Sandham, James: My Great-Grandmother Survived the Irish Famine


by Jim Sandham

abt. 1860

abt. 1901

Bridget Duhan(Dohan) was born in County Clare, Ireland, on March 1, 1835. She seems to be the same girl who the 1850 Irish Census Records cite as a 15-year-old girl under the last name “Dohan” residing in Breaghva Locality, Clondagad Parish, County Clare. She was a Roman Catholic. Sometime between the end of the famine (1852) and 1858 she emigrated to Canada and married a Baptist, John Sandham, who was farming in the Courtland area (near Tillsonburg, Ontario). The date of her marriage is unknown, but their eldest child, a son, was born in 1859, when she was 24 years old. Canadian census records show that both she and her husband were illiterate. In Courtland she bore nine children, eight of whom survived into adulthood. Several of them, if not all, were brought up in the RC faith. In the 1901 census, Bridget was living with son William on the family farm. She died in 1906. Family sources say that either her mother or grandmother was killed in the fights with the English.

What was going on in Ireland during her teen-age years? County Clare was one of the most devastated areas in Ireland.

From Wikipedia, 2010:

"Great Irish Famine

The Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1852, during which the island's population dropped by 20–25 percent. Approximately one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland. The proximate cause of famine was a potato disease commonly known as potato blight. Although blight ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s, the impact and human cost in Ireland—where a third of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food—was exacerbated by a host of political, social and economic factors which remain the subject of historical debate.

The famine was a watershed in the history of Ireland. Its effects permanently changed the island's demographic, political and cultural landscape."

The Famine

"Skibbereen 1847 by Cork artist James Mahony (1810–1879), commissioned by Illustrated London News 1847.