It is not known where John was born but it seems he was not a native of the townland of Cloonfeacle (in the parish of Kiltoghert) where he eventually ran his farm. The Tithe Applotment Books, compiled for Co. Leitrim in 1833, do not list any Morahan householders in Cloonfeacle, but by 1856 when Griffith's Valuation was carried out for Kiltoghert, John was farming in Cloonfeacle. He may well have come from the parish of Kiltoghert as there is an entry in the Irish Linen Board's 1796 list of flax growers for a James Moraghan (Moraghan is synonymous with Morahan) who grew flax in Kiltoghert. Could James have been related to John? And according to Griffith's Valuation, carried out for Co. Leitrim in 1856 and 1857, there were a number of other Morahans in Co. Leitrim at that time, all of them living in Kiltoghert, John being the only Morahan in the townland of Cloonfeacle.
It has been suggested that John may have been born in Co. Roscommon or had family connections in the county. This could well be true; although John had died by the time of the 1901 census, if one looks at the returns of the six Morahan households in Co. Leitrim at the time of the census, it can be seen that five of the six heads of household give their place of birth as Co. Roscommon (John's son, Owen, being the exception), and five of the six heads of household, including Owen, had wives who were born in Co. Roscommon. Furthermore I am told that many Morahan and Moraghan families in the area have roots in the Boyle/Cootehall region of Co. Roscommon (less than 12 miles from Cloonfeacle).
In case there is a connection between John's family and the other five Morahan families from the Co. Leitrim census returns, here are their details (with county of birth being Leitrim unless otherwise specified):
TOWNLAND / PARISH / HEAD / OCCUPATION / OTHER OCCUPANTS (family members only; servants, etc. not included):
Drumod town / Annaduff / Peter (35) / publican/widower (b. Co. Roscommon) / Francis (7), Peter (6), Margaret (sister, 21, b. Co. Roscommon)
Sranadarragh / Drumreilly / Owen (32) / tea dealer (b. Co. Roscommon) / Maryann (32), Charles (9), Mary Agnes (8), Lily (6), Annie (5), Caroline (4), May (2), Eugene (1 month)
!Carrick-on-Shannon town / Kiltoghert / Thomas (50) / coach builder (b. Co. Roscommon) / Nora (44, b. Co. Roscommon), Mary Elizabeth (20), Delia (18), Nora (16), Kathleen (13), Bernard (11), Anna(9), Thomas (6), Bridget McDonough (70, mother-in-law, b. Co. Roscommon)
Carrick-on-Shannon town / Kiltoghert / Patrick (27) / printer (unmarried, b. Co. Roscommon) / Owen (20, b. Co. Roscommon, brother perhaps?)
!Carrick-on-Shannon town / Kiltoghert / Timothy (58) / RIC pensioner (b. Co. Roscommon) / Thomas (23, b. Co. Mayo), Edward (19), Timothy (15), Joseph (13, b. Co. Roscommon), Patrick (11, b. Co. Cavan), Bertram (8 months)
Getting back to the life of John above, it has been discovered he was involved in an abduction in his youth. On the night of 7 April 1836, eight men, including John and brothers Robert and William Bertridge (who were John's brothers-in-law) forced their way into the house of a Mrs. Hanley who was a widow and lived in the townland of Pullymaughel (also spelled Pollnamoghil) in the parish of Aughrim, Co. Roscommon, a few miles south-west of Cloonfeacle, and kidnapped Mrs. Hanley's daughter Catherine. The police were quickly contacted, Catherine was rescued, and John and the Bertridges were arrested and sentenced to death but were subsequently granted a 'free pardon', possibly due to the influence of the Bertridges. The reason for the abduction is unclear, but such abductions were not uncommon in the late 18th / early 19th century. For information on the practice of abduction in Ireland at that time, and for further details on this particular abduction, please refer to the notes for Robert Bertridge.
According to John's death certificate, he was 72 years old when he died in 1896 (his son, Owen, was present at his death), which means he was born about 1824, which cannot be the case as he married in 1836. The age of the John Morahan who was tried for the abduction was 23 in 1836 so it is more likely that our John was born about 1813.
Through this website I have received information on another Morahan family from the Carrick-on-Shannon area. I am unable to make a connection between them and our Morahans, but just in case there is a link, here are their details:
Brothers Joseph and Thomas Morahan, whose father's name was Bernard, were born around the middle of the 19th century and both worked as coach builders in Carrick-on-Shannon. Joseph married Mary Rutledge in 1879 and later settled in Co. Sligo, and Thomas married Nora McDonough in 1880. It is known that Thomas and Nora had nine children: Mary Elizabeth, Delia, Norella, Kathleen, Bernard (Sonny), Anna, Thomas, Addy and Gertie.
I have also been given information on other Morahan families in Co. Roscommon whose details are worth noting as it is a possibility that they too might be connected to our Cloonfeacle Morahans. One family is being researched by Loree Muldowney in California whose Muldowney great-grandfather's sister Bridget married a Eugene Moraghan. Loree thinks Eugene's father may have been Thomas Morahan from the townland of Moigh near Cootehall. Bridget's father was probably John Muldowney of Moigh. Known children of Bridget and Eugene are Thomas (baptised 10 December 1843, baptismal sponsors Thomas Moraghan and Maria Moraghan, probably died before 24 February 1852), John (baptised 22 December 1844, sponsors John Muldowney and Maria Moraghan), Patrick (baptised 3 February 1847, sponsors Eugene Doyle and Ellenor Boyde), Timothy (baptised 30 December 1848, sponsors John Lynch and Bridget Lynch), Mary (baptised 1 April 1849, sponsors John Moraghan and Bridget Muldowney), another Thomas (baptised 24 February 1852, sponsors Michael Brennan and Maria Salmon), Ann (baptised 22 June 1856, sponsors Timothy Muldowney and Mrs. Moraghan), Bridget (baptised 11 February 1858, sponsors John Moran and Bridget Murry) and Joanna (baptised 26 August 1860, sponsors Patrick Moraghan and Joanna O’Hara). All the children were baptised in Ardcarne (Cootehall). Unfortunately nothing is known of the family after 1860.
Muldowney researchers might be interested to know that Bridget's brothers John and Thomas emigrated to Sandusky, Ohio, while another brother, Timothy, stayed in Cootehall where he ran grocery/bakery in what is now the Watersplash pub. And for researchers of the Cootehall Morahans, Loree found a Tithe Applotment record (1823-1837) for an Owen (interchangeable with Eugene) Moraghan in Foxhill, which is adjacent to Moigh and Cootehall. In Griffith's Valuation (1847-1864) she found two Owen Moraghans, one in Annaghmona and one in Cleaheen, both in Tumna parish which is near Cootehall.
Another family of Roscommon Morahans included a John Morahan (1833-1885) who moved with his family to Leeds in England where he lived for 10 years before emigrating to the United States in 1853. It is not known what parish in Roscommon John was from but it is known his mother's surname was Kelly. If you think you are connected to this family please get in touch with John S. Morahan, a great-great-grandson of John's, who lives in Baltimore, Maryland and who can be contacted at email@example.com.
Note: Morahan is an unusual surname in Ireland but is not uncommon in Connaught. It comes from the Irish 'Ó Murcháin' of which there were two septs, one in Offaly and one in Leitrim. The name is sometimes spelled 'Moraghan', or shortened to 'Moran'.