Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (62); Stories, revisions, and research tips.

SOME MORE STORIES, and a bit extra

I wonder should i continue posting orphan stories, limited as they are in their information and reach. But i notice some readers are unaware of the meaning of abbreviations in my Barefoot and on the www.irishfaminememorial.org database, BG., Im. Cor., Register 1, 2, 3., etc.  See below. I’ll try explaining what they refer to, and direct you to where you can find them at the Archives. If i may, I’ll use a few orphan examples to clarify things a bit further. But first, a few introductory comments.

PRIMARY SOURCES

I have often urged people to state clearly the origin of the information they use. It is not just a matter of being honest and acknowledging someone else’s work; it also helps distinguish between primary and secondary sources. For example, something stated by Trevor McClaughlin, Richard Reid, Perry McIntyre, or Ancestry, or on a website, in a book, or on a facebook page, is a secondary source. Inadvertently they only may be spreading an error, merely sharing ignorance. In that ‘native place’ column on that shipping list, does it say Draghin or Drynagh, or is it Inagh? It is always important to go back to the primary source yourself. Hence my plea at the end of the first paragraph in the Sydney Legend below.

When in the late 1970s I consulted the NSW State Records (NSWSR) Board of Immigration shipping list for the Earl Grey, the  first orphan vessel to arrive in Sydney, i found to my distress there were some missing pages. To locate the missing orphan names I went to the Immigration Agent’s shipping list, the list with less information about each orphan girl. There was no mention of parents’ names, for example. It was only much later the missing pages of the Board’s list were found.

I subsequently updated the record on the early version of the irishfaminememorial.org website, and added Lionel Fowler’s discovery of information contained in ‘enclosures’ to the NSW Governor’s Despatches. (See the second par. of my Legend below. CY690 etc. are the numbers for the relevant microfilm in the Mitchell Library in Sydney. I’m trusting this is still correct). These ‘enclosed’ lists told us who had employed the young women, and at what rate of pay. I know for a fact that a good many people, Aileen Trinder and others, searched high and low for similar enclosures for other orphan vessels. But without success. Nonetheless, all this is one more reason for returning to the primary sources. Look what additional information has been discovered since my 1991 Barefoot. More primary source material is coming to light all the time.

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Monument Hyde Park Barracks Sydney. Thank you Bryan Rose. This may be your photograph.

LITERACY

Another thing i’d like to draw your attention to, is my failure to include information about the orphans’ literacy. It is not recorded in my Barefoot but Perry McIntyre has added it to the database. The information about their literacy was recorded on the Board of Immigration shipping lists. That is a great research topic for a university student, don’t you think, the literacy of the Irish orphan ‘girls’ compared with others? I fondly remember studying the spread of literacy among early modern Europeans with my students. There were some brilliant studies that could provide inspiration for our hypothetical student…by Elizabeth Eisenstein, David Cressy, Roger Chartier, Harvey Graff, Rab Houston, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie et al. Clearly, neither the invention of the printing press nor the advent of the Protestant Reformation had led to mass literacy. Mass literacy did not come to Western Europe till the late nineteenth century with the spread of compulsory education. But why did these historians accept an ability to sign one’s name as evidence of basic literacy? Were there instances of women being able to sign their name but refusing to do so on their marriage certificate? Why was that? Were Protestants more literate than Catholics, townsfolk more literate than country dwellers, men more literate than women? Why did so many people think there was no pressing need to become literate? What exactly do we mean by literacy anyway? It is a fascinating subject generally, and would be no less fascinating in the case of the Earl Grey Famine orphans.

Let me introduce you to some of the work i did on this back in the days. In 1979 and 1980 using punch cards and with the help of computer student John Breen, information was fed into a Macquarie university computer to compare the orphans’ literacy with that of other female government assisted migrants. When they arrived, immigrants were asked could they read, read and write, or do neither. This data does not tell us much about the standard of literacy or the nature of literacy of our immigrants. But it does provide a basic, if crude, measure. The computer allowed us to cross tabulate a range of things, literacy by age, by occupation, by religion, by gender, by county of origin, for example. Not all of the results were particularly useful. You may however be interested in these next results. The data relates to the Port Jackson arrivals.

Orphans’ literacy compared with that of other Irish female assisted immigrants

In the period 1848-1851,

  • 22% of all Irish government assisted females, excluding the orphans, were non-literate. (Non-literate is a less pejorative term than illiterate). They could neither read nor write. Presumably the government clerk and the migrant herself understood the question to ask, can you read and write English?
  • 34% of female assisted immigrants could read,
  • and a remarkable 45% claimed they could both read and write (percentages are rounded).

Orphans

  • By contrast, 41% of the orphans were non-literate,
  • 33% could read
  • and only 26% could both read and write. (Hence my figure, in post 2 https://wp.me/p4SlVj-Z , where i said 59% could read, and where one could read she could read to others. I was recognizing the young women’s agency).

Age Groups

If we hone in on age groups, some interesting differences emerge.

  • Of the 10-14 age group
  • 22% of orphans were non-literate,
  • 31% could read
  • and 48% could both read and write.
  • Of the other Irish government assisted female migrants in the same age group, 24% were non-literate,
  • 38% could read
  • and 38% could both read and write.
  • Our youngest orphans were the most literate.

In the 15-19 or 15-20 age group the differences are also striking.

  • Both had a 22% non-literacy rate, but of the other assisted females,
  • 26% could read only
  • and a further 53% could both read and write.
  • By contrast 58% of the orphans claimed they could read only and
  • 20% that they were able to both read and write. The orphans were not quite so literate as their government assisted immigrant sisters.

Other results may warrant further examination;

Regional differences

Mayo orphans, for example, were 66% non-literate,

Clare had only 23% in this category,

and Kerry sat between these two at 58%.

Dublin immigrants were only 11% non-literate.

The spread of the early National Education system in Ireland played a decisive role in all of this, may I suggest ?

Irish National School System

There is an amazing record of the National School system in Irish archives that would allow us to put this to the test. Let’s look at County Clare, for instance. There were 204 schools set up in County Clare between 1835 and 1849. Not all of them got off the ground, some were struck off, and the Famine threw the whole system into disarray. Still, one can surmise how the system impacted upon a young girl’s literacy in English in the years before she sought refuge in a workhouse. Look at the growth in the number of schools, and the increase in attendance. For example, at Carahan school in the parish of Clonlea, there were 70 girls on the books in May 1841 and 74 in December, 153 in May 1842 and 90 in December. [Note the seasonal attendance]. But in 1848 the school was closed. In the north-west of the county, more than 300 pupils on average regularly attended Ennistimon monastery school in Deerpark townland in the 1830s, and just under half that number were girls. At Kilrush female school in 1842, in a room measuring 62 feet by 22, there were 158 girls in attendance in May 1842, and 187 in December. And at SixMileBridge in Kilfinaghty parish in a female school that measured 46 feet by 16, in 1841 there were 110 young girls attending in May and 125 in December. The next year in 1842 the numbers attending were 109 and 144. But in 1846 the teacher Jane Quigley resigned. She planned to emigrate. Before she left, she sold the furniture, the stock and maps of the school.

None of this broaches the questions related to the cultural influence of an gaeilge: living and learning in a culture based in the Irish language, or even one that was increasingly bilingual. That cultural world view would be challenged and threatened, even obliterated over time in the emigrant’s new home. Yet the language question reminds us how inadequate is the measure of whether or not an Irish emigrant could read and write in English. It is not a reliable indicator of how knowledgeable or educated he or she was.  Nor is it of the Irish Famine orphan girls. But it was an oral culture and very rarely a written one.

Máiréad Nic Craith’s chapter in Atlas of the Great Irish Famine will help anyone interested in looking at this. I imagine Aidan Doyle’s chapter on Language and Literacy in the Cambridge History of Ireland, vol. 3 would help too but i haven’t seen this one yet. {Thankyou Aidan for telling me how little the Irish language was written down. Aidan says, “with some very few exceptions, literacy in Ireland, of any kind, was literacy in English”}. Professor Máiréad Nic Craith suggests the 1851 Census of Ireland underestimates the number of Irish speakers: “…the language question…was entirely in English. A monoglot Irish-speaker would not have understood the question and would have been utterly reliant on the enumerator (who did not necessarily have Irish) to draw his attention to this element in the form” (p.583) . She does however provide Census details of those able to speak both Irish and English. Mayo’s percentage  of those ‘with Irish’, including those who could speak English as well, was 65.60, Clare’s 59.78, Kerry’s 61.49 and Dublin’s 1.33. There must have been a large number of the Earl Grey orphans, especially those from the West of Ireland, who were bilingual, yet not able to write in Irish.

SYDNEY LEGEND

But enough of this already. Here is the extract from my Barefoot. It’s now more than 18 years old and some of the references are now out-of-date. I’ll attempt to direct you to their new classification at State Records New South Wales when appropriate.  The map at the end marks the residence of orphans when they registered the birth of their children in 1861. Note too the ordering of the arrival of orphan ships is incorrect. The Tippoo Saib was the last vessel to arrive as part of this Earl Grey scheme. I’ll use the brief histories that follow to explain the abbreviations, and to draw your attention to what Perry McIntyre’s good work adds to the database.

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These next examples are based on my family reconstitutions. Double click or pinch the image to make it larger. The examples are selected from my ‘alphabetical pile’.

Which workhouse?

Among the many beneficial additions Perry has made to the database is one that will interest many readers; she has suggested which workhouse an orphan comes from. In Jane Adderley’s case, Perry names Edenderry workhouse.

You might like to try this exercise for yourself. You can do it online. Type a place name, one that is alongside an orphan’s name on a shipping list, into google maps or google earth, or a similar search engine. Locate where exactly is the place you’re searching for. So, if we type “Clenmore, Kings County” (see below) into a search engine we’ll be told ‘do you mean Clonmore, Offaly’? May i encourage everyone to engage more with geography?

Once you have located your place on a map, you should go to Peter Higginbotham’s magnificent website http://www.workhouses.org.uk/   In the left hand column of that webpage, click on ‘workhouse locations‘, then on ‘Irish Poor Law Unions‘. Choose the county you are after and click on that, in this case Offaly. You may need to trawl through each workhouse Poor Law Union before you find the appropriate workhouse. Luckily in this case Clonmore is named as belonging to the Edenderry Poor Law Union. Just a word of warning, i suspect this may not work in every case.

JANE ADDERLEY from Clonmore, Kings County, per William and Mary

After the William and Mary shipping list, Jane next appears in the New South Wales Immigration Agent’s correspondence. See the ‘Legend’ above from my Barefoot 2.  Im. Cor. refers to State Records Of New South Wales SRNSW 4/4635-4/4641. You will need to go to https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/ to find where these records are now located. I had most success by typing “Francis Merewether Immigration Agent” into  their search box. That took me to Series NRS 5247 ‘Copies of letters sent to miscellaneous persons’. They are now available at microfilm SR Reel 3111. The microfilm of these volumes covers the years 1844 to 1852.

For most of this period F. L. S.  Merewether was the NSW Immigration Agent.  You will need to search for letters sent in March 1851 when Jane went to Bathurst.  Merewether was succeeded by H. H. H. Browne as Immigration Agent in 1851. You may like to compare the correspondence each has left behind. One is from a devoted, hard working and empathetic public servant. The other from a minimalist bureaucrat who was no friend of the orphans. See https://wp.me/p4SlVj-BT

Jane would appear to have married well, to a cabinet-maker born in Birmingham, England. Jane and Francis Beilby were married in Bathurst in 1855. Francis was the brother of her first employer in Woolloomooloo. Together Jane and Francis had six children, three boys and three girls, the couple spacing their births, maybe as a form of family planning(?) Waiting six years before marrying and spacing the births of her children makes Jane very different from  most of the other orphans. Yet her geographical mobility, moving from Sydney to Bathurst, to Wellington, to Orange, to Guyong, to Wagga Wagga, brings her back to the same fold as other orphans. Sadly, before she died in 1908 her youngest son, Frederick Charles had also died,  most likely in a Mental Asylum.

And from the database, http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Adderley
  • First Name : Jane [aka Jane Theresa]
  • Age on arrival : 17
  • Native Place : Clenmore [Clonmore], Kings [Offaly]
  • Parents : Thomas & Eliza (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : William & Mary (Sydney 1849)
  • Workhouse : Kings [Offaly], Edenderry
  • Other : shipping: farm servant, reads only, no relatives in colony; with sister on William & Mary; empl. Edwin Beilby, Woolloomooloo, £8 a year; Im Cor Bathurst 1 Mar 1851, employed by J Jardine, Fitzgerald Swamp at £8 pa; married Francis E Beilby (brother of Edwin) at Bathurst, 1855; husband cabinet maker & carpenter, lived Alloway near Bathurst, then to Wellington, Orange & Guyong; 6 children; husband died 1892; Jane died 1908, Experimental Farm, Wagga Wagga.
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ISABELLA BANKS from Belfast per Earl Grey

It is worth doing the same geographic exercise for Isabella too. She was from the townland of Ballylesson, County Down. See if you can find it on a map. It will help you understand how close her native place was to Belfast workhouse. (You will find more about Belfast workhouse on Peter Higginbotham’s site http://www.workhouses.org.uk/ but under Antrim Poor Law Union. Follow the steps outlined in the paragraph above just before Jane Adderly).

Young Isabella was first employed by Mr Ross of Newtown for two years at a rate of £9 per annum. She would have been subject to the indenture agreement that was legally part of the Earl Grey scheme. It is reproduced at my blogposts 13 and 16. Here’s the link to post 16. https://wp.me/p4SlVj-h8  The female indenture agreement is about half way through the post.

Isabella was not one of the notorious ‘Belfast Girls’ sent directly to Maitland and Moreton Bay instead of disembarking in Sydney. Yet Isabella did live most of her life in the same area as those sent to the Hunter valley. I wonder if any of the Belfasters met each other later in life. Would they have recognized one another? [Mary McConnell, for example, was visiting her daughter in Newcastle in 1892 when she fell down the stairs and broke her neck. See the very end of the post about Mary https://wp.me/p4SlVj-LL ].

Isabella married William Snipe in Maitland (registered in Newcastle?) in March 1854. They had ten children, four boys and six girls, all of them born in the Newcastle area. When registering their birth they were required to state where they resided; Hunter Street, Newcastle, Pitt Town, Newcastle, Australian Agricultural Company’s paddock, Newcastle, Pitt Row, Newcastle, Borehole, Newcastle and finally, William was ‘Banksman’ and then ‘Groom’ living at Lambton, Newcastle when their last two children, Sarah and Margaret were born. Sadly, like so many other young children in New South Wales in the 1860s, three of their daughters succumbed to childhood illnesses. Rachel, Margaret and Isabella all died before they reached the age of two.

blogfoibanksearlgrey

And from the database, http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Banks
  • First Name : Isabella
  • Age on arrival : 16
  • Native Place : Ballillassin [Ballyvaston or Ballyvaston?], Down
  • Parents : William and Sarah (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Other : shipping: farm servant, reads only, no relatives in colony. Empl. Mr Ross, Newtown, £9, 2 years; married William Snipe, labourer, both of Newcastle, in 1854 at Independent Chapel, Maitland; 10 children, lived Newcastle, died 1897.
ulsterfolk
Ulster Folk Museum Cultra

ANNIE JANE BEST from Sherrigrim, Tyrone per Earl Grey

Which Workhouse?

Once again, let us do our exercise in geography. If you type “Sherrigrim, Tyrone” into a search engine you will discover it is a townland in Tyrone on the western side of Lough Neagh. Find it on a map and have a look around. If you follow our suggestion  for Jane Adderly and Isabella Banks, which workhouse do you think Annie Jane and Margaret Best came from? You’d be forgiven for thinking either Cookstown or Dungannon. There were indeed some orphans from these two workhouses on board the Earl Grey, see https://wp.me/p4SlVj-rc

But

in my Barefoot I’ve named Antrim instead of either Dungannon or Cookstown. Why is that? I could be wrong of course. Best is not an uncommon name in the North of Ireland. Belfast City airport is named after a ‘Best’ is it not?

WORKHOUSE INDOOR REGISTERS

You will find how i traced the Earl Grey orphans in Workhouse Indoor Registers in this post http://wp.me/p4SlVj-4X Scroll down till you reach the section “Indoor Relief Registers”. Scroll down a bit further until you reach “Identifying the orphans”. Basically I looked for a group of adolescent young women leaving a workhouse at exactly the same time, about a week or ten days before their ship left Portsmouth bound for Australia. Come to think of it, perhaps this is a way of finding some of the ‘lost’ orphans who arrived in Adelaide by the Roman Emperor. Drawing a long bow perhaps? More information about these orphans has been discovered since i was last in PRONI. Knowing this ship left Portsmouth 27 July 1848 we’d be looking for groups leaving their workhouse say 17-22 July. Anyone going to Ireland?

There is just a brief entry for the Best sisters in the Antrim workhouse Indoor Register at BG/ 1/ GA/ 1 . [See paragraph 5 in the ‘Legend’ above describing BG numbers. They are the prefix to Irish archives relating to workhouses, such as Indoor admission and discharge registers, regrettably in short supply, and Board of Guardian Minute Books which have survived in much greater number. They are the reference numbers I recorded when i visited the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (hereafter PRONI) some years ago. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni I’m having trouble finding my reference on the PRONI ecatalogue. But archivists at the PRONI Titanic Centre have kindly helped me find what I’m looking for. It’s at   https://apps.proni.gov.uk/eCatNI_IE/SearchResults.aspx

The reference I wrote down should be BG/1/GA/1. I had too many spaces in that earlier reference. You may have to copy that and put it into the PRONI search box in the link above].

Beside one another, in that Antrim Workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge Register, at number 3942 ‘Margaret Best 17 single Established Church dirty’

and at number 3943, ‘Ann Jane Best 15 single Established Church Craigarogan also dirty, having entered 6 January 1848’.

Both of them left Antrim workhouse on the 26th May 1848, the same date as Sarah Burt, another Earl Grey orphan (see below).

I’m still convinced this is the Best sisters who travelled on the Earl Grey. Antrim is not so far away from Sherrigrim.

It is a reminder about how easy it is to make errors in our linking diverse records.  You will notice I made a mistake with the Australian family details of Margaret Best in my Barefoot, marrying her to someone in Brisbane instead of Thomas Jackman.

The two Best sisters married not long after arriving in Sydney. Annie Jane married William Burtenshaw in April 1849 and together they had had nine children, three boys and nine girls. Annie died in Inverell in 1883 strangled by an umbilical hernia. Her husband witnessed the second marriage of her older sibling Margaret to John Keating/Keaton in 1863. Margaret died at Glen Innes in 1873. It seems likely the two sisters remained in touch with one another for most of their lives.

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And from the database http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Best
  • First Name : Ann [Annie] Jane
  • Age on arrival : 17
  • Native Place : Sherrigrim [Sherrigrim], Tyrone
  • Parents : John & Jane (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Workhouse : Tyrone, Cookstown
  • Other : Shipping: house servant, read only, no relatives in colony, sister Margaret also on Earl Grey; PRONI BG/1/GA/1 (3943) Craigarogan, dirty; employed by Mr Andreas, Sydney £10, 1 year; married William Perks Burtenshaw, Sydney in 1849; lived Glen Innes, Wellingrove 30 miles east of Inverell; 9 children, 77 grandchildren; Ann died 1883; husband died 1908; she buried Inverell, he at Gilgai, NSW. Also see Margaret Best, her sister, also per ‘Earl Grey’.

ANNIE’S SISTER MARGARET BEST

  • Surname : Best
  • First Name : Margaret
  • Age on arrival : 19
  • Native Place : Sherrigrim [Sherrigrim],Tyrone
  • Parents : John & Jane (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Workhouse : Tyrone, Cookstown
  • Other : Shipping: house servant, reads only, no relatives in the colony, sister Ann Jane also on ‘Earl Grey’. Antrim PLU BG/1/GA/1 (3942), Craigarogan, dirty; empl. Mr J Steenson, Pitt St South, Sydney, £10, 12 months; Im Cor Register 6 Jan 1849 complaint, left employer; married 1) ex-convict Thomas Jackman in 1849 Sydney, moved to Glen Innes, 3 children; married 2) John Keating (Keaton etc) 1863, witnessed by sister & fellow shipmate’s husband WF Burtenshaw; 3 children; John died at Armidale 1885; Margaret died Glen Innes 1873.

REGISTERS

Registers,1,2,3 in the Legend above refers to the Registers and indexes of applications for orphans at State Records New South Wales. Their reference is (SRNSW) 4/4715-4717 which is available at  Microfilm SR Reel 3111.

APPENDIX

For Appendix J or K or L  in the Legend see http://wp.me/p4SlVj-BT

NANCY BOOTH from Portglenone, Antrim per Earl Grey

Checking a map will show how close Portglenone is to Ballymena workhouse which is where I found Nancy. She was registered as a single 20 year old Roman Catholic residing in Ballymena when she entered the workhouse 10 April 1848. She was discharged 24 May 1848. She was on her way to join the Earl Grey. https://apps.proni.gov.uk/eCatNI_IE/SearchResults.aspx

see PRONI BG/4/G/2 No. 2002

Nancy married a fellow Irishman Brien Molloy in November 1849 at St. Patrick’s Parramatta. Brien/Brian/Bryan was about eighteen years her senior. Together they farmed land at Baulkham Hills where Nancy gave birth to nine children, four boys and three girls. Nancy died in 1884 of pneumonia, her husband just a year later of heart disease.

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And from the database http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Booth
  • First Name : Nancy
  • Age on arrival : 19
  • Native Place : Portglenone [Portglenone], Antrim
  • Parents : James & Susan (both dead)
  • Religion : Roman Catholic
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Workhouse : Antrim, Ballymena
  • Other : Shipping: house servant, reads, no relatives in colony. PRONI BG/4/G/2 No. 2002 Ballymena. Empl. J Acres, Parramatta, £10, 1 year. Im Cor Register, 23 Jul 1849 left service of mistress in Parramatta; 24 Jul 1849 Hyde Park Barracks Daily Report, servant to Mrs Acre of Heywood Lane to depot at 6pm to lodge complaint against her mistress, was permitted to remain on account of distance from employer’s residence and late hour of the day; married Bryan/Brian Molloy, settler & farmer, Parramatta, 1849; 9 children; lived Baulkham Hills; died 1884.

For Nancy’s appearance in the Register 23 July 1849 see SRNSW Microfilm SR Reel 3111.

ANNE BOYLE from Belfast per Earl Grey

Anne Boyle was another ‘Belfast girl’ not banished to Maitland or Moreton Bay. About a year after arriving she married a Welsh born soldier, Thomas James, a private in the 11th Regiment stationed at Victoria Barracks in Sydney. Thomas worked as a soldier, labourer and coal miner at Mt. Keira and Newcastle. The couple had ten children, six boys and four girls, two of them dying before reaching the age of two. Thomas died in 1870, Anne seventeen years later in 1887.

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And from the database http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Boyle
  • First Name : Anne
  • Age on arrival : 19
  • Native Place : Belfast, Antrim
  • Parents : James & Anne (both dead)
  • Religion : Roman Catholic
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Workhouse : Antrim, Belfast
  • Other : Shipping: farm servant, cannot read or write, no relatives in colony. Empl. Mr Drewe, Sydney £10, 1 year. Im Cor Register 22 Mar 1849, letter from JL Drewe, master, refused to pay full wages, said he owed her nothing; married Thomas James, 1849 at Scots Church, Pitt St, Sydney; husband a soldier, labourer & miner; 10 children; lived Sydney, Newcastle & Mt Keira, died 1887.

For Anne’s appearance in the Register 22 March 1849 see SRNSW Microfilm SR Reel 3111.

SARAH BURT from Glenavy, Antrim per Earl Grey

Sarah married Sussex born John Stanford at Appin in March 1851. John was more than twenty years her senior. Together they had nine children, three boys and six girls, one of whom may have been born to Sarah out of wedlock. (yet to be confirmed) John was variously a farmer, gardener and labourer all in the Appin district south of Sydney, County Cumberland.

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The BG number BG/1/GA/1  4276 refers to Sarah’s appearance in the Antrim workhouse Indoor Admissions and discharge register where she is described as female single 16 year old Established Church dirty residing in Crumlin. One can check on a map where Crumlin is in relation to Antrim workhouse. Sarah entered the workhouse 23 March 1848 and left 26 May 1848, the same date as Annie and Margaret Best.

And from the database http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

Details of Sarah’s death at Bellambi in 1906 were from Sarah’s descendant Marj. Jackel.

  • Surname : Burt
  • First Name : Sarah
  • Age on arrival : 16
  • Native Place : Glennevis [Glenavy], Antrim
  • Parents : William & Sarah (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Workhouse : Antrim, Antrim
  • Other : Shipping: farm servant, reads, no relatives in colony. PRONI Antrim BG/1/GA/1 (4276) Crumlin, dirty. Empl. Mary Hill, Park St., Sydney £9, 2 years. Im Cor Register 6 Nov 1848, letter from Mary Hill requesting cancellation of indenture on various grounds; 19 Nov 1848 Im Cor transfer allowed to Mr John Duross of Campbelltown; married John Stanford at Appin, 1851; 9 children by 1868; died at Bellambi 1906; buried RC cemetery, Corrimal.

For Sarah’s appearance in the Register 6 and 19 November 1848 see SRNSW Microfilm SR Reel 3111. It explains how she came to be residing at Campbelltown at the time of her marriage.

Meenagarragh Cottier's house? for widow?
Meenagarragh cottier’s house for widow? Ulster Folk Museum, Cultra

ELIZA CONN from Armagh per Earl Grey

On the recommendation of Surgeon Henry Grattan Douglass Eliza was one of the orphans prevented from disembarking at Port Jackson. She was sent directly to Maitland.

“Sent to Maitland” appears beside her name on the shipping list. She also appears with her surname misspelled as ‘Comm’ in the enclosures of a letter from Merewether to the Colonial Secretary, 8 February 1849, ‘List of the forty-seven Female Orphans…whose removal to the country was recommended…by the Surgeon Superintendent…’. The forty-seven names appear in British Parliamentary Papers, Colonies, Australia, IUP edition, vol.11, p.532 and in my Barefoot, vol.1, pp.132-3. As far as we know Eliza didn’t get into trouble ever again.

My family reconstitution form was filled out for me by one of Elizabeth’s descendants in the 1980s, Mrs A. Dreiser. There’s a wealth of information there. Elizabeth married Alfred Horder, a butcher, in West Maitland in 1851 and together they had thirteen children, the last one stillborn when Elizabeth was about 45 years old. She died in 1883, her husband Alfred in 1896. Both of them are buried at Maitland.

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And from the database http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

  • Surname : Conn
  • First Name : Elizabeth
  • Age on arrival : 17
  • Native Place : Armagh
  • Parents : James & Margaret (both dead)
  • Religion : Church of England
  • Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
  • Other : Shipping: house servant, reads, no relatives in the colony. Armagh PLU PRONI BG/2/G/2 (2309) Ballinahone; empl. by Mr Dickson, West Maitland £10, 6 months; married Alfred Horder, an English-born butcher, West Maitland, c.1851; Horder family arrived free on ‘Coromandel’ 1838; 13 children; Alfred Nov 1896; Elizabeth Dec 1883, Wexford St., Sydney.

For the Armagh workhouse Indoor Register in PRONI see https://apps.proni.gov.uk/eCatNI_IE/ResultDetails.aspx

Let me finish by reminding you of the ‘Annual Gathering’ on the 26th August 2018 at Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney. It will be the first ‘Gathering’ without the late Tom Power, former Chair of the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee, unstoppable force behind the creation of a beautiful monument to the Great Irish Famine at Hyde Park Barracks. Vale Tom Power. Ar dheis Dé go raibh anam

You will find more about the ‘Gathering’ on the GIFCC facebook page Great Irish Famine Commemoration Memorial

or by clicking on the following link

2018 Final Annual Gathering Invite

“The hardest thing of all is to see what is really there.” (J.A.Baker, The Peregrine)

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Earl Grey’s Irish Famine orphans (30): what’s involved in writing orphan stories

IMPLICATIONS

 

St Stephen's Green, Dublin: Famine sculpture detail

St Stephen’s Green, Dublin: Famine sculpture detail

 

 

I wonder why we need to assess the contribution of the orphans to Australia. Is it just something historians do, deluded fools that we are? There have been a number of attempts already. The orphans were workhouse refuse/deadwood tipped out on poor unsuspecting colonists by British imperialists. Or were they ‘mothers to the Australian character’ whose ‘descendants enjoyed opportunities unheard of in Ireland’? There’s a great array of views about the orphans’ history on the Irish Famine memorial website that are worth pondering, at http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/en/events/  I wonder if speeches made at the Melbourne annual gathering in November are also available. Does anyone know?

I’ve even dabbled a little myself in the past, in the introduction to Barefoot and Pregnant?, volume one, in the magazine, History Ireland in 2000, and in the description of the Earl Grey scheme on the Irish Famine memorial website. See for example the penultimate paragraph at http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/en/history/earl-grey-scheme  I’d probably still hold to these views. Elsewhere, I’ve suggested we be wary of too sentimental a treatment of the orphans’ lives.

As Tanya Evans reminded me, I even posed one of those intractable questions a long time ago; ‘were the orphans disproportionately represented among the criminal classes, in suicide records, or among the inmates of destitute and mental asylums’? One might surmise that since the orphans lacked the same family support networks as other immigrants, they were more at risk of falling on hard times. Their demographic history, too,–many of them married older men and had long years of widowhood–may have increased their chance of ending up in an institution, later in life.

On one of my research trips to Melbourne, financed by Macquarie University, i searched for orphans among prison records. In the Public Record Office of Victoria there was a Central Register of Female prisoners at VPRS 516 and a Prisoner’s Personal Description Register at VPRS 521. They were in a very fragile condition and soon became only available on microfiche, thank goodness. Here’s the sort of thing I noted down,

PROV VPRS 521 vol 1  No 7 Catherine Ellis Lady Kennaway 1848 b. 1835 5’1″slender fair complexion dark brown hair grey eyes received into gaol 1 January-14 January 1851

ditto No 129 Amelia Nott New Liverpool 1849 b. 1827 Free three convictions drunk slender fresh complexion dark brown hair grey eyes neither read nor write two small scars on bridge of nose b Jersey RC married servant 20 October 1854 For medical treatment

ditto No 133 Susan Stewart Pemberton 1850 b. 1834 two previous drunk stout fair brown hair hazel eyes reads and writes imperfectly 5′ 2½” scar upper lip and right hand Ireland Catholic single idle and disorderly 1 calendar month 15/2-15/3/1856

ditto No 833 Mary Ann Tyrell Roman Emperor 1848 1835 once before 4″8½” Ireland Catholic married

You will appreciate the kind of problem this poses. Did some orphans deliberately provide false information or genuinely forget details of their arrival? What if we find no record of their marriage? Can we be sure this really is an Earl Grey orphan? Some of the examples above would appear to be so. But how many overall went to gaol? What percentage of the total? Were they in gaol only for a short period of their lives, or often, over the years?

If we go looking for orphans in institutions, in prisons, benevolent asylums, mental hospitals and the like, of course we will find them. But what we do here, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, is add the bias of expectation to the bias of the sources we use. We distort our view of things by focussing one-eyed on this aspect of the orphans’ history.

Still, it is important that we get an idea of how many orphans experienced such a life. I encourage anyone working in this area to continue doing so. If i remember correctly, Julie Poulter is researching orphans who went to Darlinghurst gaol in Sydney, in a thesis she is doing at the University of New England. Maybe people looking at these things will be willing to share their findings? I could include what you want to say in these blog posts. At least I think that is possible. I’m not sure how many people actually read the comments at the end of each post.

FAMILY HISTORIES

A similar caveat applies to my own painstaking family reconstitutions. They are weighted towards the orphans who generally lived in stable, life-long relationships here in Australia. That too may be a distortion of how we perceive the orphans’ contribution to Australian society. Nonetheless I shall continue using them. I intend appending more to this post. They are an important means of helping us write orphan family histories. And the more family histories we have, the greater the empirical data we have to assess what happened to the Earl Grey orphans in Australia. They will ‘thicken’ our description, an anthropologist might say.

SOME ETHICAL ISSUES

The common ground between family historians, professional genealogists and academic historians is sometimes a tricky one to negotiate. I particularly admire those who treat each other with tact and sensitivity. And worry that my own steel-capped boots will damage too many metaphorical shins. Yet for Earl Grey orphan histories to flourish, may I suggest cooperation is essential? Tanya Evans treats some of the issues I have in mind in her recent Fractured Families and resolves them with what she calls ‘shared authority’. Her book is well worth a read.

Let me outline some of my own concerns.

  1. What’s the best way to ask family historians how they confirmed there is an Irish female orphan in their family? There was, after all, an enormous number of young Irish females arriving in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in the early 1850s. Are you sure ‘your’ Mary Kelly, Cathy Kennedy or Mary Ryan  is the one who came to Port Phillip in 1849 on the Pemberton and you’re not just making a leap of faith?

And to extend this a bit further, how do we know that this second or third or fourth marriage is our orphan’s? Can we be sure that this is her changing her name more than once? Reading orphan descendants write about frequent remarriages and name changes has really interesting implications. Did women at the exposed and vulnerable end of Australian society in the nineteenth century have to use these survival strategies, or life strategies, in order to get by? What kind of life must they have led? My not having read much about this sort of thing before may simply be a fault of my own. Has much/anything been written about it already, does anyone know?

    2. What if I discover something a family historian may not like to hear, that that orphan descendant beat his wife relentlessly, that that one molested children or that daughter was locked away in a mental institution for more than forty years? What other disturbing factor could there be…that she was constantly drunk and abandoned her children to an Industrial school?…that she committed infanticide? Maybe you can accept and acknowledge these things. As Alison Light put it, we don’t have to like our ancestors. But what if one person in the family objects to such things being publicized in their family history? Or perhaps there is disagreement over an interpretation you’ve made. Does that mean it should be censored or even shelved? I’d love to hear your view.

  3. Or what if it is as simple as someone objecting, “You can’t say that. No ancestor of mine was ever in a workhouse.” It has happened before.  It may even be an objection to something you include about the Famine. “The charge of culpable neglect of the consequences of policies leading to mass starvation is also indisputable.” (Peter Gray quoted in  D. P. Nally’s Human Encumbrances, p 226). Should one therefore cut that bit from the family history?

‘On you go now! Run, son, like the devil

And tell your mother to try

To find me a bubble for the spirit level

And a new knot for this tie.’  

(Seamus Heaney, The Errand in The Spirit Level)

I saved some material on my computer sent to me by orphan descendants some years ago. I must try getting in touch again, if they are still with us, D.G., as my friend Tom Power would say. I could begin by putting together a draft of a family history, ask for their input, and  show them the draft. If they gave their consent, I could then put it into the blog. I have a sense of these orphan family histories as more of a beginning than an end.

In the meantime I’ll put up some more FAMILY RECONSTITUTIONS. I’d like to return to them at a later date to suggest ways they can be used in a family history. I’ve made a selection of orphans who went to South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. And in order to emphasize the need for cooperation, I’ve gone back to some originals where orphan descendants filled out one of my forms as best they could, and I was able to add a bit more information.

First some family reconstitutions from New South Wales and South Australia. More to follow. Double click or pinch to make these larger.

fotierney

foboyleearlg

fobanks

fomarymcconnellearl grey

fobooth

foburt

fomdevlin

fobellromanemp

fohellenelgin

fotaafeinconst

To be continued…

key to blogs is at http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE