Tracing The Brawleys

When I tell people that I research my family tree I’m often asked how far back I’ve gone. I’ve tried not to focus on that because I like to find as much as I can about an ancestor and that includes siblings and their families. I don’t just want to know their names. Plus when you’re family are poor Irish immigrants it’s a struggle to find records going back too far and that is the story of the maternal side of my family.

To be honest I’m surprised to have gotten as far back on the Brawley side. It’s taken quite a bit of work. I’ve had some theories but needed records to prove what I’d found. Brawley is not a particularly common name and when I found this death record I wondered if Mary Kean could be related.

What struck me about this record is the cause of death. Mary died aged 90 due to old age! If you have read any other Brawley posts you’ll know this is quite unusual. Dying at age 90 in 1862 gives a year of birth of 1872. I’m not sure that will be 100% accurate.

Mary’s death was registered by her son Hugh. I know from census records that Mary lived with Hugh and his family for a number of years. From these records and others I have found I know that she came to Scotland from County Derry but I don’t know when and I don’t know if her husband was with her or if he perhaps died in Ireland.

I also had this death record for a John Brawley who died in 1859 in the City Poorhouse in Glasgow.

Mary is his mother. I suspected he was my 3x great grandfather but again I had to prove that. I knew that my great great grandfather’s parents were John Brawley and Hannah Cain but unfortunately John’s wife is not named on the record. Poorhouse records are a great source of information so I visited the Mitchell Library to view the register. Unfortunately that particular record no longer exists.

Through further research, a DNA match and some luck I discovered that by 1848 my John Brawley was no longer with Hannah Cain. I don’t know if she died and, despite them having 5 children together, I can’t prove they were ever married. In 1848 John had the first of 3 children with English woman, Mary Ann Thornton.

If the John Brawley in the death record was my ancestor I thought there was a good chance that Mary Ann might also have had to seek help from the poorhouse. This proved to be the case and through her records I was able to confirm that the man in the above record is indeed my great, great, great grandfather and that Mary Kean or Brawley is my 4x great granny.

So, working my way through the Brawley line of my family starting with my grandfather we have

  • Hugh Brawley 1899-1968
  • Daniel Brawley 1864-1935
  • James Brawley 1837-1905
  • John Brawley 1797-1859
  • Hugh Brawley

I think it’s unlikely I will find out much more about Hugh. I know from the two death records that he was a weaver. He had a skill and a trade but times were so hard in Ireland that people were forced to leave and with changes from hand looms to industrial weaving it was not a skill he could pass on to his descendants. The next few generations had to labour just to survive. In more than one record John is described as a stone breaker. Life would have been a constant struggle.

Mary’s father was a farmer. I doubt he was a major landowner but I imagine her growing up in the country enjoying benefits of the fresh air. The Old Vennel in Glasgow where she later lived and subsequently died was a far cry from the Irish countryside. You can click here to see a photograph taken around the time the Brawleys were living there. Poor working class families, mainly immigrants like my ancestors, were crammed into squalid, overcrowded apartments. Crime was rife and the Brawley family were no strangers to crime with one family member being transported to Australia as a convict.

I have to be grateful to them their struggles. With each generation they tried hard to improve their lot. Thanks to their efforts I’m here today to tell their stories.

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