Humphrys genealogy

Genealogy research by Mark Humphrys.

My ancestors - O'Mara - Contents

James O'Mara

James O'Mara and Honora Foley and some of their children.
This is the younger group of 4 boys (12 years younger than Stephen) and Honora.
Baby and older children absent.
Must be: Back (left to right): James O'Mara, Jack (bapt 1856), Jim (bapt 1858),
And: Front (left to right): Honora (bapt 1860), Honora Foley, Joe (born 1864), Frank (bapt 1862).
Photo must be c.1868. See full size. See other copy.

James O'Mara,
born 1817 (by age given at death).
He would be born at Clonmel, Co.Tipperary.
See Wikipedia.
His family always used spelling "O'Mara".
Founded the O'Mara's bacon company, Limerick city, the source of generations of family wealth.
High Sheriff of Limerick city.

Family origin story: The family origin story in the 20th century was as follows:

Family origin story is false: In 2020 I discovered that most of the above story is false:

So from what we can see, James grew up near Clonmel.
It seems he worked for a time in the woollen mills near Clonmel.
His mother's family Casey are said to have owned a woollen mill at Clogheen, near Clonmel.

Comes to Limerick:
James' brother Andrew moved to Limerick and married there in 1837.
James came to Limerick before 1839. Probably lived with Andrew for a time.
In Limerick he worked in the wool trade, before he got into bacon.
[PAT/1, p.10] says that years later the O'Mara's still did a thriving business in wool with the Ebrills during the slack bacon period.

Settles in Mungret St:
James settled in Mungret St, Limerick. His brother Andrew lived on Mungret St. James may have lived with brother for a time before he married, but later they clearly have two different houses on Mungret St.

James got a job in a bacon company in Limerick as a clerk.
1924 letter (which is an eyewitness source) says this was John Russell's company. James O'Mara worked in the bacon department.
See John Russell of Upper William St listed under "Provision Merchants" in [Slater's Directory, 1846, p.276].
I had another story that he worked for Mattersons bacon factory, Limerick. I had this story before 1992 but cannot find source. See Joseph Matterson of Roches St listed under "Provision Merchants" in [Slater's Directory, 1846, p.276]. But the source for Russell's is much more convincing.
The story is he went home from his employer one day and said: "This is the last day I'm going to work for anyone".
He set up business on his own. He opened O'Mara's Bacon Company in 1839. He originally sold for his old employer, then started curing his own.

He mar 2 Oct 1841 [St.John's, Limerick] to Honora Foley [born 1822, or poss. 1818].
See entry. This is the mar of "James O'Mara" to "Honora Fowloo".
"Fowloo" is a variant of "Foley".

James and Honora were living Mungret St around 1844-1860 (their children baptised in nearby St.John's).
[PAT/1, p.4] says: "It was in the basement of this house in Mungret Street that bacon was first cured by them."
His wife worked in the business with him. Slowly, over the years, he worked his way up to become one of the prominent businessmen of the city. Honora worked with her husband in setting up O'Maras through the terrible years of The Famine (1845-50).
Think he is spelt "O'Mara" in all children's baptisms after 1844.
He sp bapt of his nephew Michael O'Mara Sept 1846.
"James O'Mara" is listed on Mungret St in Griffith's Valuation, 1850. He is leasing a very modest house, at plot 28. He is clearly not rich yet.
They are right beside Honora's sister Mary Foley and her husband Andrew Lynch at plot 30.
Also on Mungret St in Griffith's Valuation is James' brother Andrew and other people of interest.
"James O'Mara", Mungret St, is listed under "provision dealers" in [Slater's, 1856, p.310].
"James O'Mara" wit mar of his niece Margaret O'Mara 1858.

Move to Roches St:
James and Honora moved by 1862 to Roches St, Limerick. Living there as at children's births 1862-1866. Children now baptised at St.Michael's on Denmark St.
James set up a dedicated O'Mara's Bacon Factory on Roches St, Limerick.
He is listed as "James O'Mara", "provision merchant" at children's births and marriages.
"James O'Meara" sp bapt of Mary O'Mara 1868.

Nationalist politics:
Obituary says he was "an ardent Nationalist".
He was an early supporter of Isaac Butt's Home Rule movement. He was a member (with his son Stephen) of the famous Butt Committee, which secured Butt's election for Limerick city, in by-election, 20 Sept 1871.
"James O'Mara" is listed in contributors to "The Butt Testimonial" in Irish Times, May 5, 1875.
"James O'Mara", of St.Michael's par, Limerick, is among those writing an open letter, 4 May 1877, to the Bishop of Limerick, expressing their wish to organise celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of Pope Pius IX (50th anniv of him becoming a bishop).
See letter in Freemans Journal, 9 May 1877.

Honora dies, 1878:
Honora spent a lot of time in Co.Clare resorts. Undated letters from Stephen to his wife show he is often in Lisdoonvarna with his mother and his aunt.
Honora died Aug 1878, Kilkee, Co.Clare.
Grave says she died 30 Aug 1878, age 56 yrs. See inscription.
See death cert from here. This says she died 31 Aug 1878, age 60 yrs. Lists her as "Honor O'Mara".
She was bur 31 Aug or 1 Sept [burial record] at Mount St. Lawrence cemetery, Limerick.
James erected grave, spelt name "O'Mara".

In 1878 James moved house to 17 Thomas St (just N of Roches St), one of the old town houses. The factory stayed on Roches St.
His wife's address is still listed as Roches St in burial record 1878. He is listed at Thomas St from 1878.
He is listed as "James O'Meara, merchant" at Jack's mar 1880.
He was a member of the Catholic Institute, Limerick. He appears in their records in at least May 1886 to 1893. He was on their council at least May 1886 to 1893.
He became a Limerick Poor Law Guardian. Listed as such at time of appointment as High Sheriff, Dec 1886.

High Sheriff of Limerick city 1887: He was High Sheriff of Limerick City for 1887.
See appointment reported in Irish Times, December 10, 1886.
On Sat 26 Nov 1887, while High Sheriff, he received an Irish-American Fenian come to Limerick to deliver an oration at the unveiling (Sun 27 Nov) of a memorial to the Fenian Manchester Martyrs of Nov 1867 (20 years before). See long article in Irish Times, Mon 28 Nov 1887. His son Stephen (who was a Fenian in his younger years) was also present.
James was succeeded for 1888 as High Sheriff by his son Stephen.

He became a Town Councillor (T.C.) on Limerick Corporation.
He is "James O'Mara" listed as Town Councillor for Dock Ward in [Thoms] at least 1888 to 1898.
[PAT/1, p.7] says he was known as "The Grand Old Man" in later life. This refers to a letter of 31 Dec 1889: "Give my best love to dear Mr. James O'Mara - our own Grand Old Man - to see him jumping into the Pollock Holes last summer like a young boy. I never saw anything like his vitality." (The Pollock Holes are deep pools off Kilkee.)
There was a Christmas dinner custom in the O'Maras that none of the many children or their husbands and wives or the grandchildren were allowed to speak a word during dinner, no matter how old they were. Great opportunity for the parents to expound their views.
In 1891 he bought the rights of the Russian Bacon Company, and until 1903 they produced bacon there and shipped it to London.
He is "James O'Mara", T.C. (Town Councillor), in Limerick Chronicle, 14 January 1892, and at Thomas Ray's funeral 1892.
Listed as "TC" at a talk in Limerick in Oct 1892.

He is described as a Justice of the Peace at his son Jim's death and funeral 1893. Limerick Corporation passed a Vote of Condolence, saying that the father was "long connected and much associated with the Corporation".
He is listed as J.P. at son Jack's mar 1895, also in [Thoms, 1898], also at death 1899.
[Modern Ireland, 1899] says he was also a member of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, a Governor of the Fever Hospital, and a Trustee of the Limerick Savings Bank.
Obituary says he was a magistrate of Limerick, and a "Visiting Justice of the Male and Female Prisons".
He is still listed as Town Councillor for Dock Ward in [Thoms, 1898]. Looks like he was NOT an Alderman.
Obituary 1899 says he represented the Dock Ward until he resigned at "the termination of the old council".
Obituary says he was nominated for Mayor of Limerick but declined.
He lived to see great-grandchildren.

James dies, 1899:
James was living 17 Thomas St, Limerick, at death.
He died Thur 20 Apr 1899, 17 Thomas St, Limerick, age 82 yrs [obituary], [grave], [death cert].
See death cert from here. He is "bacon manufacturer".
See obituary in Limerick Chronicle, 20 April 1899.
Funeral Sun 23 Apr 1899 [funeral report]. NOT 21 Apr [burial record].
He was bur Mount St. Lawrence cemetery, Limerick.
Letter of 25 Apr 1899 confirms he died Thur and was bur Sun.
See funeral report in Limerick Chronicle, 25 April 1899.
Attendance included Bishop of Limerick and "Lord Emly" (would be Gaston Monsell, 2nd Baron Emly).
Probate of will granted 2 Nov 1899 to his sons Stephen and Frank. See entry from here. Estate £5,036. This is about £2m in today's money.
James and Honora had issue:

  1. Bridget O'Mara,
    NOT Nora,
    "Bridgy" in brother Stephen's letter,
    born 1842 [O'Mara family tree],
    born 1841-43 (according to age at death).
    She is probably Bridget O'Mara, bapt 29 Dec 1842, with an error made in the name of the mother.
    She is described as "formerly O'Meara" at son's birth 1868.
    Her marriage was witnessed by John Hayes and Mary A. Lynch.
    She mar 11th Sept 1861 [St.John's, Limerick] to Michael Cusack and had issue.

  2. Stephen O'Mara,
    born St.Stephen's Day, 26 Dec 1844, Mungret St, Limerick [family bible],
    bapt 26 Dec 1844 [St.John's, Limerick], sp Thady Shughrue and Jane Meehan.
    His letters to his wife are all signed "Stout".
    Martin O'Mara called him "Steve".

  3. Peter O'Mara,
    would be after grandfather,
    bapt 11 Mar 1847 [St.John's, Limerick], sp Andrew O'Mara and Bridget Mulcahy.
    He died as a baby.
    [PAT/1, p.6] tells the story that his father had some business that took him to Liverpool for a while. On his return "he embraced his wife and all the children and distributed the small gifts he had brought back. After a while he asked casually: 'And where is the baby?' Then Great Grandmother answered: 'I meant to tell you that he went to heaven one day last week.'"

  4. Margaret O'Mara,
    Maggie, Maggy, Mag, NOT Minnie,
    would be after grandmother,
    bapt 28 Aug 1848 [St.John's, Limerick], sp Michael Garvey and Anne Shanny.
    "Margaret O'Mara" sp the baptism of James O'Mara 1873.
    "Margaret O'Mara" wit mar of her 1st cousin Catherine Lynch in 1875.
    Letter of 31 Mar 1878 by her brother Stephen to his wife says: "I saw Judge yesterday, and I almost agree with Maggy in thinking him a very shy and bashful fellow. He was certainly put about" [disturbed] "when he saw me and seemed half afraid to enter on the subject but after a few minutes we got into it and talked it out. I may tell you I like him ... he seems to be a real nice fellow with no affectation". (However later in 1879 Stephen does not have a positive opinion.)
    She was living Thomas St, Limerick, at mar.
    She mar 11 June 1878 to Michael Judge and had issue.
    They mar at St.Michael's, Limerick [GROI].

  5. Mary O'Mara,
    "Poll", Polly,
    bapt "Mary Anne", between 18 and 31 Oct 1850 [St.John's, Limerick], sp Michael Dillon, Anne Kennedy.
    She mar 1874 to Tom Ray and had issue.
    This would be "Polly's marriage" referred to in letter of 23 July 1875.

  6. John O'Mara,
    bapt 27th Dec 1852 [St.John's, Limerick], sp Denis Gunes, Mary Lynch,
    died in infancy.

  7. Kate O'Mara,
    born Limerick city,
    bapt Catherine, 10 Nov 1854 [St.John's, Limerick], sp James Hartney and Alicia Shughrue,
    she must be "Kate O'Mara" who wit her sister Margaret's mar 1878,
    she is written "Kathleen" at death,
    mar 1881 to Dick Ray and had issue.

  8. Jack O'Mara (second John),
    born Limerick,
    bapt 26th Dec 1856 [St.John's, Limerick], sp William Sheahan, Bridget Lynch.

  9. Jim O'Mara,
    bapt James, 23 Nov 1858 [St.John's, Limerick], sp (maybe Thomas Lynch) and Mary Anne Lynch.

  10. Honora O'Mara,
    "Nora" on grave, "Norah" on [O'Mara family tree],
    bapt Honora, 24 Oct 1860 [St.John's, Limerick], sp Michael Lynch and Mary Lynch.
    She is "Noney" mentioned in letter of 7 Aug 1877.
    Letter of 12 Sept 1878 says "Noney" is ill.
    She died 1 Oct 1878, age 17 yrs [grave], a month after her mother died.
    She was bur Mount St. Lawrence cemetery, Limerick.

  11. Dr. Frank O'Mara,
    born Limerick,
    bapt Francis, 18 Sept 1862 [St.Michael's, Limerick], sp Michael Cusack and Brid Mulcahy.

  12. Joseph O'Mara, the opera singer,
    Joe, written as "Joseph F. O'Mara" at death,
    born 16 July 1864, Roches St, Limerick [GROI],
    bapt Joseph, 16 July 1864 [St.Michael's, Limerick], sp Thomas Ryan and Catherine Lynch.

  13. Nan O'Mara,
    She was born "Anne Mary", Roches St, Limerick, 1866.
    [GROI] says born 15 Sept 1866, but this cannot be true. The baptism date of 21 Aug 1866 is clear among the other entries. Birth was registered later (on 16 Oct 1866) and an error must have been made in the birth date.
    Perhaps born 15 Aug 1866.
    She was bapt "Anne", 21 Aug 1866 [St.Michael's, Limerick], sp Michael Maher and Honora Lynch.
    Her mother died 1878.
    She must be "Anne O'Mara" who wit Frank's mar 1894.
    She didn't marry.
    Lived with her father at 17 Thomas St, Limerick.
    Her father died 1899.
    Nan dies, 1905:
    She had serious illness, confined to bed for long time before died [Pat Lavelle].
    She died at 6 Alexandra Terrace (NOT Alexander Terrace), O'Connell Avenue (formerly Military Rd, see 1870 map), Limerick.
    Funeral report describes 6 Alexandra Terrace as the house of her sister. This must be Kate, who lived on Military Road. Kate is on Military Road in 1901 census. Kate is at Auburn Villas, Military Road, in 1911 census.
    Nan died 28 Jan 1905, age 38 yrs, of "dilatation of heart", condition of duration 4 years [GROI].
    See item in Limerick Chronicle, 28 January 1905.
    Funeral Mon 30 Jan 1905, bur Mt St Lawrence. The Mayor of Limerick was at the funeral.
    See funeral report in Limerick Chronicle, 31 January 1905.

The O'Mara origin story at the start of [Lavelle, 1961].
See also p.1 of the manuscript.
In 2020 I discovered that most of this origin story is wrong.

The marriage of James O'Mara to Honora "Fowloo" (Foley) in 1841 in the register of St.John's, Limerick.
See full size.

Extract from 1924 letter from David Murphy (born 1831).
Murphy says he and old James O'Mara worked for John Russell's company in Limerick city. O'Mara in the bacon department and Murphy in the leather department.
O'Mara's bacon company was said to be founded 1839. Murphy would be only a boy.
Note Murphy does think he and O'Mara were in Russell's before 1844 (when Stephen was born) and agrees he was a boy.
See full size.

James O'Mara.
See full size.

James O'Mara.

O'Mara family, Kilkee, 1895.
2nd row from front has line of old James O'Mara, Ellen Pigott, Stephen O'Mara.
See larger and full size.


Detail of above 1895 photo.
Back (left to right): Old James O'Mara, Ellen Pigott, Stephen O'Mara.
Front centre looks like James O'Mara (age 22).
The girl leaning into Stephen O'Mara's lap must be his darling daughter. No one else would be so familiar. This must be Mary O'Mara (age 19) or Norrie O'Mara (age 15).
See larger and full size.

4 generations photo, 1898.
James O'Mara, his son Stephen, his son James, his son Stephen (born Sept 1896).
See larger and full size.
See close-up of old James.
See crop of old James. From [P40/916]. Used with permission of [UL Archives].


The "horse traders" (or "horse thieves") story

AI animation

AI animation of old photos.
Made using Deep Nostalgia at MyHeritage.

AI animation of old James O'Mara in 4 generations photo, 1898.



Children of James O'Mara


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