Friday, November 14, 2014

Delinquent In Tramore


     Anyone who spends time pursuing their ancestors very quickly comes to the realization that for every question answered, several (or more) questions arise from that answer, in some cases radically changing the way you perceive the lives of your forebears.  That is exactly what has happened since I discovered my great-great-grandfather Philip Power in 19th century arrest records in Tramore, Waterford, Ireland.

     I used to believe the Power family led a quiet life in rural Cullen Castle, (the address on Philip's baptism record), a couple miles north of Tramore, until at some point after Philip's conception his father Edmond Power passed away, spurring the remaining family members to emigrate to America.  I suppose I thought that because I had found nothing to suggest otherwise -- until those court records became available that is.  Philip's first arrest was in May of 1868 when he was ten and a half years old. He and two other boys were accused of  destroying several small trees on the property of John Kelly of Tramore.  The outcome was "no appearance" I don't know if that means they failed to appear, or if the charges were dismissed and they were not required to appear.  It is interesting that one of the other boys charged was Thomas Mahoney; years later and an ocean away in New York State, a man named Thomas Mahoney would marry Ellen Power, Philip's older sister.

     Philip's second arrest came three years later in July of 1871 when he was thirteen years old.  This time the charge was stealing fruit from the garden of a farmer in Crobally, near Tramore.  The sentence was one month at hard labor, which seems a little harsh, but the paperwork generated by this arrest is fascinating.  Since Philip was a minor, he appeared in the Registry of Male Juveniles.  This was a trove of information, along with name, age, offense, and sentence, there were questions about education and religion, past criminal activity and residence.  Philip was asked if he had ever been in the workhouse, if his parents were in the workhouse or incarcerated, if they had absconded or had he absconded from them?  His answers were all "no" until asked if he was without a father, he answered affirmatively to that one.  I knew Edmond had passed away before the family came to America, but was unsure exactly when so it was helpful to learn he was gone by 1871.

     Another record generated by this arrest was that of the Waterford City Gaol where Philip served his month of hard labor.  This one included a physical description!  Great-great-grandfather had grey eyes and a freckled nose.  There was also an address, Convent Hill Tramore.  More questions--what was Convent Hill?  There was indeed a convent there and some charities but my internet searches were largely unsuccessful. I wonder, was there a home for troubled boys there?  Did Philip and his mother Honora live there together in a charitable institution after Edmond's death?  Did she move into town to find work as a servant after losing her husband?

     The records themselves are real eye openers.  On the same page with Philip were two twelve year olds charged with larceny and given five year terms in the reformatory.  One of them had a mother in jail and a father who had been transported; the youngest on the page was a six year old who along with several older children had broken into St. Patrick's Church, his father was in jail at the time.  Someone bailed the child out thank goodness. 

      Philip left Ireland in 1874, boarding the ship Helvetia in Queenstown, now Cobh, and sailing to America to join his two older sisters.  His mother Honora followed shortly after.  This sounds like the classic tale of a mother finding it difficult to keep her fatherless son on the right path.  At least in America there were no more arrests.  Philip married, raised a family, and owned a farm of his own.  Of course, how he got it is another interesting tale...



  1. Ellie, the Irish Prison Registers really are my favorite record set! - Convent Hill is a road in Tramore, near the Sisters of Charity. It's on Google Maps (maybe try instead of

  2. Dara, I did find it on the map, wish I knew what was there in the 19th century--nothing online that I can find. I like those prison registers too. Family Search has some that are different than on FMP.