|Pastoral Irish Cottages c.1820|
Mary married James O'Connell, who was at least 10, possibly 12, years her senior, about 1838, and their first of twelve children was born in or about 1839. The Irish Rebellion was heating up and I imagine it was a time of much unrest as tradition was being pushed out by modernization and the English were imposing their ideas upon the Irish. Mary gave birth to her second child in or about 1841. By the time their third child was born, about 1842, I imagine things were looking worrisome for the new, rapidly growing family. [The alternate possibility I have considered is that Mary may have married James closer to 1843, that James was a widower and the first three children were not Mary's natural children.]
At some point between 1842 and 1844 Mary and James decide to emigrate to America.
|Cutaway of ship|
|Arriving in America|
By 1850 Mary and James had settled in Poughkeepsie, New York. The family had grown to seven children under the age of 10. James is recorded as a cabinetmaker, Mary is recorded as unable to read or write. The neighbors in their new community were a mixture of Irish and English.
In 1860 the family has grown by another four children. James is now listed as a laborer. They do not own any real estate yet, but the value of their personal estate is equal to or greater than the neighbors. Things are going well in their new homeland. Mary is a very busy homemaker with 12 members of the household to care for, ten children and two adults. It appears that the first born son, Patrick, has left the family home.
1861. America is at war. With itself. Three of Mary's sons are old enough to fight. (To date I have found records for only one son, Hugh, who fought and survived. Hugh lived with his mother until the day she died.) If my alternate theory is correct then only Hugh would be Mary's natural son, the other two boys would be step sons. I can find no record of the first two boys after 1860.
|Frame House c. 1870|
The 1875 New York census lets us glimpse at what Mary and James had accomplished since setting out from all that was ancestral and familiar, to forge a better life for their children. They are home and land owners, well, James is anyway. Their home is valued at or above the neighboring homes. The neighborhood has changed to include German immigrants and many native New Yorkers.
By 1880 Mary is widowed. She is living still in her beloved home in Poughkeepsie, NY with six of her grown children. But the story does not end there.
Mary has one final adventure ahead of her.
Sometime prior to 1888 Mary, along with two sons and three daughters, decided to leave her family home, her friends and many of her children behind in New York, and move to St Paul, Minnesota. I wish I knew why. I can find no evidence of the reason for such a long distance move so late in her life. All of her children were single. Perhaps something happened at home or perhaps one of the sons secured work.
|Minnesota Street Car c.1890|
But she lived a most adventurous life.
Mary was a strong resilient Irishwoman who left a land of poverty for the promise of a better life.