Story of the McGraths, Magners, Daly’s and Vallences

How are We Related Again? 

The “What we know so far” story of the McGraths, Magners, Dalys and Vallences of Darragh Glenroe, County Limerick

Part I

The known story or our Vallence family begins in France about 800 A.D with the Vulgrins (really).  For the McGrath and Daly side, it starts thousands of years ago in Ireland.  The Magners have a long history too that we are trying to document.  Volunteers always needed for this research.

Actually, for the Vallences, we can document from abo
ut 800 AD in France with the Vulgrins to about 1400 AD with the de Vallences.  We are suppose to be related to Isabel of Angouleme.

She married John I of England when she was only 14.  One of her children became Henry III, King of England.  

Her second husband, our ancestor, was Hugh De Luzignan.  Her children by Hugh were then half brothers and sisters to the King.  He gave them land in Ireland – then took it away, then gave it back, etc.  

The period between 1400 and 1800 is very complicated.  We’ve got some threads of who begat who and who got what land, but not anything linear until 1659.  Vallences of Galbally and Darragh

Remember, it took the Irish 700 years of strife to get rid of the English, so finding records during many of those years has been challenging.  But we have letters and documents that are slowly filling in the oral history.  From what we are finding out, we come from a long line of rebels.

Part II

So, we can start for sure about 1659 in a beautiful little place called Darragh.  It is about halfway between Limerick City and Cork City in SW Ireland. Historically the area was called Munster.  The McGraths, Magners, Vallences and Daly’s were all leaders in that area at one time or another.

    The beautiful Galty Mountains are to the East and Ballyhoura Mountains are to the West. 


Vallences of Galbally and Darragh

Circa 1800  James Daly married Mary Vallence.  They had at least 7 children:

Mary, Margaret, Joan, Nell, Bridget, James and Patrick



We also have quite a bit of info about the Dalys yet to post.

We do know that Margaret Daly b. circa 1820, , daughter of James Daly and Mary Valence married James McGrath (Sr.) they had at least two sons, James of Darragh and Tom of Australia.  Margaret’s younger brother James Daly, married Peggy Dwane.  They had twelve children.  One of their children, John,  is in the picture below with his wife

Rebecca Bermingham.  The youngest sister, Mary,  married Thomas Hackett.

Part III

    In 1866 James McGrath b. 1841,  son of James Sr. and Margaret Daly married Mary Magner  

James and Mary had seven children born between 1867 and 1882.  Mary was a teacher and a principal.  James ran a pub and store. 

Their oldest son, Jack, left for America when he was 17, the other children left shortly after their mother Mary died in 1893.  We are still trying to find out what happened to their father. 

We know they are both buried in the Darragh cemetery. 

Part IV

Children of James McGrath and Mary Magner

Margaret (Maggie) b. 1867 d. 1956, married Victor Fimia, they lived in the Bronx and had one son, Victor. 

Bridget (Bridie) b. 1869 d. 1941,  became Mother Emmanuel head of  The College of New Rochelle in NY (PhD)

John (Jack), b. 1872 d. 1951, married Mary Kelly and became a Congressman from San Mateo.  They had five children, three who lived to adulthood: John, Carmel and Maureen

Ellen (Nellie) b. 1874 d. 1957, married Luis Galban and was a teacher (with a PhD I believe) and help run her husband’s import/export business.  They had one child, Elenita and lived in Cuba.  Elenita had 8 children!

Marie b. 1877 d. 1946,  was also a teacher and an aviator but never married.

Thomas (Tom) b. 1880 d. 1934, was on a path to become a priest, but then went to Kentucky and worked at drilling for oil and gas.  He married Nellie Schuler and had a little publishing house.  They had one daughter, Ellen.  Tom sadly died before Ellen was a year old.  They lived in the DC area.  Ellen, their daughter ended up in the Boston area.

Joseph Patrick (Pat) b. 1882 d. 1964,  married twice, first to Lily.  They had one child who lived – Joseph Magner.  Joseph Patrick’s second wife was Jean Murray.  Joseph Patrick went into business selling automobiles and settled in Freehold NJ.  They had two children:  Jean and Billie.  Jean had one child, Patricia.  Patricia moved to Georgia.  Billie was killed in WWII – missing in action.  He was a navigator on an airplane. Joseph Magner married Virginia Showalter.  They had twins: Stephen Vallence and Alexandra (Sandy). 

Most of the siblings stayed in touch, but Tom and Joe’s families slowly lost touch.  With the help of each newly found family member, we have been able to find and contact all the living descendants of James McGrath and Mary Magner. 

The End for now

So, if you’ve read to the bottom of this – congratulations!  Hopefully, you should recognize your grandparent’s or great grandparent’s name and be able to start putting this all into context. 

Their story is remarkable. 


The McGrath/Magner/Vallence/Daly/Hackett story continues!  Your family story will add more chapters to the ones our ancestors started. 

Please start thinking about how you want to tell it.

Mary Magner/James McGrath

Oral Family History

As told by Elenita Garcia, Bill Partlow, Peter McGrath, Tony Hackett, Bill Magner, Elena Garcia, to Maggie Fimia between 1984 and 2009

I wanted to be sure everyone had access to the story the way it was told to me.  Since first hearing about our family from Elenita Galban Garcia over 25 years ago, I have been trying to document their story and find out more about who they were and what happened to them. Most of this oral history has turned out to be correct.  Where it was not, I have tried to make a note.  Our cousins continue to fill in the missing pieces.  

This is really just the outline of their story.  My hope is, with the help of the rest of the family,  we can write a complete story, easily read and easily passed on to all who want and deserve to know where they came from. 


Circa 1830’s

Holloway lived in the great house. *He married (?).  Shortly after, about 3 weeks, perhaps, they were riding in the carriage.  The horse bolted and he was killed.  His brother inherited the great house.  The widow went away.  The brother married a Daly (and then she wasn’t sure about this) an Irish girl.  The Holloways were not originally Irish.  She was a catholic.  Twenty-One years after the first brother died, a young man came and claimed to be the son of the dead brother.  He took his claim to court and won, even though no one knew him or of him.  The second Mrs. Holloway, a widow, now, was allowed to stay in the gatekeeper’s cottage.  Her daughter married a Daly**  She, the daughter, may have died.  Their sons James, Tom and possibly John (an older) were raised by their grandmother.  The man who said he was a Holloway had little interest in the house and he sold it to (?)

The man bought it in good faith although the title was tainted and he came to the conclusion himself   Of the two (three?) brothers he sympathized with James and took him traveling in Europe and possibly contributed to his education.  James was a very knowledgeable and well read man.  He knew much history and neighbors would gather at his home and discuss things.  Because he was raised by his grandmother she taught him fluent Gaelic.

When James McGrath returned the owner of the great house saw that he was ready to settle down.  James met Mary Magner, who was very young.  Her parents did not approve of the marriage.  Mary had studied to be a teacher and graduated.  Her mother was a widow, they had a nice farm.  The English who demanded rent confiscated the land.  Mary’s mother didn’t have the money and they were evicted.  They had no place to go and saw crawled back through a window that night.  The Protestant minister in town helped them.  The Minister recommended her for a principalship of a school and she got the job.

Mary Magner was probably born in 1844.  Mary was a “good catch” and her mother thought she could do better.

James McGrath was a handsome young man, had been all over Europe.  He was well educated but poor.  The man who lived in the great house (and owned the domain around it) felt he owed something to the young man.  He leased to James land on which to build for 99 years for $1.00.  James had a house built of stone and he started a store, sold groceries.  For a long time that’s all there was.  Later, he added beer.  He had applied several times for a license.  It was a good business, but he had a poor sense of business.  He felt like he was trying to do something for the people and region.  He came from nobility (Brian Baru: McGrath means son of the King) He was importing and exporting. 

One of his cousins (this was James Daly) started up a little store.  He was a good man too.  His wife had twenty children (this was Peggy Dwane, who married James Daly and they had eleven living children).  She had a nanny raise them while she minded the business.  The nanny also raised turkeys for export to England.  James was the middleman, but did not push to collect his debs at the end of the month.  When he had to pay his bills he was short.  Mary Magner was earning a good salary and was also a seamstress.  Twice a year there were exams for cutters.  She would get a guinea for each student she helped to pass the exam.  So she was contributing to the income, paying the bills he couldn’t meet.  It was going from bad to worse.  He developed rheumatism and was in pain and having trouble coping. 

Side note…

The British had cut down a lot of trees in Ireland.  The idea was brought up to buy trees and plan them.  James provided money for the Bonthine Woods.

Story continued…

He went to a spa, took baths.  Aunt Margaret (his daughter) took over the business.  They called her “one word” because she would only say one thing: “closing time” or “no more.”  She was stricter about the bill collection.  She straightened out the business.  James got well sooner than expected and business fell off again.

Near Christmas a neighbor or relative was sick.  Mary went to see them.  It was a very cold and drizzling night.  She caught a chill.  She came home.  She was sitting in the living room and felt a sharp pain in her chest and went to bed.  Aunt Nell (Mary’s daughter Ellen) had a premonition that it would not be a happy Christmas.  Mary developed pneumonia.  The doctor came and treated her and it seemed to clear her lungs, but her heart gave out.  She was conscious and lucid till the last moment.  They brought her a little bottle of Lourdes water on the morning of January 3rd.  She drank part of it, put the stopper back on the bottle and said, “ I’ll drink the rest of this tonight with a beautiful lady on the banks of a stream.”  She died that night.  The children were present when she died.  Nellie was the middle child and Mary turned to her and said, “take care of the baby,” meaning Joe who was only 9 years old.  He had lost an eye - he was watching some people repair a rock road and a stone flew up and he lost an eye.  He was about eight at the time.

Sometime passed, maybe a year.  The children were coping as best they could.  Jack emigrated to the United States.  He went first.  James McGrath began to get lonely.  He started to look around.

Nellie said one day she was in the alcove reading.  This lady came in and James was showing her the house.  She commented about things.  Nellie was taking it all in.  The children were outraged.  Margaret, Joseph and Emmy (Bridget Cecelia) took off to Limerick to stay with cousins because of their anger.  They sent for Nellie and Marie.  Tom was still in school.  They stayed for two years in Limerick.  Then, Margaret, and Joe got money from Jack and went to California.  Jack was married by this time.  Then, Margaret left for New York.

Margaret got a job at the “Institute” government school run by the nuns (“the ladies”) French order.  It was a live-in position.  It was a school for the deaf, possibly in Westchester.****  They paid little wages.  The plan was to send Uncle Joe to New York too.  He arrived one night with a little suitcase.  She knew he was coming, but not when.  She went to the mother superior and he was allowed to stay there.  He went to school there.  He was good at track.

Margaret and Jack scraped up money to send for the others. Bridget went into the convent over here.  She felt she had a vocation.  Others felt she wasn’t holding up her end.  They (Jack and his wife?) bought a little house and were struggling to pay the mortgage.  Eventually he ran for judge in San Mateo and was elected and re-elected several times.***

Jack’s story:

Jack started out working in Chicago in the stockyards.   He became postmaster of San Mateo.  He then ran for U.S. Congress and was elected in the 8th District then.  Both Republicans and Democrats nominated him in the 1930’s.  He was a big fan of FDR.  Both the Socialist and Communist parties offered… he refused the communists.  He died around 1941. (It was actually 1951).

Story resumed…

Margaret continued to teach when Nellie, Marie and Tom came to the U.S.  Nellie got a job at the school.  She must have been very young, maybe sixteen.  They may have put Tom in school.  Aunt Margaret met a young Irish lawyer.  He was very personable, nice.  He wanted to come courting, but the nuns would not allow him to visit.  That made the friendship impossible. 

Margaret really wanted to get married and to have a baby.  She met Victor Fimia, possibly at a church gathering.  They married in 1907.

Tom’s Story:

Thomas, while visiting Elenita in Cuba, told her… he left New York – disappeared.  Aunt Marie decided to trace him and she found him.  He said he had always been asked to do this and that and there was nothing in it for him so he left. (On the back of a picture of Tom, Margaret wrote that they had not seen or heard from him in ten years.) Later on in his life he married and had a child.  When Elenita met him he had a little publishing house in Washington D.C.  He had a heart condition, but his wife didn’t know it.  He came home one day and told her she should have some business of her own.  She was a little miffed, didn’t know what to think.  He wrote down a whole list of stuff she might like to do.  He said, “Look at this and see what you might like to go into.”  One of the things was having a beauty shop.  She liked that, so he sent her to beauty school.  He helped her to set up a business.  She was very nice and did well.  The baby was still small.  Not long after that, she noticed he, Thomas, wasn’t doing well.  He must have felt he was close to the end because after his death, all his books were in order.  He had been very interested in horses and wrote a manuscript called “the History of the Irish Horse.”

Family story continued…

Joseph, Marie and Ellen are all tied together.  Ellen and Marie were three years apart.  During the summer, Margaret and Ellen had to work as waitresses in Atlantic City.  Marie’s whereabouts are not known at this time.

As soon as they had enough money together and Ellen had a substitute’s license, Marie and Ellen got a flat in New York.  They had no furniture.  They had to sleep on the floor that night.  About this time they had an Uncle Tom who lived in Australia and had shares in a tin mine.  (He never married).  He used to correspond with Ellen.  They had a lot of empathy.  He wanted her to come to Australia.  She didn’t want to go. (It turns out that Jack was working his way to Australia – met his future wife Mary and tossed a coin to decide if he should continue on from California or stay there per Peter McGrath).  Not long afterward, Uncle Tom died.  He divided his money by five (four girls and Joe).  Each got $2000 (?).  So now, here they are, they had studied in Ireland and whether or not they didn’t have documents, or whether or not they were not accepted, they had to go back to school.  Anyway, they moved out of the convent and went to high school.  Time was of the essence.  Ellen spoke with the principal of the high school.  He let her take double course work.  She finished in two years.  She also took the Regents exam.  (Waddely high school).  She enrolled in NYU.  She got a position as a teacher in the public school for the deaf.

Joe’s Story…

Uncle Joe was put into a private school in New York.  Aunt Emmy was in the convent in New Rochelle.  Nellie visited Emmy regularly.  Emmy was very stylish before entering the convent.  She had taught Nellie how to file her nails, etc.  When Nellie showed up in an awful dress, Emmy asked her what she was doing with her money and Nellie said it was going towards schooling for Joe.  Emmy got him a scholarship at St. John’s in New York.  He was expected to work as a doorman at the school. 

He didn’t do very well there – no athletics.  Plus he was in a city, not in a secluded place.  After classes and work he went out and probably met a lot of people.  Probably he was in his late teens.  He met a girl from a good family, but she was a little wild.  They married.  That was the end of school and his scholarship.  Lily got pregnant.  All that she would eat was ices.  The child did not live long.  The second child, Magner did better.  Lily was intent on the good life, theater, clothes, and nanny for the child.  Joseph had a job at an import business.

When Magner was three years old, Lily left them.  Magner got left to Aunt Nellie.  The child was very overweight.  His hair was a mess.  She would sit him on her lap, tell him stories and massage Vaseline into his scalp.  He finally quieted down. She would take him to school, his health was poor.  She raised him.

Nellie’s Story…

Meanwhile, she was going to NYU.  She was teaching English and science so she took a lot of science courses at night.  Finally she graduated with a bachelor of science in education.

About the same time the principal of her school died and she applied for the position.  She was acting principal.

Luis Suarez Galban, (a former student from Cuba), went back to visit school and met her.  He courted her for a whole year until she said yes.  She was six years older than he, but had stated on her “intent for citizenship” that she was older, maybe even 10 years older.  She was possibly afraid that this would have to be revealed if she married.  This perjury plagued her all her life. ( It turns out she was 22 years older).

Joe’s story continued…

Meanwhile Magner had behavior problems and when he didn’t want to put up with any discipline he went back to his father.

Joe had remarried Jean and they had two children; little Jean and Billie.  Billie’s greatest dream was to go to Annapolis.  Ellen got him a scholarship to Malverne Preparatory School.  He did pretty well and they took special interest in coaching him.  He wanted to be a pilot but the family was afraid for him.  He decided not to be a pilot but perhaps a navigator.  The story is not clear.  He was killed in WWII.

Magner and little Jean probably had polio.  Jean had several operations on her legs.  The mother didn’t want her to marry. She raised collies and papillions.  A boy who cleaned the kennels got interested in Jean.  They wanted to get married. Her mother broke it up.  She eventually ran away with a childhood friend.  He turned out to be abusive and would assault Jean and the child.  She left him but got together again.  They had twin boys who died in infancy. (She eventually had one child by John Quinn who lived.  Her name was Patricia). 

Ellen’s story continued…

Ellen married on February 14, 1916 at St. Elizabeth’s church in New York.  She decided to continue teaching.  She knew her husband was well off, but didn’t know how well.  He studied bookkeeping.  She could not tell them she was married because teachers could not marry, less they got pregnant and her pupils would see her that way.  But, the school found out and they told her to resign.  She didn’t want to.  Her principal called her and begged her to leave because otherwise Ellen would be put through an ordeal, so Ellen resigned.

They went down to Cuba after she was married and stayed at a hotel called Englatera when they were newly married in the summer of 1916.  A lot of people would come to congratulate them and pay respects.  Their names were all Hernandez.  Her mother-in-law’s name was Hernandez.  All the people were black and supposedly not related.  She finally asked who they were.  It turns out they were former relative of slaves of the Hernandez family and had stayed friends of the family.

Luis wanted children and so did Ellen, but she did not get pregnant.  She went to an MD and he gave her some advice and they went to Atlantic City for the summer.  They relaxed and she got pregnant. In January she decided that if all his property was in Cuba they should live there.  They lived in the father’s house for a while.  Then they built their own home.  Elenita was born at home.  Elenita’s wedding reception was in the house and then she lived there.  It was 15 corner of K.

Margaret’s story…

When she was staying at the convent it was hard to meet people.  They got a flat.  She had an Uncle Tom. She corresponded with him.  He said he would leave her his money, but she wanted him to leave it to all of them.  Her address was 280 Bridge Street, Brooklyn.

She met and married a boy from Sicily who was working in restaurants.  (Victor was 17 years younger than Margaret). They lived next door to the restaurant.  He used to buy restaurants, fix them up and then sell them.  He was used to running things.  He finally went to work as a chef. 

Margaret’s hobbies:  reading, history of the reformation.  She was quite an expert.  She loved to eat chocolates and would hide them under covers and sneak them as she was reading.  She also kept the family history.

Her son Victor James Fimia suffered from bronchitis. The doctor told Margaret that he would not get better in New York.  So, he was sent to Cuba to live for a year when he was about seven or eight.  He attended school there.  His bronchitis improved.  He learned Spanish there.  Magner was also there because he was not getting along at home.

Victor and Magner would ride horses.   Once while riding in the car he was stung by a bee.  Through his tears he said he was glad it didn’t sting the baby, meaning Elenita who was then three.

The Origins of the Family

According to Elenita and a letter from Ellen McGrath to Tony Hackett’s mother, her cousin Mary Daly, the family had the history traced.  Father Hartnett, researched it for them.  He told them that the original family were the Vallences.  The Vallences came from William de Valence, son of Isabel of Angouleme and Hugh de Lugisnan. 

Isabel was first married to John the First of England.  She was betrothed to Hugh and John was attending the wedding.  They were from two very large land owners in France.  John was not only concerned about their collective power, but he was totally taken by Isabel, who even at fourteen, was a beauty.

Isabel and John had five or six children, including Henry III.  After John died, and Isabel could not get the deal she wanted in England, she went back to France, leaving her children in England.  Hugh was back from the crusades, they married and she had another five or six children.  One of them was William de Valence.  William was now a half brother to Henry III – who became King of England and gave land in Ireland to William. 

There are many sources for information about Isabel, Henry, Hugh, de Valence.

Isabel comes from the Vulgrins, who can trace their family history back to 800 AD.  The house where she was born in about 1200 is still there in Angouleme.  It is now a school.

The Calendar of Documents (of) Ireland begin in 1171 and chronicle all official Acts of the Crown having to do with Ireland.  From the initial research, it looks like the land was given and taken away several times.

Another source which is fiction, but historically accurate is:

Here Be Dragons, by Sharon Penman – Isabel is a key person in the first of these three volumes about England, Wales and France in the 1200’s.  A great read.

So we can go from 800 AD to about 1400 and then from about 1810 to present day with documentation.  Those years between 1400 and 1800 I am sure will show we were related to several key Irish leaders:

The White Knight – Fitzgibbon who’s ancestors were the Fitzgeralds; Marshall; Roches; Le Bruns or Browns; Bevans and Holloways

To be Continued…

* This fact cannot be established.  It was probably either Hamilton Geale or a Bevan.  There were Holloways in the Family)

** This is not correct – James McGrath listed his father as a McGrath on his marriage license.

***  We have since documented that Jack came over before his mother died in 1883.  Margaret emigrated in May of 1884 and then Bridget, Nell, Tom and Joe came together November 1884.  “See Passenger Lists” on this site.


The school is still there.  It is St. Joseph School for the Deaf in the Bronx.  The original building was turned into a Catholic high school and is on one side of a major highway.  The “new” building is in beautiful condition and still functions as a wonderful resource for deaf children and their families.