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Patrick Barrett & Mary Gardiner Barrett Family [1]

Patrick Barrett and Mary Gardiner Barrett were the earliest of my ancestors to come to America. They were refugees of the Great Hunger -- the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1851).

We think that both Patrick Barrett and Mary Gardiner Barrett arrived in America at the Port of New Orleans. They escaped from famine just in time to hit the yellow fever in New Orleans [4] — then weathered the cholera epidemic in St. Louis — a hardy pair.

Mary. By the Barrett family account [2], Mary arrived with her brother, but he fell victim to the fever and died. I haven't been able to find the record of her passage. Somehow Mary was able to make her way to St Louis.

Patrick. The ship records at Castle Garden [3] yielded the most likely record for Patrick and his family: Arrival on the ship Mertoun [7] on May 10, 1847. A follow-up at Ancestry [5] revealed some information we hadn't been aware of — that Patrick traveled not only with his parents Martin and Nelly, but with 5 siblings: Thomas, Martin, Catherine, John, and Sally. What happened to them?

Yucatan Ship Manifest 1847

None of our previous family records indicates any information about siblings (or the mother) in the St Louis area. We only find Martin, living with Patrick and Mary in the 1850 census (below).

There were 253 passengers who began the trip to New Orleans. 9 died along the way. The trip may have taken about 9 weeks [7]. An ordeal.

From New Orleans Online: "As New Orleans was a thriving port city, the itineraries of many boats ended here and the passengers simply stayed. In addition, Irish immigrants often found cheap passage to New Orleans because after cotton ships unloaded their cargo in Liverpool, captains needed to load their holds up with human ballast for the return trip. Conditions, needless to say, were far from ideal." (See also Note [6]).

Speculations: It cost money to make the passage from New Orleans to St Louis — maybe the able-bodied Martin and Patrick took off for parts north to make their fortunes, and planned to send for the others. What happened to the others? Did they stay in New Orleans? Did they settle up river? Did they succumb to yellow fever or other ills of swampy river valleys and miserable living conditions?

Marriage: Pat and Mary wed on October 21 1849, in St. Louis. My mother reports that "when they lived in the city... it was on Green Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets... a block north of Washington Avenue."

The marriage record below states: "State of Missouri, County of St Louis: I certify that I have joined in the holy bands of Matrimony on the 21 day of October 1849, Patrick Barret [sic] and Mary Gardiner; certified by me this 18th day of January A.D. 1850. A. Damen, Catholic Priest. File and recorded January 19th 1850. S. D. Barlow Recorder."

Marriage Barrett Gardiner

1850 Census: It would not be surprising for immigrants to dodge the census-taker, just like they do today. Being counted by the government has dark overtones for the refugee. So there were only 2 Patrick Barretts reported in 1850: a 12-year-old and the one below, captured on 27 August 1850. [Click on image below to get the whole page.]

1850 census - Patrick Barrett Family

This one is likely to be them. Their first son's name was John and he was born in 1850. They list this child as being 4 months old, so either he was premature or Mary decided her biological clock was ticking and planned a shotgun wedding. (It says she's 30 if I'm reading the handwriting correctly.) Street addresses are not listed in the 1850 census, so we don't know how it tracks with the address my mother got in researching their marriage.

Also in the household was a 60-year-old Martin Barrett. We assume this is Patrick's father, primarily because Pat and Mary named a latter child Martin. They were living with another family, the Owens.

What doesn't fit: Making all this data jibe takes a little imagination and a belief that census-takers were highly prone to error — a given.

The 1850 census says this Mary was born in Missouri and we know our Mary was born in Ireland.

Then there is Patrick's age — 19 in 1847 but 30 in 1850? Grrr... But his age listings are full of discrepancies throughout his lifetime:

Ship manifest, 1847 19 y.o. -- born about 1828
1850 census (if I have the right one) says he's 31 -- so born about 1819
1870 census says he's 57 -- means born about 1813 (whuh???)
1880 census says he's 58 -- means born about 1822
1900 census says he's 72 and lists birth year of 1828 (same as ship manifest... finally)


I did another entry quite a while ago that tries to place Pat and Mary in the context of old St. Louis.

3.11.05 (rev 7.23.07)


[1] See expanded history, with dates and offspring here.

[2] The History of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Crawford and Gasconade Counties (Goodspeed)

[3] - ship manifest searches, housed at America's first immigration center in Battery Park, NYC.

[4] New Orleans yellow fever deaths

New Orleans "new Irish" famine refugees

"most [famine] Irish who arrived at the port of New Orleans stayed in the city, primarily because they could not afford passage farther inland. Crowding into the city's riverfront neighborhoods, they strained its limited housing, employment, and education. Forced to compete with slaves and free blacks at the bottom of the economy, many New Orleans Irish took low-paying, often dangerous manual jobs, such as digging canals and ditches, building roads, levees, and railroads, and laboring on the docks and in the warehouses. The mortality rate was especially high among canal diggers, who were highly susceptible to yellow fever, malaria, and cholera." [Source]


[6] Emigration to North America in 1847 The Ships List.

[7] The ship name "Yucatan," listed in Castle Rock and Ancestry, is an error in transcribing the handwriting. The Yucatan was not in service at this time. The ship was the Mertoun (Captain Hamilton) -- see this listing from The Ships List . An autumn voyage of this ship that same year took about 9 weeks to complete.


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