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Timlin Family History


Margaret Timlin Morgan was my grandmother. She was born in England in 1875, lived much of her life in Fall River, Massachusetts, and died at the age of 72 in Queens, New York. She was "our Irish Timlin" and the only Timlin I personally knew.

Her father, Richard Timlin, and her mother, Ann Nancy Conway came from County Mayo, Ireland. Sometime in the 1850’s, they left Ireland for work in the cotton mills of the small town of Haslingden in Lancashire, England where their four daughters were born. Margaret was the youngest and her three sisters were – Mary (Polly), Catherine (Kate), and Ellen (Nellie). The four sons born to Ann and Richard apparently died at birth or in early childhood.

The daughters were born amid the Irish Diaspora and the drudgery and grit of Irish life in industrial England. In search of a better life, they immigrated to Fall River, Massachusetts where the work was equally hard but life better, and where they found their third, and final country - America.

What follows is a reconstruction of our Timlin family history based on public records, family and neighbor memories, old photographs, maps, and the history of the times and places where they lived.

Family Name

Timlin is derived from  Mac Toimilin, the diminutive of Thomas, and is an Irish-Gaelic name associated with a family group of Cambro-Norman origin in North Mayo. (Irish genealogist report– Maire Mac Conghail, 1996). Cambro-Norman families arose after the successful invasion of Ireland in 1169 by Norman, Welsh, and Flemish forces. Since "Norman" refers to the Vikings or Norsemen who settled in France and "Cambro" describes Welsh or Celtic peoples, the genetic heritage of the early families would have been Viking-Celtic. With the passage of time, the new Irish rulers intermarried with the conquered population and the Norman culture and language was extinguished.

Fortunately for a family historian, this surname is not very common. In 1996, there were only 80 Timlin families listed in Ireland’s phonebooks, and just 334 phone listings for Timlins in the US. All of these families may be related to the original 12th century "sept", a small group of related families.

County Mayo and Early Ancestors

The earliest record of our Timlin family line has been traced back to my great-great grandfather, Bartholomew Timlin, and his wife, Mary Cartin, who lived in the town of Carrowntreila, County Mayo. Mayo and Sligo Counties appear to be the ancestral home of the Timlin families. Carrowntreila is a small town of 431 acres located approximately 3 miles south of Ballina and 3 miles east of Lough (lake) Conn. Their son, Richard Timlin, was born about 1835, and his brother, Edward (Ned) Timlin, was baptized on August 27, 1839 in the Roman Catholic parish of Backs/Knockmore.

County Mayo is located on the west coast and is Ireland’s third largest county. It is a land of hospitable people and magnificent landscapes. As I can personally attest to, it is also a land of continual mist, rain, and cold – great for grass and greenery – as well as sweaters, hats, and raincoats.

There is no personal record of Timlin family life in Ireland during the mid-19th century. As with most Mayo Irish, Bartholomew would probably have been a small tenant farmer. From the history book, The Great Hunger, by Cecil Woodham-Smith, we can set the scene for that time period and understand why the Timlins were forced to immigrate.

In Bartholomew’s time, Ireland was a colony of Britain, subject to both Crown and Protestant domination. Until 1829, its people suffered under the "Penal Laws" designed, as an English contemporary said, to reduce them to "insignificant slaves, fit for nothing but to hew wood and draw water." For centuries, the Irish labored under English oppression with its bad laws, religious hostility, lack of public schools, absentee landlords, and a complete lack of any industrial base. The population before the famine was characterized by an historian as "hostile, lawless, oppressed and poverty stricken."

What made survival possible was the life-sustaining and easily cultivated potato, as well as a ready supply of peat or ‘turf" with which to heat one’s cabin. Despite the harsh conditions imposed on the Irish, it was these two factors that led to a population explosion between 1800 to 1845.

"… Barbarous and half-savage though conditions might be, one luxury enjoyed by the Irishman which favoured the survival and rearing of children – his cabin was usually well warmed by a turf fire. Ill clothed as he was, sleeping on a mud floor, with his pig in the corner, the Irish peasant did not have to endure cold, nor did his children die of cold. They were warm, they were abundantly fed – as long as the potato did not fail."

Mayo had a population of roughly 366,000 people in 1841, and did not have a single medical facility.

By 1845, Ireland’s population had approached 8 million, which is more than double the current population of 3.6 million. In Mayo, ninety percent of the population was dependent on the life-sustaining potato.

Then, in the fall of 1845, an unknown fungus rotted the crop, and the potato crop failed.

The "Great Hunger" (1845-1850)

One English observer visiting Mayo in 1847 described the scene:

"Westport was a ‘strange and fearful sight, like what we read of in beleaguered cities, the streets crowded with gaunt wanderers…." In Galway, the population ‘were like walking skeletons, the men stamped with the livid mark of hunger, the children crying with pain, the women, in some of the cabins too weak to stand … all the sheep were gone, all the cows, all the poultry killed; only one pig left, the very dogs had disappeared."

The famine killed a million Irish through a deadly combination of starvation and disease, and it forced another million to flee to other countries, such as England, Scotland, Canada and the US. It is estimated that about 100,000 died in County Mayo alone. This Irish Diaspora during and after the famine years is the reason for Ireland’s relatively low population and the 75 million of Irish descent living throughout the world.

Click History of the Famine.

From Mayo to Haslingden, England

We have no direct evidence of what happened to the Bartholomew Timlin family during the famine years, but they would have inevitably suffered the hardships of the "Great Hunger" along with millions of their fellow Irish. I knew from our family history that Margaret Timlin was born in 1875 in Haslingden, Lancashire. Based on this date and location, I was able to rediscover Richard and Edward Timlin and their families in Haslingden from records in St. Mary’s Church and English census records.

To get to England, the Timlin family would have most likely taken a ship to Liverpool that departed from a nearby Irish port, such as Westport or Sligo. The cost of the journey may have been paid for by relatives who pooled their savings, community immigration funds, or by monies provided by the landowner. During the famine, harsh British tax laws were forced on landowners with the taxes based on the number of tenants on the land. To avoid bankruptcy, many landowners drove the peasants off their land or found it more cost effective to actually pay them to immigrate.

Irish immigrants arrived in Liverpool and elsewhere in a terrible condition. Contemporary accounts describe them as clothed in rags, destitute, and disease-ridden. "The living conditions they had become accustomed to through their poverty shocked even the poorest English."

Without industrial skills or money to buy farmland, they found work as unskilled laborers in the brutal but expanding factories, mills and construction gangs. They also filled the ranks of the British Imperial Army and, ironically, helped establish and maintain the British Empire for another century.

As often is the case, the English working class feared this influx of immigrants who were willing to work for what was considered, even in those harsh economic times, as "starvation wages". With Liverpool overflowing with new immigrants, many thousands of Irish fanned out from the city, across northern industrialized Lancashire, looking for any type of work. Fortunately for the Timlins and other Irish immigrants, Lancashire was the heart of the English Industrial Revolution: its cotton mills and factories were booming and jobs were plentiful.

We do not know the fate of Richard’s father, Bartholomew Timlin and his wife, Mary. They may have perished in the famine, survived and stayed in Ireland, or immigrated with their sons Richard and Edward. We do know that before Richard and Ann arrived in Haslingden, their daughter, Mary (Polly) Timlin, was born about 1858 in the northern England city of York which is about 60 miles due east from Haslingden. Ann would have been 17 at the time of Mary’s birth and Richard would have been 23.

Haslingden, Lancashire 1850-1880

With ample coal supplies, interlocking canals for transport, water mills, a ruthless and efficient entrepreneurial class, and an expanding work force, Lancashire was the heart of both English and world manufacturing in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Haslingden of the 1800’s was a small but thriving manufacturing town in the Rossendale Valley of north Lancashire. It is set on a bold and treeless plateau between the larger cities of Blackburn and Bury. Over eons of geological time, the River Irwell carved the valley and the area into picturesque pastures and moorlands. "Haslingden is one of several towns in Rossendale, which was the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the 19th Century. It was known familiarly as the Golden Valley then, such was the wealth generated during the heyday of the textiles boom of the Industrial Revolution." (Haslingden website www.haslingden.org.uk/)

The Industrial Revolution fueled its enormous growth with burgeoning towns and cities like Haslingden. In 1851, Haslingden’s population was 9,000; by 1871 it had risen to 12,000 and was supporting at least 14 cotton and textile mills.

The Timlin families on Rock Hall Street

Thanks to the good offices of Haslingden Roots, a history and genealogy association, and records from St. Mary’s, we can trace a number of Timlin families in Haslingden. While we don’t know the exact relationship of some of these families to our line, there is a strong possibility that they are related and we may find out how in future research. As is the case today throughout the world, immigration to a city or town often starts with a "pioneering" immigrant family. They establish residence in a community and, over time, act as a catalyst and base for other migrating family members.

Church and Census Records (see census reports)

The first Timlin family (relationship unknown) appears in Haslingden in the 1851 census. – Michael Tomlin (sic) age 57 and his wife Bridget, age 50 and their 6 children – Betty (Elizabeth), Bridget, Michael, John, and Patrick.

We first find a record of our Richard and Ann in St. Mary’s baptismal records. Their son, John, was baptized on October 16, 1861. The godparents were James Langhan and Helen Cartin. Catherine was born in 1869 and Ellen in 1872. (Note: Helen is the name in the baptismal record, but Ellen is the name in the census records and in her marriage record.)

We also find in the records the marriage of Edward Timlin to Catherine Langan in May 23, 1868. Four children are born and baptized in the next five years – Dennis (b.1869), Mary (b.1870), Catherine (b.1872) and Jas. (James) Edward (b. 1874)

In the 1861 census, in addition to Michael and Bridget, we have a Dennis and Mary Timlin family newly arrived from Ireland. I would have expected to find Richard and Ann listed in this census, since their son was baptized in October 1861, but there is no record of them. This is most likely a miss by the census taker since they show up in 1871.

By the 1871 census, there are three Timlin families listed in Haslingden including our Richard, now age 37, and Ann (30). One family is headed by Bridget Timlin (40), and the other by Patrick Timlin (46) and his wife, Catherine (40). All are listed as living close together on Rock Hall Street. [Note: ages given are those in the census and may vary from record to record.]


The relationship of these two families to the Richard Timlin family is not known, but I believe that there may have been one.

  1. They lived next door to each other. Patrick has a son named Bartholomew, which was Richard’s father’s name, and is a relatively uncommon first name. The Patrick Timlin family came over from Ireland relatively late (about 1866), since their son, John, was born in Ireland in 1865, while Bartholomew was born in Leads, England in 1866.
  1. The Bridget and Patrick Timlin family records show that before arriving in Haslingden, they worked in the cities of York and Leeds. (Leeds is about 15 miles west of York) Bridget had a son born in York in 1854. As was noted earlier, Richard and Ann Timlin followed a similar migratory pattern since Mary was born in York in 1858.

In the 1871 census, Richard was listed with his wife Ann and their first two daughters – Mary, age 13, and Catherine, age 1. Sadly, their son John must have died in the proceeding 10 years.

Richard’s occupation was listed as "Cooper" which meant he was involved in the manufacture of barrels and vats. Ann, and their daughter Mary, worked in the mills respectively as a "Cotton Winder" and a "Cotton Weaver". Since Ann worked, someone else had to care of her one-year-old Catherine. It is likely that her close neighbor, Catherine Timlin, who is listed in the census as "Housekeeper", handled the domestic needs of both families. In addition to looking after Ann’s child, Catherine had three younger children of her own to care for – John, Ellen, and Bartholomew.

To earn a meager family living, almost all members of a mill family had to work. In the 1871 census, even Patrick’s eight-year-old son, Patrick, was listed as working as a "Doffer Cotton". Small, agile children were typically employed to handle the spindles and bobbins. The children and their mothers would often make up 40-50 % of the mill work force. The 1871 census lists 3 Timlin children under 10 working in the mills.

Four Timlin children from these three families are listed as "scholars" – Ann, John, James, and Edward. This simply meant that they attended school for some period during the week. This was most likely St. Mary’s Catholic school on Sunday.

 Edward Timlin Family and Other Timlin Relationships

In the 1871 census, Richard’s younger brother, Edward Timlin, age 29, and his wife, Catherine Langan Timlin, age 28, are living with their one-year old daughter, Catherine, at 6 Pleasant Street in a home or apartment headed by his mother-in-law, Margaret Langan. Also living with them is Dennis Cartin and his wife, Margaret Langan Cartin, and their two children, John and Patrick. The Timlin-Langan-Cartin families are closely tied together by marriage.

On another location in Pleasant Street we find another complex Timlin-Cartin relationship. The census entry for James Langham (32) on 123 Pleasant Street is particularly interesting. (Stay with me, were getting to the end of this Hercule Poirot family analysis.)

James Langham or Langhan married Mary Timlin in St. Mary’s in August 1859. Mary is the daughter of Philip Timlin. Living in this household is his mother-in-law, Mary Timlin, age 70. Is the Phillip-Mary Timlin family somehow related to ours? – Cousin, or brother to our Bartholomew?

I believe that the Langan-Langham-Langhan spellings are simple phonetic variations of the same family line. You have to remember that most Irish at that time were uneducated and usually illiterate. The census recorder or church official would simply write down what they thought was the spelling of the spoken name.

The Langan, Cartin, and Timlin families intermarried. Family tradition indicates that the Cartin and Timlin families remained close even after they immigrated to America.

(See 1881 Census report for other non-related Timlins.)

Working in the Mills

Work in the cotton mills or in any factory during the Industrial Revolution was very long, hard and dangerous. There were no vacations or health benefits, and there was no compensation for injuries suffered on the job. If you didn’t work, you didn’t get paid. You had to work to eat and survive.

A government-commissioned factory investigation in 1833, which focused only on the working conditions of women and children, identified the following areas for reform.

"Excessive hours 6:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. and often longer

Shortage of mealtimes: 40 minutes at noon, and no opportunity to rest

Poor conditions of work: dust, filth, unguarded machinery, heavy lifting.

Dangers to health: constant bending, exhaustion, and deformity [of growing children]

Cruelty of overseers - strapping, heavy penalties for unpunctuality and so on

Fear was engendered in a 'culture of violence' (Peel web http://ds.dial.pipex.com/mbloy/peel/factory.htm)

There were no restrictions on the working conditions for men.

In 1834, one Lancashire observer reported, "The majority of the mills worked fifteen hours. In many of them, work like the stream, never stopped by day or night, and the children who attended the machines by day, crept into beds just left vacant by children who were to tend them through the nights." (Hammond, J.L. and Barbara Hammond, The Town Labourer 1760-1832)

In the 1860’s, when a proposal was made to limit children under age 16 to 60 hours per week, it was rejected by the mill and factory owners and defeated in Parliament. The winning arguments were that it would unjustly interfere with the lawful exercise of private property (the mills and factories) and make England uncompetitive in world trade.

In spite of the hardships, work in Haslingden at least provided food for basic survival. In comparison to a subsistence life in Mayo, the Timlins were also likely to have been better clothed and housed and would have had some access to medical treatment. As conditions improved in the mills, workers were allowed off a half-day on Saturday and a full day on Sunday. But the hours were still long and the working conditions difficult at best. A strong, cohesive extended family of Timlins, Cartins, and Langans provided what little security there was.

Still the Timlins were poor Irish immigrants and they would never be fully accepted. My grandmother, Margaret Timlin Morgan, once said of her childhood in England, "Because we were Irish, they threw stones at us."

Haslingden to Fall River

Having already fled Ireland’s Great Famine, somehow the Timlins managed to survive yet another disaster: the "Cotton Famine" brought on by the American Civil War in 1861. The Union embargo of raw cotton from the Confederacy resulted in a wave of mill closings and high unemployment in Lancashire.It would be another, later economic depression in the 1880’s, and the subsequent closing of mills in Haslingden, that would force the family to immigrate once again.

According to the 1900 US Census, Catherine Timlin (Richard’s daughter), arrived in the US in 1884, when she just 15 years old, and her sister, Margaret Timlin, arrived in 1886 at age 11. Family tradition has it that the mother and daughters came over first, followed by their father. It’s likely some family connections in Fall River helped facilitate their crossing and relocation.

Fall River, MA – Spindle City

Fall River was America’s leading textile city at the turn of the century, earning the nickname "Spindle City" from the millions of cotton spindles once used in its factories. The explosive growth of its textile industry, and the waves of eager immigrants who made that growth possible, transformed Fall River from a small city of 14,000 in 1860 to a thriving city of 124,000 by 1915. By that time, 40 textile mills provided much-needed jobs to Irish, English, French Canadian, and Portuguese immigrants.

Compared to the drudgery of industrial Lancashire, life in Fall River was a much better deal. There were good jobs, mandatory education for children, community amenities (such as excellent schools, parks, theaters, transportation, lakes and ponds for recreation), and, most importantly, there was hope for a better future. Although work in the mills still meant long hours for little pay, during Fall River’s heyday, there appears to have been great civic pride among its inhabitants, as well as a love for its scenic beauty and a widespread feeling of community.

Click Fall River History for a more comprehensive history

The Timlins in Fall River

We have a number of public documents and some family oral history about Timlin life in Fall River


Within 10 years of arriving in Fall River, all four daughters – Mary, Catherine, Ellen and Margaret - were married.

The earliest marriage on record is that of eldest daughter Mary Timlin, to John Tunney, age 28, on March 9, 1886. Mary would have been 28 years old, but is listed on the marriage certificate as "26". For those times, that would have been a "late marriage". Both Mary and John worked in the mills, with John being listed as a "Loom Fixer" and Mary as a "Weaver". They had three children – Patrick, Daniel, and Mary.

In 1897 Catherine, the second oldest daughter, married William Connell. William was an officer with the Fall River police force and became a nationally recognized expert on fingerprinting. They had 4 children.

The two younger daughters were both wed in 1904. Ellen, age 30, and working as a "weaver" married James Patten, a salesman, on February 9th. They had one child, Margaret.

Margaret, the youngest daughter, age 29, married John Leo Morgan, a railroad brakeman, on June 29th. Their first child, a boy, born in 1905 only lived a few hours. The four surviving children were John P., Raymond, Daniel (Roy), and, my mother, Margaret (Marguerite).

With the marriage of John Morgan to Margaret Timlin, the Morgan and Timlin family lines merge. At this point, we turn our focus on the history of the Morgan family (my mother’s family) and its descendants. I hope to issue a more detailed family report on the Morgan line in the future, and, therefore, I will not include the larger body of personal information I have gathered from family oral tradition in this report.

I will include some excerpts from my interviews with those who actually knew Margaret and Catherine Timlin. There is only one comment recorded about their father, Richard, and I note it here.

 Margaret Timlin

"She was shorter and stouter. Red cheeks, blue eyes and had red flaming hair…curly hair" (Mary Ferreira, a neighbor who was a family friend) "A small, plump woman with beautiful skin and luxuriant red hair. (Barbara Fox Smith) "Natural curly hair, big blue eyes and she was always singing." (Dorothea Tunney Murphy)

"Yes, yes. I could close my eyes and see your grandmother …she lived upstairs in that little bitty house. The rooms were… a bed, a chair maybe, sometimes nothing else, nothing on the floor… a bare floor that had to be scrubbed with a brush. She lived upstairs and she brought up her children in what I would call a cubbyhole today. A French family lived downstairs. Their name was Collard. On many a time I would see her coming downstairs with a loaf of bread to give to the downstairs neighbor." (Mary Ferreira)

By all accounts, Margaret had a warm, pleasant personality, great baking skills, and she raised her children in a loving family. I was only eight when she died in Queens, NY, and all I can remember of her is being hugged, and almost smothered in her plump waist, and a pleasant warm, powdery-perfume "grandmotherly" smell.

Catherine Timlin

Catherine was seven years older than Margaret and she married well. Her husband, William Connell, was was a Detective and a nationally recognized expert on fingerprints. My grandparents, Margaret and John Morgan, lived in a little apartment in a house on the Connell property in Fall River. From comments made by my mother in 1984, Catherine apparently dominated her poorer sister’s family. My mother, her niece, recalls having to work like a servant for her:

"You picked all the rotten fruit off the ground. You picked potato bugs off the potatoes in the summertime or whenever it was time to pick them. You swept the yard up... she used to tell us that the King and Queen was coming so that we’d clean up... And we'd believe it! I used to help prepare her clothes when she got the "button wash" back on a Monday, so she could go to the movies."

Again, from Mary Ferreira, whom I interviewed in 1995, and who still lived near the original Connell residence:

"She was like you … about your size…(5 feet, 7 inches) a heavy person. She had black hair. A very outspoken person… not calling down anybody…it was just her way. She was very nice person … oh, God..… always talking and laughing to everybody….the neighbors in the yard… when they came out side to hang out the clothes, because there was no laundries…you had to do your own."

 Richard Timlin

The only piece of oral history we have about Richard is from Elizabeth Senft Morgan, Margaret Timlin’s daughter-in-law, who remembered the following:

"From what I could understand and remember my mother-in-law saying... I think her father [Richard Timlin] and mother had a disagreement and it ended up that the four girls and the mother came to America and got themselves established. Then Dad came along. He came and joined them. But it was the mother and the girls who went to work and he was the homebody.

"Your grandmother [Margaret Timlin] told me a story about her father:

"‘[She’d] say, 'Dad, would you go down the street and get me some stays for my corset.’

And he would say to her, ‘Ah, Devil in one would I give you’ [I won't ]".

"But she said, when she got home that night, there they would be at your plate."

"He was the kind that would say "no" to you and then go ahead and do it."

Richard had no son to carry on the Timlin name. However, his four daughters provided numerous descendants to carry on his lineage through the Morgan, Patten, Connell, and Tunney families. In the prolific Morgan line alone, we have now 54 direct descendents and the count is still building.

My hope is that we continue to discover more of our interesting Timlin history, especially information on Richard’s brother, Edward, and his lost line. I’m confident that there is much more of our shared Timlin family heritage in Ireland, England, and America to discover - and I’ll keep digging.

J. Gary Fox

Princeton Junction, NJ

May 2001