Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Proper Genealogy Post Part 1

It's been awhile since I've done a genealogy post so let's rectify that now.

Late last year I decided to turn my attention away from my maternal lines of ancestors toward my paternal lines.

A few of these lines are well documented(not by me but by others)but not many.

One of these researched already lines is connected to my father's father's mother's mother's line(that would be a grandfather's maternal grandmother side).

My grandfather's parents were Frank Foster BOWMAN and Catherine O'BRIEN.
Catherine's parents were Maurice(pronounced Morris)O'BRIEN and Marion(or Mary A.)Ellen ROCHE.
Let's start with the ROCHE/O'BRIEN's, shall we?

 Maurice O'Brien photo shared on Ancestry by b1pilot1

Mary Roche O'Brien photo shared on Ancestry by b1pilot1

Both Maurice and Marion were born in County Limerick, Ireland.  Maurice in 1849 and Marion in 1854.  This was right in the midst of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland.

Map of Ireland with Limerick City pinpointed

Long story short on the Great Famine--Irish Catholics had few opportunities to advance themselves due to restrictive laws of the ruling minority Protestant English who owned most of the land(if not all)in Ireland at this time.  Due to English control of the land, most crops grown were exported out of the country to England for profit. Food source for most Irish commoners was 1 variety of potato and said variety caught the potato blight so the main food source for the Irish dried up.  Even so, the English who controlled the land and crops continued to export said crops to England and grew rich while the Irish who tended the farms and their families grew malnourished and a great number of them died. 

Graphic from Here.  Note that Limerick is in the 3rd worst area for poverty at the beginning of the famine.

The recognized start of the Potato Famine is 1845 and it stretched to 1852 and possibly beyond.  This particular famine(there had been an earlier Irish famine in 1740 which was bad but not as devastating)is thought to have been caused by a blight that originated in Mexico, spread up into the US and then inadvertently brought aboard ships to Ireland in potatoes used to feed ship passengers on the voyage to Ireland.  From these tainted potatoes it took root in Irish soil and in 1845 crop loss was reported to be 1/3 to 1/2 and by 1846 3/4 of the potato crop was lost to blight.

Over 3 Million Irish people were dependent on potatoes as their food staple.  This blight devastated the population.  People starved to death in great numbers.  When tenant Irish Catholic farmers couldn't pay their rent(due to the crop failures), they were thrown out of their homes, so not only were they starving but homeless too.  Faced with almost certain death, many Irish Catholics left the country between 1845 and 1850 and immigrated to England, Scotland, South Wales, the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Graphic from This Article
No records exist to tell us exactly how many people died or left in the Great Irish Migration caused by this famine but a Census taken in 1841 compared with a Census taken in 1851 shows there are 1.5 Million less people in Ireland.
It is said that the population in County Limerick declined by 70,000 during the Famine, though the population in Limerick city rose due to starving paupers fleeing into the workhouses.

Imagine being pregnant and bearing children into a world like this!  Not knowing if you can feed them and being malnourished and sick yourself and not knowing when/if the authorities will be at your door to throw your family into the streets.
This is the world my ancestors were born into.

Maurice and Mary A. Ellen wed in Ireland thought I don't know the date or in what church yet.
I do know they were Catholic however, as they were both buried in a Catholic Cemetery in Ansonia, CT at the end of their days.

Photo by F.A.G. member AlyciaK.

Their first child named Honora "Nora" was born about 1875 in Ireland and the second daughter named Mary about 1877.
I haven't nailed down which ship they took to America but I do know it sailed from Ireland in the Fall of 1879.

And how do I know this?
By June 1880 in that year's census the family is found living in Derby, Connecticut.   Derby is in New Haven County on the Housatonic River.

Derby on Connecticut map. Derby is West of New Haven, North of Bridgeport

The family consists of Maurice, Mary Ellen, children Honora, Mary and Maggie.  The first 4 members of the family are noted as being born in Ireland.
Look at where Maggie(or Margaret as was her given name)was reported as being born..............


So Mary Ellen was "great with child" on the voyage and gave birth at sea.  I bet that was exciting, but not in a good way. ;-)

Maurice and Mary Ellen went on to have another 5 children that I can find---Bedina(who might have died in her teens), Catherine(my great grandmother), John, Annie and Josephine(who also died in her teens and is buried with her parents).

But there is a mystery revolving around Annie and/or Josephine and another child someone else has on their version of this family tree that is also a mystery to me.

We'll ponder all that next time.



  1. I've taken several photos of cemeteries in Ireland. I'll see if I can find some with names on them.

  2. Interesting history lesson as well as the genealogy! Thanks

  3. that was really interesting looking forward to reading more.

  4. I just happened to be looking into my husband's Irish, Tipperary, roots this afternoon and popped in your information. You probably know this already but Honora was born on 4th April 1876 in Limerick. The record states that her father Maurice was born in Keal. The record was card index only so I could not view it to see more. I found with my husband's relative that I was trying to find that on the baptism register in Ireland gives some intersting information. It gives the mother's maiden name and also the names of the "sponsors" or God-parents. I have been doing some successful lateral thinking recently by tracing the god-parents and/or witnesses to marriages and come up with some useful information. For example some witnesses and god-parents going on to marry and form other branches to trees.

    Have you found the family on the 1871 census?

    I borrowed a book from our local library this week "Tracing your Irish family history on the Internet" by Chris Paton. Seems to have lots of helpful information.

    Rather ironic isn't it that the potato blight came to Ireland from the USA and was then the catalyst for so many folk to emigrate!

    Good hunting!

    1. I suspect the Honora with father Maurice you found may be a different pair. Both names were popular in that country and time so I suspect there are more than a few.

      I don't have the international subscription to Ancestry so I can't access the English/Irish records though I can see a summary of a 1891 English census for Honora O'Brien, born abt. 1872 Cork living in Yorkshire and she isn't my Honora either. The one who I have as my Honora is the one born Limerick 1874 (taken from a civil birth registration).
      I see a preview of a 1881 English census with a Maurice O'Brien born abt. 1851 Tipperary, living in Lancashire and that isn't my Maurice either as he was already in the US by 1881.
      This would be an easier search for me if I could justify the expense of viewing the international records.

      And very ironic about the potato blight. Had it not occurred many of my ancestors families would be very different and possibly in different parts of the world than they find themselves now!

    2. Mmmm. I took another look at the record that I found on the Ancestry English/Irish records and the full information was:- Honora O'Brien born 4th April, 1876. Father Maurice and mother Mary O'Brien Roche. This maiden name was what mae me think I had the correct one. The FHL Film Number is 255956.


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