even though she was Catholic, she owed an annual tithe of 11 shillings to the Protestant Church of Ireland. (Ironically, much of what we know about people of this generation is the result of a tax that they must have bitterly resented.)
Mary Kate had at least one son, Bernard, who was born about 1821. Following the custom, Bernard would have been named after his grandfather, Brian, who died the same year Bernard was born. When Brian was born, Cavan was still in transition from Irish-speaking to English-speaking; by the time Bernard arrived on the scene, names that sounded too Irish were out of fashion. Bernard's generation, however, began something of an Irish revival, returning, for example, to more "traditional" spellings of names (like Kearney instead of Carney, or Murtagh instead of Murtha). Family tradition recalls that he was nicknamed Barney; whether or not he enjoyed being known as Barney Kearney is not known.
Mary Kate is not listed in Griffith's Valuation of 1857, but that does not necessarily mean she was dead by then; Griffith's only lists heads of households, and she might have been living by then with her son Bernard. She seems to have died before 1864, when civil records of deaths began to be kept; but it’s tempting to think that she lived long enough to make some impression on her grandsons who later emigrated to America.
This page was created by James Kearney Naureckas. Please email him with
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