By the Bridge

The Swantons of County Cork,
Boston, MA and Brooklyn, NY

by Ginni Swanton

John Joseph Swanton
1843 - 1913
Mary Theresa McCarthy
? - 1916
John and Mary McCarthy Swanton Family Tree

John Joseph Swanton was born on November 15,1843 in County Cork, Ireland, the first child of Michael Swanton and Elizabeth (Bessie) Bradfield Swanton. He was born almost exactly nine months after Michael and Bessie were married, before the start of the potato famine in Ireland. He was named after his grandfather, John Swanton.

When John was born, the Swanton family may have lived in a section of the town of Ballineen known as Derrigra, in County Cork, Ireland. That is where they lived in 1852 . In 1860, John and his family lived in the townland of Boulteen at the Boulteen Cross Roads, where Michael ran the local animal pound . At age 16, John Swanton was confirmed in 1860 in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Enniskeane.

On June 27,1869, John Swanton married Mary McCarthy, the daughter of Daniel McCarthy, a servant, in the Roman Catholic Chapel at Dunmanway. Mary McCarthy was also a servant, and she lived in Dunmanway at the time of her marriage. The witnesses to their marriage were Patrick Sheehy and Mary Collins. In 1869, at the time of his marriage, John Swanton lived in Ballineen and was a servant.

In 1870, John was working as a carpenter in Ballineen. On October 8,1870, John and Maryís first child was born. It was a boy, and they named him Michael after Johnís father. The birth was reported by Johanna McCarthy, of Ballineen, who had been present at the birth. Unfortunately, the baby died the following day, and the cause of his death was recorded as ďdelicate since birth.Ē There is no record of his baptism. He was probably baptized by Johanna McCarthy shortly after his birth, as Catholics are allowed to perform baptisms in the event of an emergency.

John and Maryís second child was born on September 23,1871. It was another boy, and they named him John Joseph after his father. John Joseph Swanton Jr. was baptized on September 24,1871, in the Roman Catholic Church in Dunmanway, although the family was still living in Ballineen at the time. His baptismal sponsors were John Regan and Catherine Coursey.

On October 31,1873, John and Maryís third son was born. They named him James Patrick, and he was baptized on November 1 in the Roman Catholic Church in Dunmanway. His baptismal sponsors were Daniel McCarthy (possibly his grandfather or his uncle) and Norrie Neil. By now, the family was living in Dunmanway on Cat Lane. This was known as a rather rough, disreputable area, but it may have been all that the family could afford at the time.

John Swanton was not in Ireland when his son, James, was born. On September 12,1873, John arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and eventually ended up in Boston. I believe that he was the first of all his brothers and sisters to leave Ireland. He probably went in advance without his family to make housing and employment arrangements, so that when his family joined him, they would have a home to go to. On June 1,1874, Mary McCarthy Swanton sailed on the S. S. Marathon, arriving in Boston with her sons, John and James.

John and Mary must have had a happy reunion when he met her at the dock, and he got to see his new little son, James, for the first time. After traveling overseas with two small children for two weeks, I can imagine that Mary was delighted to let John take care of them for a bit!

John and Mary Swanton lived at 335 West Second Street, South Boston, where their first daughter was born on July 23,1875. They named her Elizabeth after Johnís mother, Elizabeth Bradfield Swanton. Elizabeth Frances Swanton was baptized on July 25,1875 at St. Vincent de Paulís Roman Catholic Church in South Boston. Elizabethís baptismal sponsors were John Swanton and Cate McCarthy.

The Swantons moved to a two-family house at 306 West Second Street, where their second daughter, Catherine, was born on October 4,1877. Catherine E . Swanton was baptized on October 7 at St. Vincentís Church. Her baptismal sponsors were James (or John) Hurley and Joanna Swanton. Catholic baptism records were recorded in Latin, so Joanna Swanton could have been Johanna or Anne Swanton.

The Swantons shared the house at 306 West Second Street with John McDonald, a carpenter from Scotland, his Canadian wife Frances, and their children James, Kenneth, Marcella, Flora and Samuel. John Swanton was also working as a carpenter, and he may have met John McDonald through his work.

John and Mary Swantonís family continued to grow. On August 6, 1879, they celebrated the birth of their third daughter, Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen was baptized on August 10 at St. Vincentís Church. Her baptismal sponsors were Patrick Walsh and Helena (Ellen) Swanton.

On August 15, 1880, Johnís parents, Michael and Elizabeth Swanton, came over from Ireland with their sons Robert and James, and moved in with John and Mary at their home on 306 West Second Street in South Boston. Mary must have welcomed Elizabethís help, as she now had six children under the age of 10. However, there were now twelve people living in their apartment, and things must have been getting a bit crowded.

On July 25,1881, Mary McCarthy Swanton gave birth to her seventh child, a girl they christened Johanna. Johanna was baptized on July 31 by Father OíNeil at St. Vincentís Church. Her baptismal sponsors were F. Brennan and Catharine Coughlin.

On May 1, 1882, Johnís brother, William, and his sisters, Ellen and Martha, arrived in New York, and joined John and Mary in Boston. William got his own apartment on South Street in downtown Boston, and Ellen and Martha may have moved in with him.

On August 3,1883, Daniel Swanton, John and Maryís ninth and final child, was born. Daniel was baptized by Father James OíNeil at St. Vincentís Church on August 5. His baptismal sponsors were Patricia Catharine Scanlan and William Swanton.

Sometime before 1883, John Swanton, his family, and his parents and brothers, moved down the street to 274 West Second, which presumably had more room to accommodate them all. Ellen Swanton and Martha Swanton may have moved into the house at 306 West Second then, as Ellen, her husband and their children still lived there in 1898.

On July 5,1884, John Swanton filed his declaration of intent to become a United States citizen.

Johnís mother, Bessie Bradfield Swanton, died on Sunday, June 28,1885 at the age of 65. She died of heart disease at her home on 274 W. Second Street in South Boston.

The following announcement of Bessieís death appeared in the Boston Globe:

SWANTON: -- In this city, 28th inst., Elizabeth, beloved wife of Michael Swanton. (Funeral Tuesday from her late residence, 274 Second Street. High mass at St. Vincentís Church. Relatives and friends invited.)

After Bessieís death, Johnís father, Michael Swanton, returned to Ireland, and in 1886, James and Robert moved into their own apartments. John and his family moved to 203 West Third Street. In 1887, John Swanton worked as an undertaker at 212 West Third Street . He still lived at 203 West Third Street.

On September 8, 1886, John Swanton became a naturalized citizen of the United States. The witnesses for his naturalization were Richard J. Daley of 236 West Third Street and Cornelius F. Hennessy of 157 Silver Street, South Boston. They swore that they had known John Swanton for at least the past five years, and they attested to his good, moral character and his belief in the principles of the Constitution.

Johnís naturalization oath read:

ďI, John Swanton, do solemnly swear, that I do absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to every Foreign Prince, Potentate, State or Sovereignty whatsoever, -- particularly to Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, whose subject I have heretofore been; and that I will support the Constitution of the United States of America Ė so help me God.Ē

Johnís wife and children automatically became naturalized citizens when John was naturalized.

In 1890, John and Mary Swanton lived briefly at 280 Boston Street near Dorchester. In 1891, they moved to 38 Beldon Street, which was also near Dorchester, and which would be the familyís home for the next 25 years.

From 1891 to 1895, their son, John Joseph Swanton Jr., lived with his family at Beldon Street and worked as a trimmer at 15 Milk Street in Boston.


On March 22, 1897, John and Mary McCarthy Swantonís son James, who was also a carpenter, died at the age of 25 of phthisis which is an old-fashioned term for tuberculosis. Phthisis means shrinking, and describes the progressive, wasting nature of the disease. James was single and still living at home with his parents at 38 Beldon Street when he died.

On January 3, 1898, John and Maryís oldest daughter, Elizabeth Swanton, married John A. Boyd, a barber who was originally from East Booth Bay, Maine. Johnís parents were Elijah P. and Helen J. Boyd. Elizabeth was 23 and a dressmaker when she married John. They were married by Alfred Woodbury, Justice of the Peace, 857 Washington Street, Boston, MA.

Since Elizabeth had been raised in a staunch, Catholic household, I found it odd that she wasnít married by a Catholic priest. If John Boyd wasnít a Catholic, he and Elizabeth could still have been married in a Catholic church, provided he swore to raise the children as Catholics. Perhaps he wasnít willing to do this. Another possibility is that Elizabethís parents didnít approve of her plans to marry John, so perhaps Elizabeth and John eloped.

Elizabeth Swantonís marriage to John Boyd didnít work out and they were divorced a short time after their marriage. Divorce was very uncommon in those days, especially in Catholic families. On December 24, 1903, Elizabeth married for the second time. She married Bryant Varnum Stone, a salesman who had been born in 1878 Houlton, Maine. His parents were Varnum P. Stone and Sarah J. Porter. Elizabeth and Bryant were married by C. E. Davis, G., 57 Rutland Street, Boston, MA.

Just a month after Elizabeth Swanton married John Boyd, her sister, Catherine, aged 21, married Patrick J. Finan. Catherine and Patrick were married on Valentineís Day of 1898 at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston by Father Francis X. Dolan of 75 Union Park Street, Boston. The witnesses to their marriage were Thomas A. Sullivan and Mary A. Donovan. Patrick was born in Boston in 1873, and was the son of Patrick Finan and Mary A. Sutherland. When she was married, Catherine was a shoe worker and she lived at 1309 Washington Street in Boston.

There is an odd aspect to their marriage, as well. The civil record for Catherine and Patrickís marriage lists Catherineís parents as Thomas J. Swanton and Ellen E. Gleason, and this doesnít appear to be correct. I donít know why Catherine would have provided incorrect information about her parents. Perhaps she was trying to keep the marriage a secret from her parents. There were a couple of other anomalies -- young girls of this era usually lived at home until they were married, and Catherine lived away from home at age 21. She was also married in a church that was outside of her regular parish. Usually girls were married in their home parish.

Catherine and Patrick Finan had three children : Mary E., Dorothy K., and Arthur P. Finan. Maryís married name was Brennan and in 1927, she lived at 93 Fernwood Road, Boston, at the home of her parents. Dorothyís married name was Lewellen, and in 1927, she lived at 100 Park Avenue in Newton. Arthur Finan lived with his parents at 93 Fernwood Road in 1927.

Catherine and Patrick were married for 29 years, until Patrickís death in 1927. When Patrick died, he was a roundsman , and lived at 93 Fernwood Road. In 1927, in the probate records to settle Patrickís death, Catherine E. Swanton Finan wrote her name as Katherine E. Finan.

Mary Ellen (sometimes referred to as Mary Helen or Helen Mary), was the next Swanton girl to marry. On September 23, 1900, she was married to Charles L. Bradley in the Blessed Sacrament Church in Jamaica Plain by Father Arthur T. Connolly, Catholic priest. Mary Ellen was 21 when she married Charles. Charles Bradley was born in 1876 in Albery Plains, Prince Edward Island. His parents were Michael J. Bradley and Mary McDonald. On July 9, 1929, Mary Ellen Bradley lived at 640 West Roxbury.

By 1900, the only children still living at home with John and Mary Swanton were Johanna and Daniel. John Joseph was living at 167 Chestnut Avenue in Jamaica Plain and was working as a cutter at 77 Bedford Street.

From 1905 to 1910, Daniel Swanton lived at home and worked as a baker. He died in 1913 at the age of 30.

John Joseph Swanton Sr. died on August 13, 1913 at the age of 70 of chronic myocarditis , and from general arteriosclerosis. He died at his home at 38 Beldon Street and was buried at Mt. Benedict Cemetery in West Roxbury by William F. Slyne.

In 1914, Johanna Swanton, who was 29 and still living at home with her mother, married Frederick G. Henderson. They were married by Father William Comer, a Catholic priest, in Boston. Frederick was 40 when he married Johanna. He was born in 1875 in Brookline, Massachusetts, and held a position as a secretary. His parents were Charles A. Henderson and Helen E. Power.

Johnís widow, Mary McCarthy Swanton, died on October 25, 1916 of grippe and arteriosclerosis at the age of 66. She was still living at 38 Belden Street when she died. She was buried with John in Mt. Benedict Cemetery in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.


Anne Swanton was baptized on December 8, 1847 in the Roman Catholic Church of Enniskeane. Her parents were Michael Swanton and Elizabeth Bradfield. Her baptismal sponsors (god parents) were Denis Donovan and Mary Conor.

Anne Mary Swanton was confirmed on July 24, 1862 in the Roman Catholic Church of Enniskeane. When she was confirmed, she lived in the townland of Boulteen and was 14 years old.

I havenít been able to find any further information about Anne Swanton, the daughter of Michael and Bessie. On February 28, 1870, an Anne Swanton, aged 22, of Coppeen, married Thomas Gallivan, a tradesman, age 26 of Coppeen. Her year of birth would have been 1847.

However, on the civil marriage record, Anneís fatherís name was given as James Swanton. The marriage witnesses were George Swanton and James Swanton. Thomas Gallivanís father was Edward Gallivan. The parish record for this marriage did not give the name of Anneís father.

I did not find a baptismal record for an Anne Swanton, born to a James Swanton in the Enniskeane Roman Catholic records, so perhaps the fatherís name on the civil marriage record is incorrect. There were no confirmation records for any other Anne Swantons.


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