Felix & Martha Kiernan Family

According to available historical records, the earliest known ancestor for the Kernan family is Felix Kiernan (ca. 1796-1882), the great-great grandfather of my paternal grandfather, William G. Kernan (LIVING). What is presently known about the life and family of Felix Kiernan will be discussed below.

Early Life and Marriage

Very little is presently known about the early life of Felix Kiernan. Details such as his specific birth date and location, baptismal date, and the names of his parents have not yet been discovered. Nevertheless, available historical records do provide some information. Census records on which Felix is found enumerated show that his birth year was between about 1797 and 1799. His entry on the Minnesota Deaths and Burials index, however, shows his birth year as being about 1796. (See Table 1 below.)

In addition to providing a possible birth year, these historical records also identify where Felix was born. Both census records and the Minnesota Deaths and Burials index reveal that Felix was born in Ireland. (See Table 1 below.) Although these historical records state that he was born in Ireland, they provide no information that identify which province, county, or township in Ireland he was born. At present, no record has been found that specifies any of these details. Oral family history, however, states that the family was from “Northern Ireland.” Thus, it seems likely that Felix was born in Ulster Province. (See “Kernan Family Origins for more details.”)

Table 1: Historical Records Showing Felix Kiernan’s Birth Year & Location
Historical Records Birth Year Birth Location
1851 Canadian Census ca. 1799 Ireland
1857 Minnesota Census ca. 1797 Ireland
1860 U.S. Federal Census ca. 1797 Ireland
1875 Minnesota Census ca. 1799 Ireland
Minnesota Deaths and Burials ca. 1796 Ireland

In addition to identifying his birth year and the country of his birth, available historical records provide an additional detail about Felix’s early life. Although no record has been found for Felix’s marriage, other sources, particularly census records, reveal some details. These sources are clear that Felix was married to Martha Rose Sheridan (ca. 1797-?). According to the 1851 Canadian Census Felix’s wife was “Martha Sheridan,” who was born in about 1797 in Ireland. Canadian birth/baptismal records from 1832 to 1844 show his wife’s name as “Rose Sheridan” or “Rosa Sheridan.” Census records in the United States also show the name of Felix’s wife as some variation of Rose, including “Rosaline” on the 1857 Minnesota Census and “Rosa” on the 1860 U.S. Federal Census. Each of these records, however, are clear that she was born in about 1797 in Ireland.

The precise marriage date and location of when Felix married Martha Rose Sheridan (ca. 1797-?) is unclear. However, census records, such as the 1851 Canadian Census and the 1857 Minnesota Census, show two children that were born in Ireland, with the oldest of these being born in 1826. Thus, available historical records suggest that Felix married Martha at some point prior to 1826 in Ireland. The general condition and lack of availability outside Ireland of Irish historical records, including Parish marriage records, has made finding more precise information difficult if not presently impossible.

The Family of Felix and Martha Kiernan

Following their marriage, Felix and Martha had at least eight children between 1826 and 1844. The first two of their children were born while they were still living in Ireland, while the remaining six were born after their immigration to Canada and before their immigration to the United States. Although every detail has not been found for each of their children, what is presently known is discussed below.

Felix and Martha’s first child was Matthew (or Matthias) Kiernan (1826-1914), who was born on the 24 January 1826 in Ireland and died on the 23 November 1914 in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota. On the 25 January 1880, Matthew married Bridget Murphey (ca. 1850-1914) in Ramsey County, Minnesota. Bridget was born in about 1850 in Canada, the daughter of Christopher Murphy, and died on the 23 November 1914 in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota. Following their marriage, Matthew and Bridget had at least one child, a daughter named Jessie. Throughout his life, moreover, Matthew worked as a farm laborer and a pile driver in Minnesota.

Bridget Kiernan (ca. 1830-?), Felix and Martha’s second child, was born in about 1830 in Ireland. No further details about Bridget’s life have been discovered, particularly when and whom she married and when she died. However, she was still living in 1860, as she is found enumerated on the 1860 U.S. Federal Census in her parents’ household.

Felix and Martha’s third child was Mary Kiernan (1832-?), who was born on the 6 April 1832 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada. No further details about Mary’s life have been discovered, particularly when and whom she married and when she died. However, she was still living in 1860, as she is found enumerated on the 1860 U.S. Federal Census in her parents’ household.

Marie Anne Kiernan (1834-1882), Felix and Martha’s fourth child, was born on the 27 July 1834 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada, and died on the 29 Jul 1882 in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota. On the 3 June 1861, Marie Anne married Thomas Berrisford (1840-1894) in St. Paul, Ramsey County, California. Thomas was born on the 15 November 1840 in Uttoxeter, Strafford, England the son of Thomas A. Berrisford (1813-1873) and Ann Ford (ca. 1816-1866); he died the 11 March 1894 in Hot Springs, Fall River County, South Dakota. Following their marriage, Marie Anne and Thomas had at least eight children between 1862 and 1880, which were named Rose, Frank, Thomas, Charles, Mary, Ellen, Joseph, and Agnes. Throughout most of his life, Thomas worked in the baking industry, founding the Berrisfords’ Baking and Confectioner Company, which was sold to the American Biscuit and Manufacturing Company in 1890.

Felix and Martha’s fifth child was Owen Francis Kiernan (1836-1901), who was born on the 20 February 1836 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada and died on the 11 December 1901 in Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon. In May 1863, Owen married Harriett Dunton (1836-1927) in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota. Harriett was born on the 17 June 1836 in Howard, Steuben County, New York the daughter of James Cyrus Dunton (ca. 1800-1845) and Mary Comfort Knowles (ca. 1801-1845). Following their marriage, Owen and Harriett had at least twelve children between 1865 and 1886, which were named William, Charles, Harriett, Owen, Mary, Julie, Rose, Mary, Oliver, an Unnamed baby, George, and Lillian. Throughout most of his life, Owen worked as a baker in Minnesota.

Rose Kiernan (1839-1885), Felix and Martha’s sixth child, was born on the 26 November 1839 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada, and died on the 16 January 1885 in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota. At the time of her death, Rose was unmarried and no records have been found indicating that she was ever married.

Felix and Martha’s seventh child was Catherine Kiernan (1841-1925), who was born on the 16 April 1841 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada, and died on the 18 January 1925 in Savage, Scott County, Minnesota. On the 18 June 1872, Catherine married Peter Hamilton Kearney (1839-1928) in Burnsville, Dakota County, Minnesota. Peter was born on the 18 August 1839 in Glasgow, Ontario, Canada the son of John D. Kearney (1796-1863) and Rose Ann McKeown (ca. 1807-1856), and died on the 1 August 1928 in Burnsville, Dakota County, Minnesota. Throughout his life, Peter worked as a farmer in Minnesota.

Felix Frank Kiernan (1844-?), Felix and Martha’s eighth child, was born on the 14 July 1844 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada. When Felix, who often went by Frank, died is not presently known. On the 13 February 1866, he married Margaret “Mary” UNKNOWN (ca. 1850-?) in Ramsey County, Minnesota. Margaret, whose maiden name is presently unknown, was born in about 1850 in New York. As with Felix, when Margaret died is not presently known. Following their marriage, Felix and Margaret had at least six children between 1867 and 1878, which were named Frank, Rosa, Mary, Anna, Joseph, and Agnes. Throughout his life, Felix worked as a contractor in Minnesota.

Table 2 below summarizes the known children of Felix and Martha Kiernan, including details about their births, deaths, marriages.

Table 2: The Children of Felix & Martha Kiernan
# Name Birth Death Marriage
i. Matthew 24 January 1826 in Ireland 23 November 1914 in St. Paul, Ramsey Co., Minnesota 25 January 1880 to Bridget Murphey in Ramsey Co., Minnesota
ii. Bridget ca. 1830 in Ireland Unknown Unknown
iii. Mary 6 April 1832 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada Unknown Unknown
iv. Marie Anne 27 July 1834 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada 29 July 1882 in St. Paul, Ramsey Co., Minnesota 3 June 1861 to Thomas Berrisford in St. Paul, Ramsey Co., Minnesota
v. Owen Francis 20 February 1836 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada 11 December 1901 in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon May 1863 Harriett Dunton in St. Paul, Ramsey Co., Minnesota
vi. Rose 26 November 1839 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada 16 January 1885 in St. Paul, Ramsey Co., Minnesota Unmarried
vii. Catherine 16 April 1841 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada 18 January 1925 in Savage, Scott Co., Minnesota 18 June 1872 to Peter Hamilton Kearney in Burnsville, Dakota Co., Minnesota
viii. Felix “Frank” 14 July 1844 in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada Unknown 13 February 1866 to Mary UNKNOWN in Ramsey Co., Minnesota

Immigrating to & Life in North America

After the birth of their second child, Bridget Kiernan (ca. 1830-?), but before the birth of their third child, Mary Kiernan (1832-?), Felix, Martha, and their two children left Ireland for a new life in North America.

Although there are no oral family history accounts of the family’s immigration nor any immigration records for the family have been found, research into available historical records, provide some details. These records, which include birth, baptismal, death, and census records, reveal that Felix and his family immigrated from Ireland to Quebec, Canada sometime between about 1830 and 1832. (For more information about the family’s immigration from Ireland to Canada, see “Kernan Immigration History.”)

Following their arrival, Felix and his family settled in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada, where birth and baptismal records for six of their children show they were living. Felix and his family, however, did not remain in Nicolet, but rather moved about eight miles south to Sainte-Monique, Quebec, Canada, where they are enumerated as living on the 1851 Canadian Census. The precise reason why Felix settled his family in this part of Quebec is unclear. However, the Centre-du-Québec region of Quebec, in which both Nicolet and Sainte-Monique are located, is primarily an agricultural region known as the breadbasket of Quebec even today. Undoubtedly, this is the reason for the family’s settling there. In fact, Felix and his older children are enumerated on the 1851 Canadian Census as working in the agricultural industry, as indicated by the word “cultivateur” (French for farmer) being used for their occupation. The only other known detail about Felix and his family’s lives in Canada is their religion, which is identified on the 1851 Canadian Census as being Catholic. Indeed, each of Felix and Martha’s six children born in Quebec, Canada were baptized at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Cathedral in Nicolet, which is a Catholic cathedral in the present day Roman Catholic Diocese of Nicolet.

The 1851 Canadian Census showing the oldest members of the Kernan family (Felix and Martha) as having been born in Ireland.
The 1851 Canadian Census showing Felix and his family enumerated as living in Sainte-Monique, Quebec, Canada and working as “Cultivateurs” (farmers).

Available historical records for the family suggest that Felix and his family most likely remained in Quebec, Canada until their immigration to the United States. As with their immigration from Ireland to Canada, no oral family history account or immigration record of the family’s immigration from Canada to the United States exists.  Nevertheless, historical records suggest that the family immigrated to the United States sometime between 1851 and 1857. This time frame is set by the fact that the family is enumeration on both the 1851 Canadian Census and the 1857 Minnesota Census, which is the first record on which the family has been found in the United States. (For more information about the family’s immigration from Canada to the United States, see “Kernan Immigration History.”)

Following their arrival in the United States, Felix and his family settled in Sibley County, Minnesota, where they are enumerated as living on the 1857 Minnesota Census. According to this record, Felix, his wife, and eight children were living in the same household in “Township 113, Range 30,” which is Bismarck Township. Furthermore, Felix is enumerated on this record as being employed as a farmer.

1857 Minnesota Census of the Kiernan family (shown Connon) living in Sibley Co., Minnesota. Record also shows birth locations as being Ireland and Canada.
1857 Minnesota Census showing Felix and his family living in Sibley Co., Minnesota.

The 1860 U.S. Federal Census also shows Felix and his family living in Sibley County, Minnesota, but in Dryden instead of Bismarck. According to this record, Felix and his wife were living in one household, while their children where were living in two neighboring households. Matthew, Bridget, Mary, and Marie Anne are enumerated as living in one household, and Owen, Rose, Catherine, and Felix Jr. are enumerated as living in another household. As on the 1857 Minnesota Census, Felix is enumerated on this record as being employed as a farmer. This record also shows Felix enumerated as having a personal estate valued at $200. In addition to these facts, the 1860 U.S. Federal Census also shows that Felix, his wife Martha, and their daughter Bridget were “persons over 20 years of age who cannot read and write.”

1860 U.S. Federal Census showing the Kiernan family living in Sibley Co., Minnesota. Also shows birth locations of family members as being Ireland and Canada.
1860 U.S. Federal Census showing Felix Kiernan and his family living in Dryden, Sibley County, Minnesota.

Later Years and Death

Following their enumeration on the 1860 U.S. Federal Census, few records have been found for Felix and Martha. Attempts to locate them on the 1865 Minnesota Census, the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, or the 1880 U.S. Federal Census have proven unsuccessful. The reason for this is unclear, though it is likely the result of transcription error, damaged or missing records, or perhaps the family was not enumerated on these records. Nevertheless, there are a few brief records found for Felix in his later years. The first of these is an 1863 entry in the St. Paul City Directory. According to this record, Felix was employed as a laborer living in St. Paul. There are no further details about him provided, and no mention of his wife, Martha.

The second of these records is a set of four mentions of Felix in the Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of St. Paul. Each of these mentions pertain to the same subject, that Felix was seeking relief from the Council for injuries he sustained by falling through the sidewalk on Third Street in St. Paul. The first mention is dated November 1, 1864, and is the formal petition of Felix, which was referred to the Committee of Ways and Means and the City Attorney. The second mention is dated December 6, 1864, and is the adoption by the Committee of Ways and Means to make a settlement with Felix Kiernan about his injuries. The third mention is dated December 20, 1864, and is a statement that a settlement of $50 had been reached and requests the funds to be issued by the City Treasurer. The final mention is dated January 7, 1865, and shows the vote and resolution to pay the settlement to Felix, with seven Yeas, and three Nays in the vote. Although these entries do not specify if the Felix mentioned is Felix Sr. or Felix Jr., it can be assumed to be Felix Sr. as Felix Jr. more often than not went by the name “Frank,” including on official documents. Table 3 below shows a transcription of these Proceedings involving Felix. (Note: Felix’s surname is misspelled in several of these.)

Table 3: St. Paul Proceeding Notes for Felix Kiernan
Date Proceeding Note
November 1, 1864 Of Felix Kerner for relief for injuries sustained by falling through sidewalk on Third street. Referred to Committee of Ways and Means and City Attorney.
December 6, 1864 By same [Committee of Ways and Means]—On petition of Felix Kerners for relief for injuries received by falling through sidewalk on Third street respectfully request that authority be granted the committee to make such settlement with the petitioner as they may deem best for the city Signed PARKER PAINE Chairman. Adopted.
December 20, 1864 Of Committee on Finance—To whom was referred the petition of Felix Kiernan for relief for injuries received by falling through the sidewalk on Third Street, beg leave to report that they have settled with Felix Kiernan for the sum of $50, and have directed an order to be drawn on the City Treasurer for that amount, and herewith attach a receipt in full for the amount. Parker Paine, Chairman. Adopted.
January 7, 1865 By Ald. Paine: Resolved, That an order be drawn on the Treasurer for fifty dollars in favor of Felix Kemers, which is to be in full for all claims said Kemers has against the city. Yeas – Ald. Dorniden, Paine, Peckham, Reed, Slichter, Wright, and Mr. President. Nays – Ald. Finck, King, and Putnam.

The third historical record found for Felix after his enumeration on the 1860 U.S. Census is his likely enumeration on the 1875 Minnesota Census. According to this record, a “Felix Cearns” is living in the household of Felix and Martha’s daughter Catherine (Kiernan) Kearney and her family in Glendale, Scott County, Minnesota. Although this record does not specify the relationship between this “Felix Cearns” and the head of the household (Catherine’s husband, Peter Kearney), this is nevertheless a likely record for Felix Kiernan because the age (76) and birth location (Ireland) is a match.

1875 Minnesota Census showing a
1875 Minnesota Census showing a “Felix Cearns” in the household of Felix and Martha’s daughter Catherine and her family.

Following his likely enumeration on the 1875 Minnesota Census, there is only one additional record found for Felix, which is his death record. According to the Minnesota Deaths and Burials index, Felix died on the 21 December 1882 in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota. The record adds that he died at the age of 86, being born in about 1796 in Ireland. The record provides no further details, including where he was buried or the identities of his parents.  Additionally, there is no mention of Felix’s wife, Martha, who likely died at some point between her enumeration on the 1860 U.S. Federal Census and Felix’s like enumeration on the 1875 Minnesota Census, as she is last found on the 1860 U.S. Federal Census and is not found enumerated with “Felix Cearns” on the 1875 Minnesota Census in their daughter Catherine’s household.

Felix & Martha Kiernan Timeline

Table 4 below summarizes the major events in Felix and Martha Kiernan’s lives, from their births in Ireland until their deaths in the United States.

Table 4: Timeline of Felix & Martha Kiernan Family
Date Event
ca. 1796 Felix born in Ireland (possibly Ulster Province)
ca. 1797 Martha born in Ireland (possibly Ulster Province)
Bef. 1826 Felix married Martha Rose Sheridan (ca. 1797-?) in Ireland
1826 Felix and Martha’s first child, Matthew, is born in Ireland
ca. 1830 Felix and Martha’s second child, Bridget, is born in Ireland.
ca. 1830-1832 Felix and Martha immigrated to the Quebec, Canada with their two children (Matthew and Bridget)
1832 Felix and Martha’s third child, Mary, is born in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada.
1834 Felix and Martha’s fourth child, Marie Anne, is born in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada.
1836 Felix and Martha’s fifth child, Owen, is born in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada.
1839 Felix and Martha’s sixth child, Rose, is born in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada.
1841 Felix and Martha’s seventh child, Catherine, is born in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada.
1844 Felix and Martha’s eighth child, Mary, is born in Nicolet, Quebec, Canada.
1851 Felix and Martha were living in Sainte-Monique, Quebec, Canada, where Felix was employed as a farmer
ca. 1851-1857 Felix and Martha immigrated to the United States with their children
1857 Felix and Martha were living in Sibley County, Minnesota, where Felix was employed as a farmer
1860 Felix and Martha were living in Dryden, Sibley County, Minnesota, where Felix was employed as a farmer
1860-1875 Martha died most likely in Minnesota (or Nebraska)
1863 Felix was living in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, where he was employed as a laborer
1864-1865 Felix was injured from a fall through a sidewalk in St. Paul and received $50 for his injuries from the city.
1875 Felix was living in Glendale, Scott County, Minnesota with daughter Catherine and her family
1882 Felix died in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota

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Published 07/13/2012. Last Updated 07/09/2017.