Irish Bridget and Margaret Tiernan

Disclaimer: Occasionally I have a bad habit of mistaking what I think I know for what I’ve actually researched. Reading Irish Bridget, the book my friend J. recommended, I’ve discovered some ways in which I mischaracterized these women and their relationships with The Great Famine, emigration, and domestic service in North America. When I’ve read a bit more, I’ll fill in corrections and some history a bit better. But for now, I return you to your regularly scheduled pursuit of Margaret Tiernan, the third of our named Kenrick Serving Women.

One problem in chasing Mary O’Brien and Catherine Dunn was the sheer number of them. I’d hoped “Margaret Tiernan” would be less common, but it was too uncommon in two ways. I got exactly one real match, but results also included no variants on the surname.

That told me that the search engine was struggling to approximate what variants on “Tiernan” might be, so I tried my hand. Searching for Margaret “Tierney” got maybe two dozen more results, as well as a few other minor variants in the surname among people who otherwise didn’t match. I’m going to consider both “Tiernan” and “Tierney” viable variants, even if I privilege the former. Still, it makes we wonder what I’m leaving out.

Over a dozen entries didn’t have major details — just index listings noting that a person of that name married in a particular town in a particular year (no date or month). Six provided matchable details on husbands, ages, parents, and towns.

So next I went back to the 1860 Census to see which Margaret Tiernans/Tierneys I could find to add to the mix. As it turned out, there weren’t any. At least not any in Massachusetts, appropriately aged, and born in Ireland. The ones in other states who were born in Ireland didn’t have parents matching our six Massachusetts-established Margarets, but I made note of them for crosschecking with our 1865 and 1870 women.

When I got to the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, there were no Margaret Tiernans in Massachusetts, but there were a few Margaret Tierneys — and one of them was in Newton, in service to the family of Thomas and Nellie Weston, who had an infant daughter named Grace. That Margaret Tierney was listed at 21 years old, presumably then aging three years in five, but she’s a strong candidate for our Margaret. The others I found in Massachusetts, either Tierney was their married name or they appeared to have not yet left their parents’ home, while we know our Margaret was in service in 1865.

One other possibility from the 1870 Census, though, might be a woman who, at age 27, appeared to be living with her mother, Sophia Terny, and four unmarried adult sisters in Boston, an arrangement that would arguably still have been compatible with her being in service then and/or five years before.

Among the marriage index listings, the ones with minimal detail, was a Margaret Tierney who married someone in Newton sometime during 1881. Unfortunately, no matching census entry turned up for 1880 for a Newton-based Margaret. It’s not reasonable to connect the 1881 marriage index record all the way back to the woman working for the Westons in 1870, even if it is plausible to imagine that the Westons’ servant might be the same girl in service to the Kenricks in 1865.

Interestingly, an effort earlier in the week to determine when the Kenricks officially closed up nursery operations, I’d  been digging through Newton city directories. I went back to see whether I could identify an appropriate Margaret in the listings during the 1870s.

I wasn’t particularly optimistic, in that a woman in service — particularly during a time we know the Kenricks engaged live-in domestics by the month — might be entirely invisible even if she were anything but a head of house.

Interestingly, directories for the early 1870s show what appear to be two Tierney families in Newton — that of James F. Tierney, a weaver in Upper Falls, and that of Michael Tierney, a laborer in Newton Center. In 1871, we see just the two men. In the next two years, each of them had a son presumably reach maturity, each son following in his father’s professional footsteps and living with or adjacent to his father (and both named Patrick). By 1875, a second son of Michael Tierney’s has also joined the mix. By 1877, though, one Tierney has a house in Newton, and another boards; in 1879 the same was true. By 1881, John Tierney was in the almshouse in Newton Lower Falls.

Ultimately, there’s no way to tell if these Tierneys are our Tierneys. But we’ll explore that a bit more in the next post before we move on to Mary Henan.

(By the way, it looks like the answer to when the Kenricks’ nursery closed up shop is something like 1879, +/-. Just in case you’d been wondering.)

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