The Search for John Cotter, 1873

The Search for John Cotter, 1873

The Search for John Cotter, 1873

As with most Churches and Parishes in Ireland, there are constant requests for Baptismal, Marriage and other Certificates for a variety of reasons and these are provided as part of the day-to-day activities of Parish Sacristans and Secretaries.

And what may seem to be a rather mundane duty becomes a delight when there is a request for a search with regard to a person from the distant past.

St. Patrick’s Church on the Lower Glanmire Road, Cork, gets it’s fair share of requests and tries to help those who require this information, particularly members of the Irish diaspora who cannot visit to view the Records directly. In most cases, when the information is reasonably accurate, certificates can be provided. If the information contains an address, and it is found that an old ‘homestead’ still exists, a photograph will be taken and forwarded to the person who seeks the information, thus giving this person a greater connection with the past.

An interesting case arose recently which gave us, at St. Patrick’s, an opportunity to demonstrate our determination to please, and is as follows;

Sheila, from a large North American city, had been for years, trying to find details of her paternal Grandfather through the usual ‘Roots’ type websites, before hopping on to and in an email wrote:

Dear Sir/Madam: I am trying to find records of my grandfather, John Cotter, who arrived in the US with his parents and siblings in June 1892. So, the records would be before that date. I believe that his address was 45 Ballyhooly Road. His parents were John and Catherine (nee Harrington) Cotter. His siblings were Philip, Catherine, Joseph, Ellen, William, and James (these are the ones I can remember, there may be more).Are you able to verify that they were members of your Congregation? How can I receive copies of the verifying documents? Is there a fee for this? Thank you for your help. Sheila

While awaiting the results of the Record Search, No. 45, Ballyhooly Road was found, photographed, and sent on to Sheila.

45, Ballyhooley Road,(Blue Façade) where John Cotter Snr. and his wife Catherine lived, and where it is assumed where John Jnr. was born in 1873

In response, having checked our Records, Aonghus O’Broin, Parish Secretary replied;

Hi Sheila,
You have found a mother lode of records.
We have a wedding of John Cotter with Catherine Harrington on 29-8-1868. The priest was Rev W O’Sullivan The witnesses were Dan Harrington and then something indistinct that looks like Thomas Pyne and A Harris.
The bride’s address is given as Grattan Hill. - That is all we have, our records were brief at that time.

Grattan Hill, where Sheila’s Great Grandmother had lived at the time of her marriage

However !

We have lots of baptisms as follows:
Mary born 27-7-1869, address given Barrackstream, Godparents Thomas Pyne and Abina Harrington, the priest was W O’Sullivan

Michael born 16-9-1874, address given Harrington Place, Godparents John
Cotter and Helena Harrington, the priest was William J Lane
William born 16-9-1876, address given 1 Harrington Place, Godparents John Barry and Julia Anne Murphy, the priest was Rev Buckley
Thomas born 31-7-1878, address given 1 Harrington Place, Godparents Dan
Harrington and Susan Barry, the priest was William J Lane
Joseph born 16-10-1880, address given 1 Harrington Place, Godparents Patrick Barry and ?? Harrington, the priest was William J Lane
James born 14-10-1882, address given 1 Harrington Place, Godparents Philip Harrington and Ellen Dooly, the priest was Joseph O’Keeffe
Ellen born 4-11-1884, address given 1 Harrington Place, Godparents Richard Kirwan and Ellen McSweeney, the priest was J Cassidy
Philip born 8-11-1886, address given 1 Harrington Place, Godparents John Lehan and Anne Murphy, the priest was J Cassidy

I notice that you have a response from St. Joseph’s parish identifying
Daniel 8-1-1891 and Catherine 20-3-1889.

The information above is all we have on record. We can provide certificates if that is your wish. We charge a fee of €10 per certificate and it may not be worth your while having them when all you will get is the above information. We have a Paypal facility on our website that we have successfully used to facilitate payments of this nature. If you don’t require certs then a €20 donation
would cover the search costs.
Please let us know what you want us to do.
Aonghus O’Broin,
Parish Secretary,
St. Patrick’s Parish,

Barrackstream (house unknown), where Mary was born in 1869

No. 1 Harrington Place (grey corner house), where most of the Cotter children were born between 1874 and 1889.
Following the above information, Sheila wrote (9th. May);

‘This is fantastic! I cannot thank you enough. I don't know who Hannah is, but I am going to try to find out.’

Map of St. Patrick’s Parish (part) and adjoining Parish, SS Mary & Anne Shandon (part).

  1. Patrick Street, Cork City centre

B Rowland Lane, Anne Moore home

C St. Patrick’s Church, Lower Glanmire Road.

D Grattan Hill, Catherine Harringtons pre marriage home

E St. Patrick’s School, St. Luke’s Cross

F No. 1, Harrington Place

G ‘Kateville’, Ballyhooley Road

H Harrington Square

L No. 45, Ballyhooley Road

K Barrackstream

M St. Joseph’s Church

From the City Library; a photocopy of the ‘Cork Examiner’ dated Monday 30th. May 1892 advertising the various Shipping Companies operating sailings from Ireland (Queenstown) to ports in the United States

As a matter of interest, it was pointed out to Sheila that the ISMAY mentioned at the bottom of this advertisement was ‘Bruce Ismay’, the co-owner of the ‘White Star Line’ and the person named in the story on the ill- fated SS Titanic which was lost after striking an iceberg in the North Atlanticin 1912. Bruce Ismay survived this tragedy,he retired to live in Connemara, Co.Galway between 1920 to 1936, and on ill-health, he returned to England and died in 1937.

The vessel ‘Teutonic’ on which the Cotter family sailed to the United States (New York) on 23rd. June 1892, arriving at Ellis Island on Wednesday 29th. June 1892. This was 180 days following the arrival of the first person to be registered at Ellis Island, this being a young Cork girl named Anne Moore.

Extract from Ellis Island Records of Immigrant Arrivals
Name of Passenger / Residence / Arrived / Age on Arrival
1. / DanielCotter / Cork / 1892 / 0
2. / EllenCotter / Cork / 1892 / 5
3. / HannaCotter / Cork / 1892 / 17
4. / JamesCotter / Cork / 1892 / 9
5. / Jno.Cotter / Cork / 1892 / 19
6. / JohnCotter / Cork / 1892 / 50
7. / JosephCotter / Cork / 1892 / 10
8. / KateCotter / Cork / 1892 / 3
9. / KateCotter / Cork / 1892 / 42
10. / Michl.Cotter / Cork / 1892 / 17
11. / PhillipCotter / Cork / 1892 / 4
12. / Thos:Cotter / Cork / 1892 / 11
13. / Wm.Cotter / Cork / 1892 / 14
14. / Wm.Cotter / Cork / 1892 / 20

Sheila, in one of her many emails recalled being told that her Grandmother, Catherine Cotter (nee Harrington), had been ‘disowned‘ by her father on Catherine’s marriage to John Cotter. This is despite Catherine (Kate) being a favourite of her father and to the extent that her father, who had owned property in the general area, had named some of this property as ‘Kateville’.

In the surrounds of Ballyhooly Road, there are places, even to this day, named Harrington Place, Harrington Square and Harrington Row.

A physical search of the area failed to establish the whereabouts of ‘Kateville’, however, after a further visit to the City Library, ‘Kateville’ was identified from Ordinance Survey maps pre the 1900’s.

Note the name ‘Kate’ (Snr.) recorded in the Ellis Island immigrant records.

’Kateville’, the O.S. map indicated only two houses, now numbers 108 and 109 Ballyhooly Road, with a vacant plot adjacent. An extension to No. 109 was built on this plot, now 109a, (grey façade with two dormer windows).

Sheila, on receipt of the list of Baptisms was understandably upset that her Grandfather was not on the list, and so a further search was undertaken by Aonghus but to no avail.

A question was posed to Canon Dan PP on the lines that ‘ if a child on birth was found to be ‘poorly’ and a priest called, the child Baptised in the house, could it be that such a Baptism might go unregistered in the Church Records through oversight’. Canon Dan thought that this could have been possible at that time, 140 years ago. Today, it would be normal that a request for a Baptism is made through the Church Sacristan who would prepare the required pre-baptism details and would ensure that there would be a proper entry in the Baptismal Records.

This observation was passed on to Sheila.

Sheila replied;

Your email today reminded me of what my aunt told me about my grandfather: he was so small at birth that he could fit in a shoebox...just as you suggested. I am going to try the websites you recommended. But even if I don't find anything else, I have St. Patrick's records and the memories of John Cotter, a gentle man who loved me unconditionally and spoiled me rotten.

In a subsequent email Sheila having seen our article on the Home Page of our website outlining Megan Smolenyak’s search for the true ‘Anne Moore’ and she being the first person passing through Ellis Island and being of a similar age as her Grandfather, was it possible that her Grandfather might have known Anne Moore.

Reference to the Map above, Rowlands Lanewhere Anne Moorelived, is reasonably close to the Ballyhooly Road /St. Luke’s Cross area. Rowlands Lane would have been in the adjoining Parish of SS Mary and Anne Shandon

In our article dealing with the Educational developments of St. Patrick’s district, the following is an extract from that article;

St. Patrick's School opened to pupils for the first time on 13th September 1841. It's location at St. Luke's Cross was described by it's first manager, Rev. Patrick William Coffey, as 'the most central of St. Patrick's district and approachable by six roads which meet at this point.' Fr. Coffey, in his letter of 20th. September 1841, applying for aid towards the payment of teachers' salaries and supply of books, informed the Commissioners of National Education that 'the educational wants of the poor in the district of St. Patrick's and in the parishes of S.S. Mary and Anne Shandon in the eastern suburbs of the city of Cork induced the clergy and laity of the parishes to confer on this important subject two years back.'

It could be reasonably assumed that the Cotter siblings attended this school, it being ‘just down the road’ from No. 1 Harrington Place. It is also most possible that Anne Moore and her brothers also attended this school, it being the principle educational facility in the general area.

But did John Cotter know Anne Moore ?……….who can tell

In a further attempt to trace John Cotter the very helpful City Library officials suggested that two websites should be accessed;

The website of ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’, who specialises in records of births worldwide.

This website contains two John Cotters born in Cork in 1873 records but contains no further information such as birthdates, addresses, or parental details.

The second website is that of the ‘General Registration Office of Ireland, The Library officials advised that the tracing of births would best be undertaken by a physical visit and search. In the case of a search with just a name and a birth year to be undertaken by Registry Office officials by a ‘distant request’ could be time consuming and expensive.

Finally, all that we could do in St. Patrick’s was to send a photograph of the Marriage entry of Sheila’s Grandparents, unfortunately 144 year old ink tends to fade.

Clearly Sheila knew her Grandfather and all she wanted was a copy of his Baptismal Record. And this simple everyday request with which St. Patrick’s was unable to comply, resulted in the above research, and may be of some consolation to Sheila.

Should anyone have any further information in relation to our ‘search’ for John Cotter, we are sure that this would be appreciated by Sheila.

Contact can be made at

JK June 2012



Since going on line with the above, Sheila has advised that Catherine Cotter had one more child, Martin, who was born in Chicago.

Sheila was also curious: ‘was £8 .00 or £9.00 a lot of money back then (1892) ? Did they have to pay

for all of the children ?

We replied ;

‘Nine Pounds Sterling (£9.00) in 1892 equates to $415.36 US in 2012

Today, a one way trip on the Queen Mary 2 (taking six days) costs about $1500 while Freighter Passenger (taking 10 days) is about $135 per day. In both cases, the passenger would have a private cabin and the price also includes three full meals per day.

In your grandparents time, accommodation and meals at this Passenger Class was Second Class, not as good as Solo/Stateroom class but certainly much better than ‘Steerage’ which was most likely ‘communal’, (and very rough, especially in bad weather).

I doubt if there were any reduced costs for children as each would have been allocated a bunk in perhaps a number of cabins. Reference photo of the ‘Teutonic’, these cabins would have been at lower mid-ship (the dark line of portholes).

Sheila also asked ‘how did the adults survive 6 days on a boat with all these children’.

We replied;

‘Given that it was mid summer, the crossing was most likely calm. It was a great adventure and I would think that they were all very excited with the prospects of a new begining in the ‘New World’.’

Furthermore, we have found a descendent on the Harrington side of the family living in Cork and who is now in contact with Sheila.

Hopefully, we will be able to add more to the ‘The Search for John Cotter’ in due course.