Part 2

by Sheila Whittington

 In the first issue of Biatach, I told the story of how my husband and I traveled to Ireland in search of my McDermottRoe ancestors - finding them in Monastereiden, County Roscommon. On that first trip, we visited the Catholic Church of Annunciation & St. Nathy in Ballaghaderreen, where my great great grandfather Edward married Anne Kelly in 1846, to see if we could find any further members of the family. Upon meeting the Priest, we were informed that we should return following the 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday, and Father would have time to spend with us going over the Church records. This we did, only to find out that Father was tied up with Parish affairs - would we please return the next night following Mass? Again, we did. Again, Father was very busy - to our good fortune. We were allowed to peruse the actual books at our leisure, while Father was otherwise occupied about the Rectory.

At the Kildare Library in Dublin, the only family member we had been able to get information on was Peter, born in 1866 - but since 20 years had passed since the marriage, we were hoping to find others. The Church records only went back to 1854, however. But we were able to find baptismal records for Terrence (1854), Mary Anne (1859), Richard (1862), Patrick (1865), then Peter. But family stories mentioned an Edward, Hugh and Thomas. The search was on.

Edward we found at the cemetery (written about in the first issue) and knew that he was born in 1847. We later found Hugh's marriage certificate (1872) stating he was born around 1851. To date, no information has been found on Thomas (thought to have immigrated to Chicago, Illinois).

By 1889, my great grandfather, Patrick had settled in Leeds, Yorkshire England and married Margaret Brannon. They lived in central Leeds, along with many others who had come over from Ireland. Family stories are told of the uncles coming over from Ireland every winter to work, but returning to the farm for the summer. A daughter, Ann Elizabeth was born in their first year of marriage, but she lived only one month, dying of convulsions. Shortly after her death, Patrick and Margaret came to the U.S., settling in Providence, Rhode Island. Stories passed down say that Patrick was working on the boats, going back and forth from the U.S. to England. (I would only presume I could find this information from the Cunard Lines). Edward, their first son was born in 1891, Thomas in 1893. Thomas died at age 6 months of infant cholera. My grandfather, Patrick was born the next year. (Years later, I managed to get Patrick and Edward's birth certificates online from the State Archives - the U.S. certificates gave the birth order of the child - which is how I found out about Ann Elizabeth - although the aunts used to speak of another child 'Nellie').

Following Patrick's birth, the small family returned to Leeds England, and settled in the same Irish stronghold, where a number of other children were born: Elizabeth, 1895, Peter 1898, Caroline 1900, Mary Ann 1902, Margaret 1903, Helena 1905, Rose 1907, Catherine 1910, Norah 1912, Winnifred 1913. On the birth certificates of these children, Patrick was always listed as a labourer. About the time Winnifred was born, Peter was sent over to Ireland to work on the farm, as Edward had no children (story in the first issue).

Tragedy struck again in 1921, as Winnifred died of T.B. and convulsions. About this time, Edward, the eldest son, and many of the girls were coming over to the U.S. where they lived with their Uncle Richard in Providence. Richard had married Bridget Donahue in 1888 in Ireland. They had a daughter, Mary Anne Elizabeth a year later, then came to the U.S. on the Etruria. A second daughter, Margaret Jane was born in Ireland while Bridget was visiting her family. A third daughter, Helena was born in Providence in 1898. Richard and his family settled in downtown Providence (Atwell St., Hospital St.) area. (Note: on a subsequent visit to Providence, I traced their movements annually through the Directories - thus finding out what years each of the children joined Richard's family).

This family, as many others of the time, seemed prone to tragedy. Their third son, Patrick (my grandfather) had married in Leeds and a son, Edward (my father), was born in 1915. Patrick joined the 19th Bn.Northumberland Fusiliers and was stationed in Belgium during WWI. My father has only one memory of him: being carried around on a big man's shoulders during his father's leave of absence (my dad was three years old). Patrick died three weeks before the end of the war, just outside Poperinge, Belgium and is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. Patrick and Margaret had now lost four children, and another son had been sent to Ireland.

Following Winnifred's death, Patrick and Margaret came back to live at South Street in Providence, where many of their children joined them. A quick summary of their lives follows:

  • Edward J. came to the U.S. in 1923, married and had one daughter. He was a machinist, dying in 1971.
  • Elizabeth came to the U.S. in 1914, then returned to Leeds, England to marry. She and her husband and son Arthur (who later became an actor in Hollywood) returned to the U.S. in 1923. A second son was born there. They settled in California, where she died at age 89.
  • Peter, the son who was sent over to Ireland to work on the farm, apparently joined the Navy during WWI, then returned to the land. He died in 1942, having never been married.
  • Caroline came to the U.S. in 1920, worked in jewelry, married and had two sons, settling in Warwick, where she died in 1998 at the age of 98.
  • Mary Ann (Molly) immigrated in 1919, married and had eight children, settling in Connecticut. She died at the age of 89.
  • Margaret arrived with in the U.S. with only $20. in 1921, and worked as a telephone operator. She married in 1925, having seven children. She died in 1961 at age 81.
  • Helena (Lena) came to the U.S. in 1922, also working in jewelry, married and had two children. She died in 1996 at the age of 91.
  • Rose immigrated with a friend from home, settled in Providence, married and had one daughter. She died in 1997 at the age of 90.
  • Catherine immigrated with two of her sisters, married and had two daughters. She then settled in California, where she died.
  • Norah came to the U.S. where she worked as a flower maker, married, had three children, dying in 1999 at the age of 87.

Patrick died in Providence in 1940 at the age of 75. His wife, Margaret lived until the age of 83, dying in 1953. They are both buried in St. Francis Cemetery, Pawtucket, with their son Thomas.

Over the years, several reunions have been held in Providence - the latest one just last summer, as I tried to update my information. At that time I took with me pictures of the original land holdings in Ireland to show where their ancestors lived - and shared with them the stories I had of the family McDermottRoe.

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