One of the most touching and sad things that I discovered in tracing my family history was the story of this little girl, Carmel O’Gorman, my maternal Great Aunt or Grand Aunt whichever term you prefer. If you are not familiar with the terminology, your Great Aunt or Grand Aunt is your grandmother’s sister.
Carmel’s home is listed as 82B Upper Rathmines Road, Dublin and she was born on the 25th November 1914 to my Great Grandparents – Teresa Doyle from Calverstown, Co Kildare and Patrick O’Gorman from Coolock, Co Dublin (although I am still trying to track him down officially). The O’Gorman family would have been very well known in Rathmines circles as they ran a green grocer shop on Upper Rathmines Road.
I look at this picture of Carmel with great sadness. My mother is named after her and this is the only surviving photo I believe – in fact, it was the last photo that was taken of her. She died on the 1st April 1923, aged just 7 years old, a few months after a car accident in Rathmines. Her death certificate states that she died at home of Rheumatic Fever and Endocarditis. I was curious about her condition when she died and wondered why she wasn’t in a hospital.
A friend in the medical profession told me that ‘Endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of your heart) may have developed following the trauma suffered during the car accident. It would have been unusual not to be in hospital with such a condition. On the other hand, Rheumatic Fever – usually follows from a strep throat. The treatment for this would have been a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories followed by the child being kept in bed for between 2 to 12 weeks. Interestingly, the year involved is quite near to the flu epidemic in Dublin at that time and this may or may not have contributed to her poor health and untimely death’.
I was also curious about Carmel’s age when she died. She was born in November 1914 and died in April 1923 which would make her 8 1/2 years old when died. However, her death certificate states that she was 7 years old yet her gravestone (pictured at the bottom of this blog) has her correct age. I have noticed this inaccurate recording of ages on other records of that time – don’t think they were overly concerned about accuracy as we would be nowadays.
During the course of chasing down my O’Gorman roots, I spoke with my 2nd cousin Francis O’Gorman who I hadn’t seen in years. It was amazing to see his reaction when I produced a picture of Carmel. He recalls when his father Kevin O’Gorman was alive, (Carmel’s eldest brother and my grandmother’s brother) that he would talk regularly about his sister. He said that he had spoken about her with great fondness and although Kevin lived to the ripe old age of 92, he still referred to his sister with a profound sense of loss and grief.
During a visit with another 2nd cousin Therese, we rummaged carefully through her old photographs and she gave me an old negative of Carmel (above) and a picture of her mother Teresa, my Great Grandmother (opposite). Both were given with strict instructions regarding their care as these were the last known copies. I treasured this negative and print as if I had the winning lottery ticket.
A photographer friend of mine developed the picture of Carmel from the negative, taken circa 1920, and also cleaned up the picture of her mother Teresa. The photo of Teresa apparently was taken when she was about 19 (circa 1898) when she came up to Dublin from Calverstown, Co Kildare and ‘presented to Dublin Society’.
And so, back to little Carmel….I was delighted to blow Francis over with a gift of a framed picture of Carmel and her mother Teresa which now has pride of place in the hallway of his home. Months later he still speaks of his amazement about being able to ‘see’ Carmel after all the years of stories from his father.
I must admit that I still look at the picture of Carmel with a lump in my throat. It continues to amaze me how this journey has connected me with people from my past, and my husbands past. I clearly never met these people and in most cases had never previously heard of them but I have ended up chasing around Ireland after finding a sometimes tenuous connection to an old relative who appeared out of the woodwork.I have even been known to visit overgrown graveyards in the hope of uncovering some piece of information that tells the story of one of my ancestors.
So, I am delighted to have been able to give Carmel a ‘face’ and a memory and introduce her to our 2016 family and to show that although she died nearly 100 years ago, she might be gone from his life, but definitely not forgotten.
Carmel is buried in Kilbarrack Cemetery, Bayside, Dublin with her parents and her brother, cousin Kevin, who also died very young….but that’s another story.