The McMahon family is a truly Irish-American family. From California to Pennsylvania and Ohio to Alabama – just this one section of the McMahon family is rich in Irish and American connections. So, whether you’re in the United States trying to find your Irish roots or vice versa, then this page may be of huge assistance.
Let’s get investigating then!
And we start with me. Anthony Ross McMahon born in London in 1963. Then back to my father Peter (1937-2021) born in Donegal but lived all over Ireland – mainly the Republic – although our branch of the McMahon family is from county Monaghan in the north. There’s another branch of the McMahons down in Limerick but we are the McMahons of the ancient kingdom of Oriel. And most of the Oriel clan of the McMahons in northern Ireland today are based in county Tyrone.
Back another generation and we come to my grandfather, Felix McMahon (1908-1966) – Irish born and bred in the Tyrone town of Dungannon. It’s when we go back to my great great grandfather Peter that we hit the waves of migration to the United States. And believe me, there’s a lot of people packing their bags and crossing the Atlantic.
Whether this was a legacy of the mid-19th century famine or just a desire to build a bigger and better life – we may never know. But letters that we have in my family indicate emigrants who within a generation were doing rather well for themselves.
FELIX MCMAHON’S FATHER PETER MCMAHON
Let’s go back then to my grandfather Felix and his father Peter…
Felix’s father is a Killybracky, Tyrone boy called Peter (1867-1935) who marries a lass from Dungannon called Margaret Daly (1866-1929). Now we start to see McMahons boarding ships to the new world. Peter goes over to Pennsylvania where there is already a family presence.
Peter’s sister Mary McMahon (born 1879) also crosses the Atlantic. She becomes a nun as Sister Jesse of the Little Sisters of the Poor going to Colorado and then later Philadelphia – where there is already a big McMahon family working in the Pennsylvania coal mining industry. So when do the McMahons start going stateside?
Let’s go back yet another generation. Peter’s father Eugene Owen McMahon (1830-1902) has a sister called Anne (1813-1878) who marries a chap from Donegal called Charles Andrew Bradley (1811-1872). They go to Scotland – during the Irish famine – but then their children emigrate to the United States.
Anne’s son, Eugene Owen Bradley, is a miner who puts up other members of the McMahon family as boarders in his home, also working as miners in Pennsylvania. He has a sister called Margaret Bradley (1852-1928) who becomes a nun as Sister Pantaleon – and she writes back to the McMahons in Tyrone.
Eugene Owen Bradley and Margaret have an older brother Andrew Donal Bradley (1838-1903) who marries Matilda Nelis (1853-1914) and they run a grocery store in Philadelphia but are convicted of liquor offences in 1899. He is sentenced to five months hard labour, and she gets sent to the workhouse.
So, this is the Bradley family below minus Eugene Owen who is the youngest child. The children of my great great grandfather’s sister Anne McMahon and her brother Charles Bradley have settled down in the United States and barring a few hiccups are sinking roots.
Andrew Donal Bradley pictured on the left – turn of the 20th century. What must his sister the nun Sister Pantaleon have made of him getting sent to jail for selling hooch? Or maybe she saw it as anti-Irish discrimination.
Andrew Donal’s son Charles (1879-1936) ends up for a while in Alabama – as do other McMahon descendants.
Charles and his brother Andrew (1882-1937) – sons of Andrew Donal – end up working in the California oilfields. Andrew eventually sets up his own grocery business in Santa Monica, California. So, being a grocer must be in the family DNA.
He must have done well because he bought a property called the Thunderbird Ranch. That stays in the family until modern times.
Andrew’s daughter Margaret (1921-2005) marries a man called John Wildo Wilke (1919-1989). I’ve been in contact with the Wilke family by the way. John Wildo Wilke ends up as Mayor and Police Commissioner of Maricopa in California. He was decorated by both the US and French governments for service in World War Two.
His son was John Wildo Wilke II (1940-2020). He lived on the Thunderbird Ranch. I believe this is the ranch and it looks amazing: https://www.thunderbird-ranch.com/
So, there is a big McMahon/Bradley clan in California. Though the surnames you now find are Wilke, Kaufman and Johnson.
Charles Bradley – son of Andrew Donal – on the left with two other men. And Andrew – son of Andrew Donal – outside his grocery store in Santa Monica first decade of the 20th century.
And below is John Wildo Wilke I in the 1940s – decorated soldier and mayor of Maricopa.
Back up the family tree and Andrew Donal has a daughter called Ann Bradley (1875-1952) who marries a Scottish guy called Daniel Webster Foster (1875-1919) and they live in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. She way outlives her husband and ends up in Alabama.
According to her great-great-granddaughter, Ann Bradley shuttled between Philadelphia and Alabama trying to make her mind where to sink roots. Alabama won and now there is a whole branch of the McMahon/Bradley family down there.
Her great-great-granddaughter is called Shannon McClelland – and lives in Virginia. She has been a mine of information and we have made contact. She calls herself “the Shamrock Girl” on Ancestry.com
Ann Bradley had a daughter called Catherine (1905-1991) who married a Greek guy called Emmanuel Kromis. There is a whole Irish-Greek clan called Kromis that has included a top NASA scientist called Theodore Kromis (1926-2003).
Head back up the family tree to Anne McMahon marrying Charles Andrew Bradley. Remember she goes to Scotland, but her children emigrate to the United States. Now she has a brother called Arthur or “Art” (1828-1881). He goes to the US and sets himself up in West Virginia.
He may actually have been the first McMahon to go out there. And then his sister Anne’s children – the Bradleys – follow. It’s hard to get the timing of all this right but further research will make things clearer in the future.
Art is a miner and we know that two of his sons – William and Frank – are also miners and board with Eugene Owen Bradley in Philadelphia. Another son – Barnett or “Barney” (1860-1943) – is a miner too. One of Art’s daughters, Hannah (1855-1933), marries a man called William Gatens (1847-1893).
His family have changed their name from McGettigan to Gatens – to anglicise their surname no doubt to avoid anti-Irish sentiment.
The whole Art McMahon clan – first couple of generations below – is based in Mason City, West Virginia. Hennesy (spelt Hennosy early on), Dunn and Wick become the main surnames later as the McMahon name is married out.
So – we have two siblings of our great-great-grandfather Eugene Owen McMahon – Anne and Arthur – whose descendants settle in the US. Eugene Owen has a daughter, Mary McMahon, and as I mentioned she goes off to become a nun in Colorado and then Philadelphia. She is pictured below with her new name, Sister Jesse – of the Little Sisters of the Poor. She must have been able to tap into the existing McMahon/Bradley network out there.
Peter, my great grandfather, is Mary McMahon’s brother and at some point he leaves Ireland to train to be a miner in Philadelphia. Like his sister the nun, he can stay with cousins in Philadelphia or West Virginia. Maybe word got back to Ireland saying that the mining sector in America was the place to be. Although Peter returns to Ireland and eventually ends up as a miner in Durham, he had enough savings to buy a very nice rural property in Ireland later in his life.
Anne and Arthur – Peter’s aunt and uncle – have another brother, James (born 1824). He has a son called John (born 1854) who in the early 1880s emigrates to the United States. So this is another sibling in my great great grandfather’s generation who spawns an American line of the family.
I was able to identify James McMahon through a cousin called Bonnie Vistica whose DNA link to us became clear through the website 23andme. Her father was a McMahon. His brother and father were called John Ignatius McMahon. His father was John, and his father was James – brother of Anne and Art.
Interestingly, the older John Ignatius McMahon is registered in one United States census as living at the convent of the Sisters of the Poor in 1909 where his grandfather’s brother’s daughter was none other than Sister Jesse. What we seem to have is an extended family looking out for each other in Philadelphia – and Alabama – and other places. Even putting up a cousin in the convent!
The McMahon family name has survived strongly down this branch of the family which still has a strong presence in Philadelphia/Pennsylvania. Bonnie Vistica is the President of the M&G Drilling Company – a nod to her ancestors’ work as miners. She is based in Stockton, California.
FELIX MCMAHON’S MOTHER MARGARET DALY
Felix McMahon’s mother is Margaret Daly. And we’re sure she spent some time in the United States as a young woman. Maybe that created an affinity between her and husband Peter McMahon. Who knows? They could certainly have swapped notes.
Through 23andme, I came across a third cousin called James Brennan (born 1962) who lives in New York. Through Roots Ireland, I was able to confirm that Margaret Daly’s parents – my great-great-grandparents on that side were Dungannon based Felix Daly (1836-1888) and Anne McManus (1841-1913).
They had a daughter called Margaret Daly – my great grandmother – and she had a sister called Jane (1870-1915) who married Leitrim-born Peter Gallagher (1863-1926) and emigrated to New York. Her brother Felix (1868-1913) also moved out to New York. There are seven other siblings – nine in total – and others may also have crossed the Atlantic.
James Brennan told me his grandmother was a Gallagher and that led me to confirm via Ancestry.com that she was the daughter of Jane Daly and Peter Gallagher.
So, the parents of Jane, Felix and Margaret were confirmed by Roots Ireland, the DNA link to James Brennan from 23andme, add to that info from that cousin after being messaged and Ancestry.com churned out the evidence. Also looked up some obituary columns to double check.
Brennan and Leszcynski are the surviving surnames in that branch of the Dalys in New York. And they are still very much based in the Big Apple!
Below is my late third cousin, born and lived in New York, Colleen Brennan Leszczynski (1952-2006).
NORMA MCMENHILL’S FATHER HUGH MCENHILL
So far we have traced the American connections to my grandfather Felix McMahon. But let’s take a look at my Irish grandmother, Norma McEnhill. Because she also has some very interesting links across the big sea. Norma’s father was Hugh McEnhill and her mother was Catherine Mullan. Hugh’s parents – my great grandparents – were (rather confusingly) another Hugh McEnhill who also married a woman called Catherine – Catherine McGale.
The McEnhills and McGales are harder to find on Roots Ireland and there are gaps to be filled in the Hugh McEnhill/Catherine McGale generation of the tree.
Let’s skip past great grandfather Hugh McEnhill (1877-1956) to my great-great-grandfather….also called Hugh McEnhill.
I’m 90% convinced that Hugh McEnhill (1837-1913), grandfather of Norma McEnhill, had a sister called Mary Alice McEnhill (1846-1921) who married Neil Mullan (1841-1905).
Two daughters end up in Texas and one son in New York:
- Mary Bridget Mullan (1861-1897) marries Maurice Kane (1857-1930)
- Alice Bridget Mullan (1868-1918) marries Cornelius Cotter (1867-1928)
- Patrick Mullan Sr (1878-1954) marries Catherine Healy (1880-1953)
Mary Bridget and Alice Bridget ended up in Texas. And on 23andme – I have two living fourth cousins called Kane in Texas and three fourth cousins called Cotter, also in Texas. That would have to be a remarkable coincidence and would still need explaining. The DNA doesn’t lie.
Alice Bridget, by the way, died of TB at Saint Mary’s Sanatorium in Kendall, Texas in 1918. Two of her grandsons – both born and bred in Galveston, Texas, are typical 20th century all-American guys! So below are our third cousins once removed – Glenn Arlen Cotter (1935-2003) on the left and Wayne Alton Cotter (1931-1999) on the right.
Mary Bridget and Maurice Kane have a daughter called Mary Jane Kane Butterowe (1883-1969), taking her husband’s surname as well as her own. She is one formidable cookie.
Pictured on the left.
Her husband is elected Commissioner of Galveston, Texas but when he dies in 1950, she is sworn in to serve the rest of his term.
Going back to Hugh McEnhill senior – husband of Catherine McGale – it’s unlikely he only had one sister. So, there’s a lot of potential for other McEnhills to have ended up in the United States or elsewhere.
With regards to Catherine McGale – her family tree is still a bit messy and there’s been some confusing guesswork by other people on Ancestry.com that’s best avoided.
This is what I think is the picture in terms of siblings of Catherine McGale whose children emigrated:
- James McGale (years unknown). I’ve made a connection on 23andme that suggests a DNA connection to a brother of Catherine McGale by this name. His son Patrick goes to Ohio and there’s a whole load of descendants in Ohio but the main surnames now are Hetric, Steele and Miller
- Sgt Major John Joseph McGale (British Army) sees some of his children go to Michigan, New York and Canada
Then coming down a generation closer to me, we have the children of Hugh McEnhill senior and Catherine McGale. That includes Hugh, my great grandfather. He has two brothers who emigrate and stay in the United States.
Francis McEnhill (1872-1909) and William McEnhill (1863-1943). We know lots about both of them. Francis marries into a military family in New York state and becomes a lieutenant in the US Cavalry fighting in the Philippines and Cuba during the Spanish American war. He dies quite young in 1909.
William on the left with wife Katherine Gilshenen (born 1875) and daughter Rosemary (1898-1989). And Francis with cavalry uniform on the right (1872-1909).
William is a school superintendent living in New Jersey. This was at a time when there was a power struggle between the Chicago education chief and school superintendents which William got involved in because there were allegations of anti-Irish sentiment from the education chief. That man was forced to resign.
Francis has no children. William has a daughter who marries a man called Paul Revere Burke and these are the descendants – one who has been in contact with me. They are all based around New Jersey and Connecticut.
A sister of William and Francis – Mary Anne McEnhill (1868-1951) very likely joined them in the United States at one point but then came back to Ireland. That seems to happen quite a bit.
Below is the family tree from Rosemary McEnhill, daughter of William McEnhill and Katherine Gilshenen.
William McEnhill’s Irish Republican activities reported in The Yonkers Herald, 3 October 1927.
Above: 2 September 1902 report of Lieutenant Francis McEnhill’s society wedding.
NORMA MCENHILL’S MOTHER CATHERINE MULLAN
In my grandmother’s address book – which I think dates from the 1940s – I noticed a name: Edward Shortt. This turned out to be the husband of her mother’s sister Dorothy Mullan – known as “Delia” (1882-1984).
He was a grocer from Connecticut (which my grandmother abbreviated as Conn.) who visited Tyrone to see his family who were called McGuirk. They had anglicised their name to Shortt on the journey across the Atlantic.
Amazingly, Delia lived to be over 100 years of age – newspaper story below. And she died in what can only be described as a purpose-built retirement city. It’s called Sun City, Arizona.
When Edward Shortt had to fill in his draft card for the call-up in World War One – he had to use his real McGuirk surname. But subsequent generations are called Shortt.
The grandson of Edward Shortt, Boston-based Peter Mayer (born 1936), reached out to me and I met him and his partner in London when they came over to see the musical Hamilton. They very kindly bought me a ticket and we went to see it together (pictured below). He also met my late father via Zoom – and the resemblance between them proves our family has a ‘Mullan’ look – especially in the face and hands.
Amusingly, Peter Mayer told me that Edward Shortt and Delia Mullan were a very crotchety pair – often seemed like they hated each other’s guts. But the marriage endured. She never returned to Tyrone – spending three quarters of the 20th century in the United States.
In October 1887, there is a ship passenger list for one Kate Mullan bound for New York from Liverpool. Ancestry.com keeps pushing this hint at me. That suggests that my great grandmother Catherine Mullan (1868-1933) went out there aged 19.
Maybe things didn’t work out and she returns to marry Hugh McEnhill, our great grandfather in 1907 aged 39 – which is very late to marry in those days. Her first child, Francis, dies shortly after birth but she then has Norma, Hugh and Peter.
Above you can see the whole Mullan/Shortt connection explained. Researching the American connection has also proven that my great-great grandparents were James Mullan (1830-1916) and Mary Connor (1842-1904) – confirmed on Roots Ireland.
In every branch of the family – McMahon, Daly, McEnhill, McGale and Mullan – we see siblings and parents leaving for the United States. We have cousins all over the United States from California to New York and Ohio to Texas.
And they’re not impossible to meet!