Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan

My grandmother, who’s maiden name is Corrigan, always used to tell us about some distant cousin that they called “Wrong Way” Corrigan. She talked about how he flew a plane from New York to Ireland. When I was young, I thought this was some made-up, grandma-style folk tale the old people liked to tell their grandchildren. It turns out that he is real and that he really did that. Now, is he related to us and our Corrigan surname? That is another question.

Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan was born in 1907 in Galveston, Texas as Clyde Groce Corrigan, after his father. He legally changed his name to Douglas as an adult.

In 1938, after a transcontinental flight from Long Beach, California, to New York, he flew from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, to Ireland, even though he was supposed to be returning to Long Beach. He claimed that his unauthorized flight was due to a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass. Corrigan, however, was a skilled aircraft mechanic (he was one of the builders of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis) and a habitual risk-taking maverick; he had made several modifications to his own plane, preparing it for transatlantic flight. Between 1935 and 1937, he applied several times, unsuccessfully, for permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland, and it is likely that his “navigational error” was a protest against government “red tape”; however, he never publicly acknowledged having flown to Ireland intentionally. – Wikipedia

Wrong Way CorriganI decided to do what I could to find out if there is a connection somewhere down the Corrigan line, at least as far back as I could go. I started by finding Clyde G Corrigan in his first census report, the 1910 US Census. Fortunately, my first search brought up a Clyde G Carrigan (or Corrigan) living in San Patricio, Texas at three years old. His father’s name is also Clyde S Corrigan. We’re two for two. He also lives with his mother, Evelyn, and his younger brother, Harry. Clyde and Harry are also listed in the Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997.

Well, as I jump through the Corrigan line, fortunately made easier by less popular names like Clyde and not Michael, I find evidence that will not help my cause. I find Douglas’ grandfather, John Corrigan, living in California in 1900 with his son Clyde S. It says that John’s parents were both born in Ireland and that he was born in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, my Corrigan line came to North America in about 1820 and entered into the southern area of Ontario, Canada and stayed there a long time before dropping into Wisconsin. I don’t have much beyond that, so I won’t be able to connect his family with mine too quickly.

I did pinpoint two John Corrigans in Pennsylvania in the 1850 census and only one had parents that were born in Ireland. Hugh and Jane Corrigan living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I can find one Hugh Corrigan of that age that immigrated to New York from Ireland in 1841, but no other information to confirm this is him. It also doesn’t tell me which county in Ireland that Hugh came from. This would help me connect our families, since my Corrigan family came from County Tyrone. Unfortunately, I don’t have any Hugh Corrigans listed in my tree that were born around 1805 in Ireland. I can only imagine that somewhere back in Ireland, Wrong Way’s family connects to mine. How far back? We’ll never really know, I guess.

This was a fun little escape from the normal genealogy grind. It’s amazing what you can find about almost anyone that was alive before 1930 with all the data available today on the Internet. You escaped me this time, “Wrong Way” Corrigan! One day. I will find you! (Please…for my grandmother.)

About Brian Zalewski

I started genealogy research about mid-1999. My grandfather had passed away in April of that year. Since then I’ve done a lot of research not only for myself, but for friends and other relatives. In 2006, I married the love of my life, Darcy, and welcomed the birth of our daughter, Aerissa Jean, in 2010 and our son, Xander Lee, in 2012. I can’t wait to tell them stories about all of their ancestors.

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Comments

  1. Brian,

    Your story of “Wrong Way” Corrigan could fit into a story of my own family history.

    When I was young, I was given a pedal car, probably as a hand-me-down from one of my father’s friends. I never could figure out how to make it move forward, but I was an expert at reverse.

    My father called me “Wrong Way” Corrigan when he saw me driving the pedal car in reverse. Now I know who “Wrong Way” Corrigan was!

    Steve

  2. Hi Brian – you have been tagged for a genealogy blog meme at: http://nordicblue.blogspot.com/

  3. Brian,

    My great-grandfather who was born in Ireland used to call quite a few people who were not related at all his “cousins” which created several wild goose chases when I was first researching :D

    Tis a great story you tell! :D

    Janice

  4. George McPeak says:

    Concerning the parentage of John Corrigan:
    In the 1870 census (June 3) he was in South Bend, Indiana with his wife, Jennie, no children. In 1880 he is in Sturgis Michigan with Jennie, Clyde and 3 other children.

    It was initially thought that John was the son of Hugh and Jane Corrigan, who show up on the 1850 Census living in Philadelphia. However, Hugh’s son John is still with him in Philadelphia in November 1870, along with other siblings.

    Another John Corrigan shows up in the 1850 census age 4, living in North Huntingdon Twp., Pennsylvania; son of Pat and Mary Corrigan, and a brother, James, born abt June 1880, all born Pennsylvania. No trace can be found of Pat, Mary, John or James in the 1860 census.

    In 1880 John, in Sturgis, Michigan is shown to be born inPennsylvania and both parents are shown born in Ireland; there is a James Corrigan, age 29, found living with wife, Annie and son William, 1, in Carbon Twp., Huntingdon Twp., Pennsylvania; he is born Pennsylvania and both parents are shown born Ireland.

    It appears that this John Corrigan is likely the child of Pat and Mary, but what happened to them is a mystery. It is probable that the listing of Pat and Mary as being born in Pennsylvania was in error.

    Hope this helps clarify John’s parentage. I have done some additional work on Wrongway Corrigan’s family and will be glad to share it with you.

    p.s. I am related to the Corrigans by marriage early on with my McNenly line.

    George

  5. George, thanks for the more detailed information. I didn’t dig too deeply into the ancestry, it was more of a quick run through since it had just popped into my head before I posted it. It looks like you’ve been researching this line for a bit. Thanks again!brianjz

  6. I’d love to know if anyone knows the whereabouts of Douglas (Wrongway) Corrigan’s children. Are they still living and does anyone know where they live?

  7. >>”I’d love to know if anyone knows the whereabouts of Douglas (Wrongway) Corrigan’s children. Are they still living and does anyone know where they live?”

    Douglas “Wrongway” Corrigan did have a family and he last lived in Santa Ana, CA.

    http://www.santaanahistory.com/articles/corrigan.html

  8. Terrance J Zielke says:

    Dougas, “Wrong way Corrigan” was burried in California. if you like to know more my e-mail address is tjzielke@yahoo.com

  9. who wrote this article ? i have a pic off wrong way carrigan dated 1938 with police officers around hes smilling email me back