BC SealBoston College Magazine Summer 2005
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. Linden Lane
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History lesson

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How Julia Dunn got found

Dunn, in later years

Dunn, in later years

Thanks to a BC website, Information Wanted, launched last spring, a piece of a family puzzle has fallen into place. As Eileen Kamerick '80 tells it, here are the sparse facts of her family's story: Her great-great-grandparents came to the United States from County Kerry, Ireland, in the mid-1800s and settled in Virginia; her great-grandmother, Julia Dunn, 11 years old, stayed behind and followed her parents and older siblings later. Julia's father paid an acquaintance to meet her and a cousin at the dock in New York. But the acquaintance never showed up.

Kamerick and her family have always believed that the man in New York "just ran off with the money," she said in a telephone interview from Chicago, where she is CFO of a global executive-search company. "According to my great-aunts, Julia was taken in by other immigrants, found work as a housemaid, and years later was reunited with her family in Virginia. We knew her employer somehow discovered her father was looking for her. . . . What we never knew was how."

Last St. Patrick's Day, Kamerick's sister Maureen heard a story on National Public Radio about the new website sponsored by BC's Irish studies program, an online database holding 90 years (1831–1921) of weekly Boston Pilot newspaper columns in which relatives, friends, and business associates placed ads seeking word of Irish immigrants. The data was collected by historian Ruth-Ann Harris, a part-time faculty member.

Kamerick's sister visited the website and entered the name "Julia Dunn." What popped up on her screen in a terse grid of information was evidence that on November 15, 1856, four months after Julia's ship arrived in America, an advertisement was placed by Edmond Dunn looking for his young daughter. Julia's descendants may never know for sure whether the Pilot ad brought about the family's reunion, but the notice in the Boston paper makes clear the extent of the father's search for his child.

"It was very touching to see this outstretch of human emotion come to life in the middle of a website," Kamerick said. "What we found here made my great-grandmother's story real."

Cara Feinberg


 


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