Monday, February 27, 2012

A Saint and A Sinner: The lives of two brothers

Oscar Wilde once wrote, "the truth is rarely pure and never simple". It is with this in mind that I come to the story of my paternal grandfather John Geraghty and his brother, the Very Reverend Michael Canon Geraghty.

In a prime location near the front gate of the Prospect cemetery at Glasnevin, in the St. Laurence section, an area reserved for 'the great and the good' of the Roman Catholic clergy, lies the grave of the Very Rev. Michael Canon Geraghty. About ten miles away in the Geraghty Family plot at Deansgrange Cemetery, interred with their parents, is his brother John Geraghty. Not so many miles separate the grave sites, but in life these two brothers lived worlds apart.

Left photograph: Tombstone of the Very Rev. Michael Canon Geraghty, Glasnevin Cemetery.
Right photograph: The Geraghty Family Plot, Deansgrange Cemetery.
John Geraghty was born in Dublin Ireland 5 July 1889, the third born child and second born son, of Patrick Geraghty and Margaret Toole. John did not receive an education beyond primary school, and his employment history was at best spotty. The birth registrations of his children note him variously employed as a car driver, a labourer, a store clerk, and an office clerk. My father recalled his father as "the one called on to ferry Mr. Jameson about town" (Mr. Jameson of the famed distillery), since John Geraghty was most often employed as a hansom cab driver for his father, my great-grandfather, Patrick Geraghty. John died 12 September 1954 in Crumlin, Dublin, Ireland.

John's younger brother Michael Geraghty was born into the family home at 112 James Street, Dublin, Ireland, on 3 May 1893. Michael was the fifth born child and fourth born son of the family. Michael attended the local Christian Brothers School on James Street. On 29 September 1911, at the age of 18, Michael entered the seminary at Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, in the First University class. He left Holy Cross College and completed his degree at the seminary of the prestigious St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. At the age of 25 years he was ordained Father Michael Geraghty at Maynooth on 28 April 1918 by Bishop Patrick Morrisroe. Father Geraghty served in eight separate appointments for the church and was 'created a canon', as the church says, in 1969. The Very Reverend Michael Canon Geraghty died  on his 81st birthday, 3 May 1974 in Glasnevin, Dublin, Ireland.

On both of the obituaries of my paternal great-grandparents, Patrick Geraghty and Margaret Toole Geraghty, the only one of their children who is specifically mentioned is Rev. Michael Geraghty, along with one of their grandsons, Rev. D. Geraghty, who was a parish priest. The rest are lumped together under the appellation "sorrowing family". This speaks to the prestige the Geraghtys attached to their connections with the church, particularly to their son and grandson as priests, a personal link to Heaven, if you will.

Although he was no doubt highly respected within the religious community, and likely prized by his parents for raising their religious clout, Michael was not especially well liked by members of his brother John's immediate family, and seemingly with good reason. In her letters, my father's late sister, my Aunt Kathleen notes the way in which their uncle Michael would completely avoid her when she was visiting her spinster aunts in her grandparents' home.

Of her father's family and her uncle, Kathleen writes,

“It was indeed a family divided. Not only could we marvel at their wealth, but the Geraghtys always made plain that we were an embarrassment to them, and what is more, that somehow we were morally “tainted” because we were poor. They were all cold fishes, but the worst of them was the priest Michael. I remember going to my aunts on St. Stephen’s Day for tea. Quite a few people were there, and I must have been aged about 14 or 15 at the time. At no point during my visit, which lasted several hours, did my uncle make any attempt to speak one word to me. At one point I caught him just staring at me as he sat in an armchair in a corner, puffing on his pipe. Presumably he was making sure to keep the moral ‘contamination’ at bay! 

My aunts used to make all his vestments and priest-ridden as they were, they thought the sun shone out of his backside. He used to visit them sometimes on Sunday afternoons, and on one or two (or maybe more - who knows?) occasions, my visits coincided with his. I knew he was in the house, but he stayed upstairs in one of the bedrooms (perhaps the one my aunts had turned into a sewing room for the holy man’s vestments). He stayed there until I left the house. This was an adult who, as a priest, claimed to be special!!”

It is clear to me, from a number of letters written by my Aunt Kathleen, that by shunning her this so called 'holy' man inflicted emotional wounds upon his young niece, which were understandably still alive and festering in her adult mind.

My own father was also hurt by his uncle's peculiar personality, yet seemingly he once held his uncle in high regard. Just before he emigrated from Ireland, my father and mother went to see his uncle Michael in order to seek his blessing and say goodbye to him. They went to Our Lady of Dolours church in Glasnevin where his uncle was then serving as parish priest. Despite the fact that they had made an appointment, when they arrived at the church, the Rev. Father Michael refused to see them, claiming he was too busy. My father never forgot, nor forgave that slight.

Clearly the children of John Geraghty felt the sting of their uncle Michael 'Canon' Geraghty's judgement upon them, judgement which stood despite the fact that these children had nothing to do with the way in which their father behaved. As an alcoholic and a gambler John Geraghty would have been viewed as morally dissolute, an alcohol soaked black sheep, if you will. Perhaps the eminent Canon Geraghty worried that the connection to such a person as his brother might taint him in some way; however, one can easily imagine that a priest might have some compassion for the innocent children of his own brother, if not for the brother himself.

Of her father Kathleen writes,

“My father had a gambling problem, a source of many of our woes, but I never saw any evidence of that. I see my father as a man too weak to bear the responsibility of raising children and providing for their needs. My father seems to have been used as a general dogsbody in the running of the family business, while the other children were allowed to have a good education and take up good careers.”

In another letter Kathleen recalls the state her father was in following the death of her mother.  She writes,

“He took my mother’s death very badly; as a weak man he depended on my mother a great deal, so her sudden death was a devastating blow.  My father was ailing from that time and eventually had a stroke.  The hospital sent him home still very ill and bed-ridden. None of his brothers or sisters helped; instead, as my father was so ill they got the bright idea that my sister Mary [aged 14] and me [aged 12] should take turns sitting up all night with him in case he needed anything.”

With their elder brothers having emigrated from Ireland or away working, the two girls were left alone, principally responsible for the care of their father until he died. The eminent priest never appeared, neither to offer prayers for his brother's recovery, nor to deliver last rites. That task was left to a local priest.

Previously, I have written about my belief that we should remember our ancestors were just like us in that they were complex human beings, neither all saint nor all sinner. Such a belief makes me a proponent of the theory that there are two sides to every story, and I certainly recognize that with this story I do not have fully both sides. I attempted to learn more about my granduncle by writing to the Catholic Church for whom he served as canon, but the details I received were about him as an employee, not him as a person.

When I think about my grandfather, the details of his life leave me with far more questions than answers.  Why was he unable to bear life as it was? Why was he denied the same kind of education which was provided for his brothers and sisters?  Why is he the only child whose name appears with those of his parents on the large tombstone which stands over the family plot? Was that inscription meant as some sort of posthumous recompense for the way in which he was treated in life?

Finally, this post is entitled 'A Saint and A Sinner: The lives of two brothers', so, when we consider the lives of these men, perhaps we might ask ourselves which one was which? Most likely the answer lies somewhere in between.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Family History: The problem of researching from the outside in...

The wilderness of The Burren, County Clare.  Bob's family history is somewhere out there.
Just before last Christmas I was contacted by a gentleman, whom I'll call Bob, writing about his Irish family history research, a project of over thirty years in duration. His research has finally culminated in his uncovering the names of his great-great grandparents. I have his permission to share this story as long as the "real names" are excluded.  With a thank you to Bob, and a change of names to protect the guilty innocent, here are the details of our interaction.

The problem is that instead of researching from the 'inside out', as I like to call it, Bob conducted the research which brought him to these great-great grandparents from the 'outside in'.  Unfortunately, research from the 'outside in' often involves a famous person found via 'new' media, using sources such as unreliable online genealogies, or as in this case, a biography. The person bears the same surname as the researcher in question, so the researcher then attempts to prove a connection by working from the famous person outside the family tree in toward the researcher's family members, instead of the other way around.

Bob found a biography written about an historical figure — whom I refer to hereafter as 'FM' — who was born in the same Irish county as Bob's ancestors, and bears the same surname as his family. Bob has not only decided he is related to FM, but related in a very specific way.

Apparently, I frustrated Bob when I asked if he can prove the line connecting from him, through his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to FM, whom he says is his great-granduncle, the brother of his great-grandfather 'Thomas'.

Bob called me 'picky'.

Bob explained that he has a gut feeling that his great-grandfather Thomas and FM were 'probably brothers'. Probably brothers? A gut feeling? 'Do you have documentary evidence of any kind which can show the connection?', I asked.   'No', came the reply, 'but I do have lots of information about FM.'.

Big trouble or miracle of birth?

The facts as they stand:

1. Bob is very fortunate to have the 1849 immigration record which details the arrival of his great-grandfather Thomas, Thomas's wife, and their two daughters, elder sisters of Bob's grandfather. Bob's grandfather was born in the United States. Given the date of 1849 I am already wondering a little about this as it relates to his grandfather; however, I have no idea how old Bob is, so...

2. Although Bob has no birth record for his great-grandfather Thomas, he has surmised that Thomas was born in Ireland about 1800/1801, because on the immigration record Thomas's recorded age is given as 48 years. (Note: the recorded age on such a document is not always strictly accurate.)

3. The biography indicates FM was born in Ireland in 1845, and FM had one brother who survived to adulthood.

4. Again, without a record, Bob says his great-grandfather Thomas and FM were brothers, born of the same mother.

If Thomas and FM are siblings born of the same mother, and if the recorded immigration age is even close to correct, then this means that they were born about 45 years apart. Even if their mother gave birth to Thomas when she was 13 years old, FM would have been born when she was 58. FM's biography makes no mention of a forty-five year age difference between him and his brother. As much as we might be tempted to stretch credulity, I'm afraid Mother Nature might say those numbers really don't add up.

Bigger Trouble: The Name Game

In his biography FM speaks of his brother Francis who immigrated to the United States. Bob's claim, as outlined above, is that FM's brother Francis and Bob's great-grandfather Thomas are the same person.

On the manifest of the ship on which Bob's family members emigrated, his great-grandfather's forename is recorded as Thomas; however, FM's brother's name is Francis. Why does Bob assume Thomas and Francis are the same person? Bob says Thomas probably changed his forename to Francis when he arrived in the United States.

Questions from me:

'How do you know he changed his name?'
'Do you have any documents on which your great-grandfather used the forename, or middle name, Francis?'
'Did he ever use the forename, or middle name, Francis for business purposes or for purposes of any kind?'
'Did anyone ever hear your great-grandfather use the name Francis?'

Answers from Bob:

'No, I don't have any documents or any other information with his name as Francis.'
'My great-grandfather always used the forename Thomas, but Francis is the name of FM's brother.'

Tempted by Fame?

It may very well be the case that Bob's family is connected to FM, and I have encouraged Bob to continue his search to find the connection if there is one. However, ignoring the evidence he actually possesses in favour of making connections where there is no evidence doesn't make sense to me.

Sometimes the brick walls of our family history research can make us feel as though we are wandering in the wilderness of the Burren, and at such times we may find it tempting to glom onto a recognizable surname, and tack together a family tree which includes someone famous. However, to do so does a great injustice to those members of our family who struggled along the way to create a life which ultimately resulted in our own existence.

So... how do we save ourselves from going down this path?

Since this is a Tuesday's Tips post, the crux of the matter is this: We find those truly connected to us, whether rich or poor, famous or infamous, by old fashioned detective work, and the same old questions. It's not sexy, but it works. So, we need to ask:

Who are my parents?
Who were their parents, my grandparents?
Who were their parents, my great-grandparents?
Who were their parents, my great-great-grandparents?

and so on...

Collateral research of the siblings of those to whom we are directly connected is a very valuable tool, but it must be used with a caveat. We have to be able to prove the sibling relationship, not just assume it. Also, dates and names have to make sense. Whether we like it or not, they have to fit.

In my own work I used collateral research on my Magee line. This enabled me to trace the line out of County Dublin into County Antrim, where my great-grandfather Magee was born, into County Louth and then back into County Dublin; however, all of my research is documented, without any gaps, and without trying to make names fit where they don't. Gut instinct, or intuition if you prefer it, can be very helpful as well, but a feeling without a record is not proof of anything.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'The Irish aboard Titanic': Book Review

With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic close at hand, Mercier Press have once again published Senan Molony's landmark book, The Irish aboard Titanic. While other books on Titanic focus on the foundering of the spectacular ship, and the loss of the rich and famous, Molony shares the history of those Irish passengers and crew members whose names might not ordinarily see the light of day, those whom we might find on our own family trees.

Senan Molony has been meticulous in his research, uncovering not just stories of bravery and bravado on the night of the sinking, but also revealing personal details about these individuals and their families, through letters, interviews, census documents, White Star Line records, newspaper reports, and family recollections. Particularly moving are the accounts of the traumatic impact the sinking had on the lives of those who survived, as well as on the families of those who perished.

I received this book on Monday and, although I do not have any ancestors who were on the Titanic, I could not put it down.  Especially compelling are the stories of young people full of hope who were headed to the new world, drawn by the dream of a better life.  Many were travelling at the urging of family members who had already emigrated, and some were travelling on pre-paid tickets sent home by those who awaited their arrival in North America.

One such passenger, Catherine Buckley, was urged by her elder sister Margaret to leave their native Cork, and travel to her in Massachusetts.  After her sister was lost on Titanic, Margaret paid dearly, shunned by their parents and labelled a murderer for in effect luring Catherine to her death, by urging her to travel to the United States.  There were also Irish on Titanic who had already emigrated, and were heading back to the Americas after visiting with family, having shared the delight of their success in the new world.  All of their stories are here, in histories which detail both the glorious and the ignoble, the joyous and the heartbreaking.

Senan Molony ends this excellent book with an extract from Lawrence Bessley's The Loss of The SS Titanic, with words which speak to a journey into darkness that none of those aboard could have foreseen,

"...the last we saw of Europe were the Irish mountains, dim and faint in the dropping darkness."

If you are interested in learning the extraordinary history of those ordinary Irish who travelled on Titanic, then I highly recommend you add this book to your collection.

Friday, February 10, 2012

34 days

Life is never simple.  You go along thinking things will remain pretty much the same.  You awaken at generally the same time each morning.  The tasks you do are relatively similar day to day: you take the dogs outside, shower, have breakfast, drive to the train.  There is a rhythm to life, a rhythm which sometimes seems humdrum.  You always hear people talking about wanting to break out of the everyday, not realizing that in some ways such a rhythm is life affirming.  Such a rhythm appears to be permanent, like a possession you can hang on to, but then something profound happens which folds up that rhythm and throws it away.

Today, 10 February 2012, is the twelfth anniversary of the day, 10 February 2000, on which my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer; he died exactly 34 days later.  Each year in February I begin to think about those thirty-four days.  For me February and March are now the cruelest months because those 34 four days intersect them.  I find myself imagining what I would have done differently if someone had said to me on that February day, 'in thirty-four days your dad will disappear and you will never see him again'.  Even though we did not realize it, those 34 days were spent trying to recapture the rhythm of the ordinary.

On television shows about doctors and hospitals, the doctors always seem able to tell their patients exactly how much time they have left.  In life as a television show they say, 'You've got 34 days', and then the patient embarks on a life affirming journey which ends in a sad yet beautiful way, but real life is just not like that.  The oncologist didn't have a crystal ball; there were no predictions about how much time was left, no inspirational speeches, just a sort of resignation.  An explanation of what could be done was offered: radiation, chemotherapy, maybe some surgery, but it would all be to no avail.  I remember the oddest things about the appointment, in that strange little room, at the cancer centre.  I remember the tiny blue ink stain on the pocket of the doctor's lab coat, the way in which he stood so near to the door, as though he might run away from giving this diagnosis, the unpleasant shade of green on the walls, and the odd sort of octagonal shape to the room, like a stop sign.

I wonder if my father believed it when he was told this was the end of his life.  I thought I saw it in his face that day, as I sat across from him in the oncologist's little room.  He had a look in his eyes, a look which was the recognition of an absolute certainty, as though the long awaited answer to a question had been given, and he completely understood that answer.

We spent that 34 days in search of the ordinary, but the unusual kept creeping in, no matter how much we tried to push it away.  People came to the house to visit, people we hadn't seen in years, a long line of goodbyes and empty platitudes. There was a long list of phone calls to be made, always starting with an apology, 'I'm sorry to be the bearer of such bad news', always feeling angry that I was the one chosen to utter those words, 'Dad has terminal cancer'. The recipients of the news on the other end of that phone line always seemed determined to say, 'don't worry Jenn, he'll be okay; he'll be better before you know it.' I remember losing my temper with an uncle when he uttered those words to me, losing my temper and shouting into the phone, and wishing desperately for a return to that place, the place with the rhythm of the ordinary.

34 days: Sleeping at my parents' home in my old bedroom, waking each morning, and hoping it had all been a bad dream.
34 days: Shopping for the softest sheets, as though somehow more comfort would take away Dad's cancer.
34 days: Talking to friends and family who did not seem to understand our plight.
34 days: Listening to the whir of the oxygen machine.

34 days: Searching for the rhythm of life, and longing for its return.

(Originally posted 10 February 2011)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday's Tips: The Great Famine: Did your ancestors land at Grosse-Île, and then go to the United States?

Memorial erected in 1909 in commemoration of the death of Irish immigrants of 1849 / Monument érigé en 1909 commémorant la mort des immigrants irlandais de 1849
The Celtic Cross erected in 1909 in commemoration of Irish Immigrants who died at Grosse-Île.
Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada; PA-136924.
In escaping the famine of 1845-1852 did your Irish ancestors land at Grosse-Île, the Port of Québec Canada, before immigrating into the United States?  

Many Irish seeking to escape the famine landed at the Port of Quebec, and then made their way to other parts of Canada, as well as into the United States.  If you are seeking ancestors who left Ireland during the Great Famine of 1845-1852, and have been unable to find any sign of them coming through U.S. ports, then check out the sources listed below. Canada was still part of the United Kingdom in this period and so could not close her borders to those fleeing the famine.

In this post I have included many resources for research, including books and free online sources.  Also, since the busiest season at Grosse-Île was 1847, I have included a brief history of the quarantine station with details of that year.

The Great Famine**(see note #1): 1847 Ireland and Grosse-Île

The Great Famine, (in Irish An Gorta Mór, The Great Hunger), began in Ireland around 1845 and lasted until about 1852; however, the year which has been marked as its most deadly is 1847.  In the province of Québec Canada, and the island of Grosse-Île (translation: Big Island) in the St. Lawrence Seaway, a record 98,649 immigrants arrived at the Port of Québec in the single navigation season of 1847; many of them were Irish.  Prior to that year, the average number of newcomers per navigation season numbered between twenty-five and thirty thousand.  These were individuals who could actually afford to travel to the Americas; hundreds of thousands sought refuge in England, Scotland, and Wales.

In the period, ships normally took an average of 45 days to make the crossing.  In 1847, 26 of those that set sail took more than 60 days to reach Grosse Île. For some the trip meant weeks of being crowded in close quarters onboard the sailing ships, living in unsanitary conditions, weakened by malnutrition and lack of clean water.  When they arrived at Grosse-Île many of them were already infected with typhus, the disease which would soon reach epidemic proportions. Vessels were ordinarily quarantined for an average of 6 days at Grosse Île; however, in 1847 several were held there for more than 20 days. To see a sanitized view of the accommodations on a famine ship visit my post The Dunbrody: A Famine Ship.

According to the historical record, in 1847, 398 ships were inspected at Grosse Île, and 441 ships registered in Québec.  Of these ships, 77 carried well over 400 passengers each. The known point of origin for at least 230 of these ships was Ireland. (I include Liverpool in this count because many Irish used Liverpool as their main point of departure):

21 ships left from Belfast, Ireland
26 ships left from County Sligo, Ireland
27 ships left from Dublin, Ireland
33 ships left from County Cork, Ireland
50 ships originated in County Limerick, Ireland
73 ships originated in Liverpool, England

Despite the fact that it had been enlarged during the navigation season of 1847, the quarantine station at Grosse-Île was wholly inadequate to handle the number of persons arriving on its shores. Many ships, still fully loaded with their complement of passengers, had to anchor offshore from the island awaiting inspectors and medical personnel.

According to the official record, 5,282 passengers perished and 172 live births were recorded onboard the vessels which were to bring them to a new life in North America.

In 1847, 5,424 dead were buried on Grosse Île; however, thousands more died after making their way to other cities in Canada, in particular Toronto and Hamilton, as well as towns in the Niagara region of Ontario. (See note #2 below)

Shelter in the western sector of Grosse Île. The cholera hospital, built in 1832, is shown / Logements du secteur ouest de la Grosse-île. On peut voir l'hôpital du choléra construit en 1832
Shelter in the western sector of Grosse Île. The cholera hospital, built in 1832, is shown.
 ©Library and Archives Canada/Bibliothèque et Archives Canada/PA-046796
The number 5,424 requires some elucidation. All of the Grosse-Île registers, as well as those of the burials at both chapels on Grosse-Île, show between 3,238 and 3,389 deaths or burials in 1847 at Grosse-Île; however, on the monument which commemorates the efforts of the doctors who cared for the sick and dying, the dead and buried are numbered at 5,424. It reads as follows:

"In this secluded spot lie the mortal remains of 5424 persons 
who fleeing from Pestilence and Famine in Ireland 
in the year 1847 found in the Americas but a Grave".

The difference in numbers is accounted for in the summary of one of the Grosse-Île hospital registers in which the following note is written, (believed to date to 1897). One might be inclined to question the veracity of the note given that it was written fifty years after the event, but this is the official record. It reads:

"In 1847 the deaths in the Hospital were 3,226, the interments 5,424. The difference is made up of those who died on vessels in Quarantine, or upon landing, but before they could be entered in the hospital books."

Just one look at the Irish cemetery speaks to the fact that these individuals were buried in mass graves. We know that when the navigation season opened, the medical superintendent of the station, Dr. George Douglas, asked the Catholic and Anglican clergy to take care of the dead. The clergy members paid strict attention to ensure burials were carried out according to sacred rites. Mass graves were indeed dug, but individual bodies were each placed in their own coffin.   Nothing in the documentation supports burials of any other nature.

15 - Memorial with the names of Irish dead with cemetery in the background, on Grosse Ile
Glass panels bearing the names of 6000 dead with the Irish cemetery in the background
Over four million people entered Canada via the Port of Québec between 1832 and 1937. In the period up until 1913, about 32,000 were hospitalized on Grosse Île. During the 105 years it was used as a human quarantine station, 7,553 immigrants were buried on the island including the 5,424 in 1847. The names of 6,000 are engraved on glass panels at the site; 1553 are unknown.

Some have claimed that as many as 10,000 Irish are buried at Grosse-Île, but we do not yet have the evidence to support such a claim.  As I noted earlier in this post many thousands of Irish who managed to survive the landing at the Port of Québec moved into other areas of the country of Canada, and into the United States as well, and many of them did not survive for very long after arriving.


1. There were in fact two famines in Ireland characterized as "The Great Famine": The First Great Famine dated from about 1740 to 1741, and was caused by destruction of crops which resulted from "The Great Frost" which struck Ireland between December 1739 and September 1741. Many rural Irish moved to the better supplied urban areas such as Cork and Dublin during this period, although there was an increase in emigration from Ireland after 1741.  For further information on the climate induced Great Famine of 1740-41 visit this LINK.

The Second Great Famine, to which this post refers, resulted in mass emigration. Dating from about 1845 to about 1852, the famine was caused by potato blight, a fungal disease which wiped out the potato crop, the principle food staple in the diet of most Irish.

There is also the little known famine of 1879 called "An Gorta Beag" by the Irish, or The Little Famine. This period was marked by food shortages and widespread hunger, particularly in rural regions, and resulted in an increase in population movement within Ireland.  In this instance aid was forthcoming from the British government, most likely spurred by pressure from Parnell and the members of the Land League.

2. With respect to migration after landing:

Contrary to popular belief that the vast majority of those Irish who landed in 1847 headed to the United States, the historical records claims otherwise.

According to the Distribution Report by A.C. Buchanan, Chief Agent, Emigrant Department, Montreal, Canada (Archive of the British Parliamentary Papers 1847-48 XLVII, pages 397-403), of the 95,034 persons who emigrated from the United Kingdom, landing in Canada at the Port of Quebec, and in Canada West, during the 1847 navigation season, 8,154 died (5,424 at Grosse-Île, 2,730 in-transit) and the remaining 86,880 persons travelled and/or settled as follows:

To settle in the United States: 30,000 persons

Left via St. John's, Newfoundland: 15,000 persons
Left via Canada West: 15,000 persons

Settled in Canada: 56,880 persons

Settled in the districts of Quebec and Montreal in the Eastern Townships: 3,700 persons
Settled at Bytown and various places along the Ottawa and Rideau rivers: 6,930 persons
Settled at Kingstown and the Bay of Quinté, Hastings, Prince Edward, and the Midland districts: 5,850 persons
Settled at Coburg, Port Hope, Windsor, Whitby and Darlington, and in the Newcastle and Colburne Districts: 7,123 persons.
Settled at Toronto and in the Home and Simcoe Districts: 16,318 persons
Settled at Port Credit, Oakville and Hamilton, and the Wellington and Gore Districts: 12, 639 persons
Settled in the London, Western and Huron Districts: 4, 370 persons.



1. Charbonneau, Andre and Doris Drolet-Dube. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 1997.

Copies of this book are available for purchase online, but are usually fairly expensive.  Consult WORLD CAT to find a location near you which has a copy of this book.

2. Crowley, John, William J. Smyth, Mike Murphy, editors. Atlas of The Great Irish Famine, University College Cork, New York University Press, 2012. This extraordinary 728 page tome is a must have reference book for anyone who wishes to have a more complete understanding of the Great Famine.

3. O'Gallagher, Mariana. Eyewitness: Grosse Isle, 1847. Carraigh Books, Sainte-Foy, Québec, Canada, 1995.

4. O'Gallagher, Mariana. Grosse Ile Gateway to Canada 1832-1937. Carraigh Books, Québec City, Québec, Canada, 1984.

Both of Mariana O'Gallagher's books are widely available.  Mariana O'Gallagher was an Irish/Canadian historian, and expert on Grosse-Île, who had a significant family connection to the Celtic Cross. Her grandfather, Jeremiah Gallagher, born in Macroom, County Cork, Ireland, was the designer of the cross, and was President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in 1909 when the cross was unveiled.  Sadly, Mariana passed away in May of 2010.

Check WORLD CAT for the location of copies of these books in a library near you.


1. On the Libraries and Archives Canada website LINK you can search a database which includes information on 33,026 immigrants whose names appear in surviving records of the Grosse-Île Quarantine Station from the period between 1832 and 1937.

2. A searchable list of 6000 names of those buried on Grosse-Île is available on the Parks Canada website: LINK. These names are engraved on glass panels which overlook the Irish cemetery on the western side of the island. They are grouped by year on the website.

3. You can make an online visit to the official government website for Grosse-Île site, and view photographs of the buildings and cemeteries on the island: LINK

4. The Libraries and Archives Canada website feature: In Quarantine: Life and Death on Grosse-Île: 1832 - 1937 is worth a look, and includes images from a private family collection.

5. In the listing of pages on this blog is one which includes my transcription of a list of almost 500 children who were registered as 'orphans' during the 1847 navigation season from Ireland to Gross Île Québec, and on to other parts of North America, including Canada and the United States.  I have put the word orphans in  quotes because not every child on the list was in fact an orphan; some were simply temporarily separated from their family members.  Their status is usually noted in the remarks column.

6. An excellent account of the genesis of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Celtic Cross (pictured above) is given by Mariana O'Gallagher on the Ireland monument site: click on this LINK.

7. A well documented account entitled "The Irish Emigration of 1847 and Its Canadian Consequences" can be viewed on the University of Manitoba site: LINK

8. For researching famine victims who landed in the United States see the NARA (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) website LINK., especially view Irish Famine Passengers Records: LINK.  Be aware that on this site the records of immigrants to the United States during the Famine period is not exclusively limited to the Irish born.  In the Irish Famine Passenger Records approximately 30 percent of the passengers list their native country as somewhere other than Ireland.

9. On YouTube there are a number of video compilations of images of Grosse-Île which give a virtual tour of the present day site. Use the search term 'Grosse Ile Quebec (there is also a completely unrelated Grosse Ile in Michigan, so watch for that) and you will find several videos. Below I have included one which will give you an idea of the place.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The story in a car window

What is it that makes a family?  Who does a family include?
Sometimes when I drive behind mini vans I notice graphics in the window, cartoon pictures telling us who usually rides in that mini van: Father, Mother, child, child, dog, dog, cat.  A Family.  Some families don't fit the usual prescription.  Some have no father, some no mother, some have two fathers, some two mothers, some have lots of children, and some have no children at all.  If we had the little graphics that the mini van people always seem to have, it would show Father, Mother, dog, dog.  When you see the mini vans, the cartoon figures don't tell you what is going on in the family, only who is a part of the family.  If someone dies, I wonder, do they ever peel one of the graphics off the window?

One of our family is dying, our girl Sarah.  Sarah is our five year old Silky Terrier.  She is 'only a dog' some of you may be thinking, but to us she is a member of our family.  Sarah has a little brother, a 'half' brother, named Ulee, same mother, different father, but if we had graphics on our car window they wouldn't tell you that.
Neither would the graphics tell you that Sarah came into our lives at a time when she was desperately needed, and we doted on her.  She was given the best food, the best veterinary care, the longest walks, a pool, a wardrobe of leads, harnesses, and coats for the winter.  At times the human members of our extended family would sigh and roll their eyes at us, because after all she was 'only a dog'.
Sarah was born on 27 April 2006 at 2:30 am.  Her breeder called us early the next morning to tell us there were only two puppies in the litter, Sarah and her sister.  We would be allowed to visit them in two weeks, and then again at six weeks.  We could take one of them home when they were around ten weeks old, depending on how they were developing.  Sarah is a purebred Australian Silky Terrier, born into the home of what was then one of only two fully accredited Silky Terrier breeders in Canada, a breeder who produced only two litters per year, and usually only every second year.  Marg didn't make a lot of money in the breeding business, and she is now retired, but she was very serious about it.  Sarah is a 'true' Australian Silky, and has a pedigree that goes all the way back to Australia.  We have her family tree with her parents, grandparents, and great grandparents listed, with many champions among them.

Sarah's breeder thought we would raise her as a show dog, but we only wanted to bring her home, to be a 'regular' dog, to be part of our family.  Sarah's registered name is a long one, that is how it works in the world of purebred dogs, but the first part of it is 'Sarah Jessica Barker'.  We call her Sarah, and like so many of you who have pets, we also have a host of nicknames for our girl: 'Saree Boo', 'Bunna', 'Pretty Girl', 'Lovie'.
Sarah has been a wonderful traveller, right from the very beginning, and has been a big part of many road trips with us. She has walked the streets of New York City, and has stayed in hotels in which she was a staff favorite.   Sarah has a smile, and a warmth, that just draws people to her, and she loves to kiss faces.  Silky Terriers as a breed are known for their 'joie de vive', joy of life, and Sarah has that in spades.  Sarah also has an amazing capacity for empathy, is drawn to people who seem sad, and does her best to draw them out of their sadness.  Just like her brother, she is also a very funny little dog, and sometimes does things that make us howl with laughter.  She is an amazing little dog.
A few days ago we noticed Sarah was not quite herself.  She was not eating as she usually does, had an upset stomach at times, and was very low energy.  On Monday morning we called our Vets and took her in to see them.  Sarah's care has always been in the hands of a husband and wife team of Veterinary doctors, Dr. Stuart and Dr. Sarah, who dote on Sarah and Ulee almost as much as we do.
We expected Sarah had a bug of some kind, but during a thorough examination, Dr. Stuart found a lump in Sarah's abdomen that had never been there before.  He took x-rays which did not make the mass immediately apparent, but said he wanted to send us to a large animal hospital in Oakville , a town just west of Toronto, so that Sarah could have an ultrasound.  "It will be expensive", he said, "and it may just be a fluke; they may find nothing."   Dr. Stuart seemed very troubled, and so we loaded our little family into our car and headed to Oakville.  Along the way we reassured ourselves, convinced that they would find nothing which could not be easily solvable, with a little bit of medicine and some quiet time, after all Sarah is only five, going on six years old.
Truth be told we didn't like the first doctor at the hospital.  His manner was very clinical.  He skeptically viewed the x-rays, and said it was probably nothing, but they would run a battery of tests and go ahead with the ultrasound "if we wanted to". We trust Dr. Stuart's wisdom and expertise, and he had sent us there, so "yes, we do want all the tests and the ultrasound" was our reply.  We had to sign papers, absolving them of practically all responsibility in the event of 'anything', and I wondered when did everyone become so litigious?
We played with Ulee while we waited for the tests to be done on Sarah, and decided that it was probably something minor and all would be well.  When the internist came back into the room he seemed upbeat and happily announced, "well your vet was right, there is a large mass and not only that but all the lymph nodes are involved".

In that moment I felt as though I was falling backward in time, into another place, and another completely unexpected diagnosis of terminal cancer for a human member of my family.  We were absolutely stunned.  The next few hours brought more tests for further evaluation and confirmation, and eventually we were sent home without Sarah, but with an appointment in hand to see an oncologist the next day.  
During the night I could not sleep, tormented by the idea that I must have done something wrong to make this happen, and I called the hospital a couple of times to check on our girl.  They said she was resting comfortably, with an i.v. drip, and pain medication helping her.
I do not want to tell you any more about Monday night, or even the hours of Tuesday, and the oppressive darkness that has descended over our lives, just that when we came home the second day we had a confirmed diagnosis of intestinal lymphoma, an extremely aggressive and quickly developing cancer.  The oncologist assured us that we had done nothing wrong.  "It is just the luck of the draw", she said.  "Luck?", I thought, luck had nothing to do with it.
Our little Sarah, our Silky Terrier, will have chemotherapy to make her feel better, and if it improves her state of being we will be allowed to bring her home on Friday.  Her little brother Ulee knows something is wrong, and he sniffs her and kisses her face so gently, it is heartbreaking.

Sarah will die; that is an absolute certainty, but her quality of life will be good, no matter what the length of its duration.  In a little while our family will be minus one, but when we drive around no one will know, because the little cartoon graphic which will be on our car window will never change.

(4 April, 2012: Our beautiful girl is gone)
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