Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesday's Tip: 'Orphans' List of 1847: The Great Famine

National Famine Memorial, Murrisk, County Mayo, Ireland.
This Tuesday's Tip is not a tip as such, but a searchable document.  Today I am adding a new page to this blog. It is my listing of almost 500 children who were registered as 'orphans' during the 1847 navigation season when they emigrated from Ireland to Grosse Île Québec, and on to other parts of 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 noted on the document.

If you have Irish ancestors who travelled to North America at the time of the Great Famine, during the year which is known as 'Black 47', you may find this to be a useful research tool.

I created this document as a spreadsheet and have arranged the information alphabetically by surname and then forename. When you are searching, peruse the entire range of names within a particular surname in order to locate siblings. To make searching easier I have posted each page of the spreadsheet in its full size.

The information included is from an 1847 register of children who stayed in the Catholic Orphanage of Québec prior to being adopted or returned to family in Ireland, or sent to family in Canada or the United States. The orphanage was under the operation of La Société des Dames Catholiques de Québec, Catholic nuns who operated both an orphanage and a school.

The following information is included in the spreadsheet:

REGISTRATION NUMBER: each landed person was assigned a number for administrative purposes.




DATE OF ENTRY (or administration): you will notice that sometimes the dates are not the same for members of the same family. The date listed is not necessarily the date on which they landed at Gross Île, but rather the date on which they were processed. Also, some children were returned to the orphanage at a later date by the person(s) who adopted them and so the date is an administrative date.

FATHER'S NAME: father's first name.

MOTHER'S NAME: mother's name. Most of the mothers named on the list appear with their maiden name.

PARISH: Under this heading you will find the Irish parish of origin, in other words where the child is from.

COUNTY: Under this heading you will find the Irish county of origin. For the most part the county names are Irish; however there are a couple of exceptions. For example, in October of 1847 the McCrae sisters landed at Gross Île. Ellen, aged 12, and her sister Anne, aged 10, are listed as coming from the County of Loughelsh. There is no county Loughelsh; however, the name of the ship on which they sailed, the Eliza, may provide us with a clue. The Eliza sailed from County Mayo in 1847, so Mayo may be their county of origin. The other possibility is that they are not Irish at all, but may be Scottish, given their surname and the fact that "Loughelsh" might be "Lochalsh" Scotland.

Also, Queens County is the county now known as Laois, and Kings County is the county now known as Offaly.

VESSEL: The name of the ship on which they sailed.

ADOPTED BY: The name of the person or persons by whom the child was adopted. You will note there are some cases in which siblings were adopted by the same person. More often than not siblings were separated and adopted by different individuals; however, in some cases the children did end up in the same town. Many of the surnames are French-Canadian, but you will notice Irish surnames in the list of adoptive parents. In some cases the only notation is 'Person in...' preceding a town name.

LOCATION: The name of the town in which the adoptive parents lived, and presumably where the child ended up living. In some cases you will notice only a street address and in these cases the town may be assumed to be Québec City. You will also notice that many of the children were adopted by persons living in locales such as Rimouski, Nicolet, and Lotbiniere. Some entries list the location as Upper Canada. Prior to the Canadian Confederation of 1867, this is the name for the area which is now known as the province of Ontario.

DECEASED: I created a distinct column for purposes of clarity about those who were deceased, because this information is not usually noted in the same place throughout the register. Included here is the date of death for children who never made it out of the orphanage. The register notes some as simply "died" and gives no date of death.

REMARKS: I created a distinct column for remarks also for purposes of clarity. Some of these remarks are noted in the register under the child's name; some appear next to their age, and so on. The remarks are very interesting, and some are quite shocking. For example 5 year old Anne Connelly is noted simply as "disappeared". Other remarks provide information about such things as the whereabouts of the birth parents, the profession of the adoptive parent, and notes about any money that the child was carrying with them at the time. In some cases the nuns kept in touch with their young charges, so for some of the children you will find information about who they married or when they died after they left the orphanage.

*Notes: The question marks which appear in my spreadsheet appeared in the register, so I have included them here. The spellings are original to the register. Anything which I have added, but which is not included in the original register, appears in square brackets.

For more information about the quarantine station and immigration to Gross Île Québec visit my blog post: The Great Famine: Did your ancestors land at Grosse-Île, and then go to the United States?



  1. Jennifer, this is a wonderful contribution! Thank you so much for taking the time to record these names.

    1. Hi Linda,

      Thanks for your comments; they are much appreciated. I hope the list proves useful for those searching for Black '47 ancestors and relatives.



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Cheers, Jennifer

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