Hi.  We’re the Bodkin Brothers of Long Island, New York (Matt & Bill).  Well, we’re not the only ones, but we are the ones who have started this blog dedicated to publishing the information we (mostly Matt) have gathered concerning Bodkin family genealogy, in the hopes of educating the far flung Bodkin family about it and potentially obtaining any additional information concerning the Bodkin family tree.

Who are the Bodkins?  The Bodkin clan is one of the Fourteen Founding Tribes of County Galway.  You can see the Bodkin family herald hanging in Galway City’s Eyre Square.  The Bodkin family is one of the smallest of the “tribes.”  The odds are excellent if you’re a Bodkin and Irish or of Irish descent, we’re related.

Our great-great grandfather, Christopher P. Bodkin (1845-1905), came to New York City in the 1880’s under, well, as you can see from another post, somewhat interesting circumstances.  He had three children survive to old age: Christopher (1879-1956), John (1881-1956) and Alphonsus (Stan or Al) (1886-1958).   We are descended from John’s branch of the family.

We would encourage all Bodkins (and those crazy enough to love them) to join us here, and to freely share any information with us: stories, legends, lore, and, perhaps most of all, verifiable facts (We love documents!).

Thanks.  We’re looking forward to a great conversation.


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Crom aboo


Joe Bodkin of Canada wonders about the Bodkin family motto crom aboo. His father believed it to mean “death before dishonor”, and was known to occasionally invoke it while raising a glass.

A family reunion newsletter from 1982 in my possession expresses a similar sentiment.

The old Irish watchword crom a boo means ‘I will burn’. The exact meaning of this is unknown to us and we hope it does not refer to Hades. It more likely refers to the Irish who would rather burn than give in to their conquerors and oppressors.

Luckily, history steers us away from death and hellfire.

William Newton, in “A Display of Heraldry” (1846) explains, crom-a-boo was the ancient Irish war cry of the Fitzgerald clan, whose arms the Bodkin family bore for many generations, according to Hardiman’s History of Galway, and whose motto they retain to this day.

Very cool. But, what does it mean? Martin Blake’s “Blake Family Records, 1600-1700“,  defines it as “Crom to victory”. Modern Irish/English translations (Google) give the meaning of “Abu” or “Aboo,” as “forever”.

The Dukes of Leinster also share the motto, owing to their Fitzgerald lineage. That leads us to the Complete Peerage. (1890) Vol III. (D-F) p358 “Fitz-Gerald of Offaly” and fills us in on “Crom” and war cries.

Crom (Croom) and Shanet (Shanid) were two castles about 16 miles apart in Co Limerick, one being the seat of the Geraldines of Kildare, and the other that of the Geraldines of Desmond, whose distinctive war cries were accordingly “Crom-a-boo” and “Shanet-a-boo.” In 1495 an act of Parliament was passed “to abolish the words Crom-a-boo and Butler-a-boo.” The word “Abu” or “Aboo,” an exclamation of defiance, was the usual termination of the war cries in Ireland, as in a’ buaidh, “to victory!”

Abu as a war cry is on full display in O’Donnell Abú, a marching song about the Nine Years War.

The National University of Ireland’s (Galway) Landed Estates Database gives us a peek at the Castle:


I’ll take that over damnation any day.


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Origin stories.

There are plenty of stories about the origin of the “Bodkin” name. My favorite comes from James Hardiman’s History of Galway, published in 1820.

The Bodkins of Galway, and the Earls of Desmond and Kildare, were descended from the common ancestor, Maurice Fitzgerald, Lord of Windsor, and one of the first invaders of Ireland, under Strongbow. His son, Thomas FitzMaurice, acquired ample possessions in Munster, where his descendants became Earls of Desmond. Richard, the son of Thomas, about the year 1242, held considerable properties in Connaught, under Richard de Burgo, and Thomas, his son, was the ancestor of the Bodkin family. This family name originated, according to tradition, from a victory gained by their great progenitor, Thomas Fitz Richard (about the year 1300,) over a valiant Irish knight, whom he encountered in single combat, and having, in the conflict, made use of a short spear or weapon, in Irish called, a Baudekin, he was, from that circumstance, surnamed, Buaidh Baudekin, of the victory of the Bodkin, which name was afterwards retained by his descendants. Whatever doubt may attend this traditionary relation, none can exist as to the origin and descent of the family, which are fully ascertained by the testimony of antiquaries, by ancient stone sculptures and monuments, still remaining, and from the genealogies of the Geraldines, whose arms the Bodkin family bore for many generations, and whose motto, Crom aboo, they retain to this day.

Arms. Ermine, on a saltire, gules, a leopard’s face, or. Crest. A leopard’s face, or. Motto. Crom aboo.


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Alleged Defalcations

Christopher Peter Bodkin (1845-1905), (C.P., for short) did not arrive in NY with his wife and 6 children in 1892. His wife and kids travelled comfortably – second class aboard the steamship Anchor. They crossed in 10 days – fast for the late 1880s. Census and naturalization documents give a September of 1888 arrival date for him and his oldest son, Thomas. I’ve found no ship’s manifest documenting their crossing.

In September 1888 C.P was 43 his wife Deborah was 40. There were 8 surviving children. Mary was 20, Deborah “Birdie” was 17, Helen was 16, Thomas was 14, Christopher was 9, Imelda was 8, John was 7 and Alphonsus age 2. Deborah was 3 months pregnant with, presumably, their last child. Plus, there was an irish terrier.

So, why did he decide to come here, and where’s the manifest of C.P’s crossing? Lost to history?

Then, I found this in the Irish Times of 9/19/1888, the Northampton Mercury of 9/22/1888 and the below, the most detailed account from the Freeman’s Journal 9/19/1888. No follow up stories have been found.



“Alleged Defalcations by a Dublin Insurance Clerk
Yesterday the secretary and other officials in Dublin branch of the West of England Insurance Company were engaged in making investigations into defalcations amounting to £1,100 which have within the past few days been discovered in the accounts. The police were informed of the facts on Monday evening and at once proceeded to make inquiries with reference to Christopher P. Bodkin, a clerk in the office who is stated to have disappeared since Thursday last. The police station at Dundrum, in which district Mr. Bolger* resided, and all the stations in the city were telegraphed to, but up to the present nothing has transpired with regards to his whereabouts. His wife and children are still living in Dundrum.”

The address listed in the newspapers matches his children’s birth records and Thom’s Irish Almanac – a city street directory.

The occupation given in the news matches that reported in other American documents including the 1900 census and his death certificate.

The West of England Insurance Company has been purchased and merged over the years and still exists, as such, as Aviva. According to the group archivist:

“An insurance clerk in a branch in that period would have been employed at the counter dealing with customers who came in wanting to take out insurance or make claims and in writing up all the policy details in the ledgers. Any records from that time were destroyed in the Exeter Blitz along with the company’s former head office.”

Money crossed his desk. There was opportunity.


“branch staff in this era would typically have earned between £45 7s and 5s a week- depending on experience. The Dublin office of General Accident at around this date had a manager on £200pa and 2 clerks, one on £45 7s (who happened to be the manger’s son) and one on 5s per week who had recently been taken on as a sort of apprentice/ dogsbody. The clerk in the Belfast office (another son of the Dublin Manager) – was on £35 10s pa. “

According to the The Clerical Officer of the Garda Museum, Dublin Castle,

“…it appears that most, if not all, of such information prior to 1922 was destroyed when that police force (the Royal Irish Constabulary) was disbanded. The British Home Office was given the task of deciding which files were to be brought back to England and which were not. Those that were deemed to be unnecessary were destroyed. The information you have already sourced from newspaper archives is probaly the only record of what happened at that time.”

With no further info on the outcome, and as circumstantial as the evidence is, it seems clear this incident provided C.P. with reason to emigrate to NY in 1888.

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