The Mayo Girls
On arrival in Australia, the Immigration Agent recorded personal details for each of the orphan girls, including their 'Native Place'. For the girls on the Lady Kennaway in Melbourne, this was recorded as either Co Mayo or Ballina. More detail was given for the Inchinnan and the Panama in Sydney, where the orphan girls gave either the name of the workhouse they came from, or their town, townland, or parish, as their native place. The native places (where known) for the Mayo girls is mapped in the image to the right.
This inconsistency in the recording ‘Native place’ becomes an issue when trying to locate each girl in the Irish records, in addition to the inadequacies of the Irish records themselves.
Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths did not begin in Ireland until 1864, so church records are used for events prior to this date. Only five Mayo orphan girls professed to be of a different religion to Roman Catholic, and unfortunately the availability of Catholic church records in Mayo is variable, as different parishes commenced registration at different times.
Consequently, even with parental names provided in the Sydney Shipping Lists, it can prove almost impossible to correctly identify each girl with their townland or parish of origin. At present, of the 137 Mayo orphan girls in the Scheme, only two, Mary Brown and Ann Duke, both ex Panama, could be traced with some confidence in the Irish records. This situation may be improved in individual cases where descendants of the Mayo orphan girls may have other evidence of place of origin of their ancestor.
The Australian records indicate where, and by whom, the orphan girls were first employed after their arrival in the colony. This information was recorded in the ‘Register and application for orphans’, first made available by Trevor McClaughlin (1991 and 2001) and now accessible via searching individual names on the Irish Famine Memorial Sydney Database.
A map of the first employment locations of the Mayo orphan girls, where known, is shown to the right.
Outside of the major centres of Sydney and Melbourne, the map reveals that many Mayo orphan girls were sent to the south coast of New South Wales, around Wollongong and Kiama.
Knowing the place of employment can give an indicator of the life the girls may have experienced (for example, hired in the city or the country, and by whom), as well as helping to narrow down an area where they may have married, thus providing a focal point to enable searching for references in local newspapers.
Individual stories are told here.
© Barbara Barclay (2015)