Irish Family History Specialists

Category: Cemeteries

Grosse Isle, St. Lawrence River, Canada

We are going to visit Canada this year. Yes, we will be visiting tourist haunts, do shopping, visit art galleries, etc. But a visit would not be complete if we did not also remember the influx of Irish people into Canada in one of its darkest times.

Although Irish immigration into the USA has traditionally received more attention, many Irish would move to Canada. Both countries were, of course, part of the British Empire until Irish independence. It was therefore much easier for someone in Ireland to move to Canada than it was to emigrate to the USA.

In our last magazine, we wrote about the Jeannie Johnston, a ship that transported people to Canada during the famine. It provided excellent care and is one of the few ships that did not have a single death during its voyages. Unlike many other ships, which caused these ships to be called “coffin ships”.

There were those that perished as a result of shipwrecks. We read a very interesting article on this here.

Most deaths were, however, the result of diseases. The deadly results were often exacerbated because crews would not let the passengers out on the deck, because they were afraid of becoming ill themselves. But of course, after delivering their human cargo into cities like Montreal, these diseases spread among the locals. To protect themselves, the Canadian authorities decided to create a quarantine station, at Grosse Isle, and island in the St. Lawrence river. We intend to visit this island during our visit to Canada.

The quarantining of immigrants would later also happen in the USA, where the Castle Garden Landing Depot, which is located on the island of Manhattan, was replaced by Ellis Island Immigration Station , which was on a separate island of the coast.

Grosse Isle predates this. It actually even predates the Great Famine! This famine has become very notorious and “overshadows” many other calamities. In fact, the quarantine station was created as a result of a major cholera outbreak in 1832. In the famine times of the 1840s, you can add of typhus, ship fever and starvation to the list. The station was however completely inadequate for the enormous numbers arriving as a result of the famine, starting in 1847.

Note: I have borrowed heavily from an article by Michael Quigley, who is a historian for Action Grosse Ile, an Irish Canadian lobby group for the below information.

“The Syria was the first ship to arrive [in 1847]. She sailed from Liverpool on 24 March carrying 241 passengers and anchored at Grosse Ile on 15 May. Six days later, 202 passengers from the Syria were ill. The quarantine hospital on the island, built for 150 patients, could barely accommodate 200, and was already filled to capacity.”

In May 1847, 40 ships with 12,500 starving passengers would lie waiting at Grosse Isle to “offload” their passengers. At that stage between 50 and 60 people would die every day!

A medical commission visited the island in June. There were then 21,000 emigrants at Grosse Ile and the death toll had tripled: 150 people were buried that day. They were very critical of the management of the quarantine station but were unable to offer anything beyond instructions to comply with the regulations — which was of course completely impossible: on 20 July 1847 more than 2,500 fever cases were housed in the island’s hospitals!

After this, however, it appears authorities got to grips with the influx. In September, there were still 14,000 people held in quarantine on board of ships at anchor off Grosse Ile. At the end of October, the Grosse Ile quarantine station closed for the winter.

Because the quarantine station was completely overwhelmed, it did not succeed in its intended aim. Many of the Irish immigrants who were “released” into the cities of Quebec and Montreal would later become sick. In these cities too, fever sheds were built, victims hastily segregated. It did not do much for the immigrants who would still die in their thousands.

And it did not protect their hosts either. Clergymen, Catholic priests, stewards, nurses, orderlies, cooks, policemen, and carters were infected and died. And it was not only them: John Mills, the Mayor of Montreal caught the fever at the sheds and died ad did Toronto’s first Catholic bishop, Michael Power.

In 1909 a fifteen-metre tall Celtic cross was erected on the highest point on the island, built by the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

We will come back to the story of Grosse Isle after we have visited it later this year.

Irish cementary

Genealogy.ie Site Visit Package

Sometimes only visiting the sites where your ancestors lived can give you that last bit of information. And provide the rich context of their lives. If you are not able to visit Ireland yourself, we can go and visit these sites for you and provide a report and especially pictures.

A site visit is divided in a number of focus areas:

1. Grave transcriptions and photography

First, if you know in which cemetery your ancestor(s) are buried, we will go and look for their grave. Gravestones are often very informative on the people buried and/or give other names to research. Provided we find the grave, we will provide you with a detailed transcription and photos of the grave and surroundings. It should be noted though that especially the poor often did not have a gravestone. In this case we will make photos of the cemetery.

2. Description and photography of your ancestral village or townland

A second area is the village or townland where your ancestor(s) lived. We will provide background information on the village or townland. Some buildings that were relevant to your ancestor(s) might still exist, such as a church they likely attended or a school where they learned to read or write (like the 1907  school in the picture below). If their house still stands, we of course include that. And we will take photos of all of these.

3. Local History

Then there is the history of the local area. We are members of a local history society and have been published in their magazines. We will include research into the local area your ancestor(s) lived to provide an overview of how it would have looked and what was happening there in the time of your ancestors. Below is a picture of Blackrock train station, one of the oldest surviving stations in the world. The coming of railways impacted hugely on where people lived and worked and how villages developed.

4. Report and files

Finally, we will bring together all documentation and findings of our research in a professional report and provide you with digital files containing all photos we have taken.
 

Contact us for more information

Gravedigger Stories from Deansgrange Cemetery

This blog contains a large photo gallery of Deansgrange Cemetery. Please give it a moment to load!

 

Deansgrange Cemetery is located in the local council area of Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, a suburb of Dublin. It is open to the public. The cemetery is, together with Glasnevin, one of the largest in the Dublin area, occupying 65 acres. (So if you want to visit a particular grave, you should find out first where it is!). First burial was Anastasia Carey, 41 years, Servant St. Joseph’s Orphanage, 27th January 1865.

Hover over the pictures below to see the title; click on them to see a larger picture and its story.

 

 

Disclaimer: Most of the stories in this gallery are from gravedigger “John”, who told them to us during a “Dun Loaghaire Heritage Tour” of the Deansgrange Cemetery.  They come from relatives who visited the graves and some have been told from colleague to colleague and even generation to generation and might therefore not be accurate. They are certainly very entertaining. Thanks for the stories, John.

 

We hope you enjoyed these photos and their stories. Why not have a look at the rest of our website?

 

Temple Hill Quaker Burial Ground

 

In 1834 a railway line was built connecting Dublin with Dun Laoghaire. People started moving out and the latter grew into a town. Among the newcomers were also Quakers. They soon built a meeting house in Monkstown and started looking for land for a Quaker Burial Ground. It would take 25 years until they found a suitable plot. They paid £1,000 pound for it and Temple Hill was established. The first burial took place on the 6th of the 3rd month in 1860.

The Quaker community has always been quite small in Ireland. Even today there are only 1,500 Quakers in the whole or Ireland. It would take until 1923 for the first register to be full after 954 interments.  The second one is still going.

Quaker burial grounds are quite different from the Catholic ones Below you can see some photos. If you click on the picture you can see a larger image an explanation. 

 

We hope you enjoyed these photos and their stories. Why not have a look at the rest of our website?

 

 
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