As we approach a second St Patrick’s day still beset by a terrible pandemic, albeit with light on the horizon, I wanted to focus on a collection of records that are relevant for our large diaspora. 80 million people around the world claim Irish heritage and half of that number are in the USA. I’ve been studying emigration in the past few weeks at college, and this led me to think about my own family’s emigration history. Here are just some samples:
In my maternal grandmother’s generation, 3/5 siblings left Ireland and spent their lives in other countries, while retaining close links to home. We’re lucky to still be in touch with those families and in safer times, we all see each other when possible. This photo shows me, my mother & her cousin in Seaside, Oregon on a family holiday a few years ago.
Hopping back a generation, my maternal great-grandmother’s brother went to America in 1911 aboard the Mauretania and even served in the US Army during World War I. I have many DNA matches from amongst his descendants.
My Tubbs family, who came from Bruff in Co. Limerick were a bit of an enigma, but thanks to some great finds, are at last becoming clearer. I wrote previously about them here.
We pick up the story on the Eleanor, a passenger ship where I’ve found Cornelius & Margaret Tubbs with two of their children, Mary & Cornelius. It sailed from Limerick & arrived on 22/5/1854 in New York. They would have gone through Castlegarden, the forerunner of Ellis Island.
I’m not sure what order the rest of the family came and went in. I know that Bridget, my 3 great-grandmother married in Quebec in 1846. The newly-weds returned to Limerick city, where they spent the rest of their lives.
The part of the Tubbs family who travelled together can be found on various Federal and New York State censuses. They are on the State census of 1855 below.
I also think Cornelius Tubbs Jnr fought for the Union in the American Civil War, but restrictions at the US National Archives mean I haven’t yet been able to get a hold of his full record.
And then there’s John Tubbs, who is the eldest son. He appears in some trees on Ancestry but there is contradictory information in them, and I am always wary of adopting data like this without my own research. However, two record sources of information make me confident he is “my” John Tubbs.
I found his death record first on Familysearch’s collection. NY State death certificates list parents’ names and here his says Cornelius Tubbs & Margaret Fogarty, which are the names I’d hoped to see. His age is also a good fit. John was baptised in Bruff, Co. Limerick in May 1833. This John Tubbs died 2/8/1914 aged 79. We know that people were often imprecise about their age in the past. His and his parents’ birthplaces were all shown to be Ireland.
The second piece of evidence is really fantastic.
The New York Emigrant Savings bank was founded in 1850 and located in New York’s Sixth Ward, which was one of the main areas Irish people lived in the city. Unlike today’s banks, the customers made very frequent lodgements and withdrawals to a view to sending money back to Ireland. This was known as remittances and was a crucial factor in the economy of Ireland. Irish business owners used the bank & encouraged their staff to bank with it too. Different Irish community organisations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians and other Catholic groups used it. The bank still exists today. Different records for the bank can be searched on Ancestry and Findmypast as well as more academic data in Harvard. You can read more about the Emigrant Savings bank in Marion R. Casey’s excellent article on Jstor.
On 23/7/1853, John Tubbs, a waiter living in Clifford House on Park Place (modern day Tribeca) opened account number 4959. The information he provided says that he was a native of Limerick. He had arrived the previous August on a ship called the Andrew Foster, which had sailed out of Liverpool. It mentions his father Cornelius and mother Margaret Fogarty, and goes on to detail a brother Cornelius and sisters Catherine, Mary and Bridget in Limerick. As you can see from the image – it indicates that Bridget is in Limerick, but doesn’t specify a different location for the others – they were already in New York. Bridget his sister is my direct ancestor – and I know she was back in Limerick by then. Her son, James Joyce (no, not that one!) had been born in May and baptised in St Mary’s church in the city. By May 1854, John had saved $191 in the bank. I wonder what he did with it?
Once again, we see how key knowing a mother’s birth surname is to verifying research. Thanks to this information, I’m now confident that my Tubbs family, with the exception of Bridget, were one of the million people who left Ireland during the Great Famine, hoping for a better life in America. We’ll never know if Bridget was in contact with her family and able to wish them:
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!
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