HumphrysFamilyTree.com

The genealogy site of Mark Humphrys

Home      Blog      Surnames      Ancestors      Contact

Search:

148,000 page views per month

€2k competition      Random page


My ancestors - Blennerhassett - Contents


  Our family tradition of descent from a Letitia Blennerhassett

The error of our Letitia as a daughter of Sir Rowland

Alice Cashel argument with Jim Sullivan

Reasons why this Letitia may be our Letitia

Reasons why this Letitia may not be our Letitia


Letitia Blennerhassett


Stop! Special page! Contact me now!

Stop! This is one of the most important pages on this site.

If you know anything about the people on this page, please contact me now. You may solve a problem I have been working on for years. I will give €2,000 to anyone who solves this problem. If you know anything about the people on this page, contact me now!



Letitia Blennerhassett (bapt 1780) in old age.
Photo probably after she was widowed in 1862, before her death in 1876.
See larger and full size (and back). This copy confirms this is Letitia Blennerhassett.
See another copy of this picture (and back).




Letitia Blennerhassett (see here and here),
descendant of Edward III,
born Co.Kerry, bapt 10th June 1780,
would have grown up at the Rectory, St.John's church, Tralee, where her father was Rector 1765 to 1803,

mar 1stly, settlement in [Deed dated 29th June 1799], to Richard Ponsonby [descendant of Henry VII] and had issue,
he died 20 Apr 1811,
she went to Limerick, she quickly re-married,
her young children by him appear to have remained with Ponsonby relations rather than with her,
she is listed as Letitia Ponsonby, Church of Ireland, at 2nd mar,

mar 2ndly, Wed 10 July 1811, at St.George's church (Church of Ireland), George St, Limerick [St.Michael's par records, Limerick] to William Lindsay [bapt 19 Mar 1790] and had issue,
he was age 21, she was age 31,
see [Limerick Gazette, Fri 12 July 1811],
see [Clare Journal, Monday 15th July 1811],
see Walker's Hibernian Magazine, July 1811, p.392, [NLI] Ir 05 w 1.






Silhouette of Letitia Blennerhassett.
See larger and full size.
From here in Stokes family photos by Teresa Stokes. Used with permission.


   
Letitia Blennerhassett in old age.
Original and light-adjusted detail from above.



Grave of Letitia Blennerhassett, Aghavallen church, near Ballylongford, Co.Kerry.
Photo 1990.





St.George's church, George St, Limerick

Letitia Blennerhassett and William Lindsay married in 1811 at St.George's church (CoI), at the corner of George St (later O'Connell St) and Mallow St, Limerick.
This church was built in 1789, and the new town was built around it.
[Joseph Lindsay, 1897] says they married "at a church called the Round Church. It was in the middle of a green field and the Provincial Bank of Limerick is now in its place. The whole place is now streets".

The church was demolished 1831.
[Limerick Evening Post and Clare Sentinel, 9 Sept 1831] says: "St. George's Church, Limerick, is to be forthwith taken down, and on its site will be erected an edifice for transacting the business of the Provincial Bank."
The site became a branch of the Provincial Bank. This bank branch opened 1834, with address 63 George St, Limerick.
St.George's church was replaced (in a different location) by St.Michael's church, which opened 1840, and is where the St.George's parish records ended up.
The bank building is now "The Bank" Bar and Restaurant, 63 O'Connell Street (see street view).
See entry at NIAH.




The new town, Limerick, in its infancy.
Sauthier's map of 1786.
"25" is the Bishop's Palace (still there today).
"24" is "Intended New Church". St.George's church was built 1789 around this location, perhaps a little further out of town. Looks like it would have been fields around it when it was built.



St.George's church on map of "Part of South Priors Land", 1823, at [LCM].
An urban area has grown around the church.
Junction of Mallow St and Georges St.



The new town, Limerick.
McKern's map of 1827.
"41" is the Bishop's Palace.
"33" is St.George's church.




Our family tradition of descent from a Letitia Blennerhassett

The notes of Pat Lavelle show the mother of our ancestor George Cashel as a "Letitia Blennerhassett".
The story is that the Protestant Letitia Blennerhassett had a romantic runaway marriage with the Catholic Mr. Cashel.

Pat probably got this information from her mother Agnes Cashel (died June 1958) or her aunt Alice Cashel (died Feb 1958).
Alice Cashel certainly knew about the Blennerhassett connection. See argument between Alice Cashel and Jim Sullivan.







The error of our Letitia as a daughter of Sir Rowland



Thomas Blennerhassett of Gortatlea wrote to Pat Lavelle in 1965.
He says Letitia "must have been" the daughter of the famous Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, 1st Baronet.
He does not provide any evidence for this. Did he say this because of some half-remembered story that there was a daughter? Or does he have no idea, and is Sir Rowland just the only 18th century Blennerhassett he has heard of? It is clear from the wider letter (see p.1 and p.2) that he knows little about the family history.
There is no evidence that Letitia is the daughter of Sir Rowland.



Pat incorporates the error that Letitia is the daughter of Sir Rowland (incorrectly written "Sir Ronald").



We see here in Pat's notes the original family story of a romantic runaway marriage (which may itself not be true), mixed in with the error that Letitia is the daughter of Sir Rowland.




Alice Cashel argument with Jim Sullivan

In the above notes, Pat Lavelle remembers Alice Cashel and Jim Sullivan (left Ireland 1920, but probably returned on visits, died America 1935) arguing (i.e. sometime before 1935) over whose family had a claim to the Blennerhassett estate.

Pat said that Jim's Sullivan family "had come from near Tralee where the Blennerhassett estate flourished. The old castle built long ago, he maintained, belonged to his family." (He would mean the old Irish Clan O'Sullivan.) And Alice had her Blennerhassett ancestors (one would love to hear what evidence she presented). So Jim and Alice argued about who had a claim to the old estate.

However, none of this makes much sense:

  1. Jim's Sullivans were from the Killarney area, not the Tralee area. But it is notable that they were from near the Blennerhassett house, Churchtown House, near Killarney. This is probably why Jim knew about the Blennerhassetts.
  2. The main Blennerhassett seat was indeed near Tralee, at Ballyseedy, and this was the estate of an old Irish castle. However it was not a castle of Clan O'Sullivan, but rather a Desmond castle.
  3. If this Letitia Blennerhassett, daughter of Rev. John, is ours, then Alice's ancestors were not from Churchtown, and not really from Ballyseedy, but primarily from Castle Conway in Killorglin.
It may be that none of them knew exactly what they were talking about. One would love to hear a transcript of the argument!



Jim Sullivan came from Dromaloughane, near Killarney, Co.Kerry, which is near the Blennerhassett house, Churchtown House.





Reasons why this Letitia may be our Letitia

Could this Letitia Blennerhassett, daughter of Rev. John, be our Letitia Blennerhassett, mother of George Cashel? This Letitia has two husbands, and neither are Cashel. So the theory would have to be that she had an affair with Cashel during her 1st marriage.

This may sound unlikely. But there is in fact some evidence this is what happened. Consider these reasons why this story makes sense:


  1. An illegitimate child seems more likely than a runaway marriage:
    1. The family story was of a runaway marriage, but George Cashel seems alone, without family. No parents appear in his life. He has no known siblings. His children have no known cousins (on his side).
    2. If there was a runaway marriage, he would likely have siblings. His profile seems to fit a child on his own.

  2. The psychology of this Letitia Blennerhassett's background fits:
    1. Our George Cashel was born Co.Kerry, 1807, Catholic.
    2. Our family remembered that his mother was a "Letitia Blennerhassett".
    3. This Letitia Blennerhassett is the only known Letitia Blennerhassett of that time in Co.Kerry.
    4. She is one of twin girls who were the youngest (perhaps indulged?) children of a vicar.
    5. Her mother might have died young. Her father may have enjoyed his drink. He was known as "Port Wine Jack".
    6. Her father was chaplain to the Kerry Militia. Her sister Elizabeth married in 1791 to an officer, Capt. Edward Fuller.
    7. She married in 1799 at 19 (very young) to another officer, Major Richard Ponsonby.
    8. Richard Ponsonby was already part of her circle. His brother William Ponsonby was married to the widow of Capt. Edward Fuller's brother.
    9. Richard Ponsonby has an inheritance of £4,000 which Letitia will inherit if he dies. And yet later we find he dies and she apparently does not inherit it.
    10. Richard Ponsonby's parents separated when he was young, and his father paid his mother 500 per year to live on, while they lived apart. Like father, like son? Family patterns often repeat.
    11. Letitia grew up in the social capital of Tralee, and married an officer. But he leaves the army and gets a boring customs job in 1803 in the relative backwater of Tarbert. The psychology fits for her to be restless. (Tarbert had the military base, and so was one of the more lively places in Co.Kerry, but would not compare with Tralee.)
    12. Her husband was said to be "too fond of his wine".
    13. Her father died early 1804 when she was 23. The psychology fits for her to have an affair now she has no parents.
    14. It is interesting that Richard Ponsonby's parents James Carrique Ponsonby and Mary O'Hara separated in 1778, shortly after Mary's father died 1776 (and Mary's mother had died 1759 when she was young). The exact same pattern for James' wife repeats with his son Richard's wife?

  3. An affair in 1806 fits:
    1. She perhaps has an affair in 1806 leading to the birth of George Cashel in 1807 (her age 27).
    2. Ponsonby cuts her off? Ponsonby had a huge inheritance, but later we see Letitia is not well off, and her daughters by Ponsonby are living with Ponsonby relations, without her. Maybe she was disgraced? The Ponsonby girls in the 1820s still have their inheritance. Louisa Ponsonby does not even consider her mother Letitia when settling her estate in 1825.
    3. Did Letitia have an affair with Cashel (child born 1807) while still married to Ponsonby (died 1811), and then did Ponsonby cut her off from any money, and take custody of the children, who retained their inheritance?
    4. To be precise, Richard Ponsonby has an inheritance of £4,000 which Letitia will inherit if he dies. But he dies in 1811 and she apparently does not inherit it. [Case, 1852] seems to show the initial plan as follows. When Richard dies, Letitia gets £2,000, and the two daughters get £1,000 each (given to them at age 21). Then when Letitia dies, the daughters will divide up her share ("reversionary interest", a further £1,000 each). But Letitia outlived one daughter (and probably both).
    5. But it is unclear that Letitia did inherit £2,000. The 1820s deeds about Letitia's daughter Louisa say she has inherited £2,000 (and her marriage settlement says she has £3,000). And the marriage settlement of Letitia's other daughter Mary says she has inherited £2,000.
    6. [Case, 1852] says this is a mistake, that Louisa's marriage settlement assigned her money that was not hers but belonged to her mother. Is this (and the daughters living with their uncle) the result of Letitia having an affair?

    7. Interestingly, there is a settlement at exactly the right time for Letitia to be having an affair: The 1806 deed. It is unclear what this deed means. It refers to their marriage settlement of 1799, and the inheritance of £4,000 (which comes from the Ponsonby side). It may be that this is Letitia getting disinherited for having an affair. That she cannot inherit this money but Ponsonby's children can.
    8. The 1806 deed sets up a modest yearly sum of £40 to be paid to Letitia's brother. This payment is unexplained. It may be that Ponsonby and Letitia are separating, and he is setting up a modest payment for her so she will not starve, to be paid to her brother as her guardian.
    9. Interestingly, the notes of Rev. Thomas Enraght Lindsay say that Letitia "had an income settled on her of £100 per annum". This sounds like the payment here.
    10. No Ponsonby divorce bill is found before his death.
    11. Letitia Lindsay says that her father Thomas Rupert Lindsay said there was some scandal, and Letitia was "drummed out of Ireland".
    12. She is listed as Letitia Ponsonby at 2nd marriage, NOT Letitia Cashel. i.e. She did not marry Cashel. (Maybe Cashel was also married.)
    13. Cashel must be Catholic.
    14. At George Cashel's baptism his mother might be listed as Letitia Ponsonby.
    15. She gives up the Cashel child, to be raised Catholic by its Cashel relations, and goes to the big city (Limerick) to avoid scandal.

    16. Letitia was very fertile, but there is an unexplained gap. She had a steady succession of children with Ponsonby from 1801 to 1804, but then no children are born before his death in 1811. After she re-marries in 1811, she has a steady succession of children with Lindsay from 1812 to 1822. The explanation for this gap must be that she and Ponsonby split up.
    17. Around 1809, Sara Harnett, step-daughter of Richard's brother William Ponsonby (and niece of Letitia's sister) marries without her stepfather William's approval to a Royal Navy officer, and she is disowned by the family.

  4. The profile of her 2nd husband fits:
    1. After her (perhaps estranged) husband dies 1811, she is free to marry. She marries again in Limerick city in 1811 to her late husband's employee, William Lindsay, a much younger man (her age 31, him age 21). They are both from Co.Kerry but they marry in Limerick city.
    2. [Joseph Lindsay, 1897] explains her going to Limerick by the fact that she lost the government house that came with Richard's job in Tarbert. But why Limerick? Why not Tralee, where she was from, and where there would be Blennerhassett relations.
    3. William started working under Richard Ponsonby in Mar 1805, when he was age 15 and Letitia was age 24. He might have fancied her for years.
    4. William worked under Ponsonby from Mar 1805 until Ponsonby's death in Apr 1811. Even if Letitia was expelled to Limerick in 1806-07, he would still have known her before she went.
    5. William is a step down in class from the wealthy Richard Ponsonby of the big house. Richard Ponsonby was the son of an MP and High Sheriff and his mother was grand-dau of an Earl. But William is merely a boatman, a young employee of Richard Ponsonby. Richard and Letitia are the same class as Leslie of Tarbert House, while William is the son of Leslie's agent or steward. Maybe, after the scandal, Letitia had no hope of securing a husband from her own class.
    6. Put it this way: A woman from the great Blennerhassett family marries a Ponsonby from the big house. Now a wealthy young widow, with plenty of options. Someone like that would never marry someone like William Lindsay.
    7. William's father is dead and so can't stop his 21 year old son marrying a 31 year old woman with a past.

  5. Her daughter later gets pregnant outside marriage:
    1. In 1825, Letitia's daughters by her 1st marriage, Louisa and Mary Ponsonby, are living with their uncle William Ponsonby. Their father is dead, but they do not live with their re-married mother.
    2. Shortly before 1825, Louisa, on reaching age 21, "sold her interest in the £1000 [inheritance] which she was entitled to". This sounds like she is being irresponsible with her inheritance, without parental supervision.
    3. Then in 1825, Letitia's unmarried daughter Louisa Ponsonby falls pregnant in a great scandal. Like mother, like daughter? It is a bit of a coincidence that I am looking for a Letitia Blennerhassett who maybe had an affair, and I find one whose daughter had an affair.

    4. Why does Letitia not come to help her daughter in 1825? Louisa's father is dead. She is living with her uncle William Ponsonby, without her mother. Her mother is alive and in Co.Kerry. Why does she not appear to help? Why is Louisa alone? The simple answer would be that Ponsonby won't have Letitia in the house. Letitia is not allowed come to Crotto.
    5. To see this, imagine there was no scandal back around 1806. Letitia and Richard Ponsonby were happily married. He died. She re-married. Letitia and William Ponsonby are quite friendly. Louisa is living with her uncle for innocent reasons - because he has a huge house, for example. Then as soon as Louisa gets pregnant, her mother would rush down to Crotto to help, or Louisa would go to her. It makes no sense for Louisa to be alone and distressed in Crotto for so long without her mother. It would make sense if there has been a family rift and William Ponsonby won't allow Letitia in the house.
    6. And Letitia does care - Louisa ends up living with her later, after falling out with her uncle.
    7. Louisa won a case to keep her inheritance, perhaps because she was over age 21 and her father was dead, and, unlike the case with her mother, no one could disinherit her.
    8. Letitia's disgraced daughter Louisa came to live with her at Tarbert by 1829. Maybe Louisa would be sympathetic towards George Cashel as a result of her experience.
    9. The uncle William Ponsonby may have been a bit of a tyrant. He had two step-children by his 1st wife. He disowned his step-daughter Sara Harnett after she married without his consent in c.1809. And his step-son Thomas Fuller Harnett became a drug addict and was hanged for forgery in 1820.

  6. Her family are all linked to the police, which George Cashel then joined:
    1. Letitia's nephew Richard Ponsonby (born 1795) was a policeman from 1823.
    2. Letitia's 2nd husband William Lindsay was the brother of Thomas Lindsay (born 1794) who was a policeman from apparently at least 1824.
    3. Letitia's daughter Mary Ponsonby married June 1828 to William Miller, chief constable of police at Listowel, Co.Kerry.
    4. Letitia's possible son George Cashel (born 1807) joined the police in Sept 1828.

  7. She is linked to one of the candidates for "A.Blennerhassett J.P.":
    1. When George Cashel joins the police in 1828 he is recommended by "A.Blennerhassett J.P."
    2. None of the three candidates for "A.Blennerhassett J.P." are close blood relations to this Letitia (all are only distant cousins). However, Arthur Blennerhassett, of Blennerville married a 1st cousin of Letitia's mother in Sept 1799, his marriage settlement was witnessed by Letitia's brother, he was a J.P. and died in 1839. If she is our Letitia, then he is a likely candidate for "A.Blennerhassett J.P."
    3. We also have "Arthur Blennerhassett, of Tralee, gentleman, attorney at law" who witnessed the marriage settlement of Letitia in June 1799. If she is our Letitia, then he is definitely a likely candidate for "A.Blennerhassett J.P."
    4. Arthur Blennerhassett of Tralee in 1799 and Arthur Blennerhassett of Blennerville seem like they should be the same person. However, their signatures appear different.

  8. Her policeman son-in-law got into trouble at exactly the same time as her possible policeman son:
    1. Mary Ponsonby's husband William Miller was suspended from the police in 1829, had charges brought against him, was jailed for debt in 1830, and dismissed from the police in 1830.
    2. Both of Letitia's daughters got involved with unsuitable men who caused a scandal. Like mother, like daughter?
    3. The very same person who handled the minor disciplinary action against George Cashel in Sept 1829 - Major William Miller, Inspector General for Munster - also handled the major disciplinary action against (Cashel's possible brother-in-law) William Miller in Dec 1829.
    4. Major William Miller dealt with some complaints about our William Miller in 1828.
    5. In Sept 1829, Major William Miller wrote to the Chief Secretary, Lord Francis Leveson-Gower, recommending that George Cashel be allowed to remain in the police.
    6. In Dec 1829, Major William Miller wrote to the Chief Secretary, Lord Francis Leveson-Gower, recommending that our William Miller be suspended from the police.

  9. Her possible son George Cashel possibly gets his wife pregnant before marriage:
    1. George Cashel married Mary Kickham in Feb 1838. Child bapt Sept 1838. This is just about within the bounds of premature births. Or they may have got married because she was pregnant. Like his mother and half-sister?

  10. If this is our Letitia, did she have any contact with her son George Cashel over the many decades they were both alive? (She died 1876. He died 1882.) His branch certainly remembered the name "Letitia Blennerhassett" and used Blennerhassett as a family name.
  11. If this is our Letitia, she was actually alive when some of her Sheahan and Cashel and Cashel great-grandchildren were born! She was alive when her great-granddaughter Agnes Cashel was born!
  12. If this is our Letitia, then my ancestors never lived at the surviving New Ballyseedy or Blennerville House.
    Rather, my ancestors lived at Ballycarty and Old Ballyseedy and Castle Conway (all in ruins) and Tralee Castle (demolished 1826) and Tralee Rectory (demolished 1995).

  13. Letitia's grand-nephew James Franklin Fuller wrote an account of the Trial of Rowan Cashel in 1901-04. His grand-aunt was Letitia Blennerhassett, who may have had an affair with a Cashel.

There are also some odd connections that may mean nothing:
  1. Letitia's brother-in-law was William Carrique Ponsonby (brother of her 1st husband).
  2. There is only one other Letitia Blennerhassett in Ireland at this time - this one is in Co.Limerick.
  3. Curiously, when William Carrique Ponsonby marries Honoria Wren in 1814, he becomes the brother-in-law of the other Letitia Blennerhassett too! To be precise, Honoria Wren's sister married John Blennerhassett, brother of the Co.Limerick Letitia Blennerhassett.
  4. Around 1852, Joseph Lindsay was renting from this John Blennerhassett or his son.

  5. Honoria Wren's mother is of the Leslie family of Tarbert, who William Lindsay's father worked for.
  6. In fact, Honoria Wren's mother would have lived in the very same house, Leslie Lodge, near Tarbert, that William Lindsay later lived in.

  7. The Rowan family is linked to Blennerhassett, Leslie and Cashell.
  8. Sir Edward Leslie's 1st cousin Mary Rowan married Rev. Edward Day, who was apparently Rector of Tralee 1751-55 and 1758-60, and their son Rev. James Day was Rector of Tralee 1805-18. So Letitia, the daughter of Rev. John Blennerhassett, Rector of Tralee 1765 to 1803, would be the same social class, and would know Leslie's relations, and would no doubt have visited Tarbert House.

  9. "Mahony" is a common name, but still this is interesting: Arthur Blennerhassett (the future 3rd Baronet, and maybe the man who recommended George Cashel for the constabulary in 1828) married a Catholic, Sarah Mahony of Blennerville, Co.Kerry, in 1826. Cashel's first posting was under Chief Constable Darby Mahony (born Cahir, Co.Tipperary) in 1829. William Lindsay may have married an Anne Mahony in 1840. Blennerhassett Lindsay may have sp the Catholic baptism of a John Mahony of Tarbert in 1853.
  10. William Lindsay was the brother of George Lindsay, who married the grand-dau of the 1st Earl Mount Cashell. (No known connection with the Cashell surname though.)

  11. George Lindsay married his wife without the consent of her guardian in 1829.
  12. Letitia's nephew Thomas Harnett Fuller eloped in 1832 to Glasgow to marry his wife without her father's consent.

  13. Letitia's apparent grandson Edward Francis Cashel (bapt 1840) signed up in 1861 to fight for the Union in the American Civil War.
  14. Letitia's twin Catherine Blennerhassett had a grandson, Blennerhassett Cotter (born 1839 or 1840, would be 2nd cousin of Edward Francis Cashel), who signed up in 1862 to fight for the Union in the American Civil War.



Letitia listed in [Foster's Royal Descents, vol.4, 1886].



Letitia in [Burkes Irish, 1976].
I've actually known about this Letitia and her two husbands since the very start of this hunt in 1985.
But only recently have I started to really believe she is the one.



Letitia on my website in 1999.




Reasons why this Letitia may not be our Letitia

  1. She was married to Ponsonby from 1799 to 1811. (George Cashel was born 1807.)
  2. When Ponsonby dies in 1811, she does not marry Cashel but rather another man.
  3. The above two reasons are why I discounted this Letitia at the start of this hunt in 1985. She seemed accounted for.

  4. There is no mention of CASHEL in any Blennerhassett, Ponsonby or Lindsay material.
  5. There is no mention of PONSONBY or LINDSAY in any Cashel material.

  6. After such a scandal in Tarbert, Letitia does not stay away but rather returns to Tarbert to live for the rest of her life.
  7. Letitia's 2nd husband William Lindsay is even made a Church Warden in the parish church in Tarbert in 1818-19.


Lesser reasons (perhaps easily explained):

  1. Letitia's son Joseph Lindsay never mentions any scandal, and writes as if nothing happened other than Ponsonby died and she re-married.
  2. Rev. Thomas Enraght Lindsay says that after Ponsonby's death in 1811, "His widow and daughters moved to Limerick city". But he may be just assuming that she has the daughters with her.

  3. None of the three candidates for "A.Blennerhassett J.P." are particularly closely related to this Letitia. But (see above) Arthur Blennerhassett, of Blennerville is connected to her.





Letitia Blennerhassett in popular culture






Feedback form

Long version of this form.

Email me.

 
Upload additions and corrections to this site:
Upload a file (e.g. a picture):
Your email address:
Enter this password:

Help      Conventions      Abbreviations      Privacy policy      Adoption policy      Image re-use      Feeds

     Bookmark and Share           Since 1983.