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Burke-Greely Family
Ireland to America

Portland Maine

A view of the Portland peninsula from "Bug Light" park, South Portland. Summer 2016. 

* Always under construction *

Family Current Research Portland Irish History St. Dominic's and Cathedral

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. These individuals came from the region around the Lough Corrib in County Galway and south County Mayo and relocated to Portland, Maine, United States in the mid to late 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 east Galway and south 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 Irish immigrant ancestors should take care to consider the circumstances driving emigration from their homeland. The Great Hunger was the most significant event causing out-migration during the century. Experts estimate 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 within 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 all driving forces behind people leaving home.

Michael Burke and Bridget Grealy, along with some of their relatives, friends and neighbors, belonged to the earliest wave of Galway immigrants to the bustling little city of Portland. In the year 1857, they joined hands in marriage at St. Dominic's parish church, which was the city's first Roman Catholic church. They had ten children, all baptised at the Cathedral of ther Immaculate Conception, and, at least, twenty five grandchildren. Like many other Irish immigrant men in Portland, Michael quickly found steady employment in the booming railroad industry, at the Portland Company on Fore Street. Home ownership, too, became a reality. In 1860, he saved enough money to purchase a two-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 (slum clearances) in the 1960s. 

Michael and his older brother, John, served in the U.S. Army during the American Civil War. Afterwards, they joined the newly formed Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.). Military service offered a little bit of income, a pension and perhaps a faster path to citizenship. 

If you note someone or something on these pages of interest to you, please contact me as I may have additional information to share. I'm local, too, for a quick record look-up, a photograph of a home, building, or other location and gravestones in Calvary cemetery in South Portland. 

Micheal Burke signature

Michael's signature

Bridget's signature

Mary Ann Burke
Mary Ann, eldest child of Michael & Bridget - first of the family born in America.

"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

K. Ozyazgan

E-mail(push all words together): maine geni @ me. com