Not Just A Chamber Maid…
Matilda (Tillie) Graham Sweeney was one of ten children born to John Sweeney & Matilda Graham of Garrowcarry, Edenacarnan, Co. Donegal. She was also a granddaughter of James Baxter Sweeney and Fanny Robinson, who were my 2nd great grandparents; of Garryharry, Co. Donegal.
Tillie was born on 17 May 1905; she was the 7th child and the 3rd daughter in the family. In 1911 the Census revealed that she was a scholar and living at 16 Garrowcarry with her parents and eight of her siblings. Her older brother Alexander had died prior to the census being taken.
Not much is known about Tillie’s life between 1911 and 1929 when I discovered her on the Caledonia’s Ships Manifest. On 6 Apr 1929 Tillie departed Londonderry; her destination… Philadelphia, USA. After ten days at sea the Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States recorded her arrival on 16 Apr 1929. Two of Tillie’s brothers immigrated to the USA as well; however it’s unclear yet if they made the journey before or after Tillie left Ireland.
Tillie “disappeared” off the grid again until 13 Nov 1935 when I unearthed the U.S. Naturalization Records Indices. At the age of thirty, and just over six years after her arrival in Pennsylvania; she became a citizen of the U.S.A. The record revealed that she was living at 8240 Crittenden Street, Philadelphia, PA.
On 4 Sep 1937, two years after being naturalized and eight and a half years after leaving her homeland; Tillie was once again onboard the Caledonian traveling from Londonderry to Philadelphia via New York. It would seem she was returning from her first trip “back home” since she emigrated. The record shows she was living on Chestnuthill, Pennsylvania. The Ships Manifest and List of US Citizens revealed she arrived back in New York on Sept 13, 1937.
The 1940 US Census revealed that Tillie was a Chamber Maid for the “well to do” Dick Family; and had been working for them since at least 1935. The record also showed that she had worked for 72 hours the prior week and had earned $884 US Dollars that year. Her salary was the equivalent of $14,826.70 today; a paltry sum when working 72 hour work weeks.
For reasons that I will never know Tillie remained single for the duration of her life. The US Social Security Death Indices recorded that she passed away in the Fall of 1971. Her last known residence was 19117 Elkins Park, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, USA.
Matilda Graham Sweeney was not only a Chamber Maid; she was a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter and aunt; she had family who loved her. I will always wonder if her life was as she had hoped; I will remember her.