Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (37):can we create interactive digital maps?


I’ve long had an interest in historical geography and historical atlases in particular. I remember well the impact a good map had upon my uni students in Jamaica. A map of the Atlantic Slave Trade and one showing the spread of Jesuit colleges in Europe during the Counter/Catholic Reformation were two of my favourites. Maybe that’s why I admire the work of cartographer, Mike Murphy, in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, Cork, 2012.

These days, living in a ‘Computer Age’, the creative possibilities are exciting. The map below shows the location of some of the Irish Famine orphans in 1861, that is, according to the birth registration of their children.

Irish Famine orphans in Eastern Australia in 1861

Irish Famine orphans in Eastern Australia in 1861

I wonder how difficult it would be to create an interactive map? If we were really ambitious we should try something like the projects at Stanford University, http://web.stanford.edu/group/spatialhistory/cgi-bin/site/projects.php

But maybe that’s too ambitious for the uninitiated. Could we do something simpler instead, such as clicking on the dots in the map above to bring up all the information we have about the orphan who resided there at that particular time?

We may be lucky enough to have a photograph.

Rose Sherry per John Knox

Rose Sherry per John Knox

Rose was living in Clare Terrace, off William Street, in Double Bay, Sydney, in 1861.


Or a record of her marriage. This is Jane Troy‘s, in Portland,

Jane Troy marries George Smith, Portland, Victoria

Jane Troy marries George Smith, Portland, Victoria

You may remember Jane from an earlier post http://wp.me/p4SlVj-Di


Maybe there are some probate records. I wonder how common it was for an orphan or her husband to make a will. I’d be surprised if even 30% of them did so. Here are a couple of examples, extracts only I’m afraid. I’m unsure about permission to reproduce such things. These are from Victorian records.

Re the family of an orphan from Leitrim

Re the family of an orphan from Leitrim

That was a sad story. The orphan, Jane Liddy, from Leitrim, married well but she and her husband died at a young age. Their considerable estate vanished in the maintenance and medical care of their nine children.

Another one,

Interesting effects

Interesting effects

The man knew his livestock, even by name, Boxer and Diamond and Fagan and Dandy.


Let me demonstrate how this map business might work. Here is a map of the orphans in Queensland c. 1861. I’ve entered a few numbers. If we had an interactive map, what might appear if we clicked on numbers 1 and 2, at Ipswich?


It may only be a family reconstitution, no other material being available. If you click on the images you can make them larger.

So, number 1 is for Cicely Moran per Thomas Arbuthnot,

Cicely Moran from Galway

Cicely Moran from Galway


Number 2 is for Mary Casey per Digby

Mary Casey from Longford

Mary Casey from Longford


Can you find numbers 3 & 4 on the map?

Number 3 is for Bridget Murray per Lady Peel who was in Brisbane in 1861.

Bridget Murray from Roscommon

Bridget Murray from Roscommon


Number 4 is for Jane Duff per Earl Grey


Jane is from Newtownards and is at Condamine in 1861.


Number 5 is for Celia Dempsey per Digby(?)

Celia Dempsey from Dublin (Kingstown later Dun Laoghaire)

Celia Dempsey from Dublin (Kingstown later Dun Laoghaire). She is in Dalby.


Number 6 is Margaret Plunkett per John Knox

Margaret Plunkett from Armagh/Newry

Margaret Plunkett from Armagh/Newry

The Armagh/Newry contradiction appears on the John Knox  shipping list. She was in Cadargo in 1861.


Now where is number 7? It’s for Bridget McQueeney(ie) per Lady Peel

Bridget McQueenie from Leitrim

Bridget McQueenie from Leitrim

Bridget was in Laidley in 1861


Number 8 is for someone we’ve met already, the spirited Margaret Stack from Ennistymon per Thomas Arbuthnot.

See the section ‘Moreton Bay District’ towards the bottom of  http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf 

Here is a photograph of that feisty 14 year-old later in life, as formidable as ever.

Margaret Smith nee Stack from Ennistymon Co. Clare

Margaret Smith nee Stack from Ennistymon Co. Clare

 blogmstackIt looks as though she was at Baramba Station in 1861? My thanks to her ancestor who sent me this information.


Number 9 is for Mary Ann Prendergast, once again per Thomas Arbuthnot

Mary Ann Prendergast from Galway

Mary Ann Prendergast from Galway

Mary was at Toowoomba in 1861.


I’m sure it would be possible to create interactive maps such as these. But we’d need a website and a number of helpers. I wonder what resources the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee has these days. Probably nowhere near as much as they would like. Imagine tracing how far the orphans travelled in Queensland (and elsewhere). Maybe one could invent an app. to allow people to map the geographic movement of their orphan ancestor? —-for a fee of course, or a contribution to one of the GIFCC Outreach programmes, http://irishfaminememorial.org/media/filer_private/2012/08/09/brochurenew_detailsprint.pdf

I suppose it’s a case of “tell him he’s dreamin”. (Hope you’ve seen the Australian film,’The Castle‘).


May I remind readers of the annual gathering at Hyde Park Barracks on the last Sunday in August, the 28th this year? See http://irishfaminememorial.org/

Scroll down that page for information. The Guest speaker is Tim Costello, a brilliant choice.

The featured image is ‘Bullock Dray Melbourne 1851’, courtesy of the Dixson Library, Sydney.

And for a link to the contents of my blog see http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

18 thoughts on “Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (37):can we create interactive digital maps?

  1. Hi Trevor, Do you happen to know if there is a database we can look at to see where/to whom each girl was assigned. I know that my 2x gt grandmother Frances Patterson per Digby was assigned to Major Innes in Port Macquarie but have never seen an indenture (or if one still exists). On the same ship was her cousin Mary Ann who was sent to Dapto, NSW so I would also like to check on her journey. I have sent photos and docs on Frances quite a while ago and also to Perry.
    Many thanks for your great work. – Robyn


    • HI Robyn,
      Not specifically related to their employers as far as i know. Very few copies of indentures have survived.
      Shipping records in Victoria have what they call Disposal Lists which record the orphans’ first employer.
      In NSW the information is in a variety of places. For Barefoot it came mainly from Immigration Correspondence, then in the early 2000s I think it was the late Lionel Fowler but i may need correcting here, provided information about orphans’ employers on some of the earlier vessels (would have included the Digby). It was discovered as part of the Governor’s Despatches ie as enclosures to the Despatches, copies of which were on microfilm at the Mitchell Library. References were put on to the first irishfaminememorial.org website but don’t seem to have made it to recent most up to date version. CY references if my memory is correct. Am still battling some health issues. Maybe Perry or someone can give the specific reference.
      best wishes

      Dear Robyn, Found a letter from Mr Fowler which says the MF Reel for the Digby was not found. They do exist for some others. All that info would have been entered on to the database on the irishfaminememorial.org site.


  2. Thankyou all for your kind words and encouraging suggestions. But it aint something I intend doing.
    I’ve always believed the best way to commemorate these young women who fled the Great Irish Famine and sought refuge in Australia was through the GIFCC’s Outreach programme. There is surely something similar arranged in Melbourne(?) and Adelaide(?) or about to be. I was wetting a line and casting some burly. I hope one day an interactive map is available and it is used as a way of raising funds for young women fleeing from humanitarian disasters. Tim Costello will have some wise words for the ‘Gathering’ on the 28th August, I’m sure.


  3. Hi Trevor

    Only yesterday i was talking to a cousin’s husband who is a surveyor in Sydney. We were discussing the excellent maps produced so meticulously in the 1830’s under the direction of …… Mitchell. If you want to follow this up a bit, please ring me on 0402053279 and i can put you in contact with him. He said there are some “priceless” (my emphasis) etchings of these originals in the Australian Archives in Canberra. Thanks once again for your wonderful knowledge and the passion you show in helping us find out more about our famine ancestors.

    Kind regards

    Bill McDermott

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Trevor,
    Couple of steps required.
    1) build a small database. Identify each person (already done, pretty much), then collect a number of ‘life events’ such as place of birth, workhouse, point of disembarkation, point of arrival, workplace, lived at, married at, died at, buried at. Each event has a known date and a ‘best information’ location, so maybe you know the town, or maybe you know the district, or maybe you have the street address;
    2) geocode the address using Google API, and store with each life event. This just calculates the latitude/longitude based on the full or partial address;
    3) find a WordPress plugin which can render maps. Try Googling “wordpress maps plugin”. The plugin should be able to take data from the database and render it in WordPress. Depending on what you want to achieve, you may need to take care with which plugin you choose.
    I could knock a quick schema together for you for the database. Drop me an email. The API call for Google is probably best done with a database routine, but you need a google API key (which is free providing you don’t exceed certain limits). You need a database on your hosting account. Load the schema, test geocoding connections, load data, then play with plugins. Then (presumably) tweak the schema a bit where needed.
    Rory O’Connell

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Dear Dr McClaughlin, My great great grandmother, Frances Maria Young, known as Fanny, came as a ‘Famine Girl’ from County Cavan in July 1850, on the Taipoo Saib.

    If you’re interested in any more information about her life in Australia, I am more than happy to discuss her with you. She married in Redfern, married and moved to Yackandandah and raised a family. I have a photo, it’s not fantastic but is probably typical of its kind.

    Regards, Rebecca.

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi again Trevor, Yes I have a copy of Kay’s book & also provided her with some info on Mary. I also met with JJ while he was out here. I was the only contact he had here for a girl from the Dingle workhouse. He has told me that his program is scheduled for broadcast on radio Kerry on Christmas Day (of all times). There will also be a podcast. Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interactive map for orphans: a brilliant idea our Trevor, and one that would be instantly popular and used world-wide. I’d suggest a) you find a webpage person, possibly someone doing a degree in this area who could find the content useful? And b) you start a Give a Little page so we can donate money to pay a minute salary to the web person / moderator for uploading items sent in. (We / you don’t want people feeling free to submit their rant on how whatever political event of today is terrible and They should bring back hanging.) And c) the web site needs to have a couple of basic statements about copyright, and what people can do with material they see on it, and we need to make sure people know about it . . . But basically, yes, let’s go.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for an interesting post Trevor. I was happy to see Queensland get a mention. That dot (or one of them) at Drayton would be for my GG Grandmother Mary Kennedy from Dingle, Thomas Arbuthnot, 3rd Febryary 1850, Sydney.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ian,
      I’m sure you’ve seen Kay Caball’s lovely book, Kerry Girls. JJ O’Shea was out here from Radio Kerry
      earlier this year. He was preparing a programme for the radio station on the orphans, especially those from Kerry.
      As far as I know it hasn’t been broadcast yet. Might be worth checking http://www.radiokerry.ie/
      from time to time.
      Best wishes


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