Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Arrival of Irish Immigrants in Canada 1832-1937

 I am blogging on my visit to "Grosse Ile" (Big Island). (2009).
This Island served as a  Quarantine Station for Immigrants coming into Canada during 1832-1937. 
"Grosse Ile" is located in the St. Lawrence River east of Quebec City. 
I went with the Irish Society of the Richmond.The trip was organized by Mark O'Donnell of Richmond.  (R.I.P. Mark)

"Grosse Ile" served as  a quarantine station to help control the spread of the cholera and small pox epidemic (ravishing Europe at that time)that infested immigrants coming into Canada from Europe during the Potato Famine and cholera outbreak.

Around 30,000 immigrants arrived annually in Quebec City, the main port entry to Canada.
Approx. 2/3 of these immigrates were Irish.

We took a bus from Richmond, followed the Rte. 20 going east and passed Quebec City to the town of Berthier-sur-Mer. There we took a boat to the island.

We boarded a boat for a 45 minute ride to Grosse Ile 
The Island in the distance

A nice day for a boat ride

The Arrival
In 1974, the old Quarantine Station
 became a national historic site 
under the jurisdiction of Parks Canada.
Buses are provided for tours around the Island
 Disinfection Building. 

Huge Boilers provided steam for disinfecting and hot showers. 
The original steam disinfection apparatus, showers and waiting rooms, as well as the actors in period costume, illustrate the disinfection process that immigrants had to undergo as of 1893.

     It is believed that over 3000 Irish died on the island and over 5000 are currently buried in the cemetery there; 
many died en route from hunger and disease during the long voyage across the Atlantic on cargo boats.
Most who died on the island were infected with typhus, which sprang up from the conditions there in 1847. 
The Huge Glass Panel with all the names.
Those who died at Grosse Ile or on boats, Immigrants, employees and sailors names are on this plaque.  
My family name, being "Day" 
I researched W.O. Day, the only "Day" on the list.
 (Click here  Federal Gov't Data Base)
The info. gives his age as 2 yrs. old. died 1847 in Hospital at Grosse Ile,  buried in the Cemetary on the Island. He arrived on the ship Wandsworth from the port of Dublin, Ireland. (Wandsworth is a town in England) I wonder what happened to his parents? 
 I am of British descent. I will do a DNA test to find out how much % of Irish I have.
My British Ancestors landed on the Gaspe Coast in their own ships.

Vaccination and Medical Examination Office 

Anglican Church. 
There is also a Catholic Church on the Island

Doctors Home

In one of the Hospitals, red windows and walls 
to protect the eyes from light exposure
 from Smallpox disease.

One of the 3 hotels /hospitals that housed and treated the sick.
 There are many other buildings on the Island.
Some have been restored.
The disinfection station on the dock


In August 1998, Parks Canada 
inaugurated the 
Grosse Île Memorial.
The Memorial commemorates the memory of the Irish and other immigrants who perished on the island,
and of those who sacrificed their lives to nurse and comfort the sick immigrants.

Marianna O'Gallagher- 

(March 24, 1929 – May 24, 2010)
We were fortunate to have her as our guide for part of our visit.  . She was 80 yrs. old at that time.
She was an Irish historian from Quebec City who wrote extensively on the history of the Irish in Quebec City, she was involved in the creation of Grosse Ile National Historic Site and the revival of the Quebec City St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

I must admit I was emotionally moved by the story of Grosse Île, due to the human tragedy that took place on this island.

A learning experience about Canadian History that I don't remember learning in school. 
Although, I am surprised at the extent of care Canada provided for these immigrants in search of a new land after the long voyage and misery on cargo boats they endured to get here.

The Government of Canada has a Database that allows people to trace certain immigrants and  members of their family. Click on this link to access it :

¯`✻´¯) Thanks for your visit