Irish families just might have been perplexed with what to do with daughters who had so many limitations set upon them during the days of the Penal Laws, and beyond. There were few options for those born into poor Catholic families in the West of Ireland. Marriage itself was a difficult challenge within a culture where a dowry was needed. Irish women thought of the custom as essential to entering the institution of marriage with proper standing. Having possessions and a bit of financial position assured her that she would be considered an equal in her marriage, and in important matters. This created a dilemma, however for her birth family; how many parents could afford to offer a dowry for one daughter, let alone two or more? Many families had to borrow the funds to place a daughter in a marriageable position, and younger daughters often became spinsters or nuns as a result. Little was available in the way of domestic service within their rural communities, and industrial work was rare. For many single Irish women, the best option seemed to be to emigrate to faraway lands.
Patrick Connolly was born in County Offaly, Ireland in 1843. The potato famine (The Great Hunger) raged between 1845-1848. Patrick would have been 2-5 years old during that time. Family lore says that he was the youngest of 17 children. He emigrated to America in 1865 after the American Civil War had ended, at the age of 22. Patrick likely arrived in Manhattan and came through the Castle Garden immigration center.