Discover your ancestor in records from the American Fenian Brotherhood. The records span the years from 1864 to 1897.
The collection comprises correspondence between members of the British Foreign Office regarding the activities of the American Fenian Brotherhood during the years from 1864 to 1897. Records include newspaper cuttings, letters, telegrams, lists of prisoners, and some photographs.
Transcripts will include all or some of the following information:
Place of event
Death date (if deceased)
Names of relatives
Make sure to check the image relating to the transcript as the image may provide additional information regarding your relative, such as newspaper accounts and observations by officials.
Taken from the FO5 collection held at The National Archives in Kew, these records chart the American Fenian Brotherhood’s efforts to liberate Ireland from British rule during the mid- to late Victorian era.
The American Fenian Brotherhood was founded in 1858 by Irish exiles John O’Mahony and Michael Doheny. Tracing its origins back to the Society of United Irishmen and born out of the social turmoil resulting from the famine of the 1840s, the American Fenian Brotherhood was a precursor for Clan na Gael and its members were known as Fenians.
This collection comprises correspondence between the British Home Office and Foreign Office about the activities of the Brotherhood. Included are letters between officials and also copies of The Sunday Democrat and The Irish World nationalist newspapers, which carried news from across Ireland.
The collection includes accounts of the Brotherhood’s incursions into Canadian territory during the years 1866 to 1871. In 1866, John O’Mahony and 700 Fenians attacked Campobello Island, New Brunswick. This was the first of what would become known as the ‘Fenian Raids.’ Civil War veteran John O’Neill led the last raid in 1871 and was arrested by United States authorities for violating neutrality laws. This militant approach led to a split within the Brotherhood and its eventual decline.
Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa
Born in Rosscarbery in County Cork in 1831, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa witnessed the horrors of the Irish Famine before going on to found the Phoenix National and Literary Scheme in 1856 with the aim of removing the British from Ireland. In 1863, he started working for The Irish People, an Irish nationalist newspaper. Having taken part in the Fenian Uprising of 1865, he was convicted of treason and sent to prison. Upon his release in 1871, he was exiled to the United States and wrote a book entitled Prison Life chronicling his experiences whilst incarcerated.
Once in the United States, O’Donovan Rossa became editor of The United Irishman and was the last Head Centre of the American Fenian Brotherhood. An outspoken critic of British occupation until his death, O’Donovan Rossa was honoured by the Irish Free State when it renamed a bridge in Dublin after him. Excerpts from his book Prison Life can be found in this collection, alongside multiple newspaper articles outlining his activities.
Begin your search broadly.
Individuals are often referred to in the newspapers in this collection by their last name alone. Be sure to check search results where a first name shows as blank as the transcript and image may contain valuable information about your ancestor, or try searching using the surname field alone. For example, by searching for Rossa in the last name field, you are able to uncover multiple entries for Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.