The Great Famine Voices Roadhow accompanied Lynn Rogers, of Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries, on board the Staten Island Ferry to visit these Famine Irish burial grounds of which she is a custodian.
Despite the upward mobility and political impact of the Famine Irish in New York, many perished in the Staten Island quarantine hospital shortly after their arrival in 1847 and 1848.
One of the most powerful video testimonies during the Great Famine Voices Roadshow at Glucksman Ireland House came from Jennifer Robinson, who lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Jennifer notes that she is descended from Edward Neary, a Famine emigrant from Elphin in County Roscommon who fled from Ireland in 1847. She recollects how family stories have been passed down of Edward Neary’s father and siblings being stricken with typhus in the fever sheds of Montreal, leaving him an orphan in Canada and then the United States.
In her own words: “My mom was the big researcher in our family. She wrote a simple grandchildrens’ story about the voyage of the Neary family in 1847 coming to the United States. We read it every year at Thanksgiving. I think that it would be important for Edward Neary to know, and for the Nearys to know, that we still think about them and what they went through, and what they left behind. I hope that my family gets to go see Ireland, because we have roots there, and our blood is there. We have people there who are our family and who are buried there. So I am looking forward to seeing Ireland very soon.” Shortly thereafter, Jennifer decided to make her first visit to Ireland with her daughter to attend the Irish Famine Summer School at Strokestown Park.
The story of Jennifer Robinson’s ancestor Edward Neary read every year at Thanksgiving can be found at this link.