Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cultural Exchange: An Irish & a Canadian in Puerto Rico [Part 1]

It's interesting to see who has lived on the island of Puerto Rico and their lives there. Not everyone that moved to the island stayed, some would hop over to another Caribbean islands, while others (especially in more recent years) would decide to move to the United States to find new opportunities. In an attempt to learn more about the people who have lived in Puerto Rico, either my family or not, whenever I find foreigners I am always interested about their life and how they happened perchance to find Puerto Rico. This post will be about a couple who lived in Puerto Rico in 1910 named Stuart J. Burns and his Martha E. Derby.

San Juan, Puerto Rico - 1910 Census  [Ancestry]

This couple as you can see has origins in Nova Scotia/Canada and Ireland. Searching for their marriage record gave me a bit more information on them. Stuart and Martha Elizabeth were married in San Juan, PR on the 17th of June 1909, Stuart (born about 1878) was the son of W. Fletcher Burns and Henrietta Barus? while Martha Elizabeth Derby (born about 1872) was the daughter Thomas Derby and MarĂ­a (Mary) Elizabeth, and we know that Martha E. had resided in Philadelphia according to this marriage record. With that information we were able to learn about more about Martha Elizabeth and her life before arriving to Puerto Rico.

Irish in Philly

According to records, it seems that Martha Elizabeth was born in Ireland and immigrated with her parents and siblings to the USA where they would settle into Philadelphia, PA. On Ancestry, I was able to find the baptism record for a "Martha Derby" born on the 6th of April 1870 (within the range we had of 1872) in Cookstown, Tyrone, Ireland to parents Thomas Derby and Mary Elizabeth Lytle (same parents' names). 

Irish Baptism - Mary Derby, 1870 [Ancestry]

Cookstown is located in what is today Northern Ireland in County Tyrone as shown in the image below. The town is across the lake "Lough Naugh" and Belfast. Even though Martha Elizabeth was born in Cookstown, according to Thomas' marriage record in 1867, they had been living in Magherafelt, a town not too far from Cookstown and probably the town of origin for Thomas Derby and Mary Elizabeth Lytle. 

Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland [Google Images]

Knowing this information we were able to find an immigration record for the family from Londonderry, Northern Ireland to New York and we can see that Martha is listed her parents with Thomas, Mary E. and other siblings. The family would have immigrated in 1893, when Martha Elizabeth Derby was 23 years old to the United States.
UK Passenger Record - Derby Family [Ancestry]

The next record we would find is the 1900 Census record, which shows us that Mary Elizabeth would already be widowed with 8 children, meaning that Thomas died somewhere between their voyage and this first census the family appeared on. A death record appears for Thomas Derby showing the same address where Mary Elizabeth Lytle had been living with the children (2226 N 12th St) in Philadelphia. I imagine it was difficult for Mary E. to have lost her husband and so early in their lives in America, plus living with eight children could be a burden (luckily the youngest one Frederick was only 13 years old). It states that Thomas Derby died on the 5th of November 1897 at about the age of 59 years old (born about 1838), meaning that Thomas died only 5 short years after arriving in the USA. Thomas is buried in the North Cedar Hills Cemetery in Philly.

In the 1910 Census Mary Elizabeth Lytle is living with only five of her children, as we know Martha E. would be living in Puerto Rico with her husband Stuart Burns, and later in 1920 with just two children. Mary Elizabeth Lytle would later pass away on the 18th of October 1923 in Philadelphia listed as a housewife and the daughter of James Lytle and Martha Mullen, both of Ireland. Interestingly enough, her death also appears in the "England & Wales, National Probate Calendar", meaning she probably left some sort of will. 

Mary Elizabeth 'Lytle' Derby - Probate Calendar [Ancestry]

The next time we see Martha Elizabeth is in the 1930 Census record listed in Philadelphia with her sister Rebecca Derby and Martha E. is listed as widowed. What happened with Stuart Burns and their marriage? Why did they end up leaving Puerto Rico? Or did she leave alone?… [To Be Continued] 

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