Research Help: Don’t Pen Them In

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By ‘them’, I mean your ancestors.

The Irish moved around, no matter how much any person would like to think that they didn’t – and then, even though this may sound like a contradiction – they didn’t move. They stayed as close to home as possible – generally.

You see, the home place – that was always there, from the time of the Griffiths valuation, for most of us, so long as we knew where they were – where the ‘Home place’ was at that time, and so long as they were farmers, well, to this day, for the majority of us there will still be some member of that family living in that home place.

That piece of property will have passed down through the generations to descendants of the one member of that family who stayed and worked the home farm.

That person – their siblings will have moved around the place. They may have gone to the nearest big town., they may have moved off to another farm in the area – that farm, in that area, may have been right next door to or across the road from the original home farm, it may have been in another parish, it may, like my Grandfathers farm have been in another county altogether, but lying right beside the home farm – they may have emigrated.

Generally speaking, or on average, there will have been 5-10+ children in any family – maybe not all of them will have survived to adulthood. If they were Catholics then at least one girl will have become a nun, at least one boy will have become a priest. In some cases, two or three of each may have joined some religious order – that order, may have records

You don’t have to go picking up all information on any surname in an area – there were a limited number of first names in use, so the changes of John Murphy from ‘A’ place being the same John Murphy as the one listed in ‘B’ place at a later stage are very low – BUT John Richardson in an area where there was only one Richardson family – well, the chances of him being related to the Richardson family in another area are very high.

Pick up as much as you can from any area on the uncommon names – be they surnames or first names. I see people looking to connect with others from the same place the whole time, and I just can’t understand why they stay totally focused on only people from that townland or parish.

Instead of looking at the parish your ancestors came from as being where you will find more descendants of that same family – why don’t you take out a map, and look at it – then, take the townland your ancestors came from and using a compass, draw yourselves a circle with the townland as your focus – you can make your circle any size you want………..work within that circlee initially, check out the first names of other families of that surname in that circle – check parish records from around the area you are interested in – if your circle takes in more than one religious parish, don’t just focus on the records for your parish, don’t kick your heels up and say “woe is me”, as soon as you find out that those particular records don’t cover the time frame you are interested in. Try the other parish records – you don’t know, none of us does, maybe the particular townland you are interested in actualy belonged to another religious parish at some stage, maybe all the records you need are listed in some other parish records, but you’re not thinking with an open mind.

Focus on unusual first names in a family – always remember that only one member of the family could live on the family farm – the rest of the family had to go somewhere else, the majority will have hovered towards the nearest major town or place of employment closest to home. Find out what was around that central or focus point (your townland ) that gave local employment – then, home in on the places around that place. Does your surname occur in that area. Did it occur in that area previously – whatever the earliest records that exist are?

OK -so – there may not be that many official records to work with – and genealogy is quite often a guessing game.

Home is very important, the first and focal point. For men, it was easier to keep this at the centre – girls, not so easy – but, usually, when they were married off, it was to people in their own parish or close to home – or, for upper classes, they’d have married within their own social grouping, regardless of how far that person lived from the home point – the thing is that both families will have known one another through some common connection – for all classes.

Men, boys, young men – they’d have gone for employment as close to home as they could – so long as they didn’t join the army or emigrate. If they couldn’t find employment close to home in the nearest big town, then, it would have been the most accessible town.

Canals – people seem to forget our waterways as modes of transport – rivers also – then, yes, it could take a day or so to get to Dublin by carriage/horse………..but they did it. Once you have that central circle built for yourself, find out about modes of transport from that point – where did it go to?

Walking – your ancestors (and mine) thought nothing of walking ten miles to somewhere for anything – to them, getting from A to B without some form of mechanical transport was nothing – to us, it may be major – don’t think in terms of movement as it is for us today

My father walked a few miles to school every day – we heard about it all of our lives, he’d begin to talk about it and we’d all groan or laugh and say ‘barefoot and through the snow’…………..

I probably walked a half mile or more, to school up to the age of ten and thought nothing of it. Today, there’d be a bus for the same journey.

My Grandfather rode a bicycle from Galway to Longford early in the last century and thought nothing of it.

20 years ago, my brother rode a bike from Laois to west Cork and everybody considered it to be a major event.

My Great Grandfather moved from Kerry to Cork and thence to Belfast. If I didn’t know he had done that, then I’d ignore all people of his surname registered in the Belfast Civil books – but, I do know that he did, and I do know that my Grandmother and her siblings were all registered in the civil books in Belfast with different spellings of their surname, regardless of the fact that my Great Grandfather was an educated man. I do know that my Granny married my Grandad whose family had always been from Donegal, but his father had bought him a farm right next door to the home farm in Donegal, except my Grandfathers farm was in County Tyrone – different county, different parish – and – I also know that their children (incl. my mother) were registered in the civil book in Belfast, County Antrim.

The thing is though, my Granny and my Grampa (Donegal/Tyrone) – they had siblings, and whilst neither of them remained in the family home, each of those ‘family homes’ is still owned and lived in by some member of the family who is a descendant of one of their siblings. The same goes for my Great Grandfather who left from Kerry and went to Belfast – and my Grandfather who went from Galway to Longford.

My Granny – her family (Donegal & Tyrone), the majority of the immediate family (parents and siblings) – they all then moved to Kildare – and my Granny and Grampa with their children also moved.

Anyway – ’nuff said.

Who-ever your ancestor is – whatever part of Ireland they came from, they had brothers and sisters and most likely at least one member of that family was registered on a plot of land in the Griffiths Valuation. That person, is the one of the Home Farm – look for other member of that family who emigrated from that townland if you like, connect with them – but – stay as open-minded as you can in relation to other member of that same family who remained in Ireland. They will not necessarily have stayed in the same
townland – they will have gone where the work was.

The same as it is today.

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