Irish immigrants from Australian records: the real keys to finding them in Ireland
Dr Perry McIntyre, historian and genealogist, 29 June 2011
HEIDI PRITCHARD: Good afternoon everybody. How lovely to see so many familiar faces. It’s lovely that so many people are comings to the whole series as opposed to one-off lectures, and I will admit that was one of the hopes we had for this series. My name is Heidi and I am part of the events team here at the National Museum of Australia. It’s my pleasure to welcome you today.
As you all know, these series of talks are linked to our Not Just Ned exhibition. The exhibition has been a lovely opportunity for us to link to the communities in Canberra, around the nation and around the world. We have made beautiful connections with the Irish community in Canberra and Australia. We have made great connections with the family history groups. It’s been nice to engage with the community in this way.
Our Not Just Ned exhibition has far exceeded our expectations in the visitor numbers, and we are really thrilled that you have enjoyed it as much as we have enjoyed putting the thing together.
Today I am pleased to present Dr Perry McIntyre. Perry has been involved in Irish history and genealogy since the late 1970s. She has professional qualifications in history. Her PhD on convict family reunions was published by the Irish Academic Press in late 2010. She has served on the History Council of New South Wales and was the President in 2005 and 2006.
She was a councillor of the Australian Society of Genealogists for 20 years and has also served as councillor on the Royal Australian Historical Society and the Australian Catholic Historical Society and is a current member of the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee. Goodness, how do you find the time, Perry? She has published and spoken extensively on immigration, particularly the nineteenth-century Irish. She has led or co-led nine successful tours to Ireland and currently works at St John’s College at the University of Sydney. She will also be one of the speakers at the [Irish history] conference on the weekend. I would like you to join me in welcoming Dr Perry McIntyre.
Dr PERRY McINTYRE: Thanks very much, Heidi. I will get straight into it because this talk could go on - although I am very much Australian born, I have embraced things Irish to the extent where I have a great deal of difficulty in stopping talking. Heidi and I met for the first time about an hour ago in the foyer but we have been firm email friends for about the last two months because I have been helping Dr Richard Reid, a friend of many of you in Canberra, with the abstracts and biographies. I will tell you as genealogists it’s easy - trying to get historians to write a paragraph about themselves or a concise note about what they are saying has been a difficult situation, but we have done it.
Today what I want to do is talk about Irish immigrants. Some of you, and I might have a show of hands, may have just started or thinking about starting doing your family history. Who would consider yourselves beginners? Others like me and Barbara Moore and Trish Downs (just because I know them) and many of the rest of you have been at it for many years. At it for so long we started our family histories when there were no births, death and marriage indexes in New South Wales even on microfiche - think about that. What that does for most of us who do genealogy and then many of us become professional historians or academic historians or whatever you like, but I consider that you are all historians - anyone who writes history is a historian, not necessarily a good one but a historian. From genealogy what we want to know are the sources. Today I am going to talk to you a little bit about sources, a little bit about Irish immigration in general and give you a quick romp about the place. At the end I will wheel out something quite exciting for question time.
I believe we have until about 1.30. If anyone feels the need to go to the loos or depart, do so. It will not worry me in the slightest if you get up and move around, shake your legs or whatever. It won’t distract me.
Irish immigration. There are many images of the Irish leaving home here in Australia - the National Museum here has some extremely good artwork of immigration not just from Ireland but other places - the leaving of home, if you like. It’s also been a theme in some of the exhibitions here and in various places around Canberra and the countryside.
This is one of the sort of well-known leaving of home images where you have the parish priest, the general people standing around, some of them are crying, there are children playing in the dirt and that kind of leaving home - they are all loading onto the wagon, the horse-drawn cart, to go somewhere, to depart Ireland. The house in the background is reasonably substantial in this case - it has a roof and a chimney. This is part of a series of the London Illustrated News from 1851 - 10 May 1851. Many of these images are now online but those of you who live here in Canberra are extremely fortunate you are able to go to the National Library and read the full transcripts of the articles around these images because the images. like many indexes, are just the thin end of the wedge of getting more detail about your immigrants.
I am talking New South Wales, there being no Canberra, ACT, in the nineteenth century. And many of the states were not created then. So we are talking about how they came. The first lot of Irish immigrants were the convicts and the military who came with them. I am not necessarily going to talk about those today, but you just need to be aware of them - the huge chain migration that links your earlier immigrants, either free, unassisted or convict, with subsequent generations is particularly strong in the Irish.
A great percentage of convicts transported from Ireland were from the province of Munster. In Richard Reid’s PhD [Farewell My Children: Irish Assisted Emigration to Australia 1848-1870], which has recently been published by Anchor Books Australia [www.anchorbooksaustralia.com.au] and is available here for sale, he states that a great number of the assisted immigrants that came from Ireland in the period he examined between 1848 and 1870 were also from Munster. It’s our suspicion as historians that some of those statistics relate to the family linkages, although often they are not proven unless you guys who do your family history can prove them - and sometimes you can.
We are then going to look a bit at free immigrant records [for free immigrants] coming to the Australian colonies from England and Ireland in particular. I want to talk very briefly about what was assisted immigration. It’s fairly obvious what ‘assisted’ is, they were helped in some way - almost entirely, in the case of Australia, by the colonial government. The Imperial or British government only helped the Famine orphan girls: the girls who came between 1848 and 1850 on those ships from the workhouses in Ireland sailing out of Plymouth were paid for by the British government.
How did it work; what was happening in Ireland; why did people leave and how? You always have to think about why they left and how they left. What we call in history the ‘push and pull’ factors. But the basic thing you need to understand is your records and as I mentioned before, when and why records were created. You are not going to find a baptism in Queensland before December 1859 because there is no such place. You might find people who were living in Moreton Bay, as Brisbane was then known, who were baptised, born or whatever in the colony of Moreton Bay but it was part of New South Wales. So you might need to look at both Queensland records as they have since become and New South Wales and subsequently.
Tasmania, or Van Diemen’s Land as we know it, was run separately from when convicts first started to arrive there in about 1803. I am talking in general but in fact very few Irish convicts were transported to Tasmania until after transportation stopped in New South Wales - in 1840, we say. However, there was a little scheme where men only were transported from England and Ireland - and Scotland to an extent - in 1848 and 1850, and they are commonly called ‘Exiles’. Some of those came also to Queensland who claim never to have had convicts. But if you left home under a sentence of transportation, I would say you were called a convict, would you not? Even if you got your ticket of leave or pardon immediately upon arrival. Those men were brought out as labourers. As bizarre as it may seem, more men were wanted in the colony by that period to help with building the infrastructure.
You need to understand why records were created.
I am going to do a very little bit of basic ‘how to’ here because I think it’s important. Even those who have been doing genealogy for a lot of years, sometimes it pays to go back and have a look at material that you may have got years and years ago. Most of us in this audience are over 21 and people think we are getting demented but we are not actually; we are getting smarter. Every day we get smarter because we get more experienced. You might look at a record that you bought from say births, deaths and marriages in the 1980s and think, ‘I now know what that means. I know what that column is telling me.’ I am sure many of you have had that experience. So your essential first steps for finding any immigrant, but your Irish in particular because the situation with records back there may be a bit more difficult for all manner of reasons, is you need to do your homework here.
Many of you, and me included, have been back to Ireland with materials, say a shipping record and a death certificate. You might go to a county and say, ‘I have this material about my ancestor from say county Clare and I know they are from this parish and I know they are from this town land and they left on this particular date, what more can you tell me?’ They look at you kind of blankly and say, ‘You are telling me more than we know here. You’ve got fantastic stuff. What more could you possibly know? You can stand on the spot from your Australian records.’
I am going to show you a couple of my own family records because I think that is a more legitimate way to go. This was my most recent first arrival [slide shown], my mother’s grandfather Matthew Michael McGlynn. From this death certificate you can see he was 37 years in New South Wales in the ‘how long in the colonies’ column and he was from Drumsna in county Roscommon. That makes it almost precisely 1879, but I couldn’t find him arriving, despite looking through lists and lists for many years. I will reveal the secret of how I found him at the end.
This is a beautiful typical death certificate that tells you how old he was and what he died of. But if you look at name and occupation of father and name and maiden name of mother - his surname is McGlynn, he’s a man, so his father is probably named McGlynn - the informant, who happens to be his Australian-born son, knew nothing else. But he does know where he is from in Ireland and he does know when he married, his wife’s name etc etc. The all-important thing being Drumsna, county Roscommon. So the death certificate of your first arrival.
The marriage certificate tells you a lot more often - not in this case [slide shown]. Father’s name, mother’s name and surname, father’s occupation - blank. Birthplace - not given. What did I do? Of course you do what we all do. We went to the Parkes Catholic Church parish registers, which don’t survive for 1883. So his marriage certificate is not informative as far as finding out about where he and indeed his English-born wife are from.
They had five children, and in true style I decided I would get all five certificates. So I started with the two oldest, and that didn’t help me particularly. So I went to the youngest one, and that didn’t help me, and worked my way back to the middle. It was the middle child of course, the last of the five certificates that I got, that actually helped but that’s the way of it.
Here is the birth of a child in 1888 [slide shown] and it’s quite useful. He’s the informant. All the way through he’s the informant, which is great about him. He’s [aged 38] and from ‘Alfin’. When I first got this certificate in 1990, which is frighteningly long after I started doing family history work in the late 1970s - I should have got it a long time ago - I couldn’t work out a place called ‘Alfin’. I tried my damnedest. Eventually when I got to know Ireland and the Roscommon / Leitrim border area, which is where he’s from, it turns out that it’s a Diocesan or parish name ELPHLIN, which is screamingly apparent once you know. Just the birth of another child [slide shown], not giving a terrible lot of information except that by the time this child is born in 1902 the youngest one, he’s a storekeeper and he’s 54 and from Roscommon – so just the basic stuff. You must do it.
In New South Wales there are transcription agents you can apply through to get transcripts of certificates. All three agents who are working at the moment are very good, but I strongly recommend that you get these original copies yourself because you are then able to interpret the information, as you get smarter.
Looking at Irish immigration pre the Famine of 1845. Just a few stats for you on the colony of New South Wales: in 1820, 54 per cent of the population of New South Wales was free. So that’s still right in the middle of convict transportation, but many of them are colonial-born by then and there are also some free immigrants paying their way, getting here in all other means, and there is also an earlier assisted immigration scheme to do with wives and families of convicts, which is what I did my thesis on. This was where men who were married before they left England and Ireland could apply, once they were at the ticket of leave or probation stage, for their families to come out free. And those families came out absolutely free to themselves too and they came on female convict ships. So many of them are tricky to find, because they are not listed on the indent of the convict ship because they are not convicts. But they are listed in other places. So you get free women and free children coming on those ships as well.
By 1830 the total population of New South Wales was 46,000; by 1836, 64 per cent of the population was free; and by 1850, on the doorstep of the Famine itself in Ireland, the population had reached 256,500. The Irish were particularly keen to take advantage of assisted schemes and, between 1832 and 1845, 30,000 Irish had emigrated to Australia. Between 1839 and 1845, more than half of the 46,500 immigrants to New South Wales were Irish. That’s an overview for that period.
If you break that down a bit, and we will just look at New South Wales at the moment because otherwise time will get me towards the end: between 1821 and 1900, there were a total of 258,000 immigrants to the colony and, of those, roughly just under 200,000 or 77 per cent were assisted. Into Queensland it’s 86 per cent. Of course your total numbers aren’t anything as large but it’s a much larger [percentage]. Queensland had its own immigration schemes as well, as did Victoria, and there were lots of little private schemes as well, which we will mention briefly in a minute. Overall the total of about 1.5 million came into the Australian colonies in that period, and half of them were assisted. But this varies over time as this slide shows you: in some years there was no assisted immigration. In the 1840s immigration had dropped off in Australia and was a lull period in assisted immigrants. [This had] nothing to do with the Famine in Ireland; it just happened to be a period when they were changing systems.
What you have to remember is that immigration to Australia was extremely well organised, and that’s why we have such brilliant records. The poor old Americans don’t have such good records. Partly because the distance was greater to Australia so, in order for people to survive the long voyage, they had to have it better organised. They were fed on board the ship; there were surgeons on board most ships; there were schools or a school master or mistress on board the ship; there were matrons; and it was very well regulated. There are thousands of these kinds of documents that vary over time [slide shown]. As residents of the ACT you are extremely fortunate to have the National Library sitting there. People, like me, who live in a major capital city that is not Canberra are also fortunate because we have the microfilm reels of the Australian Joint Copying Project. I will explain that in a minute to those who don’t know what that is.
That is the top page of a typical regulation [slide shown] and you can see the minute detail of everything that needs to be done in order to apply. When they got to Sydney, they were interrogated: who are you, who are your parents, where are you from, how old are you, did anyone help you? This is an image from the graphic in 1870 where they are being asked these questions when they arrive by the immigration agent [image shown]. This is the sort of detail that they provided. I hope all of you have at least one assisted immigrant because this detail is absolutely fabulous.
We will go across to the third family grouping there, Philip Malone, because it reveals quite a bit of information about the sort of terrific stuff you can find on your immigrant. He’s 40, he’s a farm labourer and he’s from New Ross in County Wexford. His parents are named, both dead. He’s Catholic, he could read and his wife had an uncle who was at the Williams River. There was an amount paid of £32 and 10 shillings – with RR in brackets. That’s under the Remittance Regulations where Mary Malone’s uncle paid a proportion of the passage in order to bring that family out - so to assist them out. As I said, that connection with people who are already here in the colony is extremely strong.
There is also a pound there under ‘AI Act’ which is the Australian Immigrant Act, which is another system that is working at the time where they were paid a certain amount of money. The other thing you will notice is the column of their religion and the column whether they could read or write. You will notice that the top guy can read, as can his wife Jane. The next one cannot read, Denis McNamara. His wife Mary could both read and write. Denis is one of the few older people there who can neither read nor write. The others being children. Patrick Malone could neither read nor write but then he was four years old. What that is telling you is the level of literacy in the Irish population after the National Education System came into Ireland in 1835 - a system that we in Australia later adopted.
The idea that the Irish were all ‘bog stupid’ - couldn’t read, couldn’t write and were totally destitute - is absolutely wrong. The other thing that these assisted immigrants and of course the ones that pay for themselves show is that they were not the destitute poorest of the poor. They had to have a kit of clothing to get on the boat, so they had to be able to afford some clothes. They also usually had to afford to be able to get to the port of departure. If you were from somewhere like north-west Donegal, you may have been lucky enough to sail out of somewhere like Derry or Belfast, but in the main the ships that came to Australia sailed from Cork until 1848 and after that they sailed from Plymouth or Portsmouth. So they had to be able to get across the Irish Sea. All these things you have to think about as well as how did they get to the port.
This is another one I like to briefly show you about the Keaton family on the Mangerton. When Paul Keating was the Prime Minister he was going for a visit to Ireland. The current ambassador here in Canberra at the time rang the Society of Genealogists and asked us if we could establish where in county Clare Paul Keating’s family were from so that, when he went on his formal official prime ministerial visit, they could take him to the spot. A quick couple of certificates and we found - Heather Garnsey, Keith Johnson and I did this in about a day - that the Keaton family as they were named which, when they were interrogated in the port, was the name that was written down by the agent, John Keaton - so it’s Keaton not Keating. It’s definitely the right family because of the grouping of John and Mary and all their children and they were from Tynagh in Galway, which is a tiny little place in Galway. There is now a plaque in the cemetery in Tynagh where there are lots and lots of Keatings, but we and they couldn’t establish from parish registers exactly whether the family is buried there with this family. Paul Keating was able to stand on that tiny spot, which is one of those little villages that basically has a general store and a pub and not much more, so he knows that’s where they are from.
It’s good to show you the spelling: do not get yourself locked in to how one spells one’s name, because even in Ireland now people will often not be particularly strict about how their names are spelt, particularly maybe in the West if they are Irish speaking it doesn’t matter within a little variation quite how one spells one’s name because you know who you are.
The other part of the organisation is there were immigration agents throughout England, Ireland and Scotland who vetted the immigrants at the port, showed them the regulations and made sure that, if the regulations at the time said that the men had to be under 30, they weren’t 70. There are some variations in ages. At some times the parish priest was not able to ascertain precisely who you are, precisely your age, and there are some variations. There are a few ‘corruptions’, shall we say, where someone may have taken on someone else’s shipping permission - but it is pretty rare.
This guy [image shown] was part of a Huguenot family in Cork that now seem to have died out almost completely, John Besnard being the man’s name spelt BESNARD - often in Cork still pronounced as Bes-nard - and very much involved in the immigration committee and in things going on in Cork. That’s a beautiful image from Rex Nan Kevil here in the National Library.
I want to read you a little bit about the voyage because they often say that the voyage across the Irish Sea was the worst. I will read a bit of part of the Select Committee’s report of 1854 printed in British Parliamentary Papers:
However, back to the organisation. This is the government immigrant’s mess room[image shown]: on the left-hand side on the wall Scottish immigrants and on the other side the Irish immigrants. They were divided for messing. But once they were on the boat, such a division was not so strict. On the single female ships they did try to put girls from the same counties together so they had some sort of friendship, companionship, if not relationship, on the voyage and at least a familiarity with accents. Some of your Scots and Irish may well have been only Gaelic speaking or barely English speaking, especially in the early period of the nineteenth century.
How did they get to the port? By the 1840s there was a reasonably good rail system in Ireland that would bring you around to the major ports of departure. This is the opening of the Mallow railway station in County Cork in March 1849 [image shown]. You can see it’s quite a substantial building with a huge crowd of people there about to get on the train. One of the railway stations at Gould’s Cross in County Tipperary is where many of the immigrants who came out of County Tipperary would have got on the train. This is the railway station as it stands today [image shown]. It’s now a private house but the building itself, apart from having windows and doors and someone privately living in it, would have changed little from the mid-nineteenth century when these stations were built.
The other way they got to the port of departure was by ‘car’. You sometimes see in reports that they went by car or coach. This is one of Bianconi’s ‘cars’ so-called [image shown]. He was an Italian immigrant who started the Cobb and Co. of Ireland, if you like, and people paid a certain proportion of money to go all over Ireland but also to ports of departure. This may well be your immigrant family sitting there. I doubt many of ours would have been wearing the top hats but nevertheless…. a typical family being taken somewhere.
Again the organisation, as I said, transportation to New South Wales ceased in 1840 but there were convicts in the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney – now a museum that is well worth a visit to when you are in Sydney - until the first shipload of Famine orphan girls arrived in Sydney in 1848 when they suddenly thought ‘Hang on we have 250 single women here, what are we going to do with them?’ They stayed on board the boat for a little while, while they organised for them to go to the Barracks. So the few convict men that were still there were quickly moved out, and the women were put there so they were protected both from the prying eyes of the public and it gave them an opportunity to get their feet, if you like. It was from there that they were hired out and there was an agreement or indenture for up to three years, between one and three years, for them to go and work for someone within the colony. [Image shown] Here you have the girls milling around at the top and then at the bottom two girls hugging saying. ‘Goodbye Mary’, and then signing their agreements. Those agreements, by the way, could be voided when the girls got married.
This is a typical agreement that was signed [slide shown]: ‘This day between Edward King at Wallalong near Morpeth and Michael Ryan - admittedly it’s a guy but the women signed these too - from the Ocean Empress so he’s an assisted immigrant and he’s signing up to be a labourer at £30 per annum. Unfortunately they don’t survive for everyone but they are in the Colonial Secretary’s correspondence in the archives in the State Records of New South Wales in Sydney. But for you driving up to Sydney, Kingswood is the place to go. It’s not only closer than Globe Street in Sydney but it’s also where all the original records are stored. Globe Street these days only has microfilm material, so Kingswood is the place to go. And you can order those pre-visit these days.
So there are various schemes as I have mentioned before: the convicts being considered the first assisted immigrants, roughly 160,000 - that varies but only by a thousand and or two here and there – and approximately a third are Irish. While I am talking of convicts and Irish convicts - one of your own, part of whom is in the audience - Peter Mayberry and Trish Downs have together done a terrific website of Irish convicts. It’s really very good. [http://members.pcug.org.au/~ppmay/cgi-bin/irish/irish.cgi] If you Google “Peter Mayberry Convicts” you get it up very quickly. Trish Downs here in the front row has done a lot of the computer work for that. It’s a marvellous way in. But don’t forget to look at the original records yourselves as well, which are housed in State Records of New South Wales, but here in the National Library on microfilm you have available the convict indents.
As I mentioned before, there are the wives and families of convicts, which is officially gazetted in 1817 and runs through to the end of transportation in New South Wales. Then through the lobbying of Caroline Chisholm to her friend Earl Grey in London the scheme starts again between 1848 and 1852 and also operates in the other colonies that had transportation, such as Van Diemen’s Land and Western Australia. By 1852 the Remittance Regulations come in, and anyone in the colony could put down a proportion of the fare and help their families out so they dumped these sorts of schemes.
There are free single women who are encouraged to come to the colony as domestic servants and marriage partners. Around 3,500 of them come between 1832 and 1836 to New South Wales and Tasmania. About a third of those are Irish. Dr Liz Rushen from Melbourne and I have done three books on those girls published by Anchor Books Australia [www.anchorbooksuastralia.com.au] which are available for sale [Fair Game, Quarantined! The 1837 Lady Macnaghten Immigrants and The Merchant’s Women] in the exhibition part of the Museum. We will see if we can do something about getting them in the normal bookshop as well so you don’t have to pay to go into the exhibition to buy a book which seems to me a bit peculiar but there you go. We have written about those girls, how the scheme started and how long it went, with some biographies of the women as much as possible. At least one or two of you in this audience will no doubt have a single girl that came under that scheme.
Then various families came out under various regulations at different periods. That sounds glib but the regulations, like today for immigration, change almost with the breeze. And certainly with the change of politics both in Australia and in the UK the schemes changed. People like the Reverend JD Lang had a scheme going. Admittedly he was trying to get Scots immigrants out to prevent all these horrible Irish coming so he brought quite a number of Scottish immigrants out. Sydney Herbert’s needlewomen were also English. But I am just giving you those examples because there were small privately run schemes the entire nineteenth century. Others were the Nottingham lacemakers, and of course Earl Grey’s workhouse orphan scheme.
Another was the Donegal relief scheme ran in the late 1850s for people from Donegal, and I will get to that in a minute.
Children of bounty immigrants - there was a bounty immigration scheme where settlers could pay a certain amount of money to get out perhaps agricultural labourers, dairy maids or some form of worker that they particularly wanted for their business so they paid a bounty or a proportion of money for those people to come. When the people arrived in Australia and were interrogated at the port of arrival, much like the previous slides of the girls being asked where they came from, if they were deemed suitable then the money was reimbursed to those settlers from the Land Fund.
And then as I mentioned there are the Remittance Regulations.
The South Australian Company was formed. South Australia had its own immigration.
For any of you who’ve immigrants that go into Queensland, Queensland is quite complicated in a sense. Because of the huge coastline they had immigration into Cairns, Maryborough, Moreton Bay (Brisbane) all the way up the coast with different schemes. And some of those records don’t survive very well. There was a flood in the archives in 1974 and also other floods have happened and various records have been destroyed in Queensland. It is not only the tale about a fire in the Four Courts in Ireland which is apocryphal [false] in a sense because not all the records of Ireland were destroyed in that fire, but all of us have had some form of destruction. Even in these current floods [January 2011] there have been archives destroyed or damaged and I am sure in Christchurch there was some damage done to the records as well. We can protect our records to an extent but not from acts of God - sometimes.
One of the best books on an overview of immigration was written in 1982 by Helen Woolcock called Rights of Passage: emigration to Australia in the nineteenth century is a great book on Queensland immigration. For example, Bishop Quinn in Queensland chartered a ship called the Erin-go-Bragh in 1862 which was a Black Ball vessel - many of the Black Ball vessels came into Queensland - it was one of the nastiest voyages in that period into the east coast of Australia. It took 196 days including 14 days to cross the Irish Sea which, from what I read to you before, would not have been a good start. But remember almost all of the ships came fairly easily and unharmed. These nasty voyages are the ones that are remembered because us human beings like to remember the bad things.
I mentioned the wives and families of convicts scheme. How I got into that is I was working as a professional genealogist at the time years ago and I kept getting clients who had immigrants come under this scheme. I discovered these absolutely brilliant applications that the married convict had to fill in when he applied for his family [slide shown]. It gives you his name, the convict ship he arrived on, his sentence and then he signs it. I think in many cases it’s the man himself’s signature but of course, like all things, it’s hard to know whether it’s the clerk or whether it’s him. Then it has to be certified by his employer so you know who he works for and that this guy had been employed by William Bellamy from June 1824, and then it’s countersigned by a clergyman or magistrate.
What I like about this is you know how we talk about the religious divide between those ‘dreadful’ Catholic Irish and the rest of the good Protestant establishment Church of England church in Australia in the early colony. Here John Sullivan’s application is signed by nonetheless than the Reverend Samuel Marsden, the top Church of England person in the colony and John Joseph Therry, the top Catholic priest in the colony at the time. And Greg Blaxland, of across the Blue Mountains fame, who was also a JP. So these mere convicts were known to the top boys in the colony as well, if only in passing. Maybe he went to church at one or other of these - we are not quite sure why he knows them - or lives in that area. But it puts paid to that whole religious divide idea. I think it’s why Australians in the main are fairly racially and religiously tolerant. Some of you will leap up and say, ‘No, they’re not. I have had a terrible time.’ But in the main we are either reasonably tolerant or we are totally apathetic and we don’t give a monkey’s.
On the second page of these forms [slide shown] there is John Sullivan on the Mariner in 1827, sentence seven years. Wife’s maiden name Ellen Ready. This is a convict who comes whose wife you may never know her maiden name except from this form. Where is she? She is in County Kerry. Where in County Kerry? She is in Tralee. But she’s not just in Tralee, she’s at Roland Edgar’s. So you know not only the dot on the map but the house in which she’s living and working - and her children. She’s got one son Timothy who is five. Then the people in the local area who can identify her say yes that is definitely Mary Sullivan whose husband is transported. So you have local history on the ground in Ireland. They are absolutely fabulous.
Then when they arrive, this is a group of convicts’ wives who arrived on the Sir Joseph Banks [slide shown]. At the top is the wife’s name Jane O’Brien and she has five children with her; her husband is Thomas who came on the Isabella. He is a stone setter and holds his TL, his ticket of leave, in Sydney. Lovely material about your free and convict ancestor combined here.
The despatches that were sent back to London and on to perhaps John Besnard in Cork or some guy in Scotland or Lynch in Tipperary summarises that material [slide shown]. You have William Burbridge who came on the Elizabeth, his wife is Frances and the details about her and who recommends her. That goes back so that they can then try to find this person in that case in Worcestershire or in the next one in Duallagh or in Cork. Interestingly with that third one, the recommendation is HB Hayes, who is Henry Browne Hayes, who himself later happens to come on a convict ship as a convict.
I talked very briefly about the female immigration scheme and the books that Liz Rushen and I have been working on. That is the cover of the one that is the overview of the two pilot ships: the Red Rover sailed out of Cork with Irish girls to Sydney and the Princess Royal sailed out of England to Tasmania. It was to test run how this scheme would work. The number of 2703 weren’t on just those two ships but on the whole female immigration scheme in that period 1832 to 1836.
The bounty scheme that I vaguely mentioned before was to bring tradesmen and mechanics. They had to have character references, proof of age, and the settler who wanted workers paid the immigrant’s passage or part thereof. On arrival they were examined by a Board. If the Board was satisfied with the immigrant, then they were issued a certificate, and the sponsor could then claim back his money from the government Land Fund, and the agents like Besnard were involved.
In that period, and again this costing changes slightly over time, it costs roughly £30 for a man and wife under 30 years, ?15 for each single female aged between 15 and 30 with the approval of the settler or the agent and under the protection of a married couple, often their parents but sometimes other approved people, maybe a young married couple who had no children of their own. They had to stay with the family or somewhere safe until they were provided for. It cost ?10 for each unmarried male between 18 and 30 with roughly equal numbers of males and females. They didn’t want to get the balance of the sexes skew whiff. And ?5 for a child aged over one year.
Under that scheme because of some disaster they had had on previous voyages, such as the Lady Macnaghten in 1837 had a lot of young children on board. It had 414 people on board and 77 died either on the voyage or in quarantine at North Head in Sydney after the voyage because there were so many little children on board who died from things like typhoid and measles that spread rapidly through the population. Most of the deaths were either young children or their mothers, so it was in that period they changed the regulations so you couldn’t bring too many children under a certain age.
Under this bounty scheme that happened a bit later, some of the children of bounty immigrants were left behind in Ireland. So they then brought in another scheme later in the period to bring the children of bounty immigrants. It’s the children of bounty immigrants that were then sometimes palled up with newly young married couples so that they could then too come out and join their families. That’s what I mean about there being a lot of little schemes that happen throughout the whole nineteenth century.
The problem with the bounty scheme - and I am using the bounty scheme of any assisted immigration scheme; it may well even be the same today - was that settlers complained that not all the immigrants knew the trade that they had claimed. They might have said they were good at ploughing but they had no idea how to hitch up a plough to a horse - that kind of a thing - and you couldn’t prove it once they were at the dock. Not many settlers had the money to pay the agents in the UK or Ireland or to act for them; the checks on the system were minimal; the ship owners sometimes adjusted the arrangements; and the agents in Ireland and England were criticised for creating false impressions of a wonderful life in New South Wales. So they scrapped it.
Records for the bounty scheme - where I give you a State Records of New South Wales [microfilm] reel, most of these commonly available records were part of the old genealogical research kit. I am not sure whether they have changed the name of that, but it’s the material that is microfilmed from State Records of New South Wales and is available to you guys in the National Library and maybe also at HAGSOG. There is a great CD-ROM done by Marj Knight - none some of us seem to know who she is but she did a fabulous job on this - that has the bounty immigrants indexed and was published by Macbeth Services [Bounty immigration New South Wales : 1828-1842]. That’s scanned and available on States Records website now. They have quite a lot of material that is up there, but most of it is indexes. You must look at either the microfilm material of the full record or put it down on your little list to do when you go to Sydney or to Queensland or to New Zealand or wherever you need to go to look at the original stuff.
The Colonial Secretary’s records were indexed by Joan Reese, who was a great friend of me personally and genealogy in general who died a couple of years ago. Joan went every Monday to State Records and indexed the Colonial Secretary’s records. State Records did a bicentennial project for 1788 to 1825 that’s available on their website and also on fiche around the traps. But Joan indexed from 1826 to 1895-96. The index is available on microfiche and is well worth looking at. The only thing I would criticise it for - and she agreed with that but it’s she called it in the beginning and couldn’t then change its name - is it’s called ‘Convicts and others’, so you might think ‘I haven’t got a convict - I am not looking at this index’. She read through the page of every single letter and pulled out Mary Murphy per Red Rover and gave you the reference numbers in the State Records for it.
Check before you head to Sydney to look at those original records whether they are microfilmed, and you can look at them here or in Wellington or where ever. You don’t want to have to go somewhere when you could stay home. You want to use your time when you go there for things you can’t look at at home. I remember a story when I was doing my PhD about a girl who had got a grant from the university that she was at to go to Ireland to look at material that was here in the National Library on microfilm - I rest my case.
There is also the government scheme that runs from 1838 to 1841-2 selected by agents. Governor Richard Bourke sent three agents: Alick Osborne, who settled with his family and brothers in the Shoalhaven district, was an Ulsterman. He brought out a lot of Irish people and they settled in those areas not just Ulsterman. He went to Omagh, Tyrone as an agent. There is quite a pocket of immigrants from that area in Ireland that come in this period. And of course Besnard in Cork.
From 1848 onwards the Colonial Land Emigration Commissioners and the Remittance Regulations took over and, because it was so organised and supervised and therefore generated documents, there is a lot of material available.
For those of you who haven’t been to Sydney to see the Famine orphan monument at Hyde Park Barracks, this is the side wall of Hyde Park Barracks [image shown]. You can glimpse the red brick building behind it, which is the wall of the barracks itself where the girls were housed. This wall - I don’t know whether Heritage would allow it these days, but this section of the wall was all to all intents and purposes removed and rotated on its axis. In the panels list artistically the name of the Famine orphan girls but not all of them are listed there. And no, if you have a girl and there’s not a name listed there, you can’t have her listed there. It’s an artistic instalment. These girls’ names are representative of all the Famine orphan girls that came out of the workhouses but they are also representative of all of our Irish immigrants that came.
More importantly these days, this committee [Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee] has an outreach programme that donates money towards a prize for a girl - and we have left it just a girl; I know it’s sexist - at Macquarie University who has written an honours essay or thesis about some aspect of poverty, immigration, refugee or destitution. So it’s fairly broad. It’s not a lot of money but it’s just an encouragement to a student. A second scheme is at the University of Western Sydney where $20,000 was donated to start a bursary, ultimately a scholarship, to sustain a girl at that university who came to Australia either as a refugee herself or with a family who were refugees. The third scheme is at Mamre in St Mary’s, which is not far from the Kingswood repository, which is currently run by the Sisters of Mercy and has a lot of Sudanese refugee women and children - families - where they are teaching these women and families to self-sustain. So there is some money that goes into that. Any donations you may make through that website, [http://www.mamre.com.au/support/ ] goes straight to that fund and they are tax deductible.
The idea of that is to keep this psyche of the Famine orphan girls that come out of Ireland in 1848-50 as a reminder that they may have some of the first immigrants that fled their home because of economic, persecution or famine or destitution or religious persecution. It’s a great way to keep the memory of those alive and keep it sustained into the future.
The Donegal relief scheme brought Irish immigrants out of north-west Donegal - at that stage one of the most marginal areas in Europe on the coastal fringe. The main areas affected were Gweedore and Cloghaneely (some of the first townlands I learnt to say properly) and the village of Derryveagh on the north-western shore of Gartan Lough. In summary, all these things are much more complicated than you can say in a quick lecture - I could probably talk about this alone for an hour – but it was basically caused by a landlord system where the payment of rents were combined with tiny plots of land, which generation after generation was split down the families so that tenants could neither eke a living out of nor pay their rent. So many were evicted as the landlords tried to rejoin their properties to make them viable. In the 1850s most were Gaelic speaking and even today it’s an Irish speaking Gaeltacht area of Ireland.
There are a few main ships to New South Wales in 1859. Some of you may have immigrants on them that brought these Donegal immigrants. The Sapphire, the Lady Elma Bruce, the Caribou, the Nile and the Abyssinian were some of the major ships that brought immigrants in that period.
For all immigration, and I am talking New South Wales because we are talking early nineteenth century and it’s basically New South Wales, there are: immigration agents lists; immigration boards lists; and entitlement certificates - all of these give you details about your Irish immigrants. There are also immigration deposit ledgers that note down when people put down the certain amount of money like the Remittance Regulations. So John Brown might have put down some money to bring out Mary Murphy and her brothers and sisters. A ledger for the period between 1856 and 1896 that survives. But the indexes of these immigration deposit ledgers were done by Pat Stemp and Aileen Trinder, as she was then [http://www.pastkeys.com.au/ourindexes.html]. You might know these two girls as Pastkeys. They have been furiously indexing for many years and have done some fabulous ways of getting us in to this material.
Ships papers survive for some ships in State Records or in other places in England. Other records include: correspondence between the New South Wales immigration department from 1847 onwards; records of Colonial and Immigration Commissioners from 1840 onwards; and various immigration records related records of the Colonial Office. The Colonial Office was in London. The records for that are housed at Kew, England. But for us in Australia we are extremely fortunate there was a microfilming project that started post-World War II where they microfilmed material relating to Australia that is sitting in England and in some cases in Ireland. [The project microfilmed records] not just in Kew but also in some of the county record offices. It’s not terribly well indexed or organised. If you have a period of time that you are looking at, the Australian Joint Copying Project handbooks are available in the National Library for you to look at. You can troll through and maybe find there might be some Colonial Office records in say 1840, which might be the period that your immigrants came. It’s well worth you sitting there having a day just turning the microfilm reel through that period to look for them. It’s absolutely brilliant. Unfortunately, these are now ceased.
I spoke about the Irish being educated. This is a typical mid-nineteenth century schoolhouse [image shown] in the west of Ireland, in Clare just up the hill out of Liscannor as you climb the Cliffs of Moher. It’s now a private house so it’s a bit more tarted up than it may have been then but it’s very typical. On the left-hand side are the boys, on the right-hand side are the girls and the teacher goes in the middle. A typical little schoolhouse but they are all over Ireland still - and sometimes still in use, I think. I wanted to remind you about the ‘read and write’ column that I have already talked to you about.
This is a register [slide shown] for the national schoolhouse on the Blasket Islands which is way in the west of Ireland - next stop America almost – and no longer permanently occupied. It just shows you the children going in there in 1893: a child John Kearney aged seven, Thomas Crohan aged six, and a couple of other kids and that they are going to school. Some of these registers still exist. Terry Eakin, who is a genealogist in Sydney, has a strong affiliation with Ulster and has been collecting material on school records. He does an All Ireland Sources Newsletter which you can download for free, whether you are a member or not, from the Society of Australian Genealogists website [http://www.sag.org.au]. He has indexed each year so you get 12 volumes, one for each month, and then at the end of the year you get an index. It is well worth looking at what Terry has done on that.
Here are a few little extra hints: look everywhere, newspapers online. Any of us who live anywhere in Australia must have your National Library readers ticket so you can go online and look at newspapers online [http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper] including nineteenth-century newspapers online. It is a pay to use website which, if you have your National Library readers ticket you don’t have to pay, you can just go on there. It’s a little bit about that horrible ad for Ancestry, ‘You don’t need to know what you’re looking for, you just have to look.’ You DO need to know what you are looking for. I am not sure - with an Irish friend in the front row who I will introduce you to in a second and our Kiwi mate up the back - whether you have to be an Australian resident but I don’t think so. If you have a National Library readers ticket from Australia, they are not really going to know whether you are going online from Wellington or Dublin.
Finally I will end up with my Matthew Michael McGlynn who I couldn’t find. There he is at the bottom of an unassisted shipping list in 1879 coming on the City of London. You say to me, ‘How do you know M McGlynn is him?’ I didn’t. Until an index at the Public Records Office of Victoria, PRO Victoria, indexed the passengers who are unassisted - in other words, who paid their own way - that came to Victoria from British foreign and New Zealand ports between 1852 and 1923. This ship left Portsmouth, sailed to Adelaide, a few people got off; it sailed to Melbourne, a few people got off. In Melbourne they did a list of who was on board and here he is here: Michael – Mich, skyed ‘l’ - McGlynn, a joiner aged 30. In the final column you can see all those people were heading to Sydney. It’s the only place. I would never have known from that and these other guys McGuire, Silverwood and Gannon who were there and have their full names, who he was. So my advice is: look everywhere.
A final where to look - you wouldn’t expect one of your respectable Irish immigrant girls who come out of a workhouse or somewhere else in the middle of the nineteenth century to appear in a gaol register. I will show you one [image shown].
Think about the landscape from which they came. That’s the Ring of Kerry from the air reasonably recently [image shown]. Every one of those little fields may well have been the one field where your ancestor farmed and lived before the Famine. The landscape of Ireland changed radically because of deaths and immigration.
Just keep in mind that the population pre Famine was about eight million, they estimated. It is still not back to that, even with the ‘celtic tiger’ which has currently lulled a bit, the population of the whole of Ireland, Ulster and Northern Ireland included, is still only around five million. The landscape changed hugely. Use your maps pre and post Famine.
That shows you the marginal land in the west of Ireland [image shown], at Connemara in the west of Galway. That little tiny remainder of a building may well be your ancestral home. The scars on the landscape are left from the lazy beds where they planted the potatoes in among the rocks. Every tiny piece of arable land grew potato as the subsistence crop. That’s why Ireland was so affected by the Famine. The blight was also in Europe and England, but because Ireland was basically a subsistence one crop country at the time, that’s why it was so affected. Again it’s simplistic: there were pockets that were not affected.
Think about the house that your ancestor may have lived in. Was it something like this? The O’Brien’s house at Lemanagh castle in Clare [image shown]. Maybe. That’s where you can track back your family history to perhaps. Was it somewhere like that? Probably more plausible. That is in Cloughaneely [image shown]. These are brilliant pictures from the National Library in Dublin that are on online.
There’s your family [image shown] but they are reasonably well clothed. They may be bare footed but they are not in total tatters. Their house has a roof and indeed that house has a window with glass in it. Or was it more just a hovel - in Australian terms perhaps a bark hut or shelter like some of the Aborigines used to have. But remembering the climate in Ireland is somewhat less warm than Australia, although the west of Ireland in winter may not have been as bitter as Canberra in winter. I have never been as cold in winter ever in my life as Wellington, New Zealand.
Or were they from somewhere like this? This is quite a substantial house [image shown] - good roof, tied down roof, glass in the windows, substantial walls, probably relatively easy enough to warm with a fire in there and your cow and pig to help warm it.
To end with the photographic gaol books: these are indexed online but they are unfortunately not indexed by anything except the name. For those in genealogy the name may well be good enough, but then you have to go and look at these in the State Records of New South Wales out at Kingswood.
[Image shown] Here is Marian Blake in 1872 in gaol. She is born in Dublin in 1843 and she comes on the ship the Champion of the Seas in 1862. She is a Protestant, she can read and write and there she is looking quite respectable, I thought, but she seems to have a rather swell in her belly there, and indeed she’s in there for prostitution. So the poor darling is probably very pregnant and has no other way of supporting herself by committing some form of crime which gets her into gaol.
The other one Mary Anne Young is on the Thomas Arbuthnot, which doesn’t have a ‘Sir’ in the real ship name. She was a Famine orphan girl that came in 1850, and by 1872 she is in gaol having committed manslaughter.
I would like to end there. Don’t feel you have to run away. I know the time is ticking by but I am quite happy to answer questions. On Monday evening a close friend of mine Joan Kavanagh from Ireland arrived in Sydney. I bundled her into the car this morning. In fact she got me awake and we came down to be involved in this conference and for me to do this lecture today. Joan is quite happy to help answer questions. She spent, as she said for her sins, some time in the Wicklow gaol, which was the headquarters of the heritage centre in county Wicklow. She knows her genealogy well. I will finish there. If some of you have to leave, do so, but we are quite happy to answer questions. Don’t forget to use your ticket to go and see the Not Just Ned exhibition and please come and join us at the conference, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Thanks. [applause]
References mentioned during talk:
Irish history online http://www.nma.gov.au/irish/ Irish Studies Conference program (audio of plenary sessions to come)
State Records of New South Wales http://www.records.nsw.gov.au/state-archives/indexes-online
National Library of Australia www.nla.gov.au
Society of Australian Genealogists website http://www.sag.org.au
The Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra Inc. (HAGSOG) http://www.hagsoc.org.au/
Immigration deposit ledgers - Pastkeys - http://www.pastkeys.com.au/ourindexes.html
Anchor Books Australia www.anchorbooksaustralia.com.au
Mamre, St Mary’s http://www.mamre.com.au/support/
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Date published: 11 July 2011