Thomas Joseph Tracey’s life is a mystery before he arrived in New Brunswick, Canada. Although nine of his eleven children lived to adulthood, any questions about home back in Ireland were answered with a variation of the reply that life was too hard there and it wasn’t to be discussed, with the one exception that Thomas was from County Tipperary and that he was the last of his family. They were all “gone,” which presumably meant they had died, perhaps in the famine years.
Much has been found about Thomas Tracey’s life in Canada and the United States after he emigrated from Ireland sometime before 10 January 1881, when “Mr. Thos. Treacy of Ireland” married Miss Annie (Anastasia) S. McAllister of Moncton.
Thomas also appears in the 1881 census of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada:
This is the first document indicating Thomas’s age, but either he was unsure of how old he was or else he or whoever else reported his age didn’t really know. Newlyweds Thomas, aged 30 so born about 1851 in Ireland, and wife Annie, 19 and born in New Brunswick, were living in her parents’ household.
Thomas and Annie’s first four children were born in New Brunswick:
1. Daniel James, born 4 September 1881, Moncton; died after the 1925 Rhode Island state census
2. Mary (Mame), baptized 15 April 1883, Moncton; died 10 August 1884, Moncton.
3. William J., born 4 February 1885, Moncton; died after the 1915 Rhode Island state census when he lived at home.
4. Thomas J., born 24 January 1887/88, Moncton; died after his 1942 World War II draft registration card was completed. He lived with his married sister’s family at that time.
Thomas, Annie and surviving children Daniel, William and Thomas left Moncton in the 1880’s for a new life in Providence, Rhode Island. On 15 October 1897, Thomas Tracey petitioned the U.S. court for American citizenship:
Being a petition from the 1800’s, less information was requested from the applicant. In this case, the few details requested don’t help clarify matters because they don’t match dates in earlier documents.
First, Thomas Tracey declares under oath that he was born in Ireland on 15 March 1855. That statement is at odds with his age of 30, as stated on the 1881 New Brunswick census. His birth year would then be 1851.
Second, Thomas swears under oath that he arrived in Providence, Rhode Island on or about 12 October 1886. Unless he made an earlier trip to perhaps seek out a place to live and evaluate job prospects, this date is at odds with the 24 January 1888 birth date of his son, Thomas, in Moncton.
Shortly after that, the 1900 U.S. census of Providence, Rhode Island provides the next record documenting this family.
First, we have yet another date of birth for Thomas. In 1900, it was reported that he was born in March 1857 in Ireland. Annie’s birth date was reported as January 1864, which by the way doesn’t correspond with her age of 19 when she was enumerated in 1881. That would put her birth year about 1862. Census data indicates that both Thomas and Annie were literate.
The family has also grown since they left Canada with five new children added to the brood:
5. Annie Cecilia, born 22 August 1889, Providence. The census, though, reports she was born in July 1889, close, but not a match.
6. Dennis Aloysius, born 25 July 1891, Providence.
7. Kathryn A., born 23 July 1893, Providence.
8. James Joseph, born 11 September 1895, Providence
9. Joseph M., born 9 April 1898, Providence
As reported in the 1881 census, Thomas is still listed as an engineer, although this time he is called a stationary engineer. He worked for the railroad.
We find the family again in Providence in 1910:
By this time, the last two Tracey children have been born, although one died in infancy:
10. John Francis, born 19 September 1900, Providence
11. Patrick Francis, born 20 February 1903, Providence; died 9 March 1903, Providence, RI.
FamilySearch shows a listing for this family in 1905. On this record, Thomas’s date of birth is recorded as 11 March 1853.
The 1910 census shows all children still at home except for eldest son, Daniel. Thomas’s age is reported to be 54, giving a birth year of 1856; Annie’s age is reported as 42, giving her a birth year of 1868. Census data also includes an immigration year of 1888 with son Thomas, aged 23 (birth year about 1887), born in Canada.
The last census in which Thomas appears is the 1915 Rhode Island state census:
The “Tracy” family appears right at the top of the page, with Thomas, aged 59, as head of household. Wife Annie is 48, giving birth years of 1856 and 1867, respectively.
Thomas Tracey died in Providence, Rhode Island on 3 September 1919. He was buried at St. Francis Cemetery in Pawtucket, Rhode Island next to his infant son, Patrick Francis, who died in 1903. Eventually, wife Annie was also buried there.
Thomas Tracey’s death certificate was filed with the state of Rhode Island. His son, Dennis, was the informant. Thomas died of stomach cancer, aged 64, giving a birth year of 1855. However, his exact date of birth is left blank; there is no way to know if Dennis was asked and didn’t know or if he was only asked his father’s age. The certificate also says that Thomas’s father was Thomas Tracey and his mother was Margaret, no maiden name given.
Other than family lore that Thomas hailed from County Tipperary, there is one document that supports that contention. Thomas’s daughter, Annie, became a nun, known as Sister Mary Ernestine. Although I don’t have a copy of it, a query made years ago to Sr. Mary Ernestine’s convent for her family information included a copy of her religious record that stated her parents were born in County Tipperary, Ireland and New Brunswick, Canada.
Thomas Tracey is actually not in my family line at all. He is the grandfather of a friend of mine, who would dearly love proof of Thomas’s Irish origins and his family. Years ago, he had some research done in Ireland which led to the parish of Doon, County Limerick, sitting on the border with County Tipperary.
Assuming that son Dennis correctly reported on Thomas’s death certificate that Thomas’s parents were Thomas and Margaret Tracey, it may be that an 1843 marriage in the Doon parish register is that of Thomas’s parents.
One Thomas Treacy of Cappawhite, County Tipperary married Margaret Stokes of Cloonlusk, County Limerick on 26 February 1843.
Cappawhite and Cloonlusk are east of the city of Limerick. the jagged county line crosses almost in the middle of the 9.5 km. distance between the two places.
This is the only couple found who could possibly be the parents of Thomas Tracey later of Providence, Rhode Island. The difficulty is in fitting our Thomas into this family. He was born in 1851, 1853, 1855, 1856 or 1857, according to the records. It is probably safe to safe only that he was born in the 1850’s and possibly in March.
The next issue is that further Doon parish records record multiple children for TIMOTHY Treacy and Margaret Stokes. That isn’t so difficult to handle, though, as there is no assurance that Thomas’s father was also named Thomas. His family seemed to know very little about his origins.
Timothy and Margaret Stokes Treacy/Trassy had a large family:
1. James, baptized 29 December 1843; reportedly died January 1888 in Minnesota
2. Catherine, baptized 30 September 1845
3. Bridget, baptized 9 June 1847; died young
4. Bridget, baptized 27 April 1850; she married Maurice Tierney in Doon on 21 February 1867, had nine children, the last born in 1880 and lived her life in Ireland
5. William, baptized 17 August 1852; died 1935, DeSmet, South Dakota
6. “Tom,” baptized 7 February 1855
7. Stephen, baptized 7 May 1857
8. Mary, baptized 15 May 1859; died young
9. Patrick, baptized 14 May 1863
10. Mary, baptized 4 October 1865
11. James, baptized 17 May 1868 (Is this an error by the priest entering his name since the eldest child named James didn’t die until 1888 in Minnesota?)
Stephen and William Tracey have descendants living in the United States today. They do not believe that Tom Treacy, baptized on 7 February 1855 is Thomas Tracey of Providence, as they have correspondence from family members keeping in touch with each other from years ago. No one ever mentioned a brother, Thomas, in Providence. They also believe that there was a son, Timothy, although no baptismal record has been found for a Timothy unless the last child, James, born i n1868, should have been written in the record as Timothy.
So here stands the brick wall. Did Thomas have a falling out with his siblings, went on his own way to Canada and then Rhode Island, permanently estranged from his family?
Months and months of research over a 20 year span of time has been done, trying to prove the origins of Thomas Tracey. A more than reasonably exhaustive search has covered extant records of County Limerick and County Tipperary. The family of Timothy and Margaret Treacy of Doon parish are the most likely suspects to be his parents.
Or is all this information just a trip down the completely wrong path?
This is a case where I believe that a DNA test might be very worthwhile. Any other suggestions would be welcome at this point. Please leave a comment.