This post is just a little investigation and speculation about folks bearing the name Brenan and interred at the basilica graveyard. There are five: Mary S., Thomas J., Ellen, Daniel, and Charles.

Mary S. and Thomas J. Brenan

Here are a couple of stones, close but not too close, male and female, with the same last name, Brenan. They are on the right, just inside the gate, and east of the Ursuline Nuns in the fenced area. Both markers were difficult to read but with some cleaning and with catching the sun at just the right angle, they have been deciphered.

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Mary S. Brenan, on the left, was a daughter of James and Mary Creyon (more later in a separate post on the Creyons), and died in 1877 at age 70. Thomas J. Brenan, on the right, was a son of Roger and Mary Brenan, and died in 1875, at age 43.

Given those dates, Thomas J. was about 25 years younger than Mary S. and they both died within a couple of years of each other, she about 70 and he in his early forties. Searches for information on parents James and Mary  Creyon and Roger and Mary Brenan led to dead ends. So, the exact family relationship between Mary S. and Thomas J., if any, remains an opportunity for research. Maybe they were in-laws, or maybe husband and wife, or maybe just friends.

Or, later thought, maybe Mary Creyon had married Roger Brenan and was the mother of Thomas J. Brenan.

Daniel Brenan, Son Charles, and Daughter Ellen

Epitaphs of Daniel Brenan (1797 – 1832), son Charles (1822 – 1826), and daughter Ellen (1830 – 1904) are on adjacent markers shown below.

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Barely legible epitaphs for Daniel and Charles as recorded by the WPA in 1936 are as follows:

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Daniel’s Information

A search on for Daniel Brenan bears some fruit including 1830 census data and a diagram of his siblings, spouse, and off-spring. The census data tell us that he was head of a large household, including 23 slaves, and must, therefore, have been a man of some means. The family diagram offers clues about but no exact accounting of the 8 free persons in his 1830 household. One thing we learn from this is that not all the early parishioners of St. Peter’s Catholic Church were poor canal diggers.

Here are the data from the 1830 census.

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And here is his family diagram from

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Brother Thomas is a half-brother about whom there is no information on Maybe he is the Thomas J. buried In the basilica graveyard, a very young half brother of Daniel, and, if so, one of his parents, either Roger or Mary, is one of the un-revealed parents of Daniel. We may never know.

And apparently, Spouse Mary Polly Edwards was referred to simply as “Lady” on the epitaph for 4-year-old Charles Brenan unless some other mother was involved.

Mary Polly Edwards, wife of Daniel Brenan

It is hard to know where to stop this kind of trail following, but I am going to stop with this information about Mary Polly Edwards (1799 – 1870) wife of Daniel Brenan, who outlived him by 38 years. There is interesting information about her at and at, including her 1832 inheritance of some of her husband’s slaves and her 1870 burial at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. She survived the Civil War, but her inheritance probably did not.

Ellen Brenan…or Brennan

We need to mention the interesting life of Ellen Brenan, youngest daughter of Daniel. Brenan is a tough name to track because it is sometimes spelled Brennan. To illustrate the point, here is a screen shot from of her monument in the basilica graveyard with Brennan in their database and Brenan on the monument. I’m confident the engraving on the stone is correct and that Ellen shared a name with Mary S. and Thomas J.  Note in the obituary below how Mrs. Dovilliers spent her years as a widow. It is interesting that, in 1904, she was buried next to the younger brother she never met and her father she could have remembered only very faintly. We can wonder if that was her desire or the actions of her family. Probably, if we were to look long enough, we could find her last will and testament. I guess the Annie she visited was Anna Elizabeth (1825 – 1905)

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Eugene Dovilliers Who Married a Brenan

We get confirmation, from searching Eugene Dovilliers on, that Daniel’s youngest daughter, Ellen Rebecca, married him, a Frenchman (I didn’t think that name looked Irish), and moved with him to Annapolis, Maryland where he was Assistant Professor of Languages at the Naval Academy. He died in 1887 and was buried in Maryland according to There is information in Ellen’s obituary above about her life for her remaining 17 years.

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You can read a bit about Dovilliers and his Columbia home HERE and see examples of his art HERE and HERE. Since he married a Catholic lass in Columbia, it would be interesting to know if he was part of the Catholic majority in France or one of the persecuted and exiled Protestants, but that information does not seem to be readily available.






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