Friday, September 25, 2020

A Bit About Bridget


Pursuing not one but three Falvey siblings in my quest to discover anything more about my husband's second great-grandmother, Johanna Falvey, has meant relying on DNA matches to help guide my way. Though at least I know that Johanna came from County Kerry, either there are not enough complete record sets still in existence, back in that Irish homeland, or I have yet to find them. Thus, my delight in discovering my husband's DNA match with descendants of two Falvey siblings who immigrated to Chicopee, Massachusetts more than ten years prior to our Johanna's arrival in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Of those two Falvey siblings, we've already discussed the brother, Mark. Today, let's see what we can find about his younger sister, Bridget. Fortunately, with the record-keeping penchant in Hampden County, there were quite a few documents to lead us through her life's timeline—a short one, unfortunately, as we'll see today.

Because women, at that time, did not usually apply for naturalization, we don't have such a record available to us for Bridget. It is unknown, at this point, whether she traveled with her brother, or followed him to Massachusetts after he found employment and sent for the rest of the family.

So far, my first sighting of Bridget Falvey in America was courtesy of the marriage register for Chicopee. On October 11, 1862, Bridget Falvey and James O'Brien, both residents of Indian Orchard, had their marriage vows solemnized by the Catholic priest at Chicopee. He, the son of John and Hannah O'Brien—women, again, appearing without mention of their maiden name—was twenty seven at the time; Bridget was seven years younger.

From that point through the next decade, Bridget's name appeared with regularity in Chicopee records. In 1865, it was to welcome the O'Briens' firstborn son, Thomas, on April 5. By that time, the couple had settled in Chicopee Falls, presumably to live closer to James' factory work.

Again, in 1867, the O'Briens' second son, James, was recorded as arriving on February 5. That, however, was a life not destined to last long, for the child was gone before his second birthday, dying on September 26 of 1868.

Following almost immediately afterwards was the arrival of third child Margaret—at last echoing the old Irish naming pattern with the first daughter receiving the maternal grandmother's name—born on November 8. The 1870 census reflected the recent rearrangement of the O'Brien household, showing parents James and Bridget, as well as surviving son Thomas and his baby sister Margaret—along with a bonus to Falvey researchers of the arrival of Bridget's younger sister Johanna, now a part of their household, since she had obtained a job at the cotton mill nearby. A final child—at least, that I can find—arrived after the census was taken, on August 15, 1870, and was given the name Mary Ellen.

Not long after that came what might have been the not-uncommon tragedy which befell women of childbearing age in past years. Bridget, at the approximate age of thirty three—as we have no documentation to pinpoint her date of birth—died on January 29, 1875. Because of her young age, I tried searching for any record of a pregnancy which might have caused her demise, but could find no listing of another O'Brien birth in Hampden County.

Looking closer at the death register, the record stated that the cause of death was neuralgia. Just to see what people of that era might have meant by using that word as a diagnosis, I checked three resources online for definitions.

One mentioned, much as we might have assumed by the word's usage in current times, that the diagnosis of neuralgia signified a "pain in a sensory nerve"—miserable, perhaps, but hardly something which could kill a person. A second resource amplified that description a bit, explaining that the term was "described as discomfort, such as 'headache' was neuralgia in the head." Granted, I have heard people complain that their headache was "killing" them, but still, I wasn't convinced. The third resource I consulted seemed to come closest to what might have ailed the unfortunate Bridget, describing neuralgia as "sharp, severe paroxysmal pain extending along a nerve or group of nerves."

With that, the O'Briens—at least, what remained of the family—disappeared from census records for the rest of the century. One might have presumed that Bridget's sister Johanna might have stayed on as an aunt to raise the young children, but it turns out that Johanna had quite a story of her own, before she arrived at the 1880 census, herself. Additional research will undoubtedly reveal more about the O'Brien children—of which at least one became an ancestor of my husband's DNA match—but in the meantime, let's take a look, tomorrow, at what became of the third Falvey sibling, Johanna.



  1. Hi Jacqi,
    I think Bridget's marriage record is for 1862, not 1860. Her parents names look to me like Jerry and Margaret, not the Janey and Margaret that was indexed. Johanna's marriage record says Jeremiah Falvey and Margaret Sullivan. You know this, but this is three Falvey kids in one place. Are there death records for Jeremiah and Margaret in this place too?

    1. You are right, Randy. Thank you for spotting that typo. I did take a good look at the parents' names, as I suspected--as you did, too, likely--that "Janey" was not the correct report. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any death record for the parents in Massachusetts, although temptingly, there was one for a couple by this name in Illinois. I tend to doubt that one, though. It seems the Falvey and Sullivan combination is an oft-repeated one, and Jeremiah + Falvey seems a favorite, as well.


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