My great grandmother Bridget Chambers immigrated to the US from Ireland in 1885. She left with her older brother Charles. Her older siblings Patrick, Michael and Marie had immigrated a few years before and were living in Chicago, Illinois. Bridget’s future husband (my great grandfather) Edward Sherlock boarded a ship in Queenstown, Ireland for his new life in America in 1891. How he ended up in Chicago when the rest of his siblings who came to America stayed in Boston is a mystery that I still need to solve.
Visiting the Cobh Heritage Center was on the top of my list of places to visit on my trip to Ireland. It would be my one attempt at a genealogical activity while I was in Ireland (or so I thought). While we were in Cobh, my husband (the avid photographer) took as many photos as he could while I read all the signs at the exhibits and imagined “walking in my great grandparents’ footsteps”.
I imagined how it would feel to have your family throw a 3-day wake party since in their minds the likelihood was that they would never see you again, even if you did make it safely to America. So, your boarding the ship in Queenstown (now known as Cobh) was like a death in the family. During the earlier years (in the mid-1850’s and later) they even called the ships, “coffin ships” since so many passengers died.
I imagined how it would feel to be a passenger in steerage and only have the opportunity to see daylight for a half hour a day. During that time you would also be cooking your own food. Did weeks under those conditions seem like an eternity and did one second guess their decision to leave their homeland?
Of course, my trip would not be complete without visiting the famous statue of Annie Moore and her two brothers which is just outside the Cobh Heritage Center. The story is that Annie was the 1st emigrant to be processed at Ellis Island when it opened in 1892. Annie and her brothers had sailed to America on the SS Nevada, leaving from Queenstown, Ireland. There is a similar statue on display at Ellis Island (that is definitely on my genealogical bucket list)!