Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (64): some Irish sources.

Before returning to sources for researching the Irish background of the Famine ‘girls’, I’d like to draw readers’ attention to a reference provided by Shona Dewar (see comments to post 63). It concerns a question raised in the previous post, why family history is so popular. Here’s the link from Shona . It’s an essay by psychiatrist Chris Walsh. https://www.mbsc.net.au/genealogy-and-family-constellations/

Let me know what you think.

WORKHOUSE RECORDS

Here is something else from my old research notes. I’m assuming the classification is much the same nowadays for records both in Northern Ireland and the Republic. Best not to get too excited. These records may not exist for the workhouse in which you are interested.

AJ Dispensary Minute Books

BC Letters from Poor Law Commissioners

BGMB Board of Guardian Minute Books

BGG Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers

EG Relieving Officer’s Diary

F Workhouse Master’s Diary

HD Medical Report Books

It is the Board of Guardian Minute Books and the Indoor admission and discharge registers that I’ve used most of all. Australians descended from the Earl Grey Famine orphans who visit Ireland will want to see these for themselves. But it is best to do plenty of homework before going to Ireland, finding exactly where the records are located, and what you need to do in order to gain access to them, for example. Some records may even be available online, though not always for the time you want. These links may take a while to download. https://www.irishgenealogynews.com/2018/12/more-workhouse-registers-online-at.html

Let me return to one of the cases mentioned in my previous post to illustrate further some of the problems associated with researching Port Phillip arrivals. I hope it will suggest ways of researching the background of the orphan that interests you, and help you prepare for a holiday-family history visit to Ireland.

Killybegs, Donegal
Killybegs, Donegal

CATHY TYRELL from Donegal per Lady Kennaway

In 1854 just over five years after arriving in Melbourne, Cathy Tyrell married a young bricklayer who was originally from Bedford, England. They settled in Carlton, North Melbourne where together they had seven children, three girls and four boys. Sadly in 1860 they lost a son Frederick when he was only six months old. When her husband died aged 58 in 1887, Cathy had thirteen years of widowhood ahead of her.

…I know nothing of my country. I write things down. I build a life & tear it apart & the sun keeps shining“. (from Daily Bread by Ocean Vuong)

HELP PLEASE

May i ask readers for their help? Let me set out the problem. How do we find out more about Cathy’s Irish background? She supposedly came from a workhouse in Donegal but if we look at the following record we’ll see that on board the Lady Kennaway were orphans from four different Donegal Poor Law Unions; Donegal, Dunfanaghy, Letterkenny and Milford. And very rarely are these names specified alongside an orphan’s name on shipping records.

https://wp.me/p4SlVj-rc

To complicate matters even further, Castleblackney also appears alongside Cathy’s name. Surely this isn’t Castleblakeney not far from Mountbellew in County Galway? Or maybe it is.

and from the database,

  • Surname : Tyrel (Tyrrell)
  • First Name : Catherine (Katherine)
  • Age on arrival : 16
  • Native Place : Donegal [Castleblackney]
  • Parents : Not recorded
  • Religion : Roman Catholic
  • Ship name : Lady Kennaway (Melbourne1848)
  • Other : shipping: housemaid, reads & writes; empl. Edward Pope, Melbourne £10, 6 months; married Frederick Elmore Taylor, a bricklayer, in Melbourne May 1854; 7 children; died 19 Apr 1900.

What should we do?

Donegal fields

Check out the Board of Guardian minute books that have survived for the four Donegal workhouses mentioned above? Where are they held?

Peter Higginbotham’s great website may give us some clues. http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Donegal/

which takes us to http://www.donegalcoco.ie/culture/archives/countyarchivescollection/

http://www.donegalcoco.ie/culture/archives/countyarchivescollection/poorlawunionboardsofguardians1840-1923/

Before going any further, we’d need to confirm the Archives centre at Three Rivers in Lifford holds Poor Law records for the period we’re interested in. There are in fact Board of Guardian Minute books for all of the Donegal workhouses except the one that sent most of the Donegal orphans on board the Lady Kennaway, Donegal itself! Lawdy, lawdy. And if a visitor wanted to see any of these records she or he would be advised to write to the Lifford Archives centre beforehand to arrange a viewing.

Most of these workhouse records are now held in county record offices and libraries in the Republic of Ireland. But for the six counties of Northern Ireland they are held in the Public Records Office in the Titanic Centre in Belfast. One is a decentralised system, the other is centralised.

Now perhaps you noticed from https://wp.me/p4SlVj-rc

there were some orphans on board the Lady Kennaway from Ballinasloe workhouse in Galway. That’s not far from Castleblakeney the place name associated with Cathy. I wonder if there is an error in the shipping record. Or maybe Cathy was born in Castleblakeney but somehow ended up in Donegal workhouse before leaving for Australia.

What records have survived for Ballinasloe? The wonderful thing is that more and more of these records are appearing online. Check out this link below by clicking on the plus sign alongside Ballinasloe.

http://www.galway.ie/en/services/more/archives/digital/

It is also probably worth searching the baptismal records for the Parish of Ballinasloe to see if Cathy appears there, https://registers.nli.ie/parishes/0324

Baptismal records have survived for the dates we want but they aren’t easy to read. They are a bit of an eyestrain. We’d need to take things very slowly and carefully. I suppose it comes down to how desperate we are.

Maybe all of this is to draw too long a bow, and we’d be better off checking http://www.findmypast.com.au, www.myheritage.com, www.irelandxo.com, www.ancestry.com, and the like.

Could someone help us here, please? I’m not a member of any of these. See if you can find anything about the young famine orphan, Cathy Tyrell?

(Have a look at the comments section below. Kay Caball has found her).

Recapitulation

To recap, what i’m trying to do is demonstrate what might be done for each and every orphan. Have a look again at what i said a couple of posts ago when i asked ‘which workhouse?’ It is more than half way down the post. https://earlgreysfamineorphans.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/earl-greys-irish-famine-orphans-62-stories-revisions-and-research-tips/

Once you have found ‘your’ orphan’s workhouse you’ll need to find what records have survived. Again Peter’s http://http://www.workhouses.org.uk/

will be the place to start. There will be disappointments. No records may have survived for the period you want. But you may find Board of Guardian minute books that take you into the world where your orphan lived before she left for Australia. Most likely you will not find her name in these minute books but you will discover other fascinating details about her workhouse surroundings.

“…and my dead father’s voice,

which I’d forgotten I’d loved,

just singing a foolish song”.

(from Birthday video by Penelope Layland)

Board of Guardian Minute Books

May i suggest you don’t carry preconceived notions of workhouse life with you into the archives. You know the kind of thing i mean, most of it imprinted on the common memory by the works of Charles Dickens. Most of these young Irish Famine women were but short term residents of recently built institutions, institutions that were bursting at the seams, and severely strained by the crisis of the Great Irish Famine.

Here’s an earlier post with examples relating to arrangements for sending young orphans to Australia, http://earl-greys-irish-famine-orphans-3

The Board of Guardian minute books vary considerably from workhouse to workhouse. Guardians were legally required to keep a weekly record of the state of the workhouse: how many people received relief, both Outdoor relief and indoor relief, how many died in the workhouse, and what rates were collected and how much was not collected. Their minute books tell us what illnesses there were and how they were being treated; how discipline was maintained in the house and what punishment was meted out; what food there was for inmates, what bedding, and were teachers available for children. We see how well they coped with the shocking tragedy of the Famine, and how well they did not.

Let me give a few more examples of the kind of thing you might find, beginning with Belfast workhouse.

Belfast Workhouse

Belfast was one of the better-off and better organized workhouses. In early 1847, the Irish Poor Law Commission refused the Guardians’ request for more money to extend its fever wards, on the grounds “the town of Belfast is so wealthy and its inhabitants so enterprising, and the funds and credit of the Union is in such excellent condition that if assistance was given to the Belfast Board from the public purse by way of loan, it would be impossible to refuse a similar application from any Union in Ireland“. (BG7/A/5)

On the first of March 1848 (BG7/A/7, p.27) the diet for able-bodied inmates was changed to,

two days a week there would be

  • Breakfast consisting of 6 oz meal and one third of a quart of buttermilk
  • Dinner would be one quart of soup and 9 oz bread

three days a week there would be

  • Breakfast 6 oz meal and a third of a quart of buttermilk
  • Dinner would be 6 oz rice and an eighth of a quart of sweetmilk
  • Supper 4 ox meal and one fifth of a quart of buttermilk

and two days a week able-bodied inmates would receive

  • Breakfast 6 oz meal and a third of a quart of buttermilk
  • Dinner 8 oz meal and a third of a quart of buttermilk
  • Supper 4 oz meal and one third of a quart of buttermilk

Indian and oatmeal were to be used in equal proportions.

As you can see, it was not a nutritious diet.

Belfast did have its own problems: it was ‘peculiarly pressed by paupers from other places’. In 1847, authorities in Scotland, facing famine of their own, deported the Irish-born poor in their parish to the nearest Irish port which was usually Belfast. Those from Edinburgh, Paisley and Dundee were given bread and cheese for their voyage and day of landing. Those from Glasgow were given nothing. Such an influx of extra people put an enormous strain on Belfast’s local charities and public works programmes. In turn, many of the new arrivals were moved on, out of town.

Disease

In the workhouse itself the Medical Officer complained that “treating several contagious diseases in the same place is attended with very great risk to the patients”. He treated smallpox patients in a small bathroom, those suffering from erisipilas (a bacterial skin disease) in the straw house, and asked for another place for dysentery patients. In August 1847 there were 337 patients in the fever ward.

In May 1848 just before the first contingent of Earl Grey orphans left the workhouse for Plymouth a number of syphilis cases were admitted (BG7/A/7, p.153) . In November there were 30 cases still under treatment. And then, in December of the same year, the Medical Officers had their first scare of cholera, a disease that would add many more to the Famine death toll.

Belfast workhouse would be an important ‘staging post’ for Earl Grey orphans setting out to join ships that would take them to Australia, the Earl Grey, the Roman Emperor, the Diadem and the Derwent.

Cashel workhouse, Tipperary

At the other end of the country, Cashel workhouse guardians were to buckle under the pressure of the Famine in 1847 and 1848. At the end of 1847 the Matron of the workhouse wrote a damning report. “I again beg to call your attention to the state of the House. It is in such disorder and confusion that it is impossible to stand it… The pints and quarts are taken away and in consequence the children are not getting their rights. Several sheets and other articles were lately stolen. The bad characters in the House are at liberty to go out and return when they please…”.

And on the first of January 1848, the Medical Officer was equally distraught, “your Hospital is crowded to excess and the paupers are falling sick in dozens. I cannot admit anyone into the hospital for want of accommodation”.

There was such distress in the area there was an immense shortfall in the rates being collected, (Week ending 15 January 1848 Collected  401 pounds and seven pence, 401.0.7, Uncollected ten thousand eight hundred and ninety four pounds fifteen shillings and two pence, 10,894.15.2). The situation was not helped by the likes of Michael Lyons, Collector for Clonoulty and Kilpatrick, collecting some of the arrears, and absconding.

11 October 1848, the Guardians were dismissed. The Board was dissolved and semi professional bureaucrats, or Vice-Guardians, took over running the workhouse–fortunately for the female orphans who would set out for Australia the following year. To give you an idea of the scale of demands, provisions for the workhouse in the last week of October 1848 included,

  • 6,000 lbs bread
  • 300 lbs meat
  • 5,200 gallons milk
  • 224 lbs salt,
  • 2 lbs tea,
  • 14 lbs sugar
  • 40 lbs sugar surrup…
  • 7 lbs candles
  • 1 1/4 cwt soap
  • 6 lbs starch
  • 21 lbs washing soda

Re the female orphan emigration itself in 1849, such was the work, and such a large amount of monies required for

sending the female orphans to Plymouth,

with wooden boxes,

properly clothed, (3 Feb. 1849 Resolved that the tender of John O’Brien be accepted for the supply of 100 pairs of women’s shoes of the required sizes equal in quality and workmanship to the sample lodged with the Clerk of the Union at 4 shillings a pair”…
Resolved…that advertisements be issued for other articles viz, twilled calico, twilled linen, whalebone, cheap quilts, cheap bonnets, printed calico for wrappers and gowns, wool plaid for gowns and cl0aks, neck handkerchiefs of various qualities, pocket handkerchiefs, gingham for aprons and boxes)

and equipped with Bibles, Prayer books and other religious books,

that the local economy must have benefited. Yet this benefit may not have outweighed the burden imposed on the workhouse itself. It could ill afford the expense of sending the orphans, given its other commitments. I wonder did some of the young women feel guilty about their emigration?

Some online workhouse records

Why not have a go yourself? Here is a backpack, a compass, and a toasted vegemite and cheese sandwich to help you with your ‘virtual’ exploration of some Irish workhouse records.

http://tipperarystudies.ie/poor-law-union-records/

https://www.limerick.ie/discover/explore/historical-resources/limerick-archives/archive-collections/limerick-union-board

This next one contains something from Ennistymon, Killarney, and Kilrush BGMB (Board of Guardian Minute Books). It may take a while to download any of these.

http://www.digitalbookindex.org/_search/search010hstirelandworkhousea.asp

And this one repeats a couple of the links above. It has Indoor Registers for Cashel and Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

http://tipperarystudies.ie/workhouse-registers/?fbclid=IwAR2r9dTVP1ir7UGK-d63gMZhSGU0hdiAsLokGUhFJuWVE9KqJUm4WOmdxU0

Go well.

“What a strange thing,

to be thus alive

beneath the cherry blossoms”. (Kobayashi Issa)

I’ll say something about Admission and Discharge Registers next time.

19 thoughts on “Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (64): some Irish sources.

  1. Dear Trevor, I am researching my gg grandmother Isabella McDougall from Gilford, County Down who came out on the Earl Grey. Her Parents were Samuel and Marion and she was sent to the Banbridge workhouse presumably after their deaths. I am wondering if you have her workhouse record and any extra information on her. she was transferred to Maitland after arriving in Sydney. Kind regards, Barbara

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  2. Trevor, I wanted to send you Cathy Tyrell’s details and the ‘back-up’ sources for finding her. What is the best way to do that and also publish a list of hints on finding Earl Grey girls in Irish sources? (I have misplaced your email – maybe just as well for you! ) You must be inundated with queries.

    Liked by 1 person

      • For anyone searching for an Earl Grey ancestor, the notes here may be of use in your search. This is the methodology that I used when tracking down the Kerry Girls. Just as an additional explanation – I am a native of Kerry and understand ‘Kerry speak’. This was important to me in my searches and I would recommend anyone in Australia trying to track down their elusive Irish ancestors – try and get a ‘local’ from your Workhouse area on board to help or advise.
        Some basic hints that you may or may not be aware of regarding the data you will collect from Australian Immigration sites:
        *Age – don’t take age as exact, search through a range of ages.
        *Parents – While they would be mostly correct, be prepared that not all are so. Not every ‘Orphan’ knew her parents’ names, in some cases they were born outside marriag but felt the discrimination attached then to such births so the father’s name in some cases may not be correct.
        *Location – this is where you need ‘local’ help. In Cork/Kerry/Galway/Mayo/Donegal locations in particular, Irish was the spoken language and this is reflected in the mis-transcriptions.

        Methodology for finding the identities of The Kerry Girls: Emigration & the Earl Grey Scheme
        Dingle (20)
        Workhouse Records 20 girls selected, 19 girls travelled – no names on Board of Guardian Minutes

        Baptismal Records Very difficult. On examining the original Dingle Catholic Baptismal records, many pages particularly 1828 to 1833 for the town of Dingle were illegible. Following my work here and on notifying the church, later work was completed on these records and most are now available.
        Outlying Catholic Parish records were available.
        Land Records Griffiths Valuation was searched for family or father’s name.
        Australian Immigration/ Trevor McClaughlin’s ‘Barefoot and Pregnant?’ These records were particularly examined for mis-transcriptions and errors as the Dingle Peninsula was a totally Irish speaking area and many such errors were found.
        Result 10 positive, some probables

        Killarney (35),
        Workhouse Records No details of any names on Minutes of Board of Guardians
        Baptismal Records Only option here: Having searched for baptismal records of all 190 girls who arrived on the Elgin to Adelaide in 1849 (Skibbereen, Fermoy, Lismore and Clonmel Unions) each name was checked off baptismal registers for the Killarney region and outlying parishes, against their parents names & approx. ages. Of these 19 were provisionally identified.
        Three were positively identified by their descendants, who have also visited here. There was one death on board the Elgin and she would also appear to be from Killarney
        Land Records Griffiths Valuation was searched for family or father’s name.
        Australian Immigration/Trevor McLaughlin’s ‘Barefoot and Pregnant?’ No records extant of the names of the Workhouses of the girls on the arrival of the Elgin in Adelaide.
        Result 15 most probable birth certs. 3 definite positives.

        Listowel (37),
        Workhouse Records All girls identified on Board of Guardian Minutes

        Baptismal Records Knowing the electoral areas, the baptismal records of the appropriate churches were then searched for each girl by name and approximate age (not the exact age as given in Immigration records).

        Land Records Griffiths Valuation was searched for family or father’s name.
        Australian Immigration/ Trevor McClaughlin’s ‘Barefoot and Pregnant?’ These records were minutely examined for mis-transcriptions, local accents etc. (e.g.Listowel is recorded in Immigration records as ‘Stow’)
        Result 14 positive- birth certs

        Kenmare (25)
        Workhouse Records A full list of names and electoral areas that the girls came from. ‘Nov 25 ‘The following is a list of the female orphans sent from the workhouse on the 29th instant as emigrants to Australia’

        Baptismal Records Knowing the electoral areas, the baptismal records of the appropriate churches were then searched for each girl by name and approximate age (not the exact age as given in Immigration records).

        Land Records Griffiths Valuation was searched for family or father’s name.
        Australian Immigration/Trevor McClaughlin’s ‘Barefoot and Pregnant?’ These records were minutely examined for mis-transcriptions, local accents etc
        Result 9 positive, some probables.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Trevor, it would appear that Cathy Tyrell was from Castleblakeney, Co. Galway – not Donegal. Having first checked Donegal with negative result I then tried Galway, I have found a baptismal certificate for a Catherine Tyrell, Carrabane, Co Galway, b. 15 July 1832 with father John Tyrell which I will send to you separately. This birth date would agree with her own estimation of being 16 years old on arrival. I would regard this as just a coincidence, as Irish people did not know their dates/years of birth – it was of no significance at the time so is usually an unreliable hint. Also you must remember that Irish was the spoken language of the people in these country areas in Galway in the early years of the Great Famine. An Australian Immigration official would have had his work cut out to get the correct home details of each girl.

        I will email you separately also my methodology for finding the the identities of the Kerry girls who went to Australia on the Earl Grey Scheme. It is a combination of birth records/land records, offspring names and what ever sparse details appear (when they do) on Workhouse Minute Books.
        Kay Cabll

        Liked by 1 person

  3. hi trevor, , some time ago i sent you information on my g g grandmother ann power , ann came out on the new liverpool 1849 to port philip bay and then went on the raven to portland bay, do you know where the girls on the new liverpool came from , what workhouse or area in ireland , it would be very helpful to me to know where ann came from . kind regards jenny linforth

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  4. Hi Trevor, I found my Catherine Tierney in the online Cashel registers – along with around 9 other LP orphans. The Cashel registers were lost when I visited Thurles back in 2005, and after corresponding with Eamon Lonergan (author of a local history on the Cashel workhouse) he concluded they had been misplaced after their inclusion in a Dublin exhibition for the1995 commemoration. I know he spent some time trying to track them down. I’m so glad they have been found. Nearly finished my final history subject – a study in the Lady Peel orphans!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Karen S,
      Re your today’s posting.
      I’m not sure if we’ve been in touch re my ancestor Eliza Fitzpatrick who came out on the Lady Peel. I’ve gathered some information about her. I’m not sure what info you’ve gathered about her in your research in the Lady Peel orphans. I’m always interested in gathering scraps of information. Do feel free to contact me. peterandtressa@gmail.com
      And Thank You Trevor for keeping the pot boiling. Re-focussing & revitalising us in our research.
      Regards
      Peter

      Liked by 1 person

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