From Ireland to High Bridge, New Jersey

When I first began researching my father’s paternal lines, I assumed that they immigrated from Ireland to Paterson, New Jersey. Little did I know that they took a detour through High Bridge, New Jersey first and left quite a mark on the town history.

My 2nd great grandfather, Patrick Boyle, immigrated to the United States in the early-mid-1860’s. The earliest record I found of him is from the 1870 US census, where he and his daughter, Isabella (or Belle for short), were living with his sister, Bridget, and her family. The mystery of Belle’s mother (and Patrick’s first wife) remains unsolved, as she must have passed away before 1870, but I’m still looking for her. Then, on April 1, 1872, Patrick married my 2nd great-grandmother, Catharine Smith, in High Bridge, New Jersey. They called it home until sometime after 1885 but before 1892, when they eventually moved to Paterson.

In Patrick’s family, some of his siblings joined him in the States, while others remained in County Donegal, Ireland. However, only Patrick and Bridget settled in New Jersey. On Catharine’s side, at least three of her sisters also ventured to New Jersey and established deep roots in the High Bridge area. Unlike Patrick and Catharine, who moved away, the rest of the family remained there for quite some time.

Discovering these strong connections between my family and this particular area prompted me to pay a visit to Hunterdon County. Have you ever visited a place that instantly felt like home? That’s exactly what happened to me the moment I set foot in town.

Following my visit to St. Ann’s cemetery, the resting place of several members of the Boyle and Smith families, I headed over to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. My hope was to attend a mass at the same church that my ancestors attended, but something even better occurred. I ran into Greg Boyle, the church historian (no relation to me, oddly enough). We struck up a conversation about the Boyle family and their significant role as one of the founding families of the parish. It turns out that Francis Boyle, the son of Patrick Boyle and Catharine Smith, was the first child to be baptized at St. Joseph’s Church in High Bridge

From the web archive of the Church’s original website:

“St. Joseph Parish was established in 1880 to serve a congregation predominantly made up of Irish immigrant families who had arrived in High Bridge to escape famine and oppression in their native land. Many lived in “Irishtown” located at the northern end of Mine Road and labored in the local iron mines and in construction of the railroad which united New York and Scranton, PA.

The local Catholics desire for their own parish had increased and they had petitioned the Bishop of Newark to support that desire. Bishop Corrigan made good the promise he had given to the congregation by sending them a resident pastor, Rev. John Brady, who arrived in High Bridge July 3, 1880. The new church was dedicated on November 25, 1880; the Baptism of Francis Boyle performed by Fr. Brady on November 12, 1880 was the first in the new church; and the marriage of John Peter Gilroy and Anne Connolly on November 24, 1881 was another “first.” A few years later, a rectory was built next to the church.”

Greg and I stayed in touch over the years, and when he began writing a book about the parish’s history, he sought my input on my 2nd great grandparents and their families. When the book, “St. Joseph Church – High Bridge, New Jersey: Our Parish History, Our Genealogy“, was finally published, I was beyond thrilled to see my family’s story immortalized in print, ensuring that they will always be remembered. He also did a wonderful video presentation, based on his book, that can be viewed on this website.

I take immense pride in the significant role my family has played in a vibrant and captivating town history. I am grateful beyond words for Greg’s unwavering dedication and passion in preserving not only the legacies of my own family but also those of countless others.

If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend visiting the place where your ancestors once lived. Looking back on my trip to High Bridge and my ongoing journey to explore my family’s roots, I’m filled with a strong sense of gratitude. I truly appreciate the opportunity to follow in their footsteps, discover their stories, and honor their memory. It’s a privilege to be a part of history, entrusted with the task of preserving our heritage and keeping it cherished.

As we take the time to learn more about our ancestors, they become more than mere names on a page. They transform into remarkable individuals, enabling us to forge a genuine connection with their essence and develop a deep appreciation for their incredible achievements and enduring struggles.

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About Me

Hi All! My name is Tracie – Cat mom of three, fueled by genealogy, coffee, survival crafting games, cozy gaming, audio books & podcasts.