O’Regan Family History from Limerick to Emerald Hill Melbourne

Thomas Dobbins O’Regan was born in Co Limerick Ireland c1819. He came out to Tasmania c1838 and stayed there for five years before moving to the colony of Victoria. He lived in Emerald Hill and owned The Australia Hotel in Bourke St Melbourne. He married Johannah Walsh in 1842 in Melbourne and they had nine children. He died in 1888 and is buried in the Melbourne Cemetery. He is my ggggrandfather on my mother’s side.

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.

William O’Regan and Grace Dobbins were the parents of Thomas Dobbins O’Regan. They were married in St marys in LImerick City on 8 July 1811.

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

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

Author: Kathleen

I have done an Ancestry DNA test and also have uploaded my test results to GedMatch. My GedMatch kit numbers are A029138 and T470174. Please contact me if we are a match. kathleenmfanningAThotmailDOTcom

22 thoughts on “O’Regan Family History from Limerick to Emerald Hill Melbourne”

  1. Hello Kathleen,
    I have come across your website while searching for records and a lot of the names and places ring glorious bells….I was wondering if a James Joseph O’Regan was a child of any of the people that you have mentioned. James Joseph O’Regan was my great great grandfather and I am told Patrick was his father..rumors have it Patrick or James married to a woman with the surname Dillon but i am not 100% sure. I would be grateful if you would confirm any further information on the above names as I think you’ve done exceptionally well to obtain all the information which i have read thismorning. All the best to you and your family.
    Kind Regards
    Jacqui O’Regan
    Victoria Australia

    1. Hi Jacqui,
      I had a look at my O’Regans and there is no James Joseph amongst them. I also had a look at the BDM records and there was only one James Joseph O’Regan and he married in Dimboola?? If you give me some dates I can have another look for you. Couldn’t find any O’Regan Dillon marriages although O’Regan is a name that has variants or may have been misspelt. Am assuming your O’Regans were all in Victoria.

  2. Hi Kathleen thank you for replying. I am pretty certain there were two James Josephs
    1 a grandfather (may be the one who was married in Dimboola – not sure to whom)
    approx dates Birth About 1855 – not sure who parents were
    with Children only one I know of (My ggrandfather Thomas Joseph 1872 – 1930)

    other is his grandson James Joseph by Thomas Joseph & Mary Magdalene Clifford
    approx dates Birth About 1904, Education 1916 12 yo approx Dimboola, Victoria, Australia. 1919 approx Age 15 Residence Ringwood, Flinders, Victoria, Australia. 1924 approx Age 20 Residence Ringwood, Indi, Victoria, Australia.
    I don’t really have the resources to establish wives names. I have been pouring through the old newspapers archives trying to nut it out but so far not confirmation enough to warrant me ordering copies of records. I still have a second cousin to visit and maybe he will have more detail for me. This is certainly a very addictive pastime. You have done extremely well and hopefully I can come close to your achievements. Much gratitude and warmest regards
    Jacqui ORegan.

    1. I had a look at the Vic BDM records I have and there is no birth for Thomas Joseph O’Regan in 1872 in Vic but there is a birth for James Regan in 1872 in Steiglitz to Martin O’Regan and Mary Dillon. In the records O’Regan is sometimes written as Regan.
      This James Joseph O’Regan died in Fitzroy in 1930 aged 62. His father listed as Martin O’Regan and mother as Mary Dillon. There is a Mary O’Regan whose father was Pat Dillon, mother Unknown, who died in 1901 age 65 at Tgon (Taralgon perhaps) and a Martin O’Regan who died age 80 in 1905 in Hotham West, parents unknown.
      Mary Dillon and Martin Regan were married in Vic in 1865.Found birth records of two of their sons : James Joseph 1872 listed above and William John Regan born at Stoney Creek in 1868. Many of the places where Martin and Mary were staying were gold mining sites.
      William John Regan married Clara Northwood in 1893.They had a child John Regan who died in 1897. Northwood or Norfolk, her name is listed as both.
      James Joseph O’Regan married Magdalene Clifford in 1904. They had five children all in Dimboola:
      Mary 1906, Edward Alphonson in 1908, Patrick Francis in 1911, Felix John in 1913 who died age 2 in 1915, John Michael in 1915.They may have had more children but these are all I found.
      Hope these records relate to your family and are of some help. All the best in tracing of your ancestors.

      1. Hi Kathleen,
        I was so pleased to get your mail. Appreciate very much you confirming. This information does appear to be about my relatives. The reason I was searching “Thomas Joseph” is because he is listed as this on my Grandfathers original marriage certificate (child of James ORegan & (Mary)Magdalene Clifford who was not on your list). So I am wondering why he appears as someone completely different? Either funny irishman or Scottish priest misheard? The information you provided should help in a lot of ways and I wish to sincerely thank you for your time and consideration once again. You are a great inspiration!!
        Take good care and I wish you happy hunting.
        Warm Regards,
        Jacqui O’Regan

  3. Hi Kathleen,
    After I signed off last, I noticed and read about your McSweeney heritage.. I noticed on the certificate of my father’s Mother’s grandparents Marriage Certificate,
    that of Thomas Vellely and Bridget Whitfield, dated 7th Feb 1867, witnesses signed are Edward McSwiney & Hannah McSwiney. Could this be a coincidence or are these lot somehow related either by marriage or blood?
    Anyway, leaving now to ponder the possibilities 😀

  4. Hi Kathleen,
    I have just found the record for Thomas Joseph born 1870 not sure exactly where yet but confusion reigns…I will find out why Mary Magdalene Clifford has James Joseph recorded as her husband and father of their children…most interesting – well for me at least. Just thought I’d give you an update on my progress…slow as it is.
    Bye for now

  5. Hi Kathleen,
    I would like to sincerely thank you for sharing your information on Thomas Dobbins O’Regan and his family, as I am also a descendant through my father Stanley John O’Regan.

    Do you know any more about his family in limerick Ireland?

    As I will be traveling to Ireland in June this year and would like to visit limerick, so I would be very grateful if you had any further information on our descendants in Ireland.

    Kindest Regards!

    Joanne Arneill (O’Regan)

    1. Hi Joanne,

      It has been a while since I wrote up the O’Regan history. I had a quick look now at the records on Rootsireland for Co Limerick but nothing came up for Grace Dobbins.

      So what I have here is all I have been able to find out so far and I don’t have any leads on ancestors in Limerick.

      The only other lead which you could follow is that he spent 5 years in Tasmania and 45 in Victoria. If he arrived in Tas first that would have been about 1838. I’m sure I would have tried to find arrival records in Vic and Tas but can’t remember.

      Have a great time in Ireland. I spent three weeks there last April and loved it. Kilkenny City was a highlight and the Slieve League Mountains in Donegal, much better than the touristy Cliffs of Moher, but they are in Donegal. Tinode House in Dublin was a lovely B&B, room 4 nice and quiet.

      If you find out anything on the O’Regans in Ireland let me know.

      regards Kathleen

  6. Hi Kathleen,

    I have some information on a report supplied by a geneologist in Limerick Ireland, it is inconclusive but may be of interest to you, I tried to send it to you by reply email but it failed to reach your email. I have heard stories that the family owned a silver mine in Tasmania, but I have know idea who or how far back it goes.

    Let me know if you would like the report.

    Regards Joanne

    1. Hi Joanne,
      I would love to see the report the genealogist in Limerick came up with. As I said I couldn’t find any records for a Grace Dobbins at all in Rootsirelad records.
      That is fascinating that they may have owned a silver mine in Tasmania. I’ll have to see if I can find anything on that.
      I will email you with my details. regards Kathleen

  7. Hi I am descended from a Michael O’Regan born 1745 Bruff Limerick. His son Patrick born 1778 died 1840 in Limerick. Patrick married Mary Cahill and their daughter Mary was my g,g,g,grandmother. 1806 1958 Mary was a convict sent to Australia in 1826. I have the Aussie side but wonder if we have a connection with the Limerick Side Many Thanks Marlene

    1. Hi Marlene,
      None of your names are familiar. We haven’t been able to find any records relating to my O’Regan ancestors in Limerick. It seems that there are missing records which could account for not being able to find Thomas O’Regan or Grace Dobbins in Limerick. Your O’Regans could be related to mine. If you find any links let me know.

  8. I am not sure to whom I should be addressing this email. I want it to go to the author of this REGAN/O’REGAN article please. My family is also REGAN/O’REGAN from Limerick so we may well be related as the timeframe fits too.
    My GG Grandfather is the James REGAN/O’REGAN who discovered gold in Ballarat with John DUNLOP, 21 August 1851. The plinth erected at Poverty Point/Golden Point is for him and his old mate.
    My line of descendants goes:
    James REGAN/O’REGAN b. abt 1825, Limerick IRE
    Thomas REGAN/O’REGAN b. 4 Apr 1850, Ashby/Geelong VIC AUS
    Thomas REGAN b. 19 Apr 1895, Adamstown (Newcastle) NSW AUS
    Grace REGAN b. 4 Jul 1918, Abermain NSW AUS
    Carole DONNELLY b. 1944, Cooranbong NSW AUS (This is me – writing to you.)

    I look forward to an early reply from you. Thank you

    1. Hi Carole,
      Looking at the dates my Thomas Dobbins O’Regan and your James O’Regan could be brothers or cousins.
      Proving that is another matter altogether.I also notice Thomas is a family name and also that one daughter was called Grace which is a bit of an unusual christian name.
      Unfortunately I have not been able to find any baptism records for Thomas Dobbins O’Regan or any trace of his father and mother anywhere in Ireland. Dobbins was not a common name at the time which should have made it easier.

      Do you have any information about where in Limerick your James came from or his parents? or brothers?

      By the way, all the Catholic Baptism and marriage parish records are now online free at the National Library of Ireland s site.
      You might find more on your James there. Let me know if you find any link between my gggrandfather and yours.
      Kathleen Fanning

  9. Thank you so much Kathleen.

    I will be in touch. I live between Sydney and Newcastle NSW Australia. My James REGAN came to Australia via Melbourne VIC where he married an immigrant from Fermanagh IRE, and then came up to Newcastle NSW in 1862.
    Shall reply again soon.
    Carole Berman

  10. If you could provide me your email, John William Regan, Sr, son of James and Catherine (nee Farmer) was my g-g-grandfather. James and Catherine had 24 children including three sets of twins. I have a page devoted to James and “Kate” on ancestry. If you provide your email I will send an invitation. John married my grandmother in Dublin and moved to Baltimore, Maryland where he raised his family. Connee Sheckler, Easton, Maryland 21601.

  11. Hi Karen,
    Trying to find missing peace’s to my Family tree.
    Thomas & Grace O’regan Of 33 crown st Richmond Melbourne Australia

    1. Hi Frances,
      Can you tell me what you already know about Thomas and Grace O’Regan and I may be able to help. A lot of my ancestors lived in Richmond and also in Crown St. regards Kathleen

  12. Hi Kathleen,
    They are my parents, they had 5 children 3 girls and 2 boys.
    We lived at 5 vale street Preston.
    Mums sister are Vericona, Dorthory , Ethel, Joan, Phylis, Rosinna. Dad was born Ballarat.
    Our Grandparents resided @ 33 crown street Richmond.
    I France is the 3 red daughter
    Thanks kindly

    1. Hi Frances,
      We are related, cousins, probably fourth cousins.

      The O’Regans in my post “O’Regan Family from Limerick to Emerald Hill Australia” are your family.

      Thomas and Grace O’Regan of 33 Crown St, your grandparents I have Grace as Emily Grace. perhaps she was called Grace. Their son was Thomas O’Regan who married Rosina Maude Greville and they had 12 children. Some of the names you have listed are slightly different but again maybe they were called different names to what they were christened. But definitely the same family

      Thomas O’Regan married to Rosina died in Richmond aged 75 on 19 July 1951. I have his children listed as:Ethel may born 1902; Thomas Joseph 1904, Jane Dorothy 1905, Ivy 1908, Marjorie 1910, Hazel 1913, Stanley 1918, Glenn, Shirley May, Veronica, Rosina and Grace Emily.

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