Family tradition says that my 3rd great-grandparents, Patrick and Mary (Denahay) O’Connor farmed land which belonged to a monastery in Dubuque county, Iowa.

Actually, the story goes that Mary was pregnant with her first child when her parents sent her to work at the monastery.  She sent money back to Patrick so that he could come and join her.  He “somehow” lost the money and she had to send more.  He eventually joined her in Dubuque and then they farmed the monastery’s land.

Was she not  married to Patrick when she got pregnant?  When and where did they end up getting married?

I decided to do a bit more research to check and see if there even was a monastery in that area. Was there any truth to the legend?

I did some googling (I love the internet) and I found that yes, there is indeed a monastery there, actually an abbey.

It is called New Melleray Abbey and is located just south of the city of Dubuque.  Their website says the following: “New Melleray is a Cistercian (Trappist) monastery located in the rolling farmland south of Dubuque, Iowa. We support ourselves by farming and making wooden caskets.”

Gorgeous, isn’t it?

(Photo Credit

According to their website, the lands of the monastery were settled in about 1848.  Temporary buildings were erected.  The permanent buildings weren’t started until 1868.  So, my ancestors would not have seen the beautiful buildings above.

I also found a history of the monastery online at Google books.  It stated that:

“They pursue upon their estate the lives of great proprietors of land, and feel the same responsibilities for its proper improvement that is felt by lay owners of property.  The lay brothers, whose hours of manual labor are more in number than those of the choir brothers, are not numerous enough to adequately cultivate all the lands, and therefore many laborers are employed, and some of the land is leased.”  From “History of the Trappist Abbey of New Melleray in Dubuque County, Iowa” by William Rufus Perkins, published in 1892.

So, yes there was a monastery and yes they leased the land out and had laborers work on it.

In the 1860 census, I found the family of Patrick O’Connor living in Dubuque county, with a post office of  “New Melleray”

Mary’s oldest child was 3, so I’m assuming (as long as she didn’t have another older child who died) that she must have immigrated in about 1857 – and Patrick soon thereafter.

So far, it’s looking like the legend is true.  Now if only I could find their marriage record somewhere!!  Did they marry before the baby was born? An immigration record would be nice too.  Those common names are so hard though – there are a LOT of Patrick and Mary O’Connors in this world.

I am also taking into consideration the fact that the New Melleray Abbey has a “mother” monastery – the Mount Melleray Abbey in Ireland.  Does this have any significance?  Was Mary’s family from this area?  If not, then why did they choose New Melleray?

I just love how answers always lead to more questions….

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Hannah Emmett Cossaboon was my husband’s 3rd great grandmother.  She was born 9 August 1816 in New Jersey and died 9 November 1888 in Millville, New Jersey.  Here is her death certificate, which I ordered a number of years ago. I ♥ that her mother’s name is Thankful.  I don’t think that I’ve ever known anyone named Thankful.

1. Full name of deceased: Hannah Cossaboon
2. Age 70 years
3. Color white
4. married, widow
5. Birthplace: New Jersey
6. Last place of residence: Millville, NJ
7. How long resident in this State: since birth
8. Place of death: 2 st, Millville (603 S. 2nd St.)
9. Father’s name: David Amett, Country of birth: US
10. Mother’s name: Thankful Amett, Country of birth: US
11. I hereby certify that I attended the deceased during the last illness, and that she died on the ninth day of Nov 1888; and that the cause of death was malarial fever and Senile Decay

Length of sickness [blank]

Charles H. Hubbard

Residence: Millville, NJ

Name of Undertaker: Weatherby

Residence of Undertaker: Millville

Place of Burial: Mt. Pleasant

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This was found on  It was in the Seattle Times on 20 Aug 1964.  Michael Keene would be my mother’s first cousin.  He was so young when he died. I wonder what happened.  His mother was Luella Gertrude Sanchez Keene, my Grandpa Don’s sister.


Michael F. Keene 21, of 11250 26th Av. S.W., died today in a hospital.

Mr. Keene, born in Seattle, had resided here all his life.  He attended Lafayette Elementary School and was graduated from West Seattle High School in 1961.  He was a telephone repairman for the Western Electric Co., Inc.

Survivors are his wife, Dorothy; a son, Scott, and a daughter, Kelley; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. James A. Keene, and two brothers, Jim and Tom Keene all of Seattle.

Funeral Service will be at 1 o’clock Saturday in the Washington Memorial chapel. Burial will be in Washington Memorial Park.

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This week’s favorite posts:

  1. We’ve all seen some pretty bad spelling as we read through old documents.  I’ve never personally come across a Dorset accent though.  Wow.  Check out Caroline’s post A Strong Dorset Accent at Caro’s Family Chronicles.  I won’t complain about spelling ever again!
  2. I was so excited to read Those Places Thursday: Down on the Edwardian Farm over on Hibbitt Family History Blog.  I am a nerd and I love PBS/BBC shows.  I watched 1900 House and Frontier House and Colonial House and Texas Ranch House.  I think I watched one about WWII in England also.  I really don’t watch as much TV as it sounds.  I actually don’t even have cable/satellite.  Anyway, apparently there is another show that I now need to watch – Edwardian Farm!  Now I just need to figure out how to watch it, since I don’t get BBC Two.
  3. I have to mention Wendy’s post Wedding Wednesday: Milton Price Brittain & Nancy Garriott.  I love reading posts about my own ancestors. 🙂  I am descended through Milton & Nancy’s daughter Mathilda Jane Brittain.
  4. Cherie at Have You Seen My Roots? makes me so jealous with her seemingly neverending collection of funeral cards.  Her latest funeral post is A Double Rosbeck Whammy
  5. I loved Jo’s post Sports Center Saturday – NO SPEEDOS!  at Images Past. She has some wonderful old photos and a great sense of humor. 🙂
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