Big Irish Families

[by Fred Lynch in Cambridge, Massachusetts]

The stereotype of oversized Irish Catholic families proves true in my ancestry. Ellen O’Connor, for instance, was one of ten children born in the city of Cork, Ireland between 1855 and 1873. She and a handful of her siblings came to the US in the late 1880s and started out in Chelsea, Massachusetts (next to Boston), where they grew their own big families.

Ellen had married Patrick Murphy back in Ireland and crossed the Atlantic with their two children. They then had ten more children as they flocked from apartment to apartment in the crowded neighborhood of East Cambridge. Ellen died at age 44, leaving all those kids with their father, a laborer by profession. The youngest was five. In 1902, the Murphys shared this little house (centered in the picture) with Patrick’s brother, I believe. How big the other family was is unknown… and scary to think about.


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