Friday 29 October 2021

5,300 Irish among the dead in transit through Manhattan, 1859-1894

Whether this is intended as a Halloween release, I don't know, but one of Ancestry's recent releases is an unusual collection containing an index of permits for the carriage of dead bodies through Manhattan between 1859 and 1894.

It's called New York, U.S., Bodies in Transit, 1859-1894 and it's sourced from the New York City Department of Records & Information Services. The index holds some 60,000 entries.

Surprisingly, perhaps, a sizeable chunk of the records – 5,292 – relate to Irish-born individuals. While most of these were passing through New York from one part of the United States to another, many others were making their final journey from Ireland to the USA. Only a small number were travelling in the opposite direction, possibly to fulfil the deceased's final wishes to be buried in the auld sod.

The example I've chosen, above right, is one of the more straightforward index entries. (Incidentally, I couldn't find an Irish death certificate for Mr Conway, but I did for other travellers who had died in Ireland).

The only real issue I found with this collection is that the spelling of placenames is often pretty dire. Harts Island, Rikers Island and even Staten Island have become Harts Ireland, Rikers Ireland, and Staten Ireland, giving a load of false results if you aren't careful with where you place the word 'Ireland' in the search fields while Duenstown and Lenstown are Queenstown, etc, and Doblin is Dublin. The spelling of names leaves something to be desired, too. You'll just have to be inventive!