Finding My Irish Roots Part 5: Bartholomew of Bayonne

In this series: I am tracing my Irish roots and trying to pinpoint what part of the Emerald Isle my ancestors hailed from. Learn more here.

Where I left off: In my last post, I talked about my struggle to find my 2x Great-Grandfather’s death certificate. I knew there was a good chance John’s mother’s maiden name and birth date would be written on the certificate.

If so, then I could compare that information to his marriage record, and ultimately confirm I had the same John that was baptized in the Kiltoghert parish of Leitrim in 1843.

In this post: Because I had hit a dead end trying to find John’s death certificate (or even his death year), I wanted to expand my search to his FAN club to Bartholomew McDermott and his wife Catherine. After all, who could be better to start with than John’s own parents?

Finding John’s Parents

Even though I’m a huge proponent of the “research not search” method to genealogy, there’s still a part of me that goes right to that big search box.

Sometimes I’m like a kid on Christmas morning, I can’t wait to open my Ancestry search results and see what’s inside.

In this case, I wanted to do a quick search for census records to see if anything existed for a Bartholomew and Catherine McDermott in or around Newark.

I figured ‘Bartholomew’ was a somewhat uncommon name, so how many Bartholomew McDermott’s could there be living in New Jersey at this time?

I knew the first record I had of John in New Jersey was his 1871 marriage record in Newark1.

Because John was born ca. 18432, he would have been old enough to travel without his parents if he immigrated just before his marriage.

But if he left Ireland during the Great Famine, he would have only been a child and it’s likely he would have traveled with his parents or other close family members.

I was not able to find any other records in Leitrim for Bartholomew after 1845, so chances were good he too came to America during, or not long after the Great Famine.

Searching the Census Records

I wanted check the 1860 and 1870 U.S. Federal censuses to see if any Bartholomew and Catherine McDermotts were living in or around Newark.

I started with the 1860 census, searching for a Bartholomew McDermott living in Essex County and/or nearby counties.

My search criteria on Ancestry

There was only one result.

Bartholomew McDermott indexed as “Bartholemen McDermot”

The First Ward of Elizabeth (Union County) had a Bartholomew McDermott living in Bayonne, age 40, born in Ireland. He was married to a Catherine, age 30, who was also born in Ireland3.

For those of you not familiar with New Jersey geography, Elizabeth is only a few miles from Newark. It also had been part of Essex County until 1857 when the new Union County was formed4.

Map of New Jersey and New York City

This “Bartholomew of Bayonne” was born ca 1820, which would have made him about 23 years old in 1843 when John was born.

But there was a problem. Well, a few problems really.

Catherine was only 30 in this census, putting her birth year at about 1830—much too young to have a child in 1843.

The other problem was that there was no John living in the house. Rather there were three children all under the age of two (a one-year-old and a two-year-old set of twins).

Surely if the family had recently immigrated and John was only 17 and unmarried, he would be living at home with his parents?

There was little about this record to indicate that these were John’s parents.

But because this was the only Bartholomew and Catherine McDermott in New Jersey living anywhere near Newark in the 1860 census, I wanted to explore a bit further.

I searched the 1865 NJ state census and found the same family living in Elizabeth.

This time one of the children was named John. But for some reason, his name was crossed out and the name “Ann” was written in. You can also make out an erased check mark for ‘male natives.’ 5

1865 NJ census. John crossed out; white male check-mark erased

What’s more, there was a Johana Scanlon living either next door or in the same house. (The 1865 NJ census doesn’t separate out the households, so I couldn’t say for sure who this person was living with.)

Scanlon, of course, was the maiden name of John’s wife Annie. They married six years after this census (1871). I now had an excuse to pursue this lead further.

Jumping ahead to the 1870 census, another strange occurrence presented itself.

The family had moved to Bayonne, however, the head of the household was a John McDermott, aged 45. Bartholomew was not even listed.

Catherine and four of the children all had the correct ages, but two children were missing6.

Was this even the same family? I had my doubts.

The 1880 census had the family in Bayonne again. Catherine was widowed and living with four of her children7.

At this point, I wanted to be sure I still had the right family since Bartholomew had not appeared in either the 1880 or 1870 censuses.

Few city directories for Bayonne exist for this time period, but luckily the NJ State Library in Trenton has the 1879-1880 directory on microfilm.

In that directory, Catherine was listed as the widow of Bartholomew and living one street over from where the family lived the following year in the census. There was also a Michael J. listed in the directory living at the same address. He was a driver8.

1879-80 Bayonne city directory

In the 1880 census, Michael is listed as living with his mother and employed as a driver. So I was fairly certain I was still working with the same family.

1880 Federal census. Katherine widowed; Michael employed as hack (taxi) driver

But was this John’s family? It certainly didn’t seem like it.

After all, there was no evidence that John ever lived with this family, other than the 1870 census, which lists John McDermott as the head of the household in Bayonne.

But that John was 45 years old, whereas my John would have only been 25 at that time. It was likely the census taker made an error, but was the error with John’s age or his name? Or was it another person entirely?

There was no John McDermott living in Bayonne in any other census. So the most reasonable explanation was that for some reason Bartholomew was listed as John.

Regardless of the inconsistencies in this census, the fact remained that Catherine of Bayonne was much too young to be John’s mother.

I think if the name Bartholomew McDermott wasn’t so unique, I would have stopped here and moved on. But something told me to keep pressing on.

Who was Catherine of Bayonne?

I wanted to learn more about this mysterious Catherine, who was born ca 1830 in Ireland. The 1860 census had showed that the couple had a pair of twins that were two-years-old.

A few searches on FamilySearch in the 1858 range led me to the church register book for their baptism in Elizabeth, NJ . The record showed that Catherine’s maiden name was Dignan9.

The 5th day of July [1857], baptized Mary, daughter of Bartholomew McDermott and Catharine Dignan, born 28th of June, sponsors John and Maria Dignan.

The 5th day of July [1857], baptized Margaret, daughter of Bartholomew McDermott and Maria Dignan, born 28th of June, sponsors Bernard Lavin and Elizabeth Lavin.

Note that Margaret’s mother’s name was recorded at Maria Dignan instead of Catherine. I believe this was a simple error caused by the fact that Maria Dignan had just been written above as Mary’s sponsor.

Both children were born on the same day to the same father and to a mother of the same maiden name, so they are quite clearly twins of the same set of parents.

Armed with this new information, I wanted to find a marriage record of Bartholomew and Catherine Dignan.

Another search on FamilySearch led me to an 1856 marriage record of Bartholomew and Catherine. Again, Catherine’s maiden name is recorded as Dignan10.

The first day of September [1856], the marriage banns published previously could not detect any canon law impediments to join in marriage Bartholomew McDermott and Catherine Dignon as witnessed and stood up for by Michael and Eleanora Dignon.

If you remember from previous articles in this blog series, John’s mother’s maiden name was Catherine “Gahan” or “Geehern.” A far cry from “Dignan”.

I then found and analyzed the baptism records for all of Bartholomew and Catherine Dignan’s children born 1857-1866.

Their children were:

Basic pedigree showing dates of birth

Not one baptism record, nor the marriage record gave any indication as to Bartholomew’s Irish origin. Nor did any witness or sponsor seem to have any association with my 2x great-grandfather, John.

I couldn’t find any piece of evidence to link this family to John.

I decided to throw in the towel.

After all, my only rationale for pursuing this family was that this Bartholomew of Bayonne would have been of the right age, was living in the next town over from John, and had a somewhat unique name.

New DNA Match

A few months after writing off this family, I received an email from Ancestry. Both my dad and I had a new, close DNA match.

I took a look at the person’s family tree to see if I could spot the connection. It didn’t take long before I spotted a familiar name—it was Bartholomew McDermott of Bayonne.

The Ancestry family tree of my DNA match

My new DNA match had a tree that listed her 3x great-grandparents as Bartholomew McDermott and Catherine Dignan.

Was this proof that Bartholomew of Bayonne was the same person as Bartholomew of Leitrim?

After getting over the initial excitement, two things occurred to me.

First, I needed to verify this family tree by doing my own research. Second, I needed to find out which line on my tree had the shared ancestor with my new DNA match.

After all, just because we shared DNA and both had someone named Bartholomew McDermott in our trees, didn’t mean it was the same person.

So with a new spring in my step, I once again set my sights on Bartholomew of Bayonne.


  1. Saint John’s Catholic Church (Newark), Marriages 1832-1983, p. 138 (penned), McDermott and Scanlon; digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 January 2019); citing FHL microfilm 1,398,540.
  2. St. Patrick’s Gowel Church (Gowel, Ireland), Baptisms: June 1835 – Feb 1866 [no cover], p. 72, John McDermott baptism; church office, Gowel, Ireland.
  3. 1860 U.S. census, Union Co., New Jersey, pop. sch., Ward 1 Elizabeth, p. 69 (penned), dwell. 480, fam. 557, Bartholomew McDermott; digital images, ( : accessed 7 March 2019); NARA microfilm M653, roll 710.
  4. New Jersey. Bureau of Geology and Topography. The Story of New Jersey’s Civil Boundaries 1606–1968. 1969. Reprint, Trenton: New Jersey Geological Survey, 2004.
  5. 1865 New Jersey state census, Union County, p. 32 (penned), no. 1501, Barthol McDermod; digital image, ( : accessed 29 January 2019.
  6. 1870 U.S. census, Hudson Co., NJ, pop. sch., Bayonne City, p. 44 (penned), dwell. 268, fam. 324, John McDermet; digital images, ( : accessed 4 February 2019); NARA microfilm M593, roll 863.
  7. 1880 U.S. census, Hudson Co., NJ, pop. sch., Fourth Ward Bayonne, ED 44, p. 36 (penned), dwell. 6, fam. 4, Kate McDermott; digital images, ( : accessed 28 January 2019); citing NARA microfilm T9, roll 786.
  8. Webb’s Bayonne City Directory, microfilm reprint, 1879-1880 (New York: W.S. Webb & Co., 1879), p. 125, Catherine McDermott; citing Bayonne Public Library City Directories Reel 1 1879/1880-1899/1900.
  9. St. Michael Catholic Church (Elizabeth, New Jersey), “Parish Registers, 1849-1950,” p. 30, Mariam McDermott and Margaretham McDermott, 5 July 1857; digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 9 May 2018); citing FHL microfilm 1,398,804.
  10. St. Michael Catholic Church (Elizabeth, New Jersey), “Parish Registers, 1849-1950,” Bartholomew McDermott, 1 September 1856; digital images, FamilySearch ( accessed 9 May 2018); citing FHL microfilm 1,398,804.

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