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Sweeney Family History
Ireland, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota

Family of Patrick and Bridget (McGorahan) Sweeney
Mary (Abt December 1821 - Bet. 1900 - 1910), married Allen KILDERRY
Elizabeth (Libbie) (born perhaps in the early 1820s), later status unknown
Catharine Bridget (September 18, 1826 - March 18, 1902), married John MARTIN
Michael C (September 29, 1827 - May 28, 1907), married 1st Ann STAFFORD, married 2nd Mary R ZINK
Bernard (January 01, 1830 - September 18, 1876), married Jane McCAULEY
Daniel (November 30, 1830 - June 26, 1911), married Catherine Lavina KRATZER (or Krotzer)
Margaret Agatha (March 17, 1832 - May 15, 1907), married 1st James BROGAN, married 2nd James McGONIGAL
Patrick (Abt 1834 - Aft 1850), later status uncertain
James (June 1837 - 1918), married Catherine C DOLAN
John (1840 - 1895), no known marriage
Miles (Abt 1842 - Aft 1860), later status uncertain
family history also mentions a daughter named Jane

Early Years

Patrick Sweeney married Bridget McGorahan about 1820 in Ireland. Their origin is uncertain but the general location is thought to be centered in the northern half of Ireland. The exact spelling of Bridget's last name is somewhat unclear but is cited in the marriage record of her daughter Catherine at St. Michael's in Fryburg, Pennsylvania, appearing as either McGorahan or McGorchan. It has been written in various ways in family histories as McGorchan, McGorcham, McSorchan, etc. A close equivalent of the name may be in the Irish surname McGarahan or McGaraghan, which was found more often in north central Irish records during the mid-19th century (e.g. Co. Leitrim).

Most of the Sweeney children were born in Ireland, and it is believed the family immigrated to the United States in 1836-1838 timeframe. Many family members are thought to have arrived in New York, via Liverpool, on June 13, 1837 aboard the ship Shakespeare. The Shakespeare ship lists the following passengers with an origin in Ireland: Patrick Swaney (age 40), Biddy (29), Michael (11), Bernard (9), Daniel (7), Margaret (5), and Patrick (2). Missing from this list were the older daughters, as well as the three youngest sons who were born in the U.S. shortly after arrival. It is not known if daughter Libby made the trip to the U.S.

The Sweeneys moved to Pennsylvania soon after immigration, and were known to have established a farm in Elk township, Clarion County, in the western part of Pennsylvania. In the 1850 census there the family household included parents Patrick and Bridget 'Sweney,' along with six of the children, including Michael (age 22), Margaret (18), Patrick (16), James (14), John (11), and Miles (7). Living nearby, in the same township, was daughter Catharine who had married John Martin in 1848. Also living nearby, in Helen township, Clarion County, were Barney and Daniel Sweeney listed with their sister Mary who had married Allen Kilderry about 1844. Also listed in the Kilderry household in 1850 was an older Michael Sweeney (age 45) who may have been a relative.

Next Generation Familes

During the 1850s Patrick and Bridget continued farming in Elk township, and more of the older children began to marry. Margaret married James Brogan sometime before 1856; Bernard married Jane McCauley in 1856; and Michael married Ann Stafford in 1857. In 1860 Patrick and Bridget Sweeney were still farming in Elk township and in their household included Daniel, John, and Miles. Also in 1860 James Sweeney had married Catherine Dolan, and they appear to be living with Bernard and Jane Sweeney in Wheeling, Ohio Co., (West) Virginia. Daughter Catharine and her husband John Martin moved to Dubuque Co., Iowa in the early 1850s and in 1860 they had established a farm in Harrison County, in western Iowa. The Kilderry's were living in nearby Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in 1860, and the Brogans were likely living nearby where Margaret's 1st husband James Brogan died in the July 1860 timeframe. Where son Patrick Sweeney was living in 1860 is unknown to this author.

During the early 1860s daughter Margaret remarried James McGonigal, and by 1865 son Daniel had married Catherine Lavina Kratzer in Oil City, PA. About the same time Michael's first wife is believed to have died and Michael remarried Mary Zink in 1867. It was during the timeframe that elder Patrick and Bridget Sweeney moved West to Iowa, close to where John and Catharine (Sweeney) Martin had settled. Along with them went son Daniel and wife Lavina, as well as single son John. The other children remained in the Oil City, Pennsylvania area, with son James living in nearby Lawrence Co., Ohio. It is also during this timeframe this author loses track of sons Patrick and Miles Sweeney. A story shared in family history suggests that one of them drowned in a boating accident about 1868.

Also about 1868 the elder Patrick Sweeney passed away in western Iowa at the age of 76, and he was buried at St. Bridget's Cemetery, in Boomer township, Pottawattamie County, Iowa, located near the Harrison County, Iowa border where the family of daughter Catharine Martin was still living. The 1870 Pottawattamie Co. census indicates that widowed Bridget Sweeney was living with the family of her son Daniel, as well as her single son John.

During the 1870s two other Sweeney family members died. First was 46 year old Bernard Sweeney who died in 1876 Oil City, Venango County, Pennsylvania, leaving a wife and at least four surviving children. Bernard's family included Mary, Margaret, Ellen (Ella), Joseph P., Francis B., Alfred M., and John H. Sweeney. Next to pass away was elder Bridget Sweeney who died at about 80 years of age in 1879 Iowa, she being buried slongside her husband Patrick at St. Bridget's Cemetery.

By 1880 the remaining family members included the Kilderrys in McKean Co., Pennsylvania; their children included Elizabeth, Michael, Mary, Catherine, Margaret, and Agnes Kilkderry. The Martins were still in Harrison County, Iowa in 1880, and their children included Ann E., Daniel, Margaret L., Mary P., Catherine B., and John L. Martin. Michael Sweeney's family was in Oil City, PA, and their children included Mary J., and John M., from his first marriage, as well as William M., Catherine A., Joseph B., James P., Rose M., and Edward F. Sweeney, from his second marriage. Also in 1880 Oil City, PA were the family members of deceased Bernard Sweeney and his widow Jane (mentioned above). In 1880 Margaret Sweeney and her second husband James McGonigal were in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Margaret's children included Catherine B., William M., and Margaret I., Brogan, from her first marriage, as well as Charles Daniel, Thomas Patrick, James J., Francis B., and Mary (Molly) L. McGonigal, from her second marriage. The family of Daniel Sweeney was still in Pottawattamie Co., Iowa in 1880, as was his single brother John Sweeney. Daniel's children included Mary L., Catherine L., John M., Alice P., Margaret B., Elizabeth B., Charles Daniel, and Thomas Bernard Sweeney. The family of James Sweeney was in Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio in 1880, the place that both he and his brother Michael first married. James' children included Mary E., John L., James P., Frank T., Wiliam Daniel, Bernard Edward, and Joseph H.L. Sweeney.

Further Migration West

It was during the 1880s that other family members began to migrate West. By 1885 the families of Michael Sweeney, Daniel Sweeney and Margaret (Sweeney) McGonigal moved to central Nebraska. The exception here was Michael's daughter from his first marriage, Mary Jane Sweeney, who had married George H Garhart and remained in the western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio area. James Sweeney also moved his family from Ohio to Nebraska about the same timeframe, while single son John Sweeney seems to have also moved to Nebraska. The Martin family remained in Harrison Co., Iowa. The Kilderry family, and the family of deceased Bernard Sweeney, remained in western Pennsylvania.

Other than the McGonigals moving to South Dakota during the 1890s, and single son John Sweeney perhaps dying in 1895 Nebraska, the rest of the 2nd generation remained in place. It was after the turn of the 20th century the remaining children of Patrick and Bridget passed on. Mary (Sweeney) Kilderry died in Erie County, Pennsylvania prior to 1910; Catherine (Sweeney) Martin died in Harrison County, Iowa in 1902; Michael Sweeney died in Cherry County, Nebraska in 1907; Daniel Sweeney died in Custer County, Nebraska in 1911; Margaret (Sweeney) McGonigal died in Custer County, South Dakota in 1907; and James Sweeney died in Blaine County, Nebraska in 1918.


It is interesting to note another Sweeney family with a similar migration pattern to the Sweeneys mentioned above. Remember the mention of possible relative Michael Sweeney who was listed in the 1850 household of the Kilderrys in Clarion County, Pennsylvania. There was a family of Michael Sweeney and Ann Melaney who were living in Clarion County in the 1850s and who had relocated to the Oil City vicinity in the 1860s. A child of this family, Daniel, moved his family to Harrison County, Iowa in the 1880s. A tradition in his family mentions coming by train from Parkers Landing, Pennsylvania to Missouri Valley, Iowa where "they were met by their cousins, the Martin family, with whom they stayed" until they moved to their home "seven miles northwest of Neola". It is difficult to come to any other conclusion than the Martins referred to above were the family of Catharine Bridget Sweeney and her husband John Martin, who had been farming just south of Missouri Valley, Harrison County, Iowa for a number of years. It is said the family of Michael and Ann Sweeney came from the County Leitrim (north central) area of Ireland, and it appears the families of Michael and Patrick Sweeney were closely related as suggested in later family connections mentioned below.

When Joseph Patrick Sweeney (son of Bernard, son of Patrick Sweeney) was first married in 1899 New Martinsville, West Virginia, heading the list of wedding guests included Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Ormston (Mrs. Ormston, a daughter of Michael Sweeney mentioned above).
Children of both Sweeney families are known to have married into the same Lafferty and Mullen families:
This included the following children of Peter Richard MULLEN and Ellen Margaret O'Rourke:
* Mary Anasastia Mullen, born 1880, married George Patrick Sweeeney in 1907 Mo. Valley, Iowa (George a son of Daniel, son of Michael).
* James Patrick Mullen, born 1877, married Rose Mary Sweeney in 1910 Nebraska (Rose a daughter of Michael Sweeney, son of Patrick)
This also included the following children of John LAFFERTY and Ann Kelley:
* William Lafferty, born 1857, married Margaret Brogan in 1888 Neola, Iowa (Margaret a daughter of Margaret Sweeney, dau. of Patrick)
* Daniel Lafferty, born 1862, married Mary Ann Sweeney in 1895 Neola, Iowa (Mary Ann a daughter of Daniel Sweeney, son of Michael)

Article compiled by Dennis Walsh, January 2005. Revised in December 2008.