The Civil Parishes of Kilkeevin and neighboring Baslic appear to be the area where Patrick Burns and Ann Mulrooney married and lived and raised their children. James, the third child, and second son of Patrick Burns and Ann Mulrooney was born about 1854. His birth year is estimated on the basis of the 1910 census of the town of Orange, which shows his age as 57.
He was born in County Roscommon, Ireland, and emigrated with his mother and brothers and two of his three sister around 1860, at the age, according to family oral history, of six.
The Burns family, presumably like the vast majority of families living in the neighboring townlands, rented their farms from the various Ascendancy landlords. Most of the tenants were classified as “small” farmers, a term used to describe those leasing less than 30 acres, most having fewer than ten. Civil records combined with surviving Catholic baptism records indicate the small townland remained a cohesive community with several generations of the same families living together over the decades.
One wonders how and why it is that any of our ancestors came to some one particular place in the United States, in Patrick's case, West Orange, NJ.
The how has become clear as a consequence of chain migration. In this case, not necessarily within a family but within a community of neighbors in the area. Apparently, some "next door neighbors" in Frenchpark became "next door neighbors" in the Oranges as well.
And, the why is also obvious as poor starving farmers found gainful employment in the hat factories of West Orange. At first, it could be presumed that the early comers "got them jobs" with their employers. In a city directory of 1874, so many of each of the spelling variations (Burns, Bierne and Byrne) were "hatters." But with further research, it was learned that the Oranges were the actual center of the U.S. hat manufacturing industry in the 19th century, so, since jobs, well paying jobs, there were so plentiful, no referral was necessarily needed, and, simply, the lure of any guaranteed employment was enough to draw them off the farms.
James worked in a felt hat factory, as did his brothers and one sister at the time of the census of 1870. The Census of 1920 shows that he was a carpenter working for a "Sash and Door" company. This fits family verbal history that he was a "hatter" and also a "sash maker."
He married Mary Ann Fahy in St. John the Evangelist Church, Orange, NJ in 1883 and they raised eight children together. His children were known to refer to him as "the old gent." Apparently, he was considered by them to be a “hard” man. He was small and slight in stature, apparently a couple of inches shorter than his son Joe, who stood just below 5 foot 7 inches.
It also appears that the family was poor. One of his daughters was quoted as saying that there was "more poverty every year."
At the time of his death, in 1921, he resided at his own, modest, home at 182 Watchung Avenue, in West Orange. He, or perhaps after his death, his wife apparently subdivided a larger parcel of land into several lots, and one was given to each of his children. This may have been more than just a generous gesture, as, according to the 1920 Census, there were 13 people at his residence, including his two married daughters and their six children! Each child built a home on lots 178 through 186 with the exception of son Joe, whose lot number 180 remained unimproved.
James is buried, with his wife, in St. John the Evangelist Cemetery in Orange, NJ, across from section 7. A large headstone marks their graves.
|Date of Birth||1st Jan 1854 (circa)|
|Date of Death||1st Jan 1921|
|Father (First Name/s and Surname)||Patrick Burns|
|Mother (First Name/s and Maiden)||Ann Mulrooney|
|Townland born||Roscommon, Ireland|
|Occupation||worked in a felt hat factory|
|Spouse (First Name/s and Maiden/Surname)||Mary Ann Fahy|
|Place & Date of Marriage||in St. John the Evangelist Church, Orange, NJ in 1883|
|Place of Death||at 182 Watchung Avenue, in West Orange|