Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: 7 days in November: Joseph Fitzpatrick and grave #A64

Yesterday I recounted the history of little Joseph Fitzpatrick, younger brother of my maternal grandmother Mary Angela Fitzpatrick Ball. At the time I uncovered the information about Joseph I did not know where he was buried, but now at last I have found him. I should feel happy about this coup in the work of family history, this 'great find', but it is only deeply unsettling. Joseph's story is already more than sad enough, but the facts of his burial take it beyond the pale for me.

Little Joseph Fitzpatrick died 19 November 1901, just one month after marking his sixth birthday. On 22 November 1901, three days after his death, Joseph was interred in grave #A64 in Liverpool's Ford Catholic Cemetery. He is interred with 22 other people. These 23 individuals were interred in grave #A64 between 20 November and 27 November 1901. Seven days. In these seven days in November of that year 21 families buried 22 children; all of them were under the age of 9. One adult is also interred in the grave. On the day in which Joseph's family buried him three other children were interred, the youngest was 2 days old, and at six years of age Joseph was the eldest. For three of the children their last place of residence is recorded as "Liverpool Coroner", and for one his last place of residence is the "Liverpool W.house", translation: Liverpool Workhouse.

Grave #A64 is located in A section of the cemetery on the far right of this map

At the time of Joseph's death his family was living at 50 Paget Street in the Ward of Scotland, Liverpool, an area known for its transient population of workers, many of whom were Irish. Little money and no dependable work for the head of the household meant living either in substandard housing or being forced to move to many different accommodations depending on what they could afford. In the six months prior to Joseph's death, the family lived at four different Liverpool addresses: 19 Milford Street, 249 and 360 Great Howard Street, and 50 Paget Street. Often times they were packed into housing with other families who found themselves in the same situation. Their standard of living meant that they were subject to malnutrition and infectious disease.

I understand these 'facts' of poverty for the Irish in Liverpool in this period; however, understanding the facts certainly doesn't make it any easier to accept the situation in which my ancestors, and many other Irish, found themselves. The fact was that most Irish families living in the Scotland Ward of Liverpool quite literally had nothing. The fact was that Thomas Fitzpatrick was one of many Irishmen who had to humiliate himself on a daily basis, essentially begging for work on the docks. Standing together in a group very early in the morning, standing and waiting while another man decided his fate for him, decided whether or not he would be given a day's work, decided whether or not he would have money to feed and house his family.

Little Joseph Fitzpatrick is interred with 22 other people because this would have been the only way his family could afford to bury him. There is the so called "public" grave section in the Ford Cemetery in which people with no money at all were interred. These graves are in what looks like a large green lawn; those interred in this space were denoted by an X. There were no markings because apparently being dirt poor meant you did not deserve to be remembered, although in recent years the cemetery has mounted a plaque in remembrance of all those interred in unmarked ground. Joseph is in a marked grave, that is, a grave marked with a number which corresponds to the register. This is the kind of remembrance a very little money could buy, this and nothing more.

My mother remembers so very well the darkness which always shadowed her grandmother's face. Although the children were never allowed to look directly at their grandmother when she addressed them, occasionally my mother would take a sideways glimpse of her, and she was struck by how sad 'Grannie' always looked. How could a mother be anything but sad given the way in which her first born son was lost to her? Joseph was lost to her both in life and in death. With their return to Ireland her separation from him was complete, because never again would she cast her eyes upon his final resting place, nor lay flowers in remembrance of his young life.

Here are the names, last addresses, and ages of those interred in grave #A64 in those seven days in November of 1901. They are listed as they appear in the cemetery register.

20 November

4c Clare Street
age: 8 months

DUNNE, Mary Josephine
25 Bankhall Street
age: 1 month

39 Beechwood Road
age: 5 weeks

Liverpool Coroner
age: 14 days

21 November

33 Pluto Street
age: 56

DEEGAN, Joseph
14 Stitt Street
age: 2 months

McINERNEY, Margaret
10 Carlton Street
age: 1 month

DALY, Ellen
Liverpool Coroner
age: 19 months

5 eleanor? Terrace
age: 16 days

22 November

O’REILLY, Daniel
Liverpool Workhouse
age: 3 years

LAIRD, Robert John
29 Orry Street
age: 4 years & 8 months

50 Paget Street
age: 6 years

DENNISON, Margaret
8b Birchfield Street
age: 2 days

23 November

DORAN, Cecilia
Liverpool Coroner
age: 3 months

5 Wallasey Blds.
age: 9 days

12 Clement Street
age: 1 year

24 November

TRAYNOR, Michael Joseph
92a Forth Street
age: 7 months

McGREGOR, Andrew
39 Hoole Street
age: 6 months

DUFFY, Thomas
3c Beresford Street
age: 3 months

GOTT, William Edwin
31 Lionel Street
age: 6 months

LYNCH, (Isabella) Agnes
72 South Chester Street
age: 9 months

TREVARKIES, John & Catherine
10 Thornton Street
ages: 11 days & 15 days

27 November

EGAN, Arthur
5 Tenderden Street
age: 9 years and 5 months

©Copyright J. Geraghty-Gorman 2011.


  1. A sad and fascinating story. Poor little children...as we dig our way into our own past and our own poverty-stricken Dublin ancestors, we likewise turn up sad, buried stories, such as the fact that our stepgrandmother spent time in a workhouse as a five-year-old; and working with an Irish cousin we have managed to track down the grave of a relative who died at 18, and he too is buried with others--your post answers the questions that immediately sprang to our minds, namely that our own kin were too poor to grant him a grave all his own, but managed to scrape together enough to keep him out of potter's field. So sad to see all those dates for those poor babes who barely got to see the light of day.

  2. Thank you for your comments Christina; they are much appreciated. I am happy for you that you have also been able to find the histories of your ancestors so that they too may be remembered.

    Cheers to you,

  3. Your initial, and tragic post about little Joseph's life shows, as you said, that his story "is already more than sad enough". The shocking details you uncovered of the conditions of his burial serve to further underscore the heart-breaking nature of that story. The sensitive and sympathetic manner in which you tell their story shows Joseph and his family a dignity and respect clearly absent in their difficult times. Congratulations on such a graceful telling of such a difficult topic.

    1. Thank you gormanm. Your comments are very much appreciated. It is my hope that little Joseph and the others interred in the grave will always be remembered.

      Cheers to you,


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Cheers, Jennifer

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