Maggie Keville made her way to America like so many other late 19th-century Irish — an 18-year-old “spinster,” traveling without family, aboard the S.S. Alaska. Her boat arrived 7 Apr. 1884. She was destined for Chicago, where, one by one, she would be joined by her “Irish twin”* Delia and her brothers Patrick and Charles. It’s likely she had names of other émigrés from her home community in the Shrule area of County Mayo and that she planned on working as a domestic till she found a husband.
Research note. The real story here is my mother’s search for the grandmother she never knew.** When my parents got interested in family history, my mom started looking for Keville because it is a relatively unusual Irish name. She had a few family letters and knew they were from Mayo. She managed to make contact with distant cousins in Ireland and (around 2000) began haunting genealogy forums on the web.
She found an internet buddy, Rose, who was also looking for Keville cousins. Rose was an early member of Ancestry and I believe was the one who found the record of Maggie’s passage. The ability to find family records online was a revelation to me. My parents loved the field trips, cemeteries, and libraries. I loved sifting through conveniently indexed databases. A hobby was born!
*Irish twin: a second sibling born nine months after the first.
** Margaret Keville was her maternal grandmother, who married Moses M. Flanagan.