Fadó, (long ago), a daughter was born to James Quinn and Bridget Mooney who lived in the southeast of County Galway. They were tenants on land in Cloonnacusha townland, in the parish of Tynagh. Her name was Bridget, like her mother’s, and she joined two sisters and four brothers. One other sister had passed away before Bridget’s birth. Bridget was baptized into the Catholic faith in Tynagh on the 13th day of October in the year 1839. The baptism was also attended by sponsors, Biddy Dolphin and Associate Pastor, Reverend James Cavanaugh.
James and Bridget were married in the early 1820s and their first child, a daughter named Mary was born in early 1822. Mary was baptized on March 6th, 1822 and her baptism was witnessed by Bridget Haverty and Patrick Hearne. Unfortunately, Mary must have died sometime before July of 1829 because her parents named another of their daughters Mary then. This second Mary was baptized along with her twin sister, Kitty, on July 31st, 1829. Twins. Imagine that! Their sponsors were, respectively, William Flanagan and Mary Head, and James and Mary Haverty. Then, on the 10th of October, 1834, another daughter, Maria Anne, was baptized. Her witnesses were James Haverty and Ellen Flanagan. James and Bridget also had four sons. John, baptized April 25th, 1824, witnessed by John Haverty and Bridget Boughan; Michael, baptized June 24th, 1827, witnessed by James and Catherine Haverty; Patrick, baptized March 19th, 1832, witnessed by Patrick Foley and Ellen Kennedy; and James, whose date of birth is unknown. (We know James is one of the brothers because of his obituary.) So, there were three surviving daughters and at least three brothers, but possibly four, when Bridget was born. Surprisingly, there were no Quinn sponsors at any of these baptisms.
The first time we see James Quinn listed as residing in Cloonnacusha townland was in the 1826 Tithe Applotment records. The other tenants listed there are James Kennedy, John Lally, and Michael Martin. Their landlord was Thomas Edward Hearn, of Hearnsbrook, a Catholic gentleman. At this time, James and Bridget would have had at least two children, Mary and John. If we follow traditional Irish naming patterns, then James’ father would have been John Quinn and Bridget’s mother would have been Mary (maiden name unknown) Mooney.
The potato blight began in the fall of 1845 as Bridget was turning six years old. The next year, 1846, was even worse by all accounts. To make a long, terrible story short, the potato crop on which the Quinns depended for sustenance did not return until 1852. So for seven years the family endured the Great Famine, as it would soon be called.
We know that at least seven of the Quinn siblings came to America and eventually settled in or near Eagle Township, La Salle County, Illinois. They are: John, Michael, Patrick and James; and Mary Anne, Catherine, and Bridget. It is also possible that Mary may have emigrated too. On July 31st, 1849 the ship Cremona landed in the Port of New York. It had departed from the port in Galway with four Quinns on board: Michael, age 24; Mary, age 20; John, age 18; and Patrick, age 13. The ages don’t exactly match up but given the looseness in recordkeeping in those days, these could be our ancestors. Just speculation however. Michael had reported on the 1900 census that he had arrived in 1849 at about 22 years of age, not 24. Patrick reported that he had arrived in 1848 at about 16 years of age, not 13. Our Mary, born 1829, we have no info on at all, but this age fits exactly. John was not alive for the 1900 census, so we don’t have a year of immigration record for him. However, he was 3 years older than Michael, not 6 years younger.
As for Bridget, a neighboring family, that of Malachi Whelan from Moat townland in Killimor Parish, emigrated to New York on the packet ship Princeton from Liverpool and arrived in February of either 1854 or 1855. The passenger list’s last page indicates that the ship set sail on February 13th 1855 under Captain William H Russell. However, the first page of the passenger manifest states the ship arrived in New York on February 26th, 1854. The National Archives has filed the manifest in 1855. “Passenger lists 12 Jan 1855-24 Mar 1855 (NARA Series M237, Roll 150)” The introductory sheet states that the ship actually arrived on February 24, 1855. When was this introductory sheet created? Perhaps when the microfilming project occurred? (Research New York newspapers to find arrival information.) Contradictory evidence however is found in advertisements of the Cork Examiner. On February 10th, 1854, an ad/notice for the sailing of the Princeton captained by William Russell is listed. Alternatively, the ad/notice printed in the February 19th, 1855 Cork Examiner states that the Princeton, under Captain Crowell, set sail on Feb 1st.
No matter the year, the journey lasted only 13 days. Beside the Whelans, a Bridget Quinn aged 15 from County Galway was also on board. The Whelans settled nearby the Quinns in La Salle County so it seems very plausible that this Bridget Quinn is ours. 1854 is the year Bridget herself reported on the 1900 census that she had arrived in this country, so a discrepancy of one year, if she arrived in 1855.
Also on board the Princeton was Thomas Larkin, age 5, who undoubtedly was being brought by the Whelans to the Larkins already living in the same area as the Quinns. The Larkins were also from Killimor Parish. According to Marcella Walsh Keigan (Bridget’s granddaughter) all of Bridget’s money was stolen from around her neck while she slept. She had to scrub the floors and other housekeeping duties while on board as a result. As family lore, we imagine that there is some kernal of truth to this story.
Beside dealing with the theft, Bridget would probably also have been affected by the loss overboard of a twelve year old fellow passenger named Stephen Foley from County Leitrim. At the age of 15, Bridget had survived so much. The deprivation and indignities that accompanied the Famine, the probable deaths of her parents before she left Ireland, and now a perilous 3rd class journey across the Atlantic.
Marcella provides a brief description of her grandmother, Bridget. She had brown eyes and black hair. And was short in height, as were the Comiskys. She had dropsy a few months before she died, so in a picture from that time, her left hand looks puffy. Dropsy can be caused by nephritis, which is listed as a secondary cause of death on Bridget’s death certificate. Nephritis is an inflammation of the kidneys which, among other things, causes swelling in the body. Additionally, Bridget suffered a serious case of pneumonia about ten months before she eventually died in 1912 of an obstructed gallbladder. She is said to have been in poor health since the bout with pneumonia and surgery to correct the obstruction was unsuccessful. Bridget Quinn Comisky died at St. Mary’s Hospital in Streator, IL on September 30, 1912.
But back to 1855 when Bridget arrived in New York with the Whelans... At this point, the Great Famine had been over for about 3 years. When the ship docked in February, Bridget would have been 15 years old. It is unknown what manner of conveyance Bridget would have used to reach her family already in Illinois. One possibility would have been taking the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes (sailing through Lakes Erie, Huron, and Michigan) and then, near Chicago, travelling the Illinois & Michigan Canal to Ottawa where her sister Mary Anne Quinn lived. In 1852, there was a railway from the Detroit area to Chicago, the Michigan Central Railroad, so she could have taken the Erie Canal/Great Lakes portion of the trip to Detroit and then gone by rail to Chicago, and possibly even to Ottawa. Definitely, by 1855 the railroads had been developed to the point that Illinois was fully served. It is also possible that Bridget was able to travel the entire distance by rail.
She is said to have lived in Ottawa for about four years before moving to Eagle Township to live with one of her brother’s families presumably. We know that in April of 1858, she married James Comisky at St. Columba’s Church in Ottawa. Witnesses to this happy occasion were John Walsh and his wife, Elizabeth Duggan Walsh. James was 31 years of age and Bridget was only 18 at the time of the marriage. John and Elizabeth Duggan Walsh also were far apart in age, respectively 37 and 19 years old at the time of their marriage in 1857. It’s not hard to imagine that Bridget and Elizabeth would have been friends. Six months after their marriage, James and Bridget purchased the NW ¼ of Section 20 in Richland Township. This was 3 miles west and one mile north of where the Walsh’s lived (NW ¼ of Section 26 in Eagle Township).