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!