Sunday, 29 May 2011

Looking for Julia Moynihan, Grandad's Sister the Sister

In my usual scattered, "let's see who I can find today" approach -- which I really don't recommend -- I recently became interested in finding out more about my grandfather's older sister Julia Moynihan.  All my dad knew was that she became a Nun in Boston, Massachusetts.  I'd been working on the assumption that because Nun's take a religious name, I'd never be able to track Julia Moynihan, but that may not be true.

Can anyone help me find my grandaunt Julia Moynihan, the Sister?

Here's what I know (or in some cases am pretty sure about):
  • 1883 (Dec. 29):  Julia was born in Shountullig, Cork, Ireland to Jeremiah Moynihan and Hanora Harnedy (Source: baptismal record)
  • 1901 (Mar. 31):  Julia was 17, literate, living at home with her parents and a "general servant". (Source: 1901 Census of Ireland)  [1911 (Apr. 2):  Julia was not in Ireland.  She was not with her family and no other Julia Moynihan in the Census matches her.]
  • 1907 (May 23):  A Julia Moynihan, aged 23, arrives in Boston on the Ivernia.  (Source:  Book Indexes to Boston Passenger Lists.)  Note:  Given the absence of detail on this Book Index, compared to a full ship's manifest, I don't know this is my Julia. I think it is her given that the age is right and it's the same ship her brother and cousins took the following year.
  • 1908 (May 14):  Julia lived at 71 Bartlett Street, in Andover, Massachusetts, just north of Boston. (Source:  ships manifest for the Ivernia arriving in Boston with her brother Jeremiah and her cousins John and Maggie Sullivan)
  • 1908 and 1913:  Julia lived at 92 North Main Street in Andover, the same address and Annie (aka Hannah) Harnedy, her aunt.  (Source: 1908 and 1913 Andover City Directories)  Note:  Julia does not appear in the previous city directory in 1904, nor in an alternate 1913 directory nor later Andover directories.
I cannot find any further record that I even suspect is my Julia Moynihan after 1913.  There are some Julias in the censuses, including with the Notre-Dame Academy, however they age is a bit off.  Regarding the Sisters of Notre-Dame, I found the following at :
Lowell Sun Lowell, MA April 3, 1945

Tyngsboro - Rev. Sr. Mary Josephine, stationed for the past twelve years at the Academy of Notre Dame, died yesterday at the academy, aged 60 years, following an illness of one week's duration.

The former Julia Moynihan, Sr. Mary Josephine was a native of Ireland, and had been for 35 years in the order of Notre Dame de Namur. During her years at the academy she was in charge of the sacristy.

I sent an inquiry through the order of Notre Dame de Namur website, they confirmed that this Sister Mary Josephine was actually a Cronin. They had no Julia Moynihan matching mine.

The Poor Clares of Boston have also indicated she wasn't a member of their order.

I have messages in now with the Carmelites and the Sisters of St. Joseph.  I have a list of other convents in the Boston area and I will check with each one.  I must mention that I was surprised how quickly both the Poor Clare and the Notre-Dame sisters responded by email.  I am lucky to live in a time when I can make these long-shot inquiries by email and receive such quick replies.

Is there anyone out there who knows more about my grandad's sister the Sister?  Who knew Julia Moynihan?


  1. cool story.....I hope you find something more.....

  2. Have you inquired with the sisters of Notre Dame in Montreal (you can speak with a representative through Marianopolis College)? Often there are connections with the English Catholic Orders in Montreal and those in Boston. The Catholic Diocese is on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal. Not sure if this will be of any help or not...

  3. Do you have obituaries for other members of her family? I've often found nuns listed - often by their religious names and with the names of their orders - as survivors in the obituaries of their siblings. Also, and this might be a real long shot, but what about checking with the family's parish? Do you think they might have kept a record or made a note in the bulletin (did they use bulletins at the beginning of the 20th century?) when one of their parishioners made a religious profession.

  4. Thanks for the suggestions. I spent my lunch hour looking for the obituary of her brother Jeremiah in Rochester. Would you believe there was a Father Jeremiah Moynihan in the area who officiated TONS of funerals. His name was all over the Internet, my greatuncle I couldn't find. But I'll keep looking. ~Jim's Girl