I previously mentioned the challenges that accompany research using the old Catholic Church records.  The handwriting used by the priests is beautiful, yet extremely difficult to decipher.  The elaborate script coupled with the content being (primarily) in Latin, makes it nearly impossible to read the record upon first viewing.  Since most of us don’t read Latin, we must rely on patience, an online dictionary, and a little imagination to make sense of the entries in the Church logs.

Something caught my eye as I muddled through the baptism records from the last quarter of the 19th century.  There were several entries from the 1880s where the baptism took place the same day as the birth and where the witnesses were usually listed, the words “ab obstetrici Jane Kenna” appear.

“Obstetrici” is some form of the word for midwife, so I took these entries to mean the midwife, Jane Kenna baptized the babies.  They would have been born alive, yet fragile, and their chances for survival slim, so the midwife went ahead and baptized the infants.

You might ask, “So what?”  For me this was interesting because although none of my ancestors were baptized by Jane Kenna, the Kenna family lived on the quarter section north of my great-great-grandparents place in section 22 of Tara Township.  There is a good chance Mrs. Kenna was present at my great-grandfather’s birth.  The family names for the babies she baptized all lived within a mile or two in that part of Tara – Conlogue, McAndrew, and McGraw.  These families were neighbors (and relations) of my McMahon great-great-grandparents.

It may seem like such a minor detail, but learning that Jane Kenna was a midwife in Tara Township further expanded my understanding of what life was like in 19th century Tara Township.  Who knows…maybe Catherine McMahon (my great-great-grandmother) and Mrs. Kenna couldn’t stand one another, but it is likely that as such close neighbors they relied on eachother’s help and support over ther years.

In a more general sense, information like this reminds us of how heartbreaking life could be out on the prairie.  The burial records show one infant delivered and baptized by Jane Kenna, died the same day and was buried the next.

I wonder if there are any Kenna descendants out there?  Make sure to post a comment here.



Filed under Early Settlers, Tara Township

6 responses to “Neighbors

  1. Leo Holl

    Greetings from a Kenna/ O’ Kenna decendent!

    I think your Jane Kenna may be a sister to my grandmother Ellen Kenna. If we are talking about the same person her correct name is Honora Jane Kenna,b. 6 Mar 1866 (Concord N.H.). One of 5 children born to Jane Howard and John Edward Kenna. John Kenna became ill, sold his blacksmith shop in Concord,NH, traveled by rail as a member af Archbishop Ireland Catholic Colony. He operated three farms about 6-7 miles west of Clontarf. Jane Kenna married a John Shea in 1893. Died in 1907. Ellen Kenna married Michael Conlogue, my grandfather. My mother was Jane Conlogue. Both my mother and grandmother were married at St. Malachy’s. I would love to find out how I can obtain a plat of section 22 tara township without traveling to swift county.

    • Thank you so much for your comment – it was great to hear from a Kenna descendant! For starters, I have copies of the Tara plat maps that I would be happy to share with you. I am pretty sure I have electronic copies. I will let you know within a couple days. Should I send them to the email you registered here?

      Many families who settled in Tara and Clontarf in response to Bishop Ireland’s colonization efforts came from Concord, New Hampshire. I am aware of the Foley, Regan, Quigley, Donovan, Kent, Duggan, and now the Kenna families. Do you know anything about with whom the Kennas came west from New Hampshire? Several of the families from NH came from County Cork in Ireland – did the Kenna family as well?

      I was particularly excited to see your grandfather was a Conlogue. Over the years I kept seeing that name and I was curious about the family. Where did they live before Tara?

      I have a number of unidentified people in photographs, mostly from the early 1900s. Do you have any old photographs? I am always trying to put names to the faces. Most of the photographs come from the Foley, McMahon, Duggan, and Regan families.

      Thanks again for replying to the post. I look forward to hearing from you again! And I will let you know whether I can email the plats or if I will have to send them to you in the actual mail. Have a happy Fourth!


  2. Pingback: A Sad Day in Tara « History of Clontarf, Minnesota

  3. Anne Schirmer

    My folks bought the vacant farm in Sec. 10 of Tara Twp. in the fall of 1947 from the State Bank of Danvers. They moved there from Elkton, SD, where they had been for less than 2 yrs. and were renting. My mother had a brother living in that area at that time. My mother & father were both from the Granville, IA, area otherwise…The property they bought (two 80 acre parcels connected in checkerboard fashion) had the Gosson name on them. I don’t know anything about them or where they went after losing the farm…That property is just above the parcels owned by the Irish names mentioned in the article…Is Gosson an Irish name?

    • I checked the 1880 census and John Gosson was born in Ireland and his wife Mary was born in New York. I remember something about a Gosson girl coming to stay in Clontarf with Neil and Annie Regan for the summer…otherwise, I don’t know anything about the family. I will look around.

      You gave me a great idea for the blog! What if we took a section each week and went through who appears on the plat maps over the years in that section? I have 1886, 1902, 1907, 1912, and 1917 plats for Tara and Clontarf. I am going to start that next week, beginning with section 10! Thanks, Anne!

  4. Tiffany Shea

    Hi! I hope you all are still reading these….Looks like it’s been a little while since any one wrote in. I am Tiffany Shea… I believe Jane Irene Kenna (daughter of Jane Howard and John Edward Kenna) married Thomas Shea sometime in 1893. Jane Irene Kenna (Shea) is my great great great grandmother. Soooo Leo Holl… we are…..uhhhh distant cousins????
    I would love to hear more of what you have found (I didn’t have the pleasure to meet much of my family before they died). You had posted that John Shea and Jane Kenna was actually Thomas Shea. Thomas Shea’s Brother, John, was married in 1887 to an unknown woman and she died shortly after

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