Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mary Jo Mullane Coyle ; Believer in Dreams

 My mother was not able to meet this grandmother of hers. Mary Jo was looking forward to her first grandchild’s birth and bought a little bracelet for the upcoming baby. However, Mary Jo died in December and my mother was born in March.

Mary Josephine Mullane Coyle
3 Aug 1867 Ireland – 17 December 1927 NY
My Great Grandmother
Mary Josephine Mullane Coyle

Mary Josephine Mullane was the daughter of Daniel Mullane & Brigid English. She was the oldest of 11 children. Of those 11 these siblings grew to adulthood: Timothy, Ellen, Frances, Daniel & Julia. The family lived in Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland.

In 1885 Mary Jo and her cousin Mary Pollack traveled to Queenstown/Cobh and boarded the SS Britannic for a journey to the United States. They arrived in New York City on 25 May 1885.[1],[2]

In New York City, Mary Jo met Michael Coyle, son of Patrick Coyle & Margaret Brady, when they were in the same boarding house. She was walking down a flight of stairs and he was starting up those stairs. She thought he was very handsome. He saw her and instantly fell in love.[3] They were married on 9 November, 1895 by Father Patrick F. McSweeny, the pastor at Saint Brigid’s Church.

My grandmother was the oldest of Mary Jo’s 7 children. Helen was born 9 January 1897.[4] The next child, Francis Patrick, died as a toddler. Mary Jo had four more daughters and another son.

On 2 June 1900 a Federal Census taker visited the little Coyle family at their home at 159 113th Street in Manhattan. The enumerator listed Michael as a baker in a bake shop. Mary Jo was listed as a mother of three children; two living. Their daughters were listed as Nellie and Mary. [5] In 1910 they were renting an apartment on Third Avenue. Michael was still working as a baker. Mary Jo was the mother of five; four living.[6]

Mary Jo kept in touch with her family in Ireland. In September 1910 two of Mary Jo’s siblings arrived for a visit.  Timothy Mullane was 36 years old.  He was a laborer in Ireland. Ellen Mullane was 39 years old and a servant in Ireland. [7] In February 1914 the Coyles got another visit from Mary Jo’s sister, Ellen Mullane.[8]

Michael and Mary Jo’s children continued to grow. Mary Jo always remembered her first son, Francis.  She would take Lillian and Kathleen  to visit their brother’s grave at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.   They would take a picnic lunch because the trip would take most of the day.  Kathleen remembered taking three different trolleys to get there. Mary Jo would carry a little bouquet of forget-me-nots to place on her son’s grave.  She’d sit under a large oak tree and pray.  The little girls would sing and dance among the graves.   Kathleen thought of the cemetery as a fun place and not morbid at all.  It was just a place to visit her brother; a brother who had died 17 years before she was born. One night, Mary Jo had a dream.  In the dream, a man came and spoke to her.  He said she had been visiting the wrong grave.  The next day, Mary Jo took her youngest child by the hand and walked to the trolley for the long trip to the cemetery.  She went straight to the office. Mary Jo asked about the location of Francis’ grave.  His grave had no headstone.  Headstones were very expensive.  The gentleman in the office led Mary Jo and Billie to the spot where Francis was buried.  Mary Jo had, indeed, been visiting the wrong grave site.  She bent over and placed delicate forget-me-nots on the right spot.  She sat down and prayed silently. [9]

The 1920 Census is important in the history of the Coyle family because it is the only census to show the whole family: Michael, Mary Jo and their six living children, ages 23 to 3 years old. Michael was still a baker.[10] By the 1925 NYS census their oldest daughter was married.[11]

Dreams and intuition have always had an important role in our family.  In 1920, Mary Jo had a strange feeling about her mother, Brigid English Mullane.  According to Kathleen, her mother sometimes had these feelings about things that were about to happen.  Mary Jo thought her mother was ill.  In May 1920 she applied for a U. S. Passport.  On the application she said she intended to go to Ireland to “visit my mother.” The passport photo of Mary Jo included daughters Lillian and Kathleen who were to accompany her. The passport described Mary Jo: 4’ 10” tall; high forehead, blue eyes; brown hair; fair complexion; and a round face. She planned on leave on 24 July 1920 on the vessel Celtic. [12]  She packed a trunk with everything she would need for herself and “the kids”.  Mary Jo, Lillian and Kathleen headed by ship to Ireland.[13] When the trio arrived in Clonmel, Mary Jo found her mother in good health.  Relieved, they settled in for a good visit.  Just months after they returned to their New York City home, Mary Jo received word that her mother died.  Brigid English Mullane died 28 November 1920. Mary Jo’s premonitions had been correct after all.[14]

Mary Josephine died 17 December 1927.[15] Her death certificate gives Cardiac Respiratory Failure as the cause of death. My mother told me that Mary Jo’s health issues began with an infected tooth. Mary Jo’s youngest daughter was just 11 years old. On 20 December she was buried at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery.[16] The funeral, including a solid oak casket, a hearse, 2 auto coaches, opening the grave, embalming and flowers, cost $564.65.[17]

[1] New York Passenger Lists 1820 - 1957, Microfilm #M237-486; S. S. Britannic, arrival 25 May 1885; Passengers: Mary Mullane & Mary A. Pollack.
[2] Castle Garden Web Site. Ship: Britannic; Arrived 25 May 1885. Port: Liverpool & Queenstown; Mary Mullane.
[3] Interview with Kathleen Coyle [daughter of Michael], January 2006.
[4] Certificate and Record of Birth; 1897; City of New York Department of Health, State of NY, Manhattan, #2566: Nellie Coyle, born 9 Jan 1897.
[5] 1900 United States Census, Manhattan, New York; Vol. 178, E. D. 930, Sheet 2, Line 72; NYS Library, Albany, NY; Microfilm Box #120.  Michael Coyle family at 159 E 113 Street, Manhattan. 
[6] 1910 US Census, Third Avenue, Ward 12, Manhattan, NY City, NY, S. D. 1, E. D. 330, Sheets 16 A & B. Michael Coyle family.
[7] New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, S. S. Oceanic from Queenstown, Ireland to New York, September 1910.
[8] New York Passenger Lists 1820 - 1957, microfilm #T715-2260; S. S. Oceanic, page 115, February 1914. Ellen Mullane.
[9] Interview with Kathleen G. Coyle, August 2000.
[10] 1920 US Census, New York City, NY, Vol. 279, E. D. 1292, Sheet 18, Line 70; NYS Library, Albany, NY.  Michael Coyle family, 223 E 113th.
[11] 1925 New York State Census, New York Co, Microfilm Box #151, AD 18, ED 32, Page 47, NYS Library, Albany, NY.  Michael Coyle family at 223 E 113th.
[12] 1925 New York State Census, New York Co, Microfilm Box #151, AD 18, ED 32, Page 47, NYS Library, Albany, NY.  Michael Coyle family at 223 E 113th.
[13] Interview with Kathleen G. Coyle, August 2000.
[14] Pedigree Chart for Kathleen Coyle prepared by Kathleen Coyle.
[15] Certificate of Death for Mary Josephine Coyle, 17 December 1927, certificate #8271; State of New York, Dept. of Health of the City of New York, Bureau of Records.
[16] May 1993 letter from : The Trustees of St. Patrick's Cathedral; Gate of Heaven Cemetery; Stevens Avenue; Hawthorne; NY; 10532.
[17] Receipt for burial of Mary J. Coyle, from John J. Meagher, General Furnishing Undertaker and Licensed Embalmer (3483 Third Avenue, New York City), 20 December 1927.


  1. Wow -- what interesting stories of dreams and premonitions! Almost spooky.

    But I sat up when I saw "Mary Pollack" because that's my sister's married name although her husband's family spells it "PollOck."

  2. Awesome - it's great she acted on her dreams and found the proper gravesite for Francis. Gret story.


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