Edward MacLysaght’s note on the surname Costigan is:

Ir. Mac Oistigín. Though a branch of the FitzPatricks, Mac Giolla Phádraig, the name derives from Hodgkin, a dimin. of Roger. In the spoken language it is now Mac Costagáin.”

He notes that Costigan is an especially popular surname in County Tipperary. My Costigan ancestors originate in County Tipperary, but I don’t know anything about them until they reach Newfoundland in the early 1800s. They eventually emigrated to the United States, mostly to East Boston, Massachusetts.

1st & 2nd generations: me and my mother (1931-2008)

3rd generation: my grandfather:

Bernard Costigan was born 16 August 1890 in Harbour Main, Newfoundland. His parents were John and Elizabeth (Cleary) Costigan. [1] John Costigan died in 1902, and twelve-year-old Bernard left school and went to work as a fisherman. I was told the story of how the other fishermen would pin his wages to his undershirt and tell him to run home to his mother with the money. In 1914, Bernard emigrated to the United States. He traveled around the country working for a few years, but settled in East Boston, Massachusetts. He entered the army just as World War I was about to end and was naturalized in 1918 as a result of his honorable discharge from the army. On New Year’s Eve in 1922 in East Boston, Bernard married Mary Coombs of Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. They had seven children. Bernard lost an eye in a welding accident while employed as an ironworker. By 1941 he was working as a longshoreman, and continued until his retirement. The family moved to Winthrop, Massachusetts in the early 1960s. Bernard died at home in February 1989; he was 98 years old. He is buried in Winthrop Cemetery.

Bernard Costigan and his wife Mary

4th generation: my great-grandfather:

John Costigan was born in 1845 in Harbour Main, Newfoundland. [2] His parents were Thomas Costigan and Mary Furey. The Newfoundland Directory for 1871 lists John as a planter, that is, someone who owns a fishing operation. (Elliot vol. 1, p. 703). In June 1882, John married Elizabeth Cleary in St. Peter and St. Paul Roman Catholic Church in Harbour Main. Over a century later, people living in Harbour Main told me that Elizabeth was already pregnant from a previous relationship when she married John, and that her eldest son Cornelius was not biologically a Costigan. It is difficult to know at this distance what the story was, but some details of Cornelius’s later life and death would seem to support this story. Certainly Cornelius, called Con, was a close member of the family and I am including him here as one of John’s children. John died in May 1902 of pneumonia. He is buried in Avondale, Newfoundland.

Children of John Costigan (3rd generation):

  • Cornelius Costigan b. 1882, d. 1976 Harbour Main, Nfld. (1921 Nfld. census; headstone)
  • Edward Costigan b. 1884 Harbour Main, Nfld., d. 1934, Massachusetts. [3]
  • John Costigan b. 1886 Harbour Main, Nfld., d. probably before 1942 (St. Peter and St. Paul parish records)
  • Hanora Mary Costigan b. 1888 Harbour Main, Nfld.; m. Michael Conway and moved to the Bronx, NY (St. Peter and St. Paul parish records, 1920 US census)
  • Bernard Costigan, see above
  • Simon Costigan b. 1892 Harbour Main, Nfld., d. 1967 Seattle, Washington (St. Peter and St. Paul parish records, SSDI)
  • Mary Joseph Costigan b. 1894 Harbour Main, Nfld. (St. Peter and St. Paul parish records)
  • Patrick Costigan b. 1897 Harbour Main, Nfld., m. 1921 East Boston, MA Nora O’Brian (St. Peter and St. Paul parish records, 1930 US census)
  • Thomas Costigan b. 1897 Harbour Main, Nfld., m. probably to Margaret Gushue, d. 1991 Melrose, MA (St. Peter and St. Paul parish records, MDI)

old postcard with water view

5th generation:

Thomas Costigan was born in June 1813 in Harbour Main, Newfoundland. His parents were Vincent Costigan and Johanna Kennedy. Thomas inherited property in Gallows Cove from his maternal grandmother. Thomas worked as an agent for the fishery. He eventually built a house in Gallows Cove and married Mary Furey around 1840. [4] Thomas died in 1882. (headstone)

Children of Thomas Costigan (4th generation):

  • Thomas J. Costigan b. 1842, m. Sarah Whelan, d. 1906 Harbour Main, Nfld. (headstone)
  • Johanna Costigan b. 1843 Harbour Main, Nfld., m. 1875 Patrick Corbett Chapels Cove, Nfld., d. 1929 Chapels Cove, Nfld. (1921 Nfld. census)
  • John Costigan, see above
  • Vincent Costigan b. 1847, m. Mary Myers, d. 1924 Harbour Main, Nfld. (1921 Nfld. census, headstone, donor plaque in St. Peter and St. Paul Church)
  • James Costigan, b. 1848, m. Mary Doyle, d. 1911 Harbour Main, Nfld. (headstone)
  • Edward Costigan, b. 1850, m. Anne Kennedy, d. 1916 Harbour Main, Nfld.
  • Mary Anne Costigan, b. 1853 Harbour Main, m. 1878 in Chapels Cove, Nfld. to Patrick Sullivan, d. 1921 Chapels Cove, Nfld. (1921 Nfld. census)
  • Elizabeth Costigan, b. 1857, d. 1883 Harbour Main, Nfld.
  • Charles Costigan, b. 1857, m. 1884 Agnes LaCour, d. 1932 Harbour Main, Nfld. (1921 Nfld. census, gravestone)
photo of old house

House built by Thomas Costigan

woman by gravestone

me by Thomas Costigan’s grave back in the 1990s

6th generation:

Vincent Costigan was born in 1790 in Kilcash, Co. Tipperary, Ireland (headstone). I don’t know who his parents were. He emigrated to Harbour Main, Newfoundland to work as a bookkeeper. In 1811 he married Johanna Kennedy, his boss’s daughter. Vincent was widowed in 1816. He moved to St. Johns, where he had financial difficulties (Howard). In 1824, he married Ann Summers (Crosbie). When his son Thomas inherited land in Gallows Cove, Vincent and the rest of the family moved back to Harbour Main with him to live. Vincent died in 1844 and is buried in the old Irish cemetery in Harbour Main. Fusun Atalay has written a great article about this cemetery.

Vincent’s children with Johanna Kennedy: (5th generation)

  • Thomas Costigan, see above
  • Mary Costigan, born and died 1815
  • Vincent Costigan, born and died 1816

Vincent’s children with Ann Summers: (5th generation)

  • John Costigan, b. 1825, probably died as a child
  • Vincent Costigan b. 1826 St. John’s, Nfld., died at sea 1861 (Crosbie)
  • Johanna Costigan b. 1828, d. 1853 Harbour Main, Nfld.
  • Mary Anne Costigan b. 1832, d. 1854 Harbour Main, Nfld.
church interior

interior of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Harbour Main, Newfoundland


I especially want to acknowledge the kindness of my third cousin Judy Barker, without whom I would know much less about the Costigans. She invited me to Newfoundland in 1997 to research with her, and we have shared information ever since. Her website has more information on her research.

1. Bernard Costigan’s birth is established by the following: his birth certificate which I saw but no longer possess, his World War I and World War II draft registration cards, and his entries in the US Naturalizations Index, the Massachusetts Death Index (MDI), and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).

2. John Costigan’s birth date of 1845 is deduced from his age at death.

3. Edward Costigan’s information is derived from the bill from his funeral which I saw in the possession of his sister-in-law and from his World War I draft registration card.

4. Although no record of the Costigan/Furey marriage has survived, they are listed as the parents of their legitimate children in the parish baptism register. The same is true for several of the marriages from this period. Many records were lost in a fire. Much information comes from the many Costigan gravestones in the Avondale cemetery. I am indebted to Judy Barker for sharing her research on Thomas Costigan and his father Vincent and their family.

Works Cited

Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Dept. of Health Services. Massachusetts Death Index, 1970-2003. Boston, MA, 2005. Web.

—. Division of Vital Statistics. Marriage record for Bernard Costigan and Mary Coombs. 1922.

Crosbie, Gert. Births, Deaths, Marriages in Newfoundland Newspapers. Maritime History Archives. St. John’s: Memorial University, Newfoundland. 1986. Vols. 3-5. Print.

Elliot, Noel Montgomery, ed. The Atlantic Canadians: 1600-1900. Vol. 1. Toronto: Genealogical Research Library, 1994. Print.

Headstones of many Costigans in the cemetery in Avondale, Nfld. and Vincent Costigan’s headstone in the “old Irish cemetery” in Harbour Main, Nfld.

Howard, Mildred. Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser. 3 vols. 1986. [newspaper extracts] Print.

MacLysaght, Edward. “Costigan.” Irish Ancestors. Irish Times. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.

Newfoundland. 1921 Newfoundland Census. Transcription available at Newfoundland Grand Banks site, but I have also examined the microfilm at NEHGS.

—. Register of Deaths. Harbour Main District. Book 3: 1901-1902. Entry for John Costigan, page 82. Transcribed by Mary Rawlinson. Newfoundland Grand Banks. 2010. Web.

Saint Peter and Saint Paul Roman Catholic Church [Harbour Main, Conception Bay, Newfoundland].. Baptism Records 1857-1911. Transcribed Barbara McGrath. 2005. Newfoundland Grand Banks. Web.

—. Donor plaques on windows and pews in the church.

—. Marriage Records 1857-1906. Transcribed Barbara McGrath. 2004. Newfoundland Grand Banks. Web. I also examined some of these records at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland in St. John’s.

United States. Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1920. Roll T625_1129. p. 3B. ED 18: Bronx Assembly District 1, Bronx, New York. 2010. Web.

—. —. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930.  Roll: 941; Page: 5B; Image: 908.0; FHL film: 2340676. Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts. 2002. Web.

—. —. —, 1930. Roll: 942; Page: 2A; Image: 100.0; FHL film: 2340677. Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts. 2002. Web.

—.  National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995. Entry for Bernard Costigan, Certificate No. 113 743, Petition No. 40872. 2007. Web.

—. Selective Service System. U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942. 2010. Web.

—. —. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. 2005. Web.

—. Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. 2011. Web.

United States Army. Honorable discharge papers for Bernard Costigan. 23 Jan. 1918. Photocopy.

33 thoughts on “Costigan

  1. Found you site while I was looking up John Costigan.
    My family all was born here in Kentucky. I can only go back to my Grand Father..than I lose out..nothing to be found.
    If you can help me..send me a email

  2. Hi Emily,
    I seem to be on the computer more lately due to my inability to run around much.
    We know for sure that Johanna Kennedy’s grandfather, James Kennedy (1716-1776) came from Tipperary. The lady that found the information in Dublin, didn’t document it. So, in November, our mutual cousin, June Costigan Munster (dau of Charles Costigan and Mary Hicks) will do that for me.
    Love your page.
    Someday I will revamp mine.

    • Hi Judy —
      So it’s not Waterford, but Tipperary? Good to know! I hope someday to get a research trip together.
      Hope you are on the mend and up and about soon. Email me and let me know how you’re doing!

  3. Emily….Great stuff and thank you for all your hard work…I am Ed Conway and I am the grandson of Nora Conway and the Conway brothers.They settled in New York and had 2 children; Edward and Mildred (both deceased recently).I settled in New Jersey and have often told my wife as we near retirement that someday I will take my grandmother Hanora’s baptisimal certificate back to New foundland and visit her bith place….It was my son Eddie III, who lives with his wife and Eddie IV who found your great website…Thanks again and I will send your site onto my brother and my cousins (Mildred’d kids)
    God Bless….Eddie Conway

    • Thanks for your kind words. It’s so nice to “meet” someone from the Conways; my grandmother spoke of your grandparents often and fondly. Definitely visit Newfoundland – it’s a special place. I hope to visit again; it’s been too long.

    • Hi Patricia – we’re probably related :)
      I’ve pretty much posted all that I know already.
      If you have a specific question that you don’t want to post here, all my contact information is on the “About this site” page, linked at the top of the sidebar above the family pages.

  4. thank you so much emily…my parents are mike costigan and agnes whelan had a brother will and a sister mary. will find out was born 1907 and died was born 1920 and is 90 yrs old today i think they were both born in colliers.have to find out for sure

  5. Emily – This is wicked awesome!! I’ve been scouring through it today, and writing down all of the dates for the family. I don’t know if you noticed, but you have the twins (Thomas & Patrick) born a decade apart. Which date is correct? 1886 or 1896? Also, I heard that you either have a book, or at least a family tree maker file for the family. If I could get it, that would be great. You don’t have anything on the Doherty side (Robert – Married to Mary Claire Costigan (my grandmother) do you?

  6. Hi Matt – Thanks for catching my typo — I fixed it. (It’s 1896.)
    I do not have a book and I don’t use Family Tree Maker, but I messaged you on facebook and sent you a pdf of my aunt/your grandmother’s pedigree chart. I hope that helps. I don’t have anything about the Dohertys since I am not directly related to them. Take care, Emily

  7. I’m enjoying your blog site – good work. Charles Costigan and Agnes LaCour are my great grandparents on my mother’s side. I was very close to my grandmother, Mary (Costigan) McGee; in fact, I worshiped her. I reveled in her stories, and still remember the gathering of relatives around the old mahogany table that I have in my home in Kennebunk, Maine. She lived at 73 Pierce Ave, Everett, MA with her husband, Tom McGee. They had thirteen children, my mother Catherine Virginia, being one. Even though the table was up on the second floor, they would pull down the shades on these Sunday afternoons before they began playing “Penny Annie” since they thought they were breaking some law by their “gambling” if you can believe. In any case, Mary Theresa, Nana, as we called her, was never known as Ann, as far as I know. The Newfies simply called her, Mayry. I remember visits from her brother Joe (I presume the Costigan your site refers to as Lawrence) and his wife Katherine. Visits to aunt Lizzie’s (her sister) house in Melrose for tea were always special. I still dream of going to Newfoundland. I wrote a poem about Mary McGee when she died in 1972 that I would be happy to share with you if you would like. Perhaps I take after my great uncle, Johnny dee Light.

    Terry (Costigan/McGee) Vaughan

    • Hi Terry! What a great comment! Sorry I didn’t reply sooner; I was away for awhile. I would love to read your poem. Would you like to do a guest post? (You write it up and email it to me; I’ll post it.)

      • I’m sorry it’s taken me a year and an half to reply to your reply. At seventy I’m getting slow and I’m not very tech savvy. I would love to do a guest post and include me poem. Just let me know how to do the guest posting.

        Terry Vaughan
        Kennebunk, Maine

    • Tommy McGee of Melrose, Ma. area was also a poet. He actually had a Rhyming Dictionary published, I would guess in the late 60’s or early 70’s.
      Johnny “The Light” was my grandfather, my mother was Mary and I currently reside in Quincy, Ma. My wife Jane has been communicating with Judy for years. It was great to run across this site but unfortunately my job is beckoning me.
      Happy New Year,
      Tom Ford

  8. Hi, I found your site today while searching though Harbor Main and Chapel’s Cove websites.

    My grandmother is referenced by you: Mary Ann Costigan, born 1853, married Patrick Sullivan (1850-1923) of Chapels Cove in 1878. Their children were named Ellen, Elizabeth, Margaret, Mary Ann, William, and Patrick Sullivan.

    I believe Mary Ann died in 1945.

    I am the youngest child of Mary Ann’s son Patrick. I was born in 1942, just after my father died. My mother then packed all the children up and we moved to Brooklyn. My brothers are Bud and Tom and my sisters are Eileen (died in 1999) and Rosella.

    Thank you for your efforts as you continue to update this website.

    My email address is:

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    • Hi Patrick,
      Thanks for your great comment! I wonder if your family knew the Harbour Main Kennedys in Brooklyn? I found my apartment through one of them when I moved here from Boston.

    • Hello John, I too am trying to find information on the Kentucky Costigan family and having a hard time of it. My grandfathers name was Hubert Lee Costigan, his parents were William Swope Costigan and Lillian Nuttall. He had several siblings, including a brother named John. Maybe we have a connection. You are welcome to email me at or contact me on Facebook.

  9. Hello Emily,

    I just found your blog and I am very impressed with your thoroughness.

    I hired a professional genaelogist who verified that my great grandfather was Edward Redmond (1845-1934). His parentage is iffy, but the pro believes his dad is Edward Redmond married to Mary Conegan/Costigan. Do you ave any info about a Mary Costigan who married Edward Redmond?

    If so, I would appreciate it if you shared.

    Cheryl Mason Martin

    I have never travelled to Newfoundland, but your blog inspires me to do just that! All my great grands on both side are from Newfie.

    • Hi Cheryl, Thanks for your kind comment! I don’t have any Redmonds in my files at all, but I’ll keep an eye out. Definitely go to Newfoundland if you get the chance; it’s a fascinating place. I hope to go back someday.

  10. My grandmother, Mary (Costigan) McGee used to tell me that “Costigan” was the Gaelic form of Costello, a name that got into Ireland from the Iberian invasion. She did have very dark, brown (almost black) hair that remained with her right up to her death at 86! Who knows?

  11. Hi Emily,

    Lot’s of great stories and information on your site. The Vincent Costigan you mentioned in my great grand father of the wife of my great uncle. Small world! My ancestors come from Avondale (once Salmon Cove), Bell Island and Harbour Main and their surnames were Moore, Power and Flynn with marriages to Kennedy, Costigan, Furey, Anthony etc. all from this general area.

    Gerry Power
    St. John’s, NL

  12. Hello,

    This is a terrific site and I appreciate all the hard work you’ve been doing. My great uncle William H. Power (d. 1937 Bell Island)was married to Mary Ann Sullivan. Her father was Patrick Sullivan and he married Mary Ann Costigan. Her father was Thomas Costigan and he married Mary Furey, and Thomas’ father was Vincent who was the great grandfather of Mary Ann Sullivan. As we all know, there’s no such thing as ‘six degrees of separation’ here in Newfoundland. Thanks again and I enjoy reading your blog.

    • Hi Gerry,

      My grandfather and grandmother are referenced by you: Mary Ann Costigan, born 1853, married Patrick Sullivan (1850-1923) of Chapels Cove in 1878.

      Mary Ann died in 1945.

      I am the youngest child of Mary Ann’s son Patrick. I was born in March 1942, just after my father died (December 1941). My mother then packed all the children up and we moved to Brooklyn. My brothers are Bud and Tom and my sisters were Eileen (died in 1999) and Rosella (died 2013).

      My father Patrick and your great aunt Mary Ann Sullivan were brother and sister.

      My email address is:

      Fort Lauderdale, FL

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