03 May 2010

Let's start with our mothers

After all, it is just about Mother's Day. I'm thinking of my most recent immigrant ancestor, my paternal grandmother Bridget Mulvanerty. We of course only know our grandmothers as, well, grandmothers, so what they were like when young is not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of them.

We realized a while ago that Bridget had shaved a couple of years off her age when coming to the US. Her actual birth year was 1894, supported by 1901 and 1911 census records and by parish records. However, 2 weeks after her 19th birthday she left for Ellis Island and apparently traveled faster than light arriving just a wee bit younger than when she had departed. But what can be said about her time growing up in Ireland?

Bridget grew up on a typical small Drumshanbo house. The family house had a roof of thatch or wood with just 3 rooms and 3 windows in front. There were 8 homes in her neighborhood (Largan) at that time, and all fit this description exactly. The property also had a cow house, a piggery, and a barn. 8 kids plus the parents meant 10 people shared the 3 rooms.

Two weeks before Bridget's 14th birthday her mother died. By age 16 she had moved away from home -- literally the only Mulvanerty in all of Ireland living outside of Co. Leitrim -- to be a servant for a rich widow. The widow's home was significantly larger than the home in which Bridget had grown up: both the walls and roof were solid (slate, iron, or tile roof) and there were 9 rooms, with 6 windows in front. There were numerous outbuildings, including stable, coach house, cow house, calf house, dairy, piggery, fowl house, barn, turn house, potato house, shed, and store.

Two years later she boarded the SS Cedric for an 8-day voyage to a new country with just $15 in her pockets. She arrived in New York City the year Grand Central opened having grown up in a town with a population of a few hundred tops.
Fortunately she was not all on her own once she arrived: her cousin Katie was on the ship with her. Both girls listed their immediate US destination as 619 E. 134th St., New York, the home of Katie's brother Patrick Mulvey. This is a piece of a larger chain migration pattern involving the Mulvanerty and Mulvey families.

How you can find info like this:
  • The National Archives of Ireland recently release the 1911 census records, so you can easily look people up there. Searching for Bridget Mulvanerty yields three entries, only one of which is the right age. Clicking on her will get you to a page that links to eight separate pages. One page provides info on the home (number of windows, etc.), another on outbuildings (like piggery, I just love that word). The first page page has the head of the household's signature, something I'm hoping may prove to be useful downstream.
  • You can find Bridget's 1913 immigration record at the free Ellis Island site. If you search for her and click on her name, the first page you get is a cute certificate-like thingy. To get what you really want, click on "View Original Ship Manifest" and then on "Click to Enlarge Manifest". Bridget's manifest is two separate pages, so be sure to check adjacent pages. Her cousin Katie is the passenger listed immediately before Bridget. Always check immigration forms for people listed as coming from the same town/village.
  • The 1901 Co. Leitrim census is searchable (without images) at the Leitrim-Roscommon web site. Volunteers transcribed the originals to create the searchable database. The National Archives of Ireland have announced that the 1901 census images will be available very soon (June?) so I'm hopeful that even more information will be available to us then.


  1. Dan,
    The information you found out is amazing. Thank you for telling the story of our grandmother.

  2. Great stuff! And your blog looks really nice; keep up the good work!

  3. Dan,

    I did not know this information about when my mother's mother died or that Mom went at age 16 to live and work away from home! No wonder she made it her goal in life to educate all of us so we would have "something to fall back on". She was a wonderful mother, and we all appreciate your sending this to us.

  4. Aunt Gail09 May, 2010

    Thanks so much for a wonderful Mother's Day gift by sharing the information you found on my mother and her earlier life in Ireland. She was a very strong woman and passed this on to us. I am very proud of you Dan and all you do to keep our history alive. You are the best!!!!
    Love, Aunt Gail