Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Family History Writing Challenge Day 3

When Michael arrived in Cincinnati in March of 1879, he came to a city with a population of around 255,000 people. How astounding and overwhelming that must have been to someone coming from a town of 4,600 residents! He could not read or write, so perhaps his half-brother Patrick helped him find work as a laborer. He settled in an apartment downtown at 2nd and 4th Streets, which would have been very near the Ohio River. Cincinnati was the largest city in Ohio, and also the densest with an average of 37,143 people per square mile. The city was served by fifteen railroads, with the major industries being iron production, meatpacking, cloth production, and woodworking. There were 130 newspapers and magazines, a large public library, an art museum, opera house and a music hall. There were also more than two hundred churches and five hospitals.

City directories and census records indicate that Michael was employed as a laborer. True enough, as he worked for one of the railroads as a freight truckman. His job would have involved loading, unloading, and transferring freight. He had only lived in America for one year when his father, also named Michael Crisham, died on 18 July 1880 in Tuam, Galway, Ireland. Later that year, his mother, Mary Crisham arrived in Cincinnati along with his youngest sister Julia. The three of them lived together for several years at 57 Mill Street.

On 21 July 1887 Michael married Catherine Colgan. She was born in County Mayo, Ireland on 27 December 1864 to Edward Colgan and Bridget (McHugh) Colgan. Here is her birth record.

Catherine Colgan's birth certificate
Digressing for a moment, I have an amusing story about the birthplace of Catherine. The record indicates that she was born in Prison, so my family had a lot of fun trying to guess why Bridget was in prison when she gave birth. Edward was a member of the Fenian Brotherhood (a fraternal organization dedicated to the establishment of an independent Irish Republic) after the family arrived in the United States in 1867. Did some militant action land him, and by association his wife, in jail in 1864? When I visited the Mayo Family History Society in 2007, I asked if the prison was still standing. Or if not, perhaps records existed to indicate why someone was incarcerated? The genealogist helping me busted out laughing. When he could finally catch his breath, he explained that Prison was a nearby village! I told him he had ruined our favorite family story as we had been certain Catherine was born in a prison. His reply? "Oh, and to be sure she was. Just not the kind with bars on the windows!"

Prison School
Edward and Bridget were both teachers at Prison School in Ireland. The school was founded around 1835 and served children in Prison as well as the surrounding communities. It was a one room school with a curtain that was drawn across the middle to separate the boys from the girls. The Colgans had another daughter, Anna Marie, as well as a son, Edward, who were also born in Prison. The family emigrated to the United States in 1868, setting up their household in Cincinnati. Little Edward died later that year at the age of one. Five additional children were added to the family in Cincinnati: Charles, Barbara, Clara, John P. (who only lived one year), and John M. As the head of the family, Edward held many different jobs in their new homeland, including that of a school teacher.

The Colgans lived on Mill Street, just like the Crusham family. Did Michael marry the girl next door?

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