Are you descended from Stafford’s Victorian Irish families?


I estimate that around 4,000 Irish people stopped in Stafford during the nineteenth century.  Some only stayed a short time in the town before moving elsewhere. Others lived there for a few years but then they also left.  All the time, however, a residue of people and families from this mass of migrants stayed on in Stafford, and they are the families who appear in this blog.

I have identified 206 ‘families’ who stayed in Stafford for at least ten years – in other words, they appeared in at least two Censuses or there is other evidence that they were here for that length of time.  These ‘families’ ranged from lone individuals through nuclear units with partners and children to complex families with a large number of related individuals and sub-groups. The pdf table below lists these 206 families and gives basic information about them.

Do you think you might be descended from one of these families? Many descendants have already been in contact with me but I’m always keen to hear from new people who might have information and thoughts to offer about their Irish ancestors. In return I can offer you more information about these families’ genealogies and their experiences in Victorian Stafford.

The pdf table gives the following information:-


Where two surnames are shown one of the names will be the maiden name of an Irish woman in an ethnically mixed marriage or partnership.


The date shown is of the first evidence we have of the family’s arrival in Stafford.


Shows the province of Ireland in which the family or key individuals originated:-

Known places of origin of Stafford's Irish families

Known places of origin of Stafford’s Irish families

Connacht: the biggest proportion of Stafford’s Irish came from Connacht, Ireland’s poorest province in the west of the country. Many originated in an area of Counties Roscommon, Galway and Mayo that surrounds the small town of Castlerea.

Leinster: the province in the east of Ireland that surrounds the capital, Dublin. A significant minority of Stafford’s immigrants came from here

Ulster: the nine counties in the north of Ireland that include the main industrial city, Belfast. Stafford received a small number of Ulster immigrants, both Protestant and Catholic.

Munster: the province in the south west of Ireland where the main cities were Cork and Limerick. The least important source of Stafford’s Irish.


This gives basic information on what sort of family it was and its shows that the family situations of Irish migrants were more complex than is often thought. I have identified five different types of ‘Irish’ family, namely:-

Irish family: a family that was formed in Ireland and moved to Stafford as an existing unit with children who were born in Ireland. Later children may have been born in Stafford.

Irish adults: a family that was formed in Stafford from Irish people who met in the town after their arrival. All their children were born in Stafford.

Mixed-M: a mixed ethnicity family where an Irish-born man was partnered with a British-born woman.

Mixed-F: a mixed ethnicity family where an Irish-born woman was partnered with a British born man.

British: there were a small number of families where British people had lived in Ireland and had children there. These children therefore appear in the records as Irish-born and some may, indeed, have had some identity with their Irish childhood.


In most cases it is possible to identify whether families were Catholic or Protestant. The majority of Irish immigrants were Catholic, as you would expect, but there was a significant Protestant minority too.


The research looks at the long-term history of each family – in other words, what happened to them? In broad terms they went in one of three directions:-

Long-term transient: these families stayed in Stafford for at least ten years but ultimately the immigrants and/or their children or grandchildren left the town and the family disappeared. Many emigrated from Britain as part of the wave of emigrants to the New World in the later 19th century.

Terminal: these individuals and families settled in Stafford but failed to intermarry either with Irish or local people. They literally just died out.

Integrating: these families intermarried with local people and put down deep roots in Stafford. They survived into the 20th century and in many cases their descendants are still in the town today.

It’s important to stress that, at the margins, some families showed evidence of more than one ‘fate’ and were difficult to categorise. Family life is complex!


Open the list of Irish families HERE


47 thoughts on “Are you descended from Stafford’s Victorian Irish families?”

  1. Emma Richey said:

    Hi John, do you know any more about the Dolans? especially Darby Dolan?


    • Emma, thanks for your comment. I do know a certain amount about the Dolan family – in fact it’s one of the families I’d like to put on the blog at some time. I’ll have a look at what I currently have and send you a fuller reply by e-mail. With best wishes, John


  2. keith salt said:

    Hi john have just across your site my surname is salt i have done some family tree history . during this i found one of my relatives was traced as being born in templemore in 1849 he lived at 8 broad eye in stafford have you any information on the salts in stafford

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Keith, I know a certain amount the Salt family. In the context of my study Thomas was what I call ‘accidentally Irish’. His father was in the army and Thomas was born in Templemore, Co. Tipperary, when he and his wife Mary Ann were on a posting in Ireland. The Salts were back in Stafford in 1851, so Thomas junior can have had no memories of Ireland, but it is interesting that he nevertheless consistently gave Ireland as his place of birth on Census returns. The basic picture is that the Salts were a Staffordshire family, as you doubtless know, and I haven’t pursued their history any farther than producing an outline family tree. I’ll send a copy of this to your e-mail address. Many thanks for getting in touch. John


  3. Catherine Turner said:

    Fascinating blog. My mother came over 1946. I think her relatives went to the Midlands long before her. She came over to do her nursing as there was no jobs where she was. She was a Beirne from Elphin. Co Roscommon. Looks like a lot came from that area


    • Dear Catherine, Many thanks for getting in touch. Yes, you are right that many Irish in the English midlands came from the Roscommon/Galway/Mayo area. Before the Famine the link was established by thousands of seasonal migrant harvest workers who came to Staffordshire, Cheshire and Lancashire because these were the nearest places in England to work after they’d landed at Liverpool after walking across Ireland to ports like Dublin and Drogheda. Galway, Mayo and Roscommon were areas of great rural poverty and stress even before the Famine – that’s why these workers needed money from harvest work in England. When the Famine struck many people forced to emigrate from these three counties came to places they already knew, hence the reason many Famine immigrants turned up in Stafford and many other places in this part of England. Roscommon lost a greater proportion of its population through death and emigration than any other Irish county during the Famine. It’s significant that you think members of your mother’s family went to the Midlands long before her. It shows the persistence of emigrant connections over long periods of time and I’d be interested to know what else you know about your family’s connections. Best wishes, John


      • Cath Turner said:

        I have recently discovered my G great grandma was an Irish immigrate living in Stafford in the 1980 .Elizabeth Lyons. Do ypu know anything of the name.
        Regard s


      • Dear Catherine, Many thanks for getting in touch. Yes, I do know a certain amount about Elizabeth Lyons and her family. She was the first surviving daughter of Joseph Michael Lyons and his wife Mary and was born in Stafford in early 1864. Her birth was never registered but she was baptised at St Austin’s RC Church on 6th March 1864. Her father Joseph had been born in Ireland around 1821 but I do not know where. Mary was born in Yoxall, Staffordshire, around 1814 but I have not definitely found her marriage to Joseph or her maiden name. The couple seem to have arrived in Stafford around 1864, possibly from Dudley. Joseph was Catholic but Mary was Church of England; I doubt whether either church played much of a part in their lives. They went on to have one other surviving child, Ann who was born in 1866. She married an Edward Jennings on 14 December 1886 and there are probably many descendants from their marriage. Elizabeth’s father Joseph ran a fish stall in Stafford market but I am sorry to say he was a rather rum character. He was prosecuted on a number of occasions for selling bad fish, disturbing the peace and drunkenness. His daughter, Elizabeth, your ancestor, seems to have helped out on her father’s stall and was, I am afraid, rather like him. She was prosecuted in 1881 was assaulting another stall holder, for being drunk and disorderly in 1890 and again in 1894 when she was described as a ‘dissolute woman’. Elizabeth had two illegitimate children, Elizabeth Maud who was born and died in 1893 and Kate, born in 1889. It is from her that you must be descended. She married Wilfred Ingram in 1910 at Cannock as you may know. It is a pity I cannot say more about why Elizabeth’s father came to England from Ireland or where he came from. If there’s anything else I can help you with, please get in touch. John


      • catherine Turner said:

        Hi John .
        Thank you for your prompt reply re Elizabeth Lyons ,im not sure about the Cannock marriage but Elizabeth Lyons married my Great Granddad is Stone in 1921 ( thereabouts ) My GG grandad was from Italy and worked for her dad .he had a family in Stafford a Matilda Malpass ,no record of a marriage. he had 14 children with 2 women and my Grandad was born in stafford in 1896. we think he ran off with “Elizabeth .i do have a photo of her and was told she was an “Amazon of a woman” at one time she called her self Elizabeth Lyons ferrie


      • Dear Catherine, Your family is very complicated and you’ve helped me solve some of the problems! I forgot to say in my last note that Joseph Lyons died in Stafford in 1893 (in the Workhouse). His wife Mary had died in 1886. You’ve helped me solve the mystery of Elizabeth’s ‘disappearance’ from any of the records I searched because she did end up with Ralph Ferrie as you say. It must have been around 1894. Ralph had been living in Stafford since at least 1877 and was married to, or living with, Matilda, presumably Malpass as you say. In 1881 he was a fishmonger like Joseph Lyons. Ralph, also as you say, seems to have run off to Stone with Elizabeth Lyons in the 1890s and Matilda Ferrie nee Malpass then went to live with a Robert Crossfield who had been born in Chester. In 1901 they were living in Chorlton on Medlock in Manchester. He was a sweet boiler and one of their children was Rose, aged 12, who was actually Robert Ferrie’s last surviving child with Matilda. The Cannock marriage I mentioned was that of Elizabeth’s daughter Kate. She was born in 1889 and was taken in by a family named Holt who must, I think, have been related to Mary Lyons, Elizabeth’s mother. She was living with them in both 1891 and 1901 and by the latter year was called Kate Holt. I had assumed you were descended from her because I didn’t know about Elizabeth’s subsequent history and children with Ralph Ferrie! The family was much more complicated than I had thought. Best wishes, John


    • HI Catherine.
      my Family arrived in North Staffs in the 1850s.
      we were from the Balinameen , Frenchpark area of Roscommon.
      we settled in the area surrounding Bidduph, and my ancestors worked at the Robert Heath Iron works.
      upon leaving Roscommon I understand our Name was Beirne, but changed to Byrne once in the UK for some reason.- possibly due to illiteracy .
      my G.G. Grandmother Winifred (Tansy) returned with my G.G. Grandfather John Beirne to Roscommon twice to give birth to two of their children before returning to Staffordshire.
      Bob Byrne


  4. Margaret Gannon said:

    Dear John
    I came across your website yesterday evening and have thoroughly enjoyed reading its contents. I have found your observations/comments so helpful. My paternal line ‘Kenny’ originated from Ballaghaderreen which used to be in Mayo but, after a change of boundaries, is now in Roscommon.
    My great great grandfather had two brothers, according to the Griffiths Valuation, both of whom disappeared in the mid to late 1880’s. I finally found one in Bradford and later found evidence of the other brother, Andrew Kenny, linking to Burslem. It seems that in 1916 Andrew’s son, Thomas, is wanting to claim his pension. An Agent from St Joseph’s, Hall Street, Burslem writes off for information about the Kenny’s in the Irish 1851 Census. Irish Genealogy confirms their presence in the Census. Andrew Kenny, born circa 1810, married a Mary Casey and Thomas is one of their children.
    Would you have any ideas how I might fast forward through subsequent generations? With me not having any Christian names, other than Thomas, I am unable to prove links with other Kenny’s in the area.
    Many thanks, Margaret


    • Dear Margaret, many thanks for your comments and information. There was a Kenny family in Stafford but from what you’ve told me it seems unlikely there’s any connection with your family except incredibly remotely. Over your question, I gather you are clear that Thomas Kenny was the son of Andrew Kenny and Mary Casey but that you are uncertain ow Thomas fits into your own ancestry. As you know about your own great great grandfather, have you tried to glean basic information about your other ancestors from any of your own relatives – parents, grand parents, aunts, uncles etc? If that isn’t possible, then you really need access to Ancestry or one of the other genealogical sites. You need to find out if and when Thomas married and whether it was in Ireland before he left or in the Potteries after he had come to England. The late-19th century English census returns should tell you whether he had any children and you then need to trace their marriages through the earlier 20th century, looking again at the Census (especially 1911) to see where those children were and whether any had by then married. After 1911 the process becomes trickier because no Census returns are available. You should be able to trace marriages and children born subsequently, but the basic genealogical information will not be enough to easily link registered births to specific parents unless you actually send for the birth (and marriage) certificates which could end up being costly. If you are definite about where the Kennys lived you might be able to use sources such as electoral registers and street directories but they, of course, don’t have children in unless (in some cases) they are adults and living at home. It’s all an exercise in detective work but I can’t guarantee success! The Ancestry site has many supposed family trees that owe more to wild speculation than provable genealogy! John


  5. Rosaleen Fergus said:

    Hi John,

    I have just seen this website and looked on the list of Irish Families and found the surname I am researching which is “Fergus”. My Father was John Fergus born in Cloontumper, Bekan, Mayo. His Great Grandfather was William Fergus and he is shown in the Griffiths Valuation (1856-1857) as living in Cloontumper, Annagh, Mayo. William’s brother John Fergus is shown in the Griffiths Valuation as living in Eden (Eden Park), Knock.

    William Fergus married Bridget McGrath (McGrah) and they had four children: Margaret (b.approx 1848 – Ireland – not sure where), Bridget (b.1851), Martin (b.1854) and Mary (b.1857) – the latter three were born in Bekan, Mayo.

    I know that William and Bridget’s son Martin emigrated to Hoboken, NJ in 1880, married Mary Quinn who unfortunately died shortly after the birth of their second son. Martin brought his two sons back to live on the family farm in Cloontumper and is shown on the 1901 census but not on the 1911 census. I did eventually find out that he died in Manchester approx.1929. His sisters Margaret and Mary stayed on the family farm until their deaths (between 1925-1930). Martin’s other sister married a Michael Flannery from Rhanagard, Claremorris and had several children, their daughter Bridget married a James Rabbit from Woodstock, Carrowconnor, Claremorris and they were the Grandparents of Pat Rabbitte the Former Teachta Dála.

    I am not sure whether William and Bridget after their marriage came over to Staffordshire and if you are able to shed any light on this it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.



    • Dear Rosaleen, many thanks for your information. The Fergus family in Stafford arrived during the Famine, probably in 1849. They were Dennis Fergus and his wife Bridget Egan and James Fergus and his wife Mary Egan. There was also a lone immigrant, John Fergus and a Mary Fergus married a Patrick Evans in Stafford in 1853. I suspected they came from Co. Mayo but had no definite information. However, I think it is quite likely that the Stafford Fergus families were related to your ancestors from the districts in Co. Mayo that you know about, and that is very helpful to me. Fergus is not a common Irish surname, so the chances they were all related are quite high. The Fergus families in Stafford proved to be ‘long-term transients’ and left the town in the 1850s and 1860s. I have not traced where they went to but it is quite likely they emigrated, perhaps to America as you have found with some of your line. So I don’t think your ancestors came to Stafford town itself. A Peter Fergus lived in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1881 and there was another Fergus in Stockport.


  6. Carol Forsberg said:

    Hi, I am researching the Mayo family from Tipton, Staffs, for a friend. The family legend has it that there is an Irish connection. Have you come across this name amongst the Irish families in Staffordshire. I note that it is not on your list, but thought you may have some information?


    • Hello Carol. The name Mayo isn’t on my list because I’ve no record of any Irish person with that name living in Stafford during the 19th century. That’s not to say someone with that name might not have passed through and left no record. My list only covers the town of Stafford, however, not the whole county of Staffordshire. As you already know, the surname is particularly found in the Black Country but I suspect the Irish connection, if any, is rather lost in the mists of history since many people with that surname were born in Staffordshire as early as the late eighteenth century, maybe earlier. I suspect the family legend may be false, although it’s of course quite possible one of the Black Country Mayos married an Irish immigrant at some time. I think you’ll need to take your researches back into the 18th century to find the origin of the family and its name.


  7. Hi there – great book and website (my aunt is Sally Harrison, making me a descendent of Bartholomew C, my father was grandson of William Westhead, albeit born a year after he and Mary died so no memories of them). I must make it to Stafford and Connacht


    • Dear Jeremy, how good to hear from you. I met with members of your family back in the early 2000s and received a lot of help from them as you can see in the book and blog. Let me know if there’s any more help I could try to give you about the Corcoran and Westhead families.


    • Dave O'Meara said:

      Hi Jeremy
      A quick check of my family tree makes you a 4th cousin once-removed. My g.g.g. grandmother Bridget Follows (nee Corcoran) was Batholomew’s sister. We are both descended from their parents, Patrick and Catherine Corcoran.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This site is disseminating valuable info to people who are most concerned of the following issues being targeted by this site. Many certainly will keep coming back to check out updated posts.


  9. Marie Thomson said:

    My maternal grandfather was John Raftery son of John and Jane Raftety (nee Burton)


  10. Veronica Griffin said:

    Dear John,
    I came across your book by chance online and realise that my great great grandmother was Mary Corcoran (Clewlow) that went to live with her daughter Ruth in Bromyard. Fascinating to read about a family that I knew very little about apart from them being of Irish origin and living in Staffordshire. My nan also named Ruth Mary -now I know where her names are from Thank you so much.


    • Dear Veronica,
      Many thanks for responding to the site and the book. As you will realise, we are related through James Charles Clewlow! He was my great great grandfather – but I am descended from his first wife, Mary Hodge. My great great grandmother was brought up by her step mother, Mary Corcoran, but I also know little beyond the bare facts about the Clewlow side of the family. Do you? The Corcorans were an interesting Irish family in Stafford.


  11. Karen Nichols-Juniper said:

    Hi John,

    I am researching a friends history – Higgins from Nottingham and it appears that John Higgins was from Roscommon (as well as his wife and her various family – Barlow, Raferty).

    They settled in Staffordshire, in Burslem before moving on.

    This is the first foray into Irish history as I have been doing my own English history for 25 years so I am not as knowledgeable about Ireland.

    I have a couple of basic questions I wonder if you could help me with. 1. Why did they come to the UK and why Staffordshire? Are there any records of emigration?

    Finding it all fascinating if not a little confusing.

    Thanks for this site its amazing.



    • Dear Karen, Many thanks for your comments – I’m glad you find it interesting. To answer your questions:

      Why they came to Staffordshire. Many answers here. The Roscommon connection was very important in that Roscommon and the adjacent areas of Mayo and Galway were economically stressed areas before the Famine with massive land hunger, poverty and ‘overpopulation’. That meant that many men, especially, emigrated every year to do seasonal work on farms in England, and Staffordshire was a very convenient place to go because with was relatively close to Liverpool as the main port of entry to England. So many thousands of Irish from that area had connections with Staffordshire before the Famine and, for many, it was a bolt-hole to go when the Famine struck. They didn’t, of course, just work on the farms and increasing numbers went to places like Burslem in the Potteries to do labouring work in industry and on building sites etc. So that broadly explains your ancestor’s movements.

      Records of emigration? No, not really. No record was kept of people getting on cross-channel boats to Britain. We only know the broad numbers who arrived in Britain from Census counts of where people had been born, in this case Ireland. There are records – after the Famine – of people arriving at important immigration ports overseas like New York, but for Britain it is almost impossible to trace individual moves from Ireland to this country. Sometimes the British Census enumerators recorded the actual place in Ireland where people had been born and it may sometimes then be possible to trace them back to families living in that area from Irish records like the so-called Griffiths valuation, the Tithe Applotments and church registers of baptisms, marriages and burials . In general, though, it’s very hard to trace ordinary people definitively back to a specific place of origin in Ireland.


  12. Edward W.Westhead said:

    John, I have found your book extremely interesting both in style and content. I am the grandson of Agnes Corcoran and Peter Westhead who came to Philadelphia in 1908 with my 4-year old father, same name as mine. There is much new to me in your history and much that fits in with family oral history. I recall my mother speaking of Dad’s grandfather who “had a second family in his 60’s after marrying his housekeeper” My mother said his original family looked down on the new offspring, but it was the new ones who “worked hard and made something of themselves”
    I had the very great pleasure last summer in Derbyshire of spending a wonderful afternoon and evening in the home of Sally Ann Harrison (who supplied your Figure 7.3) with some of my closest “English-side” relatives. The photo at the top of your website is very clear and I could spot my grandfather instantly. Thank you, Ed Westhead


  13. Ted Riley said:

    Hi my Riley family came from IRELAND in around1854,his name was JOHN RILEY,THEY LIVED 10 NEW ST,HANLEY. His wife was Anna they had sons WILLIAM and ,MICHAEL both born in IRELAND, their third son THOMAS EDWARD RILEY was born in Hanley Staffs was my grt grandfather. On the1861 census it says born in SCHOLAN no such place the 1861 census says Kilkenny, I’ve hit a brick wall. Hope you can shine a light. Many thanks Ted Riley


    • I don’t think I can offer much help, Ted. I suspect the original 1861 Census return is defective and that the word looking like ‘Scholan’ is actually ‘Scholar’ and that either John Riley filled out the original schedule incorrectly and was saying he and his wife and children had been ‘scholars’ in Ireland, or that the enumerator put the word in through carelessness, day-dreaming or whatever. I see that by 1871 John had died. Anna said she had been born in Kilkenny (county or city unknown) and that’s a useful clue. John Riley may have come from that area too and they might have been married there. So I should follow the path to Kilkenny – but it won’t be easy and your brick wall may still remain, I’m sorry to say. It can be very difficult – or impossible – to definitively trace people back to their origins in Ireland. You’re not helped by the different spellings the name Riley could have, either.


  14. I am not really good with English but I find this real leisurely to read .


    • Thanks!


    • Edward W.Westhead said:

      Hoa McKim; My ancestors were talked about at length in John Hersons book; My grandfather was Peter Westhead who married Agnes Corcoran and migrated to the USA in about 1903. If you have any further information about the Corcoran’ s I’d be very happy to read it. My mothers side were Ritchies and Cox’s both coming to USA about 1890 I think. We have very little information about those families. Best regards, Ed Westhead


  15. Hannah Rolston said:

    Hi, Ive found your book via a new found relative whilst looking at my family tree and I am so pleased I did. Jane Carabine and James Kelley are my 4th great grand parents, your book really brought my history to life. I wondered as there life was so well documented if there would be any photos that you know of? Thanks so much.



    • Hannah, many thanks for your interesting comment. I’ll give you some answer in the next few days.


    • Edward Westhead said:

      To Hannah and others. your question about photos triggered the thought that I have several photos that I could easily get decent copies of to send to others. Maybe there could be an interesting set of photo exchanges originating through this website, unless it got so popular that it became a nuisance to John who did not establish this site for that purpose. My grandfather was Peter Westhead who came to America about 1903, with his wife Agnes (Corcoran) and their young family. Ed Westhead


      • Edward, how good to hear from you and many thanks for your great suggestion. I’ve decided to give it a go! I’ve added a new page to the blog headings called ‘Can you contribute?’ People can email me directly through that page with material they might like to contribute and exchange. John


      • Hannah Rolston said:

        Hi Edward, sorry for the delay in answering. I think its a wonderful idea. Other photos of our ancestors must exist out there some where. Would be nice to put face to the names, Hannah

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Christine Hill said:

    My great grandmother was born Mary Ann Coghlan, born 1871, at 6 Brook Street, Stafford. Her parents were John Coghlan and Mary Ann Loweth.
    She married my greatgrandfather (David Evans, also from Stafford) in 1890 and had a child, Florence Evans, who was my grandmother.. In 1901 he had left him and moved to Birmingham and became the partner of Joseph William Rupert Barnes.
    I am not sure if they were legally married but she took his name, and had a child by him in 1902 (Elsie Doris Barnes. Mary Ann died in 1903.
    Other members of the Barrnes family lived in Stafford. The names of both Coghlan and Barnes are on your list of Irish people living in the north end of Stafford.
    I have done some research but would love to learn more about them Can you help me?


  17. Alexis Wenzowski said:

    Hi John,

    Thank you so much for your hard work on this. It is appreciated.

    I too am a descendent of Lizzie Lyons and Ralph Ferrie!

    I am interested in learning more about my grandmother’s side, though, as both were considered Irish. John Nolan and Mary Ann Antley were my great grand-parents. They were in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, and ended up in Stone, Staffordshire (probably around 1917). I am wondering if you have anything on either family? John Nolan also had a second family, which I know nothing of.


    • Alexis, many thanks for your comment. I’m sorry, I don’t have anything on your Nolan or Antley ancestors. My research is focused on Stafford town and its surroundings and I haven’t been able to follow families settling in Newcastle under Lyme or Stone. Both of your surnames are not very common, so you ought to be able to trace them, particularly the Antley family, a surname I’ve never seen before. I can only wish you the best of luck with your researches.



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