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Donovan

Donovan

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Posted Sun 24 Feb 2019 6:27 PM
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Hello - sending this email to get advice on how to substantiate this story regarding Jeremiah Donovan being taken from Ireland and pressed into service. Jeremiah is my 4 x maternal great grandfather.

Jeremiah Donovan - born 1785 - Cork, Cork County, Ireland

Source – Book Early Settlers of Ingonish, Nova Scotia, Canada – Lark Blackburn Szick
This Donovan family came from Ireland, settled in Eel Cove, NS before coming to Ingonish, Nova Scotia. The earliest information we have on this family is of Jeremiah Donovan (above), a young conscript who was taken from his native land Cork, Cork County, Ireland. He was pressed into service on a man of war by British sailors. Among those gathered by the shore were Patrick Curtis and also John Robinson, possible a young McGean. It seems that these three men knew each other in Ireland and when they reached Sydney Harbour, Nova Scotia they decided to jump ship, since they might never get a better chance to escape. They made there way along the coast toward North Sydney, Sydney Mines and later arriving in St. Ann’s, where these conscripts settled for a time before moving to Ingonish.
Second book notes. Unknown author.
Numerous family stories in Ingonish recount tales of individuals deserting from the British navy or army. In 1983 Blanche Bates Shea (1886-1983), who was 96 years old and who “had a remarkably alert mind and memory,” recalled the story of her husband Andrew Shea’s grandfather, Jeremiah Donovan, who had “scars of British whips on his back.” Pressed into the British navy, Jeremiah Donovan deserted and eventually settled in Ingonish

Any direction or help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Peggy Thompson
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
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Posted Sun 24 Feb 2019 7:29 PM
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Hi Peggy,

Great that you've found your way to our community. Validating and verifying family lore, even if written down in books, can be a bit of a headache. The writer may have written down the story exactly as told, but the teller was perhaps not truthful, or may have forgotten details. Or the writer may have left out crucial details, or embellished the story.

One of the things that strikes me about the story is that the name of the ship isn't mentioned. A generic "man o war" from the British Navy. It is entirely possible Jeremiah was pressed into service of course, it was a very common practice. And the name may simply have been lost over time, or Jeremiah may have thought it was better to not mention it.

Two of the sources you can research further are the Ship's Musters and the Ship's Pay Books. These can be found in the National Archives in the UK. A quick search I did on Jeremiah Donovan with a birth year of 1785 did not throw up anything, but that doesn't mean he wasn't there of course. Even musters weren't all that accurate, although Pay Books were supposed to be at least a bit more accurate as they were a register of (part of) the ship's finances. Sometimes, if you're lucky enough to find an ancestor in the ship's musters, it will have some wonderful details about the way they looked (a physical description), others only mention name and maybe a place and date of birth.

A quick search through the Cork records doesn't throw up an exact Jeremiah Donovan in 1785, but of course that can be off by a few years here or there. I'd advise you to do a broad sweep with 5 or even 10 years on either side of 1785 and pay special attention to those without death dates.

I hope these two sources at least give you somewhere to look further and another angle may be the British Navy ships that were docked in Sydney, maybe 15-20 years after his birth date, and any local historic police registers. Jumping ship was not without risk and you could become a wanted man by doing so!

Hopefully some of our experts will also be able to jump in with some tips as to where you could expand your search to.

Warm regards,
Cornelia

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Posted Mon 25 Feb 2019 12:53 AM
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Thank you, Cornelia!
I appreciate your response. I too have been searching on ancestry for him but to date have not found anything official in Ireland other than mention of him in member trees which also note a similar story. I will research the two you suggested.
Thanks again for your attention to my enquiry.
Regards, Peggy Thompson

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