top of page

Did your ancestors slip away to England or Scotland?

If you’re lucky, your Irish ancestors may have spent some time in England or Scotland prior to their emigration to the US, Canada or Australia. I say lucky, because England and Scotland have a lot more records than Ireland and sometimes those records will tell you where in Ireland your family originated. Many Irish spent the winter months working in England or Scotland...the shortest distance between Northern Ireland and Scotland is only 12 miles). This was especially true during times of famine when the little bit they could earn and send back could mean the difference between life and death. They might appear in a census records for 1841 or 1851. According to the website The Wild Geese, there were over 700,000 individuals in the 1851 British census with a birthplace listed as Ireland. Even if your ancestors didn’t stop in England or Scotland, consider that they might have migrated across the US or other destination, so at each stop, you need to learn more about the records of that locality before you can effectively research.

I have one English line that emigrated twice: first in the1880s possibly to Connecticut, then returned to England for a few years where their 4th child was born and returned in the early 1890s to Pittsburgh, where my grandfather was born. A few years ago I was at the Family History Library, where as an “experienced” researcher I jumped right into the parish registers. That was fine, but when I didn’t find what I was looking for, I needed to re-group. I’m always reminding Irish researchers about the importance of administrative jurisdictions, and it’s the same (but different) in England. After spending a couple of hours with my friend Paul Milner’s book, A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors I was in a better position to do the research.

In his chapter on the “Uniqueness of English Research” Paul begins, "English research is not the same as U.S. research, and that’s what makes it so interesting.” So true…all locality research is unique which is why you need to understand the records of each locality. Use the state or country outlines from the FamilySearch Wiki or a specific book on researching records in the locality where your ancestor lived.

I needed to do more reading and studying on Derbyshire research, but the first thing I did was map the locations where my Beighton family were living in various census records. I’ve written on using maps in the past for your Irish research. No matter where you’re researching it’s important to map the area.

My Beighton family appeared in multiple locations, and the map makes them look distant, but a check on Google maps showed that the farthest apart locations were only 26 miles. They were also close to the border of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. My ancestors were “pot hawkers,” traveling salesmen selling pots. In the 1841 census my 3rd great grandfather was not enumerated with the family. I found him in the Nottingham House of Correction along with his brother for selling without a license. Wouldn’t it be great to have those 19th century census records in Ireland! Another great resource in England is civil registration which began in 1837…27 years earlier than in Ireland. In Scotland, civil registration began in 1855…9 years earlier than Ireland.

On a trip to Ireland in 2015 I met Anita Gallagher, my husband's third cousin, once removed. Both are descended (on the female lines) from the Edward Loughlin family of Ballymaginaghy, in County Down. I had done some research on the Loughlin family, but thanks to research shared by Anita I knew that at least two of Edward Loughlin’s siblings married and moved to Liverpool. According to stories passed down in Anita’s family, as well as a book written by one of the family members, the family had been involved in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 at the Battle of Ballynahinch. They were active in the United Irishmen, which is probably what led to their decision to leave Ireland.

I found Hugh Rooney and his wife Anne [Loughlin] in the 1851 census in Liverpool. Their daughter, Mary was born in Lancashire, so they have been living there as early as 1830.

In the 1841 census, there was an additional child, Michael, born abt 1826, also in Lancashire. There was also a William Loughlin (born 1811 in Ireland) and his wife Anne, born Lancashire as well as two children, James (4) and John (2). Unfortunately, there are no relationships given in the 1841 census. I have no record of a William as the sibling of Anne, so another item added to my to do list.

I didn’t find a civil birth index entry in England for James or John (James might have been prior to 1837). I did, however, find a marriage transcription for William Loughlin and Anne Norcutt in 1836.

Scotland was also a common destination for the Irish, especially those from Ulster. I’ve found that Scottish records have a lot of additional information. A marriage record, for example, contains the names of both parents, including the maiden names of the mothers.

And Scotland census records frequently give the location of birth in Ireland. This shows Samuel McCurdy and Annie Hone were both born in County Derry.

So keep an open mind and if you have a family story that your ancestors spent some time in England or Scotland, take advantage of their records.

Happy Hunting!

667 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page