John McCraith and Bridget (nee Walsh)
Our great great great grandparents
The info on this page was mostly researched by Phillip Dwyer, with contributions from Anthony Dwyer and Catherine Dangar.
In July 2010 we were contacted by Catherine Dangar, another descendent of John McCraith and his wife Bridget (nee Walsh). She told us they had emigrated in 1854 from Tipperary Ireland to Melbourne, Australia on the Prince Alfred with their daughters Catherine (b. 1837) and Margaret (b. 1835). Catherine McGrath (McCraith) was Catherine Dangar's Great Great Grandmother, who married James Pollard Hurren in 1858 in Richmond, Victoria. (Coincidentally we also have a Hurren in our family tree, on our mother's side of the family.)
There is an account of a voyage on the Prince Alfred, written by a passenger named Thomas Henry Severn, describing the daily routine on the voyage from London to Melbourne in 1852, just two years before the McCraiths' voyage. There is also a letter to his father back home, describing his first days in Melbourne. His quote "Oh it is a wretched place destitute of every comfort is this Australia" pretty much sums up the tone of the letter. He tells his father "Do not advise anyone to come". This sentiment was not uncommon - see the Romsey Australia web site. The State Library of South Australia has a page devoted to the appalling conditions on many emigrant ships of the time.
The names "McCraith" and "McGrath" seem to have been pretty much interchangeable in those days, possibly because not too many could read and write, and their names may have been written as they were pronounced. Phillip Dwyer found that both names were derived from the Gaelic "Mac Graith" or "Magraith", both of which came from the personal name "Craith". It is fairly clear that both McGrath and McCraith are simply Anglicised variants of the same name.
Catherine McGrath (or McCraith) and Michael McCraith were both born in Ballyporeen Tipperary, to a John McCraith and a Bridget Walsh. Because Ballyporeeen is only a tiny village even now, we believe it is near impossible that two couples of the same names would have lived there at the same time.
As additional evidence, Phillip located a death record for Bridget (PDF - 352k), showing her children in order of birth as Michael aged 24, Margaret aged 22 and Catherine aged (probably) 21. This pretty much confirms that this is all the same family. The copy is smudged so parts of it are difficult to read, and there may be another child there too. Bridget died on 16 January 1858 at the age of 58 so she must have been born in 1799 or very early 1800. We also now know that her parents were Michael Walsh, a farmer, and Honora Betson, and she died of "English Cholera and exhaustion" with her husband at her side. The place of death is given as "Richmond Flat, Richmond".
John McCraith was supposedly aged 43 at the time of immigration, indicating he was born in 1811 and 22 years old when our Great Great grandfather Michael was born. However, what we believe to be his death record (PDF - 220k) in Victoria on 8 May 1859 says he was 59, so he was actually born in 1800! It also says that he was a widower, he died of Bronchitis and had been in Victoria for 4½ years. Neither his parents nor his children are listed there. Does this imply that none of his family were present at the time?
It looks like both he and Bridget lied about their ages when they emigrated, presumably so they would get assisted passage to Victoria. They claimed to be in their early 40s when in fact they were about 54! As well as lying about their ages, Catherine Dangar tells us that John McCraith was a surveyor by trade according to the ships records, however Philip Dwyer's records show him as a farmer. Catherine Dangar responded to say that another of her Great Great Grandfathers listed himself as a "farmer" even though he was actually a solicitor, because being a farmer got you into the immigrant programme.
We also have:
- John's funeral notice from The Argus (PDF - 64k) dated 11 May 1859.
- A valuation of his property in Ballyporeen (PDF - 800k) not long before he emigrated
- A map of Ballyporeen (PDF - 86k) from that time
- Michael (b 1833) our great great grandfather
- Margaret (b 1835) married John Quinn (also recorded as Quin) in 1857 and they had four children - Mary in 1858, Maurice in 1860, and most likely twins named Catherine and Margaret in 1862 (their birth extracts have consecutive numbers). Margaret died in 1865, aged only about 30 years.
- Catherine (b 1837) married James Pollard Hurren in 1858 in Richmond, Victoria.
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