Immigration

Bridget Surdival: From Mayo to Brooklyn

When the White Star Line’s SS Germanic sailed out of Queenstown (now Cobh, Co. Cork), Ireland on 14 April 1898, there were many young Irish men and women aboard, including 19-year-old Bridget Surdival.  The ship was headed for the port of New York, and Bridget was going to join her older sister, Mary, who was living in Brooklyn.

SS_Germanic_c1890-1900 with caption

Bridget was born in 1876 in Balla, Co. Mayo, Ireland, to parents John Surdival and Bridget Reilly. She was the youngest sister of my great-grandfather Patrick Surdival (a.k.a. Patrick Sullivan). Although her name was registered as Biddy, she used the names Bridget, Beatrice, and Beattie.

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Three Thousand Families

Four Mile Creek, Cross Roads, Lawrenceville, Virgil. These were the names given to the small community on the Niagara peninsula, first settled about 1783, that my paternal grandparents came to call home in the mid-1920s. Today it’s part of the very chic little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Hugh James Clarke, Sr, and his wife, Mary Rowe, were 52 and 46 years of age, respectively, when they arrived in Niagara from Palgrave, Suffolk to begin farming. Hugh had been a market gardener in Palgrave, and intended to do the same in Virgil. Not much of their new property had been cleared prior to their arrival, though, and getting their farm up and running involved hard, physical labour.

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A Village Built by Glass: Windle Village, Thorold

Note: This post first appeared on my old blog site “Who’s your auntie?” on 9 January 2014.

Glass flattener. That was the occupation given by my maternal grandfather, George Owen, on his marriage certificate in 1912 in St. Helens, Lancashire, England. I discovered that in the manufacture of plate glass, large cylinders of glass were created, then slit open and smoothed to form flat sheets of glass. It was the latter part of this process that George was employed in. Further research revealed that George was an employee of Pilkington Brothers in St. Helens, Lancashire, England, a leading manufacturer of window glass.

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Domestic Service & The Girls' Friendly Society

Between 1919 and 1930, more than 120,000 female domestic servants arrived at Canadian ocean ports, and of those, nearly 75,000 were from the British Isles. My aunt, Florence Clarke, was one of them. She was a young woman of twenty-five when she disembarked, alone, at the port of Quebec on 30 July 1926. Like many women of her age, Flo had grown up in rural England and had made her way to the city, in her case, Liverpool, to seek work as a domestic servant. By the time she left England in 1926, Flo had been in domestic service for 12 years, having obtained a labour certificate to leave school at the age of 13.

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