This week’s writing prompt is Timeline. I have decided to write about my 3rd great-grandparents Michael Nestor and Catherine Hanberry of Gort, Galway, Ireland. In my research they appear to be non-existent in church and census records in Ireland! Below explains why finding your ancestors in records in Ireland prior to 1901 is so difficult.
There are very few records that survive from this area of Galway during this time. They did try to reconstruct the 1851 Irish Census in 1919/1920 but in my family’s case, no one was living in Ireland to submit the information, and many had died. He appears in the Irish Petty Court Registers for Gort and Derreen, and a Catherine Nestor also appears in Gort court records numerous times. Although we know Catherine most likely died in the 1870’s in Ireland, but we don’t know for sure, she could have died in the 1860’s or even prior to 1860, her death record has not been found. Her husband Michael Nestor immigrated to the USA after 1870 and before 1880 and possibly shortly after her death and is found living with their married daughter Catherine Mary “Kate’ Nestor Mullen Fahy (Fay) in the 1880 US Census.
Michael Nestor was born about 1814 in or near Gort, Galway, Ireland, and died 6 February 1894 in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky. He was the son of Michael Nestor and Bridget _____.
In Ireland, the surname Nestor was derived as a shortened form of Mac Girr an Adhastair, meaning son of the short man of the bridle. It was sometimes shortened to Mac an Adhastair. The surname Nestor is most common in Counties Galway and Clare.
He was the oldest and had several known siblings including:
- John Nestor born about 1819 in Gort, Galway, Ireland.
- Mary Nestor born about 1825 in County Galway, Ireland. She married Timothy Glynn. I have DNA matches to their descendants.
- Patrick Nestor born 1827 in Gort, Galway, Ireland, and died 17 June 1899 in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He married Mary Ann McCarthy. I have DNA matches to their descendants.
- Honora/Honoria Nestor born about 1829 in County Galway, Ireland and died in Derrybrien, Loughrea, Galway, Ireland. She married John Gilchreest, and they lived in Caherlavine, Loughrea, Galway, Ireland. I have Gilchreest DNA matches in Ireland from this line.
- James Jacob Nestor born 1831 in Gort, Galway, Ireland, and died 10 August 1890 in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania. He married/1 to Catherine Duignan and married/2 to Catherine Grimes. I have DNA matches to their descendants.
I also have DNA matches to the descendants of his aunt Ellen Nestor who married John Shaughnessy and immigrated to Troy, Rensselaer County, New York, and his uncle Patrick “Paddy” Nestor who married Ellen___ and some of their descendants went to England.
Catherine Hanberry was born about 1820 in Gort/Derreen (Kilbeacanty), Galway, Ireland. The surname Hanberry/Hansberry is not a common surname in Ireland. There are only two pockets where the name is found, in south Galway (and just over into County Clare) and an area of County Mayo. The surname Hanberry/Hansberry is derived from the old Gaelic personal name Ainmhire, meaning freedom from levity or madness.
The names of Catherine’s parents are unknown, but we do know that her mother’s maiden name was Glynn.
Catherine was also the oldest and had several known siblings including:
- Michael Hansberry born 1825 in Gort, Galway, Ireland, and died 10 March 1867 in Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama. He married Mary Ann Hanlon. I have DNA matches to their descendants.
- Peter Hansberry born about 1826 in Derreen, Gort, Galway, Ireland, and died in Pennsylvania. He married Margaret Donnady/Dormady. I have DNA matches to their descendants.
- Julia Hansberry born about 1829 in Gort, Galway, Ireland, and died 5 March 1869 in Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama. She married Martin Hanlon (he and Mary Ann Hanlon were siblings). I have DNA matches to their descendants.
- Thomas Hanberry born 1832 in Tubber, Galway, Ireland, and died 16 February 1910 in Corrofin, County Clare, Ireland. He married Catherine Walsh.
- Patrick Hanberry born about 1835 in Derreen, Kilbeacanty, Galway, Ireland, and died in County Galway. He married B. Monaghan.
- Bridget Hanberry born in Derreen, Gort, Galway, Ireland and died young in Derreen, Kilbeacanty, Galway, Ireland.
I also have DNA matches to the descendants of her uncle Michael Hansberry who married Mary Shaughnessy.
Known children born to Michael Nestor and Catherine Hanberry/Hansberry:
- Thomas Nestor born about 1835 in Gort, Galway, Ireland. He may be the same Thomas Nestor that marries Bridget Potter and later moves to Hillsbrook, Galway and dies sometime after the 1911 Irish Census where he is found living in Hillsbrook.
- Michael Nestor born 1836 in Gort, Galway, Ireland and died 28 April 1869 in Emmetsburg, Palo Alto County, Iowa. He married 15 July 1861 in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania to Mary Joynt, as her first husband. Mary Joynt was the daughter of David Patrick Joynt and Bridget Ann McDermott. I am related to both Michael Nestor and his wife Mary Joynt. He is my 2nd great-grand uncle, and she is my 1st cousin, 4x removed. I have DNA matches to their descendants, as well as to the descendants from Mary Joynt Nestor and her second husband Edward “Ned” Murphy.
- John Nestor born about 1837 in Beagh Parish, Galway, Ireland and died December 1923 in Tuam, Galway, Ireland.
- Jeremiah “Jerry” Nestor born about 1839 in County Galway, Ireland. He married Anne Carroll. I have DNA matches to their descendants, but I have a double connection. His great-granddaughter Eileen Frances Connelly immigrated to the USA from Ireland. and married 29 November 1934 in New York City, New York to Michael Moylan. Michael Moylan was from Gort and was a Fahey/Fahy relation. He and my grandmother were 3rd cousins.
- Catherine Mary “Kate” Nestor born 10 January 1840 in Gort, Galway, Ireland, and died 8 June 1902 in Ottumwa, Wapello, Iowa. She states on census records that she came to the U.S. at age 16 in 1856. She is believed to have married briefly to ____ Mullen who died, which would explain her name being listed as Mullen. I have found no DNA connection to the name Mullen/Mullens. She marries 17 December 1858 in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky to Daniel Wolfetone “Dan” Fahey/Fahy (Fay). Her name is listed as Catherine Mullen in the marriage license. (My direct ancestors).
- Bridget Nestor born in Gort, Galway, Ireland.
- Patrick Nestor born in Gort, Galway, Ireland.
So, what were the Petty Sessions Courts?
The Petty Sessions were the lowest courts within Ireland’s judicial system up to the early 20th century. They dealt with the minor cases and were presided over by unpaid Justices of the Peace who were usually local landowners or dignitaries. These judges could make summary judgements on cases and there was no jury. The Sessions were convened daily, weekly or monthly, depending on the volume of cases. The cases heard at the Petty Sessions courts generally included minor law-breaking such as public disorder or drunkenness, poaching and other minor larceny, straying animals, and also complaints by individuals about non-payment of debts, boundary disputes, quality of purchased goods, and minor assaults. – From the Illustrated London News. The more serious cases were referred to ‘Quarter Sessions’ where a jury would hear the case.
I find Michael Nestor in the Petty Session Courts records for in and around Gort, Galway, Ireland.
The first place I find him is in 1858. The actual court record is not available to view. The court is in Derreen in Beagh parish close to Gort. He is the Defendant, and the trail date is 16 September 1858. Unfortunately, nothing more is known about this case. But it would be a minor case as described in the definition of The Petty Sessions.
His wife Catherine Hanberry/Hansberry was from Derreen in Beagh parish which is near Gort, so it is not surprising he is found in the Derreen court.
Below you will see the next Petty Session Court register he appears in. It is from 18 February 1865 and in the Petty Session court in Gort.
The Complainant is S.C. James Driver. He appears in three entries for this day. He appears to be a Constable. From what I can find the S. C. probably meant Special Constable. Michael Nestor is the Defendant and is listed “of Gort”. The charges are the same for all three entries where S. C. James Driver is the Complainant. The charges are for allowing his cart _____ to be an obstruction on the public road at Gort on 14th February 1865. The other two Defendants in the other cases are John Fahey of Gort and John Hynes of Gort, same charges on the same date.
He may be the Michael Nestor who applied for a dog license in Gort.
Accounting for his age and that he immigrated to the USA in the 1870’s I believe those are the only two entries for my Michael Nestor in the Petty Sessions Court.
There are several entries for a Catherine Nestor. Usually, she is appearing as a witness in cases before the Petty Sessions Court and as a Complainant and Defendant only a few times. She is in the Gort records from 1855 to 1874. I do not find a Catherine Nestor in the court records after 1874. I cannot be sure she is my Catherine Hanberry Nestor, but it’s quite possible.
What I do know is that Michael Nestor is left a widower prior to the 1880 U.S. Census. He is found in the town of Aroma in Kankakee County, Illinois. He is the living with his daughter married daughter Catherine Fay and six of her children. He is listed as Michael Nester. Her husband Daniel “Dan” Fahey/Fahy (Fay) is not in the census with them and is thought to be out of town working.
In 1860, Daniel and Catherine are living in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky. In the 1860 US Census they are listed as Daniel Fahy and Catherine Fahy with their eight-month-old son Thomas Fahy. Also living with them is a Michael Doyle aged 29 and born in Ireland. Daniel and Michael are both listed as laborers. Who was Michael Doyle? I do not know what connection he had to them. A family member? A friend? A co-worker of Daniel? A border?
He may be the Michael D. Doyle buried in the Saint John Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky with a birth year of 1829 and died 7 May 1890.
He may instead be the Michael Doyle born June 1832 in Ireland and is found in the 1900 US Census for Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky. Living with his wife Ellen born July 1840 in Ireland, and their 2 sons; J. Thomas Doyle and J. Michael Doyle. Ellen’s maiden name is given is Nevil and Mooney in later records. But the son’s list their place of birth as Ireland in this census and future records. And the whole family lists their year of immigration as 1888. So, this is most likely not the same Michael Doyle that was living with my ancestors in 1860.
In 1870, Daniel and Catherine are found living in the city of Chicago. In the 1870 US Census they are living in the 18th ward of the city of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois. They are listed as Daniel and Catherine Fay. Dan listed his occupation as a Tanner. Living with them are three of their children and a John Ward aged 15 born in Pennsylvania working as a laborer, and a Daniel Donovan aged 5 and born in Kentucky.
I do have some connections via marriage to the surname Ward in Gort, via intermarriage with my Fahey related O’Donnell cousins, but I don’t see a direct connection to the John Ward found in the census with them.
I have been unable to locate John Ward or Daniel Donovan in any other records. Was Daniel Donovan a relation? He was born in Kentucky and at only age 5 he must have been related to them or possibly to the 15-year-old John Ward.
Michael Nestor is not found living with his daughter until 1880. He dies before the 1900 US Census. He died in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky on 6 February 1894.
Sources for Nestor and Hanberry surname information and the Petty Sessions Court definition:
- Nestor Surname meaning – Wikipedia.org
- Nestor Surname. The Surnames of Ireland, Edward MacLysaght, Dublin, 1978.
- Hanberry/Hansberry Surname – houseofnames.com
- Great insights from Petty sources – the Petty Session Court Records, Jim Ryan April 26, 2020. ancestornetwork.ie
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