Reviewing the Irish registers

The days have ticked along and I imagine many of us have crossed eyes from staring at the digitised Irish Catholic parish registers…I know I have!

Hasn’t the National Library of Ireland done us all proud? What a great program they have that even with all the Irish at home and abroad, the system didn’t crash, nor was it especially slow at the peak periods.

I’ve seen lots of Facebook comments on Irish county pages, celebrating discoveries and I’ve made a few of mine own…and still pondering some of the “missing”. But that’s the content for another post.

Meanwhile I thought I’d share some comments on using the program and then searching the registers themselves, even though the program is very intuitive and easy to follow. I recognise I may well be preaching to the converted here.

  • Try to restrain the urge to only search around a particular date: your ancestor may have “fibbed” about their age but more importantly you’ll get a feel for how that particular priest records events and a better sense of the parish. Were there lots of baptisms/marriages? Did they drop off after the Famine? Were there more marriages with consanguinity relationships? How common was your surname?
  • Check the sponsors as well to see whose events your family witnessed.
  • Some registers are only recorded in English, and some in a mix of Latin and English. You might find this dictionary handy to look up the English name for the Latin, or vice versa. eg William = Gulielmus; Dionysius + Dennis
  • Don’t assume the priest could spell accurately, or consistently! It’s common to see variations of the same Christian or surnames even in the same baptism/marriage entry. Sometimes it’s recorded in their formal name and others in their day-to-day nickname.
  • Try to get a better sense of the townland names for your parish. Use the Griffith Valuation page at AskAboutIreland to search for it. Sometimes to be tricky, the priest may even use a local name for the place…just be grateful that he’s narrowed their residence down more. In this case you may need to try a Google search: you may even find someone doing a One Place Study. This great site was recommended to me by one of my geminate, but I’ve forgotten which one …sorry!
  • Check there are not marriage entries interspersed with the baptisms: I’ve found several where marriages are on one page while baptisms are on the facing page.
  • Don’t forget that marriages usually occurred in the bride’s parish and sometimes the first child’s baptisms. You may need to search in adjacent parishes to find them, but also use the home-place of witnesses for clues. (Tip: Use the map of your county in the NLI program to see which ones are closest).
  • Burial is not a sacrament in the Catholic church (Extreme Unction is). Hence why you will not typically find your ancestors’ deaths in the registers…just give thanks when you do. If the Church of Ireland records exist it is worth checking them for burials.
  • All is not lost if the registers haven’t been digitised. Some may still be in the parish but you can also try these sources:
    • RootsIreland – make sure you go to the county and look at the registers which have been filmed (eg Broadford parish is missing in Clare). Just because the county is green on the map doesn’t mean they’re all there. This is a pay-to-view site after searching, but it’s also given me some events I haven’t found elsewhere.
    • Irish Times
    • FamilySearch: you might want to try this for clues on when your ancestor’s event may have been, remembering that after 1864 Irish civil registration applied to all (in theory at least). You could also check what microfilms are held in the Family History Library just to be sure they’re included in the NLI ones.
    • Consider that sometimes the priest annotated the baptism with the person’s marriage details when they occurred in another parish or overseas. It may be worth searching for this alone, or it may confirm you have the right person. A long shot, but worth a try.

So there you are my tips from sleuthing through some of the registers. I have so many more to follow up. Despite writing this a week or so ago, it’s only just going online now so I hope it’s of some use to people.

Are you going green?

Image from Shutterstock.com

Image from Shutterstock.com

Today is THE BIG DAY for Irish researchers as we’re all hoping our brick walls will tumble.

The calendar has turned to 8 July Down Under but it seems we’re going to be waiting until 9 July at midnight for the Big Event. What Big Event? The release of the National Library of Ireland’s digitised images of all the Catholic parish registers they hold!

The NLI has indicated that it is closed until 3:30pm Irish time, so I guess that’s when the site goes live. Which means that here in the Top End I’ll have to burn the midnight oil or wait until the morning. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Image from Shutterstock.com

Image from Shutterstock.com

The really important thing to realise is the registers won’t be indexed (unless others decide to do it), and you won’t be able to just search for a name. Knowing the approximate location of your ancestors will be critical, and preferably the townland and/or parish.

If you’re an Aussie with Irish ancestors, have you looked at the name distributions via Griffith’s Valuations? Or do you have the details from the Australian Board Immigration Lists, parish registers, certificates or gravestones? I’m constantly amazed by how people have seeming brick walls when purchasing a certificate, or following up the event in the Australian parish, would answer the question.

Thanks to the microfilms from Family Search and LDS, I’ve already researched my O’Briens from Broadford and some of the Tullamore records for Sherry and Furlong. Both microfilms are pretty shocking I have to say….looked like they’ve been stored in a leaky barn with the chooks. Decades ago during a visit to Ireland, the priest let me work my way through the Gorey Wexford parish registers looking for my grandfather’s baptism and other Sherry family events.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ireland_map.gif

Image from Wikimedia.

So what are my priorities going to be with this new release?

  1. Parishes around Courtown, Wexford (especially Riverchapel) to look for Callaghan family events. After all I also have a good DNA match from adjoining parishes.
  2. Arklow, Wicklow for details of the baptisms of Sherry children as their father worked down the Dublin to Wexford railway line.
  3. Dunlavin Parish, for Murphy and possibly Gavin.
  4. Ballymore Eustace, Kildare for Gavins – when I visited the parish I had no joy getting answers.
  5. St Nicholas of Myra, Dublin for Gavin (even though I have some from the Irish Genealogy website).
  6. St Catherine’s Parish, Dublin for Gavin (ditto above)
  7. Ferbane, Offaly in the hunt for the Furlong family prior to turning up in Tullamore
  8. Another look at the Tullamore, Offaly

Having completed all these (which will only take about five minutes…not!), I’ll have to start looking through the parishes where the Griffith’s Valuations show dense populations of Sherry families. After all, they are really my biggest brick wall, since James Sherry unobligingly disappeared after arrival in Australia. My bet is that his father’s name was Peter or Patrick since the sons’ names seem to follow traditional naming patterns.

So what is your priority list going to be?

Oh for a leprechaun to tell you where your Irish ancestors originated.

Will you be wearing green today?

If you find you’re having difficulties reading the registers you might want to read this post by Irisheyes Jennifer and this background information. Also don’t just look for specific births or marriages (there will be few instances of burials), make sure you have a look at the wider context of the parish. Not only will you get a better feel for how the priest recorded events, and come to understand his writing, you may also find your family as witnesses to other events, possibly indicating kin connections.

If your families were Church of Ireland, you might find this other site relevant.

Above all, let’s have fun with this fantastic release!

DNA Mysteries and Mazes

By Forluvoft (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Forluvoft (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Despite my blog drought and house obsession, I have spent some time on my DNA results which I only recently uploaded to Gedmatch. I had been ambivalent in the past but it is actually very useful, especially for Ancestry results which don’t come with as much info, and for which I have fewer matches (which may change with the spread of Ancestry testing).

Why is it that those with whom you have the best matches don’t reply to your emails?

I’ve resisted putting my family tree online anywhere but have slowly been adding one to Family Tree DNA. (hmm another “bitty” job) Instead I’ve been sending out a horizontal family tree, inspired by a post I read a little while ago. This lets me add my families’ places of origin as well as names.

Which raises another question: why do so few people think place is irrelevant? After all it provides a good clue on where families may originate and overlap especially when the match segment is too great to be explained by endogamous populations.

My best decision in terms of testing DNA has been to get some older generations tested. To my surprise my mother quickly agreed to be tested which helps me know which side of the family my matches occur on. Nora, my 3rd cousin once removed (on Dad’s side) in Sydney also agreed to be tested.

Both of these samples have turned up matches which don’t match me, which is very helpful.

Mum’s sample produced a good cousin match with a lady in Canada, her brothers and an Irish cousin. We’ve narrowed down our likely connection through my Callaghan family in Wexford. Like so many others we’re hanging out for the release of the Irish parish registers on 8 July…only a few days days to go!! (I think some people are in for a shock at just how challenging these images can be to read)

What is bewildering is this particular family’s matches is there’s also some overlap with Mr Cassmob’s DNA – even though his ancestors are not known to come from Wexford or other identified geographic overlaps.

And then there’s the matches with Nora’s DNA. One seems to link to the McNamara family from Broadford Co Clare. I know that my O’Briens were connected to this family in some way, because when one daughter married, the registers show she and her McNamara husband were third cousins.

And the match with Nora to someone with Co Kerry ancestry. Much will depend on where her Kerry family lived. If they were in the north it may not be such a stretch.

Image from wikipedia.

Image from wikipedia.

So DNA testing tends to bring even more questions than you had already it often seems. When you get an obvious match it’s all too easy but the very ones you want to know about are the ones that keep you scratching your head in confusion.

DNA can lead you on a merry trail through a maze to identify your distant kith and kin links.

A blogging “drought”

sad-151795_640I’ve been AWOL lately leaving my blog crying for attention. Unfortunately my mind is completely focused on getting our Darwin house sold and thinking about our proposed move interstate. The same level of obsessiveness I bring to family history has been brought to bear on housing matters.

Having to have everything squeaky clean and spic and span, for our open houses and random inspections, means the study has been cleared of most of my references books, the laptop frequently in its carry bag, and never has my computer desk looked so tidy for more than five minutes! It’s all a deterrent to the usual spread of papers, scribble pads etc that surround me as I research and write. I’ve never aimed to be a Domestic Goddess but that seems to be my current role…who knows I may get used to the decluttered, downsized, super-clean look…or not.

It’s not as if I don’t have lots of “bitty” jobs that I could do to get myself up to date before I tackle bigger tasks later in the year. These include:

  • Scanning more of my note books
  • Tagging and labelling all my photos and checking their in appropriate folders
  • Reviewing my computer folders overall
  • Reviewing long texts I’ve written on some of my families and annotating them with “to follow up” notes
  • Scanning more documents from my hard-copy folders of purchased archive documents or certificates
  • Follow up blog comments and leads
  • Searching new releases of newspapers from Find My Past and Trove
  • Writing shorter posts for my Irish blog

So really there’s no shortage of jobs I could do, is there? I just need to switch focus and get the laptop out of the bag as soon as each inspection is over. Maybe having this checklist here will help motivate me.

motivation 08-07-55-479_640