Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ancestry search: Looking for information on Matthew Madden - Trying to locate Joan Starr


A branch of the Madden family is keen to trace its family history back to Ireland.  The children of Joseph Edward Madden (1918-1994) would like to obtain information about their great-great grandfather, Matthew Madden (born in Ireland in 1835, died in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1912). Matthew is buried in Toronto at St. Michael's Cemetery at Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave.  His descendants would especially like to locate his birthplace in Ireland (the county and town he was from).  They would also like to know his mother's maiden name.

Matthew came to Canada as a child with his parents during the time of the Great Potato Famine. After being quarantined at Grosse-Île, Quebec, he arrived at Toronto in 1848.  His parents most likely perished aboard ship or died of disease at Grosse-Île.  Matthew married Mary Cain (1835-1894) and they had 13 children. Matthew was a familiar figure at the old City Hall as he was a court constable there for 23 years.

Matthew Madden's headstone at St. Michael's Cemetery

The family of the late Joseph Madden is specifically trying to locate Joan Starr, Matthew's great-granddaughter.  She was a bank employee until her retirement.  Her sister, Patricia Star, is deceased. Their mother was Mary Nora Madden Starr  The Maddens believe that Joan is living in Toronto and that she can provide them with the information they are seeking about their ancestor, Matthew Madden.  Any help in this matter would be greatly appreciated.  Please email

- Joanne

EDITOR'S UPDATE: (January 24, 2016):  So for, neither Joan Starr, nor anyone else, has contacted me with any information.

EDITOR'S UPDATE;  (April 18, 2016):  Success at last!  Although Joan Starr has not contacted me, two Madden family members, Monica Madden and Alison Madden, were able to find information about Matthew's Irish roots.  Monica sent this letter to the family on March 17, 2016.  What a great St. Patrick's Day gift!

To my siblings and cousins:

About three weeks ago, our second cousin Alison Madden contacted me with some big news: she had found our ancestor Matthew’s baptismal record: it tells us where in Ireland he is from! Matthew is our great-great-grandfather. He emigrated from Ireland as a boy during the Great Hunger (potato famine) in or around 1848.  Since 2009 when I started doing this research with Maureen, and now with Alison, we have never been able to say with any certainty where exactly in Ireland our family is from. Until now.

Here’s what Alison and I have found:

Our ancestor Matthew Madden was born on January 6 1834 and baptised on November 23 of the same year. The parish is named Killimor and Tiranascragh, as there were two churches, one in each of the two small towns. The parish is part of the diocese of Clonfert, in the barony of Longford, East Galway. This is the easternmost part of Galway, bordered by the Shannon River. The counties on the opposite bank of the Shannon are King’s County to the east, Tipperary and Clare to the south. Tiranascragh is just west of the Shannon, and Killimor is slightly northwest, just up the road.

This area is in the heart of the original Madden stronghold, where the Madden chieftains ruled before their lands were seized by Cromwell in the 17th century. In fact, the medieval Madden castle, called Longford Castle, is in Tiranascragh. Perhaps Matthew was born in the shadow of its ruins.

Our great-great-great-grandparents are John Madden and Mary Mcloud. They were married in the parish of Killimor and Tiranascragh on December 11 1833. As the Irish records only go back to 1831, it will be difficult to find out much more about them. Moreover, Alison has painstakingly gone through all the parish records for Killimor and Tiranascragh and has not found any other babies baptised in that family. It seems like Matthew was an only child.

What did Matthew’s father John do for a living? According to maps Alison has consulted, there doesn’t seem to be much aerable land around Killimor and Tiranascragh: it’s quite boggy. So perhaps he was not a farmer, but rather a carpenter; that would be one explanation for Matthew becoming a carpenter in Canada. I found another interesting possibility when scrutinizing a 1901 map of Galway that Maureen and my brother John bought at an Irish genealogy conference a few years ago: this map tells us where all the roads and important buildings were in the little towns, and in Tiranascragh, there’s a church, and a police station! Perhaps there’s a connection with why Matthew became a constable for York County. Maybe his father was a policeman in Ireland? (Matthew was the officer who looked after the jury in the Sessions Court at Toronto’s City Hall from 1889 to 1911).

We have found no trace of John and Mary in Canada- not in Toronto or anywhere in Ontario or Quebec, not even on Grosse-Île, which is the quarantine island in the St. Lawrence just north of Quebec City, where all the boats arrived. Although Matthew’s Toronto obituary relates that he emigrated from Ireland with his parents, we assume they must have perished during the two-month voyage in the hold of a lumber ship. Like countless others who died of typhoid fever, their bodies would have been tossed overboard. Small wonder they were called “coffin ships”.

Where do we go from here?

One day, I hope to get over there and put my feet on “our land”. In the meantime, perhaps more records will turn up; perhaps there are records over in Ireland, not yet online, which could tell us:
- the lot number where there habitation was;
- who Matthew was named after;
- what his father John’s lineage is (his connection to the Madden chieftains).
Also, Alison and I plan to make a couple of trips soon: to the Toronto archives, the Ontario archives, and to the Toronto Police archives: there’s got to be a photo somewhere of the Court Constable who worked at City Hall for 23 years!

Wishing you all a very happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Monica Madden
March 17 2016

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