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Doran: James Alexander




"Spes Anchora Vitae"
Hope is the anchor of life.


James Alexander Doran (1913-1982). Photograph from Maire McKenna.
James Alexander Doran (1913-1982). Photograph courtesy of M. McKenna. Copyright 2016.

This photograph of James Alexander Doran was possibly taken for his First Holy Communion at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in West Belfast, Northern Ireland. The picture is from his daughter, (name withheld for privacy reasons), who has been trying for a very long time to find out more about her father, and her grandparents. She has asked Genealogy Sisters to try and help in her family research.

James Alexander Doran was born on November 30th, 1913 in Belfast to James Doran and Sophia Doran, formerly Smyth. They lived at 51 Fifth Street in West Belfast. So far we have not been able to find the marriage record of his parents. After his parents weren't able to raise him, the priest from St. Peter’s RC Church in West Belfast, placed him with a family called Hutchinson, when he was around three years old. These sisters raised him along with Mary Elizabeth O’Neill and Angela Brown, two other young children in need of a home. James Alexander Doran married Theresa Graham in Belfast. She was born April 8th, 1918 in Belfast. They raised a family and eventually emigrated to the United States. James Doran came in 1953 to Detroit, Michigan from Belfast, and in 1955 Theresa Doran came with their children. James Alexander Doran died in Sarasota, Florida on January 7, 1982.

Birth Record for James Alexander Doran - Source:

The Doran family had a birth record for James Alexander Doran, and he always used the birthday of November 30th, 1913. So far we haven't been able to find a baptismal record. It is possible that Sophia Smyth was a Protestant and there was conflict in her family about her marriage to a Roman Catholic, or vice versus. Since we can't find a marriage record there is uncertainty as to what names his grandparents went by.

From the 1911 Irish Census it looks like the Hutchinson family lived at 12 Sevastapol Street, West Belfast, in the heart of the area called The Old Pound Loney. This neighborhood was near St. Peter's twin spires that dominated the landscape. My Doran family also lived in this neighborhood, but so far we haven't found a connection between the families. Jane Roach Hutchinson was the matriarch of the family, and her unmarried daughters - Ellen, Ann Jane, and Maggie lived with her. Jane's husband, James, had died previously. They also had at least two other children - James and Henry Hutchinson. The Hutchinson's had a niece Maria Carney or Kearney that also helped raise James Doran. This photograph below shows them together.

James Alexander Doran with Maria Kearney taken in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph from Maire McKenna.
James Alexander Doran with Maria Kearney taken in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph courtesy of M.McKenna. Copyright 2016.

Young boys often wore toddler dresses, along with the girls. After they were toilet trained they were considered "Breeched" and then often wore short pants or knickers, until about the age of ten when they started wearing trousers. Young James Doran is so adorable and by comparing the first photograph you can see he became a fine looking young man.

Maria Kearney did give the Doran family a few more nuggets of information. When James was very young she took him to the Banbridge Market in County Down. James remembered a young woman coming up the hill and speaking to his aunt Maria. She said he looked small for his age compared to her brothers, who were all big. After she left, Maria told him that that lady is your mother. Also living with James Alexander Doran after he was placed with the Hutchinson family were two other girls. Mary Elizabeth O'Neill was born in the Belfast Workhouse and the priest at St. Peter's also placed her with this family, along with another young girl named Angela Brown. James was the oldest, then Angela, and then Mary.

It is unclear who Sophia Smyth Doran's parents were. There were quite a few Smyth/Smith families from the Banbridge and Gilbert areas. It also is unknown if she went by her maiden name or Doran, after she left her son in the care of the priest at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church. The only other fact known is that she had red hair.

Looking into the name Sophia Smyth, there was a child born in 1892 in Gilford, County Down to Isaac and Annie Smyth. This Sophia had a twin named Alexander. Sadly this Sophia died at the age of three from croup in 1896. Isaac Smyth had a brother, Francis Smyth. Francis and Elizabeth Smyth also had a child named Sophia, born 1 February 1884 in Banbridge. This Sophia Smyth married Robert Burns in 1907 in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Ireland. These two Sophia Smyths were baptized Protestant in the Church of Ireland. Another Sophia Smith was born 21 May 1889 in Holywood, County Down to John Smyth and June Mulloney. She was Roman Catholic. Looking at birth records from these are the only Sophia Smyth/Smith birth records for the counties of Antrim and Down during this time period.

Next we looked at the 1911 Irish Census for Sophia Smyth. There was a Sophia Smyth, age 27, single, working at the White Abbey Girls School in the White Abbey District of County Antrim. But there was also a Sophia Smyth, in Belfast living at 8 Derby Street, in the Smithfield District of Belfast. Sophia Smyth was 21, single, could read and write, RC, occupation seamstress, and lived with her father, John Smyth, age 46, a widower, and two siblings Sarah - age 19 and Edward - age 14. Sophia, and her father, John, were both born in County Down, and her two siblings in Belfast. It is possible she had more siblings that had already moved out. This Sophia Smyth/Smith seems to match the one born in 1889 [Source:].

Searching for the James Doran that was the father of James Alexander Doran is a more difficult task. The name was very common in both Antrim and Down counties. First I looked for any James and Sophia Doran families in the 1911 Irish Census, and found none. In County Antrim, during the 1911 Irish Census there were eleven matches for James Doran. Some were infants or young children, and of the rest, most were married with families. There was one that seems a possible match. This was James Doran, age 25, single, RC, could read and write, occupation a laborer, born in Belfast, living at 11 Oakfield Street, in the Clifton District of Belfast, in County Antrim. He lived with his mother Mary Doran, a widow, age 55, occupation of weaver, and she was born in Ballynahinch, a town in County Down next to Banbridge. She had had two children with only one living.

Looking at Irish Birth Records for any James Doran born in Antrim or Down gave four matches, one of which we have previously researched. James McCann Doran was born 10 May 1886 in Belfast to Patrick and Minnie Ohagen Doran. They lived at 58 Raglan Street, and this James was baptized at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church. Another Doran researcher, Eileen, had previously looked into this James Doran and it is thought he emigrated on 11 October 1909 from Belfast to the United States, and settled in Kansas City, Missouri, were he died in 1961.

Also listed: James Bernard Doran, born in County Down on 20 December 1886, and baptized Roman Catholic in Annaghlone, parents Patrick Doran and Ellen McClory; James Patrick Doran born 18 March 1886, baptized Roman Catholic at St. Peter's, parents Edward Doran and Elizabeth Conway. living at 7 Cairs Street, Belfast; James Dorrian, born 22 October 1885, Civil Record, parents John Dorrain a Sailor and Elizabeth Whiteside, living at 31 Hillview Street, Belfast. Looking at the years before and after 1886, there was a James Doran baptized on 26 May, Roman Catholic, parents James Doran and Mary Magee, no address, Parish of Clonallon, County Down. It looks like Clonallon is near Warrenpoint. In 1885 there was a James Doran born  on 20 April, 1885, Roman Catholic, parents Hugh Doran and Ann Mackin, address of Lurganreagh, Parish of Kilkeel, Upper Mourne, County Down []

I think you can pick almost any year during the late 18th century in the Belfast area and find at least one James Doran born!

There were so many James Dorans that died after 1913 in the Belfast area, that it is hard to pin down which could have been the father of James Alexander Doran. He may also have been in ill health, or enlisted in World War One and killed or disabled, or unable to care for his son.

If anyone has any information on this Doran family from Belfast, please share with us, and we will in turn pass on the information. The Doran clan believes in hope!

Copyright 2016 by Maryann Doran Barnes and Genealogy Sisters.



1) The descendant of James Alexander Doran asked if the Genealogy Sisters, also being Dorans, could help her find out more about her Doran and Symth family She gave us direcct permission to write about her ancestry in the hopes that one or more persons who know of James Alexander's parentage will come forward with new information. Please contact Genealogy Sisters and we will forward your message on.

2) While researching the Doran family Genealogy Sisters has compiled information about other Dorans that we would like to share with other researchers. Click here to see that stuff.