The Search for John Cotter


The Search for John Cotter, 1873


Sheila Cotter (Chicago, Illinois) passed away on 28th . August 2019. Sheila was the originator of ‘The Search for John Cotter' and through her dogged perseverance, we eventually found her grandfather, John Cotter. He was so small at birth that ‘he would fit in a shoe box' as explained by Sheila.

We are eternally grateful to Sheila RIP, who inspired this article.


No body knows who or where the next piece of information comes from, however it is very nice and indeed gratifying when this information arrives. So, when this next piece came to us just before Christmas it was very pleasing, particularly in view of the association with St. Patrick's Church and Parish. (2nd. March 2020)

I am the great great grandaughter of Catherine Cotter, born in 1837 and baptized there, and the great great great granddaughter of John Cotter and Mary Mahoney. I am fascinated by the research that was done and I feel like I can confirm there was a brother named William. He is listed on the census with Catherine and two of her children in Kansas in 1880.
I believe Catherine and Mary came to New York together in the 1860's. Catherine married William Greaney in New York in 1869, and John Cotter and Mary Mahoney are listed as her parents. Mary married a man named Joseph Seaman Covert. Catherine and William made it to San Francisco by the late 1880's.

I am so excited to have found all this information and I hope we can share and explore even more! I had no idea there were other siblings besides Mary and William until I did the Ancestry DNA test. I have DNA matches there for descendants of John, Margaret and Mary. Now I really need to plan a trip to Ireland :)

Noreen Snyder '


The family of John Cotter & Mary Mahony of Old Youghal Road

Sheila Cotter set out to find the record of her grandfather's birth, but her interests included much more than what would be required just to compile a family tree.  Sheila was only a few weeks old when her great-grandmother Catherine Harrington Cotter died (baptised 1850 in St Patrick's), and was only 3 and a half when her beloved grandfather John Cotter died, so it was her father who passed on stories about the Cotter family and their origins in Cork.

Sheila came to Ireland with a group once but the tour she was on did not visit Cork. She showed a great interest in many aspects of Irish and especially Cork life. She knew the city to which John and Catherine Cotter had emigrated with their 10 children in 1892, and she wanted to know everything she could about what they had left behind them and why. She was interested in Irish history, in the Ballyhooly Road area, in Irish names, surnames and placenames, Gaelic words, Cork expressions, sport and more.

She followed the exploits of the O'Donovan brothers at the Rio Olympics. She made comparisons between Irish and American sports supporters. She celebrated Ireland's first ever win against the All-Blacks in Chicago, and her triumphant message ‘DOWCHA, CUBS' when, after a wait of 108 years, her favourite team won baseball's World Series in 2016 certainly owed more to Dillon's Cross than to Wrigley Field.

The last addition more or less finished off what I could find about the Cotter origins. Perhaps Noreen Snyder might come up with a bit about the ‘missing' Mary. I haven't had any reply from her since I sent on the extracts - but then I suppose in many countries things that might have seemed important a couple of months ago have been put on the back burner for a while.

St Patrick's Church website has several pages about the family of John Cotter (born 1841) who married Catherine Harrington and emigrated to Chicago in 1892. These paragraphs are a summary of other information that was found about his siblings and his parents - John Cotter (born about 1807) and Mary Mahony.


The marriage of John Cotter & Mary Mahony on 10 Apr 1833 is in the Cathedral parish registers.


John was a blacksmith and various trade directories in the period 1844-1875 show ‘John Cotter, blacksmith' at a number of locations on Old Youghal Road - including house-numbers 215, 216, 224 (all of which are near Collins Barracks) and 270 (which is near the Three Horseshoes pub.


Fulton's Directory of 1871 also has a ‘Thomas Cotter, blacksmith' at 221 Old Youghal Road but no other mention can be found of a Thomas: 221 OYR was the address at which John's daughter Margaret said she was born in 1844, it was also Anne Cotter's address on her marriage in 1873, and John Cotter himself died there in 1884.In any case, the Cotters appear to have livedon Old Youghal Road for at least 40 years.


John Cotter & Mary Mahony had six children (as far as we know at present):

Baptism Parish Address recorded Sponsors

William 26 Mar 1835 St. Mary's * none William Dundon/Mary Lee

Catherine 20 Jun 1837 St. Patrick's none Daniel Scully/Margaret Mahony

Mary 03 Aug 1839 St. Patrick's --cht Denis Lenihan/John Pyne/Mary Buckley

John 26 Dec 1841 St. Patrick's Gordon's Cross Richard Casey/Margaret Scully

Margaret 25 Feb 1844 St. Patrick's Gordon's Cross Denis Tuomy/Catherine Hickey [proxy Catherine Cotter]

Anne 08 Nov 1846 St. Patrick's none Robert Ormond/Mary Silke

* Until the opening of St Patrick's in 1836, the records for this area would have been in the St Mary's Cathedral registers.


The marriage and baptisms above were identified about five years ago, and at that time it was found that three of the family - William, John and Catherine - had emigrated to the US. Margaret married Thomas Penny and went to live in London and Anne married John Murphy and remained in Cork. The sixth, Mary, was not traced at that time, but in recent months a descendant of Catherine Cotter in the US has given information that Mary also emigrated.


William Cotter (1835)

The first information found in the search for William was actually his death details on FamilySearch which recorded that a William Cotter, blacksmith, a widower aged 72, died in Chicago in 1915: his parents were named as John Cotter and Mary Mahanly of Ireland. The mention of ‘blacksmith' and his parents' names attracted attention but at the time, his baptism record had not yet been found (because it was in a different parish and the register scans were not yet online) and the information was stored as just ‘interesting'. After William's baptism was identified, the usual sources were searched - BMD records, census returns, immigration lists and newspapers.


US Census recordsin 1900 and 1910 showedWilliam was married to Mary, who was born in Ireland, and he had a step-daughter Jennie Peasley - which showed it was his wife's second marriage


Illinois: Cook County Marriages (on FamilySearch)

William Cotter, aged 52, and Mary Peasley, aged 45, married in Cook County on 04 Apr 1891


Sheila, whose enquires started the ‘Search for John Cotter' always wondered why her great-grandparents and family chose to go to Chicago: this record showed that her great-grandfather John had already a brother settled there.


The US Census forms for 1900 and 1910 state that William Cotter immigrated 1870 or 1872 (the actual immigration record has not yet been located), so he was in the US for the 1880 Census at which time he was living in Kansas with his sister Catherine (see below for details). The forms for the 1890 Census were lost in a major fire, so we can't say where he lived at that time.


William's wife, Mary Peasley

Even though William married in Chicago, his wife Mary Peasley was from Cork, and William Cotter was her second husband.


The Peasley familyoriginated in Scotland, but had lived in the upper harbour area of Cork since the early 1800s at least, with the oldest reference being a marriage record in Passage West/Monkstown parish of John Pasley * & Hannah Huntress who married on 20 Sep 1804.All of the adult male Peasleys for whom I found records are described as shipwrights or boatbuilders, and the areas where they lived all had shipbuilding or repair yards in the 1800s. [*In various records, the spellings is Peasley, Paisley, Paisly or Pasley.]


The majority of the Peasley church records are in Passage West/Monkstown parish, but it is the St Patrick's records which are the relevant ones for our search:


In 1842, Martin Mahony of Silversprings and Ellen Callaghan of Tivoli married in St Patrick's, and their daughter Mary Mahony was born the following year and baptised in St Patrick's.


In 1865, Mary Mahony, then living on Strand Road (now Lower Glanmire Road) married William Peasley. Their daughter Jane was born in April 1866. Just a yearlater William Peasley died aged only 30 - six weeks before the birth of his son William. At the time, the family were living at 106 Lower Glanmire Road.


Google Street View: 106 Lower Road (centre)


Mary, Jane and William Peasley emigrated to the US some years later- immigration records have not been found. Whether they travelled separately or together is not yet known. The various US Census returns state Jane immigrated 1880, 1884, 1886or 1889 , that William immigrated 1884 or 1885, and that Mary travelled 1876 or 1880.


Mary and Jane (or Jennie) settled in Chicago where Mary married William Cotter in 1891. It is quite possible that Mary and William knew each other in Cork before they emigrated: (this) Mary Mahony was from Lower Glanmire Road, and William Cotter was from Old Youghal Road less than a mile away - and both their families attended St Patrick's Church. [Also, a ‘John Cotter' was a sponsor at the baptism of Jane Peasley - it's possible this could have been John (1841) who emigrated with his family in 1892.]


William Peasley married Margaret Ryan in New York and settled in Rochester, New York.


Jane Peasley was living with William Cotter and her mother in 1900 and 1910. Mary Peasley Cotter (nee Mahony) died in 1912 and her husband William died in 1915 - Jane registered both deaths. Jane Peasley continued to live in Chicago: in 1930 she was in the household of Michael Cotter (one of the 1892 family); her location in 1940 has not been identified, but when she died in 1954 her death was reported by Daniel V Cotter, a son of Michael.


Catherine Cotter (1837)

As mentioned above, the eldest Cotter daughter Catherine was in Kansas in 1880 when the Census was taken:


United States Census, 1880: Shannon, Atchison, Kansas, US

Catherine Greeney Head F 37 Ireland married

Daniel G Greeney Son M 9 New York

Mary C Greeney Daughter F 4 New York

William Cotter Brother M 42 Ireland single blacksmith


Catherine is ‘married', not ‘widowed' but her husband seems to be away and thus is not named, but by tracing their son Daniel G in the New York City Births on FamilySearch, it was found that his father was William Greaney who married Catherine Cotter in Manhattan in 1869: the parents of both were listed, so it was possible to further trace the baptism of William Greaney in Boherbue parishon 29 Oct 1839 where his parents were Daniel Greaney & Cathleen Dineen.


Catherine Cotter was already in New York by 1869. US Census 1880 did not ask about immigration and the 1890 forms were burned, so moving on to 1900, we find:


US Census 1900: 2221 Polk St, San Francisco

William Grancy Head M 55 Ireland imm 1862

Katherine C Grancy Wife F 60 Ireland imm 1861

Daniel G Grancy Son M 28 New York

[The transcription says GRANCY but it looks like GRANEY on the image of the page.]


So we find the first of the Old Youghal Road Cotters - Catherine - was in New York as early as 1861, in Kansas in 1880 (also her brother William), and the California Great Registers 1866-1910 on FamilySearch show that her son Daniel G (and probably all his family) was in California by 1892.


California Great Registers 1866-1910

Daniel George Greaney, 815 Greenwich, San Francisco; aged 21, born NY; voter registration 1892

Daniel George Greaney, 1228 Union, San Francisco; aged 25, born NY; voter registration 27 Jul 1896


CatherineCotter Greaney died in San Francisco in 1909.


Mary Cotter (1837)

Tracing of Mary Cotter was not successful. At one time it was thought she married a local man in Cork, but subsequent checking showed it was likely to be a different Mary Cotter of Barrackstream. It has since been established that Mary (1837) also emigrated.


John Cotter (1841)

‘The Search for John Cotter' elsewhere on this website gives an account of John's marriage to Catherine Harrington and their emigration through Ellis Island in 1892.


Margaret Cotter (1844)

Margaret's story is told in the ‘Margaret Cotter Penny' section of this website.


Anne Cotter (1846)

Anne, the youngest of the Cotter siblings, married John Murphy in St Patrick's in 1873: 221 Gordon's Cross is recorded as the address for both. John is described as a carpenter, and his father as William Murphy as a publican.


The births of five children are found in the site:

1874 birth William Murphy, 221 Gordon's Cross; parents John Joseph Murphy (carpenter) & Anne Cotter

1876 birth John Murphy, 221 Old Youghal Road; parents John Murphy (carpenter) & Anne Cotter

1878 birth Michael Murphy, 215 Goldens Cross; parents John Murphy & Anne Cotter

1881 birth Mary Murphy, 215Gordons Cross; parents John Murphy & Anne Cotter

1889 birth Timothy James Murphy, 221 Old Youghal Road; parents John Murphy & Anne Cotter


Three of the boys appear in the registers of St Patrick's Boys School near St Luke's Cross:

enrolled name aged address father

09 Mar 1882 William Murphy 7 Golden Cross carpenter

02 Apr 1883 John Murphy 8 City View carpenter

16 Nov 1897 Timothy Murphy 8 Old Youghal Rd dead


If these are all of the correct family, it would appear that their father John Murphy died between 1888 and 1897; no death record has been found to date, but Anne is listed as a widow in the 1901 Census. -


Census 1901: house 289 in Old Youghal Road (North East Ward, Cork)

Murphy Anne 47 Female Head widow

Murphy William 26 Male Son blacksmith

Murphy John 24 Male Son general labourer

Murphy Mary 19 Female Daughter laundress

Murphy Timothy 12 Male Son scholar


Anne Cotter Murphy died at 289 Old Youghal Road on 04 Jun 1903, aged 47. The informant of her death was her son William who was a blacksmith.


The Eircode Finder site does not recognise the address 289 Old Youghal Road, but the Three Horseshoes pub is at #290. In the snip above from the 1900 Ordnance Survey map, the pub is marked with a red star. The house next-door (to the west) which presumably is #289 is tagged ‘Smy' indicating a smithy or forge.


In the extract below from the modern Eircode map, it can be seen that three houses now occupy the sites which were #288 and #289 in 1900: their addresses are Cahergal View, numbers 1, 2 and 3.




The deaths of John Cotter (1807-1884) and Mary Cotter (1801-1883)


Notice of the deaths of both John and Mary Cotter appeared in ‘The Cork Examiner', which was unusual at a time when very few death announcements were published.


Mary Cotter (nee Mahony) died 29 Jan 1883 ‘at her residence' at Gordon's Cross.

mary cotter funeral 1883.JPG


A year later John Cotter, blacksmith, died ‘at his residence' at 221 Old Youghal Road.

jcotter death 1884.JPG


In each case, the person registering the death was Anne Murphy (daughter) of the same address.


The surprising detail is that Mary Cotter's funeral was to Ballyluchra, whereas John was buried in Caherlag graveyard (which was then part of Glanmire parish).


The distance from where they lived near Dillon's Cross to either cemetery is 3 to 4 miles. Because they are not buried in any of the nearer cemeteries, it seems likely that their families originated in Glanmire or nearby parishes. Glanmire parish has since been divided into two separate parishes - Glanmire and Glounthaune.



Above: The north-east corner of Cork city is to the left: the orange star is Dillon's Cross.

Glanmire and Riverstown are slightly right of centre.

The red arrow shows Ballyluchra graveyard; the yellow arrow shows Caherlag.


Caherlag and Ballyluchra (also known as Brooklodge graveyard) are alike in that each is small and very old, but they are very different in other ways. Caherlag has received a lot of attention and is well-kept.


Caherlag is the final resting place of John Cotter (1807-1884)

caherlag from air.JPG


In Ballyluchrawhen first visited in 2015, some areas, especially where there were more recent burials,were well-maintained, but other parts were overgrown with ivy, brambles and tree saplings: many gravestones were almost completely hidden, while others were covered in moss.


Mary Mahony Cotter (1801-1883) is buried in Ballyluchera





The headstones at Caherlag have been transcribed and can be examined on . There are five Cotter headstones, but no obvious link to the Old Youghal Road Cotters.


I am not aware of any listing of the older burials at Ballyluchra. There are 7 or 8 Cotter memorials, but again no obvious link. Also it is Mary Mahony Cotter that is buried here, so it's possible that she was buried in a Mahony grave (two Mahony headstones were found). At the time of my last visit, some clearing of the vegetation had been done which made it possible to read some extra inscriptions, including one extra Cotter headstone.


The inscriptions on the Cotter headstones in Caherlag and Ballyluchra show that Cotters who lived several miles away were being buried in both of these cemeteries. A brief search of old newspapers showed Cotter funerals to Ballyluchra from Ballinahina (7 miles away) and Carrignavar (8 miles) even though there are several nearer graveyards to each of these places. It seems likely that at least one earlier generation (and perhaps many) of the Cotters were buried in Caherlag, and probably likewise of the Mahonys in Ballyluchra.


It is also of interest that among the sponsors at the six Cotter baptisms, there is only one Mahony and one Cotter: this might be because the parents John and Mary had few siblings, or it might indicate that they were living at a distance from their home area - there could of course be other causes.

It is not possible to say when John Cotter and Mary Mahony left the Glanmire area, if that is where they came from, as few parishes in Cork have records before the 1820s, so it is unlikely that any of their ancestors can be traced. Glanmire has got baptism records from 1806, but no likely baptism for either John or Mary was found. The only indication of their birth dates we have is from their death records which suggest 1807 and 1801 respectively but there is no guarantee that these dates are accurate.