Costigan census conundrum

I started organizing my materials on the Costigans with an eye towards improving the Costigan page. I opened my grandfather’s page on and realized I didn’t have a 1920 census listing for him, so I did a search.

I found Bernard Costigan, Patrick Costigan, and John Costigan all boarding on Princeton Street in East Boston and working as fishermen.

1920 census, Boston Ward 1, Suffolk County, Massachusetts (Princeton Street)

Unfortunately, this census says they are from Nova Scotia, and has switched Patrick’s and John’s ages, but I am willing to chalk that up to enumerator error. My grandfather lived in and around Princeton Street for decades; these are his stomping grounds, those are his brothers’ names. has indexed the household as the Cannons, but I think the handwriting is bad and it actually says Gorman, a prominent name in Harbour Main. So they are probably boarding with friends of friends from home.

Except that surely friends of friends from home would have known that they were from Newfoundland and not Nova Scotia. But who knows. I still felt good about it until I started attaching the census to my Ancestry tree pages for Patrick and John.

That’s when I saw that I already have a 1920 census for John Costigan, only he’s living in Seattle.

1920 census for Seattle, King County, Washington State

No one really knows what happened to John. There were vague rumors that he had died at sea, but I could never find anything concrete. I was really excited when I found this census, because it lists Simon Costigan as his brother, and my great-uncle Simon definitely lived out in Seattle. So this must be my great-uncle John, right?

So then why did people think he was dead instead of just in Seattle? Unless he died in Seattle?

And who was the John staying on Princeton Street in East Boston?

Is it possible there is another group of Costigan brothers with the same names and ages from Nova Scotia?

I will try to figure it out tomorrow.

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4 thoughts on “Costigan census conundrum

  1. my father michael costigan born 1907 in colliers nfld. he died at the age of 74 in 1984. my mom agnes whelan was also born in colliers nfld in 1920 still lives today at the ripe age of 91 yrs old. they migrated to sydney nova scotia. my dad worked at sydney steel plant until he retired. too odd that all the costigans originated in nfld and we can’t find the to find out if we are somehow related…

  2. I know! It’s hard to believe the Colliers Costigans and the Harbour Main Costigans aren’t related somehow, but I’ve never seen the link.

    Also, when the earliest Harbour Main Costigan — Vincent Costigan — arrived in 1790 from Ireland, there was already another Costigan — Thomas Costigan — who was wanted for deserting from the British Navy and presumed to be hiding somewhere in Newfoundland. A 1795 census listed a Patrick Costigan fishing in St. John’s and claiming to have arrived about 1780. I have always wanted to find a connection between these men, but so far have not.

      • I need to correct my earlier comment. Vincent Costigan was born in 1790 but arrived in Hr. Main around 1815, which is when the British Navy was searching for Thomas as well. Ooops. Point remains that we have to keep hoping for some connecting clue to turn up.

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