The Report From The Select Committee On The State Of Ireland, Ordered, by The House of Commons, 2 August 1832.

"Special Commission having been appointed to try the persons who had been apprehended as guilty of acts of insurrection in the Queen's County."

Excerpts which mention Ballinakill in the County Laois.

The Story of Margaret Phelan

She was also known as Maeve Brennan to her family

Margaret Phelan from tintype image

We know little of the story of James Hoy's wife except for one census record, three church records, two Pennsylvania Death Certificates, and family oral tradition. The US Census for 1850 has her first name as Margaret, but family tradition knew her as Maeve Brennan, so people thought that Maeve was the Irish for Margaret, but it is not. Mairead is the Irish for Margaret. Maeve is just Maeve.

The family stories came down to us through Phil Hoy who was her grandson and Tom Hoy Senior's son. He was a printer and interested in photography and the family pictures came down to us from him as well. Phil and his wife Marge had no children, but they were close to the family of Phil's brother Frank who did have children. Uncle Phil passed the stories that he had heard from his father Tom Sr. to Frank's children and one of them remembers enough to tell this tale. He is Bob Hoy, the only surviving member of his generation and the keeper of the family pictures seen on this site.


Uncle Tom had a sister Rosanna who never married and lived in Philadelphia near her sister Mary who had married Conn McCarty. Aunt Rosanna also contributed stories and some treasured family items that she possessed. These include a tea set of Elizabeth Lynch, the wife of Tom Sr., a spade and valise of Tom's and a mysterious knife that had been with Margaret in the old country which she carried with her until she died around 1858. James always called Ireland the 'Old Sod' and remembered it with nostalgia, but Margaret did not remember Ireland happily and never took out citizenship papers here. Neither did James until after she died.


1850 US Census Header
1850 US Census Data

This is from the 1850 US Census for Williams Township which is on the south side of the Lehigh River from the city of Easton. Part of it is now in Easton and another part is known as Glendon Borough where the Hoy family lived at the time of James' death on the Lehigh Canal Change Bridge in 1862.

Saint John's Catholic Parish in Newark, New Jersey

Saint John's in Newark, New Jersey is the oldest Catholic church in New Jersey and was built in the late 1820's just before James and Margaret arrived in New York. One of the founders was Tom Garland from County Louth like James Hoy and there are records of several men of that name being born around the time and place of James.

These images are from the records of St. John's Church and shared by the LDS Church to the public.

1850 US Census Data

On February 9, 1834, James Hoy was the best-man at the wedding of Thomas Gartland and Catherine O'Brien. The maid-of-honor was Margaret Ruth which is an unusual name and easy to track.

1850 US Census Data

On April 30, 1834, James Hoy and Margaret Phelan were married. Thomas Garland and Bridget Wallace stood up for them.

1850 US Census Data

On October 5, 1835, Margaret was born to James Hoye and Margaret Felan. John Duffy and Rosanna Brenan were sponsors. Here we see the names Rosanna and Brennan. Margaret named her youngest daughter Rosanna in 1846 in Easton, PA. Brennan is the surname by which the family knew Margaret.

1850 US Census Data

On July 6, 1841, Sarah Jane was born to James Hoye and Margaret Phelan. Patrick Cody and Ann Kelly were sponsors.

Note: We see Margaret's own family name as Phelan or the phonetic Felan in these records. She is Hoy in the census, but never Brennan. Yet the family in Pennsylvania knew her as Maeve Brennan.

Thomas Hoy Senior's Death Certificate

We have Pennsylvania Death Certificates for two of Margaret's children which have her names on them. One is for Thomas Senior who is the ancestor of the extended family in Easton and one is for Rosanna who never married and lived near her sister Mary in Philadelphia. Mary married Conn McGarty and is an ancestor of the McCarthy family in Delaware County. (Name change).

The first was filled out by Phil Hoy who had these stories and pictures and was the son of Thomas. He spelled her name as Waylon and her birthplace as Ireland. He was a printer and an intelligent man with good handwriting, but there was never a family called Waylon in Ireland. He and Marge lived in Easton.

The second had information supplied by Edward McCarty who was Margaret's grandson and the nephew of Rosanna. He spelled her name Whalen and birthplace as Ireland. He got this from Rosanna and they both lived in Philadelphia.

Whalen is a common name in Ireland, and we see that Waylon is the phonetic spelling of it. If the printer Phil had to use a phonetic spelling, it means he had never seen the name written.

Thomas Hoy Sr. Death Cert
Rosanna Hoy's Death Certificate

So, we have Phelan or the phonetic Felan on the church records and Whalen or the phonetic Waylon in the dearth certs. Some research yields that Whalen and Phelan are anglicized versions of O'Faolain- From selectsurnames.com/whelan.

The Irish surnames Whelan and Phelan are from the south of the country and are derived from the old Gaelic name O'Faolain, descendant of Faolain which itself comes from the Gaelic faol meaning "wolf".

There are several other variations of the name including Felan, Phalen, and Whalen. The usual pronunciation was "Fee-lan", but in some parts of Kilkenny it could be "Fay-lan" or "Way-lan". Whalen is more common in America.

The phonetic Waylon now leads us to Kilkenny.

There are no more primary records for Margaret, but we have a lot of data from St. John's which may help us.

Rosanna Hoy Death Cert
Patterns of names in Saint John's Parish, Newark, New Jersey
St. John's Church 1828

These are some of the names from the St. John's parish records which are distinctive. Garland (Gartland, Garlanty) and Hoy are found in County Louth, while Ruth, Phelan, Brennan, Cody, Kennedy, and Moore are Kilkenny names.

The Normans first invaded Ireland at Waterford and Wexford and Kilkenny is inland between them, so has always had a Norman aspect to it. Names like Anastasia and Letitia are common only around Kilkenny.

The name Ruth or Roth came from the Norman Rothe or de Rothe, just as de Burgh gave us Burke in the same area. Ruth is unusual even in Kilkenny and so helpful. Brennan is common, but Rosanna and Lucrecia Brennan are not.

St. John's Church 1851

Ancestry.com is the best source of this kind of record and some of the results are shown here.

The names Phelan, Brennan, Ruth, Moore, and Cody will be helpful when the Irish records are searched for Margaret.

  • Phelan - Margaret, John, Mary
  • Brennan - Rosanna, Letitia
  • Ruth - Elizabeth, Margaret, Michael
  • Moore - Patrick, Ann
  • Cody - Patrick
Hoy Family DNA & database matches to the Kilkenny area

Three of the Easton Hoy family have taken DNA tests with Ancestry.com and have 10 matches with tests from the Castlecomer and Urlingford areas of far north Kilkenny and the areas above them in County Laois. So we have Kilkenny from Waylon and far north Kilkenny/south Laois from DNA. Now we can search these areas in the Ancestry database.

We begin with the unusual Ruth/Roth name and then the unusual combinations Lucrecia and Rosanna Brennan. We have searched Ancestry for theses names and only Kilkenny/Laois gives any results, so again we see north Kilkenny/south Laois. There are no results for Lucrecia at all, but Letitia Brennan has two results in north Kilkenny. Aside from Kilkenny city which attracts people, we see the three names Freshford and Castlecomer in Kilkenny, and Ballinakill, Laois. Castlecomer is also a DNA match. The map shows all four locations with the distance from Ballinakil to Castlecomer 5 miles, to Freshford 10 miles, and tp Urlingford 15 miles.

Ballinakill name table


Ballinakill area map
Margaret's Children

These are the names of the children of Margaret and James. The first three were born in Saint John's Parish, Newark NJ and the rest in Saint Bernard's Parish, Easton PA. DNA and Louth records lead us to a family from Darver in the County Louth which can account for all of these names except Rosanna, Sarah, and John. So 3 of 6 names from the father's side.

Hoy names

We know about Rosanna Brennan, who was the godmother of Margaret's first child also named Margaret, and she can account for Rosanna Hoy. But for over twenty years a suitable match for Sarah and John has eluded us and the other 2 names from the mothers' side,

These are the records from Ancestry for the area and period of our interest. The last four records from County Laois are new to Ancestry (in 2023) and the next to last is the daughter of John Phelan and Sarah Loughnan - John and Sarah.

In the image below, we see the date is June 5, 1813'. The symbol before the two occurrences of Phelan is a common shorthand for cursive John and "B kill" is the priest's own shortcut for the common Ballinakill which is both a parish and small town.

Phelan names June 1813 Margare tBaptism
We still have these questions about Margaret Phelan
  • Why was she known as Maeve Brennan to her family?
  • Why did the children only know the phonetic Waylon/Whalen (on official documents) for her name?
  • Why did she never take out citizenship papers and why did James wait until after her death to take out his own?
  • What is the meaning of the knife that she brought from Ireland, always kept, and passed down to her descendants?

We only have the handle of her knife left (at bottom), but the keeper of it says that this image is very much like it.



We must now consider the link that is shown at the top of this page concerning the "Special Commission having been appointed to try the persons who had been apprehended as guilty of acts of insurrection in the Queen's County."

That which the English called the Queen's County, we call the County Laois and the insurrection in south Laois and north Kilkenny was by a group called the Whitefeet. Their actions were centered around the Castlecomer Coal Fields which began just southeast of Ballinakill in Kilkenny and extending northeast into Laois. This was done throughout the 1820's until they surrendered their arms as reported by a letter on 22 February 1833 to Dublin Castle. We first find Margaret/Maeve at her marriage to James Hoy on 30 April 1835 in Newark, New Jersey.

It is to the Whitefeet that we must now turn our search for Maeve.



Maeve's knife Maeve's knife Maeve's knife