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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Catherine M. O'Brien (Kate Flanagan) - Part 1

Catherine M. O’Brien was born in May 1843 near Castleconnell, County Limerick, Ireland, probably. The May 1843 date and Castleconnell location might actually be her baptismal information. The O’Brien name is prevalent in the area around Castleconnell and in County Limerick. As you can imagine, I have had a difficult time tracing Catherine “Kate” O’Brien’s true origins. It doesn’t help that O’Brien is a pretty common Irish surname.

In 1854, Edmond and Anne (Gleeson/Gleason) O’Brien packed up the family and immigrated to Melbourne, Australia. They were probably escaping the potato crop failure and famine. My understanding is that the west coast of Ireland was heavily impacted by famine more so than the east coast. I often wonder and joke about whether or not Edmond was sent to Australia to a penal colony with the family following after. I have no idea if that is the case. I have found a few Edmond O’Brien’s that were convicts. At least one was sent to Australia around 1851-52. Could this be my ancestor and what did he do to deserve a seven year sentence? I do not have any idea. I don’t suppose my ancestor was that interesting but you never know.

Kate met Patrick Flanagan in Australia sometime in the 1860s. He wrote to her from the various mining sites that he traveled to including locations in New Zealand. Near the end of that decade Kate and Patrick decided to immigrate to California. Patrick’s brother Michael Flanagan followed them shortly after.

Patrick and Kate married at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, California on August 15, 1870. By late 1870 or early 1871, Patrick and Kate were living in Napa, California. They purchased property in Napa County (see my blog about the Flanagan Ranch) to farm grapes. Eight children were born between the year of 1871 and 1885. They were Agnes, Edward, Ignatius, John “Jack”, Mary, Richard, Louis, and Leo.

I often wonder what Kate was like. Rumor has it that her sister-in-law, Nicholas’ (Patrick’s brother) wife, was not exactly fond of Kate. Apparently once Nicholas and his family moved away from Napa to Corning, California, all was much more civil between the two sister-in-laws. Enter a daughter-in-law who did not think too highly of Kate. Mary “Minnie” Elizabeth McLaughlin married Jack Flanagan on September 1, 1904. They had five children. Kate and Minnie apparently had their differences but it sounds like they saw each other quite often. Minnie and Jack lived in Napa proper while Kate, now a widow, lived out on the ranch outside of town.

I have one picture of Kate with Minnie’s and Jack’s five children. She looks like she is smiling with an appearance of joy for her grandchildren. Kate passed away in 1928 at the age of 85, in Napa. I suppose we all have our moments. Maybe Kate’s life was tough and that's just what shown through. I do look forward to discovering a little more information about her and my O’Brien Family Line.

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