James Keegan Sr (1812 – 1879) and his son James H Keegan Jr. (1847 – 1927) were laid to rest in Chapel Hill cemetery in Trescott, ME. James Sr. immigrated to Trescott from Ireland in 1836. I had seen their gravestones on the findagrave.com website but I wanted to go there myself. I had hit a roadblock in tracing James Sr in Ireland. My cousin Teresa had visited Ireland and requested information about him from the Meath Heritage & Genealogy Centre in Trim, Ireland, County Meath. The Centre found one listing for a James Keegan born March 27th, 1812 to Pat Keegan and Elizabeth Keating. But the birth date for this James did not match the birth date on his gravestone (October 6, 1812). I noted that County Meath was misspelled on his gravestone as Meade, perhaps the date of birth was not accurate either. The Centre’s search covered 1812 +/- 5 years and found two other James Keegans:
(1) 8th November 1814 – James born to John Keegan and Elizabeth Camble (Oldcastle).
(2) 25th July 1816 – James born to Thadeus Keegan and Mary Newman (Kildalkey).
With no other information to go on, such as James’ parents names etc in Ireland, the Centre wrote that there was no way to know which James Keegan was our ancestor. It occurred to me that I did not know the name of James’ wife and emigrating from Ireland in 1836 at the age of 24, he may have been married in Ireland. If I visited his gravesite, perhaps I could find his wife and her name there too.
I strolled around Chapel Hill Cemetery looking for his gravestone. It is a small and beautiful cemetery nestled against the woods, now bright with the reds, yellows, golds and greens of Fall.
Among a carpet of red cranberries and green moss were stones that marked the graves of many Irish/Scottish immigrants and their descendants: Sullivan, Murray, Kelley, McCarty, McQuaige, McCurdy.
I found James Keegan Sr.’s gravestone in the front corner close to the corner of Rte. 189 and Chapel Hill (Timber Cover) Road. I was so pleased to find it, followed by disappointment that there was no other stone close by, nor his wife noted on his gravestone.
Beside this gravestone was that of his son James Jr. There were no other Keegan gravestones or markers. Engraved on the front of this stone was his date of birth , no date of death, his wife Margaret (1857 – 1897). Their daughter Winnifred, born in 1887 and died in 1918 (the year of the great flu pandemic) at the age of 31, was buried with her parents.
Then I looked at the back of James Jr.’s stone. Names were engraved there, difficult to see under the lichen and moss, but I knelt and read:
James 1812 1879
Elizabeth 1809 1889
William 1838 1880
Anne 1841 1897
The birth date on the back of the stone of James Sr. looks like 1814 but closer inspection reveals 1812. Elizabeth is likely James Jr.’s mother, William and Anne, his brother and sister. James Jr. had a brother named Thomas who lived in Lubec with his family in 1910. He must be buried elsewhere. I don’t know the names of the rest of the family.
The photo of the back of the stone is not very clear but I will try another day in different sunlight.
Back home on the computer, I began to search for Maine vital records about James Keegan Sr. and his wife Elizabeth. I hadn’t found much about him before, except a photo of his gravestone and the record of his US naturalization in 1843.
An entire page of records popped up on the computer screen.
The 1840 census didn’t hold much information, just the name of heads of households, the number of individuals in the house and their age range. His name is spelled James Kegan, male between 20 and 30 years of age. One female between 20 and 30. One male child and one female child under the age of five. If I am reading this census correctly, the household consists of James Sr. (about 28 years old), his wife Elizabeth about the same age, a son and a daughter under the age of five.
The 1850 census yielded more information. Since arriving in Trescott in 1836, James Sr. and Elizabeth had seven children.
James Kegan, age 41, a farmer, value of real estate 300″ (?), place of birth, Ireland.
Elizabeth Kegan, age 40, place of birth, Ireland.
William, age 12, born in Maine and attended school in the last year.
Mary, age 10, born in Maine and attended school in the last year.
Ann, age 9, born in Maine and attended school in the last year.
John, age 8 and attended school in the last year.
Eliza, age 6.
James, age 3 (my great grandfather).
Catherine, age 1.
1860 Census. The spelling of Kegan is now Keegan. Mary, about 20 years of age that year, is no longer in the household and their last son Thomas was age 9.
James Keegan, age 48, born in Ireland.
Elizabeth Keegan, age 48, Ireland.
William Keegan, age 22, born in Maine.
Anne Keegan, age 18, Maine.
Elizabeth Keegan, age 18, Maine. (Eliza in 1840 census).
John Keegan, age 16, Maine.
James Keegan, age 13, Maine.
Catherine Keegan, age 11, Maine.
Thomas Keegan, age 9, Maine.
It is apparent that ages do not exactly coincide between each census.
One year after James Sr. died in 1879, there were four that lived in the Keegan household according to the 1880 Trescott census.
Elizabeth, age 74, mother, widowed, keeping house, born in Ireland. father and mother born in Ireland.
James, age 32, son, single, farmer, born in Maine, father and mother born in Ireland (my great grandfather).
Thomas, age 29, son, married, farmer, born in Maine, father and mother born in Ireland.
Catherine, age 28, daughter-in-law, married, housekeeper, born in Maine, father and mother born in Ireland.
The search yielded two more documents. The records of death for Annie and Eliza Keegan, daughters of James (Sr) and Elizabeth Keegan.
Annie died in Machias on September 15, 1897 at 55 years of age. Place of birth: Trescott. Widowed. Occupation: Housework. Cause of death: Chronic spinal meningitis. Her mother’s maiden name is written as: Elizabeth Morran.
Eliza (Keegan) May died in Lubec in 1920 at 76 years of age. She was a resident of Lubec for 17 years, previous residence Trescott. Date of birth: March 22, 1844 in Trescott. Occupation: Housewife. Maiden name of her mother: Elizabeth Morris. Eliza is the deceased was the wife of James May. Cause of death: Valvular Endocarditis. Duration: Indefinite. Contributing cause: Lobar Pneumonia. Duration: One week.
What discoveries! I found the names of the children of my great great grandfather James Keegan Sr. At last, I know my great great grandmother’s name: Elizabeth. Her surname is either Morris or Morran (Moran?). They were surely married in Ireland as they came to Trescott in 1836 and their first child William was born the same year in Maine.
That should be enough information to search Irish records and go back further in time.
What is particularly precious is that I can begin to see them, envision their lives that began in Ireland and came so far to live off the land and settle in Trescott and Lubec.
My ancestors peek through the mist of time.
United States Census, Trescott, ME, 1840.
“United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6VC-TSD : 12 April 2016), James Kegan in household of James Kegan, Trescott, Washington, Maine, United States; citing family 56, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
“United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDHL-7P5 : 26 July 2017), James Keegan in entry for James Keegan, 1860.
United States Census, Trescott, ME, 1880.