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The following article was written by Ray Fazakas,
author of 'The Donnelly Album' and 'In Search Of The Donnellys'.
This article has been posted in reponse to the question:
Are there any DONNELLY descendants today?



Survival of the DONNELLY Name of the Roman Line
By: Ray Fazakas

   As we shook hands, I was struck by the smoothly silken quality of the old man's white skin, and the thought raced through my mind, "Tom Donnelly's skin must have been just like that." Tom Donnelly, after all, was his uncle.

   At 88, John Donnelly, whose hand I grasped, was more than twice my age at the time, but seemed still in vigorous good health. His full name was John William Donnelly -- his wife of over 50 years called him 'Jack' -- and he was the only surviving son of the infamous Clubfoot Bill Donnelly. More significantly, he was the last member of that family of the Roman Line of Biddulph to bear that now famous surname. Because of the many who claim to be related, I am writing this little note to dispel some misconceptions about the descendants of James and Johannah Donnelly.

   We chatted about his family on that memorable morning in Detroit in July of 1971. "I've got a lot of cousins back in Canada," he said. "They were raised up around Glencoe. My Aunt Jenny married a man from that neighbourhood and they had a big family."

   Jane Donnelly -- her family called her Janey, hence Jenny -- married James Currie from the Glencoe area, and they raised a family of twelve children in a farmhouse in Ekfrid Township outside the town of Glencoe in the southwestern part of Middlesex County in Ontario. Their children were: Robert, James, Johannah, John, Catherine, Margaret, Mary, Anna, Michael, Jane, Clara and Patrick. Patrick was the last of Jenny's children to survive into the present day for he died in 1994. Years before, I had met him in Chatham, Ontario where he had raised his own large family. I also met his brother, Michael, then living in the old farmhouse outside Glencoe where his mother had spent most of her life, and where she had died in 1916.

   Jack Donnelly also talked about the male cousin closest to him in age, James Michael Donnelly. The latter was the son of Michael Donnelly, and a mere babe in arms when his father was killed in Slaght's Hotel in Waterford in 1879. James Michael Donnelly, usually called 'Young Jim', was raised by his uncle Robert, but often spent time with his aunt Jenny in Glencoe and his uncle William in nearby Appin. He would also visit his uncle Pat in Thorold.

   Young Jim died in 1938, unmarried, leaving the bulk of his estate (including the old Donnelly homestead on the Roman Line) to his sister, Catherine (Kate) Donnelly, the only other child of Michael Donnelly. Soon after, Catherine sold the old homestead to the Harrigans. Catherine Donnelly had married Fred Crossman in San Francisco and spent the remainder of her life in that city. The Crossmans had no children.

   Michael Donnelly's widow, Ellen (Nellie) Hines, eventually married Harry Clarke, and went with her husband to Toledo, Ohio, and then to Cleveland, where they raised a family of six children. When I contacted them, they were surprised to learn of their mother's connection to the Donnelly story, being under the impression that their mother's first husband had died in a railroad accident. The Clarke children, half-siblings to Jim and Kate, were: Helen, Sarah, Dora, Harry Francis, Ignatius Thomas, and Albert James.

   Jack Donnelly, of Detroit, did not know about his distant family connections in Ohio as they were not blood-related. And while he remembered his own father quite well, he could not have known his grandfather, James Donnelly, Sr. "No, I didn't know my grandfather," he told me, "but they say I looked like him." His grandfather had married Judith Magee in Ireland in 1840.

   Incidentally, the names Johannah, Judith and Julia were used interchangeably by the nineteenth century Irish Catholics. Mrs. Donnelly was known in everyday life as 'Judith' or 'Julia' -- more familiarly as 'Judy' -- and she maintained the name 'Johannah' for more formal occasions. This can be proven by the written record.

   Jim and Judith's oldest child was James Donnelly, Jr., who was born in Ireland in 1841, and died in Biddulph in 1877. While he had never married, I have heard gossip of his having had a child or children born out of wedlock. If such child or children existed, they would not have borne the surname Donnelly in any event.

   Jim and Judith's second son, William Donnelly, married Hanora Kennedy, and their first child, James, died shortly after birth. Their other children were Jo-Anna, Hanora, and John William. The last-mentioned, with whom I began this little note, died in 1973 in Detroit. Although he had been married for over fifty years to his wife, Effie, they died childless. Two years after her husband's death, his widow made the trip from Detroit to my home in Hamilton, and there re-confirmed many details of her late husband's family.

   John Donnelly, the third son of James and Judth, died with them on the early morning of February 4, 1880. John Donnelly had married Frances (Fanny) Derham, and lived with her for only a few short years before separating. They had no children.

   I had known for years that Fanny had remarried shortly after John's death, but only recently learned of her later life when contacted by her grandchild and great grandchildren in the United States. Again, they were astonished to learn of Fanny's other life in connection with the Donnellys. Shortly after the Donnelly massacre in 1880, she married a young tinsmith in St. Thomas, Ontario, named Harry John Heard. They went to live in Michigan where they raised a family of seven children.

   In 1871, Jim and Judith's fourth son, Patrick, married nineteen-year-old Mary Ryan. Two years later, however, she died. The death occurred possibly in childbirth, and the child itself did not survive. Patrick spent the rest of his life in the Niagara area, in Thorold and St. Catharines, where he married another Mary who bore him three girls and two boys. Their children were: Jenny, Annie, Mary (Mayme), John and Matthew. I came to know Annie's two boys, Bob and Tom. Tom has seven sons of his own. Patrick Donnelly's son, John, died unmarried in 1945. Patrick's other son, Matthew, did take a wife, but the marriage lasted only for a brief period, and he, too, died childless.

  I have already dealt with Jim and Judith's fifth son, Michael Donnelly. Their sixth son, Robert Donnelly, married Annie, a sister of James Currie of the Glencoe area. Robert Donnelly and Annie Currie had one child who died at a very early age. They had no other children.

  Jim and Judith's last child, Thomas, never married. He is reported, however, on fairly good authority, (C.M. McFie), a sometime member of the Ontario legislature from the Glencoe-Appin area) to have had a son born out of wedlock to a young woman who had come to work in Biddulph from Ekfrid Township. This son, who would not have carried the surname Donnelly, is reported by the same authority to have been raised by his mother in Ekfrid north of Glencoe. He is said to have died in his later teens from the kick in the abdomen by a horse. To date, however, I have been unable to substantiate any part of this story.

   In summary, then, the only grandsons of James and Johannah Donnelly who bore the surname DONNELLY, and grew to adulthood were James (1879-1938, son of Michael, who died unmarried), and the two sons of Patrick, namely, John and Matthew. The last two also died unmarried or childless in 1945 and 1968 respectively. This left their cousin, John William, or Jack (born 1883 to William). When he died childless in Detroit in 1973, the name DONNELLY of the Roman Line of Biddulph, died out.

                                                                                                         ... Ray Fazakas


If you're interested in contacting Ray Fazakas concerning the
above article, you can e-mail him at: ray.fazakas@gmail.com


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