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Are you looking in the right place?


   Who knew that retirement was going to be so busy!  My husband was scheduled for Mohs surgery when I got back from Ireland for a basal cell on the end of his nose.  The surgery went well, Mohs on one day and then the plastic surgeon the next day.  The plastic surgery was more extensive than expected and he hasn’t been able to wear his glasses. That means no golf (home everyday), and he can’t drive.  We’re headed for the final surgery this week and once the stitches are taken out a week later, things will start to get back to normal.


   A few weeks ago John Grenham posted a blog titled We still give birth, get married and die under the Poor Law.  When using the civil registration indexes the locality listed is the Poor Law Union (PLU) referred to as the Superintendent Registrar’s District.  This is not necessarily where your ancestor lived and can cause confusion.  If this is your starting point, you may not be looking for records in the right place.  Take my Johnstons as an example.  They are listed in the Registration District of Ballyshannon.  Ballyshannon is a Town in County Donegal, but my ancestors were in County Leitrim.


   When the Poor Law Unions were created in the 1830s they were located in Market Towns and ignored Townland, Parish and even County borders.  The Ballyshannon Poor Law Union covered portions of Donegal, Fermanagh and Leitrim.  When I identify a locality for my Irish ancestors I list it as Townland, Civil Parish and County.  This would be similar to a US locality of Town, County and State.   My great grandmother was born in 1871 and her birth was registered in the Superintendent Registrar’s District of Ballyshannon.



Notice that the Registrar’s District is listed as Kinlough.  Rather than traveling to Ballyshannon to register the birth, there were sub-districts where the events were registered.  The sub-district Registrar would send his registrations to the Superintendent, who would compile all of the sub-districts and send the final list to Dublin.  Can’t find your ancestor?  There were multiple opportunities for a name to get left out or mis-transcribed.  However if you look at the image of the registration for the birth of Rachiel [sic], the place of birth was Laughta [sic] in the sub-district of Kinlough in County Leitrim.  By checking John Grenham.com, Laghta (the official spelling) is in the Civil Parish of Rossinver.



   So my locality information is, Laghta, Rossinver, Leitrim.  Why is this important?  In this case there are no surviving Church of Ireland records prior to 1877.  If I want to continue my research on this family, let’s say in Griffith’s Valuation, I would need to know the Civil Parish and Townland, not the Poor Law Union.  If I was looking in Ballyshannon, I wouldn’t find the family, or if it was a common surname, it wouldn’t be the correct family.  Understanding the various jurisdictions in Ireland and how records are kept is critical for your research.


   One last thing which pertains specifically to the Ballyshannon Superintendent Registrar’s District.  If you are searching at FamilySearch for Civil Births, Marriages or Deaths, they have incorrectly identified Ballyshannon as being in County Kildare.  I have made multiple attempts to get this corrected at FamilySearch without luck.  And, yes…I have seen a number of Family Trees with this family located in Ballyshannon, Kildare.  That will definitely cause problems researching your family!


   Happy Hunting and Happy Holidays!



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1 Comment


It it hard to find out where my family came from , as they were "virtulizers" & moved around And thet came to the USA pre 1850! No one really knows were our Beattie's Cox's came from or exactly when!

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