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Combine Cluster Research with DNA

Moughty Gravestone at Moyvore Cemetery, Westmeath, Ireland

   Last week I wrote about using DNA to make a connection where written records don’t exist.    Remember, DNA by itself is only one tool in your toolbox; you need to combine it with other records.  Ireland presents a problem in that no complete record sets exist prior to 1864.  Yes, there are records, but they will be dependent on the time and the place.  I mentioned in last week’s blog how lucky I was that Roman Catholic burial records exist for many places in County Longford and Westmeath.  So what do you do when your ancestor didn’t leave a record?  You expand your research to other family members.

   One of the things about the surname Moughty is that it is unusual.  Almost all of the families are clustered in a small area of Longford and Westmeath.  Since there are so few families, it would make sense that they were somehow related.  When I started my research in Ireland, I kept finding records for James Moughty of Ballynacarrigy, Westmeath and his children.  I diligently copied the records although I had no idea who this person was, or whether he was related to my Bernard Moughty.  On a visit to Jack Moughty in the late 1990s he took Brian and I to the Moyvore church and to the grave where Brian’s great grandfather and great uncle were buried.  The monument, one of the largest in the cemetery, read:

In your charity pray for soul of Maria the early beloved wife of James Moughty, Willowfield House, Ballynacarrigy who died on 17 Feb 1892 aged 49 years, and also their beloved daughter Lizzie who died on the 6th August 1897 aged 14 years.  May the Lord have mercy on her soul. Amen.  Also the above named James Moughty who died 17 Feb 1905 aged 64 years.  Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on his soul.

On another side of the stone the inscription read:

Pray for the soul of Bernard Moughty, Father of James Moughty, who died 14 July 1903, Aged 88 yrs.  Sweet Jesus have Mercy.

This was the family for whom I had collected all of the records.  I now knew that James’ father was Bernard but nowhere on the tombstone did it mention my Bernard, Brian’s great grandfather or his great uncle.  I turned to Jack and said this isn’t Brian’s family…his grandfather and uncle’s names aren't here.  Jack’s response was that yes, they were buried there because he had been at their funerals in 1954 and 1965.  My next question was how are they related to James? Jack’s response…my Bernard and James were brothers and the Bernard listed on the gravestone was their father.  So even though I didn’t know it at the time I was doing “cluster genealogy.” I’d just solved the research question of who was James, and as a bonus discovered the name of Brian’s gg grandfather.


   So what about other families?  I started to collect every Moughty record I could find in that area and by correlating the records put each person into a family.  I did this by checking parents’ names on birth records, then looking for marriage records to get the name of the father of the bride and groom and moving back a generation.  Prior to civil registration, I looked at all of the baptismal records and church marriage records.  I also used the name of the townland where each family lived to help separate individuals. The townland name is very important especially when you have a common surname. I also had the bonus in this area of having death records, some of which had ages which helped determine an approximate birth date.


   Here’s a reminder when working with church records…be very flexible with names.  I’ve found Moughty as Mughty, Mooty, Mucta, Mongley and even Murtha and Murtagh, which I believe are completely different surnames.  I’ve also found records with incorrect given names. For example, the marriage record of Bernard Moughty and Mary Glennon reads Joannum (John) Mughty and Mariam (Mary) Glennan.  Were there two Moughtys both of whom married a Mary Glennon?  With a more common surname this absolutely could have happened, but I also have a record of the Banns pronounced a week before the marriage naming Bernard Moughty and Mary Glennon. Perhaps the priest just forgot the name by the time he wrote it down after the celebration.😀

   So when I grouped the various Moughty families and followed them as far as possible, (since the oldest census available is 1911 and the birth records online only go to 1820) I ended up with this chart.

   There were additional children in each one of these families, and what I’m showing here are just some of the descendants.  My research question: are they related and if so, how?  Jack Moughty in Ireland at one time had suggested that the father of my Bernard from Aghnabohy was Patrick and that the family was originally from Barnacor (in fact he drove me to the area where the farm had originally been). The story was that Patrick was evicted and the family ended up in Aghnabohy in Westmeath.  After finding the death date for Patrick, it appeared that he was too old to have been the father of Bernard.  But I also found death records for a John, James and Bernard.  John’s burial record gave me an age at death, so it is possible that he was a son of Patrick.  James’ record didn’t give an age, just a death date but listed a townland.  Bernard’s burial record didn’t give an age or townland, but was in the Roman Catholic Parish of Shrule.  Can I create a hypothesis from this?

   Here’s one more chart.

When I printed out a chart from my genealogy software I noticed that Thomas, Bernard and Michael all named their oldest son James. Knowing that the Irish naming pattern is to name the oldest son after the paternal grandfather, the likelihood is that these three individuals were the sons of James.  Bryan (Darly) Moughty named is oldest son Brian (which is an alternative for Bernard) and John named his oldest son John.  If the naming pattern was used, then Bryan is likely the son of Bernard and John is possibly the son of John.

   Will I every be able to prove it?  It’s something I’ll keep working on, and this brings me back to the other tool, DNA.  Cluster research may help you develop this type of hypothesis, but it also provides a way of identifying living people you may want to test (and possibly cousins still living in Ireland).  As I mentioned last week, Jack is most likely a third cousin once removed from my husband, Brian.  There is only one other Moughty family in the US and my initial contact turned out to be adopted. In 2018 I connected with another member of that family who agreed to do a Y-DNA test. I assumed that there was a common ancestor since all of the families were in close proximity to each other in Ireland and that is the only area where the Moughty name appears. At 37 markers, the descendant of Bryan did not match either Brian or Jack. I also looked at their atDNA results and although there were thousands of matches there were only two individuals that matched all three of them. A conversation with Dr. Maurice Gleeson suggests that yes, there probably is a relationship, but it would be further back than 4th cousin and may have been in the 1500-1700s. I'm probably not going to be able to take this one back any further!

   Some of the Thomas Moughty family emigrated to Argentina, as did a number of members of the James Moughty family, my husband’s great uncle. I have corresponded with a descendant of the Thomas Moughty family, in Argentina and hopefully will be able to get at least an atDNA test. The John Moughty family died out in 1907.


   The benefits of cluster genealogy are many and I encourage you to practice this. With the marriage records at going up through 1943 and deaths to 1968, it is possible to find marriage names of female descendants. Although the online records for births at only go to 1918, later records are available in Ireland (good reason to plan a visit). In addition, you can use the FamilySearch Index for the Republic of Ireland which goes to 1957, and order later certificates from the General Register Office. This is covered in my Quick Reference Guide on Civil and Church Records.  

   Cluster genealogy can also be especially helpful if you’re still looking for the location in Ireland of your ancestors.  If you research all of the siblings of your ancestor it’s possible that one of them left the information your ancestor neglected to provide.  If you don’t know the siblings, start with the baptismal records of all of your immigrant ancestor’s children.  One of my clients recently solved his locality problem when one of the baptismal sponsors turned out to be a sister who married and had her first child in Ireland. 

   This has gotten a bit long, but hopefully will give you some ideas on breaking through your brick walls.  Feel free to “like” or leave a comment either here or on my Facebook page. I like to know if the information I provide is helpful.  My Facebook and Twitter pages are great places to see what is going on in Irish research.

   Happy Hunting!

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3 commentaires

Thank you so much for the reply, Donna. I'm still diligently searching. I have 4 people that I have DNA matches with who has ancestors from the Killaghtee parish. I am in the processing of creating trees for the shared matches with these people and started seeing the term "occupier". I appreciate the information and your suggestion of where I can further research information from the death records.




Membre inconnu
12 sept. 2019

The occupier is the person that holds the lease on the tenement. Do you recognize the name? Is there a relationship, perhaps the son-in-law was the occupier. If the person did not die at the same address as the Informant it could have been a neighbor.


Hi Donna,

I have noticed in some death records that the person reporting the death indicates that they are an "occupier". Would this be someone who was renting the deceased person's property? As always, thanks for the terrific posts and answering questions. It really is appreciated.


Donna Jones

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