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
Advertisements

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (63): a couple of questions

E

a dog’s breakfast

I’m afraid this is just bits and pieces, some more junky than others. I intend posing some questions,

Why is there such an interest in family history in [Australia]? Enter whatever term you wish instead of “Australia”.

What are some of the problems in identifying the Earl Grey orphans who arrived in Port Phillip?

And for those wanting more on their orphan’s Irish background, what’s available for researchers?

FAMILY HISTORIES

Over twenty years ago when researching my chapter in Irish Women in Colonial Australia, I visited the Kingston Centre in Melbourne. I was looking for records of the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum. Sadly, few records have survived. Yet the keeper of the records, Sandy Forster, told me how much family history helped with the rehabilitation and palliative care of those in the Centre. It was wonderful to hear that. I hope it still helps patients in the Hospital. That’s one good reason for encouraging family history.

For background to the Kingston Centre, see http://localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au/htm/article/302.htm

Why do so many people become hooked on the family history line? Is the following a major reason? A member of my own family told the story of a relative from overseas standing in the middle of a road and saying, “so this is where I come from”.  That is, the perennial search for “roots”.

What is the attraction of family history or genealogy? Not everyone is so smitten, me being a case in point. Maybe readers would share the reasons for their own interest? Or try giving an answer to the first question above? Or explain the appeal of the Irish Famine orphans?

I’ve made suggestions about writing orphans’ stories throughout this blog. You may like to refresh your memory of some of them. See the post titled ‘Where to from here?’ https://wp.me/p4SlVj-Gf

Or for some specific examples, the refulgent history of Bridget McMahon from Rathkeale, Co. Limerick, https://wp.me/p4SlVj-PV

or the story of ‘Belfast Girl’ Mary McConnell, https://wp.me/p4SlVj-LL

Maybe you can find something there to act as template for your own orphan ‘girl’?

Port Phillip arrivals: some problems

Some of the excellent research done on the Port Phillip orphans since my efforts last century can be viewed at http://wiki.prov.vic.gov.au/i,ndex.php/Irish_Famine_Orphan_Immigration

Was this the work of Christine O’Donnell at the Public Records Office of Victoria?

What’s been achieved since my own and Ada Ackerley’s efforts in the 1980s and 1990s is now on the database at http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/

But let me take you back to some of the issues i had when i began. Most of them are still relevant.

Without an orphan’s parents’ names, how did i know i had identified an Earl Grey orphan correctly?  When i first used Victorian birth, death and marriage records, for example, i began with what i thought were ‘distinctive ‘names; Sarah Totten, Susan Sprouls, Mary Birmingham, Arabella Kelly, Dorinda Saltry, for example. Maybe i was influenced by my own name. It’s much easier searching for trevor mcclaughlin, with the extra ‘c’, than it is for trevor mclaughlin.

Obviously other things were involved in identifying Port Phillip orphans. I looked at their place of origin, their age, the address of their employer, if their shipmates witnessed their wedding and the birth of their children, that kind of thing. How many of these could i line up? Did i have enough evidence to say i had ‘found’ one of the “lost children” or was there an act of faith involved? These are questions still worth posing, i believe, especially for anyone ‘discovering’ a famine orphan in their family tree.

Here are a couple of my research cards when i was working with Victorian vital statistics. You can imagine the ‘fun’ i had. I still believe i achieved a high degree of accuracy for the Victorian orphans especially in the first volume of Barefoot and Pregnant?

Presumably in working back through your own family history the level of certainty increases. A direct ancestral line may convince you that is all you need. But does that mean you should have no doubts at all? The sheer number of Irish women arriving in Port Phillip as assisted immigrants during the 1850s may be problematic.

Common names

Look at how many ‘Mary Howes’ or ‘Mary McGraths’ arrived in Port Phillip shortly after the orphans arrived, for example. https://prov.vic.gov.au/explore-collection/explore-topic/passenger-records-and-immigration/assisted-passenger-lists

That particular example may not apply to you personally but it surely does to many, to the Kellys, Egans, Connells, Reillys, McNamaras, Murphys, Byrnes, Ryans and Dunns to name a few?

Ages

Especially when we remember how iffy an orphan’s age could be. Kay Caball explains it in one of her blogposts https://mykerryancestors.com/kerry-19th-century/

“Very few Irish people knew (or even cared about) their exact year/date of birth. Even when they wrote down a definite date, that was just a guess.  They weren’t trying to fool anyone or be evasive, it was just never of any importance at home and only on emigration did it become necessary in the new country for identification purposes.”

Other tripwires

What if your orphan’s ‘native place’ recorded on a shipping list differs more than once from that recorded at the birth of her children (as in the Margaret Sheedy example below)? What if she marries more than once, or takes the name of her ‘de facto’ husband? Or constructs a new identity for herself? Or adopts an alias to escape from the law?

Now our orphan has become more elusive, raising questions and leaving us with more and more room for error. She is slipping through our fingers. We all should be willing to check the evidence we have, question ourselves, identify when we have made ‘a leap of faith’ because we want such and such to be true, or desire an Irish Orphan in our family tree. Sometimes we just do not have the certainty or evidence we would like. In the end, it is up to us to be honest with ourselves.

 

Irish sources

There are still an number of things keeping me close to the Famine orphans; a historian’s interest in the subject, naturally, a desire to help Australians find more about their Earl Grey orphan ancestors, and stronger than ever, an interest in helping refugees through the outreach programme associated with  http://www.irishfaminememorial.org

“Concern and fear are clear in the eyes of the young Rohingya boy. He looks around the group with his dark eyes, looks around with his almond-shaped eyes, searching for potential sanctuary in the faces of strangers”. (from Behrouz Boochani, No Friend but the Mountains, Picador, 2018, p. 87.)

Lately a number of people have approached me for help finding out more about the Irish background of their orphan. So here is a bit more of that dog’s breakfast. I’ll use examples from my research cards above. And I’ll be going back over some of the things said previously .

Here’s the first case, Margaret Sheedy from Clonmel per New Liverpool.

Margaret was to marry fellow Irishman Daniel Corbett shortly after arriving, and together they had ten children. She lived her short life as a farmer’s wife in Kilmore. She died aged 36 or 37, a month after the birth of her last child, a little boy called Thomas.

From the family reconstitution form below Margaret is listed as having come from Limerick–Tipperary, reflecting what was stated at the registration of the birth of some of her children. In the excerpt from the database, and indeed on the New Liverpool shipping list, her place of origin is Clonmel, Tipperary. If we want to know more about Margaret’s Irish background that would be a good place to start.

  • Surname : Sheedy
  • First Name : Margaret
  • Age on arrival : 15 or 16
  • Native Place : Clonmel, Tipperary
  • Parents : Not recorded
  • Religion : Roman Catholic
  • Ship name : New Liverpool (Melbourne 1849)
  • Workhouse : Tipperary, Clonmel
    Other : shipping: house servant, cannot read or write; probably sister of Ellen; Clonmel PLU 14 Apr 1849, BG67/A/9 p.257 list of 28 orphan girls about to leave the workhouse, includes Margaret Sheedy, aged 18, left workhouse on 18 Apr 1849; Empl. Henry H Nash, Stephen St., £8, 6 months; married Daniel Corbett, 23 May 1851, Melbourne; husband a farmer; 10 children; lived Kilmore; she died 12 Sep 1870, one month after the birth of her last child.

Note the reference to Clonmel Board of Guardian records. This is one of the many workhouse records held in Irish repositories. As per my last post, post 62, my first port of call is Peter Higginbotham’s great website. See http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Clonmel/

Even if Peter no longer gives details of what sources have survived, his site is still a mine of information. Click on the “Tipperary Studies” link at the bottom of that page, and may i wish you good luck with your hunting and exploring? If you are thinking of making a trip to Ireland one day, make sure you find where the records are stored, and write to the relevant library beforehand.

Clonmel Board of Guardian Minute books are exceptional in that they include the names of famine orphans who came to Australia. That is rarely the case elsewhere. Yet they will always take you into the world ‘your’ orphan occupied in the days before she left Ireland.

Here is what appears on that page (257) in the Clonmel workhouse Board of Guardian Minute Books,

“Names of twenty-eight females who have emigrated from this Union on the 18th April 1849,

Ellen Sheedy 16 years, Katherine Dunne, 16, Margaret Walsh, 16, Margaret Greene, 17, Margaret Sheedy, 18, Mary Ann Butler, 17, Bridget Gearon, 18, Mary Goggin*, 18, Catherine Ryan, 18, Catherine Hickey, 19, Bridget Flynn*, 18, Margaret Purcell, 18, Mary Murphy*, 19, Margaret Dyer, 18, Ellen Preston*, 18, Anne Gillard, 19, Ellen Nugent, 17, Mary Ryan, 16, Mary Noonan, 17, Margaret Dempsey, 19, Katherine Castell*, 16, Margaret Hughes, 17, Bridget McDermott, 16, Mary Grady*, 18, Honora Farrell, 16, Ellen Fraher, 17.

NB. Number 28 on this list Ellen Fraher is the person to make up the twenty-eighth emigrant to go. Her certificate has already been sent amongst the thirty two. I now send a certificate for Mary Murphy to replace that of Mary Farrell the latter having declined to go and Mary Murphy being now sent in her place. The general certificate of health will be taken tomorrow by the Ward Master in charge.

The six marked with an asterisk had smallpox. The rest were vaccinated. Thomas Scully, Medical Officer.

Names of female emigrants approved of to go from Clonmel Union workhouse by the next opportunity: Bridget Farrell, age, 18, Alice Crotty, 15, Judith Crotty, 17, Margaret Long, 19, Mary Crimmin, 17, Katherine Ryan, 17, (Mary Ann Willis*), 15, Judith Shugrue, 18.

There are several other females in the workhouse eligible and wiling to go, and for whom the guardians are satisfied to defray the expenses of outfit etc when sanctioned by the Commissioners”.

What I’d do next is have a look for Margaret’s baptism in parish records. Maybe she was born in Clonmel St. Mary’s https://registers.nli.ie/parishes/1102

or in Clonmel Ss Peter and Paul. But alas the baptismal records that survived for this parish begin in 1836.

Or try contacting a local historical society to see if anyone might help. They’d be only too willing I’m sure and would be a great help in finding out more about the Famine in Clonmel and surrounds. That workhouse.org website mentioned above will direct us to the excellent Tipperary Historical Society for example.

That is enough for now. I’m tempted to put this in the rubbish bin. I’ll continue another time.

Btw, The featured image of this post is the cover of The Great Famine. Irish Perspectives, edited by John Gibney, Pen & Sword History, 2018, isbn 9781526736635. They’ve given me a promotion.