James McAleavy and his wife Bridget, my maternal great-grandparents, are people I???ve come to admire and love. He was born in 1850 in Sheelagh, Creggan Parish, County Louth to Michael and Catherine McAleavy, farmers. In 1869 he married Bridget Linden at the Mullaghbawn Roman Catholic Church in Shanroe, Forkhill, County Armagh. They had three girls and two boys, Rose Anne (Rosey) in 1870, Katherine (Kate) in 1872, Margaret (Maggie) in 1875, Michael in 1877 and James in 1880. In 1883, this wife died at the age of 33. He said the fairies came and took her.
He married a widowed neighbor on an adjacent farm, Bridget (Bailie) Byrnes in 1883 and raised her three children Peter, Rose and Margaret. Together they had four more children, Tom in 1884, Bridget in 1886, MaryEllen in 1888 and Agnes in 1890.
He raised twelve children born within 18 years working as a leaseholder of land in the townships of Shean and Shanroe that he farmed. In the late 1800???s they moved to Belfast where he worked as a laborer and the children went to school. He also lived and worked in Liverpool for a time.
When he and Bridget, now in their 60???s returned to the Shanroe/Shean land to retire, his daughter Mary Ellen and her husband died young and he raised their four children, Norah, Martin, Margaret and Bridget (Deila). They also took James, Agnes??? son, into their home when her husband died young.
He was a man who with his wife Bridget raised 17 children. Because of discrimination against a Roman Catholic Irishman, he could read, but not write and worked at whatever job was available to feed and house his family.
His caring and sharing spirit lives on. His hundreds of descendents throughout England, Northern Ireland, Australia, Canada and the United States include schoolteachers, nurses, and medical doctors, designers, computer specialists, farmers, business owners, lawyers and military leaders but most importantly hard working family oriented people who are continuing to hold out a helping hand to those in need.