Girls of a Marrying Age

Next up is Catherine Dunn, EBY 1838, Ireland, who was a 17-year-old servant recorded in the Kenrick household in the 1855 Massachusetts Census.

Her age makes her a bit tricky. In Mary O’Brien’s case, I could look back 5 years and expect her situation to be similar to what it was when she appeared in the 1860 census. In Catherine’s case, I can’t — she’d be 12, no guarantee what country she’s in, no good way to distinguish whether to expect to find her in service or with a family.

But if I can’t effectively look back, there’s also a complicating factor in looking forward: at 17, she’s in prime marrying age. At the end of the last post, I noted a trend into two basic categories of Irish girls — first, those who married young and started families (leaving service if they were in it), and second, those who seem to have stayed in the service into at least their 30s before marrying, if they ever did.

So I decided to start with Massachusetts marriage records after  Summer 1855 for girls named Catherine Dunn (censuses are taken in summer). Then I figured I’d match the marriage records to birth, death, and census records to rule out which ones couldn’t be our Catherine Dunn because I could identify them as someone else or as from the wrong place. I’d deal after that with what might have happened if she stayed single and in service.

Just to be sure, I went back to the 1855 Census to double-check for any ambiguity in the handwriting or any problem with the transcription to the record-index copy. Nope. There she is, Catherine Dunn, age 17, clear as can be. But that’s when I noticed something else odd on the scan of the census page. There were numbers in the final column that had nothing to do with that column — instead, they appeared to be someone counting something later. Then I realized what they were counting. (Image excerpted for size and clarity — Catherine Dunn is last on the page, though her name got snipped a bit in the editing.)


[Image: 1855 Massachusetts State Census: Newton, MA]

Someone has gone down the page and counted the women and girls from Ireland, whether they’re with their families, as 21-year-old Ann Manyon was, or in service, as 35-year-old Mary Cavanaugh was. And I don’t think that person was the census-taker. Not sure what to make of this, but, at a minimum, it means someone else agrees these women are of some interest as a group!

But if our Catherine was recorded as/purporting to be 17, I’m inclined to figure that wasn’t off by more than 5 years — in other words, I suspect she was between 12 and 22, though I’ll extend the upper bound to 27, particularly to cover the kinds of typos that get one digit right but not the other. If she was most likely between 12 and 27 in 1855, that would place her EBY at sort of 1828-1843, maybe 1844 at the outside.

I found 10 marriages in Massachusetts between Summer 1855 and 1869 involving approximately correctly aged brides named Catherine or Catharine Dunn. (Blessedly, using “Katherine” adds NO results, and using “Donne” doesn’t seem to produce any of value.)

  1. Catherine Dunn (20) married Oan Daley on 9 Jan 1856 in Worcester, MA
  2. Catharine Dunn (28) married Frank Donnal on 21 March 1856 in Whately, MA
  3. Catherine Dunn (23) married Reynolds McAleer on 15 Aug 1864 in Worcester, MA
  4. Catherine E. Dunn (26) married Daniel Hayes on 3 Feb 1865 in Watertown, MA
  5. Catharine Dunn (26) married John Barry on 22 Oct 1857 in Great Barrington, MA
  6. Catharine Dunn (23) married Martin Burke on 16 March 1857 in Randolph, MA
  7. Catharine Dunn (24) married Matthew Kirwin on 25 July 1858 in Boston, MA
  8. Catherine Dunn (33) married Patrick Hassett on 6 Sept 1869 in Worcester, MA
  9. Catherine Dunn (30) married John Gorman on 21 Nov 1869 in Springfield, MA
  10. Catherine Dunn (24) married John Ellsworth on 26 Dec 1868 in Northampton, MA

Irritatingly, none of them are in MA birth records (which would have ruled them out of being our girl), but I did find what should be the grave of Catharine Dunn #6 in nearby Scituate — though interestingly the data is at odds with the data in Massachusetts Town and Vital Records as to the names of her husband’s parents.

The 1860 U.S. Federal Census does provide two other forward-facing matches — Catharine Dunn #5, who became Catharine Barry, appears with her husband John in New York City, Ward 9, District 1, and Catharine Dunn #7, who became Catharine Kerwin/Kirwin, appears with her husband Matthew in Charlestown, MA.

The 1870 U.S. Federal Census provides two more — Catherine Dunn #4, who became Catharine Hayes, is probably the woman who appears with her husband Daniel in Cambridge Ward 2 with their daughter Mary, and Catherine Dunn #10, who became Catherine Ellsworth, is probably the woman who appears with her husband John, father-in-law James, and baby Mary in Williamsburg, MA. In the former case, the couple shifts from having the same age at their 1865 wedding to being two years apart in the 1870 Census, but their 4-year-old daughter matches with having been conceived right after their marriage and carries the name (though a common one) of that Catherine’s mother. Similarly, in the latter case, Catherine Ellsworth’s age progresses as it should while her husband’s jumps mysteriously backward, but their 6-month-old baby is appropriately timed from their marriage the year before, the name of her father-in-law matches her marriage record, and her daughter’s name (though a common one) is also that of her deceased mother-in-law. And in both cases, the 1870 family is within logical distance from the couple’s marriage location.

But none of these forward-looking matches preclude their Catherine/Catharine Dunns from having been our girl, and by looking at marriage records, I’m still not dealing with the ones who didn’t marry. So in the next post, we will look at immigration records and single women in the censuses before moving on to Margaret Tiernan.


One thought on “Girls of a Marrying Age

  1. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: 1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: 1870 U.S. census, population schedules. NARA microfilm publication M593, 1,761 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. Minnesota census schedules for 1870. NARA microfilm publication T132, 13 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d., U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Find A Grave, Find A Grave. Massachusetts, State Census, 1855 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Massachusetts. 1855–1865 Massachusetts State Census [microform]. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook).


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