O’Regan Family History from Limerick to Emerald Hill Melbourne

Map of irish Counties 2
Irish Counties Showing Co Limerick and Co Cork

The O’Regans are part of my mother’s family. Thomas Dobbins O’Regan is my ggggrandfather.

Thomas O’Regan and Grace Dobbins were the parents of Thomas Dobbins O’Regan. On his son Thomas Dobbins O’Regan’s death certificate his father’s occupation was given as teacher.

Thomas Dobbins O’Regan was born about 1819 in Co Limerick Ireland. He came out to Tasmania Australia about 1838.  He married Johannah Walsh in 1842 in Melbourne Victoria Australia in the Parish of St Francis.  At this stage Victoria was a part of NSW. Elenor and Michael McNamara witnessed their marriage.

Thomas Dobbins O'Regan and Johanna Walsh Marriage 1842_croppedagain
Marriage Certificate of Thomas Dobbins O’Regan and Johannah Walsh 1842

 

Johannah Walsh was born in Co Cork Ireland and had spent 38 years in Victoria at the time of her death. She must have emigrated about 1840 at age 20. As yet I haven’t been able to find any immigration records for her.

Thomas and Johannah had nine children:
William Augustus born 1844 and died in 1883 in Prahran Melbourne;
Cecilia Agnes born 1846 and died the following year after an accidental scalding;

Thomas Joseph born 1848 died 1899 in St Kilda Melbourne; John born 1859; Sarah Ann born 1851 South Melbourne and died in Prahran 9 May 1895; Edmond born c1853 died 17 Dec 1876; Annie born c1857; Grace born c1860 and Mary Anne. At the time of Johannah’s death in 1878 Mary Ann, John and Edmund were deceased.

Johannah O’Regan nee Walsh died age 58 in 1878.

Johannah O'Regan 1878 Death Certificate
Death Certificate of Johannah O’Regan Emerald Hill Melbourne 1878

Thomas Dobbins O’Regan died in South Melbourne on 20 May 1888 .

Thomas Dobbins O'Regan Death Cert 1888_cropped
Death Certificate of Thomas Dobbins O’Regan May 1888 Melbourne

His occupation is given as gentleman. He was wealthy and lived off the rent from The Australia Hotel in Bourke St in the center of Melbourne.  He spent five years in Tasmania and forty five years in Victoria. He must have came out to Tasmania at about age 19 around 1838. Family stories say he owned a silver mine in Tasmania. He married Johannah Walsh shortly after moving to Victoria in 1842.

When Thomas Dobbins O’Regan died in 1888 his estate was valued at 14,641 pounds. He was an extremely wealthy man. His marriage certificate has very few details and no occupation. He was listed in The Victoria Post office Directory of 1869 as living in Emerald Hill (South Melbourne) but no occupation. He was in Victoria during the Gold Rush which started in 1851 so he may have made his money then.

In the Australia Directory for Port Phillip 1847 Thomas O’Regan is listed as a farrier in Wrights Lane. Wright’s Lane extended from Lonsdale St to Little Bourke Street and was named before 1847 after an early settler. It was later renamed Hardware Lane.

O'Regan's Shoeing Business Moves Argus 12 Feb 1858 CR
O’Regan’s Shoeing Business Moves Notice in The Argus 12 Feb 1858

In the same directory is Peter McSweeney (listed as Peter M’Sweeney) a cooper working in Bourke St. Peter McSweeney’s son John Vincent married Thomas O’Regan’s daughter Sarah Ann.

The O’Regans and McSweeneys both lived in Emerald Hill in later years, so again there is a connection. In the Electoral Roll for Victoria 1856  Thomas O’Regan, a farrier, is registered to vote. His residence is a freehold and is off Bourke St in Melbourne in St Patrick’s Division.

On his daughter Sarah’s marriage certificate 1871 his occupation was given as veterinary surgeon.

At the time of his death  in 1888 he owned The Australia Hotel on Bourke St in the center of Melbourne which returned a rent of 350 pounds annually. It was leased to a Mrs Honor Bennett at the time of his death and valued at 14,000 pounds. Whether he was a publican himself we don’t know. There is no occupation given on his marriage certificate. He lived at 16 Bridport St South Melbourne in 1888 with his unmarried daughters Annie and Grace. He also owned this property which was valued at 650 pounds.

Australia Hotel
The Australia Hotel 62 Bourke St West Melbourne First of the right with horse and carriage in front. c1869

His will which can be seen at PROV Probate and Wills Online. The beneficiaries of his will were his children and two grandchildren. His grandaughter Hannah Ann Teresa McSweeney daughter of Sarah O’Regan was my ggrandmother. She was called Annie.

There is much more on the McSweeney family from Co Cork Ireland in this post.

Annie McSweeney cropped
Annie McSweeney daughter of Sarah Ann O’Regan

Below is the will of Thomas O’Regan who died in 1888.

O'Regan Thomas Will 1888 page 1

O'Regan Thomas Will 1888 page 2 O'Regan Thomas Will 1888 page 3 O'Regan Thomas Will 1888 page 4

16 Bridport St South Melbourne
Bridport St South Melbourne 2011 middle house likely no 16 where O’Regans lived

Thomas and Johannah O’Regan were buried in Melbourne General Cemetery.

Thomas O'Regan Melb Cemetery
O’Regan Family Grave Melbourne General Cemetery

In the O’Regan family grave these members of Thomas Dobbins O’Regan are buried with him. His son Edmund who died in 1876 aged 25, his wife Johanna aged 58 buried Mar 1978. Thomas Dobbins O’Regan himself buried May 1888, Sarah McSweeney his daughter buried May 1895 and his great grand child Babe Cook stillborn buried August 1904. These are all in Compartment D grave no 354.

In Compartment D grave 355, which I am assuming is in the same family plot shown in the photo, are buried William A O’Regan aged 38 buried on 5 Sept 1883, Thomas Dobbins O’Regan’s daughters Annie O’Regan aged 56 buried on 24 April 1918 and Grace O’Regan aged 86 buried on 16 Nov 1943.

Sarah O’Regan married John Vincent McSweeney, a school teacher, in about 1869 in South Melbourne and they had one child, Annie Teresa in 1872 in Camperdown Victoria.

In 2012 an O’Regan descendant commissioned research into the O’Regan family in Co Limerick. The researcher tried to find Thomas O’Regan who married Grace Dobbins. She wasn’t able to find anything conclusive but some of her observations were interesting. I have summarised below her observations and findings:

Apparently the birth dates given in census, marriage and death records are often incorrect, as people in the nineteenth century were often unsure of their age and year of birth and so ages were guessed at.

Illiteracy and human error could affect the accuracy of all information given on nineteenth century records and especially the recording of names involved. Even by the mid-nineteenth century less than half the population could read or write in Ireland. It seems that the priest recording names would not ask the family to spell the name but would guess at the spelling hence the variations in surname within the same family.

O’Regan could be recorded as Regan, Reagan, Reaghan, Reygan or Reegan. The prefix O’ was arbitrarily added and dropped on records within families. Also due to the use of the cursive script Regan could be mistakenly transcribed as Rynne, Ryan and Ruane. Dobbins could be recorded as Dobbin, Dobbyn, Dobins or Dubbin. The surname Dobbins and the christian name Grace would be quite unusual in nineteenth century Limerick.

It was not possible to find a baptismal record for a Thomas O’Regan born to Grace Dobbins and Thomas O’Regan in Limerick from 1814-1823. A considerable number of baptisms were not recorded or the O’Regans could have been living in a parish which does not have surviving records for this time.

There were also no records found of other children born to a Thomas O’Regan and Grace Dobbins in Co Limerick.

A search for the marriage of a Thomas O’Regan and Grace Dobbins also proved negative but there is a marriage record of a William O’Regan and a Grace Dobbins in Limerick City in 1811 which took place on Wed 3 July 1811 in the Roman Catholic parish of St Mary’s in the Diocese of Limerick in Limerick city. It is possible the priest mistakenly recorded the groom’s christian name as the name Grace Dobbins is so rare in Limerick records. The witnesses to this marriage were named as Mathew Bowin and John Power.

The researcher then tried to track Thomas O’Regan senior using the information given on his son’s death certificate that he was a teacher. In Bassett’s Directory of 1884  Limerick city she did come across a Mr O’Regan listed as an arithmetic and calligraphy teacher at the Jesuit’s Sacred heart College at the Crescent.

It was not possible to find any baptismal or death records for Thomas O’Regan or Grace Dobbins.

Thomas O'Regan Descendant Report Sept 2015