Prince Edward Island
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On this page I am going to look at a Rooney family who left Roslea for Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1847.

I would like to thank Colleen McCluskey-Douse from Prince Edward Island, Canada, who has helped me with the information on this page.

Colleen had sent me an email, the following part of which said..

Hello Sean , my name is Colleen McCluskey-Douse from Prince Edward Island Canada, I have traced my roots here back to this couple and have found their gravestone in Fodhla Cemetery, Iona PEI.

Patrick McCluskey born 1816 Fermanagh Ireland died 26 July 1864

Ellen Dougherty born Ireland 1819, died 4 December 1884.

In Brendan O'Grady's book "Exiles and Islanders" He states that, "Aboard the plague ship the Lady Constable were two couples who had set out from Roslea intending to raise their families in Iona: Patrick McCluskey and his wife Ellen Dougherty, and Philip Rooney and his wife Mary Dougherty.

Of the four Rooney sons born in Ireland, three died en route. Another son, named Philip (born in PEI) later married Ellen McKenna, daughter of Owen McKenna and Ellen McInnis. Into that family were born five priests and two nuns."

The Lady Constable left from Liverpool and arrived in PEI May 21st or 24th 1847, Patrick and Ellen's daughter Catherine McCluskey was born May 21 and baptised May 24, 1847 . 25 people died en route from typhus, and 8 more died in quarantine.

I am assuming Ellen and Mary Dougherty are sisters, though I have no proof. I do have birth and baptismal information for four other Rooney children, born in PEI.

John born 23 March 1848, Baptism date 30 April 1848
Hugh born 10 May 1850, Baptism date 30 May 1850
Mary born 2 June 1852, Baptism date 9 June 1852
Philip born 25 May 1855, Baptism date 3 June 1855
All at St. Joachim's Roman Catholic Church Vernon River Prince Edward Island


After recieving Colleen's email I decided to do some digging and was determined to try find out who these Rooneys , Dohertys and McCluskeys were. I searched the internet to see if I could find more about the book ' Exiles & Islanders ' I found a good review of this book, this is what it had to say about imigration to PEI....

''Prince Edward Island's Irish community has long evaded historical examination. Given the healthy state of historical writing in Canada's smallest province, this may take many by surprise. Nonetheless, while the establishment of Scottish, French, and Lebanese communities have all been the focus of scholarly monographs, such a fate has eluded the Irish.

It was with bated breath, therefore, that many awaited the publication of Brendan O'Grady's Exiles and Islanders: The Irish Settlers of Prince Edward Island. It does not disappoint.

Given the dearth of research into the Island's Irish, the author aims to establish three facts fundamental to understanding this community.

To begin, O'Grady points out that the Island's Irish did not immigrate as a consequence of the Great Famine. As he notes, Prince Edward Island's Irish came in three successive waves. The first, consisting of the "Anglo-Irish Protestants who dominated business and politics" in the young colony, arrived between 1767 and 1810. The second wave, between 1810 and 1835, was largely comprised of southeasterners, while large numbers from County Monaghan dominated the third wave, occurring between 1830 and 1850.

Both of these later waves were predominately Roman Catholic. With just one "coffin-ship" mooring in the Charlottetown Harbour the Lady Constable docked in 1847 it can be stated with authority that Prince Edward Island's Irish community was firmly entrenched before the famine became a factor.

A second revelation within Exiles and Islanders concerns the nature of Irish immigration to the Island.

While the arrival of the Scots was, for the most part, overseen by colonizers such as Captain John MacDonald and Lord Selkirk, the same could not be said of the Irish. According to O'Grady, "the majority of the Irish settlers were not part of any large-scale well-organized effort; rather, the tides of chain migration drew many extended families into the emigration stream" (p. 4). To this effect, the example of Father Patrick Moynagh is cited. This Donagh-based priest is known to have aided the emigration of local families to Fort Augustus, a small community ten miles east of harlottetown. As O'Grady explains, "relatives and friends from other parishes followed the Donagh pioneers, and in that way hundreds of families from northern County Monaghan continued to emigrate from 1835 through 1848"

The author's third assertion is that the Irish immigrants, while maintaining a strong affinity for their homeland, quickly transformed into loyal Prince Edward Islanders. While the Irish brought their social customs, language, and folklore to the Island, they also adapted to the new environment. New organizations, such as the Benevolent Irish Society, with its focus on immigrant aid, popped up, while other members of the community became leaders in such groups as the Prince Edward Island Tenant League. This "dual identity" hardly renders the Irish community unique among ethnic groups; however, the situation described by O'Grady is one that will interest students of immigration studies.

Exiles and Islanders is an excellent book. Meticulously researched, its sources include newspaper articles, a wide range of secondary sources, and personal correspondences from both sides of the Atlantic. While the research is of the highest standard, it is in his prose that O'Grady truly shines. Written in a clear and crisp manner, it evokes a love for his subject. While one cannot help but wonder why such an important topic has been overlooked for so many years, I am reminded of the old adage that "Good things come to those who wait."


So the review stated that only the one 'coffin ship' arrived at PEI and that was in 1847. It was a coincidence that it was the very ship that had our three Familes from Roslea onboard.

I was determined to try and find out as much as I could, and I started to look through my records.

This is what a coffin ship would have looked like.


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