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Human Remains Found at Home for Unwed Mothers in Ireland



An investigation into a site that was once a Mother and Baby Home in Ireland has led to the discovery of a mass grave. The investigation was started after a local historian’s research made it clear that things did not add up. It is a sad story that reveals what was really happening in at least one Mother and Baby Home in Ireland.

Mother and Baby Homes were designed to provide residential support to unmarried pregnant women. The majority of these homes were run by religious organizations. In Ireland, many were run by the Catholic Church.

There was a significant stigma around unmarried mothers in the mid-twentieth century. The Catholic Church considered pregnancy to be wonderful for a married couple. But, pregnancy for an unwed mother was considered to be a sin, and the shame and blame for it was placed upon the mother.

There were several reasons why a woman who was pregnant and unmarried would be sent to one of these Homes. One reason was to avoid social ostracism. The woman, or her parents, didn’t want anyone to find out about the woman’s pregnancy. Some parents sent their pregnant daughters to Mother and Baby Homes in an effort to end the relationship between the daughter and the father of her child.

Women who went to a Mother and Baby Home did not get to keep their babies. Infants were adopted at six-weeks old. Women were not told that they had any option other than adoption. If one of your relatives or ancestors was sent to a Mother and Baby Home, you may find it very difficult to locate information about her baby.

Catherine Corless is a historian who lives outside of Tuam in Ireland. She heard about a graveyard near the Mother and Baby home in Tuam, and wondered how many children might be buried there. Records for the home showed that babies died at the rate of two per week from malnutrition and neglect, and from diseases such as measles and gastroenteritis.

Cathrine Corless’s research revealed that about 700 to 800 infants and small children died and were buried without markers in mass graves beneath the property. The remains were found in a structure that appeared to be related to sewage or wastewater. Some samples from the remains date to the 1950s. Further tests are being conducted.

A Commission has been set up to investigate what was discovered at the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam (which was in operation from 1925 to 1961). Further scientific tests are likely to be conducted on the remains. The Commission is also looking into who was responsible for the way those remains were disposed of. Some are calling for an investigation to identify the remains.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

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