Monday, January 14, 2008

A remembrance: the Tierney family of Quincy, 1908

One-hundred years is a long time. In the case of the Tierney and McCue families and their descendants, one-hundred years had erased all memories of the lives and in many cases even the names of those who had lived just a few generations earlier. That is, until I started looking through U.S. Census records to learn more about my great-grandmother and her family. Basically all I knew was that they were Irish and they lived in Massachusetts.

I had a few names to begin my search, but no stories, no pictures - nothing to tell me about the lives of these family members who had passed only a century (or less) before me. In the process of adding a little more here and there to the puzzle of my family's history, I began to make amazing discoveries. Missing pieces began to fill out the picture of a family, a life in America, and a survival of what was one of the most devastating times in the history of Ireland: the Great Famine that began in 1845 and the subsequent exile of the suffering Irish.

With the help of the U.S. Census, city directories, obituaries and other records, I began to unravel the forgotten story of the Tierney and McCue families of Boston and Quincy, Massachusetts.

Here, thanks to those records, is a remembrance of my ancestors who were living their lives one-hundred years ago in 1908.

The patriarch of the family, Patrick Tierney, had passed away at the age of 59 only eight years before (in 1900). By the year 1908, fifty-one years had passed since Patrick had emigrated from Ireland as a 17-year-old young man. In 1908 the Boston subway, the first of its kind in the nation, had been running for a decade. The nation saw its fifth World Series that year, having ushered in the tradition with the first ever series in Boston in 1903.

The year 1908 found Patrick's widowed wife Catherine (Kennedy) Tierney acting as head of the household. She was 61 years old and the mother of at least seven children who ranged in age from 31 to 17. (There may have been eight children, according to the 1900 & 1910 U.S. Censuses.) Around the year 1895 the family had moved from Boston's North End to the town of Quincy. 1908 found them spending their last year residing at 312 Quincy Avenue, Quincy, Massachusetts before moving to a home on Gay Street. The family had lived in this home at least since 1903, as listings in the Quincy City directories show.

The children of Patrick & Catherine (Kennedy) Tierney were as follows in 1908:

Catherine J. Tierney (age 31) - the eldest child that I have found, she was the namesake of her mother. Catherine was born at the address Rear 448 Hanover in Boston's North End on April 22, 1877. Her occupation is unknown but in 1908 and for the rest of her years she lived with her mother and siblings.

Ann (Annie) P. Tierney (later Haley) (age 29) - the couple's second child, Annie, was born at Rear 442 Hanover Street in Boston's North End on April 22, 1879. (Interestingly she and her older sister share the same birthday.) Annie was a nurse. In 1910 she was single and living with her mother and siblings so I assume that she shared their home at 312 Quincy Avenue in the year 1908.

Elizabeth (Betty) Tierney (age 27) - Betty was born at 78 Cross in Boston on January 11, 1881. An accomplished seamstress who never married, Betty was very close to her younger sister Margaret, with whom she shared a home from the 1920's until her death over forty years later. Betty more than likely helped Margaret raise her five children after the untimely death of her husband. In 1908 Betty was living at home with her mother and siblings. She was probably already working as a seamstress in a dress shop as she was in 1910. Betty was a member of the Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality of St. John's Parish, the Catholic church down the street from her home.

John P. Tierney (age 24) - probably the first son of Patrick & Catherine Tierney, John's birth at Chelsea on February 26, 1884 seems to have foreshadowed his life. He appears to have been born away from home and, interestingly enough, he went on to move to many different places during his lifetime. His birth also occurred in the very year that the Fore River Shipyard began business in Quincy, Massachusetts. Fore River was where John began his long career in the shipbuilding industry. An employee of the shipbuilding industry for many years, John had probably worked at various odd jobs and was already a shipfitter at the Fore River shipyards by the age of 24 in 1908. (Although I also found him working as a laborer in a pancake factory at the age of 16 in 1900). During his time as a young man in Quincy, probably including 1908, John was a member of St. John's Catholic Church Knights of Columbus and Holy Name Society.

Margaret Helen Tierney (later McCue) (age 22) - a lifelong companion to her older sister Betty, Margaret was born into the Tierney family at 468 Commercial in Boston's North End on August 23, 1886. In 1908 she was living with her mother and siblings and probably already working as a bookkeeper, soon to be moved up to chief bookkeeper at the Gallagher Express Company in Quincy Center. Margaret was, along with her sister Betty, a member of the Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality of St. John's parish.

Joseph G. Tierney (age 20) - probably the second son in the family, Joseph was born at 468 Commercial in Boston's North End on December 12, 1888. In 1910 he was an apprentice at the Fore River shipyard, so I assume that he was doing the same type of work as an 18-year-old in 1908 and following in the footsteps of his older brother John.

Leo E. Tierney (age 17) - Leo, the youngest child in the family, was born at 66 Mercer in Boston's North End on September 28, 1891. In 1908 he was probably already working as a helper at Fore River where his brothers were employed. Leo would go on to complete 45 years of service in the shipbuilding industry, spending much of this time at Boston Naval Shipyard in Charleston, Massachusetts.

As you can see by reading the summaries of each of the Tierney family members in 1908, the family had come a long way since their father Patrick's arrival from Ireland and his start as a poor laborer in Boston's North End. By 1908 the family was clearly a "shipbuilding family", one of many who received their income from the Fore River shipyards in Quincy. (If you are interested, a list of the vessels created at the shipyard in the year 1908 can be found at this webpage.)

In the end, John Tierney was the only one of his siblings to leave the Boston area, sharing his skills as a steel hull builder and moldloftsman with various shipyards throughout the nation before later going on to own and operate the Blackstone Hotel in California. John's brothers Joseph and Leo continued to work in the shipbuilding industry in Massachusetts while his sisters Annie, Betty and Margaret continued their work as nurse, seamstress and bookkeeper.

If he had lived a few more years, their father Patrick would have been able to see them each begin their respective careers. I'm sure that he would have been very proud.

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