Robert Nolan and Mary Byrne are to date the earliest known ancestors of our branch of the Nolan family. Robert and Mary were the parents of six children:

  1. Johanna Nolan (1831-1903) – umarried [Ballyleen]
  2. James Nolan (1833-)
  3. Mary Anne Nolan (1837-)
  4. Patrick Nolan (1839-1919) – married Elizabeth Murphy [Bahana]
  5. John David Nolan (1840-1921) – married Annie O’Sullivan [Australia]
  6. Robert Nolan (1845-1901) – married Bridget Dalton [Ballyleen]

I’ve started this page to gather the verified information that we have on this branch of the Nolan family. Tracing genealogy in Ireland is not easy, and it’s common for loose guesses to make their way through family trees as apparent fact.

Irish genealogy

As a very rough guide to where the problems lie:

  • 20th Century (1900 onwards): Good information sources, 1901/1911 censuses, etc. – mean that most information is good for this period.
  • 19th Century (1800-1900): This century starts out pretty grey, but after 1850 things become clearer.
  • 18th Century (1799 and before): Church records are sparse, very few state records exist, many similar names in the same region – this leads to a lot of difficulty in verifying ancestors in this period.

What is very common on Ancestry is to see family trees with ancestors born in Kerry, having children in Mayo, and counted in censuses in other places. These are almost always wrong. People moved around very, very little before about 1850. Indeed, even within a county in Ireland (in our case Carlow), it was unusual to see movement from one parish, or even townland, to another.

This means that in trying to find birth or marriage records, someone living in Ballyleen (like Robert) is unlikely to have been born somewhere relatively far away like Carlow town or Myshall – even if a temptingly matching record exists. With that in mind, let’s see what we can put together for Robert and Mary. Source references will be in [brackets].

Robert Nolan (‘the first’) and Mary Byrne

Robert Nolan – known facts

  • Robert was the leaseholder of 12 acres of land at Ballyleen in 1848, leased from the owner William Deering. [Griffiths Valuation 1852].
  • Robert died on March 8th, 1882, at Bahana, St. Mullins. He was married, aged 74, a farmer. He had been ill for a year. His son Robert Nolan was present at his death. [State record >]. Based on this, Robert was born sometime between March 8th, 1808 and March 9th, 1807. Most likely year is 1807. Ages were often given incorrectly, however, so it’s not watertight.

Mary Byrne – known facts

  • We know almost nothing about Mary Byrne!
  • She had six children with Robert Nolan from 1831-1845, all born at Ballyleen, Co. Carlow.
  • A witness at birth of second child was Margaret Byrne.
  • A witness at birth of sixth child was Martin Byrne.
  • A Mary Byrne was baptised in March 1795 in Ballylean. Father James Byrne, mother Margaret. Sponsors: James Brophy, Mary Brophy. This could be our Mary, but her last son Robert was born in 1845, placing her at age 50. Possible but a stretch. Still, a Margaret Byrne was a witness at James Nolan’s birth in 1833.

Their children:

1. Johanna Nolan

Johanna Nolan was Robert and Mary’s first child, born around 1831 [based on given age at death]. She died on Jun 17th, 1903 at Ballyleen, from chronic rheumatism, a condition she had for 22 years. Present at death: Bridget Dalton (Robert Nolan’s wife). We know very little about Johanna’s life, so far.

2. James Nolan

James Nolan was baptised on 10th June, 1833 [Church record >]. Witnesses were John Nolan, and Margaret Byrne. Nothing further about James is known.

3. Mary Anne Nolan

Mary Anne was baptised June 13, 1837 at Ballon church. Location of family noted as Ballinvally, which is essentially the same place as Ballyleen. Witnesses Laurence Nolan and Joanna Murphy.

We think that Mary Anne emigrated to Australia, but no details yet.

  • A Mary A. Nolan died in Adelaide in 1893, aged 58, so born c. 1835 (in Ireland). Widowed. >. Arrived on the ship “Hawk”. Residing in Norwood. A maybe. Adelaide a long way from Melbourne, where brother John D. was.

4. Patrick Nolan [x Elizabeth Murphy]

Patrick Nolan married Elizabeth Murphy. Our direct ancestor for the “New Ross Nolans”. They had nine children:
1. Mary Nolan
2. James Patrick Nolan (1884-1940)
3. Robert Nolan (1886-1956)
4. John (Jack) Nolan (1887-)
5. Anna (Nan) Nolan (1889-1957)
6. Patrick Nolan (1891-1970). Married Mary Ann Roche, 7 children: Elizabeth (1935), Marcella (1936), Anne (1938), Patrick (1940), Robert (1943), John (1945), Michael (1947). New Ross, Co. Wexford.

Patrick and Mary Anne (Roche) Nolan c. 1930
Cellie, John, and Betty Nolan c. 1965.

7. Elizabeth (Cissie) Nolan (1893-)
8. Michael Joseph Nolan (1895-1972)
9. Johanna (Hannie) Nolan (1896-)
10. Catherine (Katie) Nolan (1898-)

5. John David Nolan [x Annie O’Sullivan]

John David Nolan was born 28th June, 1840, the fifth child of Robert Nolan and Mary Byrne. He emigrated to Australia, possibly in 1858. There he settled in Melbourne, and married Annie O’Sullivan on 14 Feb 1879. Annie was the daughter of Richard Carew O’Sullivan from Mallow, Co. Cork, and Bridget Kelly.

John David Nolan is centre, back, beside his daughter Mary Florence Nolan, marrying Arthur Wiley (seated) – 1910.

John and Annie had seven children:
1. Robert Nolan
2. Lucy Elizabeth Nolan
3. Ellen Theresa Nolan
4. Annie Jospehine Nolan
5. Mary Florence Nolan
6. William Patrick Nolan
7. Mary Somers Nolan

6. Robert Nolan [x Bridget Dalton]

Robert Nolan was the youngest child of Robert & Mary. He was baptised on March 16th, 1845, and the family was noted as living in Ballyleen. Witnesses were Martin Byrne and Joanna Nolan.

Baptism Robert Nolan, Ballon church – 16th March, 1845. [Church baptisms, Ballon parish >]

Robert married Bridget Dalton in 1882, on Sept 17th. Although he states his age as “35”, he was in fact 37. At this point he is a farmer, still living in Ballyleen. His father Robert had just died in March of that year. Bridget was just 17 when she got married, the daughter of Redmond Dalton, a farmer at Coolnamara. The witnesses were Patrick Nolan and Bridget Lennon.

Robert and Bridget had the following children:
1. Ann Marie Brigid Nolan. Born c.1882. Died 7 Sep 1973 in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. Annie also emigrated to Australia, and married a Clarence Ryan, as far as I can recall from conversations long ago. He was a sheep rancher (from Co. Tipperary). They had no children. [Mairead]
2. James Patrick Nolan (Jim). Born 29 Oct 1883. Died 7 Mar 1973 in Proserpine, Queensland, Australia. Jim Nolan lived briefly in Liverpool, working at a glass factory before emigrating to Australia, where he joined the Queensland Police in Gympie, subsequently signing up with the Army toward the end of WW1. He married Mary Elizabeth Agnes McNeill in 1920. His descendants are in touch with mum and her siblings and have visited Ireland [Mairead L, Ancestry]. [DOB stated as 1 Nov 1888 in his WW1 draft paper, but may have been misstated >]
3. John Joseph Nolan. Born 29 Sep 1884 at Ballyleen. Died 7 April 1972 in Warrnambool City, Victoria, Australia.
4. Patrick Francis Nolan (Paddy). Born 30 May 1886 at Coolnamara. Died 15 Mar 1962 in Borris. Paddy emigrated to Canada but returned to Ireland disfigured by frostbite, married, and farmed in the south Carlow area. [source: Mairead L]
5. Robert Nolan (Bob). Born 28 Jun 1888 at Ballon. Bob moved to Liverpool and died there in 1974.
6. Michael Patrick Nolan. Married Annie Dalton and had eight children: John, Tom, Mike, Oliver, Robbie, Nancy, Anastasia and Birdie. Stayed in Ireland. Anastasias’s daughter Mairead L. has shared some Nolan family stories on this page.

Robert died before the 1901 census, at which point his wife Bridget Dalton is listed as the head of household.


Ballyleen (also spelled Ballylean, Ballyleon, and others) is a townland of 415 acres in the barony of Forth, parish of Ballon, Co. Carlow. The Irish name for Ballyleen is Baile Líon (Town of the Flax). This was the home of Robert Nolan and Mary Byrne.

Location of Ballyleen, Co. Carlow, home of Robert Nolan (click for Google Maps)

In 1852, Robert Nolan‘s farm is listed in the Grifiths Valuation of Ireland, depicted as “Lot 3”. The land was leased from William Deering.

Today, the same farm boundary remains (though it is not any longer in the family). From the satellite view I spotted a house which looked like it could have been Robert’s – and this was confirmed by my uncle John Nolan from Florida. He and his brother Robert have visited the location, though another trip to look more closely at the house would be worthwhile. The land was about 12 acres, and John tells me that the family was known as the “Nolans of the 12 acres“. In the mid 19th century, there were dozens of Nolan families in the area, so each one got some kind of moniker to identify them.

The house where Robert Nolan and Mary Byrne lived, as confirmed by John Nolan (Florida). From Google Street View.

Andrew and Peter Nolan
Right across the road is a larger piece of land – 37 acres – listed in the same valuation of 1852 as being owned by Charlotte Symes, and leased to Matthew Devereaux. As we’ll see later on, this land was farmed by Peter Nolan, and later his son Andrew Nolan, dating back to at least 1819. There is little question that these are close family of Robert Nolan. We’ll dig into that a little later.

1866 – Landed Estates record

Source: >

In 1866, marked as Lot 4 “Y” above, Robert Nolan’s leased land is put up for sale as part of a larger land sale. The lot is owned by George S. Wybrants and subleased to William M. Deering. There seems to have been some legal discussion around the leases and owners. The land didn’t sell at first offer in July 1866, but appears to have been sold in December, to a John Watson. There is no specific mention of Nolans in this transaction.

William M. Deering (also Deerin), the lessor of Nolans land, is quite likely the same William Martin Deering that was a merchant (grocer, draper, wine, and other things) in Market Square in Tullow, the largest nearby town. He died in 1881, aged 75. [Will >]. There are no other William Deerings mentioned in Carlow in the 19th century. In 1848 William Martin Deerin was a grocer in Hacketstown.

Family story from Mairead L.

Mairead says: My mother Anastasia is the daughter of Michael Nolan and Annie Dalton. They lived in Coolnamara, Borris, Co Carlow. Michael Nolan was the son of Robert Nolan and Bridget [Dalton] (not sure of her maiden name). I believe Robert was from Ballon.

I don’t know of anyone in the Michael Nolan/Annie Dalton family who has done any research (that would be my mother, Anastasia aka Anna, her sisters Brigid aka Birdie Ryan, Anna Maria aka Nancy Coonan, brothers Robbie (RIP), Oliver (RIP), Mike, Tom, or John). Same goes for anyone in the next generation, a huge pity. I’ll see if my mum can come up with anything. She did say once that she believed her grandfather (Michael Nolan’s father, Robert) may have been an overseer or manager of an estate or large farm, but I need to pin her down on that. Yes, Robert Nolan [junior] emigrated to Liverpool (he was known as Bob). His family and descendants remained in England – several generations now of course. Mum met some of them many years ago. I believe Bob joined the British submarine service during WW2 and managed to survive. Another brother of Bob and Michael Nolan, Jim Nolan, lived briefly in Liverpool, working at a glass factory before emigrating to Australia, where he joined the Queensland Police, subsequently signing up with the Army toward the end of WW1. His descendants are in touch with mum and her siblings and have visited Ireland. The older generation (first cousins of mum) are now very old, but one second cousin in particular keeps in touch (Dr. Susan Harrington). The older generation lived for the most part in Queensland, around Cairns/Proserpine, with one in Mount Isa. Michael, Robert and Jim’s sister Annie also emigrated to Australia, and married a Clarence Ryan, as far as I can recall from conversations long ago. He was a sheep rancher (from Co. Tipperary). They had no children. There was a brother Paddy who emigrated to Canada but returned to Ireland disfigured by frostbite, married, and farmed in the south Carlow area. I’ll find out what I can about him and his family.

Just remembered the name of one of Paddy Nolan’s daughters – Nellie (Ryan) of Ballytiglea, Borris. She was a district midwife/nurse and excellent Irish dancer.

Early Ball

A series of Robert Nolan’s

From a conversation with Fr. Robert Nolan (Adamstown), in 2023.

Robert James Nolan. “One day I was working behind the bar at my fathers pub in Quay Street, New Ross. A man came in, wearing a kind off-white raincoat with a belt around it. He was a vet at the Clover Meats factory in Waterford. My father later told me that his name was Robert James Nolan, and that he was family of ours. He was from Tiniclash, near Ballon, Co. Carlow, and his father was James Robert Nolan. My father would not have said he was family if he wasn’t closely related; he kept quiet mostly and only said what needed to be said.”

Another Robert Nolan was born in 1877 at Bahana. His parents were Robert Nolan and Bridget Murphy, but he was marked as illegitimate. I would have found this many years ago in a record book someplace. Never found who this Robert Nolan was.

A Paddy Nolan went out to Canada and farmed, then came back to Ireland wealthy and farmed near Borris.

Patrick Nolan, my father. Had an air of an aristocrat of sorts. Lost his hair in the Big Flu of 1918, and was always self-conscious of this later. Usually appeared in photographs wearing a hat. He had a tall stature and always told people to stand up straight and get your hands out of your pocket.

Lawrence Murphy went out to Tecumseh and set up a school there. His children set up a school in Seattle called the Murphy Griffin School, still there today. There was a hedge school in Ballyknock around the late 1700’s. Lawrence obit says he was educated at “Graig College” in Ireland, but there’s no such place. A bit of Irish blarney.

Unsolved mysteries – 2022

John Nolan in Melbourne, 1858.

The Age, Melbourne, 21 June 1858. [>]

A personal ad from 1858 in Melbourne: “IF this should meet the eye of John Nolan, from Ball(o)n, County Carlow, let him write to John Dunphy … as he has some news from his brother Micha(e)l, who is in America. This man sailed from London, in 1850 or 1851.”

Who was this John Nolan from Ballon? It’s not likely our John David Nolan, who would only have been 10 in 1850 and didn’t go to Australia until, we think, 1858 – nor did he have a brother Michael in America. But Ballon is the origin of our family, so it may be a relative.

Robert Nolan and Mary Byrne: We still know very little about our earliest ancestor – Robert Nolan. Who knows more?

Mary Anne Nolan (1837-): did she emigrate to Australia?

Genealogy – research

Ballyleen records 1788-1795

1700's: Ballylean as place in Ballon records
Source: Pat Purcell Papers [>]

1787, 1788 no births
1789 08 26 Birth: Byrne, Mary Father: Byrne, John Mother: Elizabeth Sponsors: Brophy, William & Reddy, Mary Ballyleen
1790 12 05 Birth: Clear, Daniel Father: Clear, Daniel , Mary Whelon, Michael Kinsella, Catherine Ballyleen
1791 06 24 Birth: Byrne, Thomas Father: Byrne, James, Margaret   Mulligan, Thady Brophy, Margaret Ballylean [>]
1793 11 07 Birth: Nowlan, Ann Father: Nowlan, Denis, Mother: Mary, Dunn, John Kelly, Ann Ballylean
1795 03 00 Birth: Byrne, Mary. Father: Byrne, James. Mother: Margaret. Sponsors: James Brophy, Mary Brophy. Ballylean

Note: Each year only on average only one birth recorded in Ballyleen

Ballyleen entries 1820-1890: (as Ballylean or Ballyleen)
Source: Roots Ireland >

27 Aug 1820. Baptism of Mary Nowlan. Ballylean, Ballon. Father Simon Nowlan, mother Catherine Nowlan. Sponsor: Peter Nolan, Mary Byrne. 
02 Aug 1828. Baptism of Charles Sutton. Father Charles Sutton, mother Margaret Nolan. Sponsors: Thomas Tracy, Winifred Brown.
30 Jan 1831. Baptism of James Sutten. Ballylean. Father James Sutten, mother Margaret Nolan. Sponsor: Mathew Nolan.
12 Apr 1831. Baptism of Anne Sutten. Ballylean, Ballon. Father Garret Sutten, mother Judeth Nolan. Sponsor: Michael Nolan, Margaret Nolan.
18 Jan 1835. Baptism of Joanne Farrell, father Patrick Farrell, mother Ally Nolan. Sponsor: Catherine Nolan.

25 Mar 1839. Bapt. of Patrick Nolan (ours), father Robert Nolan, mother Mary Byrne. Sponsor: Michel Nolan, Elizabeth Nolan.
09 Mar 1851. Baptism of Ellen Nolan, father John Nolan, mother Lucy Redmond 
13 Sep 1851. Bapt. of John Nolan, father James Nolan, mother Anne Murphy. 

03 May 1874. Bapt of Richard Nolan, father Patrick Nolan, mother Mary Brophy. 
30 Aug 1874. Baptism of Elizabeth Nolan. Ballylean, Ballon. Father: Mathew Nolan, mother Sarah Kearny.
14 May 1876. Bapt of Mary Nolan, father Patrick Nolan, mother Mary Brophy.

30 Sep 1884. Bapt of John Joseph Nolan, father Robert Nolan, mother not recorded. Sponsors: John Kealy, Mary Nolan.
02 Jun 1886. Bapt of Patrick Francis Nolan, father Robert Nolan, mother Bridget Dalton. Sponsors: Thomas Dalton, Joanne Nolan.
07 Sep 1890. Bapt of Michael Nolan, father Robert Nolan, mother Bridget Dalton. Sponsors: John Tracey, Catherine Nolan.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • em sweeney says:

    i think that a brother of Bridget Dalton, Andrew Dalton, married a Bridget Murphy from Ballymurphy either before/after they emigrated to Australia. They lived in Mount Morgan, Queensland.

    This Bridget Dalton was married to Robert Nolan.

    If you require further information on the Daltons, I may be able to help.

    • Zee Family says:

      Hi Em! Wow, that is interesting. I would love to hear more about this! We know very little about these early Nolans and Daltons, and it would be great to get any additional information that you have. If you like you can email me at – thanks so much!

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