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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 a local researcher of the Irish who settled in Portland, Maine. My own ancestors came to Portland beginning in the 1840s and include families of the surnames Burke, Greely/Grealy, Cunningham, Riley/Reily, Welch/Walsh, Staunton/Stanton, etc. They were part of a network of families, friends and neighbors including the families of Connolly, Costello, Craven, Donellan, Fahy, Flaherty, Gantley, Glynn, Healy, Hession, Shaughnessy, Sheridan, and others. They came from the region around the Lough Corrib in County Galway and Crossboyne and Claremorris in County Mayo. This website serves as a place to share genealogical and historical information with the hope of connecting with relatives or other researchers who would like to collaborate on research. There were many people of these family names, 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 parishes and 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 relatives abroad, landlords, through immigration schemes, such as the James Hack Tuke fund, or an immigrant 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 J. Burke and Bridget I. Grealy joined hands in marriage in 1857 at St. Dominic's parish church, which was Portland's first Roman Catholic church. They had ten children, all baptised at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and, at least, twenty five grandchildren. Like so many other Portland Irish immigrants of his era, Michael quickly found steady employment in the booming railroad industry, with 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. 

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.

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.

"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