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.

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (51) : just a few from South Australia

A FEW MORE ORPHAN STORIES

One of the advantages of this blogging business is that you can lay your cards on the table however you like. Some of what I’ve done already is all of a jumble, set down and put out as I came across material in my filing cabinets. The beauty of it is, nothing is set in stone. My intention is to revisit some of my more substantive posts when I get the chance. Post 16 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-h8 looks as though it could do with some reworking, for example.

In the meanwhile, here are a couple more stories I hope you will like. South Australian Irish Famine orphans are relatively neglected. It may be because there weren’t so many of them or maybe they are just hard to trace. Let me suggest some avenues of research which I hope may have wider application. I’m just casting a net and hoping when I drag it to shore I’ll have an interesting catch.

Mary Taafe from Dublin per Inconstant to Adelaide

Mary was to live a long life with her convict husband, Samuel Dunn from Nottingham. After marrying, the couple moved quickly to Victoria where Mary was to give birth to fourteen children, nine boys and five girls, three of them dying in infancy or childhood. She herself lived till she was ninety.

It must have been Dawn Barbary who sent me this. Thankyou Dawn. Dawn supplied the names of her and Samuel’s childrens’ spouses, Hanns Wanned, Niels Jorgens, Nellie Plunkett, W. Renison, Tom Lucas, and Maud Tr…. Maybe their descendants have yet to discover they have an Irish Famine orphan in their family.

Our starting point, as always, must be the Irish Famine Memorial database for it has the most up to date information. There in synopsis is what is known about Mary. I wonder if Eliza was Mary’s older sister. That would mean she had a younger sister called Ellen and a mother called Mary. What kind of proof would we need for that?

http://irishfaminememorial.org/orphans/database/?surName=Taafe&firstName=&age=0&nativePlace=&parents=&religion=0&ship=13

I remember working with those North and South Dublin workhouse Registers in 1987. They were large, heavy registers closely packed with names which were sometimes difficult to read. Nowadays you can gain access to these Dublin registers online if you subscribe to findmypast.ie

In the North Dublin Register (National Archives of Ireland [NAI] BG 78/G/6 number 30984) Mary was described as being ‘in good health‘ and from Jervis Street in the city. Jervis Street runs directly north from the Ha’penny Bridge, not far from the city centre. Not that Mary would recognise it today.  In Mary’s case, the Workhouse Register explicitly states, “sent to Australia“, as indeed it did for some others, Bridget Fay (28228), Eliza Harricks (29777), Mary Ann Newman (BG78/G/5 No.20650) and  in G4, no.14640, Rebecca Thompson. Mostly, however, one has to use the method I described  in blog post number five, http://wp.me/p4SlVj-4X See about a third of the way down under “Identifying the female orphans”.

The next step is to Peter Higginbotham’s brilliant work on workhouses to find out more about the workhouse Mary was in. See http://workhouses.org.uk/DublinNorth/

 That is one excellent website, worth the many hours I’ve spent exploring it.

——————————————————————————————————————————————

Casting the net a second time, I dragged ashore an article by Flinders University academic, Mark Staniforth, that treats the orphans who came to Adelaide on the Inconstant. Do have a look for yourself

https://ehlt.flinders.edu.au/archaeology/department/publications/staniforth/2002e.pdf

Dr Staniforth also offers information about individual orphans, some of it originating with family historians. Mary Taafe is one such, where the claim is made that Eliza was indeed her sister. But no proof of that is offered there. I believe it is important to always ask, how do you know that, what evidence do you have, and how reliable is your evidence? Is your claim based on hard fact or have you taken imaginative license or a leap of faith? Just so long as you state clearly what the position is.

Catherine Bracken from Parsonstown

And to emphasise how treacherous this ‘telling orphan stories’ can be, compare Dr Staniforth’s brief biography of Catherine Bracken with Karen Semken’s that appears on the Irish Famine memorial website at http://irishfaminememorial.org/media/Catherine_Bracken_Inconstant.pdf These two accounts show us how easy it is to become ensnared in the tangled webs we weave.

One is a straightforward account of Catherine from Parsonstown (Birr) workhouse marrying William Robinson at Mount Barker in 1851, their having at least three children, and Catherine dying aged 52 in the Clare Valley. (Staniforth, p. 37, after the endnotes).

The other is a thoroughly researched and beautifully illustrated tale of ‘murder and mayhem’. Catherine’s first husband had his throat slit in 1856, and her second was executed in 1862 for the murder of their servant Jane McNanamin at Salt Creek. Catherine married yet again, for a third time, to George Ingham in 1871. According to Karen, she died in 1915 and is buried in West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide. Karen mentions that one of Catherine’s descendants Dawn Ralfe was writing a book about Catherine. Does anyone have any news about this?

I see Dawne Ralfe has published her book. It’s called  Murders and Mayhem: the true secrets, Inspiring publishers, 2014.

Karen has a facebook page devoted to the orphans. There are some great photographs there. https://www.facebook.com/EarlGreyIrishOrphans/ On the 5th April 2015 for example, she posted a pic of Matthew Moorhouse’s residence, next door to the Native School that acted as an Immigration Depot for the orphans. The same pic appears in her account of Catherine’s history at page three of the link above.

Karen’s revision of Catherine Bracken’s history raises a larger, interesting question: how many of the orphans had a criminal history in Australia, however minor their crimes or misdemeanours might have been? Those that did were found guilty of minor crimes, being drunk and disorderly, obscene language, petty theft, or ‘vagrancy’, a charge which the police often used instead of ‘prostitution’.

Margaret Dehee (or Duhy)

Dr Staniforth also draws our attention to a South Australian government report that lists sixteen Inconstant orphans who were prostitutes, including Margaret Dehee (various spellings) from Donohill in Tipperary. Dr Staniforth argues convincingly her surname was Duhy.

The information on this next family reconstitution form was from an excellent genealogist, Wendy Baker, sent to me in 1986. I hope Wendy is still with us. Margaret Dea(n)(e)/Duhy had five female children by her first husband Robert Strickland and another, Lucy, by her second, Charles Lindrea. Like Mary Taafe she left South Australia and sought her fortune in Victoria.

blogfomargtdeheeincons

The Government report Dr Staniforth refers to can be found in British Parliamentary Papers. I’ve used the hard copy 1,000 volume Irish University press edition.

On the second of November, 1850, Governor Sir H.E. F. Young wrote to Earl Grey,

My Lord,

I have the honour of forwarding a report by the Children’s apprenticeship Board, on 621 female orphans introduced into the colony during the last two years.

2. Thirty two cases of crime or misconduct were brought before the police magistrate; six are mothers of illegitimate children, and required relief as destitute persons at their lying-in.

Six more are living in the country in adultery.

Forty three have fallen into the condition of common prostitutes; although all had been placed by the Board in respectable situations…”.

(In all, less than fifteen percent of orphans, my comment).

Sixty-six circulars had been sent to Police Magistrates throughout the colony asking about ‘the conduct and respectability’ of the orphans in their district. Only thirty Magistrates had replied. (British Parliamentary Papers, Irish Universities Press edition, Colonies Australia, vol.13, Sessions 1851-52, Papers relative to Emigration, p.292). [I only wish our own present-day pollsters explained to us the methods they use, and on what their results are based].

————————————————————————————————————————————

Incarcerated orphans

I wonder if asking how many of the orphans were incarcerated in Melbourne Women’s prison or in Darlinghurst gaol, or in Yarra Bend mental hospital, or Wollston Park, in Liverpool Lying-in hospital, or Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, or any similar institution, is the question I want to ask. A minority of the orphans (and how substantial a minority is moot) i believe were bound to spend part of their life in such institutions.

More than twenty years ago I asked, retouching what I said just a bit, ‘did Irish immigrants (to Australia) agree with other immigrants on …”the big issues”? Did they accept ‘capitalism and the modernizing, anglophone, world’ (D. Akenson), or were the casualties among them those would not or could not adapt to this new world? … And among those Irish immigrants were ‘friendless’, single, Irish Famine orphans the most vulnerable of all because of their ethnicity, because of their sex, because of their class, because of their lack of independence, because of their lack of kin support, and because of their dependence on males? The questions are easier to pose than to answer’.

Some have even suggested the trauma of the Famine made the Irish more susceptible to mental illness. I remain unconvinced. As I’ve said elsewhere, to suggest our orphans were transmitters of some workhouse dumping ground mentality, or biologically prone to some sort of “Celtic Melancholy”, or psychologically predisposed to mental illness, ‘borders on bigotry'(Akenson?).

Unlike most assisted Irish immigrants, the Earl Grey orphans were not part of a safety network. They did not have a network of ‘friends’,– friends in the usual sense of people from the same village or locality with whom they had a close, long-established relationship, and friends in the Irish sense of family members, once, twice and even thrice removed–friends they could turn to in times of need. They did not have a complex safety-net, woven with threads of kinship. That  is what made them vulnerable to alienation in their new Australian world.

Orphan stratagems

The question we may prefer to ask is what stratagems did the orphans use to deal with whatever life threw at them? What legal rights did they have? When they were young, did they get married in order to escape a burdensome master-servant contract? And if their husband was legally allowed to beat them with a stick, how did they withstand domestic abuse? Did they adopt the drinking habits of their husband? Fit in, or flee? Ellen Leydon from Ennistymon in County Clare who arrived by the Thomas Arbuthnot, ‘married’ six times, using(?) males as her ‘shelter’, her way of coping. See her story towards the bottom of http://wp.me/p4SlVj-dQ And when old, if your husband has died and you do not meet the requirements for entry to a Benevolent Asylum, do you deny your children, say you have lost touch with them, say you have no money, and no means of support. Then you will meet requirements. Do as needs must. Did the orphans contest the historical role colonial society imposed upon them? Did they negotiate a place for themselves? Or is that being too optimistic?

(I’ve just started reading Garry Disher’s Her. That will cure any desire to return to the ‘good old days’).

May I ask if anyone knows a good general history of women in Australia that would help  answer the questions asked in the last part of this blog? Which historians can we turn to? Shurlee Swain? Christine Twomey? Tanya Evans? Diane Kirkby? All suggestions gratefully received.

For those who  didn’t get to hear Dr Kildea’s oration at Hyde Park Barracks on the 27th August 2017, Tinteán have kindly put it online at https://tintean.org.au/2017/09/06/only-nineteen/

Thank you Jeff for a brilliant, poignant speech.