A view of the Portland skyline via Baxter Boulevard, summer 2005. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception steeple, center.
* Always under construction *
I'm researching my family's direct maternal line, which includes families of the surnames Burke, Greely/Grealy, Cunningham, Riley/Reily, Welch/Walsh, Staunton/Stanton, etc. and their families, friends and neighbors from the region around the Lough Corrib, in County Galway and, also, south Mayo, Ireland who relocated to Portland, Maine, USA in the 19th century.
These pages serve as a place to share information with the hope of connecting with relatives or other researchers who would like to collaborate on genealogical information. There were many immigrants of these surnames, and others, from these parts of Galway and Mayo, who immigrated to Maine's largest port city area beginning in the 1840's right up through the early decades of the 1900s. It is typical to find siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even later generations of family follow the original immigrant. For example, I once found a passenger record for a man who immigrated almost 50 years after an aunt. People from the same townlands in Ireland frequently immigrated together creating their own communities, or enclaves, that could involve large neighborhoods or be as small as a street corner. Sometimes people had their passage paid by their landlords, through immigration schemes, such as the Tuke fund, or an aid society. By investigating the records on this side of the Atlantic, I hope to sort out some of the tangled family relationships and discover more about their origins, and their lives, in the Old Country.
Anyone who is researching their 19th century immigrant ancestors should take care to consider the circumstances driving emigration from Ireland. The Great Hunger, was the most notable event of the century. During the time, more than 2 million people left the country in less than a ten year span of time (1845-1855). Yet, this 'famine' was neither Ireland's first, nor would it be its last. Population losses were not geographically uniform across the island, or even locally. In Galway, for instance, Annaghdown lost almost half of its population while the nearby community of Oughterard only saw a drop of slightly over four percent in the same time period, 1841-1851. Intermittent famines, chronic poverty, high unemployment, population congestion, political, social and economic instability, or, perhaps, family members who had already left, were major driving forces behind out-migration.
Michael Burke and Bridget Grealy, along with some of their families, friends and neighbors, belonged to the earliest wave of Galway immigrants to the bustling little city of Portland. In 1857, they joined hands in marriage at St. Dominic's church, which was the city's first Catholic church. They had ten children and, at least, twenty five grandchildren. Like so many of other Irish in Portland, Michael Burke found steady employment in the booming railroad industry, at the Portland Company on Fore Street. Home ownership, too, became a reality for hard working Irishmen, like Michael. In 1860, he saved enough money to purchase a 2-family house on Adams Street from his employer. This property would remain in the family for over a century, until it was sold to the city during the Urban Renewal era, otherwise known as the slum clearances of the 1960s.
Mary Ann, eldest child of Michael & Bridget - first of the family born in America.
Thank you for visiting.
Krista J. Ozyazgan
This website is lovingly dedicated to my late grandmother, Helen. R.I.P.
"The literature of a nation is spun out of its heart. If you want to know Ireland, body and soul, you must read its poems and stories. They are Ireland talking to herself." - W. B. Yeats
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