237 – Bridget Large Emigrates

Bridget and her seven children left Castlecomer and Ireland in 1844. They probably sailed from Dublin or Cork.

Emigrants Arrival at Cork – A Scene on the Quay – Illustrated London News – May 10, 1851

Bridget Large and her family sailed for Canada, one of the most frequent destinations for Irish emigrants.

Passenger fares to the U.S. in 1847 were up to three times higher than fares to Canada. The British government intentionally kept fares to Quebec low to encourage the Irish to populate Canada and also to discourage them from emigrating to England.

Coffin Ships – Irish Potato Famine
The Emigration Agent’s Office – The Passage Money Paid – Illustrated London News – May 10, 1851

In the period over the famine decade 1841-1850, 1.3 million people emigrated overseas. Of these, 70% went to the USA, 28% to Canada and 2% to Australia. The cheapest fares were to Canada, around 55 shillings, while a fare to the USA cost between 70 shillings and £5.

Effects of the Famine 2: Emigration

No government permission was needed to leave Ireland, and shipping companies had no requirements to submit passenger lists.

The voyage

The 3,000 mile journey took up to twelve weeks.

In the early famine years, the ships were often converted lumber freighters. The passengers were crowded into the ships holds with little ventilation or light, and no sanitary facilities. They were called “coffin ships.”

Emigration Vessel – Between Decks – Illustrated London News – May 10, 1851

Parliament passed a law that emigrant ships must supply one pound of bread per day per passenger, along with fresh water.

Here’s an account by Sir Stephen Edward de Vere, 4th Baronet, an Anglo-Irish estate owner who escorted some of his tenants to Canada.

Hundreds of poor people, men, women and children of all ages huddled together without light, without air, wallowing in filth and breathing a fetid atmosphere, sick in body, dispirited in heart; the fevered patients lying beside the sound, by their agonised ravings disturbing those around. The food is generally ill-selected and seldom sufficiently cooked in consequences of the insufficiency and bad construction of the cooking places. The supply of water, hardly enough for cooking and drinking, does not allow for washing. No moral restraint is attempted; the voice of prayer is never heard; drunkenness, with all its consequent train of ruffianly debasement, is not discouraged because it is found profitable by the captain who traffics in grog.

Bearing Witness: Stephen De Vere’s Famine Diary (1847-1848)

Stephen de Vere returned to Ireland. His letters and diary shocked English readers, and prompted Parliament to pass the “Passenger Acts” to improve conditions.

Arrival in Canada

Major ports of arrival were Quebec, Montreal, Kingston, and Toronto. But all ships stopped first at Grosse Isle, an inspection and quarantine facility on an island 30 miles before Quebec.

At Grosse Isle, ships were supposed to be inspected for disease. Sick passengers were removed and quarantined. But often the ships were passed on with only a token inspection.

Here’s Stephen de Vere’s arrival at Grosse Isle:

To Kingston

From Grosse Isle, the Irish were given free passage up the St. Lawrence to Montreal and cities such as Kingston and Toronto. The crowded open-aired river barges used to transport them exposed the fair-skinned Irish to all-day-long summer sun causing many bad sunburns. At night, they laid down close to each other to ward off the chilly air, spreading more lice and fever.

Coffin Ships – Irish Potato Famine
Port of Kingston, Canada

Bridget Large and family were bound for Kingston Port, so they continued on after clearing Grosse Isle.

At Kingston, there was another inspection facility and a hospital. Once the passengers cleared these, they were on their own. Many had no further plans and no contacts in North America.

“What is to be done towards relieving the numbers of immigrants who, having arrived here, are unable to proceed further for want of means? Every evening numbers are left on our wharves who know not how to provide food for themselves and their families . . . We call upon some wealthy citizens to step forward and take a lead in devising some means of relief for those truly unfortunate people.”

The Kingston Herald – June 1850

Indigent relief

The Canadian government had set up an Emigration Service Fund in 1843 to provide relief for indigent immigrants. Bridget Large received indigent relief in Kingston on June 11, 1844.

Widow Large, family of 8, received tea, butter, pork, sugar, oat meal, and milk. Other passengers received similar rations. In this June 11 group, five of the nineteen indigent families were headed by widows.

Canada relief for indigent immigrants – Widow Large family of 8 – June 11, 1844

Kingston surprises us with the size and virulence of its fever epidemic and consequent deaths. We may find the reason in a letter written by Mr. John Wilson, who had charge of transporting the immigrants from Grosse Isle, to Mr. J. M. O’Leary. In brief, he blames the Government for transporting so many immigrants from Grosse Isle directly to Kingston without stopping at Montreal to change or clean boats. The passage through the Canals was slow. Confined together for over two days, many healthy caught the disease. The number admitted into the hospitals at Kingston was 4,326. A monument erected to the fever victims in Kingston claims 1,400 succumbed to the typhus.

The Irish Emigration of 1847 and Its Canadian Consequences – 1936 – Rev. John A. Gallagher

To Pennsylvania

Northeastern Part of the United States – 1840

From Kingston, Bridget Large and family still had 250 miles to go.

Their destination was the anthracite coal region of northeast Pennsylvania. 

Perhaps they traveled on a combination of canals, early railroads, and overland wagon.

By the fall of 1844, Bridget Large and her seven children were settled in the town of Tuscarora, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.


2 thoughts on “237 – Bridget Large Emigrates

  1. deborahlargefox0764 September 7, 2022 / 3:18 pm

    Another excellent post! I had not known much about the segment of the trip between Grosse Isle and Kingston. Interesting map, too, showing the route to Tuscarora. Thank you for all this information.


    • Mark Jarvis September 7, 2022 / 9:42 pm

      Agreed. I didn’t realize so many immigrated through Canada.


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