Photo of the Week – Elizabeth Doran Rafferty

This beautiful portrait is of Elizabeth Doran (1886-1933) and was most likely taken in Belfast, North Ireland when she was in her teens. Fond memories and stories came down through our family about how she loved singing and dancing, and also how she had won many musical  contests back home in Belfast when she was a girl. This picture came to us from one of her granddaughters, so we can see how pretty Elizabeth really was.

Elizabeth was named after her maternal spinster aunt, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Hall. Born in the Springfield Village section of West Belfast, she was baptized on 25 Oct 1886 at St. Peter’s R. C. Church, with her aunt Lizzie as sponsor. Her mother, Mary Hall Doran, died when she was a young girl, and then Auntie Lizzie came to the rescue and raised her and her four siblings. Her father, Bernard Doran, lived nearby in Belfast, footloose and fancy-free.

St. Peter's Cathedral, Belfast. Photo taken 2008 ~ Maryann Barnes

By the time of the 1901 Irish Census, Elizabeth was fourteen and working as a flax reeler at one of the nearby mills. On 25 December 1906 she married Thomas Joseph Rafferty at St. Paul’s R. C. Church, Lower Falls Road. Maybe it was a custom to marry on Christmas Day back then.

St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, West Belfast. Interior photo from 2008 ~ Maryann Barnes

Within a year of her marriage she traveled by ship to New York City, still listed under her maiden name, and arrived on 26 October 1907 to visit with her sister, Nellie, who lived in Manhattan at 18 East 60th Street. She is listed as having the occupation of Domestic, and is 5’6”, fair complexion, brown hair, and blue eyes. I can imagine the fun they had while reunited together!

In the 1911 Irish Census,  Elizabeth Rafferty still lived at 51 Springfield Village in Belfast.  She was listed as 24, a flax reeler, married, with one child, Sarah – one year old. The head of the household is her aunt, Elizabeth Hall, 40 years old and single. With them are two of Elizabeth’s brothers, William John Doran – age 17, and Joseph Doran – age 15, both single.  All were born in County Antrim and were working in the flax mills. Her sister, Nellie, and brother, Bernard, were living in Newark, NJ, by then and the Rafferty family made plans to join them.

In April of 1912 Elizabeth had another child, a son named James, and then in June of that year her husband went to Schreiber, Ontario, Canada. Afterwards, Elizabeth followed with the two children. In August of 1914 he went to East Newark, NJ, to his sister-in-law, Mrs. Nellie McVeigh’s place.  And then in September 1914, Elizabeth and the two children again followed him, going through the border at St. Alban’s Vermont. In March of 1914 her other brother, Joseph, also emigrated to NJ along with their step-mother Mary Kane Doran. Some time that year auntie Lizzie Hall also moved to Kearny, NJ. The entire family was reunited in New Jersey when her other brother, William John, also emigrated to Newark in 1924 with his family. All that is, except for Bernard Doran – renegade father – who had married Mary Kane in 1907 in Belfast, and died there sometime around 1920. He was remembered in this quote by Sarah Rafferty, “Mama thought there were more illegitimate Dorans in Belfast than legitimate ones”.

Elizabeth and Thomas had five more children in New Jersey. On 23 May 1933 she died while living in Kearny, NJ, age 46. Her devoted aunt Lizzie had died a few days earlier also in Kearny, and they both were buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington, NJ.  Lizzie Hall’s sister Sarah also died in the same year according to Elizabeth’s daughter.

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