Into the trenches.

I was talking to my brother the other week about the notion that how far one can trace back one’s family roots has a lot to do with when/by whom it was deemed appropriate to start keeping records of ordinary people. But it’s also true that for most of us, it’s access to those records that matters.

For some time now, Canada has been working on digitizing its WWI service records. To say that Canadian service in WWI was widespread is putting it mildly. Over 600,000 Canadians enlisted, and over 400,000 of them actually served overseas. I don’t know when the project of digitizing it all started, but it was apparently this January that they finally got around to the “M” names. I hadn’t checked in a while, so when I discovered yesterday that they had indeed gotten as far as “McNally,” my day got very interesting.

I’d had Stephen Joseph McNally’s enlistment papers for a while — in a previous post, I examined what his marriage license and his enlistment papers, matched by a signature and a few other datapoints, could tell us. His full service record opens up some more details, and it gives us a window into the life of a Canadian soldier in WWI. You can find the full record here. (Note: The file includes references to traumas of war, as will the rest of this post.)

If you know a thing or two about WWI but would like a little more context on Canada’s participation, here’s Indy Neidell’s “The Great War” with a special on Canada’s participation.

Most of the 78 pages of the record deal with pension and medical records, and it is the latter I find most interesting… and most awful.

Private McNally enlisted in August 1914 and, after training, was shipped to the western front. It turns out he was kind of a scoundrel, going AWOL for something like two weeks in England before being shipped to the continent. His records reflect punishment and docked pay for that. But in November 1917, he was given a medical discharge for chronic bronchitis:

SJM Gassed and Buried.png

WWI buffs will recognize the first date as the Second Battle of Ypres, the first time that the Germans deployed chlorine gas (168 tons) in the field. The Canadians were on the French flank on 22 April 1915, including Stephen Joseph McNally. This is the same battle (April 22-25) that prompted the famous John McCrae poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

Just a month later, he found himself in Festubert, amid furious shelling. On 23 May 1915, it would seem that a falling shell buried him alive in mud and, presumably, the bodies of his mates. Small wonder that two days later, his medical record reflects the following diagnosis:

SJM Shock Serious

Shortly after that, it appears he returned to England, where he was under varying levels of convalescent care and worked, I think, with training squads bound for the continent. In 1916, he was still based in England, where he continued to have respiratory problems. His doctor’s notes from an October 1916 exam:

SJM 1916 Doctors Notes

One of the things I find most interesting about these notes is that family lore has him as an abusive alcoholic, but note under “Habits,” his ale consumption habits are listed as pretty normal, and he’s noted as “never” drinking “to excess.” It also notes that he claims he “did not suffer much at the time from being gassed,” even though it clearly became a problem after that. It notes that the shell-shock “after being buried by a shell” lasted for “2 months or more” — Yeah, I bet. The final note is telling, too — “Nerves got out of order + he seemed to break down.” Yeah, that sounds like a man who’s still got some issues more than a year after being gassed and buried alive in a matter of weeks.

But part of my mission is and long has been to reclaim my people, particularly in my father’s line, who were poorer, more mobile, and less likely to talk about family, for various reasons. The other thing the file provided me, which I’d been missing, was a death date: 2 February 1939. The file had given me his story (or more of it), but that one datapoint gave me something else — the man himself. As soon as I had the date, there he was, in the Edmonton Municipal Cemetery.

SJM Gravestone

Rest in peace, man. We found you.


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.)

Potatoes, Labor, Service, & Escaping Grinding Poverty

Before we begin chasing Margaret Tiernan, I want to offer a bit of context for what we’ve seen so far and illustrate why the passenger listings show scores of young men and women, families, and groups of unaccompanied children pouring out of Ireland.

“The Irish Potato Famine” is the common name for an event better called “The Great Famine,” since it was a lot more than just potato blight that screwed things up. While Ireland’s poor were deeply, deeply dependent on the one crop, and its failure was devastating, there were larger economic problems exacerbated by the British government’s policies toward Ireland. And then there was the typhus. And a few other problems. (I’m eliding a LOT. For more detail, start here and check out the books and articles in the reference sections.)

But this is why the clerk on Moses Wheeler could fill out the passenger logs by writing at the top, “Country to which they severally belong: Ireland” and “Country of which they intend to become inhabitants: U.S.A.,” and just squiggling alllllllllllll the way down the page. They all intended to make the U.S. their home, because there was nothing behind them but devastation.

The famine lasted from the mid-1840s into the early/mid-1850s. So an Irish girl born around 1838 would have been shy of 10 years old when the very worst set in, but she’d likely have suffered in meager circumstances her entire childhood (again, some of this was the product of longer-term policy decisions, not just potatoes). She might have been an orphan, or she might have been one of a dozen children growing up in a tiny house in grinding poverty.

One of the things that differentiated this migration from others was that males and females emigrated in more nearly equal proportion, where others were a predominantly male phenomenon. But what surprised me the most was the groups of children, traveling individually or with siblings. In Christine Kinealy’s This Great Calamity, which I have ordered (Amazon says it has shipped!), she appears to go into some depth on this phenomenon, which, as far as I can tell, she’s arguing didn’t happen the same way in other mass migrations. We shall see when that book arrives.

Across most of the age spectrum, but certainly across the largest demographic of migrants — young people — the clearest occupation was labor or service. For girls, we’ve already seen the two basic life patterns from there.

My friend J. thus also recommended The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America 1840-1930 by Margaret Lynch-Brennan, so I’ve picked up the e-book of that. It occurs to me that I should also probably go dig out a book I own somewhere on Irish immigration (though it might be more 20th-century focused, hm) and maybe Jim Webb’s Born Fighting.

I’ll fill more in as I have more from those texts. In the meantime, we turn our attention to Margaret Tiernan, EBY 1847, in the Kenrick household in Newton, MA in the 1865 Massachusetts Census. In context with the above, we can place her birth shortly after the start of the potato famine, which is usually pegged specifically to 1845.

We’ll start with Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, including marriages post-Summer 1865. Then we’ll look ahead and behind, to 1860 and 1870 to identify potential matches, then we’ll crosscheck against 1865 to knock out potential matches we can see elsewhere. We’ll also crosscheck with to see if any of their deaths were memorialized with details of their lives. Then we’ll look through the Massachusetts Passenger Lists and other Boston arrivals listings.

In terms of where this larger project of investigating the Kenrick Serving Women has taken me, I’m interested to once again be looking at Irish folks passing through Liverpool. Liverpool is where I suspect my own Irish McNallys were — neatly just across the Irish Sea from the homeland. But it’s also where my English Pearces passed through on Empress of Ireland on the Salvation Army’s dime in their own attempt to escape grinding poverty, more than a half-century after the girls who became the Kenrick Serving Women did the same. As I sifted through ships’ records, Liverpool was the departure point for a quite sizable chunk of famine-era Irish emigration.

As a side note, in addition to the Kenrick Serving Women, I’m also working on the story of a woman named Rose who we know was enslaved in the Kenrick household in the mid-1700s. She would, in that regard, have been a contemporary of Titus, whose story I also owe you an update on. We’ll also check back in with Judith Waldo Durant soon, and we’ll investigate the lives of Tassunsquaw, Frances Rousmaniere Dewing, and Mary Mehitable Kenrick Taylor.

Did I mention March is Women’s History Month? 🙂

Missing Friends

I had hoped that having a few family details — the brothers Pat and Phillip, the sister Mary, or the parents William and Bridget — would help me track down some of the girls who came in, but they, too, disappear quickly, untraceable or just absent from the record.

Before allowing our Catherine Dunn to slip away into the tides of history, I figured we should see what New York and Providence/Newport have to offer. The latter, as it happens, was a bust. No matching listings. But looking through the databases of immigration and travel documents available to me showed me a few other things.

A separate listing of “Alien Passengers Bonded from January 1, 1847 to January 1, 1851” as they arrived in Boston provided another potential match not yet on the list — Irish 8-year-old Catharine Dunn (EBY 1839) who arrived 29 Oct 1847 on Charlemagne, though in those listings, finding who came with her is inordinately tricky. Two other Irish Dunns arrived 29 October in Boston on Charlemagne — 30-year-old Anastatia and 7-year-old Mary — but their arrivals are listed in 1849. Typo or coincidence?

What I really found fascinating, though, were the ad listings for missing family and friends: notices in Boston’s (and other cities’) newspapers seeking information on Irish immigrants whose families and friends had lost contact with them. A usual ad, like the ones whose text is excerpted here, listed the missing person’s name, age, place of origin, and departure/arrival or last place seen, as well as the information for whom to contact:


[Image: Searching for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in “The Boston Pilot,” 1831-1920.]

This starts to give a snapshot of the mobility of these immigrants, as well as the difficulty even their own families had in tracking them in North America. And while the above Catherine Dunn is likely not ours based on age, perusing the listings starts to confirm that there are probably more Catherine Dunns in play than we’ve been able to account for — or, equally, than we need to assume more mobility rather than less for our immigrant Kenrick Serving Women.

To  recap, these are the Massachusetts-established candidates for the Catherine Dunn in the Kenrick household in Newton, MA, in 1855:

  • Catharine Dunn #2 (Thomas & Catherine), EBY 1828, m. 1856 in Whately, MA
  • Catharine Dunn #5 (Michael & Mary), EBY 1831, m. 1857 in Great Barrington, MA
  • Catharine Dunn #7 (Patrick & Catharine), EBY 1834, m. 1858 in Boston, MA
  • Catherine Dunn #8 (Patrick & Mary), EBY 1836, m. 1869 in Worcester, MA
  • Catherine Dunn #9 (parents unknown), EBY 1839, m. 1869 in Springfield, MA
  • Catherine Dunn #10 (William & Mary), EBY 1844, m. 1868 in Northampton, MA
  • Catherine Dunn #11 (parents unknown), EBY 1834, in service in Roxbury, MA
  • Catherine Dunn #12 (parents unknown), EBY 1840, in service in Boston, Ward 6
  • Catherine Dunn #13 (parents unknown), EBY 1840, rooming house in N. Chelsea, MA
  • Catharine Dunn #14 (parents unknown), EBY 1842, rooming house in Boston, Ward 9
  • Katy Dunn #15 (parents unknown), EBY 1841, rooming house in Newton, MA
  • Catharine Dunn #16 (parents unknown), EBY 1838, rooming house in Brookline, MA

And these are the immigrant candidates for those Catherine Dunns, as they arrived into the port of Boston:

  • Cath. Dunn (parents unknown), EBY 1838, arrived Boston 12 Nov 1853 (from Liverpool on Meridian), traveling alone among other Irish teenage girls
  • Cathe Dunn (parents unknown), EBY 1836, arrived Boston 18 Jan 1853 (from Liverpool on Moses Wheeler), traveling alone among Irish children, teens, and young adults
  • Catha. Dunn (William & Bridget), EBY 1841, arrived Boston 26 April 1841 (from Liverpool on James H. Shepard), as an infant
  • Cath. Dunn (parents unknown), EBY 1834, arrived Boston 24 June 1848 (from Liverpool on Conrad), with her two brothers, Pat (EBY 1839) and Phillip (EBY 1845)
  • Catharine Dunn (parents unknown), EBY 1833, arrived Boston 26 July 1848 (from Liverpool on Oxnard), with sister Mary (EBY 1831), occupation listed as “Servant”
  • Cath Dunn (parents unknown), no EBY, arrived Boston 24 Oct 1854 (from St. John, Newfoundland on Ann), few passengers, no family, hers is only age unrecorded
  • Catharine Dunn (parents unknown), EBY 1839, arrived Boston 29 Oct 1847 (from unknown origin on  Charlemagne), unclear who if anyone accompanied her

When I got to New York’s listings, though, all hell broke loose, as I kinda figured.

Going through the New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957, just one of the various overlapping listings of immigrants arriving to New York by ship, I found 30 appropriately aged Irish Catherine Dunns (and variants) arriving by Spring 1855. Oddly, when I went back a few days later, eight matches had disappeared from my search results — as in, entering the passenger name, arrival year, and name of ship, which I’d carefully copied into my own notes from the first time I ran the search, produced no hits. Unclear what’s going on there. Then, after some debate, I discarded 19-year-old Catherine Dunn who arrived in New York on 28 March 1852 with 20-year-old Edward Dunn as being more likely married than siblings.

Of the remaining 21 girls, five arrived in New York apparently alone, five arrived with siblings (no parents), ten arrived with one or both parents (and sometimes siblings), and one arrived with her sister and a whole bunch of other Dunns I can’t reasonably identify as family or not. Of those who arrived with parents, none match the parents of our Massachusetts-established Catherines.

At this point, we’ve exhausted the extent to which it makes sense to chase our Catherine, as there’s no good way to pin down so many unattached Catherines, but I want to leave you with the five who arrived in New York with siblings and no parents.

  • 16-year-old Catherine Dunn arrived New York (from Liverpool on John R. Skiddy) on 3 May 1849 with James (25), Eliza (21), Edward (19), Patrick (17), & Mary (14)
  • 15-year-old Cath Dunn arrived New York (from London on American Union) on 30 June 1853 with John (20), Judy (10), & Anne (8)
  • 12-year-old Cath Dunn arrived New York (from Liverpool on Southampton) on 15 October 1851 with Mary (14) & Ann (8)
  • 12-year-old Cath Dunn arrived New York (from Liverpool on Roger Stewart) on 15 October 1854 with John (7)
  • 10-year-old Catherine Dunn arrived New York (from Liverpool on Yorkshire) on 5 July 1849 with Ellen (7)


[Image: Plaque at the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor. “The New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus.]

In which I finally get to immigration records after a bit more time in the censuses!

OK, just gotta check the 1860 US Census for single Catherine Dunns, crosscheck ’em back against 1855, and THEN we can go to immigration records!

Of our six remaining eventually-married Catherine Dunns, three had married by 1860, and we’ve already found two of them — Catharine Dunn Barry (#5) and Catharine Dunn Kerwin (#7). We didn’t find Catharine Dunn Donnal (#2), who married in MA in 1856.

We should find Catherine Dunns #8-10 still single, along with the women still left on the 1855 elimination list. Any other single Catherine Dunns in the 1860 Census in MA will need to be added to the list as Catherine Dunn #11 and onward.

The girl from Southborough in 1855 shows up in the 1860 US Census and the 1865 US Census, still in her parents’ house, and still a bit young to have been Catherine Dunn #8, so #8 remains a contender without a clear 1855 match or post-1855 match.

I found six single women in the 1860 US Census worth looking at.

  • Catherine Dunn (26), EBY 1834, in service with the Calkins family; Roxbury, Ward 5
  • Catherine Dunn (20), EBY 1840, in service with the Richards family; Boston, Ward 6
  • Catherine Dunn (20), EBY 1840, in rooming house; North Chelsea, MA
  • Catharine Dunn (18), EBY 1842, in rooming house with sisters; Boston, Ward 9
  • Katie Dunn (20), EBY 1840, daughter of Stephen & Katie Dunn; Monson, MA
  • Katy Dunn (19), EBY 1841, in a rooming house; Newton, MA

Only Monson is in central/western Massachusetts, but Catherines #8-10 were married in central/western Massachusetts. This Katie’s parents’ names don’t match any of our prior Catherine Dunns, but it would be odd for her to leave her family to go to eastern Massachusetts to be in service, then return to her family for more than 5 years. I’m going to disqualify her on that count.

As for the women from the greater Boston area, 19-year-old Katy Dunn is in the right town, if too young, but we’ve already seen women age two years in five, so it’s not that strange. We’ll add her to the list. This is the first time K-versions of the name have shown up.

Then, just to be sure, I thought I’d go through the 1865 Massachusetts Census. That produced 14 appropriately-aged, Irish-born Catherine Dunns and variants, some of whom we’d seen before and plenty of whom didn’t match for various reasons. I found the girl who’d been in service with the Mills family of Springfield and was still there — so that’s not her. Another was the Katie Dunn in Monson we dispensed with above. And 11 were women for whom Dunn was their married name. That left only one, a 27-year-old Catharine Dunn living in a Brookline, MA, rooming house/multiple-family-dwelling.

This leaves us with the following to look through immigration for:

  • Catharine Dunn #2 (Thomas & Catherine), EBY 1828, m. 1856 in Whately, MA
  • Catharine Dunn #5 (Michael & Mary), EBY 1831, m. 1857 in Great Barrington, MA
  • Catharine Dunn #7 (Patrick & Catharine), EBY 1834, m. 1858 in Boston, MA
  • Catherine Dunn #8 (Patrick & Mary), EBY 1836, m. 1869 in Worcester, MA
  • Catherine Dunn #9 (parents unknown), EBY 1839, m. 1869 in Springfield, MA
  • Catherine Dunn #10 (William & Mary), EBY 1844, m. 1868 in Northampton, MA
  • Catherine Dunn #11 (parents unknown), EBY 1834, in service in Roxbury, MA
  • Catherine Dunn #12 (parents unknown), EBY 1840, in service in Boston, Ward 6
  • Catherine Dunn #13 (parents unknown), EBY 1840, rooming house in N. Chelsea, MA
  • Catharine Dunn #14 (parents unknown), EBY 1842, rooming house in Boston, Ward 9
  • Katy Dunn #15 (parents unknown), EBY 1841, rooming house in Newton, MA
  • Catharine Dunn #16 (parents unknown), EBY 1838, rooming house in Brookline, MA

With a dozen Catherines to track, and less sense that I’d excluded people, I was cautiously hopeful. I started with Massachusetts Passenger and Crew Listings, 1820-1963, which was handy since our oldest candidate was born in Ireland in 1828. Because I’d have little or no way to match immigration records to any of the other details I had about these women, I decided I was only interested in the ones arriving before 1855 — the ones that could actually be our Catherine.

There were fewer than two dozen appropriately named people (I included “C Dunn”s) but only six who were born in the right range and arrived in time to be in service with the Kenricks by 1855.

Irish 15-year-old “Cath. Dunn” (EBY 1838) arrived in Boston on 12 November 1853 from Liverpool on Meridian, traveling apparently alone but listed among a crop of Irish girls declaring they intended to make the U.S. their new home.

The arrival of Irish 17-year-old “Cathe Dunn” (EBY 1836) in Boston earlier that year (18 Jan 1853) on Moses Wheeler was much the same, but how the clerk filled out the page tells the story more strikingly:


[Image: Passenger Log from Moses Wheeler, arrived Boston 18 January 1853; Massachusetts Passenger and Crew Listings, 1820-1963.]

Infant “Catha. Dunn” is marked as born in Ireland, just like her parents William and Bridget, but she had not yet reached her first birthday when they arrived in Boston from Liverpool on James H. Shepard on 26 April 1841. Their ship, too, was full of Irish emigrants who weren’t looking back. While we don’t have any Catharines on the list with parents named William and Bridget, it’s certainly true that we have some whose parents we don’t know but who have EBY 1840 or 1841. (NB: I can’t find the family in the 1850 U.S. Census.)

I shudder to imagine what some of these families faced. But my heart broke a little for Irish 14-year-old “Cath. Dunn” (EBY 1834) who arrived in Boston on 24 June 1848 from Liverpool aboard Conrad with her two little brothers, Pat and Phillip, ages 9 and 3, and no parents.

Irish 15-year-old Catharine Dunn (EBY 1833) had her 17-year-old sister Mary with her when they arrived in Boston on 26 July 1848 from Liverpool on Oxnard. Both listed their occupation as “Servant.”

The odd one of the bunch, and the last Boston arrival before our 1855 deadline, was an Irish “Cath Dunn” of unrecorded age (only one on her ship not recorded), who arrived in Boston from St. John, Newfoundland on Ann, stating her intention to make the U.S. her home.

This doesn’t take into account arrivals into Providence/Newport (RI), New York/Ellis Island, Maine/NH, or those who arrived over land from Canada. Of those sources, New York/Ellis Island would be the other big one. More on that in the next post.

In which I still don’t get to looking at immigration records yet.

The fact that I didn’t find birth records for any of our Catherine/Catharine Dunns is likely related to one/both/mix of two things: 1. They weren’t born in MA, and 2. Their births weren’t recorded in MA.

In most cases, I suspect the former is the big issue — four of the five forward-facing matches confirm Ireland as birthplace of the woman in question. But Catherine Dunn #4, Catharine Hayes, is listed in the 1870 Census as having been born in Massachusetts, though her husband was Irish-born. If this datapoint is right, it probably disqualifies her. While it’s possible that any individual census entry has mistakes, including the 1855 Massachusetts Census entry this is all based on, I’m inclined to  assume they’re both correct and this isn’t our girl.

That still leaves us with Catherines #1-3 and 5-10, as well as any Catherines who didn’t marry. The latter is a hard group to get sorted. My experience tracking the 10 married Catherines and the whole mess of Mary O’Briens show how transient immigrants could be. One good reason to miss the 1860 or 1870 census-taker would be, of course, if you and your family were on a wagon trekking west.

Before I went to immigration records, I needed to do one more thing — I needed to go through other single Catherine Dunns in Massachusetts in 1855 and 1860. This turned out to be a lot more productive than I’d expected.

I found Catherine Dunn #4 in the 1855 Census, listed as born in New York. Either way, she’s not our girl. But I also found nine more Catherine/Catharine Dunns.

  • Catherine Dunn, EBY 1839, daughter of Patrick & Margaret; Southborough, MA
  • Catherine Dunn, EBY 1841, daughter of Matthew & Ann; Worcester, MA
  • Catherine Dunn, EBY 1838, in a rooming house; Boston Ward 7, MA
  • Catherine Dunn, EBY 1835, in a rooming house; Great Barrington, MA
  • Catherine Dunn, EBY 1833, in service with the Cliffords; Lawrence, MA
  • Catharine Dunn, EBY 1835, in service with the Millses; Springfield, MA
  • Catherine Dunn, EBY 1833, in service with the Coles; Scituate, MA
  • Catharine Dunn, EBY 1837, in service with the Starkweathers; Williamstown, MA
  • Catharine Dunn, EBY 1836, in service with the Moodys; Worcester, MA

These Catherines cannot be our Catherine — but can we match any of them to our original Catherine Dunns #1-3 and #5-10?

The clearest match is the woman with EBY 1841 above — this is Catharine Dunn #3, whose 1864 marriage would be recorded in Worcester her parents’ names listed as Matthew and Ann, and it proves that she is not our Catherine.

The remaining candidates were born in 1836, 1828, 1831, 1834, 1834, 1836, 1839, and 1844. No one here is close enough to exclude as Catharine Dunn #2, born in 1828, so she remains a candidate. Likewise, with the 1841 entry accounted for above, no one is close enough to be Catherine Dunn #10, born in 1844, so she remains a candidate. The rest fit within the demonstrated vagaries of census-taking, so we look at places.

Catherine Dunn #1 was recorded as 20 years old when she married Oan Daley in Worcester, MA in 1856. An EBY 1836 could match with almost any of the above, but the girl in service with the Moodys is in the same city as Catherine #1 less than a year before her wedding there. I will cross her off our list of contenders.

Catharine Dunn #5 was recorded as 26 when she married John Barry in Great Barrington, MA in 1857. With an EBY 1831, she’s a full four years off the woman living in the Great Barrington rooming house in 1855. But to be either of the women with EBY 1833 above, she’d have to have gotten clear across the state and married in two years. Not impossible, but inconclusive, so she stays on the list of contenders.

Catharine Dunn #6 was the daughter of Martin and Nancy Dunn, and she was married in Randolph, MA, in 1857 and died in Scituate, MA in 1872. This is almost certainly the girl in service with the Coles in 1855, with the one-year discrepancy owing to birth-month, which I don’t have. So we’ll cross her off our list of contenders.

Catherine Dunn #7 has an EBY 1834 and was married in 1858 in Boston, so she just doesn’t match any of the women above and will stay on our list of contenders.

Catherines #8 and #9 are of interest relevant to the woman listed above in Southborough, MA, with an EBY 1839. Southborough is about halfway between Boston and Worcester, and in 1869 Catherine #8, a woman recorded as being the 33-year-old daughter of Patrick and Mary Dunn, married Patrick Hassett in Worcester. That’s an EBY that’s three years off and a mother with similar but not matching names. But Catherine #9, whose EBY actually is 1839 and whose parents’ names we don’t have married John Gorman in Springfield, MA, which is considerably further west. Both women will stay on the list for now, and we’ll investigate further in the 1860 Census.

At this point, I’m left with Catharine Dunn #2 (EBY 1828), Catharine Dunn #5 (EBY 1831), Catharine Dunn #7 (EBY 1834), Catherine Dunn #8 (EBY 1836), Catherine Dunn #9 (EBY 1839), and Catherine Dunn #10 (EBY 1844). I’ll also use the women in the bulleted list above from 1855 to eliminate single women in the 1860 Census if I can. Then, finally, I should have a clearer picture to dive into immigration records with.

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.

Mary, Mary, quite… quite a lot of Marys.

So we’ll start with Mary O’Brien, born approximately 1825 in Ireland. Unfortunately, Mary O’Brien is an incredibly common Irish name. If she was working as a servant in 1860 at the age of 35, it seems likely that she had previously worked as a servant and might, five years before, have been in a nearby house — but there’s probably a 20+ year window in which she might have immigrated.

According to the 1855 Massachusetts State Census, there were nine “Mary O’Brien”s in the state who were born in Ireland between 1824 and 1826. (We’re going to temporarily ignore variants for simplicity, but more on that later.) In 1860, our Mary O’Brien was living in the Kenrick household, and while she could theoretically have been married with a family and just living separately for a stretch, that does seem less likely — and more likely that she was single.

Mary O’Brien #1 in the 1855 MA Census lived in New Bedford, MA (Bristol County), where she was by all indications a servant in the Bourne household, though she isn’t specifically listed as such. Worth noting that New Bedford is a stretch from Newton/Boston but not out of range.

Mary O’Brien #2 and Mary O’Brien #3 in the 1855 MA Census lived in Springfield, MA (Hampden County). This is Western Massachusetts, clear across the state, at a time it would make more sense for someone to be moving west than east. Mary #2 was a servant in the Chapin household. Mary #3 lived with her husband and two small children.

Mary O’Brien #4 lived with her husband, a “laborer” ten years her senior, and four small children, the eldest of whom was 8, in Cambridge, MA in 1855.

Mary O’Brien #5 lived with her 30-year-old husband , also a “laborer,” and their 1-year-old child in Lexington, MA in 1855. Mary O’Brien #6 cuts a similar profile, living with her husband, a 32-year-old “laborer,” and their two children, ages 3 and 1, in Boston Ward 7.

Mary O’Brien #7 has an EBY 1824, but in 1855 she was apparently a servant in the Faucon household in Boston Ward 11, along with another Irish servant woman a year younger.

Mary O’Brien #8 has an EBY 1826 — in the 1855 Census she’s with her 30-year-old “laborer” husband and their five small children in Somerville, MA. Similarly, Mary O’Brien #9, whose EBY is also 1826, appears in the 1855 Census in Boston Ward 7 with her husband, a 30-year-old “tailor,” their three small children, and another Irish woman.

Beyond that, though, there a couple dozen more women in the 1855 MA Census with variants on “Mary O’Brien,” from “Mary O Brien” to “Mary Breen” to “Mary A Bryan.” But I wanted see if I could find the 9 women from the 1855 Census in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census. If I could find them there and NOT in the Kenrick household, then they weren’t our Mary. I also figured I could start to gauge how much of a complication the name variants were going to be.

I found four of them.

In 1860, Mary O’Brien #2 was still in the home of the Chapins in Springfield, MA. Interestingly, she appeared to have aged only two years in the intervening five. (I found the Bournes of New Bedford, too, but when the census was recorded in 1860, they had no servants listed in the home.)

Mary O’Brien #3 was in Springfield, too, still living with her husband and adding children. Mary O’Brien #6 was also where we last saw her, still living in Boston Ward 7 with her husband Patrick and adding more kids, too.

Mary O’Brien #8 had moved into town, going from Somerville in 1855 to Boston Ward 1 in 1860, but she, too, was still with her husband Jeremiah and the same five children in the home.

This means that Mary O’Briens #1, 4, 5, 7, and 9 are unaccounted-for. Given that Marys #1 and #7 were in service in 1855, either could have become our Mary with the Kenricks in 1860 — or not. I suspect that Marys #4, 5, and 9 are probably with their families somewhere, hidden behind a typo or just buried in the listings of a state I’m not expecting.

But they’re also unaccounted-for along with a staggering number of variants in name and age that I can’t rationally sift through. The mysterious slow aging of Mary #2 aptly illustrates that confining my search to Marys with an EBY 1824-1826 as based on the 1855 and 1860 censuses likely means I’m excluding at least a few dozen Marys who were victims of the census-taker’s typos or their/their families’ own ignorance or shoddy memory/record-keeping.

Unfortunately, there probably isn’t much purpose in continuing to chase Mary, so I’ll move on, but I did have one final observation, looking through the families of these Irish immigrant women. I generally saw two models: A) the couple in which the young wife started having kids by about 21, and B) the women past 30 (usually past 35), married or unmarried, with one or no children. We’ll keep an eye on both groups as we look for the other Kenrick Serving Women.

The Kenrick Serving Women

Given that I’m at something of a good stopping-off point with the Pearces, I think we’ll stick a pin in them and the McNallys for a bit. Rest assured, we’ll return to those subjects, and you can always track the story of individual people or things using the tags on each post.

I want to turn my attention instead to a group of women I’ll call the Kenrick Serving Women. Collectively, this group consists of the white girls and women in the Kenrick household census records who are not identifiable as family and who, from 1850 onward, are generally identified as servants. The ones we have records of were almost uniformly Irish. I have no way to identify the origin of these women prior to 1850, but I’ll lay out what I do know about them and what their lives may have been like.

Working backward through the censuses, I can generate this list of women not immediately traceable to the family:

1900: U.S. Federal Census, Household of Sarah F. Kenrick (not the same property)

  • Delia Wood, no age/EBY, “Servant,” no birthplace identified
  • Carrie Wood, no age/EBY, “Boarder,” no birthplace identified

1900: U.S. Federal Census, Household of John Kenrick Taylor (not the same property)

  • Maria Flaherty, age 35, EBY 1865, “Servant,” no birthplace identified

1880: U.S. Federal Census, Household of Mary S. Kenrick

  • Mary Henan, age 20, EBY 1860, “Servant,” Ireland
  • Frances Smith, age 18, EBY 1862, “Servant,” Massachusetts (parents English)

1870: U.S. Federal Census, Household of John Adams Kenrick, Jr.

  • No women unaccounted-for as family (one male Scottish farm laborer)

1865: Massachusetts State Census, Household of John Adams Kenrick (Sr.)

  • Margaret Tiernan, age 18, EBY 1852, “Servant,” Ireland

1860: U.S. Federal Census, Household of John Adams Kenrick (Sr.)

  • Mary O’Brien, age 35, EBY 1825, “Domestic,” Ireland

1855: Massachusetts State Census, Household of John Adams Kenrick (Sr.)

  • Catherine Dunn, age 17, EBY 1838, no position listed, Ireland

1840: U.S. Federal Census, Household of John Adams Kenrick (Sr.)

  • One free white female, age 15-19
  • Two fee white females, age 20-29

1830: U.S. Federal Census for Household of John Kenrick (Esq.)

  • One free white female, age 10-14
  • One free white female, age 40-49
  • One free white female, age 70-79

1820: U.S. Federal Census for Household of John Kenrick (Esq.)

  • Two free white females, under age 10
  • One free white female, age 10-15
  • One free white female, age 16-25

1810: U.S. Federal Census for Household of John Kenrick (Esq.)

  • No women unaccounted-for as family (two FWMs, age 16-25)

1800: U.S. Federal Census for Household of John Kenrick (Esq.)

  • One free white female, age 45 or older

1790: U.S. Federal Census for the Household of John Kenrick (Esq.)

  • One free white female, no age identified

Some of the women I can’t identify in the earlier censuses may in fact be family members beyond the parents and children. The presence of Ella Stedman (a cousin), Mary Preston (a grandmother returned to her childhood home), and Elizabeth Mason (a grandmother from a line that married in) in 1865 and 1870 show that such women and girls did pass through the house sometimes, too. As I investigate each, I’ll note when/ where that may be the case.

That means the women for whom we have names are as follows, with their estimated birth year and reported birth locations:

  • Mary O’Brien, EBY 1825, Ireland (in MA in 1860)
  • Catherine Dunn, EBY 1838, Ireland (in MA in 1855)
  • Margaret Tiernan, EBY 1847, Ireland (in MA in 1865)
  • Mary Henan, EBY 1860, Ireland (in MA in 1880)
  • Frances Smith, EBY 1862, Massachusetts (in MA in 1880)
  • Maria Flaherty, EBY 1865, Unknown (in MA in 1900)
  • Carrie Wood, EBY 1895 +/- 5, Unknown (in MA in 1900)
  • Delia Wood, EBY Unknown, Unknown (in MA in 1900)

Any reported age could be off by a few years, especially for girls who might have found that “rounding up” gave them opportunities to improve their situation sooner rather than later. But having a name, EBY, and location of birth, as well as evidence of their momentary presence in the greater Boston area, gives us ways to start searching for an verifying any of their identities.

I should note, though, that many Irish immigrants found their way through New York eventually, either as a final or temporary destination, and as I’ve mentioned before, New York has a bad tendency to be a black hole for the kinds of vital records that may be the only ones ordinary people leave as they pass through life.

We know from the diary of Mary Mehitable Kenrick Taylor that in 1870, at least, the serving women were hired short-term, so the census records we have are comparatively tiny snapshots of the women who passed through the house. There may have been far more of them. But they did at least all pass through Massachusetts, and they should — most if not all of them — have registered some sort of documentation when they got off a boat, either in the U.S. or in Canada, if not when they got on it, too.

So I’m going to start with Massachusetts Vital Records, then immigration/passenger lists into Boston, New York, and Canada, then immigration/passenger lists out of Ireland, Liverpool, and other U.K. ports. If I can identify relatives or husbands, I’ll go next to the censuses and burial records. Here’s hoping that some of this works. 🙂


Empress of Ireland and the Salvation Army… and the 1921 Census of Canada

When I saw that the ship Edith and the kids came over on was called Empress of Ireland, I figured I’d see what I could find out about the ship itself. The Canadian Passenger Listings showed me that Empress of Ireland generally ran between Liverpool and a variety of North American ports, primarily Canadian ones. Then, I googled her. I can’t say I was particularly expecting what I found.

You can read the Wikipedia entry yourself here, but the short version is that she was a steamship of the Canadian Pacific Steamships, a division of Canadian Pacific Railway. Built and christened out of Liverpool in 1906, she went down on 29 May 1914 in the St. Lawrence River with 1,477 souls on board, of whom 1,012 died. By comparison, Titanic lost 1,503 out of 2,208 souls. The disasters were of similar scope, but Empress of Ireland wasn’t carrying the star-power of Titanic, and her loss was overshadowed by the outbreak of World War I shortly thereafter. The Royal Alberta Museum is one institution involved with historic and scientific conservation of the wreck and has an online exhibition here.

By all accounts, she was a glorious ship and well-appointed. But I doubt Edith and the kids saw much of that gloss in third class. One interesting thing about the passenger log was a note I didn’t at first understand — “S. Army” listed under passengers’ reason for coming to Canada. While “Salvation Army” occurred to me, I assumed it must have been something else, something genuinely military, perhaps.

Nope. According to Henry Gariepy’s Christianity in Action: The History of the International Salvation Army (2009), beginning in 1894 (really in earnest by about 1901), the Salvation Army undertook a massive immigration push, helping thousands of England’s poor families and individuals emigrate from “Darkest England” to other countries — including over 200,000 to Canada specifically. It wasn’t the railway who paid for William Pearce’s wife, stepson, and (some of his) children to come to Canada; it was the party listed right on the passenger log  — “S. Army”

This suggests a few things. First, it diminishes if not dashes any real prospect of William having been a specialist of value to the company. That in turn makes it more likely that his death was exactly what it seems — the end of a bender that was probably not his first. The picture of Phyllis as a woman whose father, first husband, and eldest son were all alcoholics begins to come into clearer focus. Per Gariepy, it was generally understood that the Salvation Army was doing England an immeasurable favor by removing the poor and thus the disreputable or even criminal element from England.

It also sort of raises interesting implications for Stephen Joseph McNally’s religious situation. It’s possible that the notation on his enlistment papers that he was Catholic was bogus, an assumption by the officer/clerk doing the paperwork. It’s also possible it was legit and that he hid or abandoned his papist roots to marry Phyllis, as in 1919 they’re both listed as CofE. But the Salvation Army also had a contentious relationship with the Church, which once sought to acquire it as an auxiliary and ended up creating its own “Church Army” that, per Gariepy, mimicked the Salvation Army in virtually every way. Edith’s decision to emigrate via the Salvation Army may have had infinitely less to do with religion than with convenience, and they may have been prepared to accept anyone who’d say “Yup, I love Jesus and want to live a Righteous life… in Canada.”

The Salvation Army made agreements with several steamship companies, including Canadian Pacific Steamships, owner of Empress of Ireland, for the transport of their emigrants. When the ship went down on a return voyage to Liverpool on 29 May 1914, she was actually carrying 167 members of the Salvation Army’s Canadian staff, returning to England for a conference. Only eight survived.

I told my father what I’d discovered, and it made him sad, in a way, to find out that Edith and her children had come with the help of the Salvation Army. I know that helping him learn more about his family is sort of bittersweet for him, and thus it is for me, too. I love being able to give him back his people, as it were. But I also know it pains him to hear of their plight.

But I discovered one other thing in the 1921 Census of Canada. Edith and Major/Les were there all along. Always look at the actual document, and always zoom out!

mcnally-pearce-1921-census pearce-grey-mcnally-1921-census pearce-grey-mcnally-1921-census-part-2

[Images: 1921 Census of Canada.]

I didn’t see ’til I looked at it — the census-taker identified Edith as head-of-house, then later edited it to make Stephen Joseph McNally head instead. Now the original designations, otherwise a mess (and screwed up in the record-index copy), make a LOT more sense. Always look at the document!