The Martin Family

We are always delighted when we receive a research request from abroad, but our correspondence over the past two months with Robyn Collins of Brisbane, Australia has revealed an especially fascinating story about the fortunes of the Martin family on three different continents.

Meeting of the descendants of Patrick Kilmartin in Brisbane, Australia, March 5, 2023. Robyn Collins is in the first row on the right; Natalie Prior is in the first row on the left (both standing).

Hoping to verify information that had been passed down through the generations, Robyn and her cousin Natalie Nussey Prior began to examine the life of their Irish ancestor Patrick (Kil)martin. They found that at age 14, he, his parents, and siblings were victims of the infamous March 1846 Gerrard Estate evictions at Ballinlass, County Galway, as the ravages of the Great Famine descended upon the people of Ireland.

Account from the Roscommon Journal as reprinted in the Freeman’s Journal (Dublin, Ireland) on 17 Mar 1846.
Laurence Kilmartin’s family included his wife Kate and children Patrick, Luke, Bridget, Mary, Catherine and Margaret (Maggie). List is from the article “Landlordism in Ireland: Case of the Gerrard Tenantry,” Freeman’s Journal (Dublin, Ireland), 27 March 1846.

The cousins discovered that although Patrick made his way to Australia (perhaps pressured to sign an agreement to work for the Queensland Railroad while under the influence at a pub in County Durham, England), his brother Luke and sisters Mary, Catherine, and Margaret landed in…Scott County, Iowa.

Thanks to census, court, military, and other records found in genealogy databases such as FamilySearch and Ancestry, [1] plus articles from historical newspaper archives online, Robyn and Natalie were able to track Luke Martin’s journey to Iowa by way of England, New York City, and Monmouth County, New Jersey. The 1860 US Census for Davenport suggests he and his wife Ann arrived about 1857, as their three-year-old son Laurence is listed as having been born in Iowa.

1860 US Federal Census for Davenport, Scott County, Iowa

A set of materials unique to the RSSC Center’s collection, the sacramental records of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church [2], allowed us to supplement Robyn and Natalie’s excellent research on the Martins’ time in Davenport.

The record of Laurence Martin’s baptism at St. Anthony’s, naming his parents as Luke and Ann, verifies that the family was here as early as September of 1857.

Luke and Ann’s third child, Mary Martin, was baptized on May 13, 1861. (Sadly, the St. Anthony’s ledgers also recorded her death, just two weeks later.)

Both of these baptism records confirm that two of Luke’s sisters were also in Davenport: Mary Martin was named as Laurence’s godmother and Margaret Martin as Mary’s.

Mary Martin married Patrick Manion (aka Mannion, Manning, Magnan) in September 1861 at St. Anthony’s Church. The couple’s daughter, Mary Ann, was baptized there in July 1862. None other than Luke Martin was named as the child’s godfather. And Margaret Martin was again named godmother to one of her siblings’ children at the February 1864 baptism of Henry Laurence, Mary and Patrick’s second child.

The St. Anthony’s marriage records also reveal more about the Martin family. In the record of Catherine Martin’s marriage to Martin Manion in June 1864 (at St. Anthony’s, of course), we learn that the groom’s parents, Thomas and Mary Manion of County Mayo, Ireland were the same as those named in the record of Mary Martin and Patrick Manion’ marriage. Two Manion brothers married two Martin sisters!

Furthermore, the connection between the Martins and the Manions may have predated either sister’s marriages: The record of Martin Manion’s first marriage, to Catherine Dowd in May 1860, listed his future wife Catherine Martin as a witness!

It is no surprise that the godparents of Catherine and Martin Manion’s first child, Laurence, born in March 1865, were Luke and Ann Martin.

The last Martin child baptized at St. Anthony’s was Margaret, daughter of Luke and Ann, in June 1868. By the time the 1870 US Federal Census was taken, all 4 Martins — Luke, Mary, Catherine, and Margaret (m. James McGuire in June 1865) — had moved their families to Fulton Township in Muscatine County.

The records from St. Anthony’s Catholic Church help detail the Martins’ lives in Davenport during the 1860s and establish ties with the Manion family. They may also tell us about wider networks of Irish immigrant families in the area. For example, Thomas Kirk, named godfather of Luke and Ann’s son Laurence along with Mary Martin, was also a witness to Catherine Martin’s June 1864 marriage at St. Anthony’s. What was the nature of this connection? Like the Martins, Kirk was from County Galway [3], as was Martin Manion’s first wife, Catherine Dowd. Could there even be other families evicted from the Gerrard Estate who settled in this part of Iowa? With all of the godparents and marriage witnesses named in the St. Anthony’s records, there are many more possible community connections to explore!

Our thanks to Robyn Collins and Natalie Prior for sharing the Martin family’s story with us and allowing us to highlight the value of the St. Anthony’s Catholic Church records!


[1] AncestryLibrary and Affiliate status access to FamilySearch is available at all three Davenport Public Library locations.

[2] These are photocopies of the original record books kept by the Reverend J. A. M. Pelamourges at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Davenport, IA (SC 282.77769).

[3] So says the grave marker of Thomas Kirk (1827-1868) in Mount Calvary (St. Marguerite’s) Catholic Cemetery, Davenport, IA.

(posted by Katie)

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