Finding Single Irish Women Immigrants to New York City

blog post banner Finding Single Irish Women Immigrants to New York City

In our extended family, a group of cousins work together to bring the stories of our shared Irish immigrant family, as well as the families they left behind in Ireland, back to life. In the chain migration of a family unit, the older siblings often come first, with others following. In the family unit from which most of us descend, the oldest siblings traveled to the US first, followed by the widowed mother and all the younger siblings, traveling after the death of their father. A shared goal is to bring the stories of our shared Irish immigrant family back to life.

Ships’ manifests are great records, but the older they are, the less helpful they are. This is where other records are needed to confirm an identity that appears on the manifest. Several censuses collected information about immigration, but these may be estimates or the best recollection of the person who gave the enumerator the information. Some vital records may list the number of years a person was in the US, but these might be filled out by a decedent’s child who did not have firsthand knowledge of the event. Naturalization records can help by sharing a date, but depending on the timeframe, women would derive their citizenship from their husband and not seek citizenship on their own.

For the 300,000 young unmarried Irish women who traveled to the US, it may be difficult to pinpoint their arrival date and ship. The repetition of names within an Irish family can compound this difficulty. If your unmarried Irish female ancestor came to New York City between 1883-1954, the records of the Irish Mission at Watson House might help. For us, this database confirmed the ship of one of those older siblings, a single female, who arrived alone as a link in that chain of immigration.

Multiple members of our group had searched for Delia’s arrival, and we converged on the most probably being the one shown below. Delia is a nickname for Bridget, so we had searched using both names. In the manifest below, there is a Bridget McMahon and a Delia McMahon, but our McMahon is known to come from Kilrush. The date of this manifest fit into the timeline for her life events; we knew that she was no longer with her family in Kilrush, Clare, Ireland at the time of the 1901 Irish Census.

Manifest of the Germanic, arriving 10 Mar 1901

Manifest of the Germanic, arriving 10 Mar 1901 (lines 12 through 16, columns 1 through 9)

Column 16 of the manifest is “Whether going to join a relative, and if so, what relative, their name and address.” Bridget McMahon shown in line 12 was going to meet her Uncle D. McMahon. We did know that siblings arrived ahead of her, but not recognize the address from our previous work.

Manifest of the Germanic, arriving 10 Mar 1901 (Column 16)

Manifest of the Germanic, arriving 10 Mar 1901 (Column 16)

The Irish Mission at Watson House helped over 100,000 of these women who arrived in New York City. The ledgers are dated between 1883-1954, and on the search page we are told to check back, as there will be more additions to the website. I learned about this database from a great webinar given at The Genealogy Center, reviewed at:

The Irish Mission at Watson House Home Page

The home page gives the history and the context for the Mission, so it is worth browsing. From the home page you select Digital Archives, or you can search or browse from:

Irish Mission search

(I could have selected SEARCH from the menu at the top of the screen to use the search page.)

The first result was our ancestor.

Irish Mission search for Bridget McMahon

From the search result you can viewer the ledger, its transcription, and download a pdf of the page.

Ledger with Bridget McMahon

There was a ledger entry for Bridget McMahon, from County Clare, who came in on the Germanic on that date. (The entry on the Passenger Manifest gave Kilrush as the place of origin.)

Ledger entry for Bridget McMahon

Ledger entry (left) for Bridget McMahon

In that entry it showed that she was meeting Denis McMahon. Although the avenue name was misindexed, it is an abbreviation for “Broadway.” There was a Denis McMahon on Broadway in our research, but the address had conflicted with what we knew about Delia’s brother, Denis. Now we know the connection between Delia and Denis McMahon of Broadway, extended our chain of migration and our understanding of the family structure back to another generation.

Ledger entry for Bridget McMahon

Ledger entry (right) for Bridget McMahon

You can also browse the collection from the Digital Archives page. Be flexible when you browse this way. When I browsed by county it appeared that the spelling of the counties was taken from the records. For example, when browsing for entries for County Clare, there were entries for: Calre, Clare, Co. Clare, Clara and “Clare.”

Browse by county

If you research any of the young women who traveled alone from Ireland to New York City between 1883-1954, try searching this database. It may provide the clue you have been needing. Let me know how you do with this database!

Webinar Review: Irish Immigrant Women in the US

Blog Post Banner - Webinar Irish Women

As you know, this blog reviews. It is probably time to review webinars! Or at least one webinar that I found incredibly interesting which shared very insightful resources. The webinar was “A Lonely Voyage: Finding Irish Immigrant Women in the United States” given by Elizabeth Hodges, an expert in Irish and Irish American Studies.

Elizabeth Hodges is a Senior Genealogy Library at the Allen County Public Library, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is the home of The Genealogy Center. You can read about her and the other librarians who are genealogists at: She has an amazing combination of skills as historian, genealogist and educator.

In this webinar, Ms. Hodges provides an insightful social history about the women who traveled alone from Ireland to the United States, sharing the reasons for immigration and the challenges they faced at all steps of this journey. She explains the history and context of why so many Irish women traveled alone to the United States. Additionally, she outlines how they traveled, which ports were common departure and arrival ports, and how US laws influenced their immigration experience. She also describes what life and work were like in the US after their arrival. By looking at combined experiences of the time, we can definitely see life through the eyes of our Irish female immigrant ancestors.

As a bonus, wonderful resources were shared. One that was especially useful in my research was The Irish Mission at Watson House website, which will be featured in this blog soon.

“A Lonely Voyage: Finding Irish Immigrant Women in the United States” is now on the YouTube channel for The Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library

YouTube Channel for The Genealogy Center - Irish Immigrant Women

While you are at the YouTube Channel, you can look for other presentations by Ms. Hodges, additional Irish presentations, and hundreds of other presentations in their playlist.

The Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland

Blog Post - the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland

100 years ago at the start of the Irish Civil War, a fire at the Public Record Office of Ireland (PROI) in the Four Courts complex destroyed the Record Treasury, a repository holding seven hundred years of records.

Trinity University began the Beyond 2022 project to bring together historians and computer scientists to reconstruct the library in a virtual format. The project identified replacement documents then built a virtual archive using digitized images of the records that survived, duplicates of documents that survived in other locations and record substitutes. They used a database of what was stored on each shelf, bay and floor in the PROI in 1922. The records’ metadata, images and transcriptions are linked. Five years later, on the centenary, the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland (VTRI).

At the core of this effort is the National Archives Ireland, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, The National Archives (UK), the Irish Manuscripts Commission, and Trinity College Dublin Library, and 70 other participating institutions from around the world.

VRTI officially launched on 27 June 2022. After five years of work, the project launched the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland.

Dublin Library (from Pixabay)

Visit the VRTI and search or scroll down to learn more. This is a free resource that will be available online permanently.

To learn more:

Visit the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland

Virtual Reality Visit

“Seven centuries of public records brought back to life 100 years after Four Courts fire”

Beyond 2022 at The National Archives. What is it?

The Public Record Office of Ireland fire and the Beyond 2022 project

Book Review: “New Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy”

New Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy cover

Being the owner of the Second Edition of the “Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy” (2002), I was glad to review this all-new, revised and expanded version of the book. Irish genealogy can be challenging, and Ireland’s history has had an impact on researching Irish ancestors.

As in previous editions, the book contains a concise outline of the history of Ireland and how it applies to genealogical research. The book contains the maps, as well as definitions of geographical and administrative areas that you will need to know while researching Irish ancestors.

If your ancestors emigrated from Ireland, your research needs to begin at home. The book gives brief insights into how to start in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Great Britain.

The author asserts that using seven (7) major record sources, a researcher should be able to go six or seven generations back in their family tree in Ireland. This distance may be impeded when ancestors in the same place have the same or similar names, or the records may not exist. A beginning researcher would benefit from learning of these sources; an intermediate researcher is probably aware of them, but might benefit from knowing more details about how to access and use them. There are also a variety of other records, some of them potentially less obvious, that are introduced and may prove useful for placing an Irish ancestor at a place during a certain time.

The “Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy” was originally published in 1991, revised in 2002 and revised again in 2008. This new 2020 edition is expanded from previous editions, and Irish researchers may find it worth the investment to upgrade to the 2020 edition.

This 2020 edition represents a major effort to include the ever-growing number of resources that have become accessible online. Although the Second Edition did have a chapter about “Irish Genealogy and the Internet,” this new edition contains more timely and relevant information. A new section that organizes “Insights and Strategies” includes expanded and new content. There is a three-step guide to tracing your Irish ancestors, which is followed by a case study demonstrating how to employ the steps. In the new content includes a brief chapter about when and how to DNA. Identifying genetic cousins and collaborating with them to pool records and held  family is definitely a way to pool

The book includes specific details and expands on how to use the strategies with ample examples. Included in the examples, the author embeds a demonstration of how to extract data from the available records, which readers might find helpful to organize the data they collect during their research. The case study of a Scots-Irish ancestor may be especially helpful if this is an area of your research.

This book is dense with usable information, and it may take a while to digest. A researcher might choose to work through this book as an instructive text. A researcher could benefit from taking the time to read through the book slowly, focusing on a record set or strategy, and then applying what was read to their own research. This approach could be more useful than sitting down and reading the book from cover-to-cover. The book can also serve as a reference for a researcher building a family tree.

The term “pocket guide” is a bit of a misnomer; you would need large pockets to carry this book around with you! Cosmetically, I found the font in this latest version was easier on my eyes than that of the Second Edition.

Mitchell’s work to revise and update this book was worth the amount of work he so obviously invested. With its updated and relevant content, it is worth considering upgrading to the 2020 edition in your genealogical library.

“New Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy” by Brian Mitchell is available at

Book review: “From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City”

I had a chance to review “From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City: A History of the Irish in Milwaukee” by Carl Baehr.

In family history, context is incredibly important. “From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City: A History of the Irish in Milwaukee” gives the reader that context of the Irish experience of settling in Milwaukee, along with the concurrent history of Ireland. If your family includes the initial settlers of Milwaukee or the famous or infamous, you may find details of their lives among the pages. Even if your family members are not named, you will still find be able to understand the more about their lives and times while living in the “Cream City.”

From the “Note of Street Names” that begins the book, you know that you can expect a well-researched work. The author has produced a well-written narrative, sharing citations for the material he used. The book takes the reader on a trip from the beginning of Milwaukee to the present day, focusing on the Irish in the city’s Third Ward. You learn how Milwaukee recruited immigrants and how they traveled, settled and lived. There are the stories of neighborhoods, schools, work and politics.

Mr. Baehr is a great storyteller. As you read through the chapters of the book, the history unfolds decade by decade. It is as if he is sitting with you, setting the stage for the events that will unfold, then immersing you in the stories of the people involved. He finishes their tales, telling what became of them after their notoriety.

The Irish-born population faced significant challenges in the city. Even their eligibility for citizenship was questioned by those who forgot that immigrants may have spent time living closer to ports before their arrival in Milwaukee.

The book describes the events that shaped the Irish community, such as the impact of the loss of life to the Third Ward in the tragic sinking of the Lady Elgin and the Leahey Riot. The experiences of Milwaukee’s Irish soldiers in the Civil War is detailed.

The Appendices contain useful reference material for students of the Irish in Milwaukee. The author shares his research into the miscalculation of Irish born Milwaukeeans in the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Censuses; a list of the victims and survivors of the Lady Elgin; and the victims of the Newhall House Hotel Fire.

Mr. Baehr tells compelling stories about the Irish in Milwaukee and of the city itself. Students of Milwaukee’s history and those interested in the history of the Irish in America will also enjoy this book.

You can learn more about the book here.

Get Your Irish Civil Records Online!

If you have Irish ancestors, you need to be using the Civil Records at This website will be a major boon to your research. Using this website, I was able to look up and download records that would have cost quite a bit to order from overseas.

The Civil Records that are online are:

  • Births: 1864 to 1915
  • Marriages: 1882 to 1940
  • Deaths: 1891 to 1965

A good place to start is the page about the Civil Records:




To search, go to




Give the simple search form a try. In fact, I found this form to be the most useful.

The first thing I did was to download the images for my Grandfather’s and his siblings birth records. I knew the Civil Registration District/Office, and their dates of birth. The children were born between 1882 and 1902.

When you begin to type into that field a drop down menu appears. You can always leave that field blank to search all the counties.




After pressing the Search button, I had to check a box to prove that I was not a robot.

Then I had to give my name to search the archives.




When I used 1894 with no end to the range, the results ranged from 1894 through to the last year of the database.




The records before 1900 did not have the Mother’s Birth Surname indexed. From 1900 on, the search results show the Mother’s Birth Surname.

You can select “More search options” to use additional search options.

The additional search options restrict the search.




I clicked on the result that was my Grandfather’s.




I clicked on the image button to see the whole page of the register.




My Grandfather was listed as entry number 59. The section on the right was used for comments in other entries.




For one of his siblings there was an image of the record, and the certified record.

Then I downloaded his Mother’s birth record.

Next came his parent’s marriage record. For the end of the session, I downloaded the death record for his Father and Sister.


A Broader Search

For some ancestors, their county of birth is not yet known. I left the District/Registration field blank. I can now search each record to see if I could find the ancestor.




I knew the ancestor’s mother’s name from her death certificate, so I searched a timeframe around her birth year. There were two birth records that matched the mother’s name. One of those two had a father’s name that matched the name of one of her sons. However, he son’s father had the same name, so it is not firm evidence.




There is more work to be done, but this is a good lead. I am going to review my atDNA test results to see if any clues are hiding in the matches.

An interesting article by John Grenham can be found here:

Give this a try, and let me know how you do!