Sunday, October 26, 2014

What was it like to emigrate?

I have often wondered what was the emigrant journey like for the Burkes who emigrated. Not only were they leaving a very simple, rural way of life but they were moving to Chicago, one of the major world cities at the time. Having recovered from the Great Fire of 1871, the city would double in population between 1890 and 1920. For people who probably never ventured further than Limerick City it must have been mind-blowing to arrive in Chicago. The journey itself would have been a huge adventure and almost a holiday what with the relative luxury of the ocean going liners. However, they would have known that they were unlikely to see Kilmacow again which must have been very distressing for both them and John and Mary. Of the nine siblings that emigrated, only Jack, Kitty and Margaret ever returned for a visit. As John died in 1908 he only ever met again one of his nine children who had emigrated (Kitty in 1904). Mary lived to see Kitty (1904), Jack (1912) and Margaret (1912 & 1922) return but in her lifetime she saw three of her children die in the US (Fr. James, Kitty and Edwin). What is even sadder is that they often left in twos, Edwin and Fr. James in 1903 and Margaret and Kitty in 1904 (Kitty having come home on a visit and taking Margaret with her on her return).


The days preceding the departure must have been laden with sadness but incredibly busy as neighbours, friends and relatives called to say good-bye to the departing emigrant. The trunk would have been packed and letters written by John and Mary for the other siblings in Chicago. On the last night the emigrant would take a final stroll around the farm knowing that from now on Kilmacow would live on only in their memories.
On the morning of departure the final goodbyes would be said. Any of the Burkes that I've located on the transatlantic passenger registers left from the port of Cobh in Cork. Cobh has long been associated with the age of ocean steamliners and the Irish emigration of the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1850 it was renamed "Queenstown" to commemorate a visit by Queen Victoria. From 1848 - 1950 over 6 million adults and children emigrated from Ireland with over 2.5 million departing from Cobh, making it the single most important port of emigration. To get to Cobh the Burkes would probably have taken a pony and trap (carriage) to Croom railway station, a short disstance away. Here, they would have taken a train to Cork city passing through Rosstemple, Bruree, Charleville and then on to Cork. There was a branch line from Cork to Cobh. Maybe one of their siblings accompanied them or maybe they travelled with a neighbour or relative who was emigrating also. In Cobh, they boarded tenders to take them out to the ships from a pier known as "Heartbreak Pier" for obvious reasons. The pier, though in poor repair, still stands. Having boarded the liner and sailed for the US the last bit of Irish land seen by emigrants would have been the Fastnet Rock which was referred to as the Teardrop of Ireland. 


Once they arrived in New York all immigrants were processed in Ellis Island which opened in 1892. In fact the first person through the gates of Ellis Island was an Irish girl, 15-year-old Annie Moore, who stepped off the gangplank just ahead of her younger brothers on January 1, 1892, and was greeted with much fanfare and a $10 gold coin. Here, in the Registry Room  arrivals were asked 29 questions including name, occupation, and the amount of money carried. It was important to the American government that the new arrivals could support themselves and have money to get started. The average the government wanted the immigrants to have was between 18 and 25 dollars. Just outside the Registry Room is a wooden column called the Kissing Post, where new arrivals were greeted by their relatives and friends. Maybe the Burkes were met by a relative or neighbour from home living in New York. They would have then taken a train to Chicago where they would be met by their siblngs who were already there. It must have been incredibly exciting, the Burkes in Chicago seeing their siblings for the first time in years and hearing all the news and for the newly-arrived immigrant, seeing Chicago for the first time.

Living the lives we lead now it is sobering to reflect on the sacrifices made by these men and women to better themselves. 





Fastnet Rock - the "Teardrop of Ireland" and the last piece of Irish land seen by departing emigrants


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Joe Burke - the last of the line.

Joe Burke was baptised on May 10th 1884. On the 1901 Irish Census he is shown as living at home in Kilmacow with his parents, brothers Michael, Tom, Ned and Dan and sisters Mary Ann and Margaret. By 1904, Tom, Ned and Margaret would be in America and Mary Ann would have married leaving him to work the farm with his brothers Michael and Dan. His father dies in 1908 and in 1909 he heads for America.
Joe travelled on a ship called the "SS Caronia" (a Cunard liner) which sailed from Queenstown (now called Cobh) on September 15th, 1909 arriving a week later in New York on the 22nd. On the ship’s manifest he gives his age as 20 even though he was 25 but many of the Burkes knocked a few years of their age with many of them having incorrect birth years on their gravestones. For the emigrants it may have been to do with making themselves more employable or eligible for certain jobs. Joe gives his home town as Croom and his next of kin as "Mother - Mrs Mary Burke, Croom, Co. Limerick”. He lists his occupation as "farmer" and his onward destination as "Chicago". He has a ticket for onward travel to Chicago and is joining his brother Thomas Burke who lives at 3431 Butler St. Chicago. He is described as being in good health, 5 ft 10 inches in height, fair complexion, brown hair and blue eyes.

According to his son, Jim , he had read that the streets of America were paved with gold! An uncle met him in New York when he landed and took him to a bar where he bought him two shots of whiskey before putting him on a train to Chicago. The Burkes met him off the train in Chicago and the story goes that he was taken to Gaelic Park where he took to the field for a hurling match. The hero of the day, he was carried from the pitch shoulder high!

In the 1910 US Census he is living with his brothers Ned and Tom and sister Margaret at 120 East 56th St. and is working as a railroad clerk. As is now customary for the Burkes he has knocked 5 years off his age. During WW1 he served in the southern states with the US Army. In 1920 he is lodging with a widow called Katherine McLoughlin and her family. He is now working as a shipper for the US government. Sometime after this he joins the Chicago Police Department.

On October 11th 1922, Joe married Lucy Butler. Lucy was born in Indiana to an American-born father and a German mother. By the 1930 census they are living at 8844, Morgan St. in a house that they own (worth $9000) and they have three sons, Joseph, James and Richard. Lucy’s brother and brother-in-law are lodging with them. Joe gives his age as 37, only knocking 9 years of his true age! Joe is now a sergeant in the Police Force and Lucy is working as a book-keeper in the bank.

By 1940 they are living at 10945, Edmondus Street. They also own this house with a value of $5,000. Lucy and Joe have two more sons, John and William. Joe only knocks off 5 years in this Census.


Lucy died of cancer on December 16th 1954. Joe had retired from the Police Force on November 1st 1947. He died on February 6th 1963. Joe is buried along with Lucy in Holy Sepulchre cemetery, the only one of the American Burkes not to be buried in Mount Olivet. His death notice in the Chicago Daily Tribune is poignant in that, as the last of the Burkes,  it name checks all his dead siblings – “brother of the late Patrick, Mary Ann, John, Michael, William, James, Hanna, Thomas, Kitty, Margaret, Daniel and Edward”.
Joe Burke's death notice - "Chicago Daily Tribune

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Margaret Burke

Margaret was baptised on April 14th 1883. She appears on the 1901 census as a 15 year old, another example of the Burke’s cavalier attitude to birthdays! She emigrated to the US in 1904 in the company of her sister Kitty. Kitty had emigrated around 1890 but obviously returned home for a holiday and Margaret travelled with her on her return (See post on Kitty on November 13th 2013 for more info). Margaret always said that she arrived in the US in the “Year of the James” as Pat’s son James was born that year as was Bill’s son, James Desmond. By 1910 she has trained as a stenographer and is working in a law office. She is living with her three brothers, Tom, Ned and Joe at East 56th St., Michigan Aveue. She now claims to be 22 (a good 5 years off the mark!).

I haven’t been able to find her in the 1920 / 1930 census returns but by 1940 she is living with her brother Bill (whose wife, Agnes, had died at this stage) and his daughter, Catherine and son Thomas. According to Catherine she was very good to the family after their mother’s death and they all thought a great deal of her. She is now in complete denial about her age and claims to be 40 (17 years gone at a stroke). She now works as a stenographer at the PWA office and earns $1440 annually. The PWA office may be the Public Works Administration, a public works construction agency set up in response to the 1930s Depression.
Margaret returned to Ireland in 1922 and according to her niece, Catherine, she had trouble returning to the US due to what Catherine calls “the Black & Tan uprising”. However, what actually was going on at that time was the Civil War which broke out immediately after the War of Independence between the majority who supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty which had ended the war and those who opposed it. Over the summer and autumn of 1922 there were large-scale military operations in the south as the Pro-Treaty forces regained control of cities like Limerick and Cork. This must have prevented Margaret getting to Queenstown in Cork, the nearest port for transatlantic crossings. She would then have had to go to Dublin, catch a boat to Liverpool and join her ship there. She arrives in New York on October 22nd on the “SS Baltic”. She gives her nearest relative in Ireland as her sister Annie in Limerick City and declares that she is travelling back to her brother Jack. Her brother Joe got married to Lucy Butler in Chicago on October 11th that year and I'm presuming Margaret intended to be home for that so she was delayed quite a bit. She also came home in June, 1930 with Jack for the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.

She also worked for the Federal Government in Washington DC and on her retirement in 1953 she came to live in Chicago with her niece, Catherine. Her grand-niece, Pat Scumaci, remembers her as a very sweet lady with a “soft, lilting accent”. She tells the story of Margaret visiting them one Christmas. Pat asked her if she’d like to see the toys she’d gotten for Christmas and Margaret having replied – “Oh, ‘twould be lovely” was held captive by Pat for an age as she showed off her presents. 
She died on October 11th 1958 and is buried in Mount Olivet cemetery.
Figure 1 - Margaret as a young woman

Figure 2 - Margaret in later years - does anyone recognise the building in background?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ned Burke - a life cut short by TB

Ned (Edward) was baptised on November 6th 1880. He emigrated to the US in 1903 arriving in New York on October 22nd on the SS Campania with his brother, the newly-ordained Fr. James. On the ship’s manifest he gives his occupation as “farmer”, is said to be carrying $50 and gives his brother Bill’s address in Chicago as his destination.
He was reputed to be a very good hurler and played on a Kilfinny team of the 1890’s and also on a team in Chicago that his brother Bill managed.
In the 1910 US Census he is living on East 56th St. Michigan Avenue with his brothers, Tom and Joe and his sister, Margaret and gives his name as Edwin. He is working as a railroad clerk.
At some point he moves to Texas to work as a railway clerk where he dies in 1917 of tuberculosis. His death certificate (see below - just click on the image to enlarge it ) shows that he died of pulmonary tuberculosis in the Bexar County TB Colony. The attending doctor had been treating him almost three weeks but the death certificate states that he had been ill for three years and had contracted the TB in Chicago.

He was only 37 and died a lonely death a long way from Kilmacow. John and Mary Burke had now lost three of their children, all three of whom had died in the US, two of them from TB. He is buried in the family plot in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kate Burke


 
Catherine (aka “Kate” or “Kitty”) Burke was baptised on February 13th 1870. According to the 1900 US Federal Census she emigrated to the US in 1890 at the age of 20. In 1900, she is living with her brother Pat, his wife Hannah and their three sons. Interestingly, she gives her birthday as July 1874 knocking 5 years of her age! At this point she is working as a bookkeeper.
She was reputed to be very beautiful and amongst my Dad and his siblings this was the only folk memory of her as she died in 1908 before any of them was born.
While researching her sister Margaret recently I came across a very interesting record of Kate. I had found a record of Margaret’s emigration to the US in 1904. She had travelled to the US at the age of 21 on the passenger ship the “Umbria” arriving in New York in September. I usually scan the other names on the page to see if there are any neighbours or relatives travelling with them. This time I struck gold when I found Kate on the same page. She obviously travelled home to Kilmacow and then returned to the US bringing her sister with her. They both give their brother Pat’s address as their destination and they both declare they are carrying $50. Kate gives her occupation here as “servant”. One can only begin to imagine the conflicting emotions of her parents. 14 years after she left, their daughter turns home on a holiday only to leave again carrying their other daughter.
The picture above was sent to me by Jim Burke (her nephew - Joe Burke's son). It was taken on May 28th 1904 - was it taken to be given as a gift to her parents when she travelled home that summer?
Catherine died on October 1st 1908 and is buried in the family plot in Mount Olivet cemetery.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bill & Agnes Burke - Portrait Photos



The last post featured Bill ("WJ") Burke and his wife Agnes. Bill's great-grand-daughter, Kim Burke Murray,  has kindly sent me on these two beautiful portrait photos of Bill and Agnes.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bill Burke, also known as "WJ"

 
R to L - Bill Burke, his son Des, daughter Catherine and his son Tom. His other son, Bill is out of frame.
 
Bill Burke was born on May 5th 1879 according to his daughter Catherine. He is the only one of the family for whom I cannot find a baptismal record. I’ve even tried the neighbouring parishes but no luck yet. As for all the other Burkes his birthday is a moveable feast. Over the 8 historical records I have for him his year of birth is given as 1877, 1878, 1879, 1880 or 1883 with 1878 being the most popular choice! In the two draft registration cards I’ve seen he gives two different birth dates – 21/3/1878 & 3/5/1878. According to Catherine, when they were they young they used to ask him how old he was and he would reply – “old enough to vote” – as a result they were never sure how old he was. Catherine comments that she “found out in later years that none of our Burke relatives liked to discuss ages”! Once when her brother Des brought his son Tom, then aged around 2 and starting to talk, over to the house, Tom Jnr. greeted his grandfather with “grandpa”. Bill replied – “Never mind the Grandpa, call me “WJ” and from then on Des’s children always referred to him as WJ.

He used to tell the children about the delicious Christmas cakes his sister in Ireland, Mary Ann, used to make and also talked about going to the races in Kilfinny with his brother Jack. Bill emigrated around the turn of the century to the US. In the 1910 US Census he gives his year of arrival as 1900 but in the 1920 Census he gives it as 1897. According to his daughter, Catherine, he arrived in 1899 and stayed with his brother Jack. However, I think he probably arrived after June 1900 as he isn’t listed on the 1900 Census as living with Jack.

On October 28th 1903 he married Agnes Bridget Mitchell who came from Castlebar in Co. Mayo. In the 1910 US Census they are living at 3131 Butter Street (Butler St - ?) and they have two children, James Desmond (born 1904) and Catherine (1910). Agnes is shown as having given birth to four children of which only two are alive. Curiously, the Census entry also has a “Josephine Burke” listed but there are no details and there is a line through her name. Had she been born recently and died as an infant? They went on to have two more children, Bill (1912) and Tom (1916). Catherine vaguely remembers her father taking Des to hurling games at Gaelic Park – Bill was manager of the team. Bill’s brother, Ned (Ed) also played on the team. In 1910 Bill was working as a shipping clerk.

Bill’s WW1 draft registration card has Bill and Agnes living at 5130 Lowe Avenue. Bill gives his occupation as an employee of “Brotherhood Freight Handlers” Agnes died on May 16th 1919 and was buried on the 19th in Mount Olivet cemetery.

In the 1920 US Census Bill is renting at 5134 Emerald Avenue. To help raise his young family (the youngest Tom is only 4 ½) he has hired a live-in servant, Mary McGinty, an Irish lady who was a widow herself. His occupation is given as a “Checker” with a railway company – this maybe a ticket checker or something to do with maintenance. Interestingly, James Desmond is now working as a messenger even though he is only 15.

By 1930 the family is renting at 5209 South Peoria Street paying $65 a month. The Census also helpfully informs us that they had a radio! He is working as a clerical worker with a railroad company. According to the 1940 Census the family have moved to 8943 May Street and his son, Thomas, and his daughter, Catherine are living with him along with his sister, Margaret. They are still renting, paying $27 a month. The Census also tells us that he only worked 15 weeks in 1939 earning $414 – maybe he had health issues or was unemployed for a period. His WW2 draft card shows him still living at 8943 S. May and he is now listed as “unemployed” .

Bill died on July 1st 1949