Bruce Springsteen’s Irish roots
Research provided by genealogists at the Irish Family History Centre
On 8th November 1853, three Irish sisters stepped off the Arctic S.S. in the Port of New York. Ann Gerrity, the eldest, was 14 years old, Catherine was 12 and Eliza was 10. They were on their way to re-join their father and brothers in Freeport, Monmouth, New Jersey.
A few years earlier ca. 1849, Christy Gerrity and his sons took ship for Canada. At that time it was cheaper and involved less paper-work to arrive in Canada, than in any of the American ports. At some time in 1850 Christy Gerrity slipped across the Canada/U.S. border, and settled in Monmouth, NJ.
On September 14 1853, Christy Geritry petitioned for naturalisation and in 1856 became an American citizen. He couldn’t write, and made an ‘X’ by his name, recorded by the clerk.
Rathangan, county Kildare.
The Gerrity/Geraghty family had overcome many obstacles and travelled a long way to begin their new life. Originally from the parish of Rathangan, county Kildare, the earliest evidence we have for them, records that in October 1823 a young Christopher Gerrity was incarcerated in Naas Jail under the Insurrection Act. The Insurrection Act was passed to stem the spread of political unrest, as Famine, fever and poverty led to a rise in agrarian protest, against evictions, rent and tithe demands.
On 6th February 1827 Christopher Gerrity and Catherine Kelly married in the parish of Rathangan and Kildare. They settled in Mountprospect (southwest of the main town of Rathangan), where they reared their children.
Their children were baptised:
- James, February 25 1828
- John, May 16, 1830
- Michael, January 13, 1833
- Ann, December 2, 1838
- Elizabeth, November 6, 1843
- Thomas, Dec. 25, 1847
Evidence in the historical documents proved there were at least two other Gerrity children
- Christy, born ca. 1834/35 [from Rathangan National School registers]
- Catherine, born ca. 1841 [from the U.S. Census]
There’s nothing certain in life, but death and taxes. Using the land-tax records we found the Gerrity family home in Mountprospect townland. The annual tax charged on the house was 10 shillings, indicating a small house, one-storey with probably no more than 2 rooms. Such a low tax rate, tells us the house was built of ‘perishable material’ – probably cob, i.e. clay mixed with straw or rushes, with a thatched roof. The house would have had an earthen floor. There was probably an open-hearth in the main-room, where all the cooking was done.
In October of 1841 the teacher at Rathangan National School noted enrolment of brothers James (13), John (11) and Michael Gerrity of Mountprospect. Their father’s occupation was given as ‘carrier’, i.e. earning a living by transporting people, goods and live-stock.
The registers prove that the three Gerrity boys remained in school until September 1845, leaving to enter the work-place.
Between November 1846 and June 1847 Michael Gerrity re-entered the school, along with a younger brother Christy Gerrity (11 years) now enrolled for the first time. The Gerrity boys were recorded as living in Mount Prospect, their father’s occupation was still ‘Carrier’. By June 1847 the school-master recorded the Gerrity brothers were ‘sent to another S.[chool]’.
The year 1847 has passed down as ‘Black 47 - one of the worst years of the Famine in Ireland. If Christy Gerrity Sr. kept his sons at school even as the worst of the Famine unfolded around them, it suggests that he saw a good education as the best way to secure his sons’ future.
Monmouth, New Jersey
By 1850 Christy Gerrity and his sons arrived in the United States, via Canada. In 1853 his daughters arrived in the U.S. and made their way to New Jersey. The family lived near each other for the rest of their lives. It is apparent that when Christopher Gerrity arrived in the United States he wasn't trying to escape his old life. He was trying to create a better life for his entire family. Imagining the stress and heartache when the family first separated to begin their voyage to America, it's easy to see that when they were finally reunited, they made a point of staying together.
All records used in this research are available on www.findmypast.com
National School registers
RC parish registers
Griffith’s Valuation – the only definitive version of this key source is on findmypast
 Source: 1824 (174) Ireland, Insurrection Act. Returns… dated 6th Feby. 1824, … of the names of all persons committed under the Insurrection Act, 1st Jany. 1823 to 1st Feby. 1824 in each county. … Kildare.
Commissioned by Tourism Ireland.
By Laura Carroll
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