Ode to a great-great grandmother

For lots of our ancestors, we don’t know what they look like, or what they liked to read or eat. We can look them up in records and gain some information.

One of my great-great grandmothers was called Anne Rourke (though her surname is variably spelled in different records). She was born during the Great Famine in Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, to Hugh Rourke and Esther/Anastasia Walsh and had at least 8 siblings.

Because we’ve lost our 19th century records, I’m not sure when Anne moved to Dublin, but she was married there in 1870 to a man called Michael Cullen, who came from Chapelizod.

Anne and Michael settled in the north docks area of Dublin, an area today known as the IFSC, a large financial district, very different from what they would recognise, apart from the local church, St Laurence O’Toole, where all their children were baptised.

Anne became pregnant with their first child, John, almost immediately, and she stayed pregnant, give or take a few intervening months, for the next 22 years. The 1911 census for the family, who lived on Mayor St, showed 5 grown-up children living with their parents. The family had 3 rooms. Anne recorded that she’d given birth to 17 children and that 9 of them were still alive! The oral memory was that my great-grandmother was from a very large family, and my grandmother was able to provide some names, but it’s been a challenge to find them.

But yesterday, I found the final 2, after many years of searching.

John1871 – ? at least 1911
Esther1872 – ?
Mary Christina1873-1888
Hugh Michael1876-1876
Patrick1878 – ?
Bridget Agnes1884-1968
Anastasia? – 1968
Mary Christina1890-1976
Edward Francis1893 – ?

Anne and Michael’s family follows the classic naming pattern common to many Irish families. The first boy was named after his paternal grandfather, the first girl was called after her maternal grandmother, the next two were named for the opposite grandparent. The third boy and girl were named for their own parents, and after that, a free for all, but definitely encompassing siblings of the couple (Roseanna comes from the Cullen side, Anastasia, Patrick, Elizabeth come from the Rourkes). Seeing their names listed out like this gives me ideas for earlier generations that I have considered. Christina is used 3 times, so she is surely someones sister!

As you can see, I’ve found birth records for all the children except Anastasia, but we know roughly were she comes in the order by looking at gaps in the line. Patrick Cullen married in 1910 but I havent found a hint of him thereafter. I suspect he might have emigrated. I haven’t found deaths for some of the children, including one Edward Cullen…but maybe he too went to live in America and became sparkly!

Anne lived until 31/8/1920, so the 100th anniversary of her death is imminent. She is buried in Glasnevin cemetery in the same grave as her husband, who died a year later.

Anne outlived 8 of her children, and through the Easter Rising and the first World War. We may not have her opinions of these pivotal events, but we can infer from her 73 years that she was a fine healthy woman to survive the famine, 17 individual pregnancies and what must have been a tough life.