WEEK 7 – 2015: John and Elizabeth (McGowan) Donnelly – Scotland/Philadelphia

John J. Donnelly

I know we all look at our family trees and wonder what our ancestors were really like. This week’s 52 Ancestors theme, Love, made me wonder how many of those couples lived their lives deeply in love with each other.

My great, great grandparents, John and Elizabeth Donnelly, are one of those couples that I can imagine were so much in love that they could not live without each other.

John Donnelly was born sometime around May 1844 in Ireland. His parents names may have been John Donnelly and Nancy McEntyre. At some point, John ended up in Greenock, Scotland and worked as a mason. It was there that he met Elizabeth McGowan, who was a daughter of Hugh and Mary (Fife) McGowan. They married June 11, 1867 at St. Mary’s Chapel in Greenock.

John and Elizabeth had 4 children, with at least 3 of them baptized at St. Mary’s Chapel: Mary Ann, Sarah, John and Hugh.

However, John and Elizabeth did not seem to find life in Scotland fulfilling. Around 1871, John decided to set out across the ocean to America. Elizabeth followed him shortly afterwards. She and her children, Mary Ann, Sarah and John, boarded the ship Europa in Glasgow, and arrived in New York on July 20, 1872.

John and Elizabeth took their young family to Philadelphia, where John continued working as a stone mason. Elizabeth gave birth to 5 more daughters, with only 3 of them surviving into adulthood: Agnes, Elizabeth and Catherine. John managed to save up enough money and bought a small rowhome for his family on Glenwood Avenue, in Philadelphia.

On February 1, 1909, 77 year old Elizabeth was busy taking care of things around the house, when she stumbled and fell down the stairs. Her neck was broken from the fall, and she died almost immediately. Her husband, John, must have been overcome with grief over the sudden loss of his wife. He became so ill, that he signed the house to his daughter, Agnes and her husband, Albert Tolle in March of 1909. Then, on April 13, 1909, John J. Donnelly died of pneumonia, almost 2 months after Elizabeth had died.

They are both buried together in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Cheltenham, PA.

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