Mary McNeill was born 26 Aug 1874 in Glenarm, County Antrim to William McNeill and Ellen McCambridge.
William McNeill was a stone mason in Glenarm, as was his father John before him. His marriage to Ellen was his second as his first wife Margaret McLauglin died giving birth to twin daughters in 1869. William was left to raise the couple's three sons from this first marriage, John, Charles and Alexander.
In 1872, William married Ellen McCambridge the daughter of John McCambridge and Mary McKeegan. John and Mary lived in the clachan of Knockban whose building walls are still standing. The Glens of Antrim Historical Society has an excellent report on Knockban as well what is known about the 19th century inhabitants.
Mary McNeill was the oldest daughter of William McNeill and Ellen McCambridge. She married Francis (Frank) Gibson in Glenarm in 1895 and they immigrated to the US in 1895. They were part of a significant chain migration from the Glens of Antrim to the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York. Mary's older half-brothers, John and Alexander were already in Brooklyn and like many other men from the Glens with experience as seamen on the Irish Sea, they found work on the river barges.
Mary made multiple trips back to Ireland and brought other family members to the US including her sister Sarah in 1898 and her cousin Anne McCambridge in 1899.
Mary and Frank Gibson had one son, William (Willie) who was born in August 1902. Francis died 20 Nov 1902 when he fell from a steam lighter at the foot of West Sixty-Eighth street and drowned leaving Mary to support herself and three-month old Willie.
Mary married Robert Willis on 26 Oct 1904 in Brooklyn when she was 30 and he was 49. Robert was a widower whose first wife, Ida Hudson had had twelve children, only three of whom had survived infancy. Two of those children, Robert, Jr. and Fannie were living with Robert and Mary Willis along with her young son Willie Gibson in June of 1905.
Mary and Robert had five children of their own, two of whom (Dorman and Clement) also died in childhood. In addition to their daughter Ellen, they also had a daughter Ruth and a son Raymond. Willie Gibson died in 1908. Mary lost her second husband, Robert Willis in 1913 when their children were all under ten years of age. For some years, Ellen and Ruth were raised in the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy while Raymond was at St. John's Home. This allowed Mary to work to support her family. This continued as late as 1920 according to US Census records. By 1930, Mary is living with her daughter Ellen, son-in-law William Sammon, and daughter Ruth and granddaughter Mary Sammon. Mary continued to live in the Sammon household until her death on 8 Apr 1960 at age 85.
Mary McNeill Gibson Willis 1951
Ireland's Valuation office conducted its first survey of property ownership in Ireland from 1848 to 1864. This survey became known as "Griffiths Valuation" after Richard Griffith who was the director of the office at that time. The survey was used to determine the amount of tax each person should pay towards the support of the poor within their poor law union. These links will provide access to the property listing as well as maps showing the dwelling locations.