I investigates Ireland, Inishail, and Ipswich (Qld)

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which) and today’s post explores interludes in Ireland, Inishail, and Ipswich (Qld, Australia).

I is for Ireland

As soon as I arrived in Dublin in the late 1980s there was a sense of recognition, a realisation of how much like the Irish we Australians are in so many ways…the sense of irony, mickey-taking, disregard for authority. At the same time it seemed unfamiliar because I’d expected the inflexibility and conformity learned from my life in an Australian Catholic school and church with Irish nuns and priests, and a stern Irish-born grandfather. It was a delight to discover that Ireland was full of joie de vivre and craic (good fun) as well as the darker, more morose side with which I was familiar.

Allihies, West Cork on the Beara Peninsula

Without the urge to learn more of my family history I may never have visited Ireland, and so would have missed out on far more than adding leaves to my family tree. Ireland fulfils so many stereotypes that you’ve heard about: the green patchwork fields, the distant blue hills, old stone cottages, the soft rain, and the quirky sayings and greetings that seem quintessential yet somehow difficult to remember when you leave. Coming from Australia with its wide open spaces and vast distances, it’s easy for a tourist to think “ah I’ll get there in no time” but everywhere there are those signposts that can all point to the same place, via twisty Irish roads that only change how much time it takes you to get to your destination. Despite the number of times I’ve visited I still make the mistake of not allowing enough time!

Beautiful Achill Island, Co Mayo. © P Cass 2006.

Over the years we’ve visited 20 counties and each has its own beauty. Despite my Clare ancestry I have to say my favourites are the rugged, more isolated areas: Achill Island (Mayo), Beara Peninsula (Cork), the wide-open spaces in south-west Donegal, tragic site of many evictions, and the steep cliffs near Dun Choin by Dingle (Kerry).

Over the decades as the Celtic Tiger stirred, and then roared, the social atmosphere has changed. There was cash to splash and everyone was busy, busy. There was a brashness to life, in Dublin especially, that I didn’t really like…it had turned into a typical big city (or perhaps I’d got used to living in a smaller city). In the rural areas people remained both friendly and reserved, much as always. The standard of living had improved which made life more comfortable for people…the decades and centuries of disadvantage were slowly being turned around. It’s sad to think that the Irish people are now going through such difficult times.

Wherever you go, there is that essential kindness and welcome that the Irish share with the visitor. It’s a grand place to visit and if you have the opportunity it’s well worth going. Even if the trip doesn’t uncover specific family history, you’ll get a much better sense of the place and its people, and, intuitively, the loss your ancestors experienced when they left it all behind.

I is for Inishail (Scotland)

Inishail is part of the combined parish of Glenorchy and Inishail in Argyll, Scotland. Inishail lies over the hills from Inveraray and borders the starkly beautiful Loch Awe. The MacArthurs and Campbells are powerful in this area, and history abounds. I’m not planning to talk about that here but if you want to investigate further you might find this linka helpful starting point.

Highland cattle near Cladich, Argyll. © P Cass 2006

My interest in Inishail parish arises because my 2xgreat grandparents, Duncan McCorquodale (various spellings) and his wife, Ann Campbell lived there for about 50 years, apparently having moved across the Loch from Kilchrenan parish. They both appear in the 1841 census, and Duncan in the 1851 census, living in Drimuirk. It took some work locating this little hamlet as it’s rarely indexed on maps. My starting point has been the village of Cladich which in its day, was on the drove road for cattle to Inveraray and points south and west. The long haired Highland cattle are still a feature of the area, and of a local estate. In the colder months, when we tend to visit, the clouds hang low, and the mist filters through trees draped in moss and lichen…dimly among the trees appears a woolly Highland cow. It can be kind of spooky.

Drimuirk by Cladich, Parish of Inishail, Argyll. © P Cass 2010

On previous trips I’d estimated from maps where Drimuirk was located, and taken photos, but this time I was given a great privilege…the opportunity to “walk the land” where my ancestors lived. At ground level, and with local help, I could see that what had seemed random rocks were actually the remains of the rude cottages of the long-ago residents of Drimuirk. Of course I have no idea which of the small handful of house foundations was theirs, but I like to imagine it was the one with the view over the loch and where the travellers could be seen coming over the hills. Afterwards I read the Kirk Session records for the parish, and found a reference to the “small house” of Duncan McCorquodale. The reiteration of “small house” suggests that even by the standards of the day it must have been tiny, yet there’d have been half a dozen people living there at times. You can read my post about it here. I’m forever grateful to have been given this chance to see what remains of this little settlement.

Dorothy Wordsworth passed through the area in 1803, around the time my family came to the area to live. She describes the children of the Macfarlane family thus: The children, after having collected fuel for our fire, began to play on the green hill where we stood, as heedless as if we had been trees or stones, and amused us exceedingly with their activity: they wrestled, rolled down the hill, pushing one another over and over again, laughing, screaming, and chattering Erse (Gaelic)…[i]Reading this it’s so easy to imagine my own great-grandfather playing with his siblings in this way.

Genie tip: when searching for Inishail, also try spelling it as Innishail, especially in archive searching, which will add to your results.

I is for Ipswich (Queensland, Australia)

View over Ipswich, March 2012, with St Mary's Catholic church prominent. © P Cass 2012

Ipswich is the place where my Melvin, Partridge, Kent and Kunkel families first settled in Australia. New immigrants would sign work contracts and then travel by boat up the river system to Ipswich from where they  would be dispersed to the most distant reaches of the Moreton Bay settlement, as happened with my Gavin family and most of the Dorfprozelten immigrants who came to Moreton Bay. No doubt the employers were keen to keep them on the move before the immigrants had any idea of just what they were taking on, and how very isolated many of them would be.

Those who came to Ipswich to live and work arrived in a small but bustling town with minimal, but developing, infrastructure. They quickly became part of the social fabric of the community and could, if they wished, make their mark there. William Partridge worked as a carpenter, George Kunkel ran a boarding house in Union Street with his wife Mary and also a pork butcher’s establishment, before they moved west with the railway construction. Richard Kent was an older man when he arrived and remained a labourer as far as I can tell, though he’d run a public house in England. Stephen Melvin arrived later, in the 1870s, and before long was establishing himself with a well-regarded confectionery shop(s) and factory.

My families were on opposite sides of the religious divide with the Kunkels attending St Mary’s, the Catholic church, and the others associated with the Anglican or Methodist churches at different times. Despite this it would have been difficult for the Kents, Partridges and Kunkels not to be aware of each other in such a small community through the 1850s and 1860s.

A well preserved Ipswich home.

One of the interesting things about doing family history from those early days of Moreton Bay/Queensland, is how often you come across someone whose ancestry lies in the same places as yours…not all that difficult when the European population was so small. I wonder from time to time, whether these distant links are part of why we instantly “click” with some people and others, without doing a thing, get our backs up. It intrigues me that much the same thing can happen with people whose names I find bobbing up in the overseas parish registers of my families…kind of weird really.

Ipswich for a long time was a coal mining town and continued to be a place where new immigrants could afford to settle. Ipswich suffered in the 2011 floods, a history which has repeated itself over the centuries. These days it’s throwing off its former social disadvantage and promoting its history, of which there’s a wealth. If you ever want to see fantastic examples of vernacular Queensland architecture, Ipswich is the place to go. Perhaps precisely because it was economically depressed for quite a while, there are wonderful examples of old Queensland homes with deep verandahs, mostly set on stilts to keep them above the flood waters.

I’m looking forward to having more time in the future to re-explore Ipswich and its historical treasures: the churches, the railway workshops, the architecture and the cemetery.

I ships for East Clare immigrants

Irene (1852) [7] + 7 from Ennis; Ironside (1863) [9] and Ida (1864) [9]

A to Z 2012 Challenge

My nod for today is Catherine Noble’s blog about writing. I especially liked “D for Dedication”.


[i] http://www.ourscotland.co.uk/ebooks/recollectionsweek3.htm. Recollections of a tour made in Scotland AD 1803 by Dorothy Wordsworth. August 31st, 1803.

Irish Famine Orphan: Biddy Gollagher or Gallagher on the Lady Kennaway in 1848

Irish Famine Orphan Memorial in Sydney.

Irish Famine Orphan, Bridget Gollagher or Gallagher, is my husband’s ancestor. She arrived in Port Philip on the barque Lady Kennaway in December 1848. McLaughlin’s book Barefoot and Pregnant indicates that Victorian records show she came from Donegal although the NSW Agent’s lists give her place of origin as Galway. She was hired out to Mr Edward Curr[i] at St Hilliers (actually St Helier’s)[ii] for £14 for six months[iii]. The book also has information, which we believed to be a type-setting problem and related to Ellen Gollagher who appears next on the passenger list. So, how to resolve some of these ambiguities?

My first port of call was the Victorian historical indexes to check three things:

  1. Confirm the marriage listed in Barefoot and Pregnant and on the Famine Orphan website relates to Ellen Gollagher not to Bridget or Biddy as she appears on the list.
  2. Confirm Bridget/Biddy’s marriage based on earlier family research.
  3. Determine Bridget’s county of origin and hopefully a townland[iv].
  1.      Gallagher/Gollagher marriage to McCahery

I checked this by obtaining an 1867 birth certificate for one of the children, hoping to get more details on the parents that way. It confirmed that it was Ellen Gallagher/Gollagher who married John McCahery, and according to their daughter’s birth certificate they married in Melbourne in November 1851. On this document Ellen states her age as 33, so a YOB of 1834, and born in Donegal. This fits with her being the orphan on the Lady Kennaway apart from the age difference. A YOB of 1834 would make her barely 14 on arrival in Melbourne in 1848 as opposed to the stated 18 (YOB 1830). Both ages fit within the preferred range for the orphans.  Ellen and her husband lived in the Kilmore area and she is reported to have died in 1872. Is she Bridget’s sister or relation or just someone with the same surname? As yet this is unknown, and may remain so.

2.      Marriage Gollagher/Gallagher and McKenna

Biddy Gallagher married William McKenna at St Francis’s RC church in Melbourne on 5 May 1850. Unfortunately the record is a basic one providing no supplementary details on the couple.[v] The witnesses were Mary Boyle and James McKenna. It’s quite possible (likely?) that this Mary Boyle was the Famine Orphan who had also travelled on the Lady Kennaway, aged 17 and from Donegal. Various attempts to obtain more information on the Gallagher-McKenna marriage have as yet been unsuccessful. At the time of Bridget’s marriage, Melbourne was again in a flurry of condemnation or defence of these poor Irish girls. Those who’d arrived on the Lady Kennaway seemed to have taken a particular verbal battering in the press.  They must have felt more than a little persecuted with a threatened sense of their self-worth.

My concern in relation to this marriage was whether the correct couple had been “chosen” since some of this research had been “inherited”. However working backwards from the known to the unknown via BDM documents we were able to confirm that this was the correct couple.

Next question: Was this the same Biddy/Bridget Gollagher/Gallagher who was the Famine Orphan?

3.      Children’s certificates

Foolishly I obtained James’ and Elvia’s (Elizabeth) from 1851 and 1853 respectively. These were church baptisms and had no supplementary parent information but did give witnesses: Robert Hogan and Sarah McKenna for James, and Patrick McGrath and Mary McKenna for Elizabeth. Did Bridget no longer have any friends to sponsor her children or did William’s relations take precedence?  On James’s registration, Bridget’s maiden name is still shown as Gollagher. Afterwards it becomes the more common Gallagher. Interestingly the baptisms were a month or more after the births, which while within church regulations suggests they either didn’t have the fee to pay, or were not so compliant in their observances.

A further certificate, for daughter Bridget in 1862, had the informant as a friend, Charlotte Harward of Emerald Hill. While some of the information was accurate, a new place of origin was introduced for Bridget as she was stated to come from Fermanagh, and William from Monaghan. At the time the family was living in Sutton Lane, off Little Burke Street and William was a storeman.

So now as options for Bridget’s place of birth we had Galway, Donegal and Fermanagh, but wait, there’s more to come!

Next certificate was that for son Patrick b 1865. This time Bridget was the informant and she mercifully gave her place of birth as Donegal and William’s as Fermanagh. They were still living in Sutton Lane and her age is fairly consistent throughout to give a YOB of 1833/1834.

Without buying every possible certificate this reassured me (1) that she was almost certainly the Famine Orphan and (2) her home place was Donegal.

On the 1865 certificate Bridget lists four children who had died. The online indexes do not show all of the named surviving children as stated on certificates, even using the broadest search parameters and wildcards.

Two generations on: Katie McKenna, Biddy Gallagher’s grand-daughter.

4.      Death of Bridget McKenna nee Gallagher

We had inherited this certificate from my husband’s father and it tells a sad story. Bridget died in the Immigrants’ Home in Melbourne on 12 December 1882, almost to the day 34 years earlier when she had been admitted to the immigrants’ depot. The cause of death was alcoholism and while she was stated to be married, there were no details available. She had been 31 years in Victoria (an error of three years) and came from Limerick! So now we have Limerick, Galway, Fermanagh and Donegal as potential places of origin!

At this point I became concerned that we also had the wrong death. A search of the indexes from 1870 to 1930, using Bri* not Bridget, gave only two possible options. I checked the alternate death and that was of a young woman born in Victoria so the 1882 death appears to be the correct one. . From the scarcity of the data on her death certificate it appears she had been alienated from, or ostracised by, her family. Another small anomaly is the age on her certificate: she is shown as 51 so YOB of 1831.

Does her alcoholism explain her children’s deaths or was it the other way round? Were the infant deaths attributable to her poor health from the Famine years: it’s possible as two of them were within a few years of her arrival, but likely? I’m not sure.

As Bridget had died of alcoholism it seemed likely she had been in trouble with the law so I searched the PROV online index to female prisoners. There are two entries for her, from which in due course we will need to obtain copies. With a little (lot?) of luck it may even give us a description of her. I also did a search of Trove hoping to find her in the court records for drunkenness, but could find only one reference in 1863 when she was fined 5 shillings. As yet she appears not to have fallen into the category of habitual drunkard, as those received a gaol sentence of three months. At this point she was still bearing children.

Bridget’s husband, William Peter McKenna, died in Melbourne in 1910. He is confirmed as the husband of Bridget Gallagher but this time his place of birth is Monaghan. Other family trees on Ancestry give a different date and place of death for Bridget’s husband but I think the official record is unambiguous.

This is a brief summary of the rather sad life of a Famine Orphan. There are still avenues to explore which may bring forward more evidence. It’s likely we’ll only know the shadows of her life – perhaps the light is the existence of many descendants.


[i] Reportedly known as the “Father of Separation” for his role in gaining Victoria’s separation from NSW. He was a staunch Catholic and had been a member of the first Legislative Council of Tasmania. He was also a member of the committee responsible for the welfare of the emigrant orphans on arrival in Melbourne.

[ii] Crown allotments 77 and 64 on the Yarra River at Abbotsford…In the late 1850s, Curr’s house was shown on a map of the Collingwood. The St Helier house garden featured a geometric layout, with pathways leading south to what was possibly an orchard on the river frontage. When Curr died in 1850, his trustees had leased the St Helier property in two parts. The house and house garden comprised one part, while the lower garden and riverbank paddock formed the other. In 1865, Curr’s widow, Elizabeth, sold the estate to the Right Rev. James A Goold for £4,000

Images of the house are at http://www.picturevictoria.vic.gov.au/site/yarra_melbourne/Collingwood/9464.html

http://www.picturevictoria.vic.gov.au/site/yarra_melbourne/Collingwood/9379.html

[iii] Biddy was one of only three young women to receive such a high wage. One assumes that if Curr employed her, and paid her such a generous sum, he thought she was competent not inexperienced.

[iv] While in Donegal in 2006 we tried without success to find any records for these workhouse orphans and Board of Guardian registers.  Perhaps another attempt is merited, even from afar.

[v] My Queensland research has shown me that sometimes there’s another set of information which reveals far more detail. Approaches to the diocesan archives a few years ago have been unsuccessful so it’s time to revisit that.