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Did your Irish ancestors spend time in England or Scotland?

Updated: Dec 29, 2018

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 they originated. Many Irish spent the winter months working in England and Scotland.  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, they may 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 the late 1880s, then went back to England for a few years and returned in the early 1890s so I’ve had some experience researching in England.  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 A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors [1] I was in a better position to do the research. 

   In his chapter on the “Uniqueness of English Research” Paul begin, "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 need 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.  A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on using maps.  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 Nottingham and Leicester.  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.

   This past week I’ve done some research on the Loughlin family (due to a DNA match).  Thanks to research shared by Anita Gallagher, my husband’s third cousin, once removed, I knew that at least two of Edward Loughlin’s siblings married and moved to Liverpool. [2] 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!


[1] Milner, Paul and Linda Jonas, A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors, Betterway Books, Cincinnati, 2000, p 13.

[2] Gallagher, Anita, The Tribe of Brian: A history of the O’Loughlin Family of Ballymaginaghy, Castlewellan, Down, Ireland, 14 October 2016. (unpublished)

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