A Kiwi in search of her ancestral tribes


If you think we may be related, or would like any information about the families and places mentioned in this blog, please contact me! I’d love to hear from you. You can send me a message using the form below, or alternatively post a comment here using the form at the bottom of the page.

Comments or questions are welcome.

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  1. John Wootton

    Congratulations on all the effort you have put into your family history. I so enjoyed reading it all. I am currently trying to find out some background on my Maternal Grandfather, John Brosnahan. My Grandfather was born in Meelin, Cork Ireland, in either 1985 or 1986; I don’t have a birth certificate; my Grandparent’s Marriage Certificate and my Mother’s Birth Certificate have different ages at date of Marriage.
    My Grandfather’s father is listed on my Grandparent’s Marriage Certificate as William Brosnahan with the occupation, Farmer and his Mother is listed as Ellen with her maiden name Goggin.

    My Grandparent’s marriage certificate listed a Mark Brosnahan, Miner, Westport, as a Witness. I have no idea who he is or whether indeed he was a relative; probably was.

    Again well done on your very scholarly piece of history.

  2. Chris Brosnahan

    John Brosnahan was my great grandfather and his son Michael was my grandfather. Michael married Katherine Goggin. Their only child was Charles my father. I am going to the Brosnahan / Brosnan gathering in Castleisland in Kerry in July and am hoping to find further information on James Brosnahan and Annie Collins. If you have any information that may help the process it would be much appreciated. I have plans of the 17 acres he farmed opposite the O’Driscoll farm in Ashill, Kerry until around the time he came to NZ. I have no information on his family, parents or siblings. If anyone can give me some leads or further information it would be most helpfull.

    • Lynley Chapman

      My mother-in-law was an O’Driscoll. Her grandparents were Patrick and Mary O’Driscoll, nee Mason who lived in Ashill, Tralee. Patrick born c 1810. He and Mary had 13 children. I am keen to find out more about Patrick and Mary and the place/farm they lived in. Any help would be marvellous. Thank you!

  3. jenny

    Hi all, its great to read all the articles about the Brosnahans and their various journeys. I’m interested in Hugh Brosnahan who married Catherine Butler and lived in Holborn London in 1841. My ancestor Timothy Brosnan b1781 who married Ellen [ no surname] lived in the same place, and I’m trying to unravel who is who? if you recognise any of these trees, it would be great to hear from you..
    kind regards


  4. Robert Whale

    Hello from Yorkshire.
    I was absolutely gobsmacked to come across your website as I was looking for any information on the web that there may have been concerning the location of graves at St John’s in Oulton, because as I scrolled down the page, you had a photograph of the exact gravestone that I was hoping existed, that of George and Elizabeth Kemp, together with their son, Thomas.

    George and Elizabeth are my 3 x great grandparents, with my family coming down from their daughter Sophia and her only son, Thomas (not to be confused with the Thomas buried at Oulton).

    I’ve recently put together a book documenting parts of our family history and wrote a section concerning the Thomas Kemp you mentioned at Oulton.
    It was a little while since your visit there, so I don’t know if you managed to do any subsequent research, but I’ve copied some of what I have written following research by me and one of my cousins daughters. Here it is:-

    That Thomas Kemp, was born in Altofts in 1846, the son of George and Elizabeth Kemp and a brother to Sophia Kemp, my great great grandmother and so was my great great grand uncle.

    Tom married Alice Robertshaw, a Worsted Weaver from Thornton near Bradford in around 1877.

    The 1881 census shows Thomas and Alice living at Upper Hoyle Ing, Thornton, near Bradford, employed as Domestic Coachman and Worsted Weaver respectively. They had a two year old daughter, Edith and a one month old son, George.

    By the time of the 1891 census, the family had moved to 34 Cable Street, Lancaster and now included further children, Alfred, eight; Ethel, five; and Tom aged two. All were listed as being born at Thornton, so the move to north Lancashire must have been relatively recently. Thomas senior was documented as a Groom Coachman whilst no occupation was given for Alice, her time no doubt taken up by the five children now in the household.

    This seemingly ordinary domestic situation was however soon to change dramatically.

    Records show that on 23rd March 1893, Alice Kemp was admitted to The County Asylum at Lancaster.

    Listed as being both suicidal and dangerous, Dr Robert Clark of 78 Church Street Lancaster records “She told me there was a man watching her from the Railway… to induce her to commit a sin. She accused her husband of going with other women… threatened to kill her husband…she told me she would either take his life or he should take hers … she has been out in the streets in her night clothes several times, this she herself told me.”

    Thomas was asked to answer and signed against several questions asked by the Asylum “in order to direct the treatment of patient to best advantage”.

    This revealed that Alice had given birth to seven children. One had been still born, another dying of Tuberculosis Meningitis at age sixteen months. Tom reported that his wife had a “Quiet disposition. After she gave birth to her second child, about ten days after, she showed signs of a fever, changed in her disposition and became very jealous”, later adding she had suffered “a queer deal of headaches for the last six months”.

    Thomas also reports that Alice had suffered an injury from “a Shuttle flying from a loom” leaving a mark over one of her eyes, whilst adding that an Uncle on her father’s side and a cousin on her mother’s side “were drunkards”. Whether or not the same individuals, Thomas also reports further in his statements that a cousin, said to be her mother’s brother’s son had mental issues but “was now under control”, whilst a cousin on the fathers side was in Menston Asylum (an institution later to be known as High Royds Hospital in Leeds).

    Lancaster had become a provincial centre for the treatment of mental illness during the nineteenth century and in 1809 the decision was made to build the proposed County Lunatic Asylum there. This followed the creation of the County Asylums Act 1808 and was the first County Lunatic Asylum in Lancashire and only the fourth to be built under the terms of the new act. It opened in 1816 under the name of The County Lunatic Asylum for the County Palatine of Lancaster and by 1891 it accommodated 1833 patients. More buildings were added in later years and at one time the asylum could hold up to 3200 patients. It was later renamed Lancaster Moor Hospital, and closed down in 1991. It is a Grade II listed building and after years of neglect, planning permission was granted in 2013 to convert it into luxury housing.

    In his book, Untold Stories, the playwright, Alan Bennett described the scene in 1966 when his own mother was committed to the same hospital. It is quite harrowing reading.

    Following her first admission, Alice Kemp was released in September 1894, having spent eighteen months inside the institution, but clearly still far from being well.

    Fate then struck a viscous blow.

    Thomas was acting as a Coachman for a Dr. Robert Morris. On a foggy Sunday night, Thomas drove Dr. Morris to Halton, a village about 3 miles to the north east, to visit a patient. They stayed there for about two hours, with Tom waiting outside with the horse still tethered to the trap. Setting back home at around midnight, the gig they were riding in tumbled off the side of the road. Dr. Morris and Tom Kemp were thrown to the ground. Both lost consciousness.

    A Halton Police Constable, PO Proffitt heard the commotion and attended the scene, moving both men to the house of a Mrs Atkinson. The policeman then went to telephone for medical assistance and Dr. Jackson, an assistant to Dr. Morris, came from Lancaster. Dr. Morris eventually came round at 12.25am, but was in no state to help in the treatment of Tom. The following day Tom was transferred to the Lancaster Royal Infirmary where he died of his injuries a few days later, having never regained consciousness.

    The effect on Alice must have been catastrophic. She was readmitted to the Lancaster Asylum a week later, on 2nd November 1895.

    Then followed an interesting event, when on the 17th of December, Ethel and Thomas Kemp Jnr, aged 10 and 6 respectively, were both baptised back at Oulton.

    When Alice had been admitted to Lancaster Asylum, it was noted on her admittance records that she was a Wesleyan (Methodist). Had Ethel and Thomas returned to Yorkshire to be cared for by their extended family, who had then quickly seized the opportunity to bring them into the Church of England?

    By 1901, Thomas Kemp Jnr. had returned to Lancaster and was a resident at The Ripley Hospital in that city, an “Endowed Charitable Institution for Orphaned and Homeless Children”. Ripley Hospital was founded by Julia, the wife of Thomas Ripley, a merchant who traded out of Lancaster and Liverpool. Thomas Ripley was born in Lancaster in 1791 and much of his wealth stems from the fact that he was one of the first English merchants to embark on trade with China and subsequently with the East Indies. As a devout Christian, he was keen to establish a Charity Hospital, modelled on the Liverpool Blue Coat School. Having no children, on his death in 1852, he left a considerable sum of money in trust to establish the Ripley Hospital, to cater ostensibly, for fatherless children. On 3 November 1864, it was designated to educate an equal number of boys and girls, 300 in total, providing the parents had lived for at least 2 years immediately preceding the death of the father either within 15 miles of Lancaster Priory, or 7 miles of Liverpool Cathedral. The main school building included a gym, woodwork and metalwork rooms, a domestic school for girls, a heated swimming-pool, four courts for playing fives and enough full-sized football pitches to allow 150 boys to play at the same time. A farm of some 40 acres kept the school supplied with home produced meat, milk and poultry, and a vast kitchen garden gave a constant supply of fresh vegetables. The school still survives today. Now known as Ripley St Thomas Church of England Academy, the farm is still in use. Unfortunately I know nothing, at the time of writing, of what became of Thomas after 1901.

    The Parish Church at Oulton came to be attended quite frequently by Kemps in the last quarter of 1895.

    Sunday the 6th October saw the Baptism of five and a half week old Albert Kemp, my grandfather.

    Three weeks later, on Monday 28th, much of the family were to gather there again, this time for the funeral of Thomas Kemp, whose body had been brought back from Lancaster following his death only three or four days before. (His date of death is recorded as 25th October on is gravestone, whereas newspaper reports following the inquest suggest the date was the 24th).

    The family were back again in December for the baptism of Ethel and Thomas Jnr.

    A final twist in the tale of Thomas Kemp was that I am led to believe that he was also the father of an older, illegitimate child.

    Back in 1871, and seven years before his marriage to Alice, Thomas had become the father of a son following a relationship with local Oulton girl, Ann Steed (born 1847).

    Named Harry Kemp Stead, he became a lock keeper on the Aire and Calder Navigation, married Mary Jane Harrison in 1898, had seven children and died, at Otley, aged 94, in 1965.

    I hope you find the above of interest (sorry it’s so long).

  5. Bruno brosnan

    kia ora, i am a relatively recent brosnan (1st generation kiwi) but curious about nz brosnans. is there any info or sites you could direct me to, so that i could learn more?

    • Maggie

      Kia ora Bruno! Probably the best place to start is with Seán Brosnahan’s site The Brosnan where he has uploaded his book The Kerrytown Brosnahans, that includes details of the early Brosnan/Brosnahan families in New Zealand.

  6. Maree Young

    Hi Maggie, I have just found your blog. What wonderful photos and information on this family and your journey in researching them. I believe I may have a connection that could be of interest and I have more questions that you may be able to answer.
    Hope to hear back from you.


    • Maggie

      Thanks for your lovely comments, Maree. I’d love to hear about our connection and happy to answer any questions!
      – Maggie

  7. Martin & Aly KAISER

    Maggie, we saw your comments. We want to contact again you about NUNNS family from Rothwell Yorkshire. I think we emailed you about 5 years when we were actively researching. We have restarted our research. Please email us martin.kaiser@xtra.co.nz Many thanks, Martin & Alycen

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