16 March 2009

How to Find Irish People in Beaufort District 1850 - 1930

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I am going to tell you how to find the Real Irish in Beaufort.

Start by coming to one of our Branch Libraries and log onto Ancestry Library Edition (ALE). You can get access to the US Federal Censuses, 1790 - 1930 via ALE. Limit your searches to "South Carolina" and "Beaufort County," and go into each dicennial database.

The 1850 Federal census was the first census to include where a free person was born so if the answer is "Ireland," Bingo, you have a Real Irish person! -- Maybe.

Genealogical data gathering is all about securing documentation to prove a person's identity and relationships. It is a rare family historian who never ever finds conflicting information and/or documents!

Here's how I spent an hour or so last week trying to figure out what I could from my desk and in the obituary files about the "Real Irish of Beaufort District, 1850 to 1930."

In 1850, there were 38 Beaufort District residents who had been born in Ireland. Surnames represented include: Butter, Cardwell, Connolly, Dailey, Doyle, Dwyre, Kennedy, McCarty, McElheran, O'Conner, and Morris.

In 1860, the number of Irish born residents had dwindled down to 21. The only Irish person on both the 1850 and 1860 censuses is "Francis Cassady," 60, a farmer who owned $6000 worth of real estate and $14,500 worth of personal property, including 15 slaves. He lived with his South Carolina born wife, Mary, in the Whippy Swamp area of the District.

The 1870 Federal Census lists 34 Irish born residents of Beaufort District, but none of the Irish males listed on the 1860 census re-appear on the 1870 census. It's harder to tell about the female Irish because upon marriage women dropped their maiden names. The census takers didn't care what a woman's maiden name was.

Interestingly, one Irish born man, by the name of Thomas Farrigan, a Mariner living on Hilton Head, Beaufort is listed as a "Mulatto" in the transcription of the census record. I think, though, that the transcriptionist got it wrong. The family group, Thomas,aged 33 Anna, "Keeping House" aged 42 [also born in Ireland], and John, age 9, born in South Carolina, had "B" assigned to their "Race." The census taker had sort of scratchy handwriting and appears to have replaced the "B" with a scratchy "W" that the transcriptionist interpretted as a "M." Tip: Always consult the original image or document. The occupations of Irish born residents of 1870 St. Luke's Parish were laborer, farmer, seaman, carpenter, merchant, and one "Agt. McLeod Bros."

One of the few Irish people to permanently settle in Beaufort was Ellen Driscoll (variant spellings Oduscol, Driscol, Bliss). Her obituary from the September 9, 1926 Beaufort Gazette, is headlined: "Mrs. Ellen Driscoll Passed Away Tuesday. For Over Sixty-Five Years a Resident of Beaufort -- Loved by All Who Knew Her." The content indicates that she had been born in "New York City." Yet, both she and her husband Dennis, a ship's carpenter, are listed in the 1880 Federal Census as having been born in Ireland. She was a Roman Catholic whose funeral was presided over by Father F. Murphy of St. Peter's Church. Her bones lie in the St. Peter's Catholic Graveyard on Carteret Street.

The 1890 Federal Census was destroyed by fire so there isn't a quick check to finding out what Irish born people were here in 1890. Remember, I'm doing this work from my desk using only ALE, the obituary files, and the few books we have for cemeteries.

In 1900 Alice F. Odell, the daughter of Irish immigrants, but herself born in Maine, is working as a Confectioner and her husband James as a baker. However, their daughter, Matilda's parentage is given as "Place of Birth of the FATHER of this person" is given as "New York" but the "Place of Birth of the MOTHER of this person" says "Ireland." How can Alice be born in both "Maine" and "Ireland?" Another discrepancy that deserves investigation at some point, but not right now. Alice Odell would go on to be the proprietress of the Sea Island Hotel for almost 40 years according to her obituary published in the Beaufort Gazette in 1921. Matilda (aka Maude O'dell Doremus) would go on to become a famous Broadway actress.

I will try to write more tomorrow but for now, it's off to the baseball field -- and the voracious gnats!

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