Story 7 – So far from home

Many people wanted to know more about Ann Jackson. So while I was in Ireland, I tried to find proof if she was my great great great grandmother (mother of Rebecca). Unfortunately I still don’t have proof, but for my major assignment in Writing my Family History, I used information I had gathered from various repositories and books. Hope you like the story even though it is still very factual.

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“Excuse me, can I have some water please, a drop will do? Just to wet my lips.”

As I lie on the wooden boards that have been set upon the ground as hospital beds, I look at the other people nearby, moving around and moaning. Has it only been a week since our ship Superior arrived in the river near this quarantine station? We had to wait in line with about 15 other Irish ships, for doctors to come aboard and check passengers for signs of contagious diseases.

Eighteen Irishmen, women and children had died while on our  51 day voyage from Londonderry. Not that it was a rough voyage. Many of us were thin and starving before boarding the ship. This was due to potato blight and our English landlords selling all the corn and other vegetables we had grown. There was nothing left for us, the tenant farmers, to eat. We had to provide our own supplies for part of the voyage but we had so little. Food and water supplied by the captain didn’t last long. Some passengers ate too much too quickly. Very soon the hold where we all slept held a foul smelling stench.

The ship wasn’t large enough for all of us to live comfortably. Diseases were passed between the steerage passengers as we were sharing bunks with three other adults. Many of my fellow passengers ended up with dysentery. My children and I slept in our clothes even though they were wet and smelly from fluids dripping down from bunks above us. We tried to keep warm by huddling together on the same bunk.

“Thank you. Can you check this man lying next to me? He hasn’t moved over the last few hours.”

I am worried what might happen to my children, Mary Ann and Robert, once I am dead. I hear the doctors talking about typhus and the thousands of Irish immigrants who have died from it this year on Grosse Ile.

Luckily my children kept going up on deck in the fresh air so they haven’t been afflicted. Until the doctor checked me out, I thought I was also well. But when I mentioned I had a headache and often felt cold, he decided to send me to the hospital area on the island. Because the children had shared my bunk, but weren’t showing signs of contagion, they were sent to the emigrant shed instead. Maybe they will survive but I worry what will happen to them in this new land without a mother to guide them.

Since getting off the ship, I noticed I have a rash over my body and it is feeling itchy. Listening to the doctors, I know this means I have, at most, a couple of weeks to live as the rash will keep spreading, then I will go into a delirium, maybe a coma and die.

Two men have just taken away the man who was lying next to me. I think he succumbed to the typhus during the night. His body had been thrashing around and he had been talking about ridiculous things. I have seen the same two men digging huge trenches about 200 yards away from where I am lying. Every couple of hours I see them putting bodies into the trench. That will be me soon.

“Is there any gruel or bread that I could have, please?”

Perhaps we would have been better off if we stayed in Ireland.  But ever since the patriarch of the family William senior and his daughter, Rebecca, and son William junior had been sentenced to transportation, I have been harassed and threatened.  The remainder of the Jackson families in my townland didn’t think it was right that I had reported William and his gang to the constable but I hadn’t been punished. You see, I had also been part of the group stealing from houses around Carrigans in Donegal.

Since the trial, I have been terrified for both myself and my children. After begging the magistrate, Mr McClintock to do something, he wrote a letter to someone in Dublin asking if we could be sent to one of the colonies at Government expense. We were told we could go to Quebec and there would be five pounds for us to use when we got there. Just to ask the Emigration Agent. I thought we would be able to start a new, safe life here but …

“Nurse, nurse. Can you find my children Mary Ann and Robert? I need to hug them once more before I depart this earth.”

Have I done the right thing in bringing Mary Ann and Robert to this new country so far from their homeland in Ireland? What will be their future? Have they been infected like me or will they end up in an orphanage? Maybe they will find a nice family who will look after them, feed them well and allow them to develop into a strong woman and man within this colony. Perhaps they will find their way back to Mother Ireland and visit the haunts of their childhood around Carrigans.

I need to sleep. I’ll just close my eyes for a while till the children come.

“Bob, Jim, can you please move this body to the grave area?”

 

Bibliography

Irish Genealogy Toolkit, Coffin Ships, http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/coffin-ships.html

National Archives of Ireland, Donegal Outrage Papers 1847, relating to Ann Jackson, digital copies held by author http://suewyatt.edublogs.org/2015/05/30/donegal-outrage-papers/

O Laighin, Padraic, The Irish in Canada: The Untold Story, excerpt online http://gail25.tripod.com/grosse.htm

UPDATE  UPDATE

Just thought I would mention I received 80/100 for this assignment. Feedback included great research showed throughout the narrative, emotion and tragedy of the piece shine through. Improvements could be integrate sources more smoothly eg 18 Irishmen etc and some dialogue is outside the narrator’s voice.

Overall I am very pleased with this piece of work as I know I am not a very good narrative writer, more a factual researcher.

Story 4 – Garshooey townland

An ancestor of mine Anne Jackson (I think this is her married surname) lived in an area called Garshooey. This townland in Donegal, Ireland is just over one and half square kilometres in area. In the 1911 census there were only 64 people living there of which 23 were 16 and younger. Ten years earlier, out of the 86 inhabitants, 40 were 16 years or younger. Even in 2011, there are still only 66 inhabitants in 24 households.

So why were there so few people living in Garshooey townland? Looking at the historical maps of 1840s, there was a Presbyterian Meeting House and National School House west of the little town of Garshooey, a corn kiln to the north in Garshooey Upper and a flax mill to the south in Garshooey Lower.  There were lots of trees to climb, planted along the sides of the lanes in the townland. There was also a couple of mill ponds, maybe a chance for swimming or paddling on hot days. Through the centre of the townland was the main road between Londonderry (now called Derry) and Newtowncunningham.

By the 1850s, less flax and corn was being grown so there would be less cottage industry work for the women of the townland. There would also be less farm work for the men.
This may be a reason why the Jackson family resorted to theft during the 1840s, that finally resulted in transportation.

Story 2 – Notorious Jackson Gang

It is a cold, dark night in April 1846. Members of the Jackson family are inside the Monglass home occupied by Caldwell Motherwell.

“Da, hurry up,” whispers Rebecca. She listens intently for any sound coming from the bedrooms above.

“Don’t you be worrying, me girl,” William replies, “We still have plenty to get from here.”

“But, da, we all have a coat or cloak to wear. We don’t want to wake up Mr Motherwell with any sudden noise.”

Rebecca slowly edges to the doorway with her younger brother William, who was wearing a macintosh, and her friend Mary Jane Gallagher, who was wearing a cloak.

William the elder, Anne Jackson and Jane Steele, who were also members of the notorious Jackson gang, picked up the last of their stolen goods and followed the children out the doorway.

Quickly and silently they headed over the fields that should have been filled with potatoes, towards their home in Garshooey, about a mile away. But with the potato famine happening all over Ireland, there was little in the way of food to eat. Pawning the pieces of clothing meant food in their stomachs for another week or so.

Eight months later, Anne reports the thefts to the local sub-constable James Lowe. William, his son and daughter and Jane Steele are convicted of theft and sentenced to transportation. Thus begins a new life in Van Diemen’s Land for my great great grandmother Rebecca Jackson.

Source:

Report of court trial at Lifford Quarter Sessions, Donegal,  1 January 1847. Found in the Court of Petty Sessions records for Newtowncunningham held at Donegal archives, Lifford.

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Two students replied to this story mentioning a bit of confusion with the two William – father and son. Also to maybe set the scene more with lots more description.

Readers: Where else could I improve this writing? As it is only going to be published on this blog, feel free to re-write whole paragraphs if you want.

Letter D challenge

1558 Ainscough Origins

Boobelle via Compfight

Direct Line or Descendants

When you began your family history research, what did you start with? Did you begin with yourself and go back one generation at a time following your direct line only? Or did you also look at the descendants of those direct lines?

I know when I began I started just with names, dates and places and going back as far as I could – in fact I got back to 1604 with one line in Bedfordshire, England. I made connections with other researchers by using the Rootsweb emailing lists and also contacting others mentioned in the IGI (International Genealogical Index) and the IGRD (International Genealogical Research Directory). I exchanged information through RAOGK (Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness) where I would do some research in Tasmania for a person in another county of England and they would do research for me in their county.

But nowadays technology has really allowed me to do a lot more research with original records online. Less having to visit an actual archives, at least for the basics of BDM records. But it is fantastic to see so many Historical Societies having a presence online. This now allows me to connect with locals in the areas where my ancestors lived. My family history blog has also created connections with family members I knew nothing about.

By researching the descendants I have found out more about their life as a family and the community they lived in. Trove and other newspaper reports have put flesh on the bones of my family rather than just a list of names, dates and places.

Surnames in my direct line include:

  • WYATT – unknown where born
  • ENGLAND – Rotherham, York, ENG
  • SMITH – Recherche Bay, Tasmania AUS but originally Samoan and given surname Smith
  • DAVEY – Devon, ENG – free settler and down to 7 possible people
  • TEDMAN – London, ENG – waterman
  • CHANDLER – London, ENG – gardeners in Tasmania and at Government House in the 1860’s
  • COLGRAVE –  Thurleigh, Bedfordshire, ENG – back to 1604
  • SOMMERS – Portland, Tasmania, AUS
  • JACKSON – Donegal, Ireland
  • DIXON – London, ENG
  • BOYD – Maker, Cornwall, ENG
  • WATKINS – Hull, Yorkshire, ENG
  • HEARN – Edgeware, London, ENG
  • BRYANT – Rotherhithe, London, ENG
  • BULL – London, ENG
  • SWAIN – Maidstone, Kent, ENG

Readers: Please leave a comment about my post or something beginning with D that relates to your family history or your research.

letter D

What’s in the newspaper report?

Whilst down in Dublin, I had visited the National Library where many Irish newspapers are found on microfilm. I would suggest you use the newspaper database before heading there as you need to get a reader’s ticket, put in the order and they are not done immediately but once every hour or half hour. When searching the database, fill in the county you need and to narrow further the town.

From the Londonderry Journal and Donegal and Tyrone Advertiser, Wednesday January 13, 1847 under the Donegal Quarter Sessions:

William Jackson, sen., William Jackson, jun., Rebecca Jackson, and Jane Steel, who lived in the neighbourhood of Carrigans, and have committed depredations in that vicinity for many years, were sentenced by the Assistant Barrister, at the above sessions (Lifford) to seven years transportation each. This gang, which had been a terror to the neighbourhood, thus have met a deserved punishment, owing much to the exertion of Robert McClintock, of Dunmore, Esq., in bringing their many delinquencies to light, through the information obtained by him from a former accomplice.

Two days later on Friday 15 January 1847 in the Ballyshannon Herald and County Donegal General Advertiser, the same report was written up but no mention of William Senior. This may have been a misreading by the typesetter of the paper not noticing two Williams mentioned.

Modern day street at Carrigans.
Modern day street at Carrigans.

 

To know what it was like in Donegal at the time, I also found a report in a newspaper (forgot to write down which one) but in the section labelled Donegal Quarter Sessions – Division of Lifford.

Much of the report was about the 258 Ejectment Processes the Assistant Barrister Jonathan Henn Esq had to look at.

These ejectments are, we understand, brought chiefly against the small holders, whose rents did not exceed 4 pound per annum, and in getting rid of this class of tenants, the landlords are said to have two objects in view – namely, the consolidating of some five or six of these tenements into one farm, which, when let to a solvent tenant, would relieve them from the payment of the whole of the Poor Rates, which they are now obliged to discharge, and to get quit of this burden, is supposed to be the chief cause of these wholesale ejectments.

The rest of the report shows what it was like to be a poor person in Donegal area at that time:

The greater part, if not the whole of the wretched beings who are about to be driven from their miserable habitations, will likely become inmates of the poorhouses in their respective Unions, and will consequently increase the rates on the already over-taxed farmers, who will be obliged to support them. Nothing can more forcibly demonstrate the poverty of the country than to find such a number of people unable to pay their rent, as in this part of Ulster it is well known that the poor man, though himself and family are neither half clothed nor half fed, will make an effort to pay his rent, in order to secure, for himself and them, the shelter of a cabin that he can call his own, be it ever so humble. The blight that fell upon the potatoes during the past and the two preceding years, at once accounts for this general destitution among the lower classes of the rural population; and now to take advantage of their poverty, and extirpate them from the soil, appears to be a harsh and heartless proceding, however the law may justify the perpetrators of it. It is more than probable that we will publish in our next, the names of the chief actors in this wholesale clearance system, and thus allow them, should their work be meritorious, to enjoy the full credit of it, by giving them all the benefit of our extensive circulation.

One very famous Irish County Donegal eviction was from Glenveagh(Derryveagh). Here is a website with lots of stories about what happened to those evicted by John Adair in 1861. While in Ireland, I visited Glenveagh which is now a famous National Park. I also visited poorhouses  and museums talking about the evictions. Here are some photos of these places.

All these images (and 200 more) can be found in my Ireland 2014 album on Flickr linked here.