Tom Burke was born and baptised on August 24th 1878.He emigrated on September 26th 1901. All three emigration records I’ve found so far for the Burke emigrants have shown the Burke brothers emigrating in the autumn (September or October). This may be just a coincidence or it could have a practical explanation. The summer was a very busy time on the farm. Hay was harvested to feed cattle over the winter in the summer months. This was a labour-intensive job and maybe the brothers waited until this was finished to emigrate. Maybe there was a lot of work available on neighbouring farms and the brothers earned some cash for the trip. In any case, Tom travelled on the SS Majestic, a White Star liner, arriving in New York on October 3rd. On the ship’s manifest he gives his occupation as “labourer” and declares that he is joining his brother Jack (John) in Chicago. He is carrying the princely sum of $5! The SS Majestic provided an interesting footnote to the “Titanic” story. When the Titanic came on the scene in 1912 Majestic was retired from White Star's New York service and designated as a reserve ship. When the Titanic met her fate in April, 1912, Majestic was pressed back into service, filling the hole in the transatlantic schedule.
In the 1910 US Census we see that he is living with his sister Margaret and brothers, Edward and Joe in rented accommodation at 120 East 56th St. He is working as a bartender in a saloon-restaurant. As we have seen already, it was common practice for the Burkes to knock a few years of their age and Thomas is no exception. He gives his age as 26 (6 years saved!). He became a naturalised US citizen on June 25th 1910. Interestingly, on the record he gives his date of arrival in the US as “about Sept. 26th 1901”. This is actually the date he left Ireland so obviously this date is etched in his consciousness while he is unsure of the actual date he landed in New York.
On June 17th 1913 he married Anna Finnerty who had been born in Chicago of Irish parents at the Church of St. Columbanus. Tom's age on the marriage record is given as 24!
By 1920 he is living at 7116 Eberhart Avenue (renting) and seems to have come to terms with the ageing process as he gives his age as 41, only a year shy of his actual age. Anna and himself now have three children – Eileen (5), John (3) and Thomas (2). Also living with them is Anna’s widowed mother and her two sisters, Loretta and Mary (who later married Thomas’ brother Jack). Tom is working as a guard on the ‘elevated care’ – this entry is poorly legible but maybe ‘elevated rail’ referring to the elevated commuter train track in Chicago (also known as the Loop).
By 1930 according to his Census return he is living at Wabash and is working as a salesman for a radiator company. The family is still renting ($65 a month) and owns a radio set! (this may seem an inane Census question but in the Thirties this was obviously hugely significant). Anna and himself have another son, Bernard and his mother-in-law still lives with them. Tom is now “47” ( 5 years shaved from his age).
The 1940 Census return is a mine of information on the family. Tom is back working as a bartender, working 60 hours a week (not bad for a 62 year old!) and earning $1,820 a year ($35 a week). In 1939 he declares that he worked 52 weeks so not much room for holidays there. The family now own a home worth $9,000 at 7300 South Michigan Avenue. Anna’s sister, Mary, is back living with them as her husband, Jack (Tom’s brother), has died. When I first became interested in the story of the Burkes one of the people I contacted was Tom’s daughter, Sr. Eileen Burke. She kindly sent me a letter written to her by Tom on February 24th 1952. In the letter he tells her that his brother Dan has died in Ireland, describing him as the “baby of the family”. Dan would have only been 15 years when he had last seen him. He then goes on – “In one of your letters did you mention a sister from Knockaderry. Well that is about six or seven miles west of our home at Kilmacow, this is the name of our townland. (He then draws a map of all the towns in this part of Limerick). You see now Kilmacow is midway between Croom and Knockaderry is some four miles west of Ballinagarry. I have seen their old football team play many a time in Croom and Rathkeale”.
Tom died on June 11th 1962 - the newspaper death announcement is below and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in the Burke Family Plot.