I think Martha McGrath was my mom’s mom’s dad’s dad’s mom (my third great-grandmother). I say “I think” because I’m not 100% sure. All signs point in that direction, but I hesitate to state it as fact. One of her sons shows up in a stranger’s Ancestry.com family tree with matching information to my own, so it’s safe to assume they are the same person, but I’m always cautious if I can’t confirm it more than once.
According to the 1851 England census, Martha lived in Bradford, England (Bradford was mentioned in the Doctor Who episode The Crimson Horror) with her three children at 120 Longland St. I can actually see that building on Google Maps. When Jeff and I go to England this summer, I’ll see it in person.
Born in 1807, Martha was a 44-year-old widow at the time and worked as a dress maker. She was born in Ireland, as was her husband and father of her three children. Beyond this, there is no information about him anywhere, at least not where I can find it.
My second great-grandfather, James McGrath, was 12 at the time. He was born in Bradford and worked as a “boot closer”. His little brother Alexander was 8, and their little sister, Mary, was 4.
By the time James was 22, he had moved to Manchester and lived as a lodger at 65 Fleet St, Ashton-under-Lyne–according to the 1861 census. He worked as a cordwainer, so apparently shoe-making agreed with him.
By 1870, he had somehow emigrated to the US (I can’t find his name on any passenger lists), because he shows up in Detroit, in the census, married to my second great-grandmother Josephine. He was employed as a brewer, which he apparently continued to do for the rest of his life–that is, at least, according to what my mom has been told.
I get the sense that he was being deliberately sketchy about being kept track of. In various places, he lists his birthplace as either Ireland or England. I can’t find him or any other dependents in any census records after that, until my great-grandfather Charlie McGrath moves out and starts his own life, with his marriage to his first wife, Maggie O’Leary, in 1894.
Maggie died, leaving him with two daughters, Marie and Grace. He eventually married Emma Gelinski, and they gave birth to my mom’s mom, Mildred in 1904.
Great-Grandpa Charlie, with my mom, Joann circa 1937
In 1910, the census lists Charles McGrath as an agent in a tea store, and in 1920, he was employed as a tool clerk in an auto factory (this was Detroit, after all). He disappears from the records after that. My mom tells me that he became a brewer and ran a drinking establishment before Prohibition. The front room held a bar for the men, and the ladies would go into the back room to sit in the parlor to drink. He had to close this business down when Prohibition began.
Charlie died in 1940. This picture of him is as far back as his lineage goes, in our family photos.
But it all began with Martha, in Ireland, in 1807. And whomever came before her … and before her … and before her …