Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kiss me, I'm Irish

I've been delving into my family history again—not too deeply, mind you, because what's done has been done well and what hasn't been done is left blank with good reason. My dad's middle name is Neal. He was named after his grandmother, Mary Gladys O'Neal.

This being St. Patrick's Day, I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Mary Gladys O'Neal's father was Charles F. O'Neal.

That is where the mystery begins.

No one is quite sure where he was born. Was he born somewhere in Ireland and then immigrated to the United States when he was a young boy? Or was he born in Florida (specifically Wetumpka)? No one is quite sure when he was born, though most figure he was born sometime around and between 1876 and 1878, somewhere around and between Ireland and Florida.

We have no record of his parents' names, but chances are they were Irish. After all, it seems that Charles F. O'Neal went by "Pat."

St. Patrick's Day was already celebrated full-tilt in the United States by 1876, though it was not adopted as an official holiday in Ireland until 1903. In fact, the United States began observing St. Patrick's Day when they were just 13 colonies and not The United States of America. The year of the inaugural celebration varies from colony to colony (New York, 1762; Boston, 1794; etc.) but it seems that by the late 1700s we were definitely really into St. Patrick's Day.

It would just go to figure that an Irish immigrant would get the nickname Pat.

Unless, of course, the initial F. stands for Fitzpatrick. Then he'd still be Irish but at least we'd have a name to go with to find Pat's ancestors, and it would explain the nickname a little better.

Pat O'Neal was married to Mary Laura Cornelia Duggar.

My family history gets really interesting there because my great-grandfather, Charlie Wilson Duggar married my great-grandmother (naturally), Mary Gladys O'Neal, the daughter of Pat O'Neal and Mary Duggar.

Charlie Duggar and his mother-in-law, Mary Duggar, were cousins of sorts. Mary's father, Jonathan Duggar, and Charlie's grandfather, Daniel Duggar, were brothers and descendants, of course, of the Daniel Duggar, the one that all American Duggars seem to be related to.

He's eight generations away from my grandma, so ten away from me. He is where the ambiguity begins in the Duggar line.

It seems he is the first "American" Duggar, though no one can quite agree on where he came from before that. My family tree says that his parents were Mr. and Mrs. McDuggar and that they came from Scotland. Daniel Duggar, himself, was born about 1690 in Virginia or North Carolina or Scotland, according to my family tree. Almost every other source I checked seemed to agree that he was born in Virginia. No one can agree about where his parents came from: Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain. Suffice it to say, they came from somewhere in the United Kingdom.

Many records in Virginia list him as Daniel Duggard. Some people say that this was merely a typographical error from when he immigrated—he was, perhaps, listed as Duggar, D. but then it got all combined into one word by accident so on all official records from that point he was Duggard.

I, however, am rather fond of the "accent theory."

Go ahead and try saying Duggar with your best Scottish accent.

That nice tap or trill you throw on that final /r/ could be taken as a /d/, couldn't it?

However you say it, though, I still have no idea where he came from. Still, that's 10 generations of names, which is pretty good compared to the four generations we have recorded on the O'Neal line.

Charles F. (Pat) O'Neal died in 1937. His record is so ambiguous that it just says that he died "somewhere near Lake Okeechobee." Do you know how big Lake Okeechobee is? It's big, so big that they call it "Big O."

It's the largest freshwater lake in Florida, and, excluding the Great Lakes (which are half-contained in Canada) it's the second largest freshwater lake in the continental United States, spanning 730 mi2!  It's the seventh largest lake if you count the Great Lakes (naturally, since there are five).*

He could have died in any of the five counties surrounding the lake. That really narrows things down, doesn't it?

Even though I don't know precisely where Pat O'Neal is from, or precisely where he died, I still feel justified in rifling through my girls' drawers in order to deck them out in every bit of green they own.

We're Irish.

At least, with a name like O'Neal, I hope we're Irish.

I'm about ready to head the the Family History Library in order to dig up some microfilm of Irish passenger lists just to make sure. If you sailed from Ireland and settled in Florida, you'd dock in New Orleans, right?

I'll need some real Irish luck to figure this one out.

* See here and here.


  1. Great post, Nancy! I love family history...

  2. Oops!, I forgot to wear green today, but Gareth wore a bit. In the last few years I've placed more emphasis on St. David's Day (March 1st) since we're not Irish at all (at least on my side), but we are Welsh. And Welsh is just awesome. Of course, I guess I really should celebrate St. George's day as well, since we're more English than anything, but Welsh awesomeness wins out.

  3. Charles was my great great grandfather. Charles --> Brady (Felix) --> Walter --> Donna (my momma) ---> me! If you're on ancestry, my username is hannahwunder90! Hey family! Thanks for this post. He's an interesting man for sure. I've been to his grave in Pensacola multiple times and have even gotten locked in that said graveyard at night! EEEk!