Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Low Country Irish I

St. Mary of the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church, located on Hasell St., Charleston, South Carolina was the first Catholic church built in the three states of South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. It was established in 1789 and has served the Catholic population of the southeastern United States for over 220 years.[1]

I recently had a chance to visit the graveyard that surrounds the church building. A significant number of the headstones give the countries of origin for worshipers, such as Italy, France, and Ireland. What is even better is that many of the Irish headstones give a lot of information about the deceased, including that all important county of origin.

These Charlestonian Irish were born in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and came to the U.S. in the decades before the Famine. Today, there is a South Carolina Irish Historical Society and the main historical publication, so far, is South Carolina Irish by Arthur Mitchell.

In my short visit I took as many pictures as possible and will post them in this and the next few blog posts.

Ann Redmond of Kilkenny d. 3 June 1832 / Also mentioned: Mathew Redmond (husband), Michael Redmond (son), Margaret Redmond (daughter), Mathew Redmond (son).

Margaret Rooney of Sligo d. 12 October 1832 / Also mentioned: Paul Rooney (husband)

Patrick Cummins of Tippeary date unknown / Also mentioned: Thomas Meagher (cousin)

James Milligan Town (?) of Cavan d. 3 April 1827 / Also mentioned: unnamed wife and infant child

Patrick Drew of Grange, County Kildare d. 10 September 1849

[1] National Parks Service. Charleston's Historic Community and Religious Buildings accessed 26 September 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Irish Immigrant Oral Histories

From time to time offer limited free access to certain databases, regardless of subscriber status. What is less well know is that they have a couple of hundred databases that are always free to access.[1]

One database of interest is New York City, Ellis Island Oral Histories, 1892-1976. This collection contains some 2,000 oral histories collected by the Ellis Island Oral History Program through the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Begun in 1973, the project aims to collect first-hand information about immigrant experiences from everyday life in their country of origin, family history, reasons for coming to America, the journey to the port, experiences on the ship, arrival, processing at Ellis Island, and adjustment to life in the U.S. Most interviewees are chosen from submitted questionnaires, range in age from 46 to 106, though the average age is late eighties, and are from many countries.[2]

Of these 2000 interviews, about 60 are with Irish immigrants now living in the U.S. They come from all over the 32 counties; places such as Tuam, Galway; Dublin; Urlingford, Kilkenny; Newry, Down; Newcastle, Limerick; and Bundoran, Donegal. Most were born between 1890 and 1930. It is a wonderful archive. The interviews provide an insight into early 20th century Ireland and how these immigrants adjusted to their new lives in the U.S.

You can access the database here (you will need to register for free to listen to the oral histories). As an aside, here is a 2011 listing of free Ancestry databases. Hat tip to the Ancestry Insider.

[1] Registration is usually required and you may be offered a free trial.
[2] 2010. About New York City, Ellis Island Oral Histories, 1892-1976. Available at: accessed 6 August 2013.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

From The Examiner To The Globe should be on the bookmark list of all genealogists. Millions of books have been scanned and are available to consult free of change. One small, yet interesting, publication I came across is a book dedicated to the life of Cork born journalist John O'Callaghan. Originally from Killavullen, near Mallow, he was born in 1865. [1] O'Callaghan moved to Boston and worked for the Boston Globe until his premature death in 1913.[2]

[1] Gallagher, James T., ed., A Memorial to John O'Callaghan. Jamaica Plains, MA: Angel Guardian Press. 1918. p. 5.
[2] Gallagher, James T. 1918. p. 6.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Mail Coach To The Port

The hustle and bustle of emigrants leaving a small Irish town, in this case Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry, is neatly captured in this image. People are loading their cases on the mail coach as a crowd of people begin to wave goodbye to the departing locals.

Titled, Irish emigrants leaving their home for America - the mail coach from Cahirciveen, County Kerry, Ireland (1866), it shows the first part of the long and arduous journey to America or Canada.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Famine And Shipwreck - An Irish Odyssey

It can sometimes be hard to comprehend how ridiculously perilous it was for Irish people to emigrate to North American during the Famine. The documentary, Famine and Shipwreck - An Irish Odyssey, produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, gives a vivid example of how dangerous ad life-threatening it was. It is also an excellent example of genealogy, history and dramatic reenactment.

In the Spring of 1849, a coffin-ship called the Hannah, carrying 180 Irish emigrants fleeing Ireland's potato famine, hits an ice reef in the strait near Cape Ray, off the coast of Newfoundland. The captain, a 23 year-old Englishman, takes flight in the only lifeboat, leaving his passengers to either drown or freeze to death. Seventeen hours later, the survivors are rescued by another famine ship, the Nicaragua.

Famine and Shipwreck, an Irish Odyssey tells this extraordinary tale of horror and survival. The documentary combines drama, treated with visual effects, to recreate the shipwreck and heroic survival of some of the passengers, with powerful documentary scenes, involving descendants of the passengers from both sides of the ocean, historians' testimonies and impressive archives of letters, photographs, documents, newspaper articles and art.

Through the film, we follow Canadian descendant Tom Murphy and his mother Jane on their emotional quest to discover how their Irish ancestors, Bridget and John Murphy, managed to survive both starvation and shipwreck to finally build a new life in the green fields of Canada.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Assisted Emigration To St. Andrews

A guiding principle of Irish genealogical research in the U.S. and Canada is to exhaust all records on this side of the Atlantic to find the place of origin in Ireland. However, there are two main types of records, created in Ireland, that are also suitable to use. One is certain passenger list records created in Ireland, such as those highlighted by the work of Irish genealogist Brian Mitchell. The other is assisted emigration records. They are useful because the place of origin is given as well as the port they arrived at in North America.

The Fitzwilliam Estate Emigration Books, 1847-1856 record the names of 6000 emigrants from Wicklow who were sent across the Atlantic. Three hundred and eighty three of them were settled in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada.[1] You can access a database of these names here.

Jim Rees has written extensively about this migration and you can read about it in his document, The Surplus People. He has also compiled names of migrants from the townland of Coolattin on the Fitzwilliam Estate.

[1] Rees, Jim. Fitzwilliam Estate Emigration Books, 1847-1856. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, available online at accessed 22 August 2013.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Blogging In The Name Of The Scots-Irish

I have previously come across Arlene Eakle's Scots-Irish blog. It provides research advice articles for those who research that group of emigrants from Ireland. Research strategies for Scots-Irish ancestors in Ireland, are your Virginia ancestors Scottish or Scots-Irish, and naming patterns among United States families with Scots-Irish origins are just some of the interesting offerings from this year.

Dr. Eakle has a considerable pedigree in the genealogy world. She has been a professional genealogist for over 50 years, founder of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and was co-editor of The Source, the original bible of American genealogy.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Early 20th Century Irish Concentrations

Analyses of the decennial U.S. federal census allows for the creation of various maps that show populations based on many different characteristics. One such type can be the number of people who live in an area based on their country of birth.

This example, Numberof Irish Foreign Born Population, 1900 and 1930, gives a broad overview of where Irish born people lived in the U.S. in those years. Unsurprisingly, the heaviest concentrations are in the northeast. One interesting concentration is the counties from Denver, CO to the border between Colorado and Kansas in 1900.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Michigan Gaeltacht

Beaver Island, Michigan, and Árainn Mhór (Arranmore), Donegal are two places separates by thousands of miles, yet they have a strong bond. In 2000, the two islands were twinned due to the huge numbers of Árainn Mhór natives who settled on Beaver Island, beginning after the Famine.

More in-depth information about this can be found on a number of websites such as, a University of Notre Dame blog about Historical Archaeology of Irish America, and AineMcCormack's The Irish in America. An article on this topic was also published in The Irish at Home and Abroad Vol. 4. No. 4. 1997.

A brief examination of the 1880 U.S. Federal  census shows that over one third of residence in Manitou County[1], MI had the name Boyle or Gallagher[2], names usually associated with Donegal[3]. The arrival of these Donegal people saw the development of a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area) all through the 19th century, until its demise in the early years of the 20th century.[4]

[1] This county was disbanded in 1895 and replaced by Charlevoix county. Both counties include(ed) Beaver Island, and surround islands.
[2] "United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch (; Boyle search 33 names, Gallagher search 50 names, Total Irish born in Manitou county 257 names; search carried out 3 September 2013.
[3] MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland. Dublin: Academic Press. 1985.
[4] Fernandez, Laura. Beaver Island Lumber Company and Culture Change on Historical Archaeology of Irish America. 2011; : accessed 3 September 2013