Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Trying to sort out some
Chinese puzzles on
a tangled family tree

The sexton’s lodge at Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin … Thomas George Comerford (1820-1908) died there, and the church was associated with many family events (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

When I moved to Askeaton, Co Limerick, in early 2017, I was curious to find a number of branches of the Comerford family with connections in Co Limerick.

They included two Comerford nuns who lived about a century ago in a convent where one of the ‘residents’ in the attached ‘Magdalene Laundry’ was also a Comerford; a family of Comerford carpenters who lived in Limerick for at least four generations – some soldiers and RIC constables; and an interesting and unexpected connection between the Comerfords of Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, and Castleconnell, Co Limerick.

As I delved further into Comerford links with Limerick, I came across at least one Comerford family with roots in Co Carlow and Dublin, who had connections in the second half of the 19th century with Castletown Church, near Pallaskenry, one of the four churches in my group of parishes.

James Comerford and his wife Elizabeth were living in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, in 1875. They were newly married and their son William Henry Comerford, was born on 5 February 1875.

But they soon moved from Pallaskenry, the trail grew cold, and I wondered what had happened to them. Where did they move to? Did they have any more children? Had they any descendants.

Meanwhile, I had also been interested in the story of Captain William Edward Comerford from Liverpool and his wife Ella, who had been Baptist missionaries in China in the early decades of the last century. Were they related to any of the Comerford families in Ireland I have been researching over the decades?

Little did I realise that some genealogical sites were claiming a direct link between the Comerfords of Pallasakenry and the Comerford missionary couple in China. Research in recent months has helped to fill out more details of the family tree of these branches of the Comerford family.

I found a family who had moved between Co Carlow, Gillingham in Kent, Cork and Dublin, and that was closely associated with the life of Saint Michan’s Church, Church Street, Dublin, at the end of the 19th century.

Castletown Church, Pallaskenry, where William Henry Comerford may have been baptised in 1875 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Comerford of Graigue, Co Carlow, Cork, Dublin and Pallaskenry, Co Limerick

PATRICK COMERFORD (ca 1799-ca 1869) married Sarah Anne …. They lived in Gillignham, Kent, ca 1820, and later lived in Graigue, Co Carlow, in the 1830s, and were living in Dublin by the 1840s. They were living at 3 Sackville Gardens (1840), 6 Bachelor’s Walk, Dublin (1842), 26 Anna Villa, Cullenswood, Ranelagh, Dublin (1853). Their children probably included:

1, Thomas George Comerford (1820-1908), of whom next.
2, Sarah Anne, dressmaker, living in Dublin in 1849 when she was a witness at the wedding of her brother William Comerford. On 29 July 1850, she married Timothy McMahon, tailor, of 128 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin, son of John McMahon, in Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin.
3, James Comerford (1830- ), baptised Killeshin Church (Church of Ireland), Co Carlow, 21 March 1830.
4, William Comerford (1832- ), baptised Killeshin Church, 13 May 1832.
5, Helen Mary (1834- ), baptised Killeshin Church, 19 October 1834.
6, Charles Comerford (1840- ), born 24 February 1840, baptised in Saint George’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, 4 March 1840. He was living at 5 Lombard Street, Dublin, on 2 August 1863 when he married in Saint Nicholas Church (RC), Francis Street Elizabeth Letson, daughter of John and Esther (Supple) Letson of 31 Francis Street, Dublin (witnesses Michael Tagan, Catherine Carroll).
7, Samuel Horatio Comerford (1842- ), born 13 December 1842, at 6 Bachelor’s Walk, Dublin. He was baptised in Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, on 28 December 1842.

The first-named son of Patrick and Sarah Anne Comerford was:

THOMAS GEORGE COMERFORD (1820-1908), born in Gillingham, Kent, 16 July 1820 (birth records; 1901 census). He was a sailor and living at 36 Harcourt Street, Dublin, when he married on 9 November 1846 Mary Whiston, daughter of Isaac Whiston, in Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin (witnesses: Thomas and Grace Dary; the Revd Richard Stack, curate). They later lived in Cork (1853-1864), at 5 Tivoli Terrace, Harold’s Cross, Dublin (1867). Later, he was the Sexton of Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin (ca 1871-1892). He was widowed when he died there on 12 April 1908.

Thomas and Mary Comerford were the parents of at least four sons and two daughters:

1, Thomas George Comerford ( -1886), sanitary officer; living in 1885, and present at the death of his brother Isaac. He died on 4 June 1886, and administration was granted to his father.
2, Isaac Whiston Comerford (1851/1852-1885), clerk, living with his father at Saint Michan’s on 24 April 1883, when he married Mary Tobin, daughter of John Tobin, carpenter, of Curzon Street, Dublin, in Saint Michan’s Church (witnesses Michael Tobin and Margaret Tobin; the wedding was conducted by the curate, the Revd Michael Burchell Buick (later Bewick), previously curate of Saint Michael’s, Limerick. Isaac Whiston Comerford died at Saint Michan’s at the age of 34 on 13 June 1885.
3, James Richard Comerford (1853-post 1904), of whom next.
4, Emily, (1864/1865-1949) born Cork ca 1864/1865 (aged 36 at 1901 census), living with her father from 1883, when she is a witness at weddings in Saint Michan’s Church; she was there at the 1901 census, and present at her father’s death at Saint Michan’s in 1908. Died 20 May 1949, unmarried, at Saint Joseph’s, Portland Row, when her age is given as 80.
5, Samuel Henry Comerford (1867-1890), born 11 April 1867, baptised in Holy Trinity Church (Church of Ireland), Rathmines, by the curate, the Revd Loftus T Shire (1819-1902). He was a photographer. He died on 28 February 1890, at the age of 20 (sic), at the Lodge, Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin.
6, Elizabeth, who married Frederick Crofton Dawson, compositor, son of William Dawson, compositor, of 11 Berkeley Road, Dublin, on 25 February 1892, in Saint George’s Church, Dublin (witnesses Thomas George Comerford and George Gerald Dunbar; Revd Thomas Long). Frederick Dawson was born on 14 April 1860, and baptised on 3 June 1860 in Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland).

The third son of Thomas and Mary Comerford was:

JAMES RICHARD COMERFORD (1853-post 1917). Clerk, bookkeeper. He was born in Cork in 1853 (1901 census, 1911 census). Clerk. He was living at the Lodge, Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin, where his father was the sexton, on 15 February 1886, when he married Ellen Eva Dowling, daughter of John Dowling, army pensioner; she was born in Co Kildare (1901 census). The witnesses were his brother Samuel Henry Comerford and Maria Madden.

James and Ellen Comerford later lived at 27 Upper Dorset Street (1886), 33 Upper Gloucester Street (1887), 50 Upper Dorset Street (1888, 1889, 1901 census), 37 Nelson Street (1892, 1893), 6 Bolton Street (1895), 32 Upper Dorset Street (1900), 1 Blessington Place (1904), Henrietta Street (1911 census) and 16 Saint Michael’s Terrace, Blackpitts, Dublin (1917, Ellen’s death, Alice’s marriage).

Ellen died on 28 August 1917, aged 55, at 16 Saint Michael’s Terrace, aged 55, with her husband James present.

James and Ellen were the parents of 13 children, eight of whom were living in 1911. They included:

1, Mary Catherine (1886-post 1911), born 1 December 1886 at 27 Upper Dorset Street. School teacher (1901 census), Living with her parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker.
2, Thomas George Foy Comerford (1888-1888), born 31 August 1888, baptised Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin (sponsor Catherine Madden). Died aged 3 months, 50 Upper Dorset Street, 10 December 1888.
3, Alice Josephine (1889-post 1917), born 16 September 1889, baptised Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral (sponsors, Christopher Kelly, Ida Madden). Living with her parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker. She was living at 16 Saint Michael’s Terrace when she married David William Alford (1886-1941), painter, in Saint Nicholas Church, Francis Street, on 7 February 1917 (witnesses Michael Foy and Emily Eileen Comerford). They lived at 10 Saint Michael’s Terrace, where he died on 4 August 1941.
4, Emily Eileen (1892-1963), born 8 February 1892 at 37 Nelson Street, Dublin. Living with her parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker; living at 16 St Michael’s Terrace, when she married Joseph Monks of 26 South King Street, Dublin, in Saint Nicholas Church, Francis Street, on 28 September 1921 (witnesses: Edward Monks, Ellen Eva Comerford). They lived at 24 Crampton Buildings, Dublin. She died on 11 December 1963, aged 71.
5, Ellen Eva (1893-1954), born 7 July 1893, 37 Nelson Street. Living with her parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker, died 1954.
6, James William Comerford (1895-post 1901), born 31 March 1895, 6 Bolton Street, Dublin. Living with his parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker.
7, Samuel Christopher Comerford (1897- ), born 13 February 1897, baptised Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin. Living with his parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker.
8, Frederick Robert Coleman Comerford (1900-1962), born 8 March 1900. Living with his parents in 1911, Church of Ireland. Lived at 16 Saint Michael’s Terrace, Blackpitts, Dublin. Brush maker. Unmarried. Died 18 March 1962.
9, Charles Stewart Parnell Comerford (1904-post 1962), born 10 October 1904 in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin. Living with his parents in 1911, Church of Ireland. Cabinet maker. He lived at 16 Saint Michael’s Terrace, South Circular Road, Dublin (1943), 3 Mount Street Crescent, Dublin (1962). On 28 July 1943, he married Sarah Coogan of 51 Percy Place, Dublin, in Saint Mary’s Church, Haddington Road.

The fourth child and third-named son of Patrick and Sarah Anne Comerford appears to be the same person as:

WILLIAM COMERFORD (1832-post 1853), baptised Killeshin Church, 13 May 1832; porter, of 128 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin (1849), 5 Granby Place (1850) and 133 Stephen’s Green (1851). He married on 9 April 1849, in Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, Bridget, daughter of Timothy Baker (or Barker), clerk. They were both minors at the time of their marriage. The witnesses at their wedding were Anthony Farington and William’s sister, Sarah Anne Comerford.

They were the parents of a son and two daughters:

1, Bridget (1850- ), born 5 Granby Place, Dublin, 29 May 1850, baptised the same day in Saint Mary’s Church.
2, James Comerford (1851-1898), of Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, and Gardiner Street, Dublin, of whom next.
3, Mary Anne, born 23 September 1853 at 26 Anna Villa, Cullenswood, Ranelagh, and baptised by the Revd John James MacSorley in Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, on 28 October 1853.

Their son:

JAMES COMERFORD (1851-1894), butler, of Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, and Gardiner Street, Dublin. He was born at 133 Stephen’s Peer (?) on 20 August 1851, and was baptised on 29 August 1851 in Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, by the curate, the Revd John James McSorley. He gave his address as 96 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin, when he married in Saint Thomas’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, on 17 May 1873 Elizabeth Lightly, daughter of Henry Lightly, hotel operator, of 96 Lower Gardiner Street.

They were living in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick (1875), and at 96 Lower Gardiner Street (1880). He was a witness on 20 January 1883 at the marriage in Saint Thomas’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, of Elizabeth’s sister, Maria Lightly, of 3 Upper Gloucester Street, and John Drew, house painter.

He died on 6 February 1894 at 3 Upper Gloucester Street, Dublin, with his son WH Comerford present.

They were the parents of two sons:

1, William Henry Comerford (1875-post 1894), born 5 February 1875 in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick. He was present at his father’s death in Dublin in 1894.
2, Charles Samuel Comerford (1880-post 1901), born 3 October 1880, hall porter, Mercer Street (1901 census).

Captain William Edward Comerford (1881-1938) from Liverpool, a Baptist missionary in China … married Ella Jeter during World War I

Some Chinese puzzles

In many family trees on public internet sites, James Comerford (1851-1894), who lived in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, and Gardiner Street, Dublin, has been confused with James Comerford (1852-1898) of Liverpool, the father of William Edward Comerford (1881-1938), a Baptist missionary in China.

However, the names of the children of this James Comerford, their dates of birth and his life span make it impossible that these are the same people.

This other James Comerford is said to have been born in Dublin (not Cork) and was living in Liverpool in 1861, 1871, at 110 Upper Bean Street, Everton (1878), Everton (1891), and Wren Street, Liverpool (1894). In Liverpool, this James Comerford worked as a printer and a compositor.

On 14 October 1878, in Liverpool, this James Comerford married Ann R Cammack (1854-1897), daughter of Edward Cammack (1811-1861). They were the parents of nine children, but when they died these brothers and sisters were sent to homes and orphanages in the Liverpool area. Ann died in in 1897, and James died in January 1898. Their children included:

1, Mary, born 1880.
2, William Edward Comerford (1881-1938), of whom next.
3, Ada (1882- ), married Frederick H Johnson.
4, Margaret (1885- ), baptised in Saint Timothy’s Church, Everton, on 2 December 1885.
5, James Comerford (1887- ), married Letitia Dunning. They were the parents of two children:
● 1a, …, a daughter.
● 2a, William Comerford.
6, Lily (1889- ), married James Haltead.
7, Richard Comerford (1890-1973), born in West Derby, Liverpool, on 29 October 1891, died 1973.
8, Ernest Comerford (1893- ).
9, Percy Comerford (1894-1957), born 28 July 1894, Everton, and died in Hove, Sussex, 1957. He married Margaret Ellen Sweeney.

Captain William Edward Comerford from Liverpool, a Baptist missionary in China … married Ella Jeter during World War I

The eldest son of James Comerford:

(The Revd) WILLIAM EDWARD COMERFORD (1881-1938), a missionary in China and an army captain in World War I. He was born ca on 5 July 1881, at 59 Kirby Street, Everton, and was baptised on 17 July 1881 in Saint Timothy’s Church, Everton.

He was a jeweller’s assistant, born in Liverpool in 1901 and living in Moss Side with his uncle Richard Cammack and family. In the years that followed, he became a missionary in China. He arrived in Beijing (Peking) in 1906, and he was supported from 1909 by the English Baptist Missionary Society in his work in Xi'an (Sianfu), one of the oldest cities in China.

On 27 April 1914, William married Eleanor (‘Ella’) Jeter Comerford, a Baptist missionary from Texas who worked in China. They were married in Chefoo (Yantai), in Shandong Province in northern China.

Ella was born on 19 April 1877 in the Hayden Community, Van Zandt County, Texas. She was the daughter of Allen William Jeter (1832-1907) and Susan Seale Jeter (1840-1920), and as a child attended Hayden Baptist Church. Later, she attended Baylor University.

Ella was commissioned by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention on 22 June 1905 for mission work in China. She worked as a missionary in China with the famous Charlotte Digges ‘Lottie’ Moon (1840-1912), a Southern Baptist missionary from Texas.

By 1915, William was Captain William Edward (‘Will’) Comerford of the Royal Army Service Corps in World War I. Will and Ella had returned to England from China, and they lived at 45 Field Way, Wavertree, Liverpool. By 1919, he was living in West Derby, when he was a Baptist minister. He went to Shanghai in 1919, and then on to Montreal.

But Will Comerford had been shell-shocked in World War I. Will and Ella were divorced in 1928. He spent his last years in hospital in England. He died on 25 October 1938 at 27 Duke Street, London.

Ella Comerford and her daughter Ruth sailed from Liverpool to New York City on the RMS Aquitania in 1930. Ella was later a teacher in Hayden, Texas. She died in Terrell, Kaufman County, Texas, on 9 October 1959 and is buried at White Rose Cemetery in Van Zandt County, Texas.

William and Ella were the parents of two children, a son and a daughter:

1, Howard Comerford (1916-1935), who was killed in a car crash at the age in England.
2, Ruth Marion Comerford (1918-1986), born on 28 June 1918 at 27 Radstock Road, West Derby, Liverpool. She married James Robert Thornhill. She died in Texas in 1986.

Perhaps in time I may find out what happened to William Henry Comerford, who was born in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, and clarify the identity of James Comerford from Dublin who was the father of the Liverpool-born Baptist missionary, William Edward Comerford.

Meanwhile, I hope in time to migrate the stories of some of these branches of the Comerford family in Limerick city and county to my site on Comerford family history. But I thought it was worth sharing these stories as I continue to try to disentangle the roots and branches of these family trees.

Ella Jeter Comerford … worked as a missionary in China for many years

Last updated: 8 August 2019

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