GROWING the IRISH IMMIGRANT TREE | Martin Dolan (1870-1926)

Stylized tree graphicI am luckier than most in nailing down origins for Irish immigrant ancestors, but not all of them. I have quietly uttered impolite words on reading, “born in Ireland,” on a new-found record.

My great-grandfather, Thomas Francis Dolan’s was born in County Roscommon, Ireland, [1] but with parents, John and Ann, and the common surname, DOLAN, I may never learn my Dolan ancestral townland. However, discovering Thomas had a brother who came to him in Boston, let me add another branch to the family tree.

I’m slightly embarrassed tell you that my great-granduncle, Martin Dolan, was right there all along but, laser-focused on my direct line (Thomas), rendered Martin invisible! He was listed on the page with Thomas, on Jewett Street in Jamaica Plain (Boston, MA) in 1893 [2] and 1894 [3]. Both men were also employed as plasterers. The identity-clincher was Martin’s 1895 marriage record that gave parents’ names, John and Ann Dolan, matching up with Thomas. [4]

Also, I should have been quicker to suspect the “Mortimer Dolan” who witnessed Thomas & Bridget Dolan’s marriage (1890), was actually, Martin! Note: This reaffirms the value of the FAN Club (Friends, Associates, Neighbors) approach to the ancestor hunt.

Becoming an American

Martin disembarked in Boston on April 14,1886, when he was 16 years old. His elder brother had arrived there in 1874, when he was only eleven. Thomas had a dozen years of Boston living experience. Martin had lived five years longer than his brother in the land of his birth.

Was Thomas was at the dock to meet Martin? Was there communication between Roscommon and Boston? Did Thomas expect his brother, or did Martin find his own way through a strange city to his brother’s door? At this remove, there is no way to know.

At any rate, Thomas proved himself a good brother. He provided Martin a place to live and helped him learn a skilled trade (plaster work), rather than having to take one of the dangerous, back-breaking and lowest-paid jobs that countless Irish laborers were forced to take. Thomas became a citizen of the United States in 1887 and guided Martin through the process finalized in 1893. [2]

As Roman Catholics, Thomas and Martin would have certainly attended Sunday Mass at the parish church. They might have attended church events to socialize. The young bachelors were certainly interested in meeting nice, unmarried, Catholic girls.

Thomas found his lady first, a later immigrant arrival named Bridget Dolan. (Yes, she had the same surname as Thomas, and was born in County Roscommon, too!) As mentioned above, at their marriage in St. Thomas Aquinas Church (1890), Martin stood up for his older brother. It also appears he stayed on, living and, probably, working with his brother. Bridget kept house, did laundry, cooked meals, and gave birth to two children in the five years before Martin found a wife and became a householder himself.

The Brothers’ Paths Diverge

Thomas Dolan made but two big moves in his adult life. He left the plastering trade when he was hired by the City of Boston in 1906, and stayed until his retirement. [5] And Thomas relocated his family just once, leaving Jewett Street (Jamaica Plain) for a house on Brown Avenue, (Roxbury) where he lived until his death. By contrast, Martin Dolan continued to work as a plasterer until 1916. [6] However, he had eight residential addresses between the years 1895 and 1920, that’s a lot of instability for a family.

Martin Dolan married Rose Duffy, at the Church of the Assumption in Brookline, Massachusetts. [7] They embarked on married life, as couples still do, confident that love and faith, woould see them through. Ten months later, Martin and Rose added a new leaf to the family tree; this was Mary Ann (1896), followed by Helen (1898), Anna Teresa (1900) and Edward James (1903) who all grew to adulthood. In 1906, a tiny girl, named Rose, for her mother, failed to thrive and died at six weeks.

Such a tragedy would be hard on any family at any time, but during these years, Martin had moved Rose and the children, a number of times. The anchoring parish church changed, too. The two eldest daughters were baptized in Our Lady of Perpetual Help. In 1900 through 1903, they were attending All Saints. The infant Rose was baptized at St. Francis de Sales (1906).

Evidence of crisis at home is revealed by the 1910 US census, in which Martin absent and Rose Dolan enumerated as head of household and married 16 years. To support herself and the four children, Rose worked as a laundress, at the time, difficult and backbreaking labor. [8] Where Martin was in 1910 and what he was doing with himself remains unknown.

For the 1920 US census, Martin was back as head of household. He was listed as 47 years old and working, not as a plasterer, but as a shipper for a drug factory and Rose was back to keeping house for Martin and three of their four surviving children: Mary (23 and married), Edward (16) and Annie (19). [9] Helen Dolan wed in 1918 and was living with her spouse, John Hannon. [10]

In May 1926, Martin Dolan died at 56 years of age. He had some problems that were swallowed up by the passage of time. But he was blessed to see each of his children married. Martin rests in Mount Benedict Cemetery, in the plot the family obtained for their infant daughter, Rose, 20 years before. [11]


That might have been the end of my tale, but for my reluctance to omit the fate of Martin’s widow. Rose (Duffy) Dolan stayed in the rented apartment she shared with Martin on Webber Street, Roxbury; it may have been the same place she and the children were living in 1910. In 1948, her children were busy raising families and Rose, now in her seventies, was living alone. After having weathered a stint as mother and breadwinner, living through the first world war, the influenza pandemic, the Great Depression, and the second world war, The Boston Traveler of November 13, 1948, reported:

Hub Woman, 77, Critically Burned

Mrs. Rose Dolan, 77, of Webber street, Roxbury, was critically burned this noon when flames from a flooded kitchen oil range ignited her clothing.
Her Grandson-in-law, William Estano, 21, of Hampden street, Roxbury, received burns on the arms and hands as he came to her rescue and smothered the flames.
Mrs. Dolan lives alone in her third floor flat and Estano and his wife Helen, 20, were assisting the aged woman with her housework when the accident occurred. Mrs. Dolan was taken to City Hospital by police and her name was placed on the danger list. She received third degree burns. Estano was treated at the hospital and released.

Rose died of her injuries two days later. She joined Martin and little Rose in eternal sleep at Mount Benedict.

Rose’s heroic grandson, William Estano, (spouse of her granddaughter, Helen Hannon), recovered. He lived to survive his wife Helen’s passing in 1988. Not only that, he learned to love again, in his 60s, before he went to his own rest at the age of 81.

iCeltic Shamrock symbol


[1]; Massachusetts, Petitions and Records of Naturalizations, 1906-1929; National Archives at Boston; Waltham, Massachusetts; ARC Title: Copies of Petitions and Records of Naturalization in New England Courts, 1939 – ca. 1942; NAI Number: 4752894; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: RG 85: Petitions, V 148, 1887-1888.

[2]; National Archives at Boston; Waltham, Massachusetts; ARC Title: Petitions and Records of Naturalization , 8/1845 – 12/1911; NAI Number: 3000057; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21: Naturalization Records, No 235-40 to 239-102, 26 Nov 1892 – 27 Sept 1893.

[3]; U.S. City Directories; Boston, Massachusetts, City Directory, 1894.

[4]; Massachusetts, U.S., Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988; Boston, Massachusetts; Out of Town Marriages, 1893-1895.

[5]; Massachusetts Newspapers, 1704-1974; The Boston Post (Boston, MA); Friday, June 7, 1935; Page 7 of 32: City Retires 13 Employees.

[6] FamilySearch; “Massachusetts, Boston Tax Records, 1822-1918”, ( : 23 August 2021), Martin Dolan, 1916.

[7]; Massachusetts, U.S., Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988. Marriage Place: Boston, Massachusetts; Title: Out of Town Marriages, 1893-1895.

[8] FamilySearch; 1910 United States Federal Census; Roll: T624_620; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 1508; FHL microfilm: 1374633.

[9]; 1920 United States Federal Census; Roll: T625_735; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 330.

[10] FamilySearch; “Massachusetts Marriages, 1841-1915,” Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States, State Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 828,894.

[11] Boston Catholic Cemetery Association;

The Hero Without a Face

Last October, I was a little bit startled to see a message from the Austin, Texas Police Department sitting in my email queue. Once I’d confirmed that none of my kin had gotten themselves into trouble, I realized the inquiry belonged to the opposite end of human behaviors, – it was the search for a hero.  A senior patrol officer wrote,

“Our very first officer to die while serving, was a Cornelius Fahey on March 3rd, 1875.  The only information we really have on him was that he immigrated to the states from Cork Ireland. …He would have been 35 years old at the time of his death.

“I was hoping you knew of the Faheys in Cork and might be able to help. We would love to be able to dig up a picture of Officer Fahey in order to commemorate his service for our city.”

Monument placed at the grave site of Cornelius Fahey in 1997.

This image was contributed by lcommando67 at

Right out of the gate, I knew my Cornelius Fahey was no match. My same-named ancestor was born half a century before 1840, and his only known child in America was from County Galway, not County Cork.  However, like any of the tribe called to genealogy, my pulse quickened and my keyboard fingers itched to discover something that might help the resourceful investigating officer.

It took seconds to pull up a Find-a-Grave record for Officer Fahey. Buried in Oakwood Cemetery, he had a wife and family, and name of the contributor was “C. Fahey,” – possibly a living descendant!  What gave me pause was learning that Cornelius met his untimely end at the hands of a “whiskey-crazed” man named Mark Tine. Transcribed at the website is a lengthy account of the incident from the March 9, 1875 Austin Daily Statesman. Here’s an excerpt:

“On last Sunday night between 12 and 1 o’clock another of those events which come under the head of desperadoism, and which so long have been the curse of this State, occurred in this city. The repose of our own citizens was disturbed by what appeared to be a regular pitched battle, and the sharp peals of six-shooters, and the flashes of fire, smoke and deadly missiles they belched forth, the clattering of horses, feet upon the hard street as the demon incarnate was borne away, all tended to frighten and excite women and children and men as they rushed from their beds to the windows, doors and streets.

” Strange thoughts and forebodings were uppermost in the minds of all, and the general inquiry was- what is the matter? The question was soon answered, for there upon the sidewalk was policeman Fahey shot through the abdomen, and other policemen were following after the assassin who, on horseback, was taking flight up the Avenue shooting at every one who would dare to hail him.”

Holy moley. Contemporary relations of my Cornelius Fahey lived lives less colorful (think soot gray), and much less violent in Lowell, Massachusetts, a city built, literally, to industrial order. Its mills signaled the day’s beginning, the mid-day meal, and quitting time. Lowell’s police department formed in 1830, but no officer was lost to gunfire until 1957. Cornelius Fahey of Austin, Texas lived in a different world, yet his immigrant experience fits a pattern.

As the most despised newcomer group of the 19th century, many Irish men won respect and citizenship through military service during the Civil War (1861-1865). In later years, they began to fill public service jobs, until the Irish cop with the lilting brogue became an American icon.

Records show in March  1866, Cornelius Fahey signed on with Company D of the US 6th Regiment of Cavalry for a three-year hitch, – interestingly, at Boston, Massachusetts. The regiment established its headquarters in Austin and became part of Fifth Military District of Texas. Its mission was to supervise civil authorities in applying federal law, which included pursuing Native Americans and outlaws. These bits from official reports show Private Fahey in the thick of it.

  • February 7th 1867. Austin—Corporal Thomas Casey—Co M 6th US Cavalry—gunshot wound of the abdomen; admitted from camp to regimental field hospital; died February 8, 1867.
  • February 9th 1867. Austin—Pvt Michael O’Callaghan—Co D 6th US Cavalry—shot by a citizen—admitted to hospital February 10; died February 11, 1867.
  • October 1867. … with troops of 6th Cavalry 45 men and 22 Indians. Encounter with Comanche; 3 Indians killed, 1 captured. 19 horses/1 mule/2 revolvers recovered. Remains of 5 citizens killed by Indians buried. 
  • November 8th to 12th 1867. 6th Cavalry from Buffalo Springs, Texas. Troops from the 6th Cavalry 1 officer/25 men and 1 citizen. Passed through Montague and Clay Counties; traveled 120 miles to operate against Comanche.
  • March 7th to 10th 1868. Troops from 6th Cavalry {Co D} 13 men and 7 citizens. Passed through Collins, Hunt, and Grayson Counties. Traveled against Lee’s band of thieves & outlaws in Read Creek Swamp, Collins County. “Indians killed, 2; prisoners, 5 (men)”.
  • April 1 1868. Austin─Private William Burke, Co. B, 6th Calvary, aged 21 years, received a wound to the abdomen from a conoidal bullet. Admitted to hospital and died same day.

Horrific traumas, rendered in spare language, convey a lack of humanity sadly not unique to by-gone times. However, cold and steely-eyed men might still be moved to tenderness.  On April 2, 1868, Cornelius Fahey’s name appeared on a district official statement distributed to the Austin Republican, to Flake’s Bulletin (Galveston), the Army and Navy Journal, and  Richmond, Virginia’s New Nation. Titled a “resolution,” it is clearly an expression of deeply felt grief.

“…our friend and companion William Burk (sic)…most foully murdered in cold blood and without any apparent provocation… we most deeply deplore his untimely end. As a firm friend and companion…and by his uniform kindness and genial disposition has caused his memory to be respected by all who knew him…”

Cornelius re-enlisted at Austin on April 9, 1869 and was discharged, for reasons unknown, on November 30, 1870 at San Antonio. I found him next in the Galveston Tri-Weekly News of Monday, June 19, 1871  among appointments made by Chief of Police, Colonel Hobbs, to the police force.

 Was it during this six months break between soldiering and policing that Cornelius Fahey married?

Had he come to love the harsh terrain of Texas as well as the green island of his birth?

 Did he envision a future Austin where he and a family might prosper?

Signs were there. In 1871, Austin became the westernmost link of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. Trade and construction boomed. Gas street lamps appeared in 1874 and the first streetcar line began operating in 1875. But it was March that very year, a bullet fired by a drunken desperado killed Cornelius Fahey at the age of 35. Thus, his name entered into history.

What touches me most deeply about this tale, is the brotherhood of police officers whose enduring respect launched an effort to put a face to the names of all its fallen comrades. I am sad that I could not help.

We cannot know whether Officer Fahey ever had a photograph made in his lifetime. If he had, time and the elements may have taken their toll. If an image survived, who could identify it with certainty? I hope that descendants, or a local historian may yet be able to help.

In the absence of an image, we might sketch Cornelius Fahey in the mind’s eye. Army enlistment records put his height at 5 feet and 9 1/2 inches. He had brown eyes and dark hair. Odd for an Irishman, his complexion was noted as dark. — I imagine the Cork native’s fair skin burnished by the Texan sun.

Please visit the Austin Police Department Officers’ Memorial website where you can read modest and moving salutes to all of Austin’s brave officers lost from 1875 to 2012.