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Whence They Came: Irish Origins From pre 1900 New Brunswick Death Notices

Book a pot of gold for researching Irish roots

Cliff and I removed our very muddy rubber boots and left them at the door in the outside kitchen before going in to visit Gram. Mum had warned us not to track mud through the house. Only thing was, we took a shortcut by the Giant's Grave and I misjudged the distance when jumping the ditch, went in over the top of my boots and now had really wet socks and feet. Fortunately a pair of Aunt Sadie's slippers was there so I slipped my feet into them.

Gram had little to say as she sat in her chair, concentrating on crocheting a tablecloth. It seemed to me she had been working on this project and then putting it away for weeks at a time for as long as I could remember.

When Aunt Sadie brought us doughnuts and milk, Gram ceased working and joined us for the lunch.

I had heard her mention the tablecloth was for the dining-room table which would seat at least 20 people.

To make conversation and act grown up, I asked, "How long have you been working on the tablecloth?"

She thought for a moment and replied, "I started it when Gordon was in Grade 1 and have been working on it off and on ever since, but someday I'll get it finished."

Since Gord was a lot older than I was, she certainly had worked on it for a lot of years.

Speaking of working on a project for many years, let me tell you about Peter Murphy, who, as a Grade 12 student at Saint John High School in 1981, began reading the New Brunswick newspapers on microfilm and extracting the death notices identifying a specific place of origin in Ireland. He continued this research over the years and by 2009 had nearly 3,000 items for the 483-page book 'Whence They Came: Irish Origins From pre 1900 New Brunswick Death Notices', published in February 2010.

Peter gave me a real eye-opener in his introduction, with his explanation of the terminology and customs of saying goodbye to a loved one. Often a death notice would say, "survived by a large circle of friends and acquaintances." I did not know friends meant relatives.

The vast majority of Irish-New Brunswick wakes took place in the family home. Relatives were invited to attend but actually were expected to be there to support the grieving family.

Many death notices close with a request that "Boston or Philadelphia or even Cork papers please copy." One would assume this is family or friends of the deceased residing - or thought to be residing - in or near those places would know of the death.

Peter told me that what sets this collection apart is that it presents authoritative sources in their original format and with enough detail to serve as a certain link to other relevant records.

"This work has been organized with a view to maximizing the value of its genealogical content, with 32 chapters: one for each of the counties of Ireland," he says.

The death notices included in a given chapter are arranged in alphabetical order. A complete surname index is provided at the back of the book.

"Compared to the death notices or obituaries with which contemporary readers are familiar, most of these death notices are remarkably brief," he says.

Most note only the name of the deceased. In the case of married women, they would ordinarily include only the married surname, the date of death, the cause or duration of the final illness, the age at death, the place of birth in Ireland, the length of residence in the city or town of residence (or the province), some reference to survivors, the funeral arrangements, and, in some instances, a request that newspapers in communities nearby or far away "copy."

"As the 19th century wore on, there was an increased likelihood that a more extensive obituary would appear," he says.

"More than 250,000 Irish immigrants passed through the ports of New Brunswick during the half-century from the close of the Napoleonic Wars to Canadian Confederation in 1867."

There are many interesting and informative death notices, such as:

* February 2, 1874, The Daily Telegraph, Saint John, New Brunswick In Portland, on Saturday morning, 31st ult., Mr. JOHN ADAMS, aged 64 years, a native of the County Antrim, Ireland and a resident of this place for 31 years. He leaves a wife and five children and a large circle of friends to mourn their loss. Funeral this day (Monday), from his late residence, Hazen street, Portland, at half-past 2 o'clock, p.m. Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend.

* May 22, 1888, Saint John Globe, Saint John, New Brunswick At Hampton, on the 18th inst., John Smith, a native of Columbkill, County Longford, Ireland, in the 82nd year of his age. (Boston papers please copy.)

* April 9, 1897, Saint John Globe, Saint John, New Brunswick AN OLD RESIDENT - Mr. Patrick Reynolds, father of Michael Reynolds, of this city, died at Barnesville on Thursday in his 78th year, after three or four months' illness. Mr. Reynolds came from Roscommon, Ire., over 50 years ago, and since that time has farmed at Barnesville, where he was highly respected by his neighbours. His wife and 10 children - six sons and four daughters - survive him. Two of his sons are in eastern Pennsylvania and one is in Boston, where two of the daughters also live. The remainder of the family live in this province. Mr. Reynolds was a staunch Liberal in politics.

* October 15, 1849, The Gleaner, At Chatham, on the 29th September, Mrs. MARGARET HOWE, aged 73 years. She was a native of Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, Ireland, and emigrated to this country in the year 1836. She was a faithful and consistent member of the Baptist Church for upwards of 50 years. She died in peace. Canada papers please copy.

'Whence They Came: Irish Origins From pre 1900 New Brunswick Death Notices' by Peter D. Murphy was published by Global Heritage Press in Feb 2010.

For more information visit its website at

By the way the book is also available on CD, where you can search the entire record by any word.

Those of us who are researching our Irish roots give a round of applause to Peter Murphy for the pot of gold of Irish information he has given us.

If you wish to send Peter a message, his email is 

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Query 1718
Manaton - Would like to correspond with any descendants of Sampson Manaton, who was a native of Devonport, England, born there in 1797, migrated to New Brunswick in 1825. In 1838, a group of 25 men, women and children of Portland and Saint John were going berry picking up the St. John River. While rowing through the smaller passage in the Falls the boat struck on Hunt's Rock and capsized. Sampson Manaton was one of the six who survived. His wife and four children and 14 of the others were drowned. In 1841 he remarried to Miss Ann Thompson. His death occurred at age 57 in 1854, leaving a wife and seven children.

Contact Ron Hill at

Query 1719
Francis - Waggoner: Thomas Francis was born about 1790 in Scotland, immigrated to Nova Scotia and married Electa Waggoner. Looking for connection to Scotland and names of siblings and parents. Thomas was possibly officer in the War of 1812. Son Foster Francis born about 1821, raised family in Harrietsville, Ont.<>

Contact J. Francis at

Query 1720
Patterson - McWhirter - Hourihan - MacDonald: Joseph Patterson born Aug. 14, 1837 in Nova Scotia to William and Elizabeth Patterson; married Mary S. McWhirter from Sand River, N.S. in 1863 and they had five children: Laura 1864, Ellen 1865, Aldana 1869, John 1871 and Henrietta 1872. Mary died Jan. 31,1873 of heart failure and Joseph remarried June 8, 1873 to Mary MacDonald and they had one child Annie who died as an infant in 1874. Aldana Patterson married John Hourihan of Wards Creek Kings Co., N.B.

Contact  Aldene Hourihan-Gionet at 

Query 1721
McGovern - Shannon: Peter McGovern married Jan. 6, 1840 Mary Ann Shannon with witnesses Simon McGrath and Mary McGovern. Their children were Hugh, John, Mary Ann, Susanah, James, Thomas Peter and Margaret. I am seeking the place of birth in Ireland, his parents, siblings, date of entry into New Brunswick and who may have come to New Brunswick with Peter McGovern.

Contact Katherine Zymbroy at

Query 1722
White - Brass: I am looking for any information on the parents of Thomas White, born 1737 in possibly New York, died 1816 in St. Mary's Parish, New Brunswick. He married Dorothy Brass in Hempstead, Queen's County New York in 1761. He belonged to Cameron's Company, New York Volunteers during the Revolutionary War and was evacuated from Long Island to Saint John, New Brunswick in 1783.

Contact Ivan White at

Query 1723
Watts: If James Clayton Watts is in your family tree and had reason to be in Fredericton during the time J. P.Tuck was a photographer on Queen Street in Fredericton please contact me.


Query 1724
McVane - Lindsay: I am researching the descendants of Michael McVane and Mary Lindsay. Would be interested in exchanging information.
Contact Janet and Jason McNeil  at

Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in New Brunswick, Canada. Send your New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at:  Please put "Query" followed by the surnames in your query as the subject. For more information on submitting queries, visit

Ruby contributes a "Family History" column to the Telegraph-Journal on the third Saturday of the month.

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