Ferriter Family Occupations on the Dingle During the 1700s

Posted by Seoirse on 2/23/2010 in Commentary

Creation of the new Ferriter Family website moved me to a review of certain items that I had in hand, for inclusion on the site. A number of these are now posted as blog entries, including the following. None of these observations, speculations, and theories have been altered by the time that has passed between having been written and now…enjoy reading, and comment, please!


The lands that the Ferriters resided upon were not prime agricultural land. Those familiar with the place realize that aside from vegetable plots and grazing sheep, there’s not much to be had there, from the land itself. The Ferriter family members remaining in Dunurlan and there about during the 1700s surely had a rough time of it.

So what sorts of things might these folks have done to survive?  The two short answers are: (1) Just about anything and, (2) You do not want to know.

I suspect that there are two basic categories: what was legal, and what was illegal.  On the legal side would fall farming as a tenant for Lord Ventry – most certainly with a focus on Sheep, although we do know that several Ferriter men show up on “flax growers” lists, so raising flax must have been a worthwhile cash crop type activity.  An additional agricultural pursuit may have involved cows, and associated dairy. We know that Ferriters traveled the famous butter road to Cork, so this must be included.

Ferriters may have been boat builders, and may have repaired boats and dealt in maritime equipment from their anchorage at Ferriter’s Cove. Without a doubt, the sea must have offered a greater attraction than the land for most of these people. Fishing and shipping were most certainly pursued. We know that a Nicholas Ferriter mastered an ocean going vessel during the mid 18th century, and we know that another Nicholas Ferriter was a rope maker in Boston, Massachusetts during the 1770s, with rope-making a natural extension of marine activities in general.

These are all nice, legal occupations, but when one considers them for a moment, each resides close by some illegal activity. Raising livestock and livestock raiding, fishing and fish poaching, boat handling and small scale piracy, salvage and shipwrecking, coastwise shipping and smuggling – these things exist side by side, and for people under constant economic duress, the stepping over from the legal to the illegal may be a very short step indeed.

I will not pre-judge these people – rather I will not judge them at all. I can easily accept the motivations and proclivities that reside behind any illegal or extra-legal activity that they participated in. That said, before I cast the blanket of suspicion over the clan to any greater extent than I have, I will investigate the record.

At the onset, I must warn: I have already stumbled across evidences for many of the legal and illegal activities that I have cited.  To date, none of these evidentiary fragments have been collected, collated, and studied with an eye to understanding. I’ll try that going forward.

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Know Your Ancestors

James T. Ferriter

photo b. December 1843
d. February 22, 1902

James Thomas Ferriter was born in December, 1843, either in New York or Massachusetts to Irish immigrant parents. Most census data lists his birthplace as Massachusetts. It is quite likely that he was born in West Springfield, MA, as he had a brother, Patrick, who was born there in 1849. His parents, Patrick Ferriter and Catherine Sullivan Ferriter, had married in Ireland on February 14, 1840. They moved to America and travelled where there were railroads to be built. Patrick's family landed in Dummerston, Vermont, in 1850, where many people with Irish surnames and the job title of 'railroad laborer' are listed in the census.... Read More