One Place Study -Broadford, Co Clare, Ireland


Okay enough of the frivolous business of Paris and Provence – back to some hard core family history.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been studying the coursework from another Pharos course, this one on One Place Studies (OPS). I was so tempted to focus on one of my easy ancestral places in England or Scotland where I know there are lots of sources, but in the end I knew I had to bite the bullet and look at Broadford in east County Clare.

A Google Earth map of Broadford and surrounding areas, including the townland of Ballykelly.

The main street through Broadford. P Cass 2006

Now I’m going to do some thinking “out loud” so to speak. My hope in doing that is to see if any of my readers have experience in this process and can offer some advice, especially around how to store the data.

As I mention on my blog page about Broadford and East Clare, I have an interest in the emigrants from this area. Some years ago as part of an online Advanced Diploma in Local History, I built a database of anyone I could identify as coming to New South Wales (including Moreton Bay and Victoria prior to separation) between 1848 and 1870. I used the NSW Board’s Immigrant Lists and the Immigration Deposit Journals[i] (both of which I’ll be talking about in a later Beyond the Internet post).

There are limitations to the data for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here, but in the early 1860s Broadford played a pivotal role in the Australian migration process.  Over the years I’ve played with my database trying to take the study a step further and make linkages between the emigrants and the records in Broadford with only limited success.  Every now and then I have another dabble then give up in frustration. Part of the problem is that I don’t like the database (no one to blame there but myself!). The One Place Study course was a strategy for making myself look at it further.

View towards the Catholic Church in Broadford, built when my ancestor Mary O’Brien was a young girl.

My ultimate goal is not to do a One Place Study per se. Even though I’ve visited Broadford four times, I don’t really have the in-depth knowledge of a local person born and bred. There is a researcher who has expertise in the area, Pat O’Brien (unfortunately not related to my O’Briens from the same area). Pat did his Masters thesis at Limerick University on Broadford 1830-1850[ii] and has also written several articles for the East Clare magazine, Sliabh Aughty.  Perhaps my contribution will be to analyse the emigrants, make some linkages, and crunch some data.

As a general rule, a One Place Study aims to reconstitute the families in a parish or village, revealing their kinship links and also learning more about population changes and who lived in that place. Of course other documentary sources are also used to build up the story of the village, its industry or occupations, migration patterns etc. The One Place Study website is useful but there aren’t too many studies for Ireland, though I was pleased to see a couple. Interestingly there are a few in Australia too which I’ve used without realising their formal role as an OPS.

This graph gives a fairly good idea of the impact of the Famine in the Parish of Kilseily where Broadford is situated

Now I’m going to stick my neck out here, and say it’s pretty difficult to do family reconstitution in the Republic of Ireland. The primary reason for that is the paucity of parish records. For example in Broadford, the RC parish registers start in 1844 but they’re very difficult to read, and initially they don’t mention which townland the person comes from. The Church of Ireland registers are no longer extant. Add to that the absence of (almost all) census records until 1901, and family reconstitution takes on a whole new level of complexity. Throw in the Irish Famine, An Gorta Mór, with its horrendous toll of death and migration and it gets worse.

As a trial I have focused on my ancestral townland of Ballykelly in the hills near Broadford.  About 15-20  families lived there c1852, so as I work through initial phases of this process it’s manageable. The documents I have to work with are:

  1. My transcription of the RC parish registers for Kilseily parish from 1844 to 1866 (in Excel and also my DB)
  2. Transcription of the townland residents, and owners, from the Griffith Valuations (GV) of 1852 (in Excel).
  3. Some information on the changed inheritance under the GV revisions (more to come from the microfilm)
  4. Transcription of the 1827 Tithe Applotments (TA)
  5. Link between the GV and TA data.
  6. Analysis of 1901 and 1911 census data with a particular focus on those people who were born between 1840 and 1870.
  7. Australian migration data 1848-1870 which mention Broadford or east Clare parishes or townlands. It does however include parents’ names, whether they were alive or dead at the time of migration and relatives in the colony. I’ve also done some work on linking them to relatives on board the ship.
  8. I have occupation and literacy analyses from my previous study and drawing on the DB data.
  9. Findmypast Ireland has some records which in theory should be searchable by place but don’t always work and Ancestry can also be searched by place.
  10. Newspaper downloads after place searching.
  11. Valuation maps which can be annotated with residents in the Griffith Valuation.
  12. Census statistics from Histpop. I also have some data I collected previously through a site link that’s no longer active.
  13. Reference books, theses and journal articles.

Do you have any thoughts on how I can link these up?

I’m wondering if it would work to document each person in a genealogy program which would then let me link up those I know to be families, or have them as stand-alone individuals until I know more.

Could I link all the Broadford families under a hypothetical set of pseudo-parents, called for example, Male Broadford and Female Broadford? I thought this might be a way I could see everyone who comes from Broadford and slowly see what the linkages are. Has anyone else done this and found it will work? Perhaps for a One Name Study?

I love Excel and can use databases, but somehow there’s still a dysjunction between the data. I’m not a fan of genealogy software (yes, strange I know) which is part of why I’m floating these ideas.

Any pearls of wisdom or lateral thoughts would be much appreciated.


[i] Pastkeys originally indexed the IDJs. See http://www.pastkeys.com.au/Images/Irish%20in%20the%20NSW%20IDJs.pdf.  The indexes are now also on Ancestry, I’ve just discovered.

[ii] O’Brien, P. Broadford. County Clare 1830-1850: A study of a rural community. Unpublished MA (History and Local Studies), University of Limerick, 1999.

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13 thoughts on “One Place Study -Broadford, Co Clare, Ireland

  1. Hi Pauleen, I’d like to start by saying what a great idea this is! Secondly, just out of curiosity, how many Hehirs (or variations) do you have in your immigrant database?
    One of the only Irish Catholic parish registers I have viewed in detail on microfilm was Clane, Kildare and I wrote down all the Dunnes and tried to work out family groups in my Legacy software with the townland names in place of a fathers name, then I searched for extra information via Google, Ancestry etc. It was a fairly haphazard study and I put it aside hopefully to refer to it later. So yes I have tried using genealogy software with numbers of people listed under pseudo parents but I find it quite frustrating as the software wasn’t really designed for that. I think probably a database would be more user friendly for such studies but haven’t been patient enough to create one ;-). It would be great to learn what sort of software people use for one name and one place studies. Well done for your research on Broadford thus far, it sounds like you have done a lot of work.

    • Thanks Aillin. I will have a look for Hehirs. I’m pretty sure there are some. Doing Dunnes would be like O’Brien though to be fair it’s not as common as you’d think in the parish of Kilseily.
      I had to build the DB as part of the ADLH online with Oxford and believe me it nearly brought me undone because it was quite complex. I have multiple reports but it’s still not quick and easy to bring different record types together. It’s one of those things you either have to be a total techo or work with someone on it. I even asked a friend and former IT manager and I’m still not happy with the reporting I get from it or interlinking the records. The big dilemma, as you’ve found, is ascertaining how people are connected, or indeed whether it’s the same “Michael O’Brien”.

  2. Pauleen, I wish I could give you some glistening pearl of wisdom — but instead I am collecting ideas on different ways to look at my hodge-podge of Springdale families. I keep finding interconnections way down the line between families, and then have to work my way back to the beginning. Probably not the prettiest, or most effecient way of looking at these folks. Good post, interestng and thought provoking.

    • It’s a conundrum isn’t it Joan when we start going beyond straight family lines. It’s one of the reasons that I feel like I’m in a straight jacket with genealogy programs but there are more now that allow for these strays. I guess it falls under the heading: FANs: friends, associates, neighbours. Maybe we’ll both get some helpful hints from other comments.

  3. My response here is well over due.

    I am seriously attempting to get all the data on line. For a small parish I am averaging an email a week! I also keep a reference of all the people that contact me and I drop people an email if they connect to another researcher. I digress.

    It is a tricky way of keeping track of families. At the start I kept a sheet of A4 paper for each individual. Adding to it information from the Census and parish records.

    In fact I still keep the A4 sheets – filed alphabetically by surname and can not see me disposing of them any time soon. In fact I am planning to use these for the basis of the on line data when I get to that far.

    I have also used Excel as a way of tracking data. Recording what material I have etc.

    For this purpose I am not overly keen on genealogical software either. I will see if I can scan a copy of one of my individuals then you can see the data that I keep, but in essence any material about an individual is located on that sheet.

    • Thanks Julie, that’s very helpful. I started out my family history using an A4 sheet per person so I can relate to that.

      No one way seems to work perfectly that I can see. Excel is helpful for some of the data but then I’m left not quite knowing who belongs where. I suspect there are massive gaps due to deaths and migration in the Famine years.

      My decision on formally starting this project is in abeyance as I let my thought digest. I really appreciate your advice. I know what you mean about the “matchmaking” I tend to do that with the Dorfprozelten people. Thanks! I’d be keen to see a scanned copy of what you have. Feel free to email me via cassmob at gmail dot com.

    • Hi Andrew,
      I was wodering if you can help me. I, and a number of cousins, are researching into our McGrath family who settled near Bendigo in Victoria. One of the McGrath girls, Bridget, married a colourful character named John McNamara who came from Broadford and may have been baptised about 1834. John also had a sister named Bridget and possibly a couple of brothers named Patrick and/or James.Parents were John McNamara and Mary McMahon. I would be pleased to know if you have any information on this family.

      • hi Steven, the problem that we have here is that the parish records for Broadford only start in 1844. They are also in very poor condition in those early days (the microfilm can be ordered in through your local Mormon library). Then of course the records have no sooner started than the Famine kicks in during which so many people emigrated or died. Widows/widowers may have remarried and then you have a different combination of couples. I’ve checked my records and the only baptism possibility that appears to me is the baptism of Katherine in May 1844 to John McNamara and Mary (surname illegible but may be Walsh). McNamara is a pretty common name in the parish. Griffiths Valuations also only start in the 1850s so that doesn’t necessarily help you either. Do you know when John arrived in Australia? Cheers Pauleen

  4. Hi Pauleen, So sorry for not replying earlier

    John McNamara arrived on the John Knox on 15 July, 1851. With him on the ship was his sister Bridget and her future husband, James O’Loughlin with his two sisters, Mary and Honora. They arrived in Geelong and made their way to Bendigo.

    Regards

    Steven

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