9 March 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 11 - Luck of the Irish

The next challenge for the 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks is in honour of the upcoming St Patrick's Day: Week 11 – Luck of the Irish. Do you have an ancestor who seemed particularly lucky? Do you have a favourite Irish ancestor? This is their week.

According to the Emerald Isle website "The Luck of the Irish" can mean a lot of things, and not all of them mean that Irish people are actually lucky. I'm going to take a different route this week and use the following description from the site:

"Ireland has a very tragic past, its people were forced to emigrate due to famine and they left for America and the UK in order to find a better life. They were treated badly and had to struggle to succeed which many of them did through determination, strong character and hard work. The natives of the USA in particular despised the Irish settlers who were successful and felt their fortune was down to 'luck' and not due to their hard work."

It seems the above statement was universally true and not restricted just to the USA as oral family history says this certainly happened to my great-great-grandmother's family when they left Ireland for England.

Here is the story as my mother wrote it - it was handed down to her by her uncle. Of course some of it may well be apocryphal - and there are multiple versions of part of the story:
Catherine Casey's family was put off their land by the British during "the troubles". The 2 eldest daughters swore they would never set foot on English soil, so they migrated to the USA. One sister became a nun, the other a mortician. Catherine and the younger children went with their parents to find other relatives that were living in Sunderland England. They landed in Liverpool and then went by train to Newcastle. When they asked for directions to Sunderland they were told "it was just a step down the road". It took them 12 hours to walk there. They settled in Sunderland at Bonners Field.
Here's a modern day map of how they may have gotten to Bonner's Field
Newcastle to Bonner's Field - even today, with modern roads and paving and no luggage etc, it still would take at least 4 hours to get there. Imagine having to do it in the 1850s!

Now to the apocryphal....
There are 3 stories I've actually heard about the children who refused to step foot on English soil and went o the USA. This first, above, is that it was sisters - one becoming a nun, the other a mortician. The second is that it was sisters - both becoming nuns. The last is that it was brothers and they became priests.

It is doubtful that I will ever find out what really happened, but I am going to put it to the "Casey cousins" I have found via smart matches on various genealogy websites and met when I was in the UK in 2010 (and the ones I'm going to meet in the USA this year). You never know, someone might even know what their names were.

Oddly enough, when I looked at my MyHeritage tree this week there was a new link against 2 of my Casey children - the link revealed a FamilySearch tree with a sibling called Honora who was born in Ireland in 1820 and died in New York in 1894. This could be our "lucky Irish" day and I might have a new ancestor (Honora the nun/mortician) - or I might not, as Honora was apparently born in 1820 - about 18 years before my oldest Casey child (Ann) which is a big gap. I sent a message to FamilySearch to see if I can contact the file creator as they don't list any source information for Honora. FamilySearch suggested I start a discussion on Honora as the file creator hasn't left an email address to be contacted publicly - so that's what I've done. As exciting as it would be to be able to add Honora to my tree, I'm going to wait and see if I get any response.

So what do I actually know about the Caseys? From their hard start in England, they did eventually "make it" - and their descendents ended up all around the world.

James Casey, his wife Mary, daughters Ann and Catherine and son Thomas are first found in the 1861 census living in Monkwearmouth Shore Sunderland:
Casey family in the 1861 Census - source FindMyPast.co.uk
Ann married John Rafferty in 1860. Unfortunately Ann passed away in about 1863 and her mother, Mary soon after in 1864 but Thomas and Catherine has good long lives.

Thomas married Maria Crine in 1868. They had at least 11 children - some of them migrated to the USA. One daughter even ended up in Bermuda!

Some of his descendents currently live in Baltimore USA, where co-incidentally some of my father's Scottish Dempsey relatives also live AND where I am planning to visit in November this year. Now I'm wondering if they know each other? How amazing would that be?

Here is a photo of Thomas Casey
Thomas Casey - photo courtesy of Sue Palfreyman


Catherine married Thomas Mullen in 1866 and they had at least 9 children. They are my great-great-grandparents. A number of their descendents ended up in Australia.


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