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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Records of Irish female immigrants to NY to be available soon

Two weeks ago, the Minister for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People, Kathleen Lynch TD, formally opened a new exhibiton centre at Watson House, 7 State Street, New York. The exhibition tells the moving story of thousands of Irish women who arrived in the city between the 1880s and the mid-20th century.

This is interesting enough in itself, but of greater genealogical interest is a unique set of records that were discovered here back in 2005.

Ledgers containing the names of some 60,000 female immigrants from Ireland were found in the building, which lies at the southern tip of Manhatten. They belong to the Mission of Our Lady of the Rosary for the Protection of Irish Immigrant Girls, the inspiration of Charlotte Grace O'Brien (1845-1909), the remarkable daughter of William Smith O'Brien.

The Mission was officially established in 1883 with three goals:
  • to provide a Catholic Bureau at Castle Garden to provide information and counselling to immigrants
  • to provide a temporary and safe shelter for those in transit or looking for work
  • to provide a chapel for immigrants.
By 1908, nearly one-third of the 307,823 Irish girls who had passed through the Port of New York had passed through the Mission. It had found employment for 12,000.

The ledgers show that most of the girls boarded a ship at Queenstown and nearly always came from a rural background. Mayo, Galway, Cork, Kerry and Roscommon accounted for nearly half of the arrivals whose county of origin was recorded.

The final phase of a long project is now being realised. The exhibiton centre opened on 7 March at the home of the Mission and the unique collection of records will soon be accessible to genealogists in a family history research room within the building.

Kilkenny-raised genealogist Joe Buggy, who lives and works in New York, has been told by the Mission that the records should be available 'in about one month'. Thanks for sharing the info with Irish Genealogy News, Joe.