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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

An American 'Leinster' - Private William Greene

I'm delighted to be able to share a special guest post today, written by Anne (O'Neill) Evola, the great granddaughter of Private William Greene. William, a member of the Irish diaspora, he was born in New York but returned to parents homeland of Ireland and enlisted in the 109th Regiment of Foot which was stationed at Birr and was later posted to the 2nd Battalion, Leinster Regiment upon its formation in 1882. As William was not a 'British subject', he clearly lied on his attestation papers. Anne has spent considerable time researching her ancestor and recounts his life through her excellent research.


William John Washington Greene was born to Joseph and Margaret (née Byrne) Greene in March 1860 in Manhattan, New York, USA. He died in Manhattan on March 14, 1908.

William's parents emigrated from Ireland to New York arriving on October 2, 1855. According to the ship's manifest, they were both 20 years old. Joseph listed his occupation as a writer. His birthplace is unknown, but possibilities include Counties Tyrone and Antrim, Ireland. Margaret was the daughter of a shopkeeper in Dundrum, County Dublin, Ireland.

Joseph and Margaret lived in the vicinity of St. Francis Xavier on West 16th Street as their older child, daughter Mary Katherine, was born on December 17 and baptized in December 1856. They were still in the area when William was born and was baptized at St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church on March 19, 1860.

Sometime after William's birth and before 1864/5, Joseph either died or abandoned his family. Margaret next turns up in Caim, Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland married to Martin Cooney and giving birth to their first child, John Michael in 1865. Family lore has it that Margaret, and her two children Mary Kate and William, went to Wexford where she worked as a nanny/child minder. She and Martin went on to have five children, half siblings of Mary Kate and William.

William next appears in 1880 as a newly enlisted soldier stationed at Birr Barracks, Crinkill, Offaly. He signed his enlistment papers in Dublin claiming he had been born in St. Mary's Parish near Belfast (possibly Joseph's birthplace). He served twelve years - six as an active member and six in the reserves, all of which was home service.

During his time as an active soldier at Birr, William met and married Anne J. Maher of Bournea, Tipperary on June 14, 1884 in St. Brendan’s Roman Catholic Church. Anne was born in 1862 to James Maher and Bridget Costigan in the townland of Shanakill. Anne was living and working as servant in Birr at the time. They appear to have had one child, John Joseph Washington Green, while living at the Birr Barracks. Unfortunately, the baby was born on July 18, 1885 but died the next day. He is buried in the military cemetery at the barracks.

Following active duty, William and Anne lived in Aughnaclappa, Wexford, near the home of his mother and stepfather by May 1887 where their second known child, Joseph John, was born. William's occupation is listed as "Gamekeeper" on the baby's birth certificate. At least four, possibly five, more children were born during their time in Wexford. At least two, possibly three, died as infants. Two daughters, Sophia (b. 1889) and Louisa (b.1891), lived to adulthood.

At some point, William and Anne went to Dublin. They lived at 19 Greenville Terrace. Their last child born in Ireland, Maud Elizabeth ("Daisy") was born there in January 1894. They may have been en route to emigrating to America at that point as William came first (c.1894/5) and would then send for Anne and Daisy.

The decision had already been made to leave the two older girls with their grandmother Margaret in Wexford until William was able to bring them over to New York. Due to what were most probably financial reasons, William and Anne never sent for Sophia and Louisa, something about which Sophia was bitter for the rest of her life according to her grandchildren. She never saw her parents again. Sophia lived in Ireland the rest of her life, but Louisa ("Sis") emigrated in 1926 with her husband.

Anne followed William fairly soon after at an undetermined time (having waited long enough for her taste for William to send for here). Finding them in the 1900 US Federal Census has been fruitless, but they do appear in the New York State Census in 1905. Their daughter Thelma was born in 1902 and their son William Jr, in 1905. They lived in Manhattan, though at different addresses, for these births.

William, Jr. died on July 4, 1907 due to pneumonia according to his birth certificate. (Thelma, my grandmother, remembered something about little "Willie" being scalded in some way. We do not know if this happened or if it had anything to do with his death) He was buried in Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, Queens in an indigent section. William, Anne, Daisy, and Thelma all still lived in Manhattan at the time.

On March 14, 1908, on his way home from applying for a motorman's position on the west side of Manhattan, William John Washington Greene was killed while walking home. He was struck by an automobile at the corner of Broadway and 54th Street. As reported by the newspapers, William crossed the street and passed between two cars. What he did not know was that one car was towing the other. He tripped on the towrope and was impaled by rear lamp brackets by the first car. He was brought to Roosevelt Hospital but died of his injuries.

William was buried in Calvary Cemetery in a grave purchased by his sister Mary Kate who sent $15.00 from Ireland to pay for it. Little Willie was removed from the indigent grave and buried with his father. Anne Maher Greene died on May 6, 1927 and buried with them (along with his niece, Margaret Forsburg who came to America long after William died.)

William's grave in Calvary Cemetery.

In all, William and Anne had ten children, four of whom lived to adulthood to have their own families. Eight of the ten children have been named according to records. The hunt is still on to find the remaining two. Anne was said to have been so "angry" with God for the deaths of her first few infants that she avoided giving her later children saints' names as first names. They had saints' names as middle names in order to be baptized in the Church.

They had seventeen grandchildren who lived to adulthood, forty-five great grandchildren, and many, many gg-grandchildren and ggg-grandchildren who are still being born.

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