Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Family History Writing Challenge Day 2

The Irish Potato Famine occurred long before Michael Crusham was born. Begining in 1845 and lasting a disastrous six years, it killed over a million men, women and children. The famine eliminated the primary food source for peasants in the country, leaving those who survived faced with the decision to flee their homes in an effort to survive. Nearly two million Irish citizens emigrated to the United States in the 1840s. They, in turn, encouraged others to leave Ireland as they earned enough money to send for relatives and friends. Considering that the entire population of Ireland was around eight million, the emigration number is pretty staggering.

Many of these immigrants settled in existing Irish communities in America, where Catholic Churches had been built and cultural traditions were carried out. Like many immigrants, they went to towns and cities where their old friends, neighbors or relatives lived. Michael's family was no exception. His half-brother Patrick Henaghan left Tuam in 1872, possibly traveling with his sister Nora Henaghan. The siblings settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, a city that offered many opportunities to the Irish immigrants. There was work on the riverfront, railroad construction, and digging for the Miami and Erie Canal. The Irish men took jobs that were dangerous and unskilled with low pay. The women often found jobs as servants and nannies. Perhaps the promise of such work enticed Michael to follow his siblings to this part of America.

By 1870 more than 90 percent of immigrants traveled by steamship on their way to America. The fare would have ranged from 70 to 100 shillings, depending on whether they had accommodations in standard class or steerage. For the majority of immigrants, steerage was all they could afford. Undoubtably, Michael would have been with all the others below deck. Often called "coffin ships" about 1 in 7 passengers did not survive the crossing. Michael survived the journey, but would he survive living in the Queen City?

Cincinnati, Ohio

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