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Descendants of Cornelius Heffernan Newsletter

Recollections of Heffernan Family by Susana Heffernan

Note: The following is a verbatim re-typing of a manuscript prepared by Susana Heffernan pertaining to her recollections of the Heffernan family primarily descended from Roger Heffernan, her paternal grandfather. He arrived in America about 1865. It was initially prepared by Ms. Heffernan in 1985 at age 70 and personally given to Kevin Heffernan, her nephew, on 7/13/2001. Nothing has been changed, altered or modified.


This is a short record of the background of the Heffernan family and, in particular, our family members are old settlers of the Borough of Manhattan; many were born and raised here and lived in this area throughout their lives. For some reason there was a tendency to establish roots and to remain ó for better or worse! It would seem that none of us was very adventurous, although many were well traveled and spread their wings in all directions.

This is also a record written from memory of the tales I have often heard of their parents and relatives who came to this country so long ago. There are likely omissions and commissions of error, relying upon my faulty memory.

In the course of the years I have come upon others of this name. Many have added distinction and honor to our name, and I must say that never have I met a Heffernan who did not appear to be upright, possess the highest integrity and educational standards of his era; there have been judges, doctors, a college professor, teachers and members of other professions among them. They were also steadfast in their faith.

In any case, there were others who settled in upstate, New York; in Brooklyn, some of these descendents are still there, in Chicago (members of our family); in Butte, Montana, apparently to seek employment in the mining industry and there was also a settlement around the Scranton, Pennsylvania area, as well in the Boston area.

The first known relative of our family came to these shores, probably from Limerick, Ireland, around the time of the American Revolution. His name was Richard Heffernan. He fought in the Revolution and was buried in a church yard in Chatham, New York, just east of Albany. It would seem that he had friends or acquaintances there who led him to that small town. A headstone marks his resting place. Little is known in our family about him and whether or not he was married is unknown.

The next information we have is that in or about 1870 two brothers, Roger and Cornelius, migrated here and they too established themselves in Chatham. They also came from the same part of Ireland as did Richard Heffernan. In time Cornelius moved to Yonkers, New York, raised six boys and four girls. He married Margaret Quinlan of Yonkers. He worked for the City of Yonkers as an engineer at the pumping station on Lake Avenue. It is now a recreation center. At the time the Alexander Smith Carpet Mills were located in Yonkers thereby providing employment for his sons who eventually married and whose children still live in Yonkers (Clifford and Robert Heffernan) Of the daughters, one was a musician, one became a school teacher in New York City and subsequently married an engineer; another daughter married a judge and one of his sons turned to politics and became considerably successful in public life.

Our grandfather, Roger Heffernan, became a United States citizen in 1875 as attested by his certificate of citizenship, now in the possession of my brother, Roger Leonard Heffernan, of Ridgewood, New Jersey. It was found among my aunt Gertrudeís effects (his youngest daughter). Like his brother, Roger Heffernan also left Chatham in or around the year 1875 and settled in the Borough of Manhattan where he met and married Johanna Penny, a recent arrival also from the area of Limerick, as I remember. They were married in St. Peterís Church in Lower Manhattan (near Chambers Street). She lived on Barrow Street in Greenwich Village from where she was married. The house is still standing. Neither one cared for the country life although New York was developed only to l4th Street at the time; northward only farmland and grazing pasture were to be seen.

The area of Harlem was then way out of bounds, but Roger Heffernan moved his family there, established one of the first, if not the first, milk routes there and many of his children were born in Harlem. It was then considered a "suburb" of lower Manhattan. He and my grandmother had six children, four girls and two boys. They were members of St. Paulís Church on East 117th Street where our Aunt Sue was baptized. Unfortunately, Roger Heffernan died suddenly and unexpectedly of blood poisoning in or about the year 1900. Apparently following his death, the family moved back to the Greenwich Village area and lived at 76 Seventh Avenue for many years until the death of their mother in 1914. They were members of Saint Francis Xavier Parish and church on West l6th Street.

My father, Leonard Michael Heffernan, was the oldest son of the family. The oldest member was Mary Elizabeth who became a buyer at B. Altman & Co and later at Saks Fifth Avenue until 1929 when the depression changed the situation. Following that she became a member of the Order of Jesus and Mary in Highland Mills, New York, and taught school for many years at St. Johnís in Kingsbridge.

The second son and third eldest member of the family was Francis Joseph Heffernan who died in April, 1978, leaving his wife, Lillian, his daughter Marie Irwin and two grandsons, William J. Irwin, Jr. and Edward T. Irwin. He was the last member of his generation. He had had a successful business career in private industry and had established his own building supply firm in Katonah, New York. He and aunt Lillian were loving and kind to their families and did much to help us all. They brought us security and happiness. They married in the early 1920ís in New York, her home and his, except for a brief few years in White Plains and Katonah, considered New York City to be their home throughout their lives.

The next oldest Heffernan was my aunt Sue who entered the business world and was employed by the firm of Joseph F. Rielly and Company, a theater transfer firm. Her sister, Gertrude, worked out of town and after returning to New York she worked at a New York State correctional facility in Bedford Hills, New York. Their youngest sister, Theresa, did not enter the business world.

Michael Leonard Heffernan (or Leonard Michael) worked for various small business firms in the Chelsea area of lower Manhattan. He gradually founded his own livery and delivery firm with a partner, Charles F. Brush. Their office was located at 12-14 West 18th Street where they conducted a successful business until the untimely death of Leonard Heffernan in June, 1920. He had met Christine Peterson, of Brooklyn, NY while they both worked at Siegelís Cooperís department store at Sixth Avenue at 18th Street in New York, prior to his marriage to Miss McGrath. After her sudden death he married my mother, Christine Peterson, in 1914 in St. Francis Xavier Church in Brooklyn. Before her marriage my mother was employed by the publishing firm of Doubleday Page & Co., then located on Irving Place in New York. They moved to Garden City around the year 1910 and my mother and her family moved from Anthony Street, Brooklyn, where she had been born, to Mineola in Long Island, where her mother (then widowed) conducted a small grocery business.

My motherís mother, Anna Early, immigrated to this country from Waterford, Ireland in or about 1880 and was married to Alexander Peterson, a native of Sweden. The parents of Anna Early came here from Ireland and settled on a farm in the east part of the Bronx at Morris park Avenue and Taylor Street, adjacent to the Catholic Protectory which was located on the site of what is now the Parkchester real estate complex. Anna Farleyís brothers were employed there. She came from a large family. We and three cousins are the only trace of the family, since few of their children had families of their own.

Marie Irwin is the daughter of my uncle and aunt, Joseph and his wife Lillian. She is the mother of William and Edward Irwin, both Harvard Graduates. She is employed at the Horace Mann School in Riverdale.

The children of Leonard Heffernan and his wife, Christine, are semi-retired. I work part-time as does my brother, Roger. He had been with International Business Machines Company and attained distinction in the financial sector of that firm. He and his wife, the former Evelyn Ginther, are the parents of five sons and four daughters, all living mainly in the State of New Jersey. Our sister, Christine, was married to Meyer Strauss in 1965. There are no children of that union.

Hence, from a family of six Heffernans, there are but four descendants, we three and my cousin, Marie Irwin.

This record is being left open, with the wish that in the years to come, it will grow and develop as have the aforesaid members of our family.


November 14, 1985

Susana Heffernan
310 First Avenue
New York, New York  10009


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