It all started with curiousity... well, that and a very bad memory due to multiple brain injuries.
I knew my mother had died in August 1990, but August 2006 came around and I realized I didn't know the actual date and wasn't sure how to find out. So I did what I usually do -- a google search.
Lo and behold there was a link to Rootsweb's listing of California death records, and I found the date. But then I started to wonder -- what else could I find?
I looked up my grandparents and found their death records. I looked up my great grand aunt and uncle and found theirs. And then at some point I clicked on an ancestry.com button.
There were so many more options! You had to register to see most records, but they offer free trial memberships. I signed right up. And that was it. I was hooked.
I'm an only child. My mother was one of 2. I only met my father once and knew next to nothing about his family but that he was adopted by a step-father. My maternal grandparents had never talked much about their families. I knew I had a page of notes I'd taken after asking my great-grandmother about her family 15 years ago, but I wasn't sure where (we moved and most papers are still boxed in storage). I remembered something about my grandmother's parents or grandparents being cousins. I knew on Grampa's side two sisters married two brothers (although I misremembered it as 2 sets of twins!), but I had no idea who the sisters or brothers were. I knew Grampa's uncle built Brennan's in Berkeley and his cousins ran it, but I wasn't sure I'd ever met them except at Grampa's funeral. There was only my uncle to ask, but he didn't know a whole lot about the Brennans either. But now maybe I could find more out...
I found quite a lot very quickly about my maternal grandmother's family, the Rehkers and Olberdings; her sister Lucille had researched the family for many years and there were all sorts of trees and links to explore.
My grandfather's side was much, much harder. His father died when I was wee, and Grampa didn't talk much about the family. All I could remember was that "two sisters married two brothers", that his father had been the oldest of many children and had determined he would have one and only one child, and that there had been a falling out in the family because my great great grandfather left his house and property to my great grand aunt Mary, who had lived at home and taken care of him, instead of selling it and splitting up the proceeds between all the children. My great grandfather, the eldest child, had supported his sister Mary, while several other siblings had not. I grew up with Mary and Red just up the street from my grandparents. I am sure I met Elizabeth Wade, as we went to eat at Brennans often when I was growing up, but it's another thing I can't remember. So I didn't really know much about my family at all.
As I searched I found bits here and there -- census records and birth and death records. And it started to seem like there were a lot more Brennans in Berkeley and nearby than I'd ever had any idea of! And then the big find -- a message from another Berkeley Brennan on a message board! I got in touch with John Brennan the beginning of September 2006, and found out not only is he my 3rd cousin once removed, but he's been working on the family genealogy for many years. My great-great-grandfather and his great-grandfather were two of the three Brennan brothers who came down from Canada and settled in Berkeley, California.
John graciously shared his research with me. And he knew SO MUCH! He shared information and stories and pictures and I was delighted. Pa Ed came alive for me, and so did his father, Edward Joseph, and his uncles James and John.
But the trail stopped when they arrived in California. John knew they came from the Owen Sound area of Ontario, but had not been able to find any relatives.
John shared with me that several Brennans were buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in Oakland. The beginning of October I found the Tombstone Transcription Project, State of California and discovered more Brennans than we'd known about. Going by a mix of birth, death, census, and burial records I realized that while I had heard that 2 brothers married 2 sisters, and John had heard 3 brothers married 3 sisters, that it looks like 2 brothers married 3 sisters; Edward Joseph married Josephine Curtis, while his brother John married Anne Curtis and after her death married Theresa Curtis, having at least 3 children with each wife. Then another link -- a woman on the message boards had found a biography of a William H. Brennan in a history of Montana. William H. settled in Montana; his father was one of the original settlers in the the Owen Sound area. William had also spent several years in the San Francisco Bay Area. The biography listed his parents names and ages as well as his siblings. That gave me more names to research.
And then I really hit paydirt. A Patrick and Mary Ann Brennan in Holland Township on the 1851 census, with sons John and James the right ages -- and more kids! And probable brothers in the neighboring farms, including James, William H's father. Surrounded by the Brennans on both sides were Michael and Betsy O'Mara and widowed Mary Jordan. My Mary Ann's last name was Jordan, and some of Betsy's children's marriage records listed her as Elizabeth Jordan.
A confounding point is that I thought our Brennans were from County Roscommon, but the families in Holland Tp are from County Carlow.
During the same months I wrote to a gentleman in Northern California and discovered he's my grandfather's cousin. I also made contact with a Brennan gentleman in Owen Sound. A different branch of the Brennans, but still a Brennan. Pieces and more pieces.
And so a website, to keep track of all the Brennan pieces I've found and to hopefully find more.
P.S. I do want to note that while I have verified what I can, much of the information here is unproved, and some is only supposition. The Brennans in Holland Tp could be cousins rather than siblings, or a mixture of both, for instance. I have attached records where I have them, and made notes about guesses. There is also information here from other sources that I have not checked yet. This site is very much a work in progress. If you see an error or know something that is missing, I would be glad to hear of it. My email is chris at brennan-families.com.
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