Updated: Dec 29, 2018
I frequently discuss the importance of researching everyone in your family. This is especially true when you’re dealing with a common surname in Ireland. Back in the early 1990s when I started trying to research my husband’s Daly ancestors I was frustrated. Finding Michael Daly in Ireland was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. One of the first conferences I attended was in Boston in 1995 for the 150th anniversary of the New England Historical Genealogical Society. I attended a lecture by Henry Hoff, titled “Coping with the Common Surname.” What he said has stuck with me all these years. If you can isolate the name to a particular place you may find it’s not as common as you think. It turned out my Dalys were from Mayo, and lucky for me, not from Cork! As I showed last week, there were only 65 Daly names in Mayo as opposed to 860 in Cork. The civil registration district for the area was Claremorris, so I needed to look for all of the Dalys from Claremorris.
At the time, I had to create my lists from microfilms of the indexes at the Family History Library, and then order (and pay for) each of the certificates. The information in the index was minimal…name, registration district, year, volume and page. Most of what I ordered were not my family and went into my “wrong certificates” file. Today, you can go on IrishGenealogy.ie, search on Daly in Claremorris, and look at the image of each certificate (free!) to ascertain if it is your family. But what about all those wrong certificates?
I started keeping a spreadsheet with the information from each certificate. For births, I would add the parents’ names and the birth date.
Now I can sort the list by the parents, and plot where the families are on a map. For some of my other families the list also includes church records however there were no church records in this area that pre-dated civil registration.
Going through the same process with marriages, you will find additional information. Those marrying prior to 1880 were probably born before 1864, and since the marriage record includes the father’s name, you can begin to group earlier families. I discovered that my John Daly had been married three times with a total of ten children. The first marriage has not been found, but the second and third marriages confirm the name of his father, also John. The second marriage in 1870 also tells me that the father, John, is dead (reminding me to look for a death record). Only one of the ten children remained in Ireland and married, and the family farm is still in the possession of his descendants.
Death records have the least amount of information, but once you have families grouped by location, the place of death may tell you what family they belong to. So if the location is Boleyboy, you can group that person with the family there and not the one in Crumlin. Watch the ages and you may find children that died. The informant may be the mother or father for a child, or a spouse or child for an adult.
With records now online, you can view births from 1864 to 1916, marriages to 1941 and deaths to 1966. Note that the early marriages (1845 - 1870) and deaths (1864- 1878) have not yet been imaged and put online.
Once you know what family is where, you can look at Griffith’s Valuation and realize that instead of 60 Dalys, there are only two in the locality you need to check. You can then work back to the Tithe Applotment to find the family in that locality and it may be another generation back. This will also help you in working through other databases such as the ones at FindMyPast. If you’re looking at the Petty Session Records (one of my favorite databases) you can search on the locality. Turns out John Daly didn’t like to pay the poor rate tax.
Another reason to cluster your research is for identifying DNA cousins. Have you looked at your list and thought, who are these people? By identifying everyone in the area with the surname, and especially following the females through their marriage and children, you’ll find a lot more of those first to third cousin names will make sense.
If you don’t find a blog next week, it’s because I’m scheduled for knee replacement surgery on Wednesday. Not sure how I’ll be feeling. I won’t be gone for too long.