How to find other Mother-and-Baby home deaths

Like everyone else in Ireland, I’ve been aghast at the revelations of the treatment of the bodies of babies and infants who died in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home between the 1920s and the 1960s. Once again, we’re reminded how little value independent Ireland placed on its own children, with particular loathing and cruelty reserved for the children of the poorest and most vulnerable.

And it is Ireland that bears responsibility, not just the Catholic Church. The men and women who ran these institutions were our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, not alien occupiers dispatched from the Vatican, as some recent anti-Catholic commentary seems to imply.  I remember my father jokingly threatening me with Salthill Industrial School for some misdemeanour in the early 1960s. He knew, and I knew, that there was horror behind its doors.

Bystanders most of us may have been, but innocent? No.

St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Salthill, Galway c. 1960

As a researcher, the aspect of the Tuam story that struck me most strongly was how local historian Catherine Corless went about retrieving the memory of the children who died in the Home. She examined all the local death records in order to identify the deaths of those who had died in the Home and then bought individual General Register Office print-outs at €4 each.

And of course all of these records are now free online and easily searchable up to 1964. And there are many other Mother and Baby Homes whose infant deaths have not been retrieved, where the memory of those children is still obscured.

So it’s now possible and simple to extend what Catherine did to those other children. This is a list of the fourteen homes being investigated by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission.

Pick a home, go to the Advanced Search section of the IrishGenealogy civil records site and confine the search to that home’s Registration District, with the age at death 0, 1 or 2 . Then just work your way, year by year, through the death records, as Catherine did. It quickly becomes clear just how appalling the child death rates were in those institutions.

The deaths of Paul Dunne (7 weeks) and Malachy Byrne (6 months) in Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea in 1939. This is one of the Homes under investigation

Where are they all buried? Almost none in marked graves, that’s for sure. At least the act of retrieving their names might begin the process of ensuring they are not completely forgotten.

22 thoughts on “How to find other Mother-and-Baby home deaths”

  1. I think all those being confirmed could take as a second memory name, one of those poor children. This may seem strong, but how else, outside of prayers, can one honor their memory. And at the same time be sure this is the last “NEVER AGAIN” shot heard about the world. Far too many of these “never again ” responses lately. Humans will never change, though Lord knows we do try.

    1. You want people to honour the memory of those children by getting their children to sign up to the very organisation responsible for this outrage.
      Has the past taught you nothing?

  2. How horrifying. What created this mindset to dispose of infants in this manner. It certainly wasn’t a teaching of the church, at least not as long as I have lived. What happened to Pro life? All I can conjure up in my mind is the loss of the idea of the value of life from suffering of the past generations that numbed them from life’s value. Did they lose their dignity of human life?

    I think of our modern times, since Roe v. Wade in America at 40 million, plus abortions done in this country and think how sick some of our American citizens are.

    There is no excuse.


  3. This is very hard to read, very hard personally because I know the pain of losing a child, a baby. I can not imagine this happening, but it did. I hope and pray that somehow these little ones will always be remember and cherished .

  4. Thanks for this, John. It’s very important that all this information is brought to light and Catherine Corless should be awarded whatever the highest honour we have (at the very least an invitation to Aras an Uachtarain to thank her and I hope she goes if asked – she was great on the Late Late Show last evening). When the eventual scale is revealed by research like this then I hope that the denials will cease. There are two sides to this and both must shoulder the ‘blame’ to a greater or lesser extent. The best memorial is to make information open so that these kinds of deeds cannot be hidden – unfortunately as humans I think we are fated to repeat horrible behaviour by whatever group has the upper hand at a given time and it seems that the other group will allow itself to be browbeaten.

    1. Well said Margaret! I agree with your sentiments. It is atrocious, sad and never to be forgotten. We must learn from this. Too often no one wants to reveal the ugliness and try to leave it in the past – that is WRONG!

  5. John – I think this is an important idea – how do we make sure that several people are not doing the same thing? Is there any thought to signing up to work a particular home and set of years so this information can be provided to the Committee in a standard format OR is this same thing being done by Committee? Also I think Katrina’s idea of adopting one of the names at confirmation is a good idea to keep the memory alive and give thought and discussion to what happened and what was allowed to happen.

  6. That’s great John, thanks. I was threatened with Daingean Reformatory as a means of keeping me on the straight and narrow. I also think of my uncle, Brother Hubert (Paul O’Dwyer), who gave his life to teaching and the GAA. He was a gentle soul who was greatly admired like lots of his religious colleagues. I think of him when cruelty against the weaker members of our society is mentioned and they have been forgotten in all of this. The Marists educated my brothers and I, and we all have the highest regard for their efforts. I never witnessed any abuse in my time at school.

  7. Google ” Butterbox babies”, this kind of abuse Elaine happened everywhere in those days. Please God it is not happening today. Do I dare wish?!!!

  8. I always try to find as much information in my research on the young ones that didn’t make it. Sometimes they lived a few hours usually a few months. I like to have the exact date of birth, baptism, death and burial. I figure the least I can do is honor them with a complete family history card and highlight the important dates in their short life. Both sets of my grandparents buried baby daughters; at 9 days old and 20 days old. Their other 9 and 3 children lived full lives. Both girls would never die today. Sadly Patrick Kennedy died in 1963 because he was born too early. Even the son of the POTUS could not be saved but if he were born today he’d survive for sure. I am saddened to read that children were not properly cared for and like your idea
    of continuing to identify these children through the now easily accessible and free records online.

  9. You must always remember that these mothers and babies were not wards of the courts, but wards of the Irish State. As was the children placed in the industrial schools. Been there? got the 3 tee-shirts to prove it.
    Carrig Lea

    Pat Dublin

  10. “Once again, we’re reminded how little value independent Ireland placed on its own children . . . ” This blanket statement is troubling. As genealogists we take the time to develop a more nuanced view of what our ancestors’ lives were like on a day to day basis given the times and facts of those times, e.g., wars, famines, etc. Less so than when we view group behavior? There was a terrible Civil War following some 250 years of the Irish being treated as nothing more than animals by the Crown. Were all Irish expected to believe better of themselves in a World that stood by and allowed this? During that time hundreds of thousands were sold into slavery. The 1916 Easter Rising was a response to terrible poverty and slums “worse than those I saw in India” said Captain Robert Monteith. At that time the death rate for infants was the worst in the World; medical treatment non-existent. Impoverished people with little hope of feeding themselves shamed by their Church for heterosexual love left their babies by force with Nuns whose efforts were not financially supported by men in power? Doesn’t sound like anthropological evidence of disdain for one’s own child to me.

    1. Well said,get in touch- As a teenager my brother was nearly “snatched” by paedoes in North London in a coverup which has continued from the 80s. The Elthorne Estate at the end of our road had child brothels (we didn`t know at the time).Corbyn and other politictians were told about it by social workers but NOTHING WAS DONE.So it`s not an “Irish” “Catholic” problem.

  11. I do not condone in any way the apparently disrespectful disposal of the remains of these poor children, or the uncharitable treatment of their unfortunate mothers.
    One thing that has struck me over the years as I do family history research, however, is the horrifying number of deaths of babies and infants from infectious diseases – measles, diphtheria etc. – and gastroentritis, especially those living in overcrowded conditions. Also the number of neonates who died, cause of death being described as “debility”, or “weak from birth”.
    What I don’t understand about the events in Tuam is how these children could have been buried without the local authority being involved in some way. Surely there are regulations about where you may, and may not, bury bodies?

  12. My great, great grandparents left Ireland in 1879 without marrying with a child on the way. Perhaps it was the fear of the church that drove them to get the boat to England?

    1. It wouldn’t have been easy in England either not being married. My guess would be that one of them was married to someone else or otherwise you would think they would have gotten married and avoided all the fuss. dig a bit more and see what you find.

  13. Could you tell us how to find the deceased babies mother’s names? My family comes from that diocese and I found 28/796 of the Tuam babies had last names in my family tree. I found online death certificate ‘data’ for the babies but it did not include the mothers names.

    Have the mother’s names been listed publicly ?

    I would like to put these children into my family tree if any are indeed blood relatives.

    thank you.

    PS. amazing that historian ( Corless?)paid 3200 Euro of her own money to get the death certificates and prove what was going on. Tribute to her.

  14. Does anyone have any information on GLENVERA Nursing Home, Wellington Road, Cork. A Protestant, private establishment? It appears in a list of Mother and baby homes from the 1940’s.

  15. I am trying to help a lady, now in her 60’s, find links with her family from Sligo.
    We both did Ancestry DNA test’s and are 4th Cousins. I’m up North but she was shipped of to Texas, USA. She has informed me that not like many she has lived a full and fill-filled life but would just like to find out some more about her mother and hopefully track her father. I find this such a pleasure to be able to help her in some small way.

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