Monday, April 25, 2011


The name,Nerney, is derived from an Irish Catholic Church title given to caretakers or land stewards running the estate owned by a monastery or church. In the Middle Ages , this stewardship was a religious figure, but over time it became a civil job and one that could be passed on through hereditary lines. This became the norm after the English successful wars against Catholic Ireland in the 16th & 17th Centuries.Therefore,Nerneys from one locale to another were not related. The spelling of the name,Nerney ,differed from one region to another. A good example of this is in County Clare where the name was a variation of MacInerkney and in County Roscommon the name Nerney had over a half dozen varieties, i.e. Neary, Nearny, Nehrenty, Nehreny, Nertney and Narney. Our own James C. Nerney's father used Narney when he married[1863], used Nerney as he obtained US citizenship[1866] and Nearney in 1870 US census. By the 1880s all of the US Nerneys were keeping to the spelling we use today..

Family lore has it that the Nerneys came from Strokestown, County Roscommon in Ireland. James C. Nerney's half sister, Margaret ,[Dennis' 2nd family] said that the family owned a general store in Strokestown, no proof of this fact can be found. I have asked[July 09] Roscommon Heritage Society for help and they have found no Nerneys in the city or in the Catholic parishes that cover this city. They can find no record of James and Margaret Gannon Nerney's wedding certificate or the birth record of Dennis and his siblings. A big blank as far as any specific record but we know the family is using the County Roscommon spelling of the name. The encouraging fact about finding the Nerneys is that there are over two dozen families in the area with the same name. This is not true in neighboring counties Clare and Galway. Also there is a James Nerney in the 1851 Griffith Valuation being in Roxborough, Kilbride, South Ballintober, just north of Roscommon City. Today, there is a James Nerney[met him in 09] in the locale at Doughil, near the site of the old Dominican monastery at Cloontuskert[remember stewards were called Nerney]. The latter has no knowledge of his family history, but is sending me his brother's e-mail who could know something.

So this was a dead-end trying to find our roots. North of Strokestown, near an old monastery at Elphin, was a cluster of Nerney thatched, farm cottages & stables called Culleen(Killeen) West. The local historian, John P.Nerney, a rancher and farmer is active in his family history. He has helped others in the United States, Australia and Alaska in their family research. He does not think that there were any James Nerneys from this area. Usually, parents name their first-born male after their's fathers, James is not a given name here. James, Dennis's father, is listed as a boilermaker at the wedding, not as a farmer. Who needs a boilermaker in a rural area? Boilermakers are associated with the industrial revolution in railroading. So is Dennis' father a local man or part of the burgeoning railroad system coming through County Roscommon. There is more to be learnt before we know our past.

Our grandfather's name has a Clare in it and 1 of his kids and 2 of his grandchildren are given the name Clare. The story is that the Hesters are from Clare but this should be doubted. There are no surnames, Hester, in the County Clare tax rolls from 1826 through 1858. In nearby County Galway there is a district called Clare, but no Hesters are listed, yet many are residing in County Roscommon. What gives? Hard to discount family lore but no proof exists on the origin of the name Clare. Another possibility is that the Gannon's came from Clare in County Galway because their name exists in that locale.An interesting possibility is that it could be a local name because a small group of cottages south of Strokestown is called Clare! Around this site were located Nerney families and in the local graveyard are Nerney plots.Maybe yes?

If we don't know all about our past, we have come a long way since I talked to Nana in 1978 concerning her husband's ancestors. Then she knew so little about any other Nerneys related to her husband. Much has been learnt in the last 10 years due the use of the Internet and the research by Mike and Paul. Death certificates now show at least that Dennis Nerney had two brothers, John and Michael, and a sister, Ann. All were born to a James and Margaret Gannon Nerney. John lived from about 1836- 1899, Ann from about 1839 to 1890 , Michael from about 1841-unk. and our Dennis about 1842 - 1893. Probably there were other children but until we have certificates that state who their parents were, we can only wonder if any of the Nerneys living close to John and Ann are related. Since birth registries were not mandated in Ireland un- til 1864, it would be a miracle to find any earlier birth or baptismal records. The same is true about marriage and death records.

Some things are known about this family. James dies helping a neighbor when a bale of hay falls on him. We know the family leaves Ireland and goes to England, ending up on the east coast. We don't know when James is killed or in what country. One of the children of Ann tells her family that the Nerneys emigrate in 1847. This implies that the family's kids were quite young and probably James dies in England. Dennis' daughter in his second family,Margaret, tells a different story. She says that the widowed wife remarries and that the step father is mean to her four kids. The kids when they grow up turn around and thrash the step dad and flee the country. This implies that James died in Ireland and the emigration would have been in the late '50s or early '60s. It is hard to reconcile these accoumts.

My research into Irish emigration into England and into the UK Census of 1861 comes up empty, even though we know that John has married and his first four children were born in England(1870 US census records). We also know that his sister, Ann ,has married an Irishman, John Quinn, and they have their first child born(1859) in Pennsylvania and another in ( 1861), When and where John and Ann left Ireland is not known but they are back in England when her brother, Dennis, is married. On July 28, 1863, we are given the following facts; James is not alive, John and Ann are signed witnesses and the married couple are 20 years of age. Consider it unusual for the day and age to see three members of one family get married at such a young age. So many marriages of the day see men in there mid-to-late 30's finally getting wed. Does this say something about their family life at home.

Now the Nerney clan leaves England and heads to the USA. What happens to their mother? Did she attend the 1863 wedding or was she back in Ireland? What causes the family to emigrate and why the four will end up the Rutland,VT? A strong Irish contingent exists here and one of it's leading citizens[John Hanley), will be a sponsor for John Nerney's citizenship application. John ,with his brother Dennis, on October 4, 1866 ,become naturalized US citizens. How and why are they allowed citizenship if they have not resided during the last five years in the USA? Another of John's sponsors is his brother-in-law, John Quinn(Ann), and evidently one does not have to provide proof of residency. John and Ann must not have stayed too long in England after the 1863 wedding because she has a third child, James, born in Rutland, Vermont, in January, 1865. John is still in England in 1864 where his wife, Annie, has their fourth child.As for Dennis and Mary I don't know the arrival year, nor do I know when brother, Michael, comes. But the fact is the that the known siblings are in the USA by 1866.

John and Annie move to Albany, New York, in about 1867 where there fifth child, Dennis, is born. Annie will bear three more children, the last of her eight, in 1875. In the 1880 Census John is working a pedlar. He will live until August 8, 1899, in Albany, New York and is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in nearby Glenmont. Annie stays in Albany and lives with her unwed children till she dies on March 13, 1913 and is buried alongside her husband. We have their family tree but won't included it here. Ann and John temp0rarily move to Albany in order to live close to her brother, John, but after a year or so they return to Rutland, Vermont. John will work in the quarries till he dies in about 1884. During that time Annie will bear her last of eight children in 1879. The latter child is called Elizabeth and it is she that tells the story of the Nerneys leaving Ireland in 1847. In October, 1890 ,Ann dies of suspicious circumstances. Was she poisoned even if the death certificate states heart disease? I am not including her family tree in this recap. We know from the 1880 US census that her brother, Michael, is boarding with the Quinns and is working as a laborer, nothing else is known about him except he is the son of James and Margaret Nerney. I know of two other Nerney families living in Vermont, a Michael and Robert. But until we see a death certificate naming their parents, we don't know if there is a relationship.

For Dennis, his life after citizenship, is much different than his siblings. He is on the move, traveling cross country several times and raising two families. It doesn't seem that he will ever live close to his brothers and sister. Why? Is it because he has a special trade, boilermaker, that gives him better employment opportunities or what? When he wants to divorce his wife later on, he can take a ship to the Washington territory. He almost always seems to have money to finance his endeavors. He tells the divorce court later he is always employed at over a hundred dollars a month. This is his life with Mary in the USA. Starting in 1870 .they are in Vallejo, California, maybe working at the Mare Island shipyard, with their first daughter, Emma, born in 1869. By 1871, Martha is born and in 1874, James, and named after his grandfather, is born, both in New York. Back in Oakland, California, John (1877), Ester(1879) and, in the 1882, the twins are born, only Robert E. survives. After complaining about Mary's drinking problem and her hitting him with a baseball bat(1881),in December, 1882, he leaves San Francisco with three of his kids and sails t0 Tacoma area and probably stays for a while on Vashon Island until a years residency is up and moves into Tacoma to file the divorce papers. After receiving full custody of all his children, he returns to Oakland in 1884 and quickly turns over to Mary his 2 children, giving her all five, keeping James. He moves to San Francisco and starts working at the Union Ironworks, eventually working on the first steel ship built on the West Coast. In the mean time ,Mary is suing Dennis for child support. He soon leaves to go East leaving 5 kids and Mary ( did she ever collect a cent).. He will never see his family again. James ,by his dad, is forced to leave his mother and siblings. That hurt will not be forgotten by those left behind.

But why go East, he doesn't move close to his siblings in upstate New York or in Western Vermont. He has not lived near them in almost 20 years, so why does he go into New York city area.No familial closeness here! He could have had a job offering or enough cash to find a job Whatever, he meets a young Irish immigrant, Catherine Morrison(~19), 26 years his junior and they marry. The US Census of 1900 states that she was born in England of Irish parents, in February 1868 and emigrated in 1886. Soon Catherine(Kate)has a daughter ,Margaret, born in New York City in 1888 and three years later, Robert Emmett, is born. Their their marriage is cut short by Dennis his untimely death on July 30, 1893 in Clarkston ,Rockland County, just north of New York City. Frank Nerney, relating what Nana has told him, writes me that the death was an accident and he died of sewer gas. The death certificate states he had cerebal apoplexy and an intermitten fever. Evidently, Kate tells the cor0ner that he is 42 years of age. Obviously this is wrong and it means that Dennis ,in order to marry a young lady, made himself nine years younger. He was at least 51 years old at the time of death.

James has been forgotten for a moment ,only because Dennis has made him an apprentice to a pharmacist after coming East. When it started, I'm not sure but a pharmacy license is in the possession now of James C.Nerney,3rd(Fred) and might give us a date of completion.James will be 19 when his dad dies and how he earns a living is not recounted(pharmacy?). How does Kate(25) and her babies survive after Dennis' death? Again an unknown. But what is a fact is that James, in November ,1896 ,becomes a member of the New York Police department and I think he must have been helping out his young step-mom. The 1900 US census supports this theory because James is listed at 355 58th St.NYC as the head of a household with his sister, Kate, and her two children. She is keeping house and the kids are going to school while James works as a police officer. This could not have lasted forever since James gets married to Margaret Helena O'Shea on August 15, 1905. I have not researched Kate's life after this but I am aware of some of the history of her two children, ie. Dennis' second family.

Kate raises her two children in the New York City area as Catholics and ardent Irish nationalists. Margaret had natural musical abilities and always thanked her brother, James, for giving her piano and organ lessons. She becomes a Catholic nun. In 1907, we find her in Burlington ,Vermont at the Mount St. Mary's Chapel. While in the convent she earns PhD's, one in theology and the other in Gregorian Art(the source of the information is Jerry Stack). After about 25 years she leaves the convent, moves Dublin, Pennsylvania and marries a Mr. Fleming. She is teaching on the piano and organ and exhibiting her oil paintings. About 1961, she is not married and is invited to live with her niece,Renee and her husband Paul Coates, their three teenagers and her brother, Emmett. All this is in Southern California, probably Studio City. While there she meets Jerry Stack, working as a dance instructor with his brother, Jim. After some type of family dispute, she joins Jerry in Pacifica, California and she stays with him for about a year. In the meantime, you might have seen her up at the ranch visiting Nana. Within a year she is living in the Sacramento area. "The old redhead---" as she called herself dies December 5, 1981.

About 1910, Emmett is 19 or so marries a French Canadian lady by the name of Raquel La Duc. Two years later ,Renee Margaret Augustin is born in Montréal ,Canada.When she is an infant, the family moves to Allentown ,Pennsylvania and Emmett is working at Bethlehem Steel.

In 1918, during World War I, he enlists in the U.S. Army as a wagoneer. The war ends and after 15 months service he is discharged on June ,1919, at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Roughly the same time Renee is being schooled at Emmett sister's school in Vermont. How long this last is not known, but Emmett has become a toolmaker at Westinghouse Corp. in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. By about 1926 the couple are divorced and Renée, temporarily goes back to Margaret's convent. But soon, with her mom, she moves to the Los Angeles area and continues her dance and music lessons. She auditions for a musical chorus line at the Hollywood Music Box at a Tony DeMarco production. Later, she becomes his dance partner and their fame crosses the United States into Western Europe. Dancing before royalty and the wealthy they become celebrities. There careers last about nine years, For most of those years they were married, but the partnership goes on after their divorce, breaking up with the advent of WWII. Renee moves back to the West Coast, remarries and has her first child, a girl called Joel. Later, a there is a third marriage to a young journalist, Paul Coates. She will bear him two boys, Kevin(1947) and Tim(1948). Paul's career takes off like a rocket, a local journalist, then a LA area TV star and, finally, a nationally known TV host. Emmett has retired and is invited to join his daughter and his grandkids and live with the Coates. For a short time, his sister is with them, but moved north to the Sacramento area. On November 12, 1968, Emmett dies of emphysema at the age of 77. Five days later, Paul Coates has a major heart attack and dies at home, leaving Renée with three-20+year-old kids. She lives to about 2004, 92 years old.. Two of her children are still in Southern California and one is in the surfing industry in Hawaii.

Hopefully, I have touched upon the major lines of James Clare Nerney and his wife, Margaret Helena's, lineage. May this recap be of use to their two surviving children, Frank and Nancy. This is also dedicated to all of my cousins. We have enjoyed our heritage and now much of what I know about it, is before you. Will you download this and pass it on to your heirs? This is who we are. God bless Jack Stack (4/17/10)


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the post!! I thoroughly enjoy reading about all things Nerney. Please keep up the good work.

Although there is no Nerney in my name, there is a great deal of Nerney in my heart. My mother is Susan Nerney[Rogers]Schumann. My grandfather was John H.(Jack) Nerney. My memories of Nana and the ranch are still vivid. Need less to say, the Nerneys have a very special place in my heart.

So please, keep up the stories and I will read and share them with whoever will listen. I very much treasure and appreciate our family history.

Thanks again!

Melanie Rogers

Anonymous said...

Hi Melanie,

Terrific that you are so interested!

Jack Stack, the family historian who put together the postings about James and Nana Nerney's ancestry, has a busted p.c., so he isn't able to respond to your comments right away.

Keep those comments coming!

Cousin Jim Nerney

Anonymous said...

We're all Nerneys regardless if it is in our name or not. I had the privilege of living next to my grandmother for the first 18 years of my life. I was probably about 8 or so when I realized her first name wasn't Nana. :)

My mother is Nancy Nerney Kryst.


Anonymous said...

Norah, Good to hear from you!

A blessing from visiting Nana was the chance to see you and your family!

Send me your email. The one I have doesn't work.

Cousin Jim

Anonymous said...

Do you have your family tree on ancestry or somewhere else.
I believe that John and Annie move to Albany, New York, in about 1867 were my gg grandparents.
Thanks for the help..

Anonymous said...

Hello Anonymous,

Our family historians are researching your question.
If you would repost your question and include an e-mail address to which I could respond, I will pass the answer back to you.

Jim Nerney

Anonymous said...

I have a couple corrections for your blog. Robert Emmett Nerney
married Rachael Irene La Duc (La duke) and had a child Margaret Evelyn Nerney, born in Burlington VT May 25 1913(she later changed her name to Renee, I have the birth certificate if you want a copy). Margaret (Renee) died in Bend Oregon the 24th of Nov 2000.
Joren (Renee's daughter)

Barbara Mcnerney said...

just found the blog....
name is andrew mcnerney, the mc was added when grand parents immigrated in the late 1890's.our line of the family is from the townland of carrowmonneen in the parish of kilgifen. which is just outside of stokestown(ballagh church) on the side of Slieve bawn.grandfather was michael nerney b. 1874 had brother bernard who immigrated as well/grandmother was a margaret mclaughlin b. 1872 from townland of taum . ggrandfather was martin nerney
buried in lisonaffy cemetery. among line of nerney headstones , with names of nerheny.nerneyheny. have researched many nerneys over the years ...spoke with james in doughil along with the nerneys in elphin.all to no avail. there is a reference in the famine museum in strokestown on the assaination
of the local lord dennis mahon and some of the nerneys in my line were

Brian Barry said...

Interested to come across this site, my mother is a Nerney from Killavackan/ Doughill and I have done some research on the family. James Nerney mentioned above is a cousin of my mother. Name was originally Mac An Airrchinnech (Anglicised MacInerney) Happy to hare what I know. Brian