Historians on the hunt for bride-ship families

HISTORIANS are on the hunt for descendants of young Irish women transported from workhouses to Fremantle in the mid-19th century.

Members of the Mountbellew Workhouse project in Galway, Ireland, are hoping to track down living relatives to build a picture of what happened to the women.

Group member Paula Kennedy says they plan to hold a service at Mountbellew to celebrate their lives.

“We have made great strides already in Australia and have managed to connect with quite a few of the orphan girls’ descendants. They are so excited about this project and eager to assist.”

Mary Dooley

On the bride-ships as they became known, were 33 women from Montbellew who sailed from the English port of Plymouth aboard the Palestine on November 29, 1852, arriving in Fremantle five months later.

Among the passengers was Mary Dooley, who became a pioneering midwife in Fremantle.

Unlike most of the women at Montbellew, Dooley was not an orphan and how she ended up at the workhouse is a mystery. Chosen as a last-minute replacement, Dooley hadn’t been meant to make the trip.

Less than a year after arriving Dooley married John Dawson, a man more than 26 years her senior, and together they had eight children. Dooley died aged 76.

To contact the group visit the Mountbellew Workhouse Cemetery Restoration Facebook page.


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