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Register of the Papers of the



0.25 ft.

MSS 72


Timothy Dunne emigrated to America from Ireland sometime in the mid-1830s, farmed in Pennsylvania for a time and then moved on to Belleville, Illinois.  Dunne's nephew John Curtis came to the United States from Mountmellick, Queen's County, Ireland before 1838 and settled in Philadelphia, where he became a member of the Saint Patrick's Beneficial Society.  His sister Jane joined him ca. 1845.  By this time their aunts Mary and Margaret Curtis were already living in the Philadelphia area with their families, and other family members had settled in Washington, D.C.  Jane and John's parents, William and Bridget Dunne Curtis, joined them in Philadelphia in 1846.

During the famine years, John's uncle William Dunne remained in Belfast, where he struggled to find work as a groom.  John's sister Hannah Curtis Lynch remained in Mountmellick with her husband William for the early years of the famine; they came to the United States with the assistance of the rest of the family, in 1848.


The collection was donated to the Institute in 1983 by Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Flannery.


The Curtis Family papers provide a remarkable record of a large Irish family over an extended period of time.  The correspondence details the family's relationships with one another as well as their individual and collective experiences, and suggests the extent to which these nineteenth-century immigrants kept in touch with former neighbors in the new country as well as the family and neighbors in Ireland.  The other documents help to establish genealogical relationships between the correspondents and make it possible to follow the family's descendants into the twentieth century.

The correspondence is richest in descriptions of the family's experiences in finding one another and establishing themselves in a new country, and their ongoing connections to the family in Ireland.  Most important for historians, the letters include a wealth of information on the Potato Famine in Ireland and its devastating effect on both the country in general and on individual family members.  Later letters are of interest primarily for the information they provide on daily life in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The other documents primarily concern the family and their acquaintances and neighbors in Ireland, but the bulk of these items are receipts and similar documents which provide little information.  The copybook is most useful in this regard, containing a series of documents relating to a charge of assault brought against James Murphy of Mountmellick, a will of Thomas Ahmuty (the man assaulted by Murphy), and several other letters and legal documents relating to inducements for emigration and to local grievances.


The collection is divided into two series: I. Correspondence; II. Documents.  Each has been arranged chronologically.

SERIES I:  CORRESPONDENCE (1838-1903), .25 ft. and 4 OS folders.  This series consists of 32 letters, correspondence between family members and friends in the Philadelphia area and those in Ireland, in Belfast and in Mountmellick, Queen's County.  The bulk of the letters are from Hannah Curtis Lynch, William Dunne, and Bridget Dunne Curtis to John Curtis.  Also present is one letter which has no apparent connection to the family letters.

SERIES II:  OTHER DOCUMENTS (1843-1926 and n.d.), .25 ft. and 1 Oversized folder.  This series contains citizenship papers, poetry and other writings, a volume containing copied documents relating to various local and legal matters in Ireland, photocopies of a rental agreement and notice, and a prayerbook.  A folder of miscellaneous materials relating to the genealogy of the family has been placed at the end of the series.

The box list of the Register of the Curtis Family Papers is three pages long.