The following is information condensed from writings by Helen (O'Kane) Adams who performed the genealogical research that is the basis for the information contained in this site. Helen also credits the contributions of Cynthia Kreder and Lyle Schryver. Lyle is the Librarian of the Ogle County Genealogical Society. Cynthia (God rest her soul - we miss her) was a descendent of Helen Emaline O'Kane. Cynthia had done over 20 years of research with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints. It should be noted that I took editorial liberties with Helen's fine work and I'm sure that it was not an improvement. What I attempted to do was to lean more heavily on the chronology of the story to aid the reader trying to find relationships whereas the original story leaned toward the family segments. I extend my apologies to both Helen and the reader for my transgressions.
There are two accounts as to the Irish County from which the immigrating couple, John and Suzanna O'Kane, originated. One account has County Cork and another, County Tyrone. Cynthia Kreder (see above) found records indicating Michael, one of John and Suzanna's sons, came from County Tyrone (no parish listed). "O'Kane" was actually listed in these records as "O'Keane" and there seems to be many variations -- Kane, O'Keen, O'Keane, and Gaelic: O'Cathain, O'Cahan. There are many O'Kanes in the border areas of County Derry and County Tyrone. In Dungiven, there are many businesses carrying the O'Kane name: insurance agencies, supermarkets, motor car dealers and trucking companies among others. Ancestral maps show O'Kanes predominant in this area. Dungiven Priory hosts the tombs of Chief O'Cahan and his seven sons. "O'Kane" is a derivative of "O'Cahan" or O'Cathain. The village of Park in County Derry is reportedly 95% O'Kane. How can this be?
Our best information shows John O'Kane as born about 1780. Sketchy information indicates he lived in Tyrone County, Ireland. He and his wife Suzannna (McCanna) immigrated around 1823 to Canada then crossed the border into the United States and went to Franklin County, Indiana. Three other John O'Kanes appear in 1830 Indiana census records. One was in Montgomery County, one in Connersville in Fayette County who was a Disciples of Christ Minister, and another was a son of our ancestor also named John. Our ancestor, John O'Kane, was a farmer.
John and Suzanna O'Kane are listed among the early settlers of Franklin County, Indiana. Also included was their son, John Jr. who was old enough to be a landowner. Their son, Joseph was born in Indiana around 1826. This was a common immigration route because of the more favorable fares to Canada (fares to the U.S. had gone up considerably in 1820) and the availability of rivers upon which to travel and transport heavy household goods. Genealogical records indicate at least three of his children, Henry, Daniel and Michael (and maybe John) immigrated with the O'Kane couple when they left Ireland. We have not been able to document that fact.
Franklin County and Fayette County records in Indiana indicate that John and Suzanna remained in Indiana in the Blooming Grove (formerly Greensborough and near the borders of the two counties) area while the sons moved on. The borders of the two counties were changed through the years explaining the duplicate records found.
Daniel was married in Indiana to Lucinda Johnson from Kentucky in 1833 and they moved to Eagle Point Township in Ogle County, Illinois in 1836 where they bought land in 1837 near Polo, Illinois.
John and wife Nancy moved to Palmyra Township, Lee County, Illinois in 1834 and the third son, Michael, born in County Tyrone In Ireland in 1817, to Ogle County, Illinois in 1842. Michael bought a claim to 160 acres of land (Section 26, Township 23, Range 7E -- now Eagle Township). He made additional purchases to own 438 acres. From Portrait and Biographies Album at the Polo, Illinois Library: "In 1844 he (Michael) was married in Eagle Point Township to Maria Webster, a teacher, who was born in Andes Ward, Delaware County, New York, daughter of Elijah and Ann Crowley Webster who came to Illinois in 1837". Nine children were born to them, Henry Martin being the eldest. "Michael came, like a great many pioneers, blessed with but a limited amount of wealth. He conducted his farm successfully, and by industry and judicious judgment, ably seconded by his estimable wife, has accumulated a large, valuable property. Such a couple deserve honorable mention in a work of this Charter, and we take great pleasure in presenting this brief sketch of their lives to our readers." Maria was a 7th generation descendent of Daniel Webster. They moved to Polo in 1877. Michael died in 1895 at the age of 78 and Maria lived with her daughter, Helen until the time of her death in 1910 at the age of 91.
Henry Martin O'Kane, born in 1846 in Ogle County, Illinois was the first-born of Michael and Maria. He spent his entire life in Ogle County. On November 23, 1869, he married Ellen Arneista Light, daughter of Robert and Harriet Light of Oregon, Illinois. Ellen was born in Oregon in 1819. Ellen's father, Robert, is listed as being born in Delaware. There is no information on the mother's birthplace (There is a Lightville community nearby). There are several Lights buried in the Riverview Cemetery overlooking Rock River, north of Oregon Town. Henry and Ellen O'Kane had 11 children. George, the eldest, died in infancy and is buried beside his parents in The Brick Church cemetery near Polo, Illinois. Six boys and four girls lived. Ellen passed away at the age of 66 in 1918. Henry died in 1927 at the age of 81.
Curiously, there is no reference to Henry in the land transactions in Illinois or Indiana nor is there any reference to him in the Final Settlement of John O'Kane's estate.
Other sons of John and Suzanna, Daniel and John Jr. also figured as pioneers -- Daniel in Ogle County and John Jr. in Lee County -- in Illinois. Joseph also moved to Ogle County. Both he and Henry relocated later to Wood River, Nebraska (near Kearney) and several of Daniel and Lucinda's children moved to Nebraska as well. One of Daniel's 15 children, James was one of the first Council Members in Kearney. One of Daniel's descendants owns O'Kane's Irish Pub in Monterey, California. Henry, one of the sons (no birth date is available), is shown to have died in Wood River, Nebraska in 1886. The second son, Daniel died in 1892, as did his wife, Lucinda (Johnson) but we do not know where they were at the time.
Cemetery records in a library in Blooming Grove, Indiana showed a Suzanne O'Keen buried in a Catholic cemetery in Oldenburg, Indiana in 1846. A local genealogist found Oldenburg to be the nearest Catholic Parish to Blooming Grove at that time. Church records (in Latin) indicate a man named John as her husband, living 25 miles away, approximately the distance to Blooming Grove. Is this our original immigrating ancestor in America? Records showed a John O'Kane married to a Sarah Notts in the 1850 census. Sarah Notts had two minor children. John died in 1854 and a final settlement record referenced sons John, Michael, Joseph and Daniel. We never found a record of where John is buried.
We do not know for certain whether our ancestors were Protestants or Catholics, but the couple who emigrated from Ireland was probably Catholic. A creditable source in Ireland stated, "I've never known an O'Kane who was not Catholic". Later records in the U.S. indicated that following generations were all Protestants -- Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist.NOTE: Helen promises more. Some of the family ended up in Colorado (Helen's and my ancestors). But I did call this "early history". Come back and see us for subsequent installments of this saga.