Militia Captain William Boylan

Third wife Bridget Boylan (Wall)

Captain William Boylan was born in Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland on the 3rd of January 1804. His parents were John Boylan (spelled Boilen on Williams Baptismal record) and Mary unknown (perhaps McGeer) of Kilcullen, Co. Kildare. They had two sons, William and James. Father John might have been a tailor and his wife Mary, and sons William and James must have helped him with the family business - whatever it was. Both sons became gifted and sought-after tradesmen, probably because they were exposed to trade work at an early age.

Brother James Boylan was born on December 30th, 1806 and much later became a successful tailor in Kilcullen where he died on the 22nd of January 1897 aged 91. His customers included officers stationed in the Curragh Camp and the members of the Kildare Hunt. He was later assisted by his son, named James Jr, and they had many satisfied customers: When a new master of The Killing Kildares planned to select another tailor for the uniforms, he was told in no uncertain terms by his members that it wasn't on:                 "They told him nobody could do the work 'like Mr. Boylan',"

There is an ancient Irish tradition of visiting ancestors graves: Samhain (pronounced SOW-in), is a Gaelic (Irish) festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the darker half of the year. Traditionally, it is celebrated from 31 October to 1 November. A gravestone in New Abby Cemetery, Kilcullen is inscribed: Erected by JAMES BOYLAN in memory of his beloved father JAMES BOYLAN who departed this life January 1897 aged 91 years. And his beloved mother CATHERINE who died February 1881. James Jr. was childless and then came the potato famine in 1845, so by the time of the census of 1911, no trace of the once very large Boylan family was left in Kilcullen.

The Battle of Kilcullen was fought 1789 on the hill of Old Kilcullen some 15 years before William was born. The center of Kilcullen town was in the slow process of moving from Old Kilcullen to the present site of Kilcullen Bridge on the river Liffey.

It is possible that the Boylan brothers father, John, died in 1809 and his widow Mary was suddenly faced with difficult choices. In times of poverty, Irish customs permit children to be handed over to foster parents who might better be able to support them. Mary Boylan may have decided to focus on feeding 4-year-old James. So she may have given her 6-year-old son William Boylan to a friendly family, the Moores. Church records state that (Johns father) Robert Boylan married an Ellen Moore in Kilcullen in 1796. This makes her Aunt Moore.

Perhaps Aunt Ellen Moore had a brother - named Michael Moore. Kilcullen has a baptismal record of the birth of Elizabeth Moore in Kilcullen on Jan 6th 1797 to Bridget Murphy and her husband Michael Moore. For the sake of a good story, lets just assume that Michael was a boot maker. There is a chance that it was Michael Moore who offered young William Boylan a golden opportunity to join his family in their 1810 emigration to America - 35 years before the deadly potato famine struck Kilcullen in 1845!

According to his US obituary, Captain William Boylan emigrated to New York in 1810. His son WHB Sr claimed in 1917 that Captain Boylan emigrated in 1835 (download PDF, see page 112). So far we have not found William Boylan, John Boylan or Michael Moore on a Dublin-New York passenger manifest. Since the US only recorded incoming immigrants starting 1820, no data was found yet from Ellis Island - however we still must check 1835. In 1810, young William most likely saw foretopmen trimming the sails a square rigged sailing vessel and heard the creaking of the rigging for some weeks. But his Irish brother James (and probably his mother Mary, perhaps father John also) remained in Kilcullen, so we have the dual mysteries of why he emigrated and who he accompanied on the voyage to New York.

In any case Williams apprenticeship must have formally begun with an excellent master boot maker in New York. He became first a competent journeyman, then a master boot maker in his own right: According to Captain William Boylans obituary, he moved from New York to New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1820 at age 16, where he soon opened his own store on Albany Street where he made, repaired and sold high-end boots and shoes. This implies that someone (his father John Boylan, or an American father-in-law - perhaps our hero Michael Moore) gave him capital to start with. Williams obituary states that he was noted for his skill at boot making and commanded the custom of the (Rutgers) college faculty and other prominent residents. This success is not particularly surprising because boot making has been a Boylan trade for millennia. Our forebears made and wore boots as they migrated north from India to the Caucasus 20.000 years ago. This is nicely illustrated in the motion picture Alpha. The Boylan Shoe Shop in Dublin is another example of the Boylan Clans affinity for shoes.

William Boylan was married four times in New Brunswick- always to Irish lasses. His wives maiden names were:

1.Elizabeth Moore (may have been born 1797 in Kilcullen - seven years before William Boylan 1804) b? - d April 11, 1856. Elizabeth married Captain William Boylan around 1827 (there is no record of this marriage at St. Peters). According to a news paper clipping, she was the sister of Peter Moore, then living on Church Street. So far no US info about her father... Their daughter Mary Boylan, who was born in 1828 (St. Peters can you confirm the date?), later married Joseph Ryan Sr and had a son Joseph Jr. After the death of his grandfather (Captain William Boylan), Joseph Ryan Jr. married the widowed Mrs Annie Boylan (the last and very young wife of the same Captain William Boylan). So technically Joseph married his own grandmother - although they were not blood relatives. Elizabeth died in 1856 at 56 years of age.

2. According to an 1889 newspaper clipping, Captain William Boylan took a second wife by marrying a Ms. McShea. Assuming that this marriage took place in the summer of 1856, this unlucky young lady McShea may have died in childbirth in early 1857. Anyhow so far no records whatsoever about Ms McShea have been found in St. Peters or the archives of New Jersey, so she remains a mystery. 1857 must have been a busy year for William because his third wife Bridget delivered him a son - also in 1857!

3. Bridget Wall b 1830 - d July 13th 1874. She married aged 27 on Sept. 6, 1857 -  as witnessed by Ellen Wall (her mother or sister?) and Mary Tinsley. The ceremony was performed by Rev. John Rogers. Exactly nine months later, their first child, James J. was born.

    1. James J. Boylan, born June 24, 1858, died? Godparents John Rogers & Ellen Wall (Bridgets mom or sister) (Rev. John Rogers). The Kilcullen Boylans later heard that JJ had become a lawyer (barrister).

    2. William Henry Boylan Sr., born Feb. 25, 1860, baptised February 26th died in New Brunswick Oct 10th 1927. Godparents John Rogers & Rose McCormack (Rev John Rogers.) Regretfully the birth record of WHB Sr could not be found in the archives at Trenton. Why? WHB Sr. became an architect and married Caroline T. Deinzer in New York, NY  in 1884? Caroline Deinzer was a German immigrant from Krottensee village near Neuhaus-on-the-Pegnitz, Bavaria.

    3. Ellen, Ag.a, Boylan, born March 6th 1862, married a Mr. Hopkins on ???, died? Godparents: her brother James Boylan & Mary Ryan (Rev. John Rogers) Ag.a is short for Augusta, so Ellen Ag.a., the Gussy Boylan listed below as a Godparent and the Helen A. Boylan who witnessed her Dads fourth wedding are actually all the same person. Ellen Augusta Boylan was probably named after a family friend named Ellen Augusta Ryan, (the godmother of George W. Boylan and the mother of Joseph Ryan Sr).

    4. Charles Boylan born, 19th, Bap. June 21, 1864, died? Godparents: brother William (H) Boylan, & sister (Ellen) Gussy Boylan (Rev. John Rogers)

    5. Wilfred Boylan, born Dec. 12, Bap. Dec. 15, 1866 died? Godparents: brother William (H) Boylan & sister Ellen A. (Gussy) Boylan (Rev. John Rogers)

    6. George W. Boylan, born Mar. 21, Bap. Mar. 24, 1869 died? Godparents: brother Charles Boylan & Ellen Augusta Ryan, by proxy (Rev, M.C. Duggan)

    7. Francis Boylan, born Sept. 17, Bap. Sept. 20, 1871 died? Godparents: brother James Boylan & Mary Masterson (Rev. M. C. Duggan)

Many thanks at this point go to the Parish Historian at St. Peter the Apostle Church in New Brunswick and to the volunteers who painstakingly searched through the Sacramental Registers for Boylan birth, death and marriage records. Without their help it would neither have been possible to locate the names and dates of Williams offspring, nor the wedding date leading to a wedding record listing the names of Williams Irish parents! Thanks again for all of those hours of work!

William Boylan lead the original Emerald Guards (click on it - they still exist!) of New Brunswick and so acquired the title of Militia Captain. He retired from boot making in about 1850 because he had observed how land prices in New Brunswick were going up. Knowing how land was traditionally fought over in his home in Kilcullen, and seeing the influx of Irish escaping the potato famine of 1845, he sensed a much easier way to make money by speculating on real estate. In this he was even more successful and thus he became a very wealthy man in New Brunswick.

Around 1860 William bought or built a house for his growing family in New Brunswick on 104 Bayard Str. - close to the current Office of Vital Statistics, because you could easily walk from there to the train station. The hard-working mother Bridget Boylan (Wall) died in July 13th 1874.

4.Annie OMailey b1848 (implied by newspaper) or b 1854 - d 1903 according to the source Ancestry.com (a 1889 news paper clipping lists Annies maiden name as Boyle, but both St. Peters Church record and the New Jersey State archives agree that Annie was an OMailey). Annie, a sweet young woman of either 19 or 26, married the wealthy 70-year-old real estate mogul William Boylan on November 23rd 1874 (4 months after Bridget died). The ceremony was performed by Rev. P. L. Downes and witnessed by Andrew Ledwidge and (Ellen Gussy Augusta) Helen A. Boylan.  Anne was said to have had 5 children in total. 3 who survived were found in the records of St Peters:

  • Thomas Francis Boylan, born Sept. 14, Bap. Sept. 16, 1875 died? Godparents: George Boylan & Lizzie OMalley       Rev. D.M.Carter (d 1903 ancestry.com)
  • Anne Boylan, born Aug. 11, Bap. Aug. 11, 1878 died? Godparents: Joseph Ryan Jr & (Ellen) Gussie Boylan Rev. John Rogers
  • Joseph Boylan born Sept. 26, Bap. Sept. 26, 1879 died? Godparents: George Boylan & Elizabeth Mealle (OMalley). Rev. John Rogers. Perhaps Joseph Boylan was named after a special friend called Joseph Ryan Jr.?

The prosperous Irish immigrant from Kilcullen, Captain William Boylan died on Saturday September 10th, 1881 aged 77. The widowed Annie Boylan soon remarried Joseph Ryan Jr. (the son-in-law of Elizabeth, Captain William Boylans first wife). The Boylan/Ryans continued to live in the house on 104 Bayard St. At this time Annie was just 26 or 33 and Captain William Boylans youngest son Joseph was only 2 years old.

Captain William Boylans obituary states that at the time he was one of the oldest residents of New Brunswick. He claimed he was born in 1798, but the correct date year was 1804. He was favorably known for his charitable deeds and a member of the Humane Society in which he took great interest until the infirmities of old age introduced him to withdraw from active participation. He left over 12.000 $ (about 276.000 $ today) in cash and 80.000 $ (1.8 mio $ today) worth of  real estate which was divided between his 7 surviving children - not quite amicably because there was litigation with Annie about his estate in 1889 and for different reasons again in 1897 (the cash had just about been consumed by this time). 

When Captain William Boylans Kilcullen brother James Boylan died in Ireland (January 29th, 1897 at 91 according to Irish sources), The Daily Times of New Brunswick New Jersey ran a short obituary for him (published March 5th) mentioning that he was brother of the late Captain William Boylan. Kilcullen Boylans also knew that James J. Boylan had become a  lawyer, so clearly there was some transatlantic correspondence between the two brothers & families (and perhaps also the Moore families) - which has regretfully not been passed down to posterity.

William Henry Boylan Sr. had a son named William Henry Boylan Jr. who was born on Jan 29 1886 in New Brunswick. Regretfully, WHB Jrs birth record could not be found in the archives in Trenton! Why? William Henry Boylan Jr. became a calm business man who moved away for employment in Newark as a Public Service Manager. He married Mildred Voorhees on June 20th 1908 and they lived at 759 Clifton Ave where his grandson Steven Boylan later attended several memorable Thanksgiving Day dinners. William Henry Boylan the 3rd was born in Newark on March 29, 1909. After the death of WHB Sr on Oct 10th 1927, the family returned to New Brunswick where William Henry Jr. had inherited the Boylan house on 104 Bayard St. Grandson Steven Voorhees Boylan visited them again as a West Point US Military Academy Cadet about 1955. When WHB Jr. died on the 1st of April 1960, his widow Mildred Voorhees Boylan inherited the Boylan house. A new office building was built there in 2013.

We are looking for another son and grandson of WHB Sr. all of them were excellent architects probably building on inherited real estate, last known to be living in Highland Park NJ in the 1940s. The grandson is remembered as a great guy called Uncle Slug - for some reason.

William Henry Boylan Jr. was a member of Knights of Columbus in New Jersey. His grandson Steven Voorhees Boylan remembers that that his Grandpa talked about wearing formal uniforms with military hats like the one pictured below.

Reader Teri Peterson has a hat with the typewritten name of Clement Boylan tucked in the inside rim. This is an example of a ceremonial hat of the Knights of Columbus.  Catholic Irish Boylans often belonged to this society and wore formal uniforms and regalia to events. Clement Boylan's hat is Knights of Columbus headgear. The original style is that of a French or English man in uniform from the 18th or 19th century,                                                   

William Henry Boylan Jr had three sons. They are represented in the Hedgelock Wreath by three stars:                                                                  

William Henry Boylan III, CT, USA, When WHB Sr died, WHB Jr became Sr and WHB III became WHB Jr. (even on stationary), but he sometimes still referred to himself as the third.

  • Born 29 March 1909 New Brunswick, NJ
  • Married Mary Carolyn Runyon 2 June 1932 at Stelton, NJ, Mayflower descendent. 
  • Died 19 July 1987 New Haven, CT
  • WHB III had two sons, Steven Vorhees Boylan and Parker Runyon Boylan, William Henry Boylan IIIs grandson Peter Boylan, born 20 May 1962 administrates the Boylan Clan Website.

    After high school (at age 17?) WHB III signed up to work on a merchant steamer. He circum-navigated the globe, passing through the Panama Canal and became such a seaman that much later, he bought a small boat for his 7 year old grandson Peter and taught him how to splice rigging. WHB kept horses in the best 3000 year old Boylan Clan tradition, played polo and enjoyed shooting skeet and trap. When he married Caroline, they moved next to his father in-laws house in Stelton New Jersey, a suburb of New Brunswick. He sold industrial tape for Johnson and Johnson and in 1947 moved to Connecticut for a new job.

Jack Boylan, NJ, USA, served in WWII

Dick Boylan, NC, USA worked for Union Carbide and lived in Copenhagen, Hong-Kong and Thailand among other places.