Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (52); photos with tales

Some orphan stories, with photos

Catherine Fox from Armagh per Earl Grey

Here is the entry for Catherine Fox on the www.irishfaminememorial.org database. Some of the information came from her descendant Gwen Etherington in the late 1980s, some from my Barefoot, and some improvements were added by Dr Perry McIntyre.

Shipping: nursemaid, reads & writes, no relatives in colony. Armagh PLU PRONI BG2/G/2/ into workhouse 10 May 1847, aged 17 tolerably well clothed from Armagh town, out 7 Jul 1847; in 10 Jul 1847 (1203) thinly clothed, hungry, Union at Large, out 24 May 1848; empl Mr Hutchinson, Sydney, £10, 12 months; married widower Archibald Graham, Sydney in 1852; lived Dapto & Wollongong; sponsored her brother Bernard Fox from Glenmore, on ‘Commodore Perry’ 1856; she raised 6 surviving children her husbands first marriage, 12 of her own & 2 of her stepson’s children; died 1920.

The PRONI BG numbers refer to Armagh workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers.

You may notice Catherine’s husband was also from Armagh but she and Archie, who was eighteen years her senior, were of a different religion. I seem to remember Gwen telling me there was sectarian tension not just in the marriage (how were the children to be raised?) but also in Dapto and Wollongong, in the Illawarra, where the couple lived from the early 1850s. Catherine was, or became, a staunch defender of her religion against her Protestant neighbours. That Catholic-Protestant sectarian divide was certainly a feature of Australian history that is nowadays often forgotten. The country has moved on.



Catherine Fox per Earl Grey

Ann Nelligan from Mallow per Pemberton

Ann and her younger sister, 17 year-old Eliza, were part of the Mallow (County Cork) contingent (about fifteen in all) on board the Pemberton. Eliza had been Superintendent of Work in the Union workhouse, something which worked to the sisters’ advantage when they were offered a place in the Earl Grey scheme.

Ann’s husband, John Baker, was a Parkhurst ‘exile’ from Birmingham. Together they had eight children, two boys and six girls. But Ann died relatively young at 39, of chronic nephritis.


Ann Nelligan per Pemberton

Here is the family reconstitution form for Ann’s sister,  Eliza Nelligan who married Joseph Midolo a sailmaker from Sicily. He was about eighteen years older than Eliza but she too was to die relatively young at 42, like her sister, of nephritis. Nephritis is inflammation or infection of the kidneys. I doubt there was effective medical treatment for Ann and Eliza in the early 1870s. Do correct me if I’m wrong.


The names of descendants researching the family history of these two orphans have changed considerably between Barefoot volume I and those now on the database. It is testimony to how strongly their families feel connected to their Irish orphan forebears.

Eliza Geoghagen from Athlone, Westmeath per Digby

Here is another example of what is euphemistically called ‘mixed marriage’. I remember Siobhán McHugh doing excellent work on this. See http://www.mchugh.org/radio/marryingOut.html

Eliza and her husband travelled throughout New South Wales. Look where they were living when their twelve children were born; Sydney, Yass, Tumut, Steiglitz, Victoria, Wattle Flat, Sofala, Pipeclay, Tallawang, Slapdash. Imagine carrying your brood all that way in those days.  Both Eliza and John are buried in Gulgong. There are some magnificent photographs of Gulgong in the photograph collections of the State Library of New South Wales.



Women in Gulgong photo courtesy of the State Library New South Wales

Bridget Gaffney from Butlersbridge, Cavan, per Digby

Another example of “Not Before the Altar”.

Sometimes you will notice discrepancies in our record. One of the ones here is my failure to count properly. There are five male children not four that I noted. Even so, two more have appeared on the database. My default position nowadays is the database rather than my early work. Helen Watts supplied information about Bridget and her sister Catherine and updated it for the second volume of Barefoot. Her update would account for the discrepancy.

There is a good report on the Digby voyage in State Records of New South Wales. The reference I have is SRNSW (State Records new South Wales) Microfilm reel 2852 Reports1838-49, 4/4699. The Digby arrived in Port Jackson 4 April 1849.

Colonial authorities were adamant that the terms and conditions of their charter parties, or contract, with shipping agents were met. The early orphan vessels were particularly subject to their scrutiny. The Surgeon Superintendent of the Digby, Dr William Neville kept a ‘private log’, or secret record, which he forwarded to the Colonial Secretary upon his arrival in Sydney. The consequence was an Immigration Board of Enquiry which found against the Master of the vessel, Captain Taber

  • ‘..he did against the Government Regulations defraud the Emigrants of a large portion of their rations…
  • the provisions and condiments etc. were not of the quality contracted for by the Government or such as ought to have been placed on board for the Emigrants “consumption”…(the Sydney Board comprising Merewether, Savage and Browne even went so far as to sample some of the provisions themselves! If only our present day so-called regulators were as keen).
  • Dr Neville further charged the Master with having “permitted the sailors to be too familiar with the female Emigrants in opposition to the authority on board and clause No 20 in the Charter Party…”

The Board recommended the ship’s officers should not receive their gratuity, and that Captain Taber should never be employed on an Emigrant ship ever again. None of which was much consolation for the orphans who had to accept what they were given every day of their 109 day voyage.


The following is from the www.irishfaminememorial.org database entry for Bridget.

  • Other : shipping: house servant, cannot read or write, no relatives in colony; sister Catherine also on Digby; Register 10 Nov 1849 complaint; 18 Dec 1849 Sydney, transfer. Appendix J No.128. 17 May 1850 indentures with JB Wathen cancelled, disobedience and neglect of duty; married Nathaniel Lawrence at Bathurst 13 Jan 1851; 13 children; husband a labourer, shepherd and bushman, lived Wallerwaugh, Mudgee, Bathurst & Wellington area; she died 27 Nov 1899, buried Stuart Town cemetery.

Bridget and her husband Nathaniel

 Honora Shea from Callan, Kilkenny per New Liverpool

Another ‘mixed marriage’. Honora married George Walmsley within a year of her arrival at Port Phillip. George was a Wesleyan and later, Baptist. They had thirteen children, seven boys and six girls. She probably travelled with her older sister Bridget but as neither could read or write they may have parted ways once they were married. Chrissy Fletcher who has a Facebook page for the Port Phillip orphans has asked how many orphans married ‘exiles’.

Chrissy has created a closed group for the Port Phillip arrivals on Facebook.

 We might also ask how many orphans married former convicts; how many married older men; how many married someone of a different religion from their own; how many married Irishmen; how many married Englishmen; how many ‘married’ more than once? These are all interesting questions. Maybe you can think of others?



Honora Shea per New Liverpool

Rose Sherry from Carrickmacross, Monaghan per John Knox

My choice of orphan stories in this post is determined by the availability of photographs. Not everyone is lucky enough to have them.

Here is the entry for Rose on the www.irishfaminememorial.org database which will take you to her story. http://irishfaminememorial.org/media/Sherry_Rose_story.pdf

  • Surname : Sherry (Cherry)
  • First Name : Rose
  • Age on arrival : 17
  • Native Place : Carrick Cross [Carrickmacross], Monaghan
  • Parents : Patrick & Catherine (both dead)
  • Religion : Roman Catholic
  • Ship name : John Knox (Sydney Apr 1850)
  • Workhouse : Monaghan, Carrickmacross
  • Other : Shipping: laundress, reads only, no relatives in colony; married William Alexander Chamberlain, 29 Oct 1851, St Marys, Sydney; 11 children; died 12 Mar 1899, from injuries caused by a fall, aged 66, lived Clara Terrace, off William St., Double Bay; William, a fisherman, died 6 Nov 1902, aged 73, both buried South Head Cemetery. Margaret: margkenstephens[at]bigpond.com; Kim: k.connor92[at]hotmail.com; Pamela: p.wittingslow[at]gmail.com; Judy: ronjudyhinkley[at]bigpond.com others without email contacts
  • Read Her Story


There are plenty of others we might include. Just a taste more. Let me see if I can find one not so well known.

Rebecca Cambridge from Ballyreagh, Fermanagh per Diadem

Here is the entry for Rebecca on the Irish famine memorial database, from my Barefoot vol.II, p. 357. She was in the Enniskillen workhouse records. Enniskillen sent a relatively large number of orphans by the Earl Grey scheme. http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Enniskillen/

  • Surname : Cambridge
  • First Name : Rebecca
  • Age on arrival : 17
  • Native Place : Ballyrag [Ballyreagh], Fermanagh
  • Parents : Not recorded
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : Diadem (Melbourne Jan 1850)
  • Workhouse : Fermanagh, Enniskillen
  • Other : shipping: house servant, reads & writes; Enniskillen PLU PRONI BG14/G/5 (841) Ballyreagh, entered workhouse 9 Apr 1849, left 3 Oct 1849. Empl. Mr George Moulds, baker, Collingwood, £8, 6 months; married Samuel J Harvey, 11 Oct 1854; 11 children; husband gold digger, labourer & woodman; lived Morang, died 25 Jun 1905, buried Yan Yean. She left 10 acres of land & cottage in Separation, valued £100 & 5 cows & furniture worth £40 


As you can see, Rebecca married an Englishman, Sam Harvey who was variously, a gold miner, labourer, woodman, and owner of a small farm. Together the couple had eleven children, three boys and eight girls. Two of their girls and one of their boys died in infancy. Sam and Rebecca are buried in Yan Yean cemetery.


I am constantly uplifted by the high standard of research being done on the Irish Famine orphans, especially by family historians. See for example Aileen Trinder’s work in blog post 48 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-2

which is at http://irishfaminememorial.org/media/Bridget_Quigleys_life_in_NSW_24_Nov_2012.pdf

or Karen Semken’s in blog post 51 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-14R

which is at http://irishfaminememorial.org/media/Catherine_Bracken_Inconstant.pdf

You may wish to view another brilliant effort, about Bridget Donovan per John Knox from Middleton, county Cork. It’s author Rowena has found fascinating new material to add to her WordPress blog. I’m looking forward to reading it there.


or maybe it is here https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/

Rowena’s energy and engagement with Bridget is a delight. Who knows? She may even encourage you to set down your own orphan story in a WordPress blog.


12 thoughts on “Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (52); photos with tales

  1. Hi. Brudget Reynolds from Ennistymon workhouse came to Aust 1850 on the .’Thomas Abuthnot’ and married John Downing Irish convict Nov 1859. Do u have anymore info on her origins. She was 16.


    • Hi Gail,
      She’s in R.Reid & C, Mongan’s “decent set of girls in the Genealogical information in part 2. That book is invaluable for Thomas Arbuthnot orphans. Have you checked the RC parish records available through the National Library of Ireland? Or Peter Higginbotham’s great website on Irish workhouses to see what records have survived? There is also a British Parliamentary record on ‘Causes of Mortality in some Clare Unions’, BPP., 1851, vol. XLIX, pp195ff., that has correspondence (Dec. 1850) relating to the dismissal of the Ennistymon Board of Guardians for their allowing overcrowding, irregular supplying of food, and delays between the date of first application for relief and admission to the workhouse. Not sure where you might be able to get hold of this. National Library in Canberra perhaps? The Guardians themselves claimed their difficulties were compounded by their having to support ‘paupers from the Ballyvaughan and Corofin Unions’. good luck with your research


  2. Hello Trevor,

    I discovered, many years ago, that my 2x great-grandmother was one of the Irish orphan girls aboard the Inchinnan – arriving in Sydney in early 1849.

    Not only have I conducted years of research into Mary Ann’s life, I was also fortunate enough to visit Galway in 2013. There I was able to inspect the Workhouse Minute books and visit Loughrea to and see the workhouse where her and her sister, Margaret, had been living before coming to Australia.

    I have written up a short synopsis of Mary Ann’s life that you may be interested in – unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a photos of her.

    Kind regards,

    Sandra King

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Trevor,

    My great grandmother Catherine Magee was an irish orphan on the Earl Grey, She came out aged 18 and was married by 21.

    – *Surname : Magee later documents McGee* – *First Name : Catherine* – Age on arrival : 18 – Native Place : Crumlin, Antrim – Parents : Arthur & Jane (both dead) may have land with Catherine’s grandmother Elizabeth Magee at Carnkilly 5 miles away from Crumlin. – Religion : Roman Catholic – Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)

    Other : PRONI BG1/GA/1 (4317) Crumlin, dirty. Employed by Mr Gaunson, Grocer George St., £10, 1 yr. ( possibly shop girl or domestic). Married George Brown, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Sydney, 13 Jul 1849 by Rev John McGarvien – witness * William and Anne J. Burtenshaw (nee Best) (Anne also of the Earl grey)*

    Catherine and Charles went to the Victoria Goldfields and finally settled in Echucha Victoria with the remaining 7 of her 12 children ,but unfortunately her 11 th child died while working at the saw mill with his father. I have visited the Graves at Echuca and the site of where they may have lived on the Murray river at the old saw mill on the Golburn rd. They are all buried together in an unmarked grave. When I get more information together the historical society are going to assist me in placing a marker and adding Catherine to their history tour because of her Earl Grey past.

    I see on your website you have a form filled out by people, do you have a blank one I can complete to send to you or do you already have information on Catherine you can share with me.


    Kerry Cory

    On Sat, Sep 16, 2017 at 1:16 PM, trevo’s Irish famine orphans wrote:

    > Trevor McClaughlin posted: “Some orphan stories, with photos Catherine > Fox from Armagh per Earl Grey Here is the entry for Catherine Fox on the > http://www.irishfaminememorial.org database. Some of the information came from > her descendant Gwen Etherington in the late 1980s, some from” >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Trevor, I was interested to read about the mixed marriages and note that an example you give is of my great grandparents, Eliza Geoghegan and John Archibald Campbell. Eliza was a Catholic and John a Presbyterian. The children of this couple seem to have been married by different clergy of different faiths.
    Eliza said her rosaries every day and when asked where she wanted to be buried, she replied with her husband in the Presbyterian section as she had laid behind him in life she would lay beside him in death.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Another interesting blog, Trevor. Thanks from us all. As you know thr GIFCC website, started by you, began with material from your books, Barefoot and Pregnant? But is constantly updated as I find more things, often with the help of decendants and some dedicated researchers. Cheers all. Perry

    Liked by 1 person

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