Doran (line 1)

From the West of Ireland to Belfast

Family lore said the family came from the West of Ireland, maybe County Clare? Based on DNA analysis this Doran line most likely came from the West, but probably not from County Clare.

The story we heard was that the family relocated to Belfast to work in the prospering linen industry. The Doran men in our line were linen hacklers, mechanics and laborers. Along with finding work in Belfast they also found work in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. 

The Doran men were described as good-looking, rough but affectionate. From the various stories I’ve heard I think they all loved to sing and had good voices. Interest in singing and playing musical instruments has certainly continued down through the current generations. 

The Doran women are equally attractive. We don’t know much about the earlier generations, except they worked hard in the cotton mills of Belfast and possibly also in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland (not too far from Glasgow).

From the available records, and naming patterns, we believe the sequence of generations born and died in Belfast, and surrounding localities in Northern Ireland are possibly as follows. Please note, the oldest two are not verified.

Bernard O’Doran (born ca. 1740)

John Doran (born ca. 1770)

Bernard Doran (1798-1854)*

​John Doran (1838-1899)**

Bernard Doran (1858-1915)***


* Bernard and Ann (Smith) Doran

Bernard Doran and his wife Ann “Nancy” Smythe were probably born between 1790 and 1800 based on the baptism of their daughter Maria. We don’t know where they were born, but Ann “Nancy” Smith was probably living in Shankill, County Armagh as several of their children were baptized there, and at least the first child was usually baptized in the mother’s parish. We believe Bernard and Ann “Nancy” were still alive in 1854. A married couple with their names and a son John were mentioned in a Belfast newspaper article entitled “The Blanket Case.” We have not found another Doran family living in Belfast at that time with the same three names.

The Doran children: Maria, Ellen, Ann, Hannah, John, Catherine, & Bernard.

Maria Doran was christened in the R. C. Church in Dromore Parish, Shankill, County Armagh on February 23, 1823. The sponsors for Maria Doran”s baptism were Andrew McDonnell and Maria Magee.

Six years is a long gap between children, leading us to believe the family may have moved elsewhere, most likely for work, and other children may have been born and possibly died as infants between those years.

We believe their daughter Ellen Doran was born in Shankill, Co. Armagh in 1829.

Ann, most likely named after her mother, was christened in Lurgan Parish, Shankill, Armagh, Ireland, RC Church on October 4, 1831. The sponsors were John O’Brien and Jane Burke.

Hannah Doran was baptised July 12, 1835 in the same parish church. The sponsors were John McGown and Ellen Craney (spelling of her last name is uncertain).

John Doran was born March 10, 1838 in the Union Workhouse, Belfast. He was baptized in St. Patrick’s R. C., Church, County Antrim. The sponsor was Mary Ann Montgomery. John is our Doran family’s direct male ancestor. More about him further on. We’ll just mention here his death date, which was January 2, 1889, in Belfast City.

Catherine was born about 1840 in County Down. She died in the first quarter of 1880 in Belfast, her age was estimated as 40, and she is buried in Milltown Cemetery.

Bernard was born in 1843 and baptized on December 11 of that year at St. Patrick’s R. C. Church. The priest didn’t bother to write down the sponsors names on this page in the baptism log.


** John and Ellen (Little) Doran

The son of Bernard and Ann “Nancy” (Smith) Doran, John Doran was one of the ancestors who sometimes spelled his name Dorran. We use the single R spelling unless quoting a record where it is spelled with 2 Rs.  The pronunciation of the name varies even within our immediate family.  Some use the English version that sounds like door – anne’ and others the Irish version of door’ -en. I have always used the former.

As noted above, John Doran was baptized on March 10, 1838 at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Belfast, County Antrim. He was born in the Union Workhouse, Belfast. The baptism record notes his father’s name is Bernard Doran  and his mother’s maiden name is Ann Smyth, His baptism sponsor was Mary Ann Montgomery. 

John Doran married Ellen Little (aka Lyttle) in Ireland on June 7, 1857. This date was provided on the baptism record of their daughter Anna Dorran’s birth record (dated November 24, 1863). The parents marriage date and place was thankfully a requirement in Scotland because we have not found any other record of their marriage. They may have been married in a non-conforming church. At the time of their daughter’s birth this Doran family was living at McDowell Street, Renfrewshire, district of Johnstone, county of Renfrew, Scotland.

Ellen Little’s birth date, parents and siblings names are hiding behind a huge brick wall that despite every effort we have not been able to break through. We have uncovered some possibilities, but no proof certain.

Their children were Bernard, John, Anna, Maryann, (possibly another John or the first one was re-baptized, which occurred primarily if a child was very ill), Joseph, Catherine (again possibly another Catherine or a re-baptism), Hannah, and finally another John.


*** Bernard Doran and Mary Hall

Bernard Doran was the first child of John and Ellen (Little) Doran. He was born in 1858, when his father was 20 years old. He was baptized at St. Matthews R. C. Church in Ballymacarret, Belfast, County Down. The sponsors at his baptism were Samuel Crawford and Anne Doran. 

Hannah Jane Doran was born November 13, 1882 but not baptized in the Catholic Church until February 9, 1883 at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. Belfast. Sponsor was Mary McCardle. The church record indicates the father was Bernard Doran and the mother was Elizabeth Jane Lee. The address was noted as Unity Street. Later on Hannah went by her mother’s surname Lee. We had seen this baptism record in the past and wondered if her father was our Bernard Doran. We thought there was no way to tell. However, we later had a DNA match with a descendant of Hannah Jane and were able to determine that her father was from this Doran family, but we haven’t yet determined whether her father was Bernard or one of his brothers. The priest did not make a notation that she was born out of wedlock, or that her mother was anything other than Catholic, which they almost always write “Protestant” if not Catholic.  Hannah Jane Doran aka Hannah Lee married Archibald McCracken Jackson (1876-1937) on April 15, 1906 at Trinity Belfast Church of Ireland. Hannah died April 10, 1947.  One reason we question whether Bernard Doran was her father is that on the death record of Bernard’s brother John Doran (1864-1922) there is a notation that his next of kin is his daughter Hannah Jackson. John is closer in age to Hannah’s mother Eliza Jane Lee (1863-?) then Bernard was (b. 1858). So, is this the same Hannah Jackson? Could it be that much of a coincidence? Was Bernard covering up for his younger brother who was probably 17 or 18 at the time? Either way, her descendant is a DNA match so belongs to the Doran clan. 

Bernard was 26 when he married Mary Hall, daughter of William John Hall and Sarah Tierney, on November 15, 1884 at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Belfast. Their witnesses were Michael Barry and Elizabeth McFadden. Bernard Doran lived at 19 Getty Street, Belfast. Mary Hall lived at 5 Springfield Road with her parents and siblings. 

Mary Hall was 20 and pregnant with their first daughter, to be named Ellen after his mother. Her father was a staunch protestant but her mother was a devout Roman Catholic as were her daughters and their daughters. William John Hall and Sarah Tierney had been married in the Church of Ireland Mary Hall and her siblings were baptized Catholic but not until they were several years old, It’s undetermined if they had first been baptized in the Presbyterian Church. The priest did note on her baptism record that her father was a Protestant. 

Mary Hall and Bernard Doran had seven children in all, two of whom (Mary and Catherine) died as infants. They were Ellen (1884-1932), Elizabeth (1886-1933), Bernard (1890-1947), Mary (1891-1892), William John (1893-1961), Joseph (1895-1941), and Catherine (1899-1899).

On May 13, 1899, Mary Hall died at the Belfast Workhouse after having given birth to her daughter Catherine, who died with her. Her address was 35 Marchioness Street, Belfast Ireland.  All of the descendants are in agreement that Bernard Doran decided he couldn’t care for the children so he dropped them off at the door of his sister-in-law Elizabeth Hall (1870-1933), a spinster and devoutly Catholic woman who was devoted to her nieces and nephews for her entire life. It is unclear if they lived with her during all of their childhood, at least we think the girls did since they were older.  Ellen would have been about 15 and Elizabeth 13 at the time of their mother’s death. Certainly old enough to take care of the boys while Elizabeth Hall was at work. Elizabeth Hall would have had to work as she had no other means of support. Bernard basically abandoned the children. Instead of helping with their welfare, he took to ambushing them on their way home from work and demanding money of them!  And yet, Elizabeth Doran described her father as a rough, but affectionate man. He loved music and he had a good singing voice.Unfortunately, he also liked to drink and carouse and was quite popular with woman, at least when he was young. 

Bernard was a Hackler in the linen trade as was his father and grandfather, however he also worked as a laborer from time to time. And other times, he didn’t work. We don’t know if his drinking was the issue or whether he had poor work habits and lost his positions? 

On the 1901 Census of Ireland, the Doran girls are living with their Aunt Elizabeth Hall at 45 Fort Street, Falls Ward, Belfast.  Ellen Dorran (sic) is 16 years old, her occupation is Flax Reeler, She is Roman Catholic and can read and write. Elizabeth Dorran (sic) is 14, a Roman Catholic also a Flax Reeler, can read, Their relationship to Elizabeth Hall, the head of the household, is niece. Elizabeth Hall is 36 years old, a Cotton Dresser (in the cotton mill), unmarried, Roman Catholic, can read and write.  Despite endless searches of the 1901 Census, we are unable to locate Bernard Doran nor his sons, Bernard, William John, and Joseph. They may be in the Belfast Workhouse? One story told to our family was that Bernard Doran lived for a time on a family farm “outside Belfast”. He recalled stories about it. The descendants of the other siblings did not hear the same story. So the children may have been split up for a time after their mother’s death either sent to the Belfast Workhouse with their father or parceled out to family or foster parents. In 1901 the boys would have been quite young; Bernard 11, William John 8, and Joseph 6.  

Bernard Doran, widower, married a second time on December 14, 1907 at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Belfast. His new wife was Mary Kane (aka O’Kane). The witnesses were John Maguire and Alice Maguire. Both fathers were deceased. According to the marriage record Bernard was living at 26 Weaver Street and she was at 30 Weaver Street. 

Mary Kane was born around 1869. In the 1901 Census of Ireland she is age 32, unmarried, living at 33 Weaver Street, Duncairn Ward, Belfast, with her mother, Susanna O’Kane (widow, age 60),  her sister Augusta O’Kane (unmarried, age 36) and two male boarders, Her occupation is Flax Spinner, she can read & write, cannot speak Irish,  She and her mother and sister were born in Belfast. 

As far as we know, Mary Kane and Bernard Doran did not have children together. She does appear to have had a decent relationship with her step-children, even going to visit with them in New Jersey in 1914. 

Mary Kane Doran (age 45) traveled with her “son” Joseph Doran out of Londonderry on the S. S. Columbia. The passenger record says she is going to her “daughter” Nellie McVeigh (aka Ellen/Helen/Nellie Doran). Mary Kane and Jospeh Doran (age 18) arrived in New York on March 16, 1914. They were detained at Ellis Island.  The cause of detention is “LPC Cert 200”. They were admitted the following day.  Her last place of residence in Ireland was with her “cousin” J. Patterson (whose mother was a Hall cousin).Note she was not living with her husband Bernard Doran, who was already in the Belfast Workhouse.  We don’t know if Mary Kane Doran remained in New Jersey or went back to Ireland. Joseph Doran remained in the US, later traveling to Detroit, Michigan and then back to Newark, NJ where he died in 1942. 

Bernard Doran was unable to work and had become destitute toward the end of his life. He died alone in the Belfast Workhouse on June 23, 1915. Source: Belfast indoor relief register 1913-1914. #BG/7/G/105.  record #1723. 


To be continued into the next generation.