Friday, March 5, 2010

More about Mr. John Nolan

Anne's story, as well as her name, has been passed down by the women in our family. I've always been proud of that fact -- I like the matriarchal, "I am woman; hear me roar" subtext of my genealogy being rooted in the female side of my family tree.

The result, however, is that John Nolan is a fuzzy figure in my visions. We know he was from Wexford, that he married Anne, that he worked as a laborer, had one son named for him, and died in 1880 at the age of 56. What more is there to know about John?

Wexford is on the eastern side of Ireland. It is one of the larger counties of Ireland. It was a region of prosperous farms and less densely populated rural areas. The famine did not hit Wexford as hard as other areas. An interesting side note -- President Kennedy's paternal roots were from Wexford; they were from Dunganstown.

I find John in the 1860 Census, with Anne, young Morris and baby Thomas (who I believe is the unnamed baby who dies in 1860). In this census entry, John's age is 10 years off -- but I have been advised not to take that too seriously (it still bugs me).

For 1850, I find one John Nolan at age 25 (which matches later information) living in the notorious 4th Ward, amongst a group of adults - ranging in ages from 14- - 40.

 I find another possible John Nolan, living in the 1st Ward, with a matriarch, named "Margaret" - John's youngest daughter's name. In this entry, John is living with a range of Nolans and a few Murphys.

The result is that I am deducing John came to Ireland about the same time as Anne, lived in a tenement of some kind and eventually, met Herself. ;-)

What would John have been like? Where "Bridgets" were the label for girls like Anne, "Paddy's" was the label for men like John - young men who left Ireland to come to America. Why he left is a mystery, but it is safe to bet it was to better his life and escape a less than inviting future in Ireland. He may have been a younger son -- and not likely to inherit much land. For generations, the Irish had divided their land amongst all their children, but about the time John would have come of age, the divisions were small and many families stopped this approach to land management. He may have just left because others were doing so. Or, perhaps he left, in love and or married, and his bride died on the ship over or early in their time in America?

Irish men were painted with an unflattering brush in mid-nineteenth century America. They were assumed to be "alcoholics and wife beaters" It is true that many Irish families lived in abject poverty and many Irish husband deserted their families, leaving them destitute. The Irish did bring to America a culture tolerant of drinking; and this culture was in conflict with the Protestant-temperance movements underway at that time.

There is evidence of Irish men who loved their wives and cared for their families. As we find John in the 1860 and 1880 census - nearly- and each time, with Anne, let's accept that John was indeed a loving and devoted husband and father.

I will talk more about how they may have met and what courtship between two Irish immigrants, one a young girl with no parents to supervise, may have looked like, later. I also hope to have more information about John as we go forward. Keep track of updates to the Anne Hoey timeline - I am putting some findings in there as I mull other topics to research.

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