Poor Ignorant Children
Peter D. Murphy puts a face on the 310 orphans of the
Irish Famine who came to Saint John
I never had a dog of my own. Someone else in the family always claimed any little pup or dog that came to live with us.
When I was young, Mum had a big old dog called Buff, but Buff didn't like children. Then a little white spitz arrived, but she didn't want to play with me either. Ken said Rhowdy was his dog and Cliff staked his claim on Pal from the day she was born. I had a name all picked out for my dog. I was going to call him Sandy.
Sandy was going to be smart, just like Orphan Annie's dog. I thought being an orphan must have been great. Annie had her dog Sandy and the tall Punjab, who could do anything. Best of all, she had Daddy Warbucks, who was rich and drove around in a big fancy car.
If I had heard about the Irish Famine orphans in Saint John, I certainly would have changed my mind about the life that orphans really lived.
In 1994, Peter Murphy gained access to an old ledger of the admittance records of the "Orphan Asylum Established by His Excellency Sir William George Colebrook, 25 Octob. 1847."
He transcribed this ledger and meticulously searched for any tracks that were left behind by these orphans in compiling the publication "Poor Ignorant Children."
Great pains appear to have been taken in recording full particulars for each of the 310 children who were admitted to the asylum during the two-year period it operated out of the former city Almshouse at the corner of King Street East and Carmarthen. Included are name, date of admission, religion, age, place of "nativity" and the name of the vessel the immigrant child arrived on. Also added were notes concerning the fate of the parents of each child and details on each child's discharge.
Ninety-one per cent of the children admitted were Irish Catholics and forty-one per cent of them were born in County Sligo. The orphans also came from 15 other counties of Ireland. Almost all of them were immigrants of 1847 to New Brunswick. It seemed great efforts were made in keeping the children in the asylum as short a time as possible. Thirty-eight children died there and five ran away. Half of the children were sent to, or claimed by, one or both of their parents or by other relatives, almost all of whom were residing in the United States.
Many of those who were taken by strangers ended up in farming communities in Kings and Queens Counties. It is interesting to note that 12 were sent to Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia.
Thomas Donnelly was only two years old when he was admitted to the Orphan Asylum on Oct. 25, 1847. He was sent to the Almshouse on Nov. 5, 1849. According to the footnotes, he was a "healthy orphan" born in Saint John and was taken from the Almshouse by Jas. Fowler of Little River on Feb. 24, 1851. In the 1851 census of the Parish of Hampton, Kings County, he was enumerated as being five years old and a servant in the home of James Fowler, farmer.
The year 1847 must have been a terrible time for the four Mitchel children: Bridget, 12, Cathrine, 10, Mary, 5, and little 3-year-old Michael. They were natives of County Galway and passengers on the Ambassadress from Liverpool, which arrived in Saint John on July 13, 1847. The children were admitted to the Emigrant Hospital at the St. John County Alms and Workhouse on Sept. 4, 1847, when they were described as "destitute orphans." On Oct. 25, 1847, they were received at the Orphan Asylum. The notation states "Father died at Sea.". On Nov. 3, 1847, they were delivered to John Burns to proceed to Boston, thence to Cantonville to their uncle.
Four McAnulty children were admitted on Nov. 20, 1847. Their father died on Partridge Island and their mother was living in the Immigration Shed. It is difficult for one to imagine the anguish this mother went through. On May 23, 1848, the children were returned to her. As I read this, I could not help but wonder how she would have been able to provide the necessities of life for her family.
John Regan was born in County Limerick and came across the Atlantic on The Man of War. He entered the Orphan Asylum on May 17, 1848, at the age of nine years. His mother was dead and his father was living in Philadelphia. On Oct. 16, 1848, he was taken by his brother to proceed to Philadelphia to their father.
The facts go on and on, tracking the hardships these Irish Famine immigrant children suffered by no fault of their own except that they were born in the wrong time period, to parents who lived in the wrong area of Ireland, at a time when disease of man and potato was rampant.
The author has put faces to these poor ignorant children who probably wished they had never seen Saint John.
"Poor Ignorant Children" is on the shelf at several research institutions in New Brunswick.
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of "Poor Ignorant Children" contact Ruby.
Visit http://www.rubycusack.com/Books-Irish.html for other New Brunswick Books on the Irish.
Leishman - Bryson: I am searching for information on the descendants of John Leishman (1802-1868) and his wife Jessie King Bryson (1804-1873). Both were born in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. They married in 1827, and had two daughters, Agnes (1828) and Euphemia (1830), after which they immigrated to New Brunswick and settled in Richibucto. They are buried in the cemetery in Rexton. Eight more children were born there: Mary Jane (1831); Caroline (1834); Margaret (1836); David (1838); Alexander (1840); Jessie King (1842); John, my great-great-grandfather (1844); and Isabella (1847). I have a great deal of information to share on John's line (1844-1921) and bits on some of the other lines. John became a Presbyterian minister and eventually settled with his family in Saskatchewan where he died in 1921. Anyone having an interest in these lines can contact me.
- Patty McGregor, 841 Acadian Garden, Orleans, Ont., K1C 2V7. Or E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or Patty49@rocketmail.com.
Query 98-419Query 98-420
Drost: I am seeking information on the Loyalist Peter Drost and his family. He was granted land about 1785. Two of his sons were possibly Peter and Richard Drost in Wicklow in 1851. I need wife, children, birth, death or anything of importance. Thank you for any help.
- Kim Knox-Lawrence, P.O. Box 2712, Waterville, ME., 04903. Phone (207) 437-4009 or E-mail to email@example.com.
Smith - Davis - Bull - Pickel - Adams: Isaiah Smith (1734-1795) was a Loyalist from Long Island and was reportedly the founder of Smithtown, Kings County. He and his wife Joanna Davis (1737-1822) had a son, James (1771-1834), who married Elizabeth Bull (1778-1817). Their son, Isaiah (1806-1887), married Rachel Pickel (1811-1902) whose son, James Sedequest Smith (1831-1910), went to Cornell University and became a physician in Buffalo. He married Jennie Adams from Aberdeen, Scotland. We assume he grew up in or around Smithtown. He is my wife's great-grandfather. We hope to make a motor trip from our home in California to New Brunswick in September and learn as much as we can about her New Brunswick ancestors. Any information would be appreciated.
- Melville H. Hodge, 21238 Sarahills Dr., Saratoga, California 95070. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ruby Cusack is a genealogy buff living in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to Ruby at email@example.com. When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.
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