A Falling Out?

I’ve recently renewed my subscription to the British Newspaper Archive and today I discovered this article from the Hamilton Herald and Lanarkshire Weekly News dated Friday 20 February 1891.

Patrick Cosgrove was my great grandfather. His daughter, Catherine, was my maternal granny. He and Edward Cooper were both born in Ireland but were raised in Newmains, Lanarkshire. Both men left Newmains in the 1880s to work in the jute industry in Dundee. They both got married in Dundee within a year of each other. Patrick married my great granny, Sarah Helferty and Edward married Agnes Sweeney. By 1891 both men were back in Newmains. I’d sort of assumed they might be friends. So what caused Edward to beat up his neighbour? And smash those windows? He was certainly upset about something.

I don’t know if Patrick held a grudge but Sarah certainly didn’t. She married Edward Cooper ten years later!


A Woman of Mystery – Mary Wilkinson c1832-1871

The story of my great great grandmother, Mary Wilkinson is very confusing and there are a number of pieces missing. Mary was my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandmother and I would love to know more about her background. Mary, it would seem, did not have a problem lying to the authorities which makes finding out the truth about her life pretty difficult.

I first came across Mary’s name on the marriage record of my great grandmother, Sarah Helferty. Sarah’s parents are recorded as Arthur Helferty and Mary Wilkinson.

From there my next step is to find a marriage record for Mary and Arthur but I couldn’t find anything.

I believe I have Mary in the 1851 census working as a servant in Glasgow but I can’t be 100% sure it’s the same person. I’m the 1861 census she appears with husband, Arthur and her two children, 8 year old William Duncan and 5 month old Martha Helferty. William is recorded as Arthur’s stepson. While Arthur and Mary were both born in Ireland, the two children were born in Glasgow but I haven’t found a birth record for either one.

In 1864 Mary gave birth to a second daughter. While she used the name Ellen Helferty during her life she was registered as Helen Wilkinson and there is no father listed on her birth certificate. Her mother is recorded as Mary Wilkinson, shirt maker, no domicile. Strangely the baby was born in Kilmodan, Argyll.

My great grandmother was born in March 1867 and it took a bit of time to track her down as her surname is spelled ‘Halford’. She was born in Glasgow and was also illegitimate although Arthur does appear as her father. Her mother is recorded as Mary Stewart nee Wilkinson (widow). Widow? Stewart? I have no idea where that name came from especially as her first child had the surname Duncan.

The next major event in Mary’s life was the death of her son. William Duncan was just 18 years old when he died of typhus fever at the fever hospital in Glasgow in January 1870. His death was registered by Mary who gave her name as Mary Duncan nee Wilkinson. She provided the father’s details as William Duncan, iron dresser (deceased).

Just over a year later, on 17 March 1871, Mary died. Tragically her death occurred within the City Poorhouse.

It’s always heartbreaking to find an ancestor having to turn in desperation to the poorhouse. She left Ireland optimistic of a brighter future but she was taken young leaving behind a young family. From a research point of view this gave me a new source of information. Fortunately I was at the Scotland’s People Centre at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow when I found the death record so I could immediately request the Poor Law register.

Transcript of Poorhouse record no 1369612

Mary Wilkinson Resides 57 Princes Street 2 up right with Elizabeth Dickie.

Place of birth: Ireland Date of inspector visit: 1.20pm 10 February 1871 Status: single Age: 40 Occupation: cleaner Religion: Protestant Disability: Febricula and bronchitis

Dependants: Helen age 7 born Glendornal (in fever hospital). Martha age 10 born Saltmarket (in fever hospital). Sarah age 31/2 born Saltmarket (in fever hospital) William age 10 1/2 57 Princes Street

Daughter of William Wilkinson a labourer dead and Martha Gilly cannot tell where she is.

First application. Settlement Ireland

Remarks: in lodgings at 3/ a week. Putative father of children Arthur Helford with whom she has cohabited for many years.

Particulars of settlement: in 57 Princes Street, Glasgow. Prior for 5 years residing in the summer season in Lochgoilhead and spending winter months in Glasgow.

13700999 11am 2 March 1871 Mary Wilkinson applies from 57 King Street back 2 up. Prostration of strength and children

Sarah and Martha both in fever hospital. Helen and William 2/3/1871 self and two children admitted to house by indoor inspector.

On 17 March 1871 mother died in Poorhouse.

21 March 1871 Helen and William given to aunt Ann Hafferty residing No 7 Dyers Lane by inspector

Quite a lot of information there. First of all I was surprised to see Mary was Protestant as I believed all of my maternal side were Catholic. It may explain why she never married Arthur though.

Why did Mary not know her mother’s whereabouts? I know nothing of when Mary left Ireland. She may have come with her parents as a child or on her own later on. I was disappointed that the record did not record the town or at least county of her birth. She named her eldest daughter after her mother suggesting at least some affection or respect.

And then there is another William. Without the Poorhouse record I would never have known Mary had another child.

William is recorded as Wilkinson with no father listed. He died just a few months after his mother in June 1871. His father’s details are missing from this record too.

After Mary’s death the children were given into the care of Arthur’s sister, Ann. I hope that they were able to stay together.

Mary certainly had a tough life. I cannot be sure of the kind of person she was. She used three married names but was never married. She lied about this information but perhaps that was to cover the embarrassment of having illegitimate children. I wonder if Arthur believed she was a widow. At the time of her death she had lost a child and had two ill in hospital and little William who suffered ‘debility from birth ‘. I’d like to think she was a good mother or at least tried her best. I’d love to know more about her life as she travelled between Argyll and Glasgow. Did she have her children with her?

I hope at some point to have all the relevant records including her early life in Ireland. I’ll keep looking.

An Epidemic- Patrick COSGROVE 1866-1901

This is the story of my great grandfather, Patrick Cosgrove.  He is my maternal grandmother’s father. He was born in, Killoe County Longford in Ireland in January 1863 to Peter Cosgrove  (1832-1893) and Catherine Mullervy (1939-1910). Patrick was one of at least ten siblings.

  • Anne Born 1867
  • James Born 1869
  • Francis Born 1871
  • Peter Born 1874
  • Catherine Born 1875
  • Michael Born 1876
  • John Born 1878
  • Elizabeth Born 1880
  • Joseph Born 1883

I know that Francis was born in Longford and that Catherine was born in Lanarkshire but I don’t know for sure about Peter so at some point between 1871 and 1875 the family left Ireland and settled in Scotland.  Their family home was at 18 Furnace Row, Newmains, Lanarkshire which is where the five younger children were born.  The town that they left was Ballincurry in the parish of Killoe.

Having left Ireland for a better life, the family faced some horrendous times.  I can find no record of Francis in Scotland so I can only assume that he died very young.  Perhaps it was the circumstances of his death that caused the family to leave Ireland.  This was not, however, the end of the heartache.

Baby Peter died on 20 March 1875.  The cause of death was recorded as measles. Catherine was only a month old at the time.  She died on 21 January 1876 followed closely by Anne on 1 February and James on 5 February.  Three children dead within just over two weeks.  The cause of death is recorded as whooping cough. Catherine would have been pregnant at the time.  Son Michael was born in September 1876 but died less than four years later on 3 June 1880.  The cause of death was scarlet fever.  Joseph died on 2 April 1884 at 13 months old.  The cause of death was gastritis.

So it was amidst all this tragedy and death that Patrick was raised.  The family remained in Furnace Row and in the 1881 census Patrick was working as a coalminer while his father was a labourer.

By 1884 Patrick had left home and was living in Lochee, Angus.  It was there while he was working as a labourer and living at 44 Whorterbank, Lochee that he married my great grandmother, Sarah Helferty on 3 December 1888.  Sarah was born in Glasgow to Irish parents, Arthur Helferty and Mary Wilkinson. She had moved to Lochee to work in the jute mills

I recently visited the Verdant Works Museum in Dundee which is housed in a former jute mill. It gives a real insight into the lives that my great grandparents would have lived, albeit for quite a short time. There was a large community of Irish immigrants in Lochee as they were prepared to work in poor conditions for low pay. Jute was still a thriving industry and there were plenty of jobs to be had. The Irish had a reputation for rowdy, drunken behaviour and the women were very much in charge due to them being, by far, the majority of the workforce. In many households the woman was the breadwinner while the husband stayed at home to look after the children. This was not the case for Sarah and Patrick as at that time they were childless.

By 1891 the couple were back living in Newmains at 27 Furnace Row.  On the census Patrick is again recorded as a labourer.

On 16 July 1900 the couple’s only child was born in Glasgow – a daughter, Catherine.  Sadly, less than 7 months later, on 10 February 1901, Patrick died in Belvidere Hospital, Glasgow during the smallpox epidemic.  His death record shows that he had not been vaccinated against the disease.

At that time vaccination was compulsory only for infants but even that was not strictly enforced. There was some opposition to vaccination but I imagine that my great grandfather didn’t give it much thought. There were some 2500 cases of smallpox in Glasgow between January 1901 and May 1902.

The original admittance register for Belvidere Hospital is available to view at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. It shows that Patrick was admitted to the hospital from Weaver Street Receiving House which, I have been told, was to help cope with the amount of patients requiring hospital admission. On his arrival at Belvidere on 1 February 1901 Patrick was already very ill.

It’s heartbreaking that my granny never knew her father. I hope that her mother, Sarah, talked about him and told her about happier times.

Mary Ann Helferty 1840-1884

I was about to delete this post having discovered that this lady is not my great, great grandmother as I had previously thought.  A review of my research revealed that I had made a huge mistake in my research.  But apart from the fact she is not my family her story is still true and, I think, worth telling.  It may be useful to someone else in the future so I will leave it here on my blog.

Mary Ann Helferty was born in July 1840 in Magherafelt which at that time was in County Tyrone, Ireland.  Her parents were Michael Helferty and Ann Hendry.  Mary Ann was the second of their five children. I know that the family were still in Ireland in 1845 but by the 1851 they had come to Glasgow and were living in the Calton area in the East End. Michael is recorded as a labourer and at that time Ann’s mother and brother were staying with them. Mary Ann is listed on the census as a scholar but it is doubtful that she spent much time in school as she never learned to read and write.

By 1861 Michael no longer features in census records but I have not yet found death details for him. Ann was the head of the household. Mary Ann and her sisters, Catherine and Margaret were employed as workers in a cotton factory. Elder brother, Hugh had left home and younger brother, Michael was in school. He was born in 1853 and was the only one of the Helferty children born in Scotland.  The family shared their home with four lodgers.

On 17 March 1867 Mary Ann gave birth to a daughter, Sarah Helferty.  The child was born in their home in London Road in Glasgow.  There is no father listed on her birth certificate.  Mary Ann was 26 years old when Sarah was born, so not a young girl.  I do wonder about the father.  Was he a married man?  Was it a one night stand? Did he offer any support, either emotional or financial?

Five years later, in 1872, Mary Ann had another daughter.  Little Ann Hendry Helferty died just a few days after her first birthday.  Again there are no details of a father.  The baby was named after Mary Ann’s mother and that leads me to wonder why she had chosen the name, Sarah for her first child.  Was that a connection to the father’s family?  I found details of Baby Ann quite by accident when I searched on Scotland’s People under the name Helferty looking for further information on Mary Ann’s siblings.  So now she has two children out of wedlock.  I wonder how she was regarded in the community. Is it possible that the same man fathered both children?  Again that makes me consider the possiblilty of an affair with a married man.

Early on in my research into Mary Ann I discovered that she had died in the Poorhouse in Govan in October 1884.  The cause of death is recorded as phthisis.  I really wanted to know more about what had happened to poor Mary Ann that she should end up in such a place.  I therefore, visited the Mitchell Library in Glasgow where the Poorhouse register is stored and available for viewing.  I must admit it was exciting to see this original document.

The Poorhouse register is an amazing source of information and there were a couple of further shocks for me in Mary Ann’s record.  First of all I discovered that it was her daughter, Sarah who had her placed in the Poorhouse.  The record shows that Mary Ann was ill and unfit for work so I can only imagine (hope) that there was no other choice.

I also found details of a boyfriend with whom she had been living with for a number of years and two further children!  James was born in 1877 and Mary in 1882.  They both had the surname, Gallagher, after their father.

Whether Mary Ann was a victim of circumstance or a rebel I think it would be fair to say she had a very tough life. The family dream of leaving Ireland for a better life certainly didn’t come true for her.


Sarah Helferty 1867-1921

I have found some major errors in this story which I am trying to rectify. as soon as I have time so bear with me.

The theme of the week is ‘Tough Woman’.  I immediately thought of my great grandmother, Sarah Helferty.  All the circumstances of her life suggest that she must have been tough to survive.  She has also been fairly tough to research because no-one in the family knew anything about her past prior to meeting my great grandfather.

What I did know about Sarah was that she married my great grandfather, Patrick Cosgrove in Dundee and was widowed when my grandmother was just a baby and that she remarried a man from Newmains, Lanarkshire and lived there until she died.  She and her second husband had two children. It was believed that she may originally have come from Glasgow and that her parents were Irish. So with this basic information I set to work.

The first document I found was of her marriage to Patrick Cosgrove (born 1866)  At the time of their marriage on  1888, the two were living and working in Dundee.  Their addresses in Whorterbank, Dundee show that they were neighbours.  Sarah was employed as a mill worker.  Dundee at that time was famous for it’s Jute Mills.  The working conditions were poor and the wages were low.  The women in Dunde’s jute mills had a reputation for being tough, loud and hard drinking.  There were three women to each man earning Dundee the name of ‘She town’ .  The marriage certificates lists Sarah’s parents as Henry Helferty and Mary Ann Wilkinson.  So I continued my search using these details.

Sarah was born on 2 March 1867 at 144 Saltmarket in Glasgow.  Interestingly, the child listed after her on the birth register was born on the same day at the same address. I have tried to find out more about this address with little success but will hopefully clear this up with a visit to the archives at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.  Sarah’s mother was indeed called Mary  – Mary Stewart nee Wilkinson.  She was an Irish immigrant who was employed as a housekeeper. To my surprise, she was not married to Arthur Helferty.  Sarah was illegitimate.  Mary is recorded as a widow in 1867.  She and Arthur had a daughter, Martha in 1861 so I wonder why they hadn’t married before Sarah was born.

I do not know when Sarah’s working life started but I do know that she could not read and write.  At this time children were employed in the textile industry in low paid, dangerous jobs.  Sarah’s circumstances would not have given her the luxury of a long school education.  Providing for herself would have been the priority.

The next record of Sarah is her marriage to Patrick in 1888.  The couple were married for almost twelve years when their daughter, Catherine was born on 16 July 1900. By this time the family were back living in Glasgow but their little family life was shortlived as in 1901 Sarah was left widowed with a small baby when Patrick died of smallpox in February of that year.  In the 1901 census Sarah and Catherine are listed as lodgers living with a family by the name of O’Donnell.

On 11 February 1902 Sarah married widower Edward Cooper.  Edward had also lived in Dundee at the same time as Sarah and Patrick but I have know way of knowing if they had known each other.

At the time of their marriage Edward had tow children age 12 and 13 so Sarah took on the role of stepmother as well as having to care for my grandmother.  Edward lived in Newmains, Lanarkshire and the 1901 cnsus shows that he was a neighbour of the Cosgrove family.  Perhaps they met when Sarah came through for a visit with her in-laws or perhaps Patrick’s family acted as matchmakers finding a husband to help provide for Sarah and Catherine.  I do know that Edward was a kind man who treated my grandmother well.

Sarah an Edward had two children together.  Arthur was born on 18 Noveber 1902 and Mary on 7 February 1903.

Sarah died on 4 December 1921.  The cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver, possibly from drinking which may have started back in her time in Dundee.  She was 54 years old.