A certain lack of wisdom?

I have launched yet another blog…not quite sure why when I can’t keep up with all those I have. However gearing up for all the One Place Study enthusiasms which will occur on the Unlock the Past Cruise next week, I thought I should get started.

As you know I’ve had an interest in the emigrants from East County Clare in Ireland for quite some time. I’d shelved them for a while but my ancestors are nudging me with discoveries and serendipity so it didn’t seem wise to ignore them.

The new blog is called East Clare Emigrants (click to migrate there), and hopefully will be on interest to anyone with east Clare ancestry, wherever their relatives settled. I’m thinking this would be an ideal opportunity for guest posts from those who “fit the bill” of East Clare roots but who may not have a blog of their own.

So that’s my Australia Day innovation for 2014.

By the way, the collation of all the Oz Day geneameme responses will be posted tomorrow. And later tonight I hope to complete my Sepia Saturday entry….whew, who said it was a holiday today!

Have I cracked it? Shall we dance?

Mary O'Brien, my 2xgreat grandmother.

Mary O’Brien Kunkel, my 2xgreat grandmother.

The midnight fairy came to visit me last night with an amazing surprise –in fact such a big surprise that I can’t quite believe it, and have spent the day trying to confirm or deny my conclusions. Oh ye of little faith!!

As a prelude to sleep (!!) I decided to have a quick look on Trove for Bridget O’Brien Ipswich. Bridget was my Mary O’Brien’s (2x great grandmother) sister. You see the other day I’d found a new obituary for her on Trove which mentioned that her year in Queensland had been spent in Ipswich. Up came the following advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9th and 12th February 1859:

SHIP-FLORENTIA – BRIDGET O’BRIEN  Your sister Mary is anxious to hear from you. Mrs KONGEL, Post Office, Ipswich.

It’s as well I was lying down I tell you!! I couldn’t believe my eyes and kept saying “keep calm, keep calm”.

Why was I so excited? Because I’d pretty much guarantee that this is my Mary Kunkel (nee O’Brien) and her sister Bridget. Kunkel is routinely mangled even today, or greeted with a “what??” so the mis-spelling doesn’t bother me much, especially since Mary was illiterate and had a Clare accent.

I’ve been hunting for Mary’s immigration for 27 years to no avail. I’ve looked at every possible immigration record I could find, including checking every Mary O’Brien entry, as well as Bridget and Kate/Catherine.

So am I leaping to conclusions? Please tell me what you think after reading this.

My memory didn’t instantly retrieve Florentia but it was ringing loud bells for me. A quick search of my records reminded me this was the ship that the Daniel O’Brien family from Tipperary arrived on. I wrote about the connections in this post early in 2013. This O’Brien family and my Mary O’Brien Kunkel were involved as witnesses in each other’s church events.

So let me put together the details and compare it with the oral history given to me by Mary’s granddaughter, Anne Kunkel who lived with her, and who was an extremely reliable witness (she’s been spot-on about 99% of what she told me):

1.      Mary left Ireland when she was 16

In 1852 when the Florentia sailed Mary was 16 years old. This tallies with the age stated on several children’s birth certificates as well as her death certificate. Bridget’s age at death, and the details on her certificate also indicate an arrival year of 1852-53.

2.      Mary was six months at sea coming to Australia

The Florentia was at sea for 22 weeks, slightly over five months. On top of that Mary had to get to Plymouth to catch the ship, either by boat from Limerick or Bianconi carriage to Dublin. Either way you can see how the total trip would have been close to six months. And wouldn’t the temptation be to round up, not down?

3.  Mary and Bridget came together…though Anne did suggest perhaps sister Kate also came, but then she would have been <10 at the time.

Assuming this is correct, then Mary would have been on the Florentia too. I had eliminated Kate as an arrival through Moreton Bay as she married in Sydney in 1871 but now I’m rethinking that. Kate witnessed a baptism in Broadford, Clare in 1860. A Kate O’Brien witnessed Mary’s child’s baptisms in 1864 and 1866 in Ipswich. Was this her sister or Daniel and Winifred’s daughter (born 1854), which does seem young to be a witness? Our Kate’s details suggest she arrives in the early 1860s, just when there are some Board Immigrant Lists missing.

4.“Mary had a job before ever she got here…and she worked for a sea captain in Brisbane

Was Mary arriving as an unassisted passenger? Or did she come under a false name as happened occasionally (and perhaps more than we realise?).  Certainly the passenger list of the Florentia tallies with the stated number of passengers, and does not include two unassisted passengers because when the ship docked in Hobart on 4th April 1853 to take on additional supplies, there is only one cabin passenger stated on the Tasmanian documents, the Surgeon Superintendent for the voyage, William Clegg. Might she have been under an alias? This is tricky and yet none of the ages quite fit, let alone for two young women, aged 16 and 18.

5.      She met her husband on the voyage

This tale is common to both Mary and Bridget. Bridget’s future husband was a mariner, John Widdup, so that may be plausible. I’ve never found George Kunkel’s immigration either, and have conjectured he too may have worked his passage given his upbringing on the River Main. The Tasmanian records indicate there were 26 crew on the Florentia…I wonder if either George or John was one of them. Unfortunately the Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters website does not include the Florentia.

So far at least I’ve also been unable to trace them through the CLIP website.

Green, Allan C (1900). [Unidentified barque (sailing ship) in full sail]. Copyright expired.

Green, Allan C (1900). [Unidentified barque (sailing ship) in full sail]. Copyright expired.

The voyage

The ship’s captain was Capt TH Banks and Surgeon Superintendent William Clegg and the ship arrived in Moreton Bay on 25th April 1853. The Florentia was a barque of 453 tons, and on arrival was carrying 249 immigrants so a fairly small ship. Apart from being unusually long, due to “contrary winds and calms”, the voyage had a fairly high fatality rate, with two differing death rates: 17 deaths (Moreton Bay) and 9 deaths (Hobart). Although “offset” by either 8 or 12 births, this was not a good tally. And yet surprisingly very little is documented in the Trove newspapers about the voyage, other than an elusive hint that there were issues with the ship’s officers: The local Immigration Board is now engaged in the investigation of certain charges against the ship’s officers, but what their nature or justice may be, remains a mystery.- Moreton Bay Courier, May 7 quoted in the Maitland Mercury of 18 May 1853.

The Moreton Bay colonists were far more concerned that the ship brought far more women and children, than the men they wanted to boost their workforce.

Further Queries 

Was there another Florentia voyage? Yes, but back in 1841 when Bridget was only a girl of about eight. It seems logical that the 1853 voyage is the correct one. Our Bridget witnessed her brother’s and sister’s  baptism at home in Broadford in 1846 and 1850 adding to that likelihood.

It’s also not surprising that Mary might have been advertising for her sister, as Bridget left Ipswich after a year, so about mid-1854. By the 1860s she was married and living with her little family in Urana in southern New South Wales. Meanwhile Mary too had married in 1857, to George Kunkel, which Bridget may not have known.

So why was Mary “anxious” to get in touch with Bridget in early 1859? Their parents didn’t die until much later. Mary’s marriage and children seemed to be having no problems. Perhaps she just hadn’t heard from Bridget for a while or perhaps Mary knew that Kate was thinking of emigrating and wanted to get in touch.

jumping-people-silhouettes-colorful-illustration_275-6273

Image from Freepik.com

Plainly there’s room for further research at various archives and online.

So what do you think? Does my hypothesis hold up? Can I do a happy dance or is it all wishful thinking? Pearls of wisdom and advice would be much appreciated.

Sources:

http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Tasmanian Archives, Immigration document MB2-39-1-16 Image 183

Family oral history: Anne Kunkel

Sepia Saturday: shops and genealogy mazes

sepia saturday 26 JanDaniel (38) and Winifred O’Brien arrived in Queensland on board the Florentia on 29 April 1853. Accompanying them on the voyage were their children Mary 18, Ellen 16, Denis 13, Sarah 12, Hanora 9 and Daniel 2. The family came from Tipperary and on the immigration lists Daniel stated his parents were Denis and Mary O’Brien (mother still alive) and his wife’s parents were Thomas and Ellen Carter (both dead). Daniel apparently went on to become a blacksmith near the current Amberley airforce runway. This photo of his shop, with staff, and possibly family standing outside, is reminiscent of this week’s Sepia Saturday theme. The photo has been digitised by Picture Ipswich.

Ipswich Library &​ Information Service, Ipswich City Council, 1860-1869oai:picture.ipswich.qld.gov.au:8704

Ipswich Library &​ Information Service, Ipswich City Council, 1860-1869   oai:picture.ipswich.qld.gov.au:8704

An Ancestry family tree indicates that Daniel was born c1801 at Bishopswood near Dundrum, Tipperary. This is a slightly longer distance from Limerick than my O’Brien’s home in Ballykelly near Broadford, Co Clare. From time to time, I’ve wondered if my Mary O’Brien Kunkel somehow emigrated with the Daniel O’Brien family, but this remains conjecture or fantasy rather than fact. Daniel and Winifred’s daughter, Ellen O’Brien, married a John Collins and son Daniel married Anne Brennan from Maitland. There is nothing whatsoever to suggest that this family is any way connected to my O’Brien family from County Clare…BUT…

So why do I say “BUT”? Well there are a number of connections between my O’Brien-Kunkel family and this family.

Daniel O'Brien /Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0003p.jpg

Daniel O’Brien /Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0003p.jpg

I believe it’s likely that the Sarah O’Brien who witnesses George Kunkel’s and Mary O’Brien’s marriage in Ipswich Queensland in 1857 is the daughter listed above, although I have no strong evidence that she’s the right one, rather perhaps than any other.

The link to one sister is stronger however. Sarah’s sister, Mary O’Brien, married a James McGrath and this couple witnessed the baptism of the Kunkel’s second child, Joseph.

So is there a relationship connection between my Mary O’Brien from Co Clare to the Daniel O’Brien family? Unfortunately I just can’t say.

Winifred O'Brien nee Carter. Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0002p.jpg

Winifred O’Brien nee Carter. Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0002p.jpg

There’s yet more confusion to add to this O’Brien maze because a Kate O’Brien witnesses the baptisms of the Kunkel daughters Mary Ellen and Elizabeth (later known as Louisa).  Is Kate a “ring-in” or is she really my Mary’s sister, who oral history says came with her older sisters Bridget and Mary? If she was a sister, and they arrived together, surely she would have witnessed Mary’s marriage as well? I’d previously discounted this because of no clear links, because Kate marries in Sydney in 1871. Would she have waited that long if she’d arrived in Moreton Bay circa 1855? She’d have been quite young, about 14, on arrival but that’s far from impossible too.

Just to add to the confusion, there’s yet another O’Brien strand to add to the mix. Bridget O’Brien, daughter of Patrick O’Brien and Mary Latchford of Limerick appears regularly in my Kunkel-O’Brien history. Bridget married a Robert Mullen and one of the witnesses to the wedding was my George Kunkel. Bridget’s husband Robert then witnesses Mary Ellen and Louisa Kunkel’s baptisms (together with Kate above). Bridget is later the sponsor at the baptism of Bridget Catherine Kunkel. My Mary O’Brien Kunkel is in turn the sponsor at the baptism of baby Mary Alice Mullen who dies in 1865. My working hypothesis is that Robert Mullen may also worked on the development of the railway line to Toowoomba. The families appear to have remained in contact over the decades as evidenced by the loan of a wedding gown by their daughter to Mary O’Brien Kunkel’s granddaughter. Robert Mullen died within a year of his old friend George Kunkel on 7 July 1915.

This interwoven story comprises several O’Brien strands:

Strand 1: My Mary O’Brien from Ballykelly near Broadford, County Clare

Strand 2: Sarah O’Brien who witnesses the Kunkel-O’Brien marriage –is she a relation of my Mary’s? Daughter of Daniel and Winifred? Or someone else altogether?

Strand 3: Kate O’Brien who witnesses baptisms (a relation or a friend?)

Strand 4: Bridget O’Brien married to Robert Mullen who we know is not obviously related to any of these families. However the Mullen family continues their links with the Kunkels over many years.

Strand 5: Mary O’Brien, daughter of Daniel and Winifred, who married James McGrath and who witnesses the Kunkels’ second child’s baptism.

This is something of a muddled link to the theme of shop and staff for this week’s Sepia Saturday, but it does show the importance and complexity of FANs (friends/family, Associates, Neighbours) in relation to our family history. Maybe something will come of this post to make the connections less ambiguous.

Beyond the Internet: Week 43 – Griffith’s Valuations

Search Beyond the Internet

This is Week 43 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week we’re off to Ireland’s green fields with the Griffith’s Valuations.

I could make my life easier, and this post very brief, by exhorting you to beg, borrow or buy a copy of James Reilly’s book  Richard Griffith and his Valuations of Ireland. If you have Irish ancestry, do yourself a favour and check its availability at your favourite bookstore or library. Hint: an preview of this book is now available to read through Google Books  – enough for you to see how much value this seemingly slight book contains. In the meantime have a read of this short article by Reilly called Is there more in Griffith’s Valuations than just names?

Reilly’s book will astonish you with just how much lies behind those tables of information that we Irish researchers treat as a substitute for the census. I think the temptation for us is to simply look at the superficial facts of the size of our ancestor’s land, its value and who the immediate lessor was. Reilly makes it clear just how much more there is to even the summary information and in particular the significance of the number and alpha reference at the start of the line.

An extract of the Valuation for Ballykelly townland in the parish of Kilseily, Clare.

The new online access at AskAboutIreland makes it easy to link the search with the map reference indicated by that originating number, but again, do we go beyond that? How about the field books, perambulation books and house books that lie behind the valuation? Yes, they don’t exist for all parishes but wouldn’t you want to check? Unfortunately they’re mostly only available in Ireland but if you’re sufficiently keen you may choose to employ a researcher to follow it up, especially if you can determine they exist.

As a teaser: If your ancestors were either Michael Meaney or James Carmody of Mountrice townland in Kilseily parish, Clare, you would no doubt be interested to know that the landlord intended “to build houses for them and then throw down the houses on which they presently live”. Notes from the Perambulation book for the Parishes of Kilseily and Killuran by surveyor Michael O’Malley (The National Archives of Ireland). Or you may wish to know who ran huxteries in the area or…

The complication throughout is to know which one is really is your man (or woman)! From my point of view you need some other way, eg parish registers, to be assured of which one you need to be following.

The Irish Valuation Office now has current valuation information available to search online (try typing in your county and townland). While there are no maps available, I see this is “coming soon”. I was surprised just how familiar were the names of people still holding land in Ballykelly – echoes of the 1911 census and also Griffith’s. Also surprised to find one missing that I expected. Not really of great specific use but interesting none the less!

REVISION LISTS

These are one of the unsung heroes of Irish research. Have you found your ancestors in the Griffith’s tables? If so, they will enable you to trace who took over the family’s property generation after generation. Not only that, you’ll have a good chance that they’ll tip you off on when various family members died.

How does that work? Well, the original valuations were reassessed on a regular basis for change of tenancy or ownership, improvements or deterioration of the property. On the original books held by the Valuation Office, these amendments are messy but able to be followed because they are in different coloured inks and different hands. Your 2 x great grandfather’s death might result in a new entry with his wife’s name, then subsequently various children until it perhaps passes to a distant relative or out of the family.

An extract from the Ballykelly, Co Clare valuation revisions. It notes that in 1950, my ancestor’s family home was in ruins.

The good news is that these are available wherever you live because you can order them through the Family Search catalogue and have them delivered to your local family history centre or approved library. The easiest ways to find the correct film is to search the catalogue by keyword (not anything else). For example if I enter “valuation revision Ballykelly Clare” I promptly obtain film number 819471.

The other benefit is that it lets you search beyond the timeframe of the initial valuations to perhaps find your ancestor. For example, I wanted to see where my James Sherry and his family were living in the townland of Knockina outside Gorey, Wexford in the 1870s before they emigrated (I had Knockina from the Gorey parish registers). The valuation revisions suggested to me that they must have been living in a property owned by the Southern and Eastern Railway as that was the only property not attached to a specific family and I knew he was a railway worker. If my deduction is correct, it suggests he may have held a position of some responsibility although it’s likely he was still a grassroots worker.

I really can’t emphasise enough the value of following your family from the original valuations through the revision lists to see what happened to them and their property.

And as a finale, here’s a new occupation for you: the meresman was the hired local resident who assisted in identifying boundaries (Reilly, op cit page 4)

You may also want to have a look at my post, Finding Irish Ancestors Part 2-The Old Country, if you haven’t seen it already.

Advance Apologies: Week 44 may be a few days late as I have some upcoming commitments and I doubt I’ll get it scheduled in advance.

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 42 – Greatest Genie Achievement

It’s ages since I participated in the 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy by Amy Coffin and hosted by Geneabloggers as I’ve been rather preoccupied with my own 52 weeks Beyond the Internet series.

This morning I read that the topic for Week 42 of Abundant Genealogy is Biggest Genealogy Accomplishment. What do you feel is your biggest genealogy accomplishment? What were the steps you took to get there, and what was the end result?

 My first thoughts turned to an earlier Abundant Genealogy post from Week 7 when I wrote about discovering my Bavarian ancestor’s roots. It was only later that I thought, no that’s not my biggest genealogy accomplishment, even though it was certainly a critical point in my family research.

 MY BIGGEST GENEALOGY ACHIEVEMENT?

The thing I’m most proud of, genealogically, is writing the history of my Kunkel family in Queensland: a pioneering family who, although not important as individuals, participated in important events in our country’s and our state’s achievements and progress. It was the family’s everyday ordinariness that gave me the name of the book: Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family.

Thanks to the discovery I mentioned above, and fantastic oral history connections that were uncovered, I was able to include the background story of my Happ-Kunkel families in Bavaria and my O’Brien ancestors from Ballykelly near Broadford in Co Clare, and a little about the other emigrants from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria.

I knew literally nothing about this family when I started out other than the fact Kunkel was plainly a name of German origin, and that my grandfather had several siblings only one or two of whom he had anything to do with. I also knew that he had originally been a Catholic and one of the points of contention had been his marrying a Scots Presbyterian.

 GOING ABOUT IT

My research started in the pre-internet era so I accumulated every snippet of information I could find from as many sources as possible. One day I realised that if I didn’t write up this family story, it would become a major regret.

So what did I do? One of the strange things I did was to decide not to look at other family histories because I didn’t want to pinch their ideas. In retrospect this was fairly silly as there are so many strategies that can be used – you don’t have to recreate the wheel. Instead I launched in, started writing and kept at it, day after day, until the story came together. I was still working full-time so I wrote in the early mornings and late into the evenings.

Sir Cassmob is knighted for services to genealogy.

As I found gaps in the story I chased down more clues, did more research, and phoned more people. I’m proud of all the research, determination and sheer persistence that went into writing up this story, including challenging my reluctance to contact formerly unknown relatives.

Like the Oscars I have to acknowledge that many people helped me along the way with their stories, photos etc, but my greatest debt is to Mr Cassmob, who got a Family Knighthood for Services to Genealogy! I’ve said many times, either the book wouldn’t have been written or I’d have been much thinner.

Sir Cassmob receives his award.

When I first held my “baby” in my hands I was just so thrilled and besotted. Now of course I can see its flaws, mistakes, and things I could have done differently, but even so it was, and remains, an achievement to be proud of.

THE END RESULT

The book was launched by one of my distant O’Brien cousins, who always tells me “oh you’re wonderful” but what she really means is that I’m quite mad to keep doing all this family history. We launched the book in Toowoomba not far from where the family had lived for many years and as far as is known it was the first Kunkel family reunion in close to 100 years.

A mob of Kunkels chatting hammer and tongs.

It was a great day and there was a non-step level of chatter even among people who’d never met before. Many were astonished to discover they had Kunkel ancestry and everyone appreciated learning more of the story. The genealogy chart stretched along the walls and everybody had fun finding their name. Another great thing, retrospectively, is that quite a number of the third generation of Kunkel descendants were able to attend even though in their eighties or nineties Many have now left us so it was a special privilege to have them there. The reunion and all the pleasure people got from it and from the book was definitely the icing on the cake.

My beautiful Alexander Henderson Award was hand-delivered to the GSNT.

The glitter on the cake was winning two awards for the book. I was so proud to be joint-winner of Queensland Family History Society’s annual award with Joyce Philips’s book The Wrights of Tivoli.  And then to my utter astonishment I also won the Alexander Henderson Award from the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies.  I was over the moon with excitement and pride as you might imagine.

It’s very counter-cultural to blow one’s own trumpet, certainly in Australia where there’s an absolute dislike of people who puff themselves up, so it feels very brazen to be telling this story.

There’s something special about knowing you’re leaving a family history for posterity and that you’ve opened up your family’s story to many family members. It’s certainly one of my proudest moments.  So if you’ve been thinking of writing your own family history, give it a go and don’t let the fear stop you. I guarantee you will be so pleased to have provided this inheritance for generations to come.

Finding Irish Ancestors: Part 2 – The Old Country

May you have blessings in abundance with your Irish research.

In Part 1, we had a brief excursion through the possible records in the new land, to learn where you might learn more about your ancestors’ Irish origins. With a bit of luck you’ve gained some clues on their home place from these resources so now you can turn your sights on the old country’s records.

Hopefully you’ve got more than just the county name or you will have a close-to-insoluble problem.  Remember that just because “Name eg Gunning” is the only instance you can find in the records, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right one! It may mean not all the records survived, or that they haven’t been digitised or indexed.

So where to look in Ireland?

Let’s assume you’ve got the parish, village or townland because without them you’re in serious research trouble.

Parish Registers

Image reproduced with permission of Furman University Special Collections and Archives, email 28 Sept 12. 

If you have the parish name, the first place I’d look is at the Family Search Catalogue and search by place (try parish and/or town).  You won’t always find that the LDS church holds a microfilmed copy of the registers, but you may get lucky as I did. If so you can order the microfilm and have it delivered to a local family history centre or your local genealogical society (assuming they are authorised lenders). You can check available locations here.

Be aware that church registers for Catholic parishes rarely go back to the very early 19th century due to storage conditions and restrictions on the practice of the religion.  You may find the early years of the registers very difficult to read but it’s worth persevering.

Online indexes to registers provide an alternative search option:

Roots Ireland

Irish Genealogy

The former is a pay-to-view site and can be very helpful, if you’re lucky. It currently covers most of the counties except Clare, Carlow, Kerry, Dublin city and Cork (RC).

Irish Genealogy is a free-to-use site and covers the counties omitted from Roots Ireland, with the exception of Clare which as yet is covered by neither, frustrating given that Clare is one of the biggest exporters of migrants. However you can always refer to the Clare Roots Society to see what they recommend (check under the Activites tab).

For some time this gravestone in the Tuamgraney churchyard seemed a good fit for my O’Briens, but this lot came from Caherhurley. Erected by Matthew O’Brien from Perth, WA.

I’ve had good fortune with both these sites, especially with the Dublin records. Conversely there are births covered in Co Wexford and Wicklow, for example, which aren’t turning up in Roots Ireland as they should. As always, be aware that a negative result doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re looking for isn’t in the registers. This may be due to an indexing error, the church registers which have been indexed, or commencement dates of the register.  You can always search each site to ascertain which parishes have been indexed.

Where possible it’s always best to check yourself by borrowing the microfilm.

Family Search

You can specify your search within the United Kingdom and Ireland then select one of the Irish options. This can be very helpful for research once you move into the period of civil registration.

If you find one that you’re confident belongs to your family, you can then order the certificate, or a copy, from the General Register Office.

Griffith’s Primary Valuation

My 2x great aunt lived in this house near Lough Doon after her marriage in the C19th.

There isn’t space to go into this in detail here (keep an eye out for it in a future Beyond the Internet topic in a few weeks).

Suffice to say that this land valuation for the purposes of taxation, is the major resource for Irish research and is a substitute for the censuses which were destroyed either officially or in the Troubles.

It’s important to also look at the accompanying maps as well. In some cases there are accompanying house books, field books and name books. Not all survive but you should check out what the status is for your family.

Do you think you understand the GV and what it was all about? There are so many nuances and this article is invaluable in broadening our understanding. The book is even better but if you can’t buy the book or borrow it on inter-library loan, then the article is an excellent synopsis.

I’m restricted in what images I can show you due to copyright and reproduction rights, but please, don’t just settle for searching the indexes. Seeing the original documents give you a much better feel for life “on the ground”, and lets you learn more about your ancestors’ neighbours..

The revision lists which document the changes in land ownership from the time of the original valuation to the present day are at least as important.

Tithe Applotments

These date to the 1820s-1840s and were payable towards the expenses of the Church of Ireland clergy, irrespective of the person’s religion. This is a more restrictive source than the Griffith Valuations but can be useful.

A more indirect way to locate the prevalence of your family is to search for the stats on the name across the counties.

Census records

In the majority of cases, the census records prior to 1901 have been destroyed officially or through the Troubles. However there are a few remnants for some lucky areas. There are also some extracts held for people who claimed the pension and had to use census extracts to prove their age. Why oh why are my relatives never on these lists?

Complex statistics are available for all the years however and these can be invaluable to get a sense of the place where your ancestors lived and the changes over the decades especially regarding the impact of the Famine.

The 1901 and 1911 census returns are the first surviving records for the Republic.  Fortunately many people seemed to have great longevity so you may be lucky and find links to the members of your family who remained in Ireland.

It’s important not to just look at your specific ancestor in their townland. Do have a look at their neighbours as well -this is the context within which your family lived, and these are the people who formed their daily networks. Indexes are all well and good, but they do tempt you to only focus on your own family when much more can be learned by widening the lens.

Talk to the locals

Would a passer-by realise this was the remaining wall of my ancestor’s house, without the help of the inheritor.

Yes this is most applicable when you are visiting Ireland and when you know the place your ancestor came from.  On my first trip to Broadford, Co Clare, on enquiring about O’Briens I was invited to visit an elderly couple who had no memory of my own family’s migration to Australia. Quite genuinely they told me no one from the village went to Australia but in retrospect and knowing how pivotal the parish priest of Broadford was in encouraging Australian migration, this is quite ironic.  They were delightful and happy to help but sadly couldn’t. In those early days too I fear I may not have been as strategic in my approach, and possibly too focused on what I wanted to know.

A second trip was a different story when the acting parish priest, a former missionary with whom we bonded after Mass, promptly drove us to the home of someone with a completely different name from O’Brien and announced the presence of their relations from Australia. It’s hard to know how was more astonished as we compared what we knew about Mary and Bridget O’Brien’s lives in Australia.  Paddy was enormously helpful to me and showed me the original land and where the house was. I am so indebted to him for this. (You can see the O’Brien land on the header images -it’s the view with the red-roofed shed).

A sign on the Famine graveyard at Tuamgraney, Co Clare.

It was only later that I learned about the Valuation revision books and now the name of the final owner made sense!

Workhouse Registers

If you know you families were extremely poor especially around the Famine times, it might be worth your while to check the workhouse registers, some of which are now available online. The gateway to these is through this site. The most important thing to remember is to check which Poor Law Union your parish belonged to eg Kilseily parish in County Clare is actually in the Limerick Poor Law Union.

Memorial Inscriptions

The gravestone of Thomas & Anne Gunning in Kilbane Cemetery, Co Clare. Erected by their son Fr JJ Gunning of Australia.

The more distant the person’s death, the less likely you’ll find a gravestone & MI, in my opinion. This isn’t always the case so it’s worth a look but don’t get your hopes up unless your family had money or a position of influence.

Estate Records

As many of our Irish ancestors were tenants on estates, one pivotal place to look is for the records of the estates. Where they exist they can tell you all sorts of information ranging from how they paid their rents, which adult children remained at home, how overdue their rentals were, and so on. Some remain in private hands, others are found in the National Library. There’s no one-size-fits-all.

Encumbered Estates Records

These have been indexed by Findmypast Ireland and you may have some joy in finding your tenant farmers mentioned among these records.

Summary

This is a quick synopsis of some of the key resources that might help you find your Irish ancestral families. You might get lucky and find hits in all of them or alternatively, none of them. You may have to explore other records, some of which can only be searched in Ireland.

The critical fact is knowing at least which parish your family belonged to. Without that you are stumbling in the dark, and even with it, you may hit obstacle after obstacle and be left scratching your head.

It’s clear that Irish research can be challenging but it’s by no means as impossible as is often perceived.  Like a lot of family history it’s a case of persistence and patience….try, try again!

And don’t be lulled into thinking I’ve solved all my own Irish family mysteries… I haven’t  or I’d know the origins of James Sherry (northern Ireland?); Martin Furlong (Wexford not Tullamore?); what happened to Denis Gavin’s mother in Kildare or his wife, Ellen Murphy’s mother in Wicklow. It’s always a work in progress with at least as many questions as answers.

I’d be more than happy if my readers pitched in with their experiences in Irish research: successes and “failures”. Over to you.

Finding Irish ancestors: Part 1 – In the new land

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

Now anyone who’s researched Irish ancestors will know just how unpredictable this process can be. So much depends on serendipity in the form of timelines –when your family was born or died, where they lived, how much money they had (or more likely didn’t have), when they emigrated, etc. You then need to mix serendipity with a large dollop of lateral thinking to see how many side paths you can travel to tease out the information.

So this is my (incomplete) guide to starting on your Irish family. I’m more than happy for other Irish researchers to add their “two bob’s worth” as each path provides different challenges opportunities.

Locating their place

Most importantly, you can’t just go find your Irish rellies without having a clue where they lived in Ireland, and unfortunately the name of the county is unlikely to serve either, unless you’ve got an exceptionally rare name. What you ideally need is the parish, village or townland. You also need to be able to translate what you see on paper to an Irish accent, as so many of our ancestors from the mid-19th century were illiterate and relied on an independent person to spell what they were telling them. For much the same reason you can’t assume that the spelling will always be consistent. It does tend to get a bit “chicken-and-egg” but you need that place.

So where to start?

IN THE NEW LAND

Certificates

Extract of death certificate for Ellen Gavin, my 2xgreat grandmother. Colony of Qld certificate 90520 purchased 14 November 1986.

One of the pluses, if your ancestors made the long voyage to Australia, is that you’ll likely be blessed with far more information than if they’d married or died anywhere else. How much is recorded depends on the knowledge of their immediate family but you may find: their place of birth, parents’ names, how long they’ve been in the colony/state, where they died, where they were buried, and a full list of children (useful to check out naming patterns).

So you’re looking for marriage certificates (for parent’s names and the person’s place of birth) and death certificates (ditto). If all they provide is “County XXXX” then you may have to search more widely:  try their children’s birth certificates as they too should tell you the parents’ place of marriage and age at marriage, and place of birth.

Of course all these strategies may not pay off if your ancestor constantly states only the county, but you’ll have a much better sense of whether they’re a reliable “witness” as you’ll be able to test for consistency of their other data. Many of mine were extremely consistent, but another of my Irish ancestors was all over the place when it came to ages but more informative about places.

Still stymied? If you know they had siblings who also emigrated, you may want to purchase the sibling’s certificate(s) as these may give you more information. This was the case with my Mary O’Brien Kunkel –it was her sister’s death certificate from New South Wales (over 1200kms away) that gave me their place of origin as Broadford, Co Clare.

Church registers

In my experience church records such as baptisms or marriages may give you an entirely different set of information from the official records (or at least more detail). This may be the very clue you’re looking for. Certainly in the case of my George Kunkel, it was the only place he mentioned his home town rather than just “Bavaria”. Why the Irish priest didn’t complete anything at all for George’s wife, Mary O’Brien, is anybody’s guess.

Johannah Wall from Rortlaw, Co Waterford, buried Roma, Qld

Don’t forget that if you are writing to the relevant church or archive, to send a donation along with your request.

Gravestones

If all else fails, or do it anyway, it is worth your while to look at your ancestor’s gravestones. I’ve seen occasions where the memorial inscriptions are the only place that a specific place of birth is mentioned. You can see some examples here.

Immigration records

Depending on where you live and when your ancestors migrated, you may find that your ancestor specifically mentioned their home parish, townland or village when interviewed on arrival. Alternatively they may say whether their parents are alive and where they are living. Any of these clues will help in your quest.  Once again you need to remember that the spelling may be the recorder’s interpretation of what was said. You might need to practice your Irish accents <grin>.

Oral History

Don’t discount the enormous potential value of oral history. With luck you may learn your ancestor’s home place but you may also learn the names of siblings in the new land and the old. My ancestors’ granddaughter was invaluable in terms of providing details of siblings’ married names (invaluable when you’re looking for O’Briens!). She also remembered that the place Mary O’Brien came from was Longford or something like that. Mary’s sister’s death certificate gave me their actual place –Broadford: hence the significance of checking out sibling’s certificates and oral history.

This wide variety of information will help you triangulate your ancestral details in the old country. Even having a batch of siblings’ names, will be of help to you in confirming the ancestral family once you’re back in Ireland.

Hospital and Benevolent Asylum registers

Sadly none of my ancestors’ cards name their place of birth so I thought I’d share this family one.

This may seem like a strange source, but if you think your ancestor had been in hospital or was in care at the end of their lives, this provides yet another possibility for learning their place of origin.

Memoriam Cards

Firstly thanks to Chris whose comment on the Clare facebook page reminded me of these.  Do you remember seeing those little black-edged cards with a holy picture and prayer on them? If so check them carefully as you never know what clues they offer including that those named may be relatives.

Other researchers should weigh in with their thoughts of what I’ve missed and/or what’s been successful for them. All comments are much appreciated.

Part 2 coming soon: Finding your Irish family in Ireland

Library Loot: Migration experiences and learning Gaelic

Once again I’m following in the footsteps of Julie from Angler’s Rest and reporting in on my recent Library Loot.

When I pick books up from the library I’m less selective than when I’m splashing my own cash: I figure that I can try something new and even if I’m not rapt in it, then it doesn’t really matter. On the other hand sometimes I get lucky and discover something that really appeals to me.

Two books from the Palmerston Library which I’ve read recently  might be of some interest to my readers and fellow family history junkies.

Titanic Lives

Titanic Lives may seem like it will be yet another beat-up about the well-known sinking of the Titanic, but it actually offers a much deeper perspective.  The author, Richard Davenport-Hines, is an historian and biographer and his skills shine through as he writes about how the passengers on Titanic, and their lives, were a microcosm of, and reflection of, life in the era. He also documents the sources behind his story. What I most liked about the book is that it personalises the saved and the lost: they become real people not just “steerage” or “rich”. I wasn’t especially interested in the wealthy Astors, Wideners or Guggenheims but there were riches indeed in the stories of those in 2nd class or steerage/3rd class passengers.

If your ancestors emigrated in this time frame (early 20th century) there is much in this book to illuminate your ancestor’s travel and migration experience as well as the challenges of gaining entry to the USA through Ellis Island. The author also devotes a chapter to the crew of the Titanic, providing great insights into the working lives, and safety hazards, of the merchant seaman. As I have several of these in my family this chapter was very interesting on the responsibilities of stewards and firemen. Admittedly my ancestors were working on rather less glamorous ships than the Titanic but nonetheless there’s useful information there.  I found this book very interesting and learnt a good deal from it. This is not just another reiteration of the story of a major tragedy.

Home with Alice: A Journey in Gaelic Ireland

This book might be of interest to my readers who are keen Irish researchers with its exploration of Gaelic-speaking Ireland and the role, and threats to long-term survival, of the language.

When I picked the book up at the library I thought it might be another version of Brigid by Australian author, Jill Blee, which I had enjoyed for its focus on Co Clare. In fact this story had little in common with Brigid, despite the nominal role of the author’s aunt Alice in his journeying to Ireland’s Gaeltacht districts. I personally found Alice’s interventions contrived and unnecessary other than to explain the author’s initial decision to learn Irish.

Author Steve Fallon is a journalist and, inter alia, a travel writer for Lonely Planet, and at times the book takes on the tenor of a guide book. However I enjoyed learning more about the challenges of Irish as a language, especially as at one point I’d thought of learning it myself.  If anything the book convinced me this was a delusional aspiration due to the language’s complexity. I learnt that there were differences between the various dialects within the Gaeltacht regions, the new acceptance of Irish as a fashionable language with the rise of the Celtic Tiger, and the invasiveness of English into the Gaelic expressions.

It’s always a pleasure, too, reading a book which describes places you may have visited so that you can visualise where he’s talking about, whether Connemara, Kerry or Donegal. The impact of Gaelic television and radio also reminded me of the significance of Australia’s own ethnic broadcaster, SBS.

I do find the Irish-American tendency to identify as “Irish” a bit strange. While I too have an Irish passport like the author, and have many branches of Irish ancestry as well as a love of Ireland, my mongrel Australian ancestry means I feel it would be inaccurate and presumptuous to call myself Irish. Apart from the significance of the Catholic church to Irish emigrants in both countries, the experience of being a descendant of Irish emigrants in Australia seems to me to be quite different from that in “America”.

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.

Week 29 Beyond the Internet: hallowed halls and reference libraries

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 29 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and the topic is University and Reference Library Special Collections.

While not technically archives, university libraries and other reference libraries hold a wealth of collections of primary documents which can be of great use to family historians. Many will visit their local state or national reference library or perhaps one in the location of their interest. However university libraries also hold fascinating collections beyond their usual book stacks. In some cases they will be among the oldest organisations for the region and being the venue for the hallowed halls of academia and academic research, they have accumulated all sorts of wonders. Perhaps it’s a bit intimidating to approach such august places as a lay person but in my experience you will usually be allowed to access the collections. Sometimes you surrender your driver’s licence or equivalent temporarily while there but that’s hardly a problem.

What will you find there?

Well, to some extent that’s up to you and also to just what’s held in the collection. While the collections are increasingly catalogued online, it’s still worth checking any card indexes which may be held on site as sometimes earlier documents will not yet be listed online.

When searching you may need to be lateral in your approach. Sure, you can put a specific name into the catalogue search but it’s relatively unlikely you’ll get lucky unless your ancestor is the author or a book, document, or diary. However do try searching by ship’s name, the property where your ancestor worked, and the region or topic of interest. For example I might search by “Germans Darling Downs” or “Irish migration”.

Fryer Library of The University of Queensland was a source for the statistical accounts of Scotland in the days long before they were digitised. Other primary documents await me on my “to do” list for a future visit. Fryer also has many old Queensland newspapers on microfilm, not always the same ones available through SLQ: it’s definitely worth checking what’s available there in case they have different papers from those available at SLQ or on Trove.

The Mitchell Library at the State Library of New South Wales is also a treasure trove of documents and resources. What you find will depend on your specific interests. For example you may find a diary of your ancestor’s migration voyage.

Theses

It can be a bit daunting to think about reading a thesis written for someone’s PhD or Masters. However there’s so much information contained in a thesis where the topic is relevant to your research that it’s well worth the effort. History theses in particular are usually well written and digestible by determined family historians. But don’t assume that it will only be a history thesis that’s of interest as economics or geography theses may hold nuggets of information you will find useful.

One of the most useful theses I’ve read was that by Richard Reid on Irish immigration to Australia 1848-1870.  Luckily much of this has been incorporated in his recent book Farewell my Children but if you have Irish ancestry and find yourself in Canberra it might still be worth a visit to the ANU library.

Theses will also give you clues to further research opportunities as they will have a focus on primary documents and significant academic references.

Text Queensland

This comparatively recent collaboration between The University of Queensland and the State Library of Queensland is a wonder. It includes a diverse array of information digitised for ready access including old theses (including some I’ve wanting to read for some time), directories, gazettes, books, journals and Hansard. If you have any Qld ancestry it’s definitely a resource to keep in mind.

International libraries

International university libraries or city libraries may hold similarly valuable documents. During our 2010 visit to Glasgow I visited the University of Glasgow Archives which held the records of a shipping company I was interested in. While it didn’t turn up the specific information I’d been hoping for it was definitely worth checking it off my list. Sadly there were other repositories like the Mitchell Library in Glasgow that I’d hoped to visit but time disappears when you’re travelling and frustratingly I didn’t get there on that trip –maybe “next time”.

At the University of Limerick I was able to read the MA thesis by Pat O’Brien on Crime in Broadford, County Clare in the 19th century. Thanks to the generous approval of the author I was also able to obtain a copy so I could digest the contents in a more leisurely read.

Limerick City Archives is another wonderful resource though when I visited to read the Board of Guardian minutes, on-site access was restricted. This is when online digitisation programs come to the fore. My parish of Kilseily in County Clare is part of the Limerick Union so the workhouse records are held in Limerick. These are now available online through the Limerick City Archives along with other great resources. Do you have Limerick or south-east Clare ancestry? If so definitely make a virtual visit and see what’s available.

My other top-ranking recommendation is the Clare County Library which has so many fantastic resources in the local history area but also available online. They have truly been leaders in the field of Irish research. It’s just a shame that more libraries haven’t followed their lead.

The other day I wrote about how the National Library of Ireland’s holdings of rent rolls told me more about my O’Brien relations’ lives in Bodyke.

There are so many treasures just waiting to be discovered in these libraries. I hope that this topic will encourage you to broaden your research if you haven’t already visited the relevant university or local reference library. All you need is time, time and more time; persistence and more persistence.

Please do share your experiences using any of these resources, either in the comments or on your blog.