Irish Ancestors for Saint Patrick’s Day

On this snowy St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to see if I could find out anything about some of my Irish ancestors. On my mom’s side, I descend from William Durkee (also spelled Durgy). He was born in County Meath, Ireland, about 1632 (I know nothing about his parents, not even their names) and may have been the first Irishman to settle in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He had been an Irish soldier captured on the battlefield by Oliver Cromwell’s forces, and then transported to Barbados as a slave to work on the sugar plantation. He was freed under proclamation of Charles II. He arrived in Ipswich, Massachusetts, on 9 November 1663 as the indentured servant of Thomas Bishop.

William’s wife was Martha Cross. She was born in Massachusetts of English parents. She was probably employed in the household of Thomas Bishop, where she and William met. Martha and William conceived a child out of wedlock. (“March 1664: Martha Dirky, for fornication, was ordered to be whipped unless she bring a note from the treasurer, of three pounds paid to him.” “October 1664: William Dirkey, presented for fornication, was ordered to be whipped not exceeding twenty stripes, and to put in security [of something] to save the town of Ipswich harmless from the charges of keeping the child, or else go to prison. Thomas Biship, surety.”) Martha felt that she was cast out of her father’s favor so she moved in with her sister Elizabeth. Elizabeth went to her parents and found them “in a sad and sorrowful condition, very much harried in spirit, not knowing which way to turn or what to say.” They were advised that a marriage was thought to be the best solution. Robert Cross, Martha’s father, would not let the situation end and he sued William Durkee for abusing his daughter. William then sued Robert Cross for withdrawing his consent to the marriage after giving his permission. (“September 1664: Robert Cross Verses William Dirkey. For abusing his daughter. Verdict for plaintiff: ‘William Nelson deposed that William Dorkei said, at deponent’s house, after Goodman Stories had been at his father’s that he wished he had never spoken as he had, owning the child to be his, but he had eighteen meals a week and would spare six of them to keep the child.’”)

William and Martha married in Ipswich, Massachusetts, on 20 December 1664. Two weeks later, their first child, John, was born. They went on to have approximately ten children, who were raised Protestant. (I descend from his daughter, Mercy.)

Since William would not renounce his Catholicism, he could not own land, and his family lived in poverty. He was also a target for the Puritans. “They fined him for not attending church, the fine being paid by Bishop. He was sentenced to receive 25 lashes or pay a fine of five pounds for running away. Bishop pays again.”

William died in Ipswich, Massachusetts, (or possibly Windham, Connecticut) on 29 January 1704.

[sources: and and]

On my father’s side, I am descended from Honora O’Flynn. She was born around 1681 in County Kerry, Ireland, and died on 3 March 1741 in either Baltimore County or Carroll County, Maryland. Her story is quite the tale. Honora is said to be “beautiful, the flaming red head, vivacious and pious Irish Catholic girl kidnapped from the southern coast of Ireland.” William Logsdon was working on his farm in 1702 when he saw a British ship anchored in the Patapsco River and decided to inspect its cargo. Part of the cargo was Honora O’Flynn who had been kidnapped by the British from the coast of Ireland and brought to Maryland by a sea captain for barter. It is reported that William gave the sea captain a hogshead (barrel) of tobacco for Honora’s passage.

Another record says much the same thing. William Logston came to America at 1673 and entered indentured servantry at the age of 10 or 20 (records are contradictory), working on the tobacco plantations along the Patapsco river. He eventually had is own farm, purchased at the end of his time of indentured servantry, where he raised livestock and made tobacco his chief crop. At the age of 39 (or whatever age he was depending on which records are correct), and undoubtedly lonely and feeling time passing by, he noted a ship in in the river, bearing a cargo of women. The women were a mix of voluntary and involuntary women brought from Ireland and England to be sold as wives to colonists. Asking permission to board, he selected Honora O’Flynn, who had been kidnapped in Kerry County, Ireland.

In the Hall of Records, Annapolis, MD, Vol. 15, several documents state that Honora was kidnapped from Ireland by pirates and brought to Maryland where she was sold as an indentured servant.

But whatever odd and likely very sad circumstances brought her to Maryland, William Logsdon and Honora O’Flynn married in 1702. They had seven children. It is through her that some of her descendant lines are Catholic.

[source: and and]

So, there we are – some of my Irish ancestry. It’s more interesting than I realized when I opened up and Google this morning and started to write this post!

By the way, as I was doing research for this post, I came across a whole gaggle of ancestors (all on my dad’s side) who lived in Maryland. Tons of ‘em, over a couple hundred years. I see their birth and/or death locations listed as Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Frederick, Prince Georges… all places that I now recognize. The majority originate from England, so they don’t meet my St. Patrick’s Day needs. However, I didn’t actually realize that I had so many ancestors from here, the region I now inhabit. I thought it was pretty much Europe to New England and then some moved West. That’s it. But no, there were quite a few who made Maryland home. Perhaps I step where they once walked in life. I suddenly feel like I have more of a connection to this place. Very weird.


  1. Huh!! So that’s what happened in our family back then. Times were sure different back in colonial times.

  2. Very interesting. We’re related then! My dad’s side comes from William Durkee. :)

  3. Denise

    Also related! William I. Durkee is my 10th great grandfather.

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