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Cornelius and Mary (McDowell) - Unsolved Mysteries

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Date: 2019
Location: Leesburg Loudoun Virginiamap
Surnames/tags: Donohoe McDowell Colonial_Virginia
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Cornelius Donohoe and Mary Margaret McDowell

Cornelius Donohoe is our Donohoe line's first arrival to the colonies. Yet, to date there is nothing definitive documented about his birthplace, date, and parents other than Ireland, The parents of his wife Mary Margaret are known, but not her birthplace and date. (Per convention and to avoid confusion, wives are listed with their maiden names, when known.)

Mary E. Gossage > Jerold O. Gossage > Ethel Donohoe > Arthur Donohoe > Francis Donohoe > Samuel Donohoe > Cornelius Donohoe and Mary Margaret McDowell.


Speculative Biography

Susan Bentley Franklin states that from the estate sale papers of 1791, it appears that Cornelius was a farmer. Susan Bentley Franklin, [online] 1991
Dale Dunihoo says there were "three Brothers" (Cornelius, John, and William) who came to AUGUSTA CO, VA from Ireland in ca 1742. I wonder if there were also several other brothers (or relatives) (i.e., Thomas, and Michael/orPatrick). Cornelius settled in Loudon Co, VA. Thomas and Michael/Patrick went to Orange Co, and Caswell Co, N.C. and married into the Saunder/Sanders and Ferguson families.
John and William also went to N.C. briefly, and then settled in LAURENS CO, S.C. John's sons settled in COBB Co, GA. William's children unknown, but following John's death in 1802, he disappeared from S.C. John had several sons, Cornelius (known), Charles (known), ? David, ? John, ? Timothy, and ? William.
Dale Dunihoo, [online], 1991
Mary Jenks in California says that Cornelius graduated from Oxford and was offered the Grand Tour, but preferred to go to the Colonies


from Chalkey. "Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia-Records of Augusta County 1745-1800".
1752 tax records: Cornaills Downahow: gone. v.1 p.415
1752 Donahu (Donahow) Cornelius age 57. v.1 p.443
1753, 2 March Records order book: Cornelius Donaho among others to keep road, formerly laid from Youngs Mill to said Buchanans Mill. v.2 p.571:
From William and Mary Quarterly.
Around 1770-1790 a Mary McDowell was married to Donahoe. McDowells have been a distinguished family in Kentucky from earliest annals of state. They passed through Virginia (for about 30-40 years) from Pennsylvania (discovery Cumberland's Gap, called it Wood's Gap at the time). McDowell family was of Scottish ancestory and established in America about 1721. V.4 p.153
from Augusta County Court Records
1746 November Augusta County Court- two roads were designated through Roanoke Valley to be worked on by residents of the two main neighborhoods. North Branch: William English, and two sons, Thomas English and son, John Donahu, among several others.
James River Settlement 1760-70, 17 June 1763 Hugh Donahu Grant of 380 acres at head of Buffalo and Ever's Lick.
6 miles south of Lexington Virginia on the road bordering east side of Borden's Grant: is "Donihoo's Tavern"

Background Information

There are open questions about Cornelius Donohoe, a Gateway Donohoe ancestor. All of this information is based on family records combined with information of other folks in the 1990 with whom I exchanged information who were researching the same lines. However speculative it might be, it provides direction for further research.
Common sense tells us that most people who emigrated to the US were from the poorest and most downtrodden sections of society.And common sense is often wrong. Many of the Puritans who emigrated to New England, were of the gentry class and/or held university degrees and emigrated for religious reasons. Many of the "cavaliers" who settled in Virginia and Maryland were younger sons of distinguished families. To be sure, these were outnumbered by their indentured servants, but they were still numerous. It is estimated that about half the people in the US who can trace their ancestry back to the early 17th century in this country can connect up to a royal line. It has flowed both ways. Just as once poor families rose, once rich families have fallen. Parliament once stripped a peer of his title because he no longer possessed the means to support it in style (they relented and gave it back to him.) Equally, when one of the Earls Spencer was kidded about having come from yeoman stock (admittedly, 16th century yeoman stock), he replied, "While my ancestors were herding sheep, yours were plotting treason.
Gordon, John Steele [online] soc.medieval.genealogy USENET Group, 1991.
Betty Frain gives Cornelius a middle name of Kirkeby, and finds that his McDowell wife is Margaret Mary (instead of Mary Margaret). She also provides a birth location and date. I have not been in contact with her for decades. She lives in Loudoun County Virginia and has gone a lot of good research she has shared and published about Loudoun County families, so I am inclined to value the accuracy of her research.


  • Susan Bentley Franklin, [online] 1991
  • Dale Dunihoo, [online] 1991
  • Chalkey. "Chronicles of the Scothch-Irish Settlement in Virginia-Records of Augusta County 1745-1800". 3 volumes (R929.3755/Av44c University of Washington Graduate Library)
  • McDowell, John W., William and Mary Quarterly. Aweiwa 2. (975.5/wi University of Washington Graduate Library)
  • Mary Jenks [online] Prodigy, 1991
  • Ethel Donohoe Gossage
  • Augusta County Court Records
  • Gordon, John Steele [online] soc.medieval.genealogy USENET Group, 1991
  • Betty Frain
  • Mary Ann Donohoe


  1. If Cornelius was born 1721 he probably immigrate by 1741 (giving him time to attend and graduate from Oxford, if he did graduate from Oxford as Mary Jenks says)
  2. It seems that Cornelius was married twice, and Mary McDowell was the second wife, or there were two Cornelius, or both.
  3. There was a big age difference if it is one Cornelius if Mary Margaret was born in 33 instead of 51. Although large age difference were common.
  4. There is an 11 year gap between children from 61 and 73 which might indicate an earlier marriage, or an older and younger Cornelisu. It might indicated being involved in the French Indian Wars, IF there are miliary records. I have found none.
  5. Could Cornelius have married Mary Davis, who was the widow of Thomas McDowell? Thomas McDowell died in 1740, Mary died in 1761. She would be more contemporary in age with the Cornelius who was born in 1695, than with Thomas and Mary's daughter Mary McDowell born in 33.
  6. Perhaps Mary she was a daughter of one of the sons of Thomas and Mary born in 55.
  7. Perhaps Cornelius was married to a McDowell woman, widowed, then again married to another McDowell woman.
  8. Perhaps Cornelius was married to Thomas McDowell's daughter Margaret McDowell, Mary's sister, since Mary is shown being married to someone else, and there is no information about Margaret being married.
  9. Information from [Donohoe-328|Ethel Donohoe Gossaage] said the wife is Mary Margaret McDowell. I have looked for Margaret McDowell, but the ones I have found do not seem to be likely suspects. There are at least two Mary McDowells who are likely suspects. She was referred to in a county histories as "Maggie".
  10. Given documentation that strongly suggests evidence there may be an older and younger Cornelius, and that most of the information is about the younger Cornelius, but some of the older Cornelius information is mixed up with it; and given Ethel Gossage's accuracy in conveying family details, it is possible the Mary Margaret information, could be two different women and two marriages of one Cornelius, or a McDowell marriage for both.
  11. Cornelius in Loudon County may be the son of an older Cornelius who was the Gateway Ancestor and first found in Augusta County listed as being responsible for road work, before the younger Cornelius was reputed, in some sources, to have been in the Americas.
  12. It could be an older Cornelius is the brother of the younger Cornelius father, reputedly named Peter according to Mary Jenks. People often did not emigrate to the colonies alone, so it could be that the Cornelius wanted to go because he may have had an uncle in the colonies.
  13. There is the possibility of Cornelius' being in question here - an older and younger Cornelius. We have an estimate for a Cornelius' birth year which would be approximately 1695 based on "Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia-Records of Augusta County 1745-1800".


  1. The range of dates, name of wife and dates chidren are born all seem to indicate there is an unknown first marriage.
  2. The range of dates, name of wife and dates children are born all seem to indicate an older Cornelius was living in Augusta County before a younger Cornelius was living in Loudoun County.
  3. The names of the McDowell women married to Cornelius - Mary Margaret/Margaret Mary or Mary and Margaret McDowell dilemma
  4. Loudoun County was created from Augusta County. So the record of the older Cornelius in Augusta County is not necessarily the Augusta County of today.
  5. Need to find primary sources


None yet.


  1. The solution may be in Ireland - perhaps the Scots-Irish Northern part, prior to immigration.
  2. Finding Peter Donohoe in Ireland said to be the father of Cornelius, may provide a timeline which provides needed information for clearing the mix ups.
  3. If one of the Cornelius' did graduate from Oxford there may be records in existence.
  4. There may be further information in McDowell records, particularly if there were two Cornelius and each was married to a McDowell woman.
  5. Finding the location in the Augusta County records we could find the older Cornelius living in the Leesburg area too or some other part of the large County of Augusta from which Loudoun was created.
  6. Continue seeking primary sources.

Current Theory

  1. There is an older and a younger Cornelius in Virginia records.
  2. There is a possibility each was married to a McDowell woman.

Weaknesses of Theory

More primary source documentation needed.

Strengths of Theory

None yet


See also:

Loudoun County inventory of administration of estates of Interstate, 1792.


Comments: 3

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Hi Mary,

Would you remove the "Personal Categories" category from this page? That's a top-level category and should only contain sub-categories.



posted by Debi (McGee) Hoag
Hi - Can you please remove from this page? Thanks!
posted by Steven Harris
Hello Steve - I am unsure what you wanted removed because nothing was specified. I have removed some of the categories that I added when new to Wikitree not realizing they did not belong there. Is there something else that you wanted removed? (Am still somewhat mystified about categories and templates - when and where they should be and can be used.)
posted by Mary Gossage