Thomas Michael Brown's mother's line
The Keegan Family -- coopers and curriers
We have traced the Keegan family back to Daniel Keegan, a cooper (barrel maker), born between 1755-1770 in Ireland. The Daniel name wasn't very common with only about six or seven Daniel Keegans living in Ireland in his time. The closest record I've found is a Daniel Keegan who died in 1865 in Mullingar, Westmeath, Ireland -- at the age of 109! Daniel-1 Keegan, the cooper, had at least two children born in Ireland, Jeremiah and Daniel-2 Keegan, our direct ancestor.
Daniel-2 Keegan emigrated to England some time before he turned 30 in 1823. On his daughter's birth record, Daniel-2's occupation was listed as leather stainer and on her wedding record, his occupation was listed as a currier (someone who tanned leather by incorporating oil or grease).
The Keegans in 1841...
In 1841 Daniel-2 Keegan 50 and his Irish-born wife, Mary Daley 40, lived on Glass House Street, Whitechapel Saint Mary's
in the Tower Hamlet area of southeast London, where five of their six children were born. glasshouseSt.txt Only our direct ancestor Annie Keegan Brown, the youngest Keegan, was born elsewhere in Maidenhead, Kent. Jeremiah Keegan 41, who we presume was Daniel-2's brother, worked as a cigar maker along with his two nephews, William and Daniel-3.
Daniel-2 Keegan 50
Mary Keegan 40
Jeremiah Keegan 41
William Keegan 18
Daniel Keegan 15
Catherine Keegan 10
Elizabeth (Betsy) Keegan 8
Michael Keegan 4
In the early 1840s, the family moved east to nearby Kent County: probably Maidstone first, then later to Gravesend. (Gravesend is east of central London, at the mouth of the Thames River.) On March 17, 1845, the oldest, William Keegan, married Margaret McCarthy in Saint Mary's RC?? church in Whitechapel, Middlesex. After that event, we lose track of Annie Keegan's three older siblings (William, Daniel-3 and Catherine). They either died, changed their name by marriage or moved to Ireland or America. We do know either William or Daniel-3 died young, because a niece named Emma Keegan was living with Michael Keegan in 1871.
The only Keegan relative showing up in the 1851 census is Betsy Keegan who was a servant at the Custom Inspector's house in Gravesend. Later she became a hotel cook. Betsy married Benjamin Pitt in April, 1867, and he died barely a year later. Of Annie Keegan Brown's five siblings, Betsy was the most important to the Brown family, since she lived with the family all the time our grandfather, Thomas M Brown, was growing up. Annie Keegan's father, Daniel-2 Keegan died before 1861, very likely in 1857 in Gravesend, and we believe her mother Mary died in the early 1870s.
The Keegans in 1861...
The 1861 England Census, (three years before she married John Brown), is the earliest record we have of Annie Keegan. At 16 years old, she was living at 5 Chapel lane in Gravesend with her widowed mother Mary and her 19-year-old brother Michael. Mary Keegan was a laundress, age 60 and born in Ireland. Annie Keegan's older sister, Elizabeth Keegan 23, was working nearby as a cook at a Gravesend hotel. I can't find a birth record for Annie Keegan; her birthplace in 1861 was listed as "Maidstone, Kent, England." Annie and Brother Michael (born Whitechapel, Middlesex, England) were dealers in rags and bones (i.e. junk dealers). Although the rag dealer gig doesn't sound very prosperous, Michael was still pursuing that occupation in the 1871 census when he was living near Gravesend in Dartford with his Irish-born wife Ellen and his 9-year-old niece Emma Keegan.
The mysterious origins of John Brown…
We have not traced the Brown family back very far, and unless DNA helps us, we probably never will learn his origins. We only know his father, who was also a Mariner named John, died before 1865. (source his wedding registration in 1865). He listed many different England birthplaces on English Census records, ("Stepney, Middlesex" in 1871 and "London" in 1881), probably couldn't keep his story straight since he was really born in (Cork?) Ireland. Nor do we know his exact day or year of birth; best guess is late in 1841. The 1861 England Census is the earliest record we have of John Brown, and there are two right-aged seamen John Browns who were sailing out of Gravesend.
Nor do we even know John Brown's last name.
Patsy is sure Brown was not the real name. When Thomas M Brown died, his sisters wrote asking us if he ever told us the real family name; their father had never told them. Speculations on his birth name have included MacNamara. Personally, I think Occam's Razor: his name WAS Brown. And he may simply have claimed English birth to receive better Merchant Navy assignments. See the caption of the Cork Harbor map for my latest favorite theories.
Nor do we know why he fled Ireland. The family story is that he promised to serve in the Navy in the place of some rich young man, took the money, came to London and lived under the fake name of Brown.
In another family story, John Brown supposedly was one of the Fabian Socialists in Dublin along with George Bernard Shaw, so he was in trouble for his socialist activism. Although it's my favorite story, I am sad to report that it can't be true. (I'm surprised no one has ever done the math on this before.) The Fabian Socialist Society was founded in Dublin in January 1884 -- when John Brown was 43 years old. Since before age 21, he'd been going out to sea from Gravesend, England, often to far away places like the West Indies. In his off time, he had an asthmatic wife at home with five children the last born that very year of 1843. Also, he would certainly have steered clear of Dublin where he was a wanted man or at least personna non gratis.
John + Annie. 1865 & 1866 in Gravesend
John Brown & Annie Keegan were married January 7, 1865 in St John's Chapel, a Catholic Church in Gravesend, Kent, England, where both Annie and John were living at the time: John Brown on Edwin Street and Annie at 5 Chapel lane. John's age was 23; Annie was 19. In late 1866, John & Annie's first child, John J. "Jack" Brown, was born.
By the 1871 Census, the John Brown-Annie Keegan family has moved. They live at 31 Thomas St, Woolwich, Kent. This is in eastern London, south of the Thames River. This district, Woolwich Arsenal, was then a munitions factory and storage armory and is today the stadium of the famous English soccer team the Arsenal. John Brown, occupation: mariner, was 30. Annie Keegan Brown was 25, Jack Brown was 4. Elizabeth Pitt, 34, hotel cook and Annie's widowed sister was there as a visitor. At some point, they had a baby girl, Elizabeth Anne Brown, who died at 18 months old. I think it was during this period and that she fell out the window. I remember Aunt Annie telling a story like that. Nobody else remembers this story.
The John Brown-Annie Keegan family lived at 4 Whitworth Place, Woolwich, London, Plumstead, West district. Per Ursula, Annie Keegan had asthma and was ill for many years before she died in 1891, possibly why her sister lived there. Except for Jack, all the children's birthplaces were Woolwich, Kent.
John Brown, mariner, was 41.
Annie Keegan Brown was 36.
Jack Brown was 14.
William Brown was 9.
Thomas Michael Brown, our grandfather was 7.
Annie Brown (later Annie Brown Kelly) was 2.
Elizabeth Pitt , (wife's sister, widow, domestic help), was 45.
The family still lived on Whitworth Place, but now they
lived at 7 Whitworth Place and sister Elizabeth Pitt lived at #8 Whitworth
Place, Woolwich, London, district of Plumstead, West. The town then was called
West India Dock London.
The 1891 Census taken on night of April 5,1891, just six
days before Annie Keegan Brown died on April 11, 1891. Neither John Brown nor
son William were listed; we know, from John's letters, that they were both at sea.
Annie (Keegan) Brown was 47.
John (Jack) Brown was 24. He was single, a metal worker.
Thomas Brown was 17. His occupation was carpenter.
Annie Brown (later Annie Brown Kelly) was 12.
Emma Brown was 7.
Elizabeth Pitt (sister, cook, domestic) was 58.
Faster communication needed
In John's July, 1891 letter to his wife, he obviously did not yet know she had
died three months earlier! How ironic that he missed her death while on a mission to speed up global communications by laying the Trans-Atlantic cable. He served on many cable ships for the last ___ years of his life. I think it was just very hard work, and he was getting too old to pull his weight.
John's letter dated July 4, 1891 begins "My dear wife, I hope you are better than when I last saw you…"
What irony. His wife Annie Keegan had died almost three months earlier. We can't even imagine such painfully slow communication in a family emergency. Double irony. John Brown was [absent in the cause of] [improving international communication] away because he was part of changing all that. Since about , he'd been serving on cable ships laying the Transatlantic cable. Just a year later and he would have received a telegram that his wife had died. laying the vable tha would soon make a telegram possible]
After the mother's 1891 death…
The family had been devout Irish Catholics. Upon the death of 17-year-old Thomas Michael's mother Annie Keegan Brown, the priest refused to bury her in holy ground unless they paid a lot of money. Influenced by that experience, Thomas later became an Anglican. I recently visited the cemetery where Annie Keegan Brown was buried in Plumstead Cemetery,
Section A, grave number 989. So few headstones were numbered that we couldn't figure out the numbering system. I photographed both possibles; neither one had a headstone. Bill (William Mathew) Brown, her second son, was buried with her when he died in 1932. According to John's letters and family stories, he was n'er do well sailor and a drinker who never married. He did visit our family in Canada.
After their mother's death, the two girls Annie 12 and Emma 7 were sent to a convent school in France (probably Alsace) run by the Ursuline nuns. (This inspired both our grandfather and his sister to name a daughter after the Anglo Saxon saint, Saint Ursula.) Emma was a POW during World War II, I guess because of her British citizenship. After graduating, Annie returned to England and married Frank Kelly; later the Kellys trained horses in Belgium until they had to flee during World War II, leaving the horses behind for the Germans.
By the time their Mother died, the three sons had already been apprenticed and were accepted into their trades: Jack a seaman and metalworker, Bill a seaman, and Thomas Brown was already a carpenter when his mother died, and nine years later, he married our grandmother Annie Chaplin in West Ham, London. In the 1901 England Census, Thomas Brown 27 and Annie Chaplin Brown 20 (and her 6-yr-old sister Florrie Chaplin) lived at 12 Lower Wood St, Woolwich, London County.
John Brown, mariner… goes down on the ship
sad final chapter of John Brown, mariner…
John Brown, father of Thomas Michael, had always been a mariner and, by this time, had worked his way up to being a sea captain. When he couldn't get another English ship (because of his age or bad times), he lived in France. All he could get was the captaincy of the cable-laying crew with a transatlantic cable company. While on a cable laying voyage, he caught pneumonia and died May 23, 1897 in the French Possession, St. Pierre Island, off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
Our Irish grandfather
Thomas Michael Brown (1873-1947)
Everyone always talks about Thomas Michael Brown being Irish, but he never set foot in Ireland. Supposedly both his parents were born and raised in Ireland. His father's origins are murky, but certainly happened in Ireland. We now learn that, although both her parents were born and raised in Ireland, Annie Keegan spent her entire life in England. Still, Thomas must have considered himself Irish; he wrote on his 1932 US Citizenship petition that his citizenship was England, but for race, he put "Irish." Perhaps their Catholic religion made his family stand out as Irish in a Protestant country.
Thomas Michael was born September 13, 1873 in Woolwich, London, England -- the third child (and third son) of Annie Keegan and John Brown's six children. He was a short man; at age 59 he was 5'4", weighing 130 lbs. with blue eyes and brown hair. From the age of 13 or 14, he apprenticed at the trade of carpenter and was a carpenter journeyman (a craftsman who had fully learned his trade and earned money) by age 17 when his mother died. According to his father's letter of 1896, "he has turned out very clever at his trade which makes it easy for him to get work." Another letter mentions that he is doing very well and earning good money in Lewisham, a town just south of London. Because his father and two brothers were usually at sea, he became mostly responsible for his two younger sisters and provided some or most of their financial support.
Early 1900s in Woolwich, England
Thomas married Annie Chaplin.
We don't know how he met his wife, but apparently he did not get on well with her father, Victor E Chaplin, who by our family stories was a tyrant. (Perhaps because Tom's family was Catholic? or Irish?) On July 31st, 1900, Tom (26) and Annie Chaplin (19) ran off to get married in Walthamstow, Essex. (We don't know the church, because I didn't buy the record.) He was raised as a devout Catholic, but soured on that faith in 1891 when the priest wouldn't bury his mother in holy ground unless they paid alot of money. (Much later, while in St Catherines, he built the Anglican mission there.)
In the 1901 England Census, Thomas Brown 27 & Annie Chaplin Brown 20 were living at 12 Lower Wood St, Woolwich, London County along with six-year-old Florrie Chaplin, the second youngest of Annie Chaplin's eight siblings. (Over time, the county boundaries and names were changed, but the neighborhood names, like Woolwich and Plumstead, stayed correct. Whether the county record said Kent/Middlesex/Surrey/London, today they're all in south and southeast London.)
In August of 1903, the family lived at 21 Burrage Rd in Plumstead when Annie and Tom were baptized at St. Paul Anglican church in Plumstead. In March of 1905, the family lived at 90 Reidhaven Road in Plumstead when Katie was baptized at the same church. I could not find baptismal records for John or George, the last two Browns born in England.
Anne Funk said her father did not want to leave England. Around 1909/1910, they were doing well: They had a ___(house?) and had a piano. He seemed to be close with his brothers and sisters, although they did not live nearby. We believe Jack lived in Plymouth, Bill was usually at sea, Emma was in France, and Annie was in Belgium then or soon after then. His father-in-law, Victor E Chaplin, was the one who insisted his whole family move to Canada and paid the Brown family's passage in 1910. At that time, Canadians were British citizens, so a decision to move there was easily reversible. In hindsight, they may have been happier and more prosperous if they'd stayed in England. Even though Thomas Brown was a carpenter and Victor Chaplin was a contractor (bricks), he never worked for his father-in-law.
Ursula described Sister Ann's and her 1971 London trip. Annie could remember the house, and she went to Woolwich to find it. Sadly, everything in Woolwich had been bombed out during WW II. They believed all the records were destroyed, but I've found quite a few, probably thanks to the Mormons. No surpise that Woolwich would have been target number one, with all the munitions and military build-up there at the Woolwich Arsenal. On my 2011 trip, we had lunch at the Arsenal, which has been converted into a chic and excellent restaurant.
1911 in Toronto
In the Toronto, Canada 1911 census, the Thomas Brown family was living at 396 Jones Ave, Ward 1, Toronto East. (Father Victor Chaplin, the Hollingsworths and the Catlings were then all living at 107 Walnut, Ward 5, Toronto South.) The census form listed the Browns' religion as Presbyterian. Thomas worked in house building as a carpenter. He was an employee, working 44 hours a week for 37 cents an hour = about $856 annually.
Thomas Brown 37 born England Sep, 1873
Annie Brown 29 born England Nov, 1881
Annie Brown 9 born England Feb, 1902
Thomas Brown 7 born England Aug, 1903
Katie May Brown 6 born England May, 1905
John Brown 4 born England Feb, 1907
George Brown 2 born England Mar, 1909
Edith (Emma)Brown 5 days old born Ontario
At some time, Thomas M found work in St Catherines, while his family stayed behind in Toronto. Anne Funk told how he arrived back home one Christmas, carrying a trunk of presents, which he proceeded to give, one by one, to each of the other children. Then the trunk was empty, and Annie was so disappointed! Her father said: "Annie, the trunk is your present. Here's the key, so you can lock up your things." (She was the oldest, so her siblings always took what few possessions she had.)
Some time before June 26, 1919 when Vera was born, his wife and children joined him in St Catherines. We don't know whether Victor was born in Toronto or St Catherines. Note: They are probably in the Canadian Census of 1921, but that won't be released to the public until 2013.
Over the border to the USA
Help needed here--missing many details.
Before the others, Brother Tom came over to the US in the early 1920's to work as the millwright at the International Paper Mill in North Tonawanda. Father Thomas Michael worked in St Catherines for the International Paper Mill. After the company moved to N. Tonawanda, he entered the US on Sept 18, 1923, at the Niagara Falls bridge. (Pat McGinis speculates that he just wanted to live in a different country from Victor Chaplin.) His wife wouldn't come over the border right away, but she moved the kids to Port Dalhousie (Ursula says for a year) before entering the US. Mother Annie Brown entered the US on April 20, 1928 along with Emma, Victor, Vera and Ursula. Although John came with them, his immigration was not recorded making him an illegal alien until the 1960s. At some point, sisters Annie and Katie came over with their future husbands. In Oct 1934, George was still residing in Canada.
1930 in Tonawanda, NY
In 1930 US Census, Thomas Michael Brown's family was renting an apartment at 287 Adam St in Tonawanda. 23 people lived at that house number. (287 Adam is very near Kohler St, the side further from the River, between Franklin & Kohler.) Ursula said they lived over the A&P. Katie & Jim Barrett had an apartment. Grandma had an apartment. Vera and Ursula slept in the clothes press. They rented a room to a girl named Madelyn who worked at a chocolate sponge factory; when Grandma learned she was seeing a married man, she kicked Madelyn out even though they needed the money.
Thomas M Brown 55
Annie Brown 50
Ann B Brown 28
Emma M Brown 18
Victor W Brown 15
Vera M Brown 10
Ursula V Brown 6
In Buffalo on Nov. 18, 1932, Thomas M. became a naturalized American citizen at age 59. At that time, the family lived at 177 Frederika St., N Tonawanda. Rod & someone else said they lived on Phaser St (sp?) at some point.
His final address was 127 East Felton Street, NT. Dickens was his favorite author.
Thomas M. was in a Union at the paper mill, but in those days, unions were less pushy. When the depression started, they had a meeting and asked the men to choose whether to lay off half the men or go to working 3 days a week. Every single man voted to go to working fewer days.
During the Depression, he worked for the WPA digging ditches for $15 a week. Ursula tells how he sent her to the store to get kerosene for the stove, but he called it the British/Canadian name of "coal oil". Not understanding, the storekeeper gave her gasoline. Thomas M put the gasoline on the heater and was so badly burned that he couldn't work. (Another version is that Thomas M got pneumonia so he couldn't work.) In any case, he couldn't work, so they begged the WPA to have Victor take his place; Victor was only 14.
Per Vera, one Halloween two of her brothers tipped the family outhouse over with their father inside and the door facing down. Poor Thomas M. had to crawl out the seat hole, then through the rest. Very possibly this happened just before the Christmas when Victor got coal in his stocking!
In retirement, Thomas M. spent his mornings sharpening people's saws, knives and scissors in his garage. Then, in the late morning, he would walk down to the Blue Danube on Oliver Street. He would return home in the late afternoon, often at the same time Patrick Brown walked home from school. The Blue Danube (later called Tommy Thomas's) was the closest bar to East Felton Street, and they all knew and loved him there. They would often buy him beers and get him to sing old Irish ditties including "I Owe Ten Dollars to O'Grady." Patrick Brown remembers him there on May 8,1945 celebrating the Germans' surrender with Uncle Vic, Patrick, Patrick's brother and others.
On December 28, 1947, Thomas Michael Brown died at 74 years old. Someone said the COD was TB. Alcohol definitely played a role in his health problems. Aunt Annie couldn't take care of him at home; He died in a home in Buffalo.
His Tonawanda News obituary said he "died after a short illness. Born in England, he had resided in North Tonawanda for the past 25 years. He was an employee of the International Paper Company here for 23 years."
He is buried in Elmlawn with his wife and (I believe) all his children, except thankfully, Ursula.
Thomas Michael Brown's parents:
John Brown (1842-1897) & Annie Keegan (1844-1891)
The Clann MacAodhagain (Egan, Keegan and McKeegan) is an Irish Clan centred on Redwood Castle in Tipperary.
In 2011, we visited Gravesend Cemetery where Daniel Kegine was buried January 26, 1857 aged 75 years. Pretty bleak. As the photo shows, it just looks like empty ground, because he was buried in a common grave, meaning there are other unrelated people buried there. (A mass pauper's grave, I guess.) FYI, it's grave 325, section A-11. We can't be sure this is our Daniel Keegan, because the name is spelled differently, and the 1782 birthdate is off 9 years from the 1841 census. Still, I think it's him, because Daniel Keegan was a rare name in England and even in Ireland. Plus he died in Gravesend, where his widow and children lived in 1861.
John Brown & Annie Keegan were married January 7, 1865 here in St John's Chapel, a Roman Catholic Church in Gravesend, England, where they both lived at the time.
The church looks much the same today.
Here are John Brown's parents in Ireland. The man was named John and a mariner who died before 1865. But that information, learned from his son and Annie Keegan's wedding certificate, is all we know for sure. (Note: Ursula swears these are Thomas Michael Brown's Irish fraternal grandparents, but there is a little doubt.)
Maybe a brush with history...
On April 7th 1861, the night of the 1861 England Census, there was a seaman named John Brown aboard a Gravesend vessel named the Trent. The Trent was heading out to sea from Holyhead in Wales. On November 8th 1861 near Cuba, the Royal Mail Steamship Trent was forcibly boarded by a Yankee warship which fired two shots over the Trent's bow and removed two Confederate liasons to England. "The Trent Affair" almost started a new war with England during the US Civil War. Was our relative on board during this huge international incident? That's a definite maybe.
IF, and it's a big IF, John Brown's original name was Brown. In that case, the closest record I've found is a John Browne baptized July 30, 1842 in the Saints Peter & Paul RC church in city center of Cork. Father & mother were John Browne & Margaret Donovan. Sponsor was Mary Donovan.
At the bottom of this map, you can see Crosshaven, the village in the Cork Harbor where I think John Brown came from.
Annie Keegan with her children. Photo date estimated at 1879. Thomas Michael Brown 6, Annie
Brown Kelly 10 mos, Mother 35, and Bill 8 . The oldest,
Jack, age 13, was already an apprentice seaman, at sea with his father, John Brown.
Sailing ships in the South West India Docks circa 1880
A memory card from Annie Keegan's funeral.
She is buried with her unsuccessful son Bill Brown.
This Burmuda stamp commemorates the Centenary of the Transatlantic Cable laying between Burmuda and Nova Scotia in 1890. Per his letters, John Brown served on the Cable Ship SSWestmeath in 1891 (and probably 1990 also). Cable work done by the Westmeath in 1991: Paramaribo - Cayenne, French Guiana, Cayenne - Vizen, Brazil, Mole St Nicholas - Port au Prince, Haiti, Fort de France Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, and Guadeloupe The Saints Island
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St. Pierre Island, a French Possession, where John Brown
died of pneumonia on May 23, 1897.
The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich in mid-1800s
In 1902. Thomas Michael Brown with three Annies: Annie Brown Funk, Annie Chaplin and his sister, Annie Brown Kelly.
Tom & Annie Brown's family in 1909, just before leaving England. Children: George, Tom, Katie, Annie, John.
On April 1, 1910, Thomas & Annie Brown with their five children arrived in St John, New Brunswick on the
Empress of Britain above. Then they took the train to Toronto.
The Canadian Pacific Railway then offered complete trans-Atlantic packages: the train trip to Liverpool, the voyage across the Atlantic, and train fare to your Canadian destination. The ocean portion for 2nd-class passengers was $45 to $60. It's a good bet that Victor Chaplin bought the packages, as he was paying the passage for his nine children, some with families. Here's an account of an identical liner sinking in the St Lawrence Seaway in 1914.
The four Brown brothers, taken circa 1927.
Tom, John, George and Victor Brown.
Brother Tom was the first to come from Canada to work in the USA. In the mid 1920's, he opened this stand near River Road in N Tonawanda. Shown in the photo are Victor E Chaplin, Thomas Frank Brown, his father Thomas M., Annie Chaplin Brown, Little Ursula, and John Brown behind the counter.
The five Brown sisters, on Fredericka Street circa 1931.
Their mother gave each of them the middle name of a flower. Vera Myrtle, Emma Marguerite, Ursula Viola, Katie May and Annie Violet.
Thomas M. & Annie Chaplin Brown, circa 1940.
Tom & Annie Brown's oldest six grandchildren at Jim's grammar school graduation in 1941: Patricia Funk McGinis, Phyllis Brown Rooney, Jimmy Barrett, Tom Brown, John Barrett, Patrick Brown.
Both Victor and George served in Europe during World War II. While there, they spent time with their father's sisters, Emma Brown and Annie Kelly. Victor was sent home early because of his bleeding ulcer. (Stomach problems were the common Brown malady.) George was a truck mechanic in France during the Battle of the Bulge; he rose from Private to Sargeant. Shown here with sister Anne Funk and Eddy Funk.
At the Blue Danube pub, Thomas M Brown was often heard singing "I Owe Ten Dollars to O'Grady." After his death, his sons always sang it towards the end of Christmas parties.