THE MC GOVERNS OF HOCKESSIN By Donn Devine The McGoverns of Hockessin, Delaware, are mentioned in local histories as among the

early families of that 19th-century clay-quarrying community, and their imprint remains in the names of McGovern Road and of businesses carried on by descendants. Today's McGoverns might readily have misidentified their three immigrant male ancestors as "three brothers who came to America" so common in many family accounts, but one living granddaughter preserves the tradition that they were in fact cousins, which is consistent with the documentary evidence. However, their exact relationships have not been determined, nor has a record or memory of their place of origin in Ireland been preserved.1 The Hockessin McGoverns' experience is quite representative of the pattern of early famine-era Irish immigration to the United States--unmarried young men or women from the same small farming community, often in Ulster, coming alone or sometimes in pairs to a single locality in America. Here they continued what their non-Irish neighbors called their "clannish connections" and attracted others bound by the same ties, in many cases paying for the later passage of siblings or parents with money sent back from their meagre earnings. Their attitude of continuing responsibility toward the family and community they had left was in marked contrast to the individualism displayed


The Hockessin McGoverns are so typical of the broader patterns of Irish -2- . reasonably priced farm land in the immediate area gave them the opportunity to return to their earlier farming livelihoods without disrupting the family and community ties that sustained them during their first years in America.The Hockessin area. have no records or traditions of their ancestors' place of origin in Ireland. the "clay pits" (kaolin quarries) of the area. and only one branch has preserved a bible record of vital events after arriving in the U. because it offered both industrial and agricultural opportunities to the newcomers. The limestone quarries and. In spite of this unusual geographical stability. In addition. however. today's McGoverns. the McGoverns and their close neighbors the Lafferties bought farmland in the area. probably as soon as savings from their wages permitted.3 The result was a community cohesion among the Irish of Hockessin that lasted from the mid-19th century until World War II. and several generations continued farming until 20th century suburbanization of the area overtook them. which were the economic base for Hockessin's growth and development. however. provided the unskilled industrial jobs the immigrants needed on arrival.S. was very untypical of the Irish-American experience. like descendants of most famine-era Irish immigrants. As will be seen. after 1872.

Parish of Desertmartin. Wilmington. Their story--pieced together from census. also a McGovern by birth. ties to the family of John J. John F. McGovern (1837-1906) and his wife Catherine (1837-1912). land. so it was also possible to pinpoint the family's probable place of origin in Ireland. as well as from vital records registrations with the help of some descendants--shows how readily Irish-American families may be traced through the sources commonly used in American genealogy. McGovern (ca 1833-1912) of Wilmington and his wife Maria (ca 1840-1908) are suggested by their cemetery lot adjoining Edward's in Cathedral Cemetery. In addition. and cemetery records. church. The Hockessin McGoverns descend from three couples representing four immigrant McGovern ancestors--Edward McGovern (ca 1835-1921) and his wife Sarah Hagan (1838-1896). Derry.migration that the family provides a case-study in the micro-demographics of the famine era. The "Householder Index" to family names in Griffith's Valuation (1848-62 land assessment) of Ireland was used to locate the one place where all the family and given names of parents occur together--the 625-acre townland of Tirgan. and Daniel McGovern (1849-1928) and his wife Louisa Denning (1855-1934). The name McGovern and the two maternal family names identified are less common ones. near Draperstown. now one of the six counties of Northern Ireland.4 Earliest McGoverns in Hockessin -3- .

in housing. both 32 and also Irish. born in Ireland. and no further record of him has been found. laborer. "works in Lime Quarry. and eventually burial. This Daniel McGovern is probably the Daniel. forerunner of other McGoverns who in future censuses would be found as domestics in the Jackson home. Census. age 1.6 Although the Irish origins of the McGovern and Lafferty families listed in 1850 aren't known. marriage. Jackson. age 30 and 20 respectively. and strongly suggests family relationships.5 Four houses further on. and their five children. leading citizen of Hockessin. with Mary Ann. developer of its limestone quarries and kilns and later chief engineer of the Wilmington and Western Railroad." recorded in the household of William McDowell in the 1870 Census. and a John Shayary [?] age 60. ages 4 to 10. but he has not been identified. who appear in the 1850 U. They were in the house next to John and Mary Lafferty. 50. but nothing more is known about him or any descendants. and Eliza. all except Mary Ann having been born in Ireland. Even earlier. was a David [or Daniel] McGovern. their adjoining dwellings anticipate a future closeness. age 49. in the household of John G.S. quarryman. living with them. among later arrivals with those names. a Dan Lafferty was listed in 1827 as one of the 13 pew holders in the newly enlarged -4- .The first McGoverns of record in what is now the Hockessin area were Daniel. also a laborer.

and there are no gravestones recorded for them at Coffee Run cemetery in the WPA Historic Records Survey.(to 14 pews) Catholic church at Coffee Run. appears in 1860 in the same relationship to the Jackson house. The Lafferty family. of Keenaght townland in the small civil parish of Kilcronaghan. who arrived ca 1872-73 with his wife Mary Magdalen (Kelly) and first child Peter and also lived in Kaolin. developed the closest associations with the McGoverns.8 The families of James Lafferty and of his brother Michael Lafferty. They originated like the McGoverns in the Draperstown area. made in 1939. He was the son of Patrick and Mary (Conners) Lafferty. without Mary. Progenitors of Present-Day McGoverns -5- . across the Pennsylvania line.7 The later-arriving James and Mary (Rogers) Lafferty family.9 No record of the other McGoverns listed in the 1850 Census has been found either in New Castle County or adjoining Chester County PA. rather than individually. within the same Roman Catholic parish of Desertmartin as the McGoverns' probable origin at Tirgan. were representative of a less common post-famine immigration pattern--families with children coming as a group. who from the birth places of their children came ca 1865-71 and lived in Kaolin.

Mary's. and St. age 15. McGovern the following year. according to the 1900 Census. Coffee Run. no age or occupation listed. age 12.12 -6- .Edward McGovern came to the U.S. became a mission of St. since no other John is found in the Phildelphia index for that year. both listed without occupations as arriving on the ship Tuscarora from Liverpool on 12 March 1853. Edward is undoubtedly the Edward. John's in Hockessin. she and John McGovern were witnesses at the marriage of Edward McGovern to Sarah Hagan. according to the 1900 Census. Patrick's at Ashland was established in 1880. accompanied by Margt. it was the church of the Irish quarry workers of Hockessin until St. who arrived on the Wyoming on 24 Oct 1854.S. who arrived on the Tonawanda 24 April 1854. Records of the present St. John is probably the John. in 1853 and John F. after the founding of St. Mary's of the Assumption parish.10 Catherine Mc Govern also came to the U. Attended by priests from that parish. Delaware's first Catholic parish. in 1854. in 1882. originally as a mission of Ashland. recorded at St. she may be the Catherine. Joseph's-on-the-Brandywine in 1841.11 The log church of St. Hockessin. Joseph's-on-the-Brandywine. begin in 1881. Patrick's. On 11 Nov 1855. Mary of the Assumption at Coffee Run. listed as age 13 although his actual age would have been 17. but probably performed at St.

since no other John of similar age is known) and Daniel McGovern. when both she and John are listed as age 33. together with Mary McGovern. a quarryman. age 25 (perhaps a duplicate entry. also age 20. 17. the slight inconsistency with her ages as reported in 1870. No dispensation is noted.Catherine McGovern married John McGovern on 19 Sep 1861. probably at Coffee Run. a boarder with the Michael McKenna family only five dwellings away from the Jackson house. McGovern also had a sister Ann. two houses from Jackson. Jackson household.15 Also among the eight boarders listed in the McKenna household in 1860 was another John McGovern. with her future husband John McGovern." who has not been identified but is perhaps an error for Sarah. but recorded at St. He is -7- . all three names are on a large central monument.13 She is almost certainly the Catherine McGovern recorded. Note. who married and moved to California. John F. Joseph's-on the-Brandywine. in the 1860 census as servants in the John G. McGovern's cemetery lot at Ashland is shared with his Lafferty and Baldwin sons-in-law. known from family tradition but not identified in records. teamster.14 John F. so John's relationship to Catherine must have been more distant than second cousin. Edward McGovern and "Catherine McGovern. and in 1880 as 43. quarryman. were witnesses. is between. however. but was never heard from after the San Francisco earthquake. age 20. the Lafferty house. 23.

17 Although Daniel.18 No direct evidence for a relationship of the Hockessin McGoverns to John J. was 23 in 1870 and born in Aug 1849 according to the 1900 Census. four years younger than Daniel the teamster was reported in 1860.16. would place his age on arrival as 6. his son Edward S.S. Aug 1849 birthdate. The other Hockessin McGoverns (including one child of Edward. Irish-born shopkeeper of Red Lion. blacksmith and husband of Louisa. when Louisa purchased a lot in Hockessin for $140. daughter of Michael Denning.) are buried in St. bought adjoining cemetery lots in the then recently opened New Cathedral Cemetery in Wilmington--John J. age 23. but such a relationship might be inferred from the fact that Edward and John J. in 1870 and who married in 1871 (bond dated 25 Mar) Louisa Denning. to bury a 24-year-old daughter who died in 1893. Daniel and Louisa remained in Red Lion until 1884. Daniel's age 50. who was a blacksmith in Red Lion Village. Red Lion Hundred. Red Lion Hundred. as noted in the cemetery records cited earlier. Edward to bury his wife Sarah in 1896. McGovern of Wilmington has been found. 1856 immigration and 44 years' residence in the U. Patrick's Cemetery. As noted in the 1900 Census.probably the same Daniel. such an inconsistency with the 1860 information provided about a boarder would not be unusual--particularly in view of the probable duplication of John's entry with conflicting ages in the same list of boarders. like Daniel and Louisa who moved to Kennett -8- . Village. Ashland--some. and his wife Bridget.

1849)--John McGovern and Sarah ____.Square. father's name confirmed in 1869 deed from James C.19 John F. McGovern--Neal McGovern and Alice ____. died 4 Mar 1877 age 55 years.23 -9- . the gravestone of Nancy McGovern. Irish Origins According to their death certificates.22 John J."20 Catherine McGovern--Philip McGovern and Annie McGuckin.S. John. was recorded in the WPA 1938 survey of Coffee Run cemetery. even after leaving the immediate area. however. Edward probably brought both his mother and father to the U. Her age. appears in Edward's household in 1880 as a laborer. may be understated. Jackson to "John McGovern of the same [Mill Creek] Hundred son of Neely McGovern.21 Daniel McGovern (b. undoubtedly the father of Edward. since it places her birth only 16 years before her son Edward's birth date of January 1839. McGovern (of Wilmington)--Fergus McGovern and Catherine ____. age 70. between 1870 and 1877. the parents of the immigrant McGoverns were as follows: Edward McGovern--John McGovern and Nancy McElwee. as recorded in the 1900 Census. born in Ireland.

24 Among occupants of the 40 holdings in Tirgan townland the names Neal. so the likelihood of finding the parents as occupants of real estate is high. where 5 to 18 of each are found. sometimes called the "Householder Index. which is part of Desertmartin Roman Catholic parish. additional McGuckins.The index prepared by the National Library of Ireland to Griffith's Primary Valuation of the Lands and Tenements of Ireland.10 - . Daniel and Bernard-and four McIlwee families." provides a means for zeroing in on a small area where all the family names identified may occur. only Fergus and one of the Johns--probably the father of Daniel--are not found in Tirgan. as well as Hagans and one Lafferty. The valuation for County Derry was made in 1859. and they occur together only in the parish of Desertmartin. John and Philip McGovern--three of the known fathers of the immigrants--are found. 13 are found in the immediately surrounding townlands. and three McIlwees. including another Neal. Patrick. Lafferties and Hagans are found in the adjoining civil parish of Kilcronaghan. and the identified maternal surnames can be found there or close by. along with six more McGoverns. The names McGovern. The old Hockessin family name of Gormley is also found in the parish. McGuckin and McIlwee are not among the more common Irish surnames. Of the known McGovern parents. While there are no McGuckins in Tirgan. as well as four other McGoverns--Bridget. the evidence strongly points to .

Tirgan as the Irish home of the McGoverns of Hockessin. Coffee Run. County Derry.. as witnesses. He married Sarah Hagan on 11 Nov 1855. probably at St. He is described as "now . in 1835 or 1836. possibly a sister. although recorded at St. Desertmartin..11 - . probably his cousins. Joseph's-on-th-Brandywine. and died 23 Sep 1896. His children were born in Delaware up to 1859. but the names of her parents are unknown. as discussed earlier. Sarah's maiden name is known from the death certificate of her daughter Sally. Mary's. Pa. born probably at Tirgan.. with his age recorded as 15 and accompanied by Margaret. He arrived in the U. but appears to have lived just across the state line in Chester County between 1861 and 1865. In the 1870 Census he is listed as a farmer. but those from 1861 through 1866 are listed as born in Pennsylvania.. or Chester Co.25 Edward has not been found in the 1860 Census for either New Castle Co. Del. she was born about 1839 in Ireland. with John and Catherine McGovern. age 12. was the son of John McGovern and Nancy McElwee. based on the 1880 census and his age at death. although the 1900 Census gives his birth as Jan 1839. this would have made him only 16 at marriage.S. Edward McGovern Edward McGovern. 12 Mar 1853 on the Tuscarora from Liverpool to Philadelphia.

the Census gives his occupation as quarryman. a granddaughter. but retained a life interest in the house where she lived until her death. on a Coffee Run cemetery gravestone. the property remained in the possession of Edward's family until the death earlier this year of Miss Marjorie C. who worked the farm with her twin brother Jay. just west of a private lane that was later opened as McGovern Road. No record of his father John is found after his 1880 Census appearance.12 - . although still at that location. Chester County.or late of New Garden Township. Meany. he may have been buried with his wife at Coffee Run. Pa.27 Edward's fortunes prospered sufficiently that he could invest in several .29 acres on the north side of the Newport and Gap [Lancaster] Turnpike. but without the stone having survived until the WPA survey. By 1880.26 Edward appears to have brought both his mother and father from Ireland after the 1870 Census and before the 4 1877 Mar death of Nancy McGovern was recorded. and all 12 in 1880. His first nine children are listed in the 1870 Census. age 70. as discussed earlier. after Jay's 1973 death 1973 she sold the farm. Although small parcels were sold off from the McGovern Road property beginning in 1883. in Edward's household. indicating that farming was not the principal source of income." (just across the state line from Hockessin) at his 25 Mar 1868 purchase of 23.

other pieces of real estate between 1883 and 1888. and lived there until 1876. 60 acres of farmland on the north side of Old Wilmington Road opposite McGovern Road for $4. bought it from Daniel and Louisa. and a 59' by 44' lot on Grant St. has only his 21-year-old daughter Susan living at home with him. including 151 acres of farmland along the pike for $14. two lots in Hockessin on either side of the turnpike. is in the next dwelling. The 10 acres just to the west of Edward's original 23-acre farm has been held by all three branches of the McGovern family. after selling his late father's farm at Southwood. Edward's cousin John in 1869 bought the six acres just across the lane.29 By 1900. listed again as a farmer. 4 of the Colored American Protective Association. The senior Edward died 30 Aug 1921.30 . Louisa McGovern. when he bought a farm on Southwood Road.123. John's son Lewis P. McGovern." and is buried in his family plot at Cathedral Cemetery. and may be operating the farm. which he sold in 1899 to Lodge No. from Edward's farm. McGovern. wife of Daniel.28 As will be seen. originally bought it in 1898. later McGovern Road.666. listed as a laborer. from whom it has passed to the latter's son John M. In 1915.. in Hockessin.13 - . In 1923 Lewis's widow and administrator sold it to Edward's son Edward S. and then to his grandchildren. aged "about 87. Edward. but the family of his son Edward.

interviews with Sarah McGovern Smith. 1973. 3. Lake. 3 Apr 1987. 11. 36-37. In Mill Creek Hundred. b. v Marjorie J. pp. 100 Years Along Old Public Road. 143. 1985). b. McGovern. d. Weslager. Rev. 642 (hereafter 1870 Census).: Kennikat Press 1972). b. Hasia R.32 Issue: i Edward. McGovern. McGovern. 1960). National Archives Microfilm M-432 Roll 53 (hereafter 1850 Census). ca 1898. d. Press. pp. 929 (hereafter Scharf). Tables 4. unm. Diner.. 350 (Mill Creek Hundred). Census. Mary A. New Castle County. Wilmington. J. 600. about age 6. ______________ NOTES 1. p. DE. Jr. 3. Meany. PA 22 Feb 1934. Coffee Run 1772-1960 (Hockessin: 1960). d. dw. Del. b. DE 1857. Census. p.34 4. d. 1976). Miller.. d. 2. Inc.. Kerby A. McGovern. C. b. Cliniff. Burial Records. DE 1859. dw. unm. Sect.Children of Edward McGovern and Sarah Hagan:31 1. 1983). 70.. 273 and Appendix.33 2.). d. ca 1898. ii John. m. Del.. Joseph R. p. unm. . PA 1861. Port Washington N. DE. She married 6 Feb 1888 James F.35 5. Repr. History of Delaware 1609-1888. 4 children. in cemetery office.. 4 Feb 1936 at Hockessin DE age 78. Twins: iv Jay. 71. 26 Jan 1891 Thomas N. Emigrants and Exiles. 32-33 (hereafter Coffee Run). Anthony F. 5. John C. New Castle County. DiMichele et al. unm about age 25. Erin's Daughters in America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ.S. b. unm. m. (1888. b. m. young. Press. A. 1850 U. Flannery. New Castle County. Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America (New York: Oxford Univ. Lots 31 and 33.Y. PA 1863. Cathedral Cemetery. Del.A Pictorial History (Hockessin: Bicentennial Commission. 12 and 14. 4. 22. S. 927. Hockessin . Chester Co. 151. 9 Mar 1980 and 23 Feb 1987. Wilmington.Thomas Scharf. 6-B. Elizabeth Spawn. Ella (Nellie) McGovern. Sarah C. 1870 U. 30 Apr 1895 John A. iii Gertrude. DE 1857 (twin of Sarah C. p. Anne R. d. (Wilmington: Historic Red Clay Valley. pp. pp.

St.. 305. New Castle County Deed Record (hereafter Deed Rec. 350. Dover DE. may have led to the erroneous information provided for the death certificate. p. supra. 138 dw. Lafferty family genealogist. as "age 81" instead of 31 as it appears on the monument. . Sarah McGovern Smith. Mill Creek Hd. p. Mildred Haske. 1800-1906. WPA. McGovern. 1870 Census. 17. Indenture dated 23 Jul 1884 between William B. for which her son Edward was informant. Subdivision 27. and the knowledge of some family relationship to James. Red Lion Village Sheet 2 Line 43. letter. 15. 139 dw. 609. Census. and Bridget in 1880. 206 in Office of Recorder of Deeds. with photocopied extracts. with copies of 1981 certificates. Coffee Run Cemetery. Sheet 9. supra. it is reasonable to conclude that her name was Emma Bridget Powell. Soundex Index to 1880 Census. 1860 U. Catholic Directory 1978. p. 1870 Census. 12. St. 18.S. Enumeration District 54. unpublished communication to author. Edward McGovern Sr. was residing in Red Lion Village with the family of a James Denning. Historic Records Survey. 1860 Census. S. National Archives Microfilm T-741 (hereafter 1880 Soundex).. Mary of the Assumption Church. Miller. 1900 U. Although Louisa's 1934 death certificate (4 Sep 1934. Michael's early death. . on National Archives Microfilm M-360.. 33. supra. 352. when she appears as mother-in-law in Daniel and Louisa's household with her youngest children listed as "sister in law" and "brother in law" to Daniel. pastor. PA #82879). died 1 Dec 1897. Ibid. Wilmington DE. supra. typescript in Hall of Records. 9. . Del. Patrick's cemetery. 1860 and 1870 Census. 30. p. 97. National Archives Microfilm M-653 Roll 97 (hereafter 1860 Census). to author. 25. and Draperstown District death registrations. gravestone. Ashland (note that the Tatnall tombstone record transcriptions in the Delaware Hall of Records incorrectly records son John J. Powell as her parents. Death Certif. Denning of the same place for a 3/10 acre lot on the south side of the Lancaster Pike at Kent's Lane. 14. 75. New Castle County. National Archives Microfilm T-1037 (hereafter 1900 Soundex). 28 [Red Lion Village]. 9 Aug 1977. 19. Census.. May 1939. National Archives Microfilm T-9 Roll 117 (hereafter 1880 Census). Delaware. it is clear from census records that her father was Michael Denning. Emma in 1870. Annapolis MD. Census. Mill Creek Hundred. Haske. 28. p. 10. Delaware. New Castle County. 234 [Red Lion Hundred] dw. St. p. p. dw. 8. 595 line 11. Soundex Index to 1900 Census. still unmarried. 13. Joseph's-on-the-Brandywine Catholic Church. Greenville DE. certificate in possession of author. Mill Creek Hundred and Louisa A. Del. National Archives Microfilm T-623 (hereafter 1900 Census). p. Marriage Register. 1850 Census. PO Delaware City]. . Index to Philadelphia Passenger Arrival Records. dw. 471 [Red Lion Hd. 30 Aug 1921. 1880 Census p. who may have been a brother of Michael. J. citing Desertmartin parish registers. Scharf. 1880 U. lists James Denney [sic] and Emma B. #35.6. her mother was variously Brigget in 1860. #2067. Marriage Register in church office. 29. . Jackson of Hockessin. New Castle County. 11. p.) D-13 p. "Inventory of . 26. Rev. 627 dw. p. and his wife Mary.. pp. Daniel McGovern.) 16. Francis McDonough. S. Diocese of Wilmington.". 713 dw. Sheet 9. In 1870. 7. 928-930. Coffee Run.

6 Apr 1987. D-9. pp. R-94. p. Deed Rec.. Deed Rec. McGovern. 21.20. 605.. Hamorton. 24. 81. Sr. 34. 1900 Census. Arch. 30. See references. p. supra. Del. Death Certif. . Arch. McGovern. Obituary. Death Certif. Del. Wilm. Marjorie J. Edward McGovern. #52667.. card index. 134. McGovern. obituary. Vital event card index. p. 35. M-18. 7 May 1927. 2 Mar 1906. Q-12. a granddaughter. 1870 & 1880 Census. p. #2067. Meany. 28. 206. U-8. Del. Microfiche of typescript index and Valuation as orig. Sarah McGovern. PA. 31. 23 Sep 1896. C-14. Deed Rec.. 452. Death Certif. p. Ibid. John J. p. Del. except where documentary sources are given. 1859 (Dublin: Irish Microforms). G-68. P-12. #73611. 138. 22 Feb 1912. p. Del. card index). Del. Hall of Records. 32.. Pa. of Archives. information on marriages and children is from a 28 Jun 1987 interview with Sarah Finnegan Carter. Dover (hereafter Del. #86629. #71. Morning News.335. 136. 6 Apr 1987. Weslager. pp. 1870 & 1880 Census. Wilm. publ. 29. Deed Rec. 578. Death Certif. Death Certif. 27. 196. 30 Aug 1921. infra. U-13. 25 Mar 1912. 22. Death Certif. Daniel B. Del. John F. #50800. C-40. 33. 607. 25. for John and Daniel McGovern. p. 1870 & 1880 Census. 23. Div. Catherine McGovern. 26. 476. Morning News...

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