Michael Dunn / Ireland

Michael Dunn, Great Grandfather of William E. Dunn

Various records tell us that Michael Dunn was born in Ireland, and his and Bridget Grace's marriage record tell us they were married in Glossop, Derbyshire, England in 1853. Although we haven't found any record of when they went from Ireland to England, it's very likely that it was during the late 1840s during the time of the potato blight and famine in Ireland.

◄ This list shows a record of a Michael Dunn in County Limerick in what could have been the appropriate time period.

Although we don't know for sure that he's the one, it's interesting to speculate that the man on this list is the member of our family who emigrated to the United States.
▲ (Click on list to enlarge it.)

This map shows the proximity of Ireland to England, where Michael Dunn and Bridget Grace were married. Their ship departed from Liverpool when they emigrated to the United States. (Click on map to enlarge it.)

◄ All Saints church cathedral, Glossop, Derbyshire, England, where Michael Dunn and Bridget Grace were married

◄ Michael Dunn and Bridget Grace's marriage certificate (Click on it to enlarge it.)

Michael Dunn’s age is recorded differently in various documents, but he appears to have been born between 1830 and 1835. He is recorded in his U.S. immigration record and U.S. censuses as being born in Ireland. Before coming to the U.S. he first emigrated to England, probably with his father, Pierce Dunn - and possibly other family members - in the mid-1800s. This was no doubt because of the famine and literal starvation in Ireland resulting from the potato blight there.

He married Bridget Grace (Grace being her surname, not a middle name) who is also recorded in the same documents as being born in Ireland. Their wedding certificate shows the following about their marriage:

Name, Age, Occupation, “Condition”, Father
Michael Dunn, 22, Labourer, Bachelor, Pierce Dunn, Farmer
Bridget Grace, 25, Washerwoman, Spinster, William Grace, Labourer

Date and location:
30 July, 1853, All Saints [Catholic] Church] Glossop, England

County: Derby and Chester
Registration District: Hayfield
Witnesses: Richard Griffiths and Patrick Murphy

Michael and Bridget each signed with a mark, an “x”, and were obviously illiterate.

Trivia: All Saints was built in 1836 by Bernard Edward, twelfth Duke of Norfolk and grandfather of Lord Edward, and was the first Catholic church in the area.


A Description of Glossop (from an 1835 Directory)

"Glossop, Derbyshire
Glossop is a village and township, in the populous and extensive parish of its name, in the hundred of High Peak; 184 miles from London. 50 N.N.W. from Derby, 25 N.W. from Sheffield, and 13 S.E. from Manchester. This village, which is one of great manufacturing consequence, is situate[d] on a rising bank, springing from one of the deepest valleys in the Peak. The country around is very pleasing, and many of the views may be considered romantic: plantations abound in the home scenery, and the lands in the low grounds are fertile; but the mountainous parts are less productive."

For more info about the village of Glossop and Derbyshire county, visit these sites:
Glossop town profile and Slideshow of old Derbyshire photos as well as Glossop photos.

Regarding Bridget's occupation of washerwoman, consider this description of that work in the 1800s.

“Today we can do our washing effortlessly with the help of washing machines and suitable detergents. No longer is it necessary to soap, beat and wring the washing, using washing board and tub at home or in a public wash-house or at a running stream. The normal thing in those days was for a washerwoman to go to a river or creek, kneel down on the bank and wash clothes on a fairly smooth stone.

This custom still prevailed in the early 19th century amongst women who did such work for a living. They used to drive their horse-drawn wagons…loaded with sacks of washed linen heaped high. They passed from house to house to off-load the clean linen, all carefully marked with needle and thread. They then departed reloaded with more washing to be done on the banks of the…rivers. It was a back-breaking task.”

Washerwomen were at the low end of the social scale, and I’ve learned that in the U.S., during the 19th century this work was assigned to slaves in the old south.

From humble beginnings such as this, this illiterate couple emigrated to the U.S. and raised a family that included their son, my generation’s great grandfather, William Edward Dunn (WED) after whom my father was named. WED became a highly respected officer in one of America’s pioneering railroad companies and at one point, as a superintendent with the railroad, had almost 700 men working for him.

Michael and Bridget also had a grandson, WED’s son, John Henry Dunn, who rose to become president of a sprawling Chicago-based publicly-held lumber company in the early 1900s; it’s a genuine “rags-to-riches” story for those generations of our family.

How lucky we are that Michael and Bridget made the sacrifices required to get here! If they hadn't, we wouldn't be here!

Michael and Bridget’s Immigration Records

In 1858 Michael and Bridget emigrated to the U.S. from Lancashire, England, a county near Derbyshire. The passenger list of the ship "Dr. Witt Clinton", departure – Liverpool, arrival - May 21, 1858, New York, shows "Michael Dunn age 30 - farmer" and "Bridget Dunn age 25 - wife."

They presumably brought their eldest son, Peter Dunn, with them, but there isn't any record of him on board. However, records for him state that he was born in Lancashire, England, September 7, 1857, before they emigrated.

New York Passenger List Info about Michael Dunn
Name: Michael Dunn
Arrival Date: 21 May 1858
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1828
Age: 30
Gender: Male
Port of Departure: Liverpool, England
Destination: United States of America
Place of Origin: Ireland
Ethnicity/Race­/Nationality: Irish
Ship Name: Dr Witt Clinton
Port of Arrival: New York
Port Arrival State: New York
Port Arrival Country: United States

New York Passenger List Info about Bridget Dunn
Name: Bridget Dunn
Arrival Date: 21 May 1858
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1833
Age: 25
Gender: Female
Port of Departure: Liverpool, England
Destination: United States of America
Place of Origin: Ireland
Ethnicity/Race­/Nationality: Irish
Ship Name: Dr Witt Clinton
Port of Arrival: New York
Port Arrival State: New York
Port Arrival Country: United States


From New York to Illinois

During the 1800s thousands of impoverished Irish families made the long journey by ship to British North America and the United States. As I cover in more detail elsewhere in this blog, these people were leaving a land that had become beset with poverty, lack of opportunity, and literal starvation in the streets. In North America they hoped to find land, work, and political and religious freedoms.

The largest influx of Irish settlers in the U.S. occurred as a result of Ireland’s great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. However, in that era they were treated as the lowest strata of society after they arrived here. Life was not easy for these immigrants. As a matter of fact, it's reported that signs saying "No Irish Need Apply" were common, presumably in places where jobs were otherwise available.

Although the majority of immigrants who survived the long sea passage in what were labeled “coffin ships” did obtain the freedoms they sought, it was not without much perseverance and hard work. In the mid-1800s the work available was generally low-paying and physically taxing construction or factory work.

English negative stereotypes concerning the Irish (covered in detail elsewhere in this blog), although less frequent and vehement here in the U.S., were nonetheless present in what was supposed to be the land of freedom, liberty, and equality for all.

Anti-Catholic Prejudice in That Era

Protestant "Nativist" prejudice against Irish Catholics in the U.S. reached a peak in the mid-1850s with the Know Nothing Movement, which tried to oust Catholics from public office. Much of the opposition, such as riots in 1844 in Philadelphia, came from Protestants.

In rural areas in the 1830s riots broke out among rival labor teams from different parts of Ireland, and between Irish and "native" American work teams competing for construction jobs. More on this subject can be found here.


“Migration to Illinois during the 1830s was largely from New York and New England via the National Road or the Erie Canal, both of which went westward to the Great Lakes. In the 1840s that mi­gration continued, and large numbers of German and Irish also began to arrive. While many soon moved on to land opening up farther west, many remained in Illinois.”
Source: The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists

Although they didn’t arrive in the U.S. until 1858, Michael and Bridget appear to have been part of the migration described above, for they ultimately settled in Illinois.

Why did Irish immigrants gravitate to Illinois? I found a site about people with Irish roots in Illinois, and one part of the site deals with that question. Because it specifically states that no text may be copied, I won't reproduce it here. However, Here's a link to it.


The 1860 census records the following:
Michal Dunn 29 (note incorrect spelling), farmer, b. 1831, b. IRE
Township 6 Range 9, Madison County, Illinois
Post Office: Upper Alton
Bridget 29, b. 1831, b. IRE
Peter, 6, b, 1856, b. ENG
Wm, 2, b. 1858, b. ENG

However, other records show Peter as born in 1857, and William was actually born in Illinois, not England.
Also included in the household are three Furlongs, males ages 21, 18 and 15, whom I suspect to have been boarders and/or hired hands.

The 1870 census records the following:
Mike Dunn, 35, farmer, born IRE [Since this census is 10 years later than the previous one, either this age or the previous one must be incorrect.]
Macoupin County, Illinois, Township 9 Range 6, Post Office: Clyde
Bridget Dunn 30, keeping house, b. Ireland

Peter Dunn age 16, works on farm, born - England
William Dunn, age 11, born - Illinois
John Dunn, age 9, born - Illinois
Thomas Dunn, age 7, born - Illinois
Stephen Dunn, age 5, born - Illinois

The 1880 census records the following information:
Name, Relation, Marital Status, Gender, Race, Age, Birthplace,
Occupation,Father’s Birthplace, Mother’s Birthplace

Bridget DUNN, Self, W, Female, W, 48, IRE, Keeping House, IRE, IRE
Peter DUNN, Son, S, Male, W, 25, ENG, Farm Hand, ENG, IRE
William DUNN, Son, S, Male, W, 20, IL RR Hand, IRE, IRE
John DUNN, Son, S, Male, W, 17, IL, RR Hand, IRE, IRE
Stephen DUNN, Son, S, Male, W, 13, IL, IRE, IRE

■ It’s unclear why Peter’s father’s birthplace is recorded in this census as England while previous censuses show him being born in Ireland. That appears to be an error on the part of the census taker.

■ Note that Bridget is now widowed, meaning that Michael died after the 1870 census in which he was recorded as being 35 (and probably should have been shown as 40) and this census, where I believe he'd have been 50. Depending upon which age is correct, he died between ages 45 and 50.

■ Thomas no longer appears in this census. This leads me to surmise that he also died at a young age, since he’d have been just 17 in 1880 - and his older brothers are still living at home. According to this census, also included in this household were three non-related males, whom I believe to have been either boarders or hired hands.

■ At this time we have no record of what Peter's occupation became, although a couple of photos of him and his wife look like he could have been a farmer while living in Kansas, where his brother Stephen also lived. Information about Peter's family is on another page of this blog.

■ Stephen worked on the railroad when he was a young man. He remained single and moved around a lot, finally settling in Chetopa, Kansas. His obituary, dated October 1, 1925, states that he was survived only by nieces and nephews - his parents and brothers all having preceded him in death.

■ Stephen became the proprietor of a thriving and widely-known general store in Chetopa and William continued his career with the pioneering railroad industry. John we, so far, have learned nothing about. Stephen's and William’s stories are covered on other pages of this blog

■ Some time after this 1880 census the widowed Bridget moved in with her bachelor son, Stephen, known as S.G. Dunn, and remained there until her death, sometime after 1880.

Last updated 3/25/2010

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