Thursday, May 11, 2006

Southern and Protestant Cullens

I think of Cullen as a typical Irish-American surname, with our ancestors emigrating during the potato famine in the 1840s and until the early 1900s, settling in the northeast/midwest, ending up in big cities even if that's not the first place they came to in America.
But I think there might be earlier Cullens in America, maybe from Ireland maybe from England, probably Protestant.
Probably one of the most famous people named Cullen wasn't really a Cullen:

Countee Cullen was very secretive about his life. According to different sources, he was born in Louisville, Kentucy or Baltimore, Md. Cullen was possibly abandoned by his mother, and reared by a woman named Mrs. Porter, who was probably his paternal grandmother. Cullen once said that he was born in New York City - perhaps he did not mean it literally. Porter brought young Countee to Harlem when he was nine. She died in 1918. At the age of 15, Cullen was adopted unofficially by the Reverend F.A. Cullen, minister of Salem M.E. Church, one of the largest congregations of Harlem. Later Reverend Cullen became the head of the Harlem chapter of NAACP. His real mother did not contact him until he became famous in the 1920s.

But Rev. F.A. Cullen seems to be an illustrious African-American Cullen. Where was he from?


Anonymous said...

You said "maybe earlier Cullens in America, maybe from England, maybe from Ireland, probably Protestant". I am a descendent of one of the early Cullen families in eastern Canada, the Clement Cullen family, who arrived in 1828-30, almost 20 years before the famine. There were also other Cullens on Prince Edward Island at that time - mostly Irish, mostly Catholic -see my Cullens of PEI lineages under lineages on the Island Register site at
best wishes,

Bernie said...

Hi Patricia,

Thanks for the comment on my blog, I found the lineage files you mentioned. You know that your Clement Cullen ancestor came from Wexford, do you suspect that any of the other early immigrants were related to him?

What are your current goals for your Cullen research?

My comment about Southern U.S. and Protestant Cullens was just a random thought prompted by wondering about the origins of the African-American minister F.A. Cullen. Someone else suggested to me that immigrants to many parts of the US may not have had any Catholic neighbors and may have assimilated to the dominant religion, especially if they were single men who married. So some of these early Cullens may have originally been Irish Catholics, and not English or Scottish or Irish Protestants as I had assumed. Maybe in PEI there was more of a Catholic community, especially given the French history in the general area (I don't know about PEI specifically).

(this message was originally emailed to Patricia in 2007)