AN American man who stumbled upon a photo of the Breens of Labasheeda is hoping people in Clare can help him identify them.
Bill Prendergast of Portland, Oregon, made contact with Labasheeda resident Karla Breen Rickerby through the Ireland Reaching Out programme. He now wants to find out if he has more relatives he doesn’t know about and where they are. For Bill, it all started with the story of Mathias Breen.
“Mathias Breen was an amazing man and uncovering his life has been fascinating. At the age of 18, he left the security of a farm and family in Labasheeda to arrive in New York City in 1851 as a stranger in a strange land, dependent upon his own exertions for the support of himself and his 14-year-old sister, Margaret.”
The story has revealed to Bill that, “Mathias Breen, my great-grandfather, was a pretty successful building contractor and businessman in St Paul, Minnesota. After serving time learning the trade of stonecutter and mason, Matthias Breen was engaged in a number of notable building works for the State, including the St Paul Courthouse.”
Having fleshed out the details of the Breen family in Minnesota, Bill wanted to know what did this newly arrived immigrant leave behind in Labasheeda? Bill’s great-great-great-grandfather, Mathias Breen, who lived at Ballina in the 1830s, married Ann McGrath (who died in 1833).
Their son, Thomas Breen, (died 1888) married Mary Marony. It is Bill’s great-grandfather, Mathias (born in 1833) who immigrated with his sister Margaret to America, soon after their mother’s death in 1848. “One thing I’d love to find out is, who the Breens are in the photo. When did the Breen family move out of Labasheeda?” Bill asked.
The photograph came to light during the village celebrations in 2003. With the help of the internet and, “locals on the ground”, Bill walked the family farm, visited the Killofin Graveyard and paid his respects to his great-great-great-grandparents, perused the parish records and marked off the Breens from the national school registers.
Through the community of Labasheeda sharing their knowledge of the Breen family, Bill has unearthed his ancestors. Now he is wondering about the descendents who stayed behind and if there are memories of them among those living today.
Anyone with additional information can contact Paula at Ireland Reaching Out, by calling 091 842013 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.