By the Bridge

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

by Ginni Swanton

Michael Swanton
Mary Murphy
Michael Swanton and Mary Murphy Tree

Michael Swanton was born in Bandon, County Cork, Ireland on October 27,1876. He was baptized in the Roman Catholic church of St. Patrick. He left Ireland sometime after 1884, settling in Brooklyn NY, where he married Mary (Mamie) V. Murphy.

They had six children:

Edward T. Swanton, the grandson of Michael and Mary (Mamie) Swanton, sent me the following information about his family. It provides a wonderful glimpse into the lives of these people.

“I believe all of my Grandparent's children were born and raised on NYC's Lower East Side in the period of, say, between 1900 and the beginning of WWII. They all attended and were either baptized or married, or both, at Saint Mary's RC Church on Grand Street in Manhattan. As you are well aware, Irish-Catholic families are closely knit, and even when they married, say between 1923 and 1943, tended to live in close proximity to each other in the boroughs of either Brooklyn or Queens.

I myself was born in Brooklyn in 1937, the 3rd of 4, and have very vivid memories, as do my siblings and cousins, of spending weekends at Gram's, as we lovingly called our Grandmother. Of course on almost every Sunday the whole family gathered at her home on at No. 3 Pilling Street, between Broadway and Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn to enjoy the Sunday dinner she prepared. Afterwards, the menfolk, and some of the ladies, always played poker until it was time to go home.

My Grandmother, whose name was Mamie (Mary V. Murphy Swanton), was believed by all to have been a "sainted" woman, who from the day her Mike passed away in 1923 until the day of her death, attired herself only in black, except for her housecoat, and prayed the Rosary every waking hour of her day, even when cooking or talking to you. We all remember watching her lips move as she incessantly fingered her beads, no matter what she was doing. And when we said, "Gram, whom are you talking to", she'd say, "I'm saying a decade for you". And you knew she was.

The saddest time in the family's history that I remember was when in April 1945, the youngest brother, George, only 28 years old and recently married, was killed in action on an island named Okinawa in the far-flung Pacific during World War II. Georgie, as they called him, was greatly loved by all, maybe because he was the youngest, or maybe because he was just a wonderful young man who made it impossible for you not to love him. It just broke everybody's heart when they brought his body home and buried him with all attendant honors at the National Cemetery in Cypress Hills, NY. I go there now and again, just because I feel I have to be there.

Of the eight sons and daughters of Mike and Mamie Swanton, as well as their spouses, only one survives as of this day, Aunt Anna, now 86 and living in California. Many of their grandchildren, including me, now have grandchildren of their own and are scattered widely about the United States. But I think it's wonderful to occasionally look back, as I'm doing now, on those magical days of yore and to contemplate with joy that this bough of the Swanton family tree took root many years ago in a little town called Skibbereen.”

Aunt Anna died in 2001.

On June 7,1900, according to the Massachusetts census, a Michael Swanton who was a carpenter lived at 6 Prescott Place in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. His year of birth was given as 1867.

He was not a naturalized citizen of the United States. He lived in a boarding house run by James and Catherine Jenkins, who were both originally from Ireland. James Jenkins was a day laborer and had been in the United States for 37 years. Besides Michael Swanton, there were two other boarders: William J. Bryan, a 62 year old driver from Massachusetts and John O’Brien, a 52 year old driver from Ireland.

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