John Joseph Carey, Sr.

John Joseph Carey was born in about 1839. He came from County Limerick in Ireland. A letter from John's daughter, Anne, says "Don't know much of Father's people, other than that they came from Knock near Limerick".

Carey letter

Letter from Anne Carey Rossing, John Carey's daughter, circa 1941

John's parents are  Richard Carey and Johana Cullinane, who were married in Mahoonagh, County Limerick in 1826. After a thorough search, a marriage for Richard and Johana was located in Mahoonagh, County Limerick, Ireland. Land records place Richard in the townland of Common or Commons in County Limerick

John had an older brother, Patrick, and a younger sister, Margaret. Patrick was born in Mahoonagh in 1838, and married a woman from Ballingarry. Margaret married a man who was born in Mahoonagh. The Mahoonagh parish registers are known to have gaps in the late 1830s. Land records place Richard Carey in the nearby parish of Ballingarry in 1849, in the townland of Common. This townland is near Knockfierna, "the hill of truth" and the tallest hill in County Limerick. This is most likely the Knock mentioned above.


View from Knockfierna

John's parents moved from Mahoonagh to Ballingarry between 1838 and 1849. They lived on a four-acre lot with John's grandparents, Patrick and Bridget Carey, and uncles Jeffrey and John Carey, and worked the land. Richard had inherited the land in 1827, and the Careys had lived in the area since before the records begin. The Careys lived on Lot 10. A Carey descendant lived there until the 1970s. The land was beautiful and green, and the hill of Knockfierna was in their backyard. There was a large commonage area on the heights of Knockfierna. Commonage was common land, and anyone could live there.


Ordinance Survey map of Commons townland in Ballingarry parish, 1852.
The Careys were in Lot 10, with the hill of Knockfierna in their backyard.

John was raised in a little stone cottage with a thatched roof. The house was 21 1/2 feet long by 15 1/2 feet wide. About 88 families lived in Common townland, in properties around the base of Knockfierna.

Irish cottage

Knockfierna cottage

In the 1830s, the commonage area became a refuge for evicted tenants from the Cox estate in Ballynoe, about nine miles to the west of Knockfierna. About 130 families moved to the commonage area and built cottages of stone. "Knockfierna, the highest point in County Limerick at approximately 950 feet, was common land so anyone could live there. It was  to this place  that many of the dispossessed went to live during the Famine years. Some had been evicted because they could not pay their rent; most  had no place else to go because there was no work." (Remembering the Great Famine; These families were hard-hit by the Great Famine, as they tried to grow potatoes on the rocky land on the hilltop. The ruins of these cabins are still found on the hill today, and a famine memorial has been created there.

The potato famine had a major impact on the area, and 1847 was the hardest year. John was only about eight years old at the time. The family owned their farm, and other family members lived nearby in the townland of Ballinaha. What kind of an impact did it have on the young boy to see the suffering of those families on the nearby hillside?

Valuation List 1863

Valuation List for Common, about 1862

Richard was still shown as the landholder in Common townland in 1862, shortly before his emigration.

John came to the United States as a young man, and settled in Chicago in about 1862. His sister, Margaret  emigrated in 1862. John worked as a laborer for the railroad. Richard, his son Patrick, and his brother, Jeffrey emigrated in 1862, and he must have died in Chicago. The first of the Carey family to appear in the Chicago city directories was Johana, widow of Richard, in 1865 at 128 Bunker Street.  Johana, John, a laborer, and Edward, a sewer builder, are shown at 130 Bunker Street in the 1865-6 Chicago City Directory. Edward died in 1868, at the age of 27, and is buried in the Carey family plot.

          Carey marriage

Marriage record for John Carey and Mary Harrigan in Holy Family parish, Chicago, 1866


John married Mary Harrigan on July 13, 1866 at St. Mary's Church in Chicago. John was 27 years old, and Mary was 18 years old. They had fourteen children, all baptized at Holy Family Church in Chicago. They were Richard (1867), James (1868), Anna (1870),  Edward (1871), Joanna (1873), Mary (1874), Margaret (1875), Mary (1877), John (1878), Patrick (1880), Thomas (1882), Joseph (1884), Anne (1886), and William (1888). Twelve of the children lived past infancy. The sponsors at the children's baptisms included Patrick Carey, Edward Carey, James Carey, Thomas Carey, Margaret Carey, and Mary Carey.

1870 census, Chicago

In the 1870 federal census, John and Mary are shown in Ward 8, with children Richard, age 3, James, age 1, and Ann, 3 months. Bunker Street was one street over from DeKoven Street, where the O'Learys lived when the Chicago Fire of 1871 started, so the Great Fire must have been a memorable event for the Carey family. Fortunately, the fire blew in the opposite direction from the Carey's house.

In the Chicago City Directory of  1873, John and his brother Patrick both lived at 158 Bunker Street. They are both shown with the occupation of laborer. John and Patrick's mother, Johana was shown in the 1872 Chicago City Directory at 158 Bunker Street, and this is the address listed as her residence in cemetery records. John and Patrick are still shown at 158 Bunker Street in the 1874-5 city directory.

1880 census, Chicago, first page

1880 census, Chicago, top of next page

In the 1880 census, the family was still living at 158 Bunker Street. John's brother, Patrick and his wife Bridget also lived there. It is interesting to note that John couldn't read and write in the 1870 census, but has learned to read and write by the 1880 census.

The family moved in 1881. John is found in the Voter Registration rolls for 1888. He is shown living at 640 21st Street, and was naturalized with papers filed in 1886. His son, Richard, was also registered at the same address. John's sister-in-law, Bridget died the next year, in 1889, and her address was also given as 640 21st Street.

The family moved again in 1890. John is found in the Voter Registration rolls in 1890 and 1892. He was listed as living at 237 Ewing Avenue. In 1890 he states that he has lived at that address for four months. In 1892, he states that he has lived in the county and state for 30 years, making his arrival in Chicago in 1862. John's brother Patrick is shown at 247 Ewing Avenue, and he had also lived in the county and state for 30 years.

John died June 12, 1897 at the age of 56. At that time he lived at 250 Ewing Avenue, in Chicago. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery on June 15, 1897.

          Carey death cert

Death certificate for John Carey


The obituary of John Carey (Chicago Tribune, Sunday, June 13, 1897):

John Carey, at his residence, 250 Ewing St., beloved husband of Mary Carey, nee Harrigan. Member of St. Aloysius Court No. 27, I.O.F. Funeral notice later.

Cemetery record for Carey

Cemetery record for the Carey family plot at Calvary Cemetery


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