Mary Ellen Bligh was born at 2.06 am on 13 July 1895 in a thatched cottage with three small rooms in Clooncoose, Castlerea. She was the daughter of small farmers John Bligh and Jane Larkin, and the younger twin sister of Mary Kate, born one hour previous. All the daughters of the Bligh household were given the first name "Mary" but known by their middle names. Ellen received the further nickname of "Nellie".
She grew up on a farm with a cow house, piggery, barn and shed by the family home. In 1901, "Ellie" (5) lived with her parents John (40) and Jane (28), her elder sister Mary Anne (7), twin Kate (5), and younger sisters Bridget (4) and baby Jane. Mary Anne Hopkins (15) was staying over the night of the census.
By 1911, Nellie and Kate were sixteen years old and recorded on the national census with John ("56"), Jane ("43"), Jane (10) and the youngest of the family, Anne (8), Michael (6) and William (2). The Bligh's were a family of ten children in total but one had died by this time. They lived in a smaller house with just two rooms and two front windows.
On 15 May 1915, Nellie, aged twenty, boarded the SS New York in Liverpool City. She was five foot six inches with dark skin, black hair and blue eyes. She was bound for New York City to join her elder sister and ready to start a new life. The boat docked at Ellis Island on 25 May after a ten day journey over the Atlantic Ocean. She met her sister and uncle James Bligh and went to live with them at 449 West 57th Street.
After working in different establishments and training, Nellie qualified as a cook. She returned to Ireland around 15 October 1921 to visit for a few months. She was on her way to the USA again by 9 April 1922, boarding the SS Cedric in Queenstown. Her ship records described her as five feet two inches with a "fresh complexion", dark brown hair and grey eyes. She had twenty five pounds in her purse and had paid her own passage. Upon landing in New York on 17 April 1922, she settled back into the daily life there. At this time, she lived with her twin sister Kate at 115 East 37th Street.
Nellie appealed for US citizenship on 13 Nov 1925. She finally received it on 28 Feb 1928 after thirteen years there. Her friends Hannah Norton, a maid (1010 5th Avenue), and Patrick Brady, a plasterer (315 East 57th Street), were witnesses. Her address was 41 East 65th Street.
She had a successful career as a cook for wealthy families and may have worked for the billionaire Schley's in Far Hills, New Jersey. She met Bridget Quinn, another immigrant from County Roscommon, through this, and the two were lifelong friends. Bridget eventually married and settled back in Ireland and Nellie visited her family several times.
Nellie Bligh died in Nassau, New York in January 1985. She was ninety years old and had lived and worked in the United States for almost seventy years.
|Date of Birth||1st Jul 1895||VIEW SOURCE|
|Date of Death||Jan 1985||VIEW SOURCE|
|Father (First Name/s and Surname)||John Bligh||VIEW SOURCE|
|Mother (First Name/s and Maiden)||Jane Larkin||VIEW SOURCE|
|Townland born||Clooncoose, Castlerea||VIEW SOURCE|
|Names of Siblings||Mary Anne, Mary Kate (twin), Mary Bridget, Mary Jane, Anne, Michael, William||VIEW SOURCE|
|Place of Death||Nassau, New York||VIEW SOURCE|