Grey Nuns

The most detailed and evocative eye-witness accounts of the suffering of Irish famine emigrants in North America can be found in the annals of the Grey Nuns, or Sisters of Charity, who cared for them in the fever sheds of Montreal in 1847. Their annals have been digitized, transcribed, and translated in this virtual Famine Archive. The only contemporary image of the Grey Nuns in the fever sheds is Théophile Hamel's painting Le Typhus (1847-1848). The painting depicts the Grey Nuns, the Sisters of Providence, and the Sisters of St. Joseph who took it in turns to tend to Irish typhus victims in the city's fever sheds. As described by John Francis Maguire in The Irish in America (1868):

First came the Grey Nuns, strong in love and faith; but so malignant was the disease that thirty of their number were stricken down, and thirteen died the death of martyrs. There was no faltering, no holding back; no sooner were the ranks thinned by death than the gaps were quickly filled; and when the Grey Nuns were driven to the last extremity, the Sisters of Providence came to their assistance, and took their place by the side of the dying strangers. But when even their aid did not suffice to meet the emergency, the Sisters of St. Joseph, though cloistered nuns, received the permission of the Bishop to share with their sister religious the hardships and dangers of labour by day and night.

The following Grey Nun famine annals and archival records have been digitized, transcribed, and translated from the French language originals held in Archival Services and Collections, Maison de Mère d'Youville, Sisters of Charity of Montreal, Grey Nuns. They comprise three sets of annals, two translated from French into English – The Typhus of 1847 (Ancien Journal, Volume II), and Ancien Journal, Volume I – as well as a third transcribed in French from an original hand-written document – Recit de l'epidimie – which record their first-hand experiences of caring for famine emigrants, especially widows and orphans. The digital archive also contains The Foundation of St. Patrick's Orphan Asylum which was established by Father Patrick Dowd in 1851 to provide a home for Irish famine orphans under the care of the Grey Nuns.

Please see the title page of these archival records for their internal classification.