` The Blaneys of Buffalo

The Blaneys of Buffalo

The Blaney family--parents Daniel Blaney and Margaret Kilduff, and their grown children, Thomas, Patrick, James, and Bridget--left Ireland for Quebec circa 1830. The sons were shoemakers but apparently were unable to find enough work in Quebec to continue this line of work. Instead, they settled in Lotbiniére County and took up farming. James Blaney and his wife Mary Ann McCourt, however, moved to Buffalo, New York, perhaps at the invitation of McCourt relatives there. This decision led them and their descendants down a strikingly different path.

When James and Mary Ann arrived in Buffalo circa 1850, "the Queen City" was one of the leading commercial centers in the United States. They settled in one of the tiny houses crowded together in the heavily Irish First Ward. Life there was undoubtedly cramped, noisy, and dirty, but Buffalo did provide the family with work and educational opportunities unavailable in rural Quebec.

The Blaneys had great family pride, and perhaps for that reason there are many Blaneys tracing their roots today. This pride led them to make unfounded claims about the family history (see the obituary of Mary Ann McCourt), but it also helped the family prosper in their new home. James found skilled work as a ship's carpenter, and the children all completed school and entered professions requiring education and ability.

This success came at a cost, however. As the family prospered, they sold the home in the First Ward and moved to a more upscale neighborhood. No longer living and working exclusively with Irish Catholics, the younger members of the family began to meet and marry Protestants. Today many of the descendants of this devout Catholic couple are members of others faiths.

The Buffalo Blaneys are also an interesting study in the lives of ordinary 19th century women. Although it was economic necessity that led four of the daughters to work, even after marriage, they were successful at their careers, including some unusual for women at that time. Mary Ann was an entrepreneur with her own millinery shop, Alicia the head of the English Department at the city honors high school, Eliza the president of an insurance company, and Agnes one of Rochester's first police women. Their lives suggest that women at the time had more varied opportunities than we sometimes imagine.

Begin tracing the descendants of James Blaney and Mary Ann McCourt.

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Last updated on 23 June 2011

This web site created by Janice Sebring.
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