When I attempted to research the identities of the 117 Kerry Girls who went to Australia in 1849/1850 on the Earl Grey emigration scheme, there was a huge blank in finding the families of the Killarney girls. The thirty five girls – referred to in the Killarney Workhouse minutes as the ‘Female Orphans’, left from Penrose Quay, Cork by a steam vessel to Plymouth on 24 May 1849. Mystery surrounds the list of names of the individual girls selected and no copy exists in the appropriate Killarney Minute Book. This absence of the list of names of girls selected was compounded by the lack of detail on the arrival records of the ship, barque Elgin, in Adelaide in September 1849. A list survives of the names of the girls onboard , and also a list of the Workhouses from where they had originated, but unfortunately, it does not record which Workhouse they had left from:
Skibbereen (85), Killarney (35), Fermoy (30), Lismore (25), Clonmel (15)
Neither do we have Immigration records as in the case of the Dingle, Listowel and Kenmare girls. These Immigration records would have given us the names of parents and the townland from which they originated as relayed by each girl to the Australian Government officials.
When the book The Kerry Girls: Emigration and the Earl Grey Scheme was published in 2014, I had succeeded in identifying just sixteen of the Killarney girls. Since then I have established the identities of three more. While the scheme was referred to as the ‘Female Orphan’ scheme, I discovered that not all the girls were orphans. I have also met with a couple of Killarney girl’s descendants. I was thrilled to meet with Gayle Dowling, who is a descendant of Ellen Powell. Gayle got the opportunity of going to Killarney and getting as much information as possible on Ellen and her parentage. So imagine my delight when I got an email this week from Australia –
I’m researching my ggg grandmother Ellen Lynch who came as one of the Irish famine orphans to Australia. She came on the Barque Elgin in 1849 but I’m wondering what workhouse she came from and if both her parents ( David Lynch and Mary Doody ) were still alive at the time.
My informant was Naomi Hunt, and she had identified the parents from her own research going back through her family genealogy records. Getting the names of David Lynch and Mary Doody was gold dust. While I was then able to identify the family and their address, there was no surviving Baptismal record of Ellen – just the baptisms of her two brothers and the marriage record of her parents, David and Mary.
Naomi believes that Ellen was the eldest of the family and was probably born in 1830/1831. She would have been 18 years of age on arrival in South Australia. Was she an ‘orphan’ in the accepted sense? We cannot establish that, but it would appear to me that at least her father was dead at the time of her departure as he is not listed on Griffiths Valuation as a Tenant in Lissivigeen in 1848 (Griffiths Valuation).
Ellen was another statistic of the devastating Famine that resulted in more than a million people dying and more than a million emigrating from Ireland. Over half a million people were evicted during the Famine years. Although the Civil Parish of Killarney only showed an 8% reduction in the population from 1841 (10476) to 1851 (9669), compared to other Kerry parishes, its effects have been felt to the present day.