Who was Bridget Scott?

In ‘Ormsby & Scott’, I explained the dilemma about the identity of my great grandmother Bridget.  The birth record of the sister, Mary, with whom Patrick is staying in 1911 clearly names her mother as Bridget Ormsby. Patrick’s birth records from March 1883, both civil and church, name his mother as Bridget Scott. Are we dealing with one person or two? As Pete Townsend of ‘The Who’ wrote in 1978:

There are four children whose parents are listed as John Stanley and Bridget Ormsby. They are John (born June 1866), Mary (July 1868), Michael (September 1870) and Thomas (July 1873). Four children born in seven years. There is absolutely nothing unusual about that. Bridget would have been 33 when Thomas was born. (This figure comes from her age given at the time of the marriage in 1865.) What is slightly unusual is that there are no more births recorded. It is possible that Bridget found it more difficult to conceive, or carry a pregnancy to full term after the birth of the other children.

It is also possible that she died. The only recorded death of a Bridget Stanley in Roscommon between 1873 and 1883 took place in February 1873. This is five months before the birth of Thomas. She was also 76 years old and a widow. There are only seven deaths of a Bridget Stanley in that period across the entire country. Their ages are: 90, 73, 76, 65, 64, 55 and 40. All except the last one can be ruled out for exactly the same reason as the 76 year old: they were simply too old to be giving birth in 1873 (or 1866 for that matter). Furthermore, there would need to be a major error in recording Bridget’s age at the time of her wedding in 1865.

The 40 year old Bridget died in November 1880. This makes her date of birth line up. She is recorded as being a spinster, a field worker, and the place is Dundalk. This is about 95 miles (150 km) from Roscommon. Michael, the third child, died in August 1879. It is possible that Bridget was so traumatised by this event that she left home. She could have told her fellow workers that she was unmarried. She could have done so, but this explanation becomes increasingly implausible.

Thomas died in 1908 in Clooneenbane. The death was reported by Bridget Stanley “his mother”. A Bridget Stanley dies the following year in the workhouse, but her original address is still shown as Clooneenbane. Her age matches the person born Bridget Ormsby. It would be a major coincidence if both of the Bridget Stanley women were exactly the same age. And would a step mother refer to herself as his mother? It is just about possible.

It seems far more likely that Thomas’s death was reported by his real mother. This turns attention back to March 1883. It is possible that John was confused, or forgetful when he registered the birth of Patrick. Or, possibly, the Registrar became distracted and made an error. John was illiterate and so would not necessarily have picked up on the mistake on the register. But this logic does not apply to the baptism. Both parents would have been present. The church records are kept by the priest. It seems to be a safe assumption that Patrick’s parents would have been well known to the local priest. They would have attended mass on a regular basis.

Patrick’s birth could have been the result of a liaison between his father, John, and a girl called Bridget Scott. This possibility requires John’s wife to be unusually tolerant and accepting. She would appear to have raised the child as her own. Other members of the family also accepted him. As already stated, Mary records Patrick as her brother on the 1911 census. In these circumstances, it is far more common for a child born out of wedlock to be raised by the birth mother.

There are many examples of people being commonly known by something other than their given name. When I visited Roscommon in 2014, I met a possible relation known to all and sundry as Benny. It was only when I was leaving that his wife told me that his real name was Patrick. I feel that this is the most plausible explanation, that Bridget Ormsby and Bridget Scott are the same person. Having a theory is one thing. Finding proof is something else altogether.

The most certain route would be to carry out a DNA comparison with someone from the Ormsby side. If there is a match, then there is one person. If there is no match, then there must be two people.