4 June 2016

John Horgan of Linwood

A confusion of dates and ages

On the 12th November 1832, John Horgan of Ballymacdonnell was baptised in the parish of Killeentierna, County Kerry, Ireland. He was the third child born to parents Johanna Fitzgerald and Thomas Horgan. (1)
1832 John Horgan baptism

Little is known about his childhood and early teen years but by the time John was 19 his father had died and his widowed mother Johanna set out along with two other sons, Thomas, and Daniel to make a new life on the other side of the world in South Australia. It appears that Johanna’s brother John Fitzgerald, already settled in South Australia had sent money to Ireland for their passage. (2) It is unclear what had happened to the first son Denis and husband Thomas but highly likely that they had perished during the great famine years. Elder daughter Johanna, born 1828, was to join the small family several years later.

According to shipping records, John Horgan was 20 years of age when they arrived at Port Adelaide aboard the barque “China” on 12 November 1852. (3) Indeed by my reckoning that day was his twentieth birthday. After a long journey of 109 days, it must have been a fitting day to step ashore.  The Fitzgerald family history records that the Horgan sons, (his brothers were 17 and 10 when they arrived) worked initially “as contractors and carriers along the Port road from Port Adelaide to the city and later to and from Burra” (2)

Land acquisitions

What we do know from extant records is that by 1856 Johanna Horgan, his mother is listed in the Land Grants in Registry Office with reference to section 333 in the Hundred of Gilbert. In 1861 John Horgan leased block 361 in the Hundred of Light from Alexander Hay for £16 per annum. By March of 1864 it had been purchased for £195. In 1863 John had signed another lease for block 300 costing £18 per annum for 7 years with the right to purchase. By 1865 the deed below shows that more land had been purchased and the family were hard at work establishing their farm and paying off mortgages.
1865 Land title block 206
Extract from Certificate of  Title to block 286

Marriage and family

On the 13th of October 1863, John married Honora O’Leary in St Patrick’s church in Adelaide. John is listed as being only 27 years old however as it was now more than 10 years since he had arrived as a 20-year-old, it is more likely that he was 30. Honora was not quite 24 as she had been born in December of 1839 shortly before her parents, Andrew and Catherine O’Leary embarked for their trip to South Australia aboard the “Mary Dugdale.”

Over the next few years, John and Honora became parents to at least seven children. The first was Johanna, listed as baptised at Kapunda in November of 1864. At this stage, no death record has been found for this child but family stories suggest that she may have died away from home at about 6-8 years old. As with Irish naming traditions, the first daughter was named for the husband’s mother.

Thomas, as first born son in 1866 was named after John's father.  Andrew Joseph born in 1869 was named after Honora’s father and Catherine born in 1872 after her mother. Another son John, named for his father, was born in 1875, and daughters named Johanna in 1877 and Nora Mary in 1878 followed.  Life would have been busy for John and Honora and their young family. By the time Nora was born John was about 46. With brothers Thomas established on a farm at Manoora and Daniel farming land near Tarlee, John’s mother remained at Linwood with her eldest son. At age 75 Johanna died at the farm on February 1st, 1880.

Farm help was provided by John Rolfe. He was 35 years old and had been working on the Horgan farm for 17 years when he died suddenly in April of 1883. (4) John had lost his right-hand man and would have to have carried on. Thomas now 16, Andrew 14 and John at only 8 years old would all have helped. Catherine at 11 years old would have been busy helping her mother with household duties and assisting looking after the little girls who were five and six years old.

Imagine then their devastation when only a few weeks later John himself was struck down with pneumonia. He died on the 23rd June after only a few days illness. Honora and her six children were left to cope alone.
Horgan John 1883 funeral report

John’s death certificate records him as aged 48 but it is more likely that he was 50. The obituary record here states that he had been in the colony for 28 years but in fact he had arrived in November of 1852 so was in his 30th year in South Australia. The gravestone shown below records his age as 47. Whatever age he was, it was an early death with devastating consequences for his wife aged 42 and her young family.
Horgan John and Honora tombstones
Base of memorial to John and Honora Horgan
St John's, Kapunda, South Australia

Genealogy Snapshot

Name: John Horgan
Parents: Thomas Horgan and Johanna Fitzgerald
Spouse: Honora O'Leary

Relationship to Carmel: Great grandfather
  1. John Horgan 1832 - 1883
  2. Andrew Joseph Horgan 1869 - 1951
  3. Edward John Horgan 1908 - 1992
  4. Carmel
1. Seen on  different documents as Joan, Juliana (Latin) and Johanna Fitzgerald.
Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI, Killeentierna | Microfilm 04272 / 02, http://registers.nli.ie//registers/vtls000634281#page/37/mode/1up 

2. Irish pioneers of South Australia : the Fitzgeralds / compiled by Fitzgerald Book Committee under the direction of Matt Fitzgerald, 1986

3. SA passenger lists :1847 -1886 available at http://search.findmypast.com.au/record?id=anz%2fsouthaupassengerlists%2f135135

4. 1883 'Family Notices', Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), 17 April, p. 2. , viewed 03 Jun 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106575206

This post first appeared on https://earlieryears.blogspot.com/2016/06/john-horgan-of-linwood.html


  1. Enjoyed reading this summary of John's life - would like to hear more about Honora's next 40+ years.

  2. Honora's story is partially written but need to confirm some details with my brother first. I do have one photo of her, bonus!

  3. This is a fascinating well researched history and is very helpful to genealogists and Irish descendants. It gives concise background to why they left Ireland, where they left from and how they travelled. Just one word of reproach. Please don't call it the 'potato' famine. No one in Ireland calls it that. We always refer to it as An Gorta Mór, the Great Famine. While the loss of the potato crop was the proximate cause, there were a number of other reasons for the disaster - widespread poverty among the majority, unemployment, over population and an unsatisfactory system of land ownership.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I learnt a lot from your excellent research in the "The Kerry Girls" and should have picked up on the correct phrase to use, corrected now. Place names Of interest - my genealogy program keeps trying to correct Tarlee (South Australia) to Tralee and one of these Horgan brothers named one of his properties 'Listowel'- I still have much to learn and follow up.


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