Volume 1, Issue 1 January 31, 2001

Bowler Family History

Michael (Mick the Wood) Bowler was born about 1846 in Rea Castle, County Kerry Ireland.  Granda or Mickey the Wood, as he was affectionately called, got his nickname because he lived in the woods next to the property.

Michael Bowler (Mick the Wood)According to his great grand daughter Julia Bowler Bazenas, who has spoken with three of his grand children, he was quite a character. His granddaughter Alice Bowler Ogden said that Mick evidently liked to ride his horse around his property paying honors to the people working his land. Dan Bowler, his great grandson has an oil painting of Mick (see the top this page, right column, for a picture) that his father Daniel (Ding) had kept in a shed on the wall for years. Another granddaughter, Lillian Bowler Spiers wrote from Australia to Julia in 1999 that Mick was 87 when he died in 1933, putting his birth year she estimated as 1846.

Michael married Catherine Shea. It is unknown at this time where or when she was born. However, Alice Bowler Ogden told me that Catherine’s mother’s maiden name was O’Connell, and that she was a descendent of the Irish patriot Daniel O’Connell, whose house is located nearby.

Per information from Sharon Wells in Ireland, Michael and Catherine had seven children: John Joseph, Maurice, Michael Richard, Patrick, Cornelius, Timothy, and Bridget. John, Maurice, and Bridget immigrated to the US. Copies of their immigration manifests are on available online at the Ellis Island Foundation website,  I have found Census data for John at NARA and online at and The others evidently stayed in Ireland.

Portrait of Michael Bower

Update on Genealogy Project Underway

Debbie Heffernan Benko
A great granddaughter

I have been piecing together the Bowler family tree since 1997 when my husband Ralph bought Family Tree Maker software to use for his own family and got me hooked. Pregnant at the time and sick most of the day, I was up late each night with a wave of energy. Perfect for entering lots of data into the computer. Finishing his family and looking for more to do, I began doing my father Richard Heffernan’s family history. The Bowler family history was on its way!

I have interviewed a number of cousins having a half dozen or so different surnames, and continue to do so as I obtain more names and phone numbers. I have gone to the National Archives in Washington, DC, to look at century-old Census records; conducted searches on the Internet; accessed genealogy archive CDs, left queries on message boards on genealogy sites; and found relatives on AOL. In 1999, my second cousin Deb Joyce Johansen heard a cousin was doing genealogy and she found my query on the Bowler surname bulletin board on the website. She emailed me and we have been sharing information since then. We partnered up with another cousin, Julie Bowler Bazenas, who went to Reacastle Kells a couple of years ago and tracked down Bowler cousins in Ireland and Australia. She passed on a Bowler family tree from our Irish cousins. Jules gave me copies of letters she has received from John Bowler’s niece Lillie in Australia. Lillie is a fount of knowledge of the family tree.

In the winter of 1999, I contacted Mary Jane Henchey Strong (born 1919), who was "rumored" to be related to the Bowler-Sullivan clan of Unionville, CT. Mary Jane provided the family tree for the Henchey’s of Hampden County, MA, and confirmed the relationship between the Henchey’s and the Bowlers as being "cousins" but she wasn’t sure how. Mary Jane provided a picture of a young Kate.

John Joseph Bowler

John evidently was the oldest child of Michael Bowler and Catherine Shea. Our records indicated that John Joseph Bowler was born in Rea Castle, County Kerry, Ireland, on September 28, 1875. However, genealogical research is not without its challenges. Consider this recent missive from an Irish records research company to Deb Joyce Johansen:We have heard from Hilda McGauley regarding order 1101 Birth Cert. Ir —full details known - Photocopy for John Joseph Bouler as follows: The photocopy of the birth record will be posted to you. It states that: John Bowler was born on 24 October 1873 at Recastle which is in the Registration District of Caher in the Union of Caherciveen, Co. Kerry. His father was Michael Bouler, a Farmer, Recastle. His mother was Catherine Bouler formerly Shea. The birth was registered on 11 November 1873 by his father.

Before immigrating to the U.S., John worked for the father of Sean Connell (who Jack Bowler met when he went to Ireland during WWII). Jack also wrote that his cousin Bridie showed him the road across it where John used to go to school when he was living with his Aunt Judy. Apparently, Jack noted, John spent most of his time away from home. John also had worked as a teacher’s monitor. Alice Ogden Bowler reported that John’s father Michael gave all of his children the choice of going to college or immigrating to America.

John Bowler's Wedding Picture in 1903

John, who was very good at mathematics and could have gone to school to become a teacher in Ireland, chose America.

John immigrated to the U.S. in 1900, according to the 1910 Census, and was naturalized in 1910.  According to the ship manifests documented on the Ellis Island Foundation website, John Bowler immigrated to Ellis Island on April 24, 1900, on the ship Ivernia, sailing form Queestown County Cork, Ireland.  His age was listed as 25 and his hometown was listed as Caherciveen.  (In fact he would have been 24 1/2 years old, not 25).  He is on line 27 of that ship's manifest for that day.  The manifest also listed that he was single, that he could read and write, that his profession was laborer, his nationality was Irish, the seaport of entry was

New York, he had $10 with him, he had paid his own  passage, "No" he had never been to the US,  he was going to Norwich, Conn., to stay with friends.

Deb Johansen emailed Debbie Benko, saying "If you look at the original manifest for John, I found something puzzling. It looks like he came over with a Michael Sullivan. Next to the line where it lists the nationality there is a character I can’t read. But if you look at where it lists their destination, the two records look like they merge? It looks like it says Norwich from ?? and friends, (on John’s line) and sister Mrs. Mahon and Brother (on Michael’s line) What do you think?" On the ship’s manifest are three other people from Caherciveen: Maggie Devine, Michael Sullivan, and Jas Lawler.

 John was in the US for about 2 years when Catherine Sullivan immigrated (1902). John married Catherine on April 15, 1903, in St Patrick’s Church in Norwich, CT.  The couple then moved to Unionville, CT

The 1910 Census noted that they had been married for 6 years. John’s age was listed at 34 and Catherine’s as 29. They already had 5 children by then. By the 1920 Census, Catherine and John had 8 children, and Catherine’s age was listed as 34 and

John’s as 42. (The women appeared to age more slowly than the calendar would suggest). Their address on the 1910 Census was 317 Mill Street and Bowler Avenue in the 1920 Census, both in Unionville, CT.In the 1910 Census, John listed his occupation as fireman at a paper mill. According to Deborah Johansen, John worked for Myrtle Mills in Unionville. He tended to the boilers, shoveling coal, and making the rounds (a watchman) for the company, which made textiles (felt for piano keys, for example).

Bowler Ave House in 2000 (the porch was added latter)

Alice Bowler told a story of how the workers would go down to the boiler room to smoke and one day a manager was using crude language and John kicked him out of the boiler room. The other managers said that the manager should fire John, but the manager said no, that John had been right to kick him out of the boiler room for cursing.

John and Catherine

According to his descendents, John was very loving and affectionate with the children because his father wasn’t. His kids looked forward to his coming home and would run and greet him.

According to Ed Heffernan, he was also herdsman, herding milk cows. The 1910 Census stated that Catherine had no trade or profession, but Julia was noted as being a press hand at a doll shop (if I read the Census correctly).

John died on June 06, 1943, at his home in Unionville, CT. Dick Heffernan, his grandson, reported that John died after falling down a steep, narrow staircase in his house in Unionville. John’s son Jack was home in Unionville, just before leaving to go to Europe for World War II. John is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery, in nearby Avon, CT.

John and Catherine’s headstone is inscribed," I have kept the faith." John J. Bowler was a member of the Knights of Columbus.  According to Ed Heffernan, he was definitely a Hibernian.

Michael Bowlers Children:

Maurice Bowler

According to Lillian Bowler Spiers, in a letter that she wrote to Julie Bowler Bazenas, Maurice immigrated to the US.  He never married. Deborah Johansen emailed to Debbie Benko, "I found an entry on the Ellis Island site for a Maurice Bowler from Caherciveen. Arrived on The Cedric sailing from Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland, May 15, 1914, age 28.  The manifest says he was going to see his sister Mrs. Bridget Moriarity, 117 Charles Street, NY. He was listed as being 5 foot 11 inches, fair complexion, dark hair, and brown eyes. Like his brother John before him, he listed $10 as the amount of money that he brought with him. Maurice traveled from Caherciveen, along with 2 others from Caherciveen: Patrick McCarthy and Norah Sullivan. Given the age that he stated he was when he immigrated, he probably was born around 1886.

Alice Bowler Ogden told me that she had gone to New York with her sister Bessie to see him one time. She reported that Maurice was over 6 feet tall. He had cancer at the time and was very sick. He had been a longshoreman in NY, Alice told me.

Michael Richard Bowler

According to Jack Bowler’s journal that he wrote during his trip to Ireland during WWII, his uncle Michael worked in the fields at Rea Castle. Mike is tall but stooped a little at the shoulders because of a fall he had years ago in which he broke a couple of ribs. Apparently, he is much like his brother John in his scorn of a doctor’s assistance. He is called "Rick" because his middle name is Richard and there are other Michael Bowlers in the family.

Michael married Mary Kennedy in 1912 and had six children, according to Lillie Bowler Spears, his niece.

Patrick Bowler

Paddy worked in a tailor’s shop in Killarney for a cousin also named Patrick Bowler. Jack Bowler met him during his trip to Ireland during WWII. Jack described him as being a quiet, mousy sort of man whom life has defeated. Lillian Bowler Spiers described in a letter to Julie Bowler Bazenas that Patrick married Nellie Costelloe and lived in Dublin, and had no family (i.e., children).

Cornelius Bowler

Cornelius married Bridget Shea and had six children: Alice, Madeline, Noney, Mary, Michael, and Kate.

Timothy Bowler

Lillian Bowler Spiers described in a letter to Julie Bowler Bazenas that Timothy married Hannah O’Donoghue and lived in Milltown, and had no family.

Bridget Bowler

Bridget immigrated to America according to Lillian Bowler Spiers, in a letter she wrote to Julie Bowler Bazenas. She married Batt Moriarity (Alice Bowler thought it was Pat Donahue) and had one daughter (and perhaps a son) and lived in New York.

Alice Bowler Ogden told Debbie Benko that Bridget had immigrated to the US and lived in NY. She had a heart condition and died when Alice was a young girl, leaving two young children (perhaps a son and a daughter). Alice’s mother Catherine Sullivan Bowler went to the funeral. Bridget and her family had come to visit in Conn. and stayed with Michael Daughn. Marion and Madeline Bowler also went to NY to visit. After Bridget died, her husband Batt moved to a rooming house with the children, run by a widow with one child. They ended up marrying, probably a marriage of convenience, Alice speculated.

The Sullivans

Catherine Sullivan was born in County Kerry, Ireland, in August 15, 1882. There is some confusion as to whether she was born in Caherciveen or on Valencia Island. According to Deb Johansen’s baby book Catherine’s father’s name was Daniel Sullivan and her mother’s maiden name was O’Connors, but her first name is unknown. We have pieced together some of her siblings (not literally), identifying Mary, Julia, Danny, and another brother. I don’t know whether or not there were other siblings.  Catherine had dark hair, but her siblings all had red hair, according to her daughter Alice.

Mary Sullivan

From Jack Bowler’s diary that he wrote during his trip to Ireland during WWII, "She (Lillian Bowler) took me to meet Dan Donoghue who lives in a house on the church grounds. He was too upset about the death of one of the priests to give us much of his time. He was the husband of Mother's sister Mary. I learned later she was called "Foxy Mary" because of her red hair, and more than one of the relatives said I resembled her." She evidently stayed in Caherciveen, Ireland.

Danny Sullivan

His nephew Jack Bowler wrote in his journal during his WWII trip, "... Lillian ... took me "across the water" to see Uncle Danny Sullivan, Mother’s brother. He was very pleased to see us. I was led to believe that we would find him in failing health, but he seemed sprightly enough. His only difficulty was in hearing. He said he has been deaf for the last 20 years. That was his reason for

not going into town anymore. His deafness embarrassed him. Alice Bowler Ogden told us in January 2001 that her Uncle Danny Sullivan and his brother (unnamed) lived on a farm on the coast of Ireland. They were fisherman. Some relatives who came over from Ireland said that Catherine Sullivan was from Port Magee, but Alice thinks that her mother was from Caherciveen.

Catherine Sullivan

Alice told us that Catherine and John knew each other from Ireland. Peggy Burke Beller went to Ireland in the 1990’s and saw the hedge near Castle Blamey that John and Catherine used to flirt over. John came about 3 years earlier, with the idea that Catherine would follow later. When John came to say good-bye to Catherine, Julia Sullivan was visiting and dominated the conversation, so Catherine really didn’t get to say goodbye.

According to Alice Bowler, Catherine immigrated to the US when she was 20 in 1902 on the USS Mauritania, of the Leviathan line. This was the sister ship to the Lusitania, Alice added. Alice told us later that Catherine arrived in New York either on the day that McKinley died or the day of his funeral. However, looking at the immigration data on the Ellis Island foundation website, it appears that Catherine immigrated on May 17, 1902, on the ship Campania from Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland. Unfortunately, there is no almost no information on her line on the manifest (line 16) to confirm that we have the correct Catherine. This was the only Catherine Sullivan listed on the Ellis Island website having come from Ireland that year, giving us hope that it is in fact her manifest. Alice told us later that Catherine arrived in New York either on the day that McKinley died or the day of his funeral.

Catherine Sullivan’s 1903 wedding picture

She joined her sister Julia in Baltic, CT, a town outside of Norwich, CT. Catherine stayed with Julia until she married John. Catherine and John were married in St. Patrick’s church in Norwich on April 15, 1903. The couple then moved to Unionville, CT, and Julia moved in with them.

Peggy Burke described Catherine as a “saint.” She seemed well loved by her family. Her daughter Peggy Burke Belier writes, “I know that my grandmother Catherine was already married at the time, but my father told me that after John died, Great Grandmother Bowler had to take in boarders to make ends meet. He said that at the time of John’s death, Marion was the only one that had gone to school (Nursing). She stayed at home and helped support the family until Bessie finished school. Then she left and Bessie stayed to support the family until Madeline finished school.”

Catherine was a second cousin to baseball great, Ty Cobb, according to Ed Heffernan, who said his mother Madeline Heffernan told him.

According to her grandson, Dick Heffernan, Catherine inherited the “family farm” in Ireland around 1950. She donated it to the Catholic Church. Her daughter Alice Ogden explained that as the last descendent after her brothers died, Catherine inherited the farm. However, at that time, one could not take money out of Ireland. So, even if Catherine had sold the farm, she could not have gotten the money to the US.

Catherine Bowler undated; provided by Mary Ann Henchey Strong

The Bowlers on the Porch: (Top step, L to R) Jack, and parents John and Catherine Bowler (next step, L to R) Bessie Bowler and her husband John T. Joyce, John Joyce, Madeline Bowler, Ben Bowler, (bottom front) Alice Bowler.

Bowlers in the '80s: L to R are Ding and Mary Elizabeth Bowler, Kitty and Jack Bowler, Alice Ogden, Marian Daughn, Madeline Heffernan, Jack Joyce

Catherine Bowler in the 1960's

Bowler Children: Marion (top left), Catherine (top middle), Bessie (far right), Madeline (far left), Jack (front middle), Alice (bottom right)

The Henchey's and O'Connell's: Bowler Relations

I suspect that the connection is through the O'Connell's.  Alice Bowler Ogden recently told me that Michael Bowler's wife Catherine Shea's mother's maiden name was O'Connell.  Mary Jane had told me 2 years ago that that was her grandmother's maiden name (Mary Jane O'Connell, who had emigrated from County Kerry).  In a letter dated 1931 from John Bowler's brother Michael's wife, she wrote, "Grandma would like to hear how is Mrs. Henchey." Deb Johansen found a wedding card from "The Hencheys."  Tom - Julia - Tom Jr. and John in her grandmother Bessie Bowler Jocyce's papers.

Mary Jane remembers going to the Bowler's farm in Unionville as a teenager and staying there for a week or so in the summers.  They called Catherine Sullivan Bowler "cousin Kate." Mary Jane Strong told me that her father Joseph Henchey and Kate Sullivan Bowler were great buddies and she thinks it started when they were young.

Mary Jane Strong related that her grandmother Mary Jane O'Connell Henchey had been born in County Kerry, Ireland in 1862 and was married in 1887.  Mary Jane Strong told me that her grandmother blamed the reason that they immigrated to the U.S. as problems in Ireland stemming from the English selling the Irish rotten potatoes.  She was a maid after she immigrated to the U.S.  Mary Jane and her husband Michael lived with their son Frank in Westfield before they died in 1942.  Mary Jane Henchey died soon after her husband; her granddaughter Mary Jane reports that it was likely from a broken heart.

This summer, I traveled to Unionville, CT where the John Bowler and Catherine Sullivan (then married) settled and raised their family. Their children were born there, and they and some of their children are buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in nearby Avon, CT. I took pictures of the gravestones and have posted them on the Internet on the web site. Deb Johansen, Julie Bazenas, Kitty Bowler, Dan and Vicki Bowler, and I met at Deb’s house last August to compare notes and share photos.

Kitty Bowler, Debbie and David Benko, Julie Bazenas, August 2000

This January, I  traveled back up to Connecticut. Deb and I drove to Alice Bowler Ogden’s place in Ellington, CT, where we talked for almost 3 hours. Alice will be 90 in February. She rattled off names and birth dates of all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren and told us great stories of her grandfather, parents, and siblings. Kim Heffernan recently emailed me some pictures of John and Catherine from our great aunt Marion Bowler Daughn’s archives. I’ve just contacted Rosemary Bowler Gribbin and Peggy Burke Beller, who have added more to the story.

I expect to produce family newsletters a few times a year to keep everyone posted on our family tree and to use it as a conduit for gathering more information. Please let me know if you want JPG files of these pictures. I have a comprehensive family tree (about 50 pages) that I can email. I want to disseminate as much of this information as I can so it does not get lost with time. If you know of family members who have not received this newsletter, tell me and I’ll send them a copy. Contact me at or call me at (301) 424-1858.

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