Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Latest Ebay Score


     I'm sure you've all heard of the Missing Friends Column that ran in the Boston Pilot from 1831 to 1921.  Over that span of years thousands of ads were placed, seeking family and friends with whom contact had been lost.  A huge number, as can well be imagined, were during the famine.  With the high illiteracy rates, few letters were written during that time period and it was easy to loose contact with sons, brothers and husbands who were following the railroads and canals so many of them were employed building.

      It began with an ad that appeared on the first day of October in 1831that read:
     Patrick M'Dermott, a native of County Kildare, and who was married in Kingston, near Dublin, is hereby informed that his wife and four children have arrived in Boston.  They understand that he left Roxbury, in this state about twelve months since, to obtain work as a stone mason; they are extremely anxious to hear from him.  He is hereby requested to write or come for his poor family, to this city, as soon as possible.

     You have to wonder how Peter could not have known his family was on it's way to America, how did they get the money for passage?
     You may not have known that the Pilot, today the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, is America's oldest Catholic newspaper, first published September 5th in 1829 through the efforts of Bishop Joseph Fenwick of Boston.  It started out with the name Jesuit Sentinel, and went through several names before becoming The Pilot.  In 1834 it was sold to two laymen, but in 1908 Bishop William H. O'Connell purchased the Pilot and it became the official voice of the archdiocese.

     The ads that were placed in the paper have been indexed by Boston College and are freely available online here.  These are not a transcription of the entire ad, but an index giving the names of the persons being sought and their seekers along with addresses in the USA and Ireland.  The actual ad may well have contained additional information. Luckily, the ads have been transcribed and are in book form at most larger libraries.  If you should find an ancestor in the index it pays to check one of the volumes, (there are seven arranged by year), to see if the original ad contained more about them.

     Scanning the items on Ebay last week I spied a modestly priced copy of volume I! Of course I bought it, and yesterday it arrived.  The stories are heartbreaking, and there are no notations of whether or not these lost souls were ever reunited.  One sad entry was from a woman looking for her children, they had been separated at the Grosse Ile Canada quarentine station where so many Irish immigrants perished during the year 1847.  

     Looking at the online index this morning I found George Browne of Coolarig [sic], County Kerry being sought by none other than his sister Sarah Browne Griffin of Palmyra, New York.  Sarah, of Coolaclarig, was the aunt of Mary Gunn, my 3rd great grandmother, and sister to Mary's mother.  The ad was dated 1856.  Long story short, volume III that covers that year is now on it's way to New York.

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