Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (66); More Irish Sources

May I invite readers to have a look at Kay Caball’s ‘Comment’ to my blog post (64)? Kay outlines her method for tracing the “Kerry Girls”, the subject of her book, and stresses how important it is to get in touch with someone local who can help find your particular Earl Grey orphan in Ireland.

Let me return to what I’ve been trying to do in the last couple of blog posts viz. place an orphan in the workhouse where she lived before coming to Australia. I know full well I’ll repeat some things I’ve said before, or to put it more politely, reinforce what I’ve said before.

For instance, for this post which intends focusing on workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge records, you may wish to review my https://wp.me/p4SlVj-4X

Towards the bottom of that one you will see how i found some of the Earl Grey orphans in Indoor Workhouse Registers. There’s a brief mention of Letitia Connelly and Alice Ball from Enniskillen, Maria Blundell and Mary Dowling from North Dublin, Marianne Howe and Mary Bruton from South Dublin, Sarah and Margaret Devlin, and Charlotte and Jemima Willcocks from Armagh, and Cathy Hilferty from Magherafelt. The orphans can be elusive. They are sometimes difficult to find. [Karen S. tells me she has found some Lady Peel orphans in the Cashel Registers].

Should you intend retracing your orphan’s steps in Ireland, it is very important to do all the homework you can before you leave for the Emerald Isle. Exactly which workhouse did she come from? What records have survived for that workhouse? Can I get access to them? Do i need to apply for a reader’s ticket? Can I find her baptism in church records? Is any member of her family mentioned in Tithe Applotment Books or in Griffith’s Valuation? Even send an email to a local history society. That kind of thing. Nowadays there is an ever increasing number of records being put online which will help you do this.

My aim in this post is to introduce you to information found in Workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers. Whet your appetite if you will. Let me pull together some of the things I’ve suggested recently. I’ll start by using the third example from a couple of posts ago.

Margaret Love from Enniskillen per Diadem 

Margaret married in July 1851, shortly after arriving in Port Phillip. She would have been about 17 years old or so. {Thanks Perry}.She married William Hargrave, a blacksmith from Leeds, England, a man of different religion from her own, and six years older. They had twelve children, six boys and six girls. But their first five girls and one boy died in infancy. That is a high infant death rate.

“The night your sister was born in the living-room

you lay on your bed, upstairs, unwaking,

Cryptsporidium frothing and flourishing

through the ransacked terraces of your small intestine...”

Sinead Morrissey, Home Birth

First settling in Geelong, the couple tried their hand at the gold diggings in Ballarat. Most likely with little success since William took up smithy work again in Moomambel, Mosquito and Maryborough. Margaret herself died in Maryborough Hospital of tertiary syphilis at the end of April 1877 when she was about 43 years of age. Margaret did not have an easy life.

Let’s see if we can turn her life clock back and locate her in Irish workhouse records. Try typing “Church Hill Fermanagh” into your search engine. (You’ll need to skip Winston Churchill’s relationship with Fermanagh). And lo, there is a place spelled both Churchill and Church Hill in the parish of Inishmacsaint. Unfortunately its baptismal records do not cover the period we want. Churchill is some distance from Enniskillen workhouse where I found Margaret and her siblings, Sarah and Thomas, and Mary their dropsy afflicted mother. More of that in a moment.

Margaret Love

and from the database,

  • Surname : Love
  • First Name : Margaret
  • Age on arrival : 16
  • Native Place : Churchill, Fermanagh
  • Parents : Mary
  • Religion : Roman Catholic
  • Ship name : Diadem (Melbourne Jan 1850)
  • Workhouse : Fermanagh, Enniskillen
  • Other : shipping: house servant, reads; PRONI Enniskillen PLU BG14/G/4 (3251) Union at large, sister of Sarah (also on Diadem) and Thomas, daughter of Mary who was disabled from dropsy. Empl. John Buckland, Geelong, £8, 12 months; apprentice; married William Hargrave in Geelong 1 Jul 1857, husband a blacksmith and miner; 12 children; lived Geelong, Ballarat; admitted Maryborough Hospital 27 Feb 1877, died 30 Apr 1877.

Margaret’s sister Sarah

  • Surname : Love
  • First Name : Sarah
  • Age on arrival : 15
  • Native Place : Fermanagh
  • Parents : Mary [PLU records for sister Margaret]
  • Religion : Roman Catholic
  • Ship name : Diadem (Melbourne Jan 1850)
  • Workhouse : Fermanagh, Enniskillen
  • Other : shipping: nursemaid, reads; Enniskillen PLU PRONI BG14/G/5 (2238) servant out of place, Union at large (see sister Margaret also on Diadem) brother Thomas entered workhouse 3 Aug 1849, left 3 Oct 1849. Empl. John O’Loughlin, Point Henry, £7, 1 year, apprentice; married James Barry, Geelong, 2 Jun 1851.

Enniskillen workhouse

For some ‘recent’ news about the workhouse see https://www.irishnews.com/news/2017/11/21/news/enniskillen-workhouse-to-be-brought-to-life-with-lottery-funding-1192436/

There are a number of other Irish workhouses being restored, refurbished and turned into heritage sites. I know of at least two; Carrickmacross in County Monaghan and Portumna in County Galway. Readers may know of others?

Enniskillen workhouse is well served with surviving records . To find out more about its history try the following two links. Or type ‘Enniskillen workhouse’ into the search box at the end of this post to see what i have said about it already.

http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Enniskillen/

https://ideas.repec.org/p/ucn/wpaper/200315.html

In this second link Cormac O’Grada , Timothy Guinnane and Desmond McCabe provide information on ‘Agency and Relief’ in Enniskillen, stressing how a ‘careless, incompetent, penny pinching‘ administration of the workhouse exacerbated the Famine throughout the Poor Law Union, and led to the dissolution of the Board of Guardians in March 1848. That was a lucky strike for Margaret and Sarah Love who were to leave in late 1849, by which time administration of the workhouse was in the hands of ‘professional’ Vice-Guardians, Gowdy and Trevor. Do have a look at that working paper. It may help you understand why so many Earl Grey orphans went to Australia from Enniskillen.

In the Board of Guardian Minute Books, 17 November 1846 [BG/XIV/A/2 page 490] and 16 March 1847 [p.572] we read that a Visiting Committee reported on the abysmal state of the workhouse. They found the house “in a miserable state of filth and irregularity” and complained “it must eventually result in fever and other diseases“. By March 1848 signs of the new reforming broom were being felt: “Resolved…that a pair of sheets be used in each bed, instead of one as at present; that a pauper be appointed to place a clean pair on each bed every fortnight and a clean shirt or chemise every week.

Resolved that the Schools of the Enniskillen workhouse Union be placed under the National Board of Education…” 

New buildings, better financial management, and administrative reform not only reduced the number of fever cases but prepared the way for Enniskillen workhouse being a major source of Earl Grey orphans going to Australia.

Indoor Registers : Enniskillen

To repeat what i said in blogpost 5, these are large heavy volumes containing plenty of information about inmates. They have space to record by number, the name and surname of each ‘pauper’, their sex, age, whether married or single, if child whether orphan, deserted or bastard,

widower or widow;

their employment or calling; their religious denomination,

if disabled, the description of their disability,

the name of their wife or husband, number of children,

observations on the condition of the ‘pauper’ when admitted,

the electoral division and townland where they lived,

the date when admitted or when born in the workhouse, and the date when they died or left the workhouse.

Potentially a goldmine of information, they are certainly worth ‘mining all within’. Yet such was the crushing day-to-day pressure of the Famine, not all registers were so meticulously kept, and relatively few have survived, most of them in the North of Ireland, and held in PRONI in the Titanic Centre in Belfast.

My own research notes written on cards in pencil are not as legible as i would like. I was determined to catch as many Earl Grey orphans as possible. I certainly did not research each orphan in detail. Tracing their whole workhouse history was not always possible. But those descendants who wish to visit Ireland and walk in the same space as their orphan ancestor, or breathe the same air, surely will have more time to comb these records, should they have survived. May i wish you every success?

What do i have for Margaret and Sarah Love in my notes?

My search in volumes BG14/G/4 and 5 in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) was principally for those Earl Grey orphans who left Enniskillen workhouse on 3 October 1849 en route to Plymouth to join the Diadem, and those who would leave on the 26th of the same month to join the Derwent.

At BG14/G/4 No. 3249 Mary Love entered the workhouse on the 15 June 1848 with her children, Thomas (14 year old) and Margaret and Sarah who were described as twins and as being 16 years old. Note the discrepancy with Port Phillip shipping records. Their place of residence was Union at large, that is, they were homeless.

Mary was a 59 year old widow, Roman Catholic, who was disabled from dropsy, all of her family living from hand to mouth. Most likely they had survived by begging. And whilst Mary was recorded as being from the Union at large, alongside that entry appears the name of a townland which in my spidery handwriting looks to be Coldrum. We’ll need to check the names of townlands. Here’s a possibility https://www.townlands.ie/fermanagh/magheraboy/inishmacsaint/caldrum-glebe/

Mother Mary left the workhouse 12 October 1848, leaving her children still in the workhouse. Young Margaret stayed there until 3 October 1849. Sarah left 4 July 1849 but (at BG14/G/5 no. 2238) re-entered a couple of weeks later, 3 August ’49, before leaving with her sister on the 3rd October to join the Diadem.

There is another record at BG14/G/5 no. 1238 for a 65 year old Mary Love, Roman Catholic, no calling, aged and infirm, who entered the workhouse 1 May 1849 and left 30 July. She can hardly be the mother of our sixteen year old twins but as Kay Caball suggests, ages were not reliable. If we believe the entry we have above at no. 3249, our Mother Mary would have been about 45 years old when she gave birth to her son Thomas! More conundrums to resolve.

at Ulster Folk Museum, Cultra.

Here are a few more examples from Irish workhouse Indoor admission and discharge records relating to orphans who came to Australia per Diadem, Derwent and Earl Grey .

McManus families in Enniskillen workhouse

My first example is one that demands another visit to the archives. I’ve misplaced some of my notes, and the remaining ones are in a state of disarray. There was evidently more than one McManus family in Enniskillen workhouse. My surviving notes however do underline how desperate these families were. The McManus females were not long term residents of the workhouse but they frequented it on numerous occasions during the Famine years. {I’ll highlight the dates of their entry and leaving to help you trace that frequency}. They came in when they needed to, or when they were desperate enough. Using a bit of historical license, one might even imagine the emotions involved in their family breaking apart. But I’d be careful about ascribing my own emotions to people in the past.

Here, from my surviving notes, are references to them as they appeared in Indoor Registers BG14/G/4 and 5. {I’ll also highlight their place of residence. Remember what i said in an earlier post about the importance of geography. Type the townland name along with County Fermanagh into google or your alternative search engine and you will find exactly where the townland is}.

  • No. 210 Mary McManus and 211 (?) Margaret McManus 15 yo single RC Laragh entered 4/7/1847 left 30/08/47
  • 470 Mary McManus 18 yo RC 4/7/47 to 27/7/1847
  • 947 Ann McManus 15 RC Letterbreen in 4/7/1847 out 18/09/47. She had entered along with her 9 yo, 5 yo and 3 yo siblings.
  • 1185 Margaret McManus 16 s deserted by mother RC clean Laragh entered 3/09/1847 along with Mary 12 yo and Thomas 7 yo
  • 1441 Mary McManus 14 yo entered with her 30(?) yo mother Mary(?) and her siblings Margaret 12, Eliza 8, Pat 5, Thomas 2 and Redmond 2 mths. Husband in Scotland. Laragh Cleenish Island entered 12/10/47 left 7/04/1848. Two members of this family were to come to Australia by the Derwent.
  • 1474 Margaret McManus 12 yo orphan RC mother in house Ballycassidy Twy.
  • 1797 Anne McManus 20yo paralyzed
  • 2315 a Mary McManus (mother?) left the workhouse in 1850.
  • 2362 & 2615 Mary McManus
  • 2648 Ann McManus
  • 2728 Mary McManus 12 yo daughter of 38 yo Ellen RC Florencecourt
  • in 25/04/48 out 25 May 48
  • 4060 Margaret McManus 16yo single RC Rahalton Derrygonnelly in 24/10/48 out 26/10/49 the date other orphans left Enniskillen to join the Derwent at Plymouth
  • and 4064 as part of the same family group Mary 14 yo who entered on this occasion 24/10/48 and went out 9/11/48. This is looks to be Margaret’s sister who was also to join the Derwent.
  • and just to confuse matters further in BG14/G/5 number 15 Margaret MacManus 17 yo s. RC Union at large Drumbeg, in 23/1/49 out 3/10/49 which is the date others left to join the Diadem. But there was no Margaret McManus on the Diadem.

One would need some time in the archives to find which of these McManus women and children belonged to whom. Notice how they moved around from townland to townland during the Famine years. {Remember how far the young hero traveled during the Famine in Paul Lynch’s brilliant novel, Grace}. It would appear that Margaret and Mary McManus per Derwent were sisters. Ann McManus may have belonged to a different family.

Ellen and Mary Fitzsimmons

Just a couple more for the Diadem, at BG14/G/4 nos 464 and 465, as part of a family, with mother Grace a 45 yo widow, Established Church, and a 15 yo brother Robert, Ellen Fitzsimmons 14 yo and Roseanne 12 yo entered 4 July 1847 and left 16 February 1848 ; nos 3592-5 Grace Fitzsimmons 45 yo widow no employment Aghnaglack in 10/08/1848 entering with Mary 17 yo no employment, along with Ellen 11 and Rose Ann 9, all of them leaving four days later on the 14th August. Then in BG14/G/5 at nos. 254-5 Ellen Fitzsimmons 18yo Protestant Carn Blacknett and Mary Fitzsimmons 16 yo Protestant entered the workhouse 26 January 1849 and left 3 October 1849, the same date as other orphans leaving to join the Diadem at Plymouth.

Armagh Indoor Registers BG2/G/1 and 2. Mary Littlewood

Let me finish with a couple more from Armagh Indoor Register where you can find many more Earl Grey orphans. The first relates to Mary Littlewood whose story i recounted in blogpost 9 https://wp.me/p4SlVj-dQ

I included a synopsis of her stay in the workhouse there. Here are further details that i hope help us understand young Mary a bit more. {I’ll continue highlighting the family’s dates of entry and leaving, and the townland where they resided}.

BG2/G/1 Unfortunately I didn’t always note down the numbers and there seems to be some duplication of entries in the second volume BG2/G/2.

BG2/G/1 nos. 5440-44 Mary Littlewood 54 yo married, husband Samuel, Protestant, enters with her four children from Rich Hill Ragged and dirty 1/11/1846 leaves 28/12/46; Mary, 15 yo thinly clothed and hungry 29 Nov. ’46 to 28 /12/46; Thomas William 13 yo leaves 1/12/46; John 11 yo and Ann Eliza 9 yo who leave 28/12/46. {Incidentally Richhill and Ballybreagh are not too far from Portadown, the birthplace of that great poet i quoted earlier, Sinead Morrissey}.

No 6159 Samuel married to Mary 57 yo Established Church from Rich Hill enters the workhouse with one of his children 13 yo Thomas William 12/12/46 leaves with his wife and the rest of the family 28 December 1846. The family all left on the same date. I wonder did they not like being separated from each other in the workhouse.

Nos. 7532-36 Mary Littlewood married no calling Protestant delicate husband Samuel Rich Hill Ballybreagh enters 16/2/47 leaves 14/08/47. No.7533 is 11 yo John followed by Ann Eliza 9years old, Samuel 57 yo married weaver very ill died 25 February 1847, and finally Mary 15 yo single leaves 10/08/1847.

Then in the next volume BG/G/2 nos. 1469 et seq. Mary Littlewood 54 yo married Established Church, thinly clothed and quite destitute, from the Union at Large (now she has nowhere to live) re-enters the same day 14/08/47 along with 11 yo John and 9 yo Ann Eliza. They all leave a few weeks later on 6/09/47. The family is only staying in the workhouse for very short periods.

We see the remainder of the family again at No. 2076 et seq. Mother Mary is described as a 52 year old widow a member of the Established Church (Church of Ireland or Anglican) from Rich Hill Ballybreagh coming in to the workhouse 5 October 1847. But she dies on the 10 March 1848. Shortly after, her eldest daughter Mary 15 yo leaves the workhouse 24 May 1848 en route to Plymouth to join the Earl Grey. She leaves behind her siblings, all of them described as thinly clothed and destitute, thirteen year old Thomas who absconds from the house 11 July ’48, 11 yo John who leaves 10 September 1850 and Ann Eliza 9 years old who leaves 18 July 1851. Bit by bit the family falls apart. I wonder what became of them. Mary Littlewood’s story, Earl Grey orphan, is recounted at https://wp.me/p4SlVj-dQ

Mary Anne Kelly per Earl Grey

Finally, the ubiquitous Mary Kelly. This one is Mary Anne Kelly who also came on the Earl Grey with her sister Rose. I did have some loose sheets with specific references to entries in the Indoor Registers that i used for the second volume of Barefoot & Pregnant? But they’ve gone missing. Here are the references from Barefoot; BG2/G/1 3119, BG2/G/2 439, 1417and for Rose BG2/G/2 439, 1418, 1819.

From my early numberless notes, BG2/G/2

Mary Anne Kelly single female 19 yo. Established Church, Thinly clothed and hungry, resides Middletown, entered 30 April 1847, left 6 May 1847. She had come in with her mother 40 yo Rose Kelly along with her siblings, sister Rose 15 yo and two brothers Patrick and Michael, all of them described as thinly clothed and hungry.

Three months later Mary Anne re-enters the workhouse but this time is described as a single female 19 yo Roman Catholic, recovering from fever thinly clothed and hungry, residing Middletown. She enters along with her younger sister Rose who is 15 years old. She too is recovering from fever. They enter 7 August 1847. Rose leaves 13 September 1847, Mary the 8th November.

But Rose comes back one day later, 14 September 1847, along with her two brothers 12 yo Patrick and 10 yo Michael. Rose is described as s f 15 reduced to 14 years old, Fatherless RC thinly clothed etc. Middletown. Rose will leave the workhouse on 24 May 1848 the same date other Armagh orphans leave to join the first orphan vessel, the Earl Grey. Patrick and Michael will leave the workhouse 26 September 1849.

Finally, Mary Anne Kelly single female 19 yo RC thinly clothed and destitute residing Middletown comes back to the workhouse 28 December 1847 and she too will leave 24 May 1848 en route to Port Jackson. The shipping record in Sydney will state her parents are called James and Rose, her mother being still alive and living in Middletown.

——————————————————————————————————————–

I can think of more things we might do. For example, see what we can discover about Armagh during the Famine. Or about the changes happening to the weaving industry in this densely populated county. Or about the workhouse itself.

Obviously the content of this post will be of particular interest to the descendants of Margaret and Sarah Love or Margaret and Mary McManus, and the others. Nonetheless i hope it encourages you to research ‘your’ own particular orphan inside the workhouse, in Downpatrick, Magherafelt, Ballymena, Dublin, Cashel or wherever. Be warned though, if Indoor Registers have survived, you may discover only a brief reference to your orphan. Yet nothing ventured, nothing…

…discover by your grave cloths a replica of yourself

in turquoise faience, fashioned with a basket.

Here, it says. I’ll do it. Take me“.

from The House of Osiris in the field of reeds in Sinead Morrissey’s Parallax
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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.