Spotlight on Irish Studies: A Story from the Information Wanted Database

The Information Wanted Database is available at

The Information Wanted Database is available at

To date, the Information Wanted Database contains over 36,000 stories.  This database is made up of records the reflect information from advertisements in the Boston Pilot newspaper between 1831 and 1921. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, there was a tidal wave of Irish immigration to North America.  Some immigrants came to escape political upheaval, famine, and poverty, while others simply hoped to start a better life in the new world.  During this time, formal communication was by written word, but an international postal system was just emerging, making it difficult for those who had immigrated to keep in touch with those they had left behind.  The result was that many of those in Ireland had no idea where their relatives and friends might be.  Many new Irish Americans simply became “lost” to those who cared for them.

The October 1831 ad seeking Patrick McDermott.

The October 1831 ad seeking Patrick McDermott.

For example, in the ad pictured to the left,  “In October 1831 an advertisement appeared in the Boston Pilot newspaper seeking a Patrick McDermott, whose wife and family, newly arrived from Ireland, would be returned by the Emigrant Commissioner if he was not located. This was the first ad in what became known as the ‘Missing Friends’ column, which ran for ninety years (1831-1921). Almost immediately the ads became popular, were widely used, and increased the paper’s circulation nationally and abroad, including Ireland and Australia.”  ~ Professor Ruth-Ann Harris

Recently Neville Casey of Australia sent an email to the Burns Library staff concerning an ad from 1865.  Neville pointed out what he believes to be errors in the original ad placed in 1865.   Staff members reviewed the transcript of the ad that ran for members of the Cash/McQueeney family.  The original ad as transcribed for the printed volumes of The Search for Missing Friends reads:

Of James Cash, or Mrs Cash (maiden name Mary McQueeney), or the widow McQueeney, or John McQueeney, from the County Lietrim, parish of Murhaun; when last heard from was in North Britain, Noston Bay, New South Wales.  Any information of the above named will be thankfully received by their sister, Ann McQueeney, number 77 Debourne street, Chicago, Ill.

Neville Casey is the great, great-nephew of Ann McQueeney who placed the ad.  Neville did more research on the contact information that had been listed and found out about a Church Guild in Chicago.  Here is a description and address of the Church Guild from 1865, as reported by Neville Casey:

Rooms 21 and 22 Rice’s Block, 77 Dearborn Street.
An association designed to unite together, Christians of all denominations.
Bishop H. J. Whitehouse, Warden.
H. C. Ranney, Secretary.
Franklin Hathaway, Treasurer.
Clergyman’s Aid Committee—N. J. Barney, C. R.

For a larger image, please click on this photo. Thanks to Neville Casey for this photograph of a family grave in Australia.  The grave marker tells the story of his ancestors, Mary (McQueeney) Cash Cain and James Cash Cain

For a larger image, please click on this photo. Thanks to Neville Casey for this photograph of a family grave in Australia. The grave marker tells the story of his ancestors, Mary (McQueeney) Cash Cain and James Cash Cain

Apparently Ann McQueeney sought the aid of the Church Guild in placing this ad in the Pilot.  Because Neville realized that the people mentioned in the ad were his relatives he understood that the address for “when last heard from”, i.e. “North Britain, Noston Bay, New South Wales” actually referred to “North Brisbane” Morton Bay, Queensland.  This story is one of many, so please stay tuned for future posts from the Information Wanted database.

Related Links

Queensland Places – This page contains more information about James Cash from the Centre for the Government of Queensland.

Pine Rivers Historical Figures – Read about James Cash’s settlement on the South Pine River.

Australian Family Tree Connections, December 2010 – Neville Casey’s letter to the editor relating how he found his family’s ad in the Pilot.

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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