Welcome to this site. If you are researching the name PHELAN and have traced your Irish ancestry back to Kilkenny and more specifically to the town of Urlingford, then there is a possibility you may have a connection to some of the people mentioned herein. Five miles south of Urlingford, in the townland of Garryhiggin, is Goresgrove, named after a grove of trees planted on the land of Charles Gore, one of Cromwell's Captains, in the 17th century. A castle was erected there by the Shortall family around 1200 onto which a house had later been built. The buildings have been unoccupied for a century and are now in ruins. The Phelans were farming at Goresgrove, the homestead a few hundred yards from the house and castle of the Gore's, before 1800 and have continued to occupy the same properties to the present day. They were possibly at that spot a good deal earlier but this account is based solely on evidence discovered to date. It will no doubt be expanded in the future.

At the end of the 18th century there were two Phelan families living in adjacent properties. I managed to trace my ancesters back to around 1800 and discovered another Phelan family next door. Meanwhile Milo and Brigid Phelan were also tracing ancesters back to the same spot, which was the farm next door. On combining our research, we discovered that the two families were closely connected. Before the farm was divided it was occupied by John Phelan and on his death, split between his two sons James and Michael. The Popery Act of 1704 required land held (typically in tenancy) by Roman Catholics to be divided equally between all a landholder's sons, (both legitimate and illegitimate), on his death. Known as sub-division, this inheritance practice, designed to keep the Catholic Irish from owning larger areas of land, continued until the middle of the 19th century. Close examination of maps, land surveys and tithe applotments, reveal that the farm at Goresgrove was divided equally around 1800 in terms of area and economic value. There is a straight line between the two farms which extends up the hill behind the houses, and is even evident in the vertical join in the wall at the front of the farms.

In house No. 1 was the family of James Phelan (1793-1871). He was married to Ellen Dullard (1798-1868) and had seven children, whilst next door his brother Michael Phelan had married Martha Colclough in 1819. Sons of both families continued to work the land whilst other siblings emigrated, married and moved away from the immediate area, or left to join religious orders.

James was succeeded by his eldest son Michael (1822-1903) who married Johanna Hennessy from Threecastles. They had six children and it was their second son William (1870-1952) who took over the farm. William had 15 children of whom 12 survived and it was Pake (1922-1966) who married Maureen Breen and remained at Goresgrove. Of his 11 children it is Billy and his wife Geraldine who farm there today.

Meanwhile next door, Michael Phelan was succeeded by his sons William Michael (1819-1892) and Kyran (1821-1899). In 1850 William Michael left for a new future in America leaving Kyran to run the farm. Kyran married Margaret Bergin (1832-1879) in 1854 and they had 9 children, 4 of whom died young. He in turn handed over to his second son William (1861-1935), also known as Big Bill, who married Catherine Cummins. Two of Bill's sons William (1912-1980) and Michael (1915-2002) continued this tradition but as neither married, the farm was passed on to their younger sister Mai (1920-2002) on the death of Michael. Mai married James Fitzgerald (1905-1978) and it is their son Michael and his wife Noelle and family who are living at Goresgrove today.

More recent research has revealed a third Phelan family living in close proximity, that of John Phelan of Kildrina (died 1868), who was also related to the Phelans of Goresgrove. He was married to Mary Tobin (1778-1860) and had sons John, James and Richard who were all heavily involved with the Land League in the 1880s.

The aim of this site is to bring together the research done so far and to share it with a wider audience. And to gather together historical documents and images which, hopefully will be a source of interest to many. Thanks go to all involved in this research, and especially to the late Margaret Hayes who took an interest in the family story whilst researching her excellent and informative book on the history of the parish of Urlingford and Graine, "Halfway Between Dublin And Cork".