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Publication:West Bend Daily News; Date:Aug 3, 2010; Section:Front Page;
Genealogists climb family trees
Families tracing their Irish ancestry meet in Erin
By GAY GRIESBACH For the Daily News
About 50 history buffs met in Thompson in the town of Erin Monday night
to find out about the township’s Gaelic roots as the Erin Historical
Society hosted a meeting of the Irish Genealogical Society of Wisconsin.
Marcella Hanrahan Hoeft, Waukesha, came to the meeting, which included
tours of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and its old cemetery.
Hoeft researched the cemetery before writing the Hanrahan family
history, “From the Hills of Monaleen” in the 1980s. Her great-great
grandmother, Mary Belson Hanrahan, is the second person to be buried
Ann Sheahan of Brookfield came with a photo in hand and a tale of
The photo was taken by her father of her standing next to a grave marker
“All my life, I’ve seen this photo,” said Sheahan, who was baffled by
the name on the tombstone – Margaret Daley.
Adding to the confusion was an adjoining plot marked with the husband’s
grave — John Deily. As far as she knew, there were no Daily, Daley or
Deily’s on her family tree.
Sheahan didn’t discover the full significance of the photo until a few
years ago, when she and her cousins, Jack Domencich and Sue Dolinar,
both of Milwaukee, decided to research their family tree.
They discovered that Margaret, nee Flynn, had been married twice and her
first husband was an O’Brien, making the woman resting in St. Patrick’s
Cemetery Sheahan’s greatgreat grandmother.
But they didn’t know the location of that plot until the cousins came
across St. Patrick’s Cemetery while touring the countryside.
“We discovered it by accident and said, ‘Let's go look,” said Dolinar.
They fanned out and scanned the graves until they came to a back row
near a windbreak.
“At first, I didn’t recognize (the tombstone) because it was so small,”
said Sheahan, who was four years old when her father snapped the photo.
After that, more was discovered about Margaret’s son, Patrick O’Brien,
who is also buried at St. Patrick’s.
Proving that identity theft is not something that grew out of the
computer age, they found later that Patrick’s name was mentioned in a
“Our Patrick O’Brien was hurt in the Civil War. Another Patrick O’Brien
lived in Berlin and his wife, Ellen, filed for a pension she never
should have gotten,” said Sheahan.
The mistake was corrected and the would-be war widow lived the last four
years of her life pensionless.
Erin Historical Society Vice President Bev Schroeder said they invited
the IGSW to meet at what was once was Lucy’s Horseshoe Inn.
The Inn was first a blacksmith’s shop and later, was purchased by the
town and leased to the society.
At the church, Evarist Henke recalled a soot problem in St. Patrick’s
that called for tiles in the dropped ceiling to be removed.
“I recall going to church. I would count the ceiling tiles. They have
bigger tiles now,” said Henke. “There is a tin cross in the ceiling
under those tiles.”
“It’s my hope that someday, those tiles will come down,” said St.
Patrick Preservation member Maureen Fitzsimmons Vanden Heuvel.
Fitzsimmons Vanden Heuvel told IGSW members the church was closed in
1999 because of a lack of priests to serve the parish. She plans to seek
historical status from the state for the structure, which was built in
The church, now under the auspices of St. Kilian Catholic Church in
Hartford, is open for weddings, funerals, anniversaries and St.
For information on the Irish Genealogical Society on the Web, see
igswonline.com. For information on the Erin Historical Society, see
Andrew Link/Daily News Staff Cousins Sue Dolinar and Ann Sheahan look at
their relatives’ headstones in St. Patrick’s Catholic Cemetery near Erin
on Monday. The Irish Genealogical Society of Wisconsin visited the
cemetery research ancestors.