Brothers Frank and Bill Watson are seeking help from the public in locating any members of the Ruddy family or anyone who has information relating to the body of John Ruddy, the 18-year-old laborer buried at Duffy’s Cut in 1832.
They identified the man based on his bone size and by using the passenger list of the ships that came from Ireland to Philadelphia just before he died.
The Watson brothers first located the remains of Irish railroad workers through historic documents handed down through their family. They believe that the 57 Irish emigrants from Donegal, Derry, and Tyrone were likely victims of lynch mobs driven by anti-Irish sentiment and fear of cholera which was widespread at the time.
The Philadelphia and Columbia line was originally a horse-drawn train, and work began in 1828.
Three years later, an Irish contractor named Philip Duffy won the contract to construct Mile 59, one of the toughest stretches. The project required leveling a hill, which was known as making a cut; it was nasty work.
The dirt was “heavy as the dickens,” railroad historian John Hankey, who visited the site, told the Smithsonian Magazine. “Sticky, heavy, a lot of clay, a lot of stones—shale and rotten rock.”
The men Duffy hired were described as “sturdy looking band of the sons of Erin,” in an 1829 newspaper article. They were paid about ten dollars a month and lived in shacks. They were probably Irish speakers and had few possessions.
These Irish people had only arrived to the United States. Researchers believed that some of the group may have died from cholera, they also believe that some of them died violent deaths as evidence of trauma on the skeletons proves.
Speaking to IrishCentral.com Frank Watson explained that that they are continuing to work on DNA examinations. Their aim is to identify the remains and give the Irish immigrants proper burials. They hope to bury John Ruddy’s body around St Patrick’s Day 2012.
He explained that their “forensic dentist, Dr. Matt Patterson, is trying to trace a genetic anomaly that we found in the first man we uncovered at Duffy's Cut, whom we have tentatively identified as 18 year old John Ruddy from Donegal (born 1814).
More news stories on the Duffy’s Cut dig from IrishCentral
“We are trying to see how extensive that anomaly is within the larger Ruddy family, including the Ruddy family who migrated to the US.
John Ruddy had a one in a million genetic dental abnormality, which he shares with all of his descendant Ruddys. He is missing his upper right front molar. If you believe you could be related to this man or have any information on members of the Ruddy family who may be connected to this man please contact Duffy’s Cut (see contact details below).
Sean Beattie, who worked on the Tile Film “The Ghost of Duffy’s Cut”, has been aiding the group in their search for the Ruddy clan. He said, “There are 15 Ruddys in the telephone directory for the entire county [of Donegal] and all are related except one family.
“In the past there were many Ruddys but emigration has taken its toll.
“In the 1830s there was a Ruddy family living in Ruddytown but no one of the name lives there today. There is a chance that family contacts of the Ruddy you have traced may be in America. John Ruddys family involved three brothers who came from west Inishowen in the 1850s and settled in east Inishowen.”
Sadly, the dig at Duffy’s Cut is currently being wound down as the rest of the mass grave is 30 feet below ground on property owned by Amtrak. They will not permit digging in the area as it is close to working train tracks.
The Watson brothers plan to continue working on their investigations. Their next project is a site just ten miles away where they believe there is another Irish mass grave.
If you have any information on the Ruddy family in the United States, contact Frank Watson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr. Matt Patterson (email@example.com).