Mary Harrigan in 1921


Mary A. Harrigan was born December 28, 1846, in Tipperary, County Tipperary, Ireland. Her father was James Harrigan, and her mother was Anne Kennedy. She had five brothers: Patrick, John, James, Michael, and Edmund, and one sister, Johanna. They were all christened in the parish church of St. Michaels in Tipperary town.

Mary Harrigan baptism

Baptism record for Mary Harrigan in Tipperary parish

Tipperary is an old town, nearly 800 years old, in fact. The Harrigans are shown in tax records in Bohercrow townland, just outside of Tipperary town.

Mary landed at Castle Garden, New York in 1865, at the age of 17. There is no record of her entering the United States. Her daughter Anne said, "She is shown as lost at sea, because she slipped away over the fence with some cousins, named Irwin that she saw accidentally. They gave her a glorious week while her sister was looking for her. Finally found, she went with her sister, Anne (Johanna) Lynch, to Clinton, Iowa. She worked very hard, mainly for thanks, so ran away to Chicago, to a cousin, Mrs. Lawson, on Randolph Street."


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

Mary stayed with her, and in a year met and married John Carey, at the age of 18 on 13 July 1866 in Chicago. (Mary's daughter, Anne Carey Rossing, reported that "after Mary died it was said that Mary Harrigan certainly made a big step down when she married John Carey, for she was Irish quality".) Mary had fourteen children. Twelve children lived past infancy.

Mary Harrigan and Anne her daughter

Mary Harrigan Carey and her daughter Anne


In 1897 John Carey died, leaving Mary a widow at the age of 47. She moved to 123 Lytle, and then by 1908 bought a home at 1923 S. Central Park, in Chicago. Her grandson, Harvey Rossing, remembers her as being "very much the mistress of the household, and really the person who ran it, even though, at one time three of her daughters lived there with her, as well as a son, a son-in-law, and three grandchildren."

1920 census

Another grandson, Patrick's son William Carey, remembers that the house on Central Park was always crowded. As a small child he would go around pulling on pants legs, saying "Daddy", and not always being right - the Carey brothers all looked so much alike.


Mary's granddaughter Dolores Carey Gonczo remember some of the events associated with Mary's death: "She had a heart problem. Her doctor was Dr. Hamlin, and he gave her some medication. She asked him: "Will this give me a new heart?" When he replied that it wouldn't, she refused to take the medicine. According to Anne, a few minutes before she passed away having been in a coma for quite some time, she suddenly sat up, opened her eyes, and said, "I'm coming, Bill". Whether this is some of Anne's Irish "folklore" or the truth, I do not know, but I do remember that as a child, it made quite an impression on me." Mary died November 23, 1923, at the age of 74. She was buried in Calvary Cemetery on November 26, 1923.

Obituary notice of Mary Harrigan Carey (Chicago Daily Tribune, Saturday, November 24, 1923):

Mary Harrigan Carey, widow of John J. and beloved mother of Richard, James of Maywood, Edward, John J. of Berkeley, California; Patrick S., Thomas A. of Detroit, Mich.; Joseph G., Mrs. James McCann, Mrs J.G. Wheelock, of Mankata, Minn.; Mrs. Harvey C. Rossing, Miss Margaret Carey and the late William B. Funeral Monday from her late residence, 1923 S. Central Park Av. to Blessed Sacrament Church, where solemn high mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m.; burial Calvary.

Mary Harrigan Carey, son James Carey,
granddaughter Mae Carey Johnson,
and great-grandson Roland Johnson - four generations.

by Dolores Carey Gonczo

I spent a lot of time with Grandma Carey, and she was truly an "Irish Matriarch". She ruled and I do mean ruled from her Morris chair. She was a very heavy woman, and she sat in that chair and dictated what each one of her children were to do, regardless of the fact that they were married and had children. One of the events I remember from early childhood was when Grandma decided she was going to curb the cemetery lot at Calvary Cemetery. She dictated that each one of the boys were to donate $10 towards it, and each of the girls $5. When my mother asked her why the girls (who were married) only donated $5, her curt answer was "because her husband is a stranger!"

Grandma ruled the roost - every year all the boys that worked, married or unmarried, bought a new front parlor carpet, and the year-old one went into the back parlor. The Carey boys had to be in by 9 p.m., and the man next door used to set his watch by the boys rounding the corner and sprinting on home.

Another event I remember (or was told about) is that she dictated that each one could only get married in chronological order. But my Father and Mother (who was German) decided to get married before John and Mae Hickey were married (John was two years older than my Dad), and that, coupled with the fact that my father was marrying a German girl, Grandma came to the wedding - but, she came in after the wedding party had gone down the aisle and sat in the back pew. Hence, she was the first one to congratulate them! She would never give the neighbors anything to talk about.

She was a person of intense likes or dislikes where people are concerned. I, as a child, would be out on the porch with her at 1923 S. Central Park, Chicago, when a neighbor would come along. If she liked the neighbor, she would be very friendly, but if she disliked them, she was curt, nasty, and sometimes cut them cold.

But she was a lovely lady, and I do mean lady. I, too, had heard that she was much higher class than her husband, and many a time, sitting at her feet in the Morris chair, she would regale us with stories of Ireland, and the fact that "we are all descendants of Brian Boru on one side of her family and the King of Munster on the other side of her family."



by Ruth Wheelock Matheny

I was pretty young when she died, and I have only two memories. I always picture her as sitting on a throne on the side of the living room! My other memory is an unfortunate one: For some reason, I stamped my foot at her, and I "got it" from the whole family.

My mother said that she was violently opposed to the use of makeup by her daughters. When they were young ladies, she would still stand by the front door with a damp cloth and swipe the face of anyone wearing even powder!

They were a happy family, though, who made their own fun. They enjoyed sing-alongs. My mother said she never learned to play the piano because every time she tried to practice, one of her brothers would hop on one foot, waiting for her to play the next note!

I know that some of them went with Grandfather Carey to the Columbian Exposition in 1893.


Click here for a picture of the Carey family at a wedding, circa 1921, including Mary Harrigan Carey.

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